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The Revelation Explained by F. Smith

Part 2 out of 7

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dispensations. However, this division of time is well established in the
Bible. Peter reckons a new world beginning with Noah (2 Pet. 3:6, 7),
stating that the old world had been destroyed. 2 Pet. 2:5. God came down
upon Mount Sinai and delivered the old covenant, thus marking a distinct
dispensation; while Jesus Christ established the new covenant and
ushered in the fourth and last dispensation. See Heb. 12:18-24. Under
the first dispensation, Abel by faith offered unto God an "excellent
sacrifice"; men "began to call upon the name of the Lord" (Gen. 4:26);
Enoch "walked with God" and "was translated that he should not see
death"; while Noah, "a preacher of righteousness," was "perfect in his
generation" and "condemned the world" by his preaching and obedience.
The second dispensation was graced with a faithful Abraham, who
"staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in
faith," from which circumstance he was called "the friend of God" and
has justly received the title "father of the faithful." In his footsteps
followed Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. The law age contains the names
of many illustrious prophets of God, and the New Testament era abounds
with brilliant examples of faith and devotion.

The ministry of John the Baptist can not be said to form another
dispensation, because of its short duration (he preceding Christ but six
months), and being at the time unknown outside of a very limited
territory. Another dispensation could not be begun and _completed_ while
the old covenant dispensation was yet in force; for that would make two
dispensations in full force at the same time--a thing impossible. Also,
John's work, according to the evangelist, marks the beginning of the
gospel dispensation (Mark 1:1-4), from which time the kingdom of God was
preached and men pressed into it. Luke 16:16.

It was by virtue of the future atonement-work of Christ that any were
enabled to enjoy God's favor in Old Testament times. Even their
sacrifices, which originated in the family of Adam and which were
continued from generation to generation, pointed forward to the
sacrificial offering of the Savior and by this means purchased covenant
favors with Heaven. So, after all, the atonement was for their benefit
as well as for ours. Paul expressly informs us that Christ died for the
"redemption of the transgressions that were _under the first
testament_." Heb. 9:15. "Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and _all the
prophets_" are "in the kingdom of God" (Luke 13:28), and constitute a
part of this great redeemed host set forth under the symbol of the four
living creatures.

The four and twenty elders, although representing themselves as a part
of this redeemed company, evidently have some special signification; for
they are presented to us as separate characters from the four living
creatures. Who are they? Undoubtedly they represent the ministers of
God, the number twenty-four also signifying perfection or completeness,
being drawn from certain facts connected with the two dispensations in
which God has had a clerical ministry. The natural heads of the tribes
of Israel were the twelve patriarchs; while the spiritual heads of the
Christian church are the twelve apostles of the Lamb, they constituting
a part of the foundation upon which it is built. Eph. 2:20. In a
subsequent chapter we have an account of the sealing of the twelve
tribes, by which is meant the sealing, not of the literal Israel, but of
the spiritual, the twelve tribes being selected from the proper
department to stand as a symbol of the true Israel in this dispensation,
which is expressly said to consist of people of all nations. Natural
Israel and spiritual Israel are frequently used to designate God's
people; so, also, in the case before us the twelve patriarchs as heads
of the natural Israel and the twelve disciples as heads (in one
important sense) of the spiritual Israel are taken to represent the
entire ministry. In the description of the New Jerusalem we find
conspicuously inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the children
of Israel and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, thus making the number
twenty-four. Chap. 21:12, 14.

Although the ministers seem to be a special class among those
constituting the redeemed multitude, yet their intimate connection with
the remainder is set forth under another symbol--that of wings _attached
to_ the four living creatures. Each of the four living ones possessed
six wings, which, taken numerically, make up twenty-four again. The
wings of a living creature would signify its means of flight; and it is
by the action of the ministry, who "go into all the world" as flying
messengers to preach the everlasting gospel, that the church of God is
established among all nations. Thus, under the symbol of living
creatures with wings is set forth the glorious harmony and unity that
exists in the body of Christ between ministry and laity.

The elders are represented as being clothed in white raiment and as
possessing golden crowns. "White raiment" is a symbol of righteousness
(chap. 19:8), while crowns represent special power and authority. God's
ministers possess both. They are made righteous through the blood of the
everlasting covenant and are given power over all the power of the enemy
and authority to heal the sick and to cast out devils.

The entire company are engaged in worshiping God unceasingly, the elders
casting their crowns before the throne, thus ascribing all praise,
honor, and glory to Him who has delegated to them the authority they
possess. And may we, my brethren, never grow weary in well-doing and
conclude that the worship of God grows monotonous; but let us, with
heart and soul, join the universal chorus, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God


And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book
written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.

2. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who
is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?

3. And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth,
was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.

4. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and
to read the book, neither to look thereon.

5. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the
Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to
open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

6. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the
four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it
had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the
seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

7. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him
that sat upon the throne.

8. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and
twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of
them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the
prayers of saints.

9. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the
book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and
hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and
tongue, and people, and nation;

10. And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we
shall reign on the earth.

11. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round
about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number
of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of

12. Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and
honor, and glory, and blessing.

13. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and
under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in
them, heard it saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and
power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the
Lamb for ever and ever.

14. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty
elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and

The vision of this chapter is but a continuation of the preceding one,
being a sublime description of the exaltation and office-work of Christ
in his two-fold character as the Lion of the tribe of Juda and as a
sacrificial offering for the sins of the world. The Apocalypse opens
with the words, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto
him," and it is fitting that his special prerogatives and
characteristics, together with the true position he occupies, should
first be revealed. This was especially necessary in view of the fact to
be revealed, that another would soon arise usurping the rights and
prerogatives belonging to Christ alone, claiming to be supreme head of
the church, sitting as God in the temple of God, and "showing himself
that _he_ is God." 2 Thes. 2:4.

The attention of John was directed to an object "in the right hand of
Him that sat on the throne"--a book sealed with seven seals--and to a
mighty angel calling with a loud voice for some one to come forward and
loose the seals and open the book. No created intelligence of earth or
heaven dared to step forward and declare himself able to accomplish the
result required, and because of this John wept much.

The form of books in use when the Revelation was given was unlike those
used now. They consisted of strips of parchment or other material,
longer or shorter, rolled up. The book in the symbolic vision before us
consisted of a roll containing seven pieces each one rolled and sealed
separately, so that the outer seal could be broken and the contents of
its strip read without disturbing the remaining ones. Had the seals all
been on the outside, nothing could have been read until they were all
broken; whereas the loosing of each seal was followed by some discovery
of the contents of the roll.

This book in the hand of God is symbolical of something. Most of the
commentators think it represents the book of Revelation, in which case,
of course, it would not include the present description of the book
itself, but only of its contents as applied to subsequent chapters. But
this view, of itself, is unsatisfactory for many reasons. The rules
governing the use and the interpretation of symbolic language would
forbid the thought of one book's symbolizing another book; for the main
idea conveyed by the term _symbol_ is, that the symbolic object stands
as the representative, not of itself, but of something analagous.
Reasoning by analogy, what would the contents of a sealed book in the
hand of God symbolize? Evidently, the infinite counsels and purposes
known only to Jehovah. Its being written within and on the backside
would indicate that those purposes were full and complete, being all
written out and understood by him who "knoweth the end from the
beginning" and "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
Its being sealed denotes that the contents were unrevealed, while its
being in the right hand of God--the hand of his power--shows that he is
able to carry into execution his divine purposes and that none shall be
able to alter them or to wrest them from him.

While the events future of John's time form a part of the great plan and
counsels of Jehovah, yet it is taking a very limited view of the subject
to suppose that they alone constitute the sealed book of this vision;
for then would that greatest of all events, the atonement of Christ and
the earliest triumphs of the gospel, have no special part in the sealed,
mysterious counsels of the infinite One. It is much more consistent with
the characteristics and attributes of God to make this book a symbol,
not merely of a part, but of all his divine plans and purposes in the
entire gospel dispensation. This position gains credence from the fact
that the visions of the Revelation cover many times the whole period
from the incarnation to the end. When the very first seal is broken, the
early success and triumphs of the gospel, as experienced in John's
lifetime, are portrayed. According to the vision before us, it was by
virtue of Christ's death that he was able to open the book at all; and
the plan of redemption itself, which is based upon his atonement, is
declared by the Scriptures to be a "mystery which from the beginning of
the world hath been _hid in God_." Eph. 3:9. This redemption scheme was
the great center of attraction to the prophets of the old dispensation,
who "inquired and searched diligently" that they might comprehend its
deep mysteries, "which things the _angels desired to look into_." 1 Pet.

Now, if the contents of the sealed book were (at the time of this
vision) only the history of events to be, why was it that no man on
earth or in heaven, nor even an angel before the throne, was found
worthy to "look into" it or to communicate its secrets to the children
of men. Gabriel was sent as a worthy messenger to communicate to Daniel
a long series of future events reaching even until the end of time. But
the contents of this roll were such that no created intelligence of
earth or heaven was able to unfold them. All remained unfathomable
mystery--until Christ stepped forward in his character as a sacrificial
Lamb and declared himself able to undertake the task of loosing the
seals and of opening the book. "Unto you it is given to _know the
mystery_ of the kingdom of God" (Mark 4:11), he said to his disciples,
"even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations,
but now is _made manifest_ to his saints." Col. 1:26. "Verily I say unto
you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those
things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things
which ye hear, and have not heard them. Blessed are your eyes, for they
see; and your ears, for they hear." Mat. 13:17, 16.

The fact that the suffering and death of Christ was a past event at the
time when the Revelation was given does not constitute a valid objection
to the position taken, that the contents of the sealed book embrace the
plan of redemption during the entire period of its operation; for the
reason that, in order to form a complete and continuous narrative, past
events are frequently referred to in the Apocalypse. Thus, John saw a
beast with seven heads signifying seven kings; but he was expressly
informed that "_five are fallen_, one is [exists at present], and the
other is not yet come." Chap. 17:10.

When Christ appears on the symbolic stage, he is introduced by the elder
as "the Lion of the tribe of Juda," and "the Root of David." The lion,
being the king of beasts and the monarch of the forest, is indicative of
power, such as Christ possesses. Christ is elsewhere denominated "King
of kings and Lord of lords," and he himself laid claim to "all power in
heaven and on earth," it having "pleased the Father that in him should
all fulness dwell." Why he is termed "the Lion of the tribe of Juda," I
am unable to say, unless the expression is borrowed from the prophecy
recorded of him in Gen. 49:10--"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,
nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him
shall the gathering of the people be." His being the "Root of David"
shows that he is the source and sustainer of David as to his position
and power. David was specially ordained of the Lord and sustained by
him. Of this there can be no doubt. David was a type; Christ is the
antitype. David's position as ruler over natural Israel constitutes a
type of Christ's position as ruler over the spiritual Israel; and it is
in this sense that Christ reigns upon the throne of his father David.
Luke 1:32, 33. And since Christ came in the line of David's descendants,
he is called the offspring of David and a rod out of the stem of Jesse.
Isa. 11:1, 10. His connection with the throne of David being evident, he
is entitled to the right to reign over his people. The appellation
_Lamb_ is one of the peculiar titles by which the Son of God is
designated, having reference to that part of his mission in which he
constituted a sacrificial offering for sin. His forerunner John was able
to prophetically discern him in this character, and pointed to him as
"the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." John 1:29.
The Lamb was said to have seven horns and seven eyes. A horn is a symbol
of power, and seven, being a sacred or perfect number, denotes the
fulness of power possessed by Christ; while the seven eyes signify the
seven spirits of God, or the Holy Spirit, which, being under the direct
control of Christ, is sent forth into the world to effect the
regeneration of men.

When the Lion of the tribe of Juda stepped forward and undertook the
task of revealing the secret counsels and purposes of Jehovah to the
world, immediately a song of praise ascended from the lips of the
redeemed sons of earth. The song was new, adapted to a new theme, and
sung on a new occasion. "The four beasts and four and twenty elders fell
down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials
[censers] full of odors, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung
a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the
seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy
blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast
made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the
earth." This song beautifully expresses the honor due to Jesus Christ in
his office-work as Redeemer of the world, by virtue of which people out
of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, are saved unto God and
made kings and priests on the earth. The angel who appeared to the
Judean shepherds while they were watching their flocks by night,
comforted them with the welcome announcement: "Fear not: for, behold, I
bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to _all people_. For
unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ
the Lord." Luke 2:10, 11.

Since the preaching of the gospel began, men are instructed to "seek
first the kingdom of God" (Mat. 6:33), and they "press into it" (Luke
16:16) by the saving virtue of Him "who hath delivered us from the power
of darkness, and hath translated us _into the kingdom_ of his dear Son."
Col. 1:13. Taking our place by the side of the writer of the Revelation,
we testify with him that we are already "in the kingdom and patience of
Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:9), and that we "receive abundance of grace and of
the gift of righteousness," whereby "we _reign in life_ by one Jesus
Christ." Rom. 5:17. In this happy condition, redeemed by the blood of
Jesus, our Savior, made "a royal [kingly] priesthood" in the "holy
nation" of "peculiar people" that have been gathered out of all nations
of earth (1 Pet. 2:5, 9), we feel like singing anew this glad song of
redemption in honor of Jesus, our only Lord and Savior, who is God over
all, blessed forever! Amen.

This new and rapturous song of the redeemed was immediately caught by a
greater multitude of the angelic order, an innumerable company, even
"ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands," and
together, with loud and united voices, did they swell the mighty anthem,
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and
wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." And again the
heavenly strain was raised to loftier heights, until the stupendous
chorus rolled around the universe, by every creature in heaven and on
earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, saying,
"Blessing and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon
the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever." A few gifted voices of
earth may possess such power and sweetness as almost to entrance us with
their melody of song; but what an oratorio will it be, my brethren,
when, released from the narrow limits of mortality, that sublime strain
sung by the redeemed of all ages and ten thousand times ten thousand and
thousands of thousands of angels, bursts in upon our ransomed souls! Did
human thought ever reach the conception of music like this? Did the eyes
of a mortal ever behold such rapturous scenes? You may feast your eyes
upon earth's greatest beauty--Yosemite Valley, Yellowstone Park, Niagara
Falls, may pass before your vision; you may climb the lofty Alpine
summit and behold the snow-streaked and snow-capped peaks towering to
the heavens around you--or you may listen to the best music ever
composed by a Mozart, a Handel, or a Beethoven, or the finest ever
executed by a Liszt, a Rubenstein, or a Paderewski; yet I must tell you
upon the authority of God's word that "eye hath not _seen_, nor ear
_heard_, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which
God hath prepared for them that love him." 1 Cor. 2:9.

This vision shows very clearly the lofty position to which Christ has
been exalted, possessing "a name which is above every name"; for the
entire company of angels and redeemed saints unite in extolling him with
songs of praise, and that, too, before the very throne of the Deity and
in the presence of his infinite Majesty. Surely we can not doubt that
ours is a divine Savior, and one worthy of all praise, honor, power and
dominion both now and forever.

Though John beheld this wonderful vision in heaven, yet we must remember
that it was given and recorded for the benefit of God's people upon
earth. The plan of redemption was not actually revealed in heaven, for
"Jesus Christ came _into the world_ to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15), and
it was here that he was ordained to "taste death for every man." Heb.
2:9. The ransomed company thus brought to view is intended to point out
the redeemed of earth; for there is no salvation to be obtained in
heaven, in which place no blood was shed--the blood is one of the agents
that bears witness in the earth. 1 John 5:7, 8. The central figures of
this vision were God, the Holy Spirit, and Christ, around whom the
living creatures and elders were gathered, and they, in turn, were
surrounded by the angelic throng. This entire scene was doubtless
intended to represent the exalted character of spiritual things on
earth, where the plan of redemption was revealed and the redeemed host
gathered out of all nations. In a very important sense the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Ghost all dwell in the spiritual church, or new
Jerusalem, and are thus "in the midst" of God's people, surrounded by
the redeemed host who unceasingly worship them, and they, in turn, have
the promise that "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them"
(Psa. 34:7); yea, "an innumerable company of angels" reside in this
"heavenly Jerusalem," or "city of the living God," unto which we, as a
part of the "general assembly and church of the first-born," "_are
come_" in this dispensation. Heb. 12:22, 23.


And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as
it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying,
Come and see.

2. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him
had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth
conquering, and to conquer.

We have now reached the point where the thrilling interest of this book
commences. With the opening of the seals of the book of God's purposes
we have the prophecies of the future, the unfolding of the events to be,
described under appropriate symbols. The contents of six seals are
contained in this and the following chapter, while the seventh occupies
the remainder of the volume.

A word relative to the plan of the prophecies will be appropriate at
this time. I will again state what will be made very clear
hereafter--that the events are narrated by series, and not by centuries.
A particular theme is taken up and carried through to its completion,
then the narrative returns and another subject is traced to its end.
Thus, the entire book consists of a number of distinct parallel series
covering the same ground.

Upon the opening of the first seal, John is summoned as with a voice of
thunder by one of the living creatures to draw near; and the object that
meets his vision is a white horse with its rider. The symbol is that of
a victorious warrior, being drawn from the civil and military life of
the Romans. The symbol is one of dignity. It does not consist of some
inanimate object such as a mountain, a sea, or a river, neither is it a
wild ferocious beast; but it is that of a living, active, intelligent
being, and he, as denoted by various insignia, a conqueror. He rides a
white horse, such as victors used in triumphal procession; his bow and
crown are also symbols of victory. He goes forth conquering and to
conquer, or to make conquests.

This symbol is a faithful representation of the early triumphs of
Christianity in its aggressive conflict with the huge systems of error
with which it had to contend. Some have supposed that the rider
represented Jesus Christ; but this can not be, for many reasons, two of
which I will give. First. Christ always appears on the symbolic stage in
his own character, unrepresented by another, for the reason, as before
stated, that there is no creature that can analagously represent Him who
claims equality with God. Not one name or attribute peculiar to him is
mentioned in the description. Second. There are four horsemen brought to
view in this chapter, and the symbols all being drawn from the same
department, must have the same general application. If the first
horseman symbolizes _a definite personage_, so do the remaining three;
but we should have great difficulty in identifying the last three,
giving them an individual application.

Others make the first horseman a symbol of the gospel itself, but the
gospel is not a living, active, intelligent agent, such as the symbol
evidently is, but is only a system of the revealed truth. All congruity
and appropriateness in the comparison is lacking.

But let us give this symbol further consideration. It is not enough that
its interpretation alone be given, but the reader is justly entitled to
a knowledge of the process by which we arrive at the truth. In the first
place, we have a symbol of great dignity and excellence, and we must
look for an object of corresponding character. The symbol is that of a
living agent, and consequently, we must look for its fulfillment in an
active, intelligent agent. The purity, or whiteness, of the horse on
which the rider was seated would indicate an agency of mild, beneficent
character. Finally, the symbol is drawn, as before stated, from the
civil and military life of the Romans. Now, according to the laws of
symbolic language, a symbol never represents an object like itself, but
an analagous one in another department. A wild beast does not represent
a wild beast, but something of analagous character. Seven fat and seven
lean kine do not represent kine like themselves, but something
analagous--seven years of plenty and as many of famine. There are only
two great series of events described in the Revelation--the history of
ecclesiastical events and the political history of certain nations. The
present symbol is drawn from one of these departments--the political or
the civil life of the Romans; and leaving the latter department to find
its signification in another department, we have no place to go except
into the department of ecclesiastical affairs. Entering, therefore, the
spiritual realm, and looking about us for an object that perfectly meets
every requirement of the symbol, we find it in _the humble ministers of
Christ_, who boldly went forth in obedience to the divine command to
extend the peaceful triumphs of the cross and to carry the gospel of the
kingdom of God "into all the world." Mark 16:15-18; Mat. 28:19, 20. This
succession of faithful, holy, devoted men is worthy of a place in
Apocalyptic vision. They went forth "conquering and to conquer"; and the
victories they gained were such as the world never witnessed before.
Worthy are they to wear a victor's crown, for they have "fought a good

Because of its connection with events following, it is necessary for us
to consider the divine position of these first ministers of the church.
Their _equality_ is clearly taught in the New Testament. Christ gave
them the express command, "Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your
Master, even Christ; and all ye are _brethren_." Mat. 23:8. When two of
the disciples manifested a desire to gain preeminence over their
brethren and their aspirations displeased the ten, Christ said to them
all, "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over
them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it
_shall not be so among you_." Mat. 20:25, 26. Thus a perfect standard of
equality in the ministry is lifted up. The beloved apostle, the writer
of the Revelation, when addressing the elders of the seven churches of
Asia in particular, humbly and affectionately represented himself as
their "_brother_ and companion in tribulation." Rev. 1:9.

I will now adduce the testimony of several creditable historians, who
are compelled to admit the humble equality of the New Testament
ministry, notwithstanding the fact that some of them belonged to
churches containing a very _unequal_ ministry.

Mosheim says: "The rulers of the church were called their presbyters or
bishops, which two titles are, in the New Testament, undoubtedly applied
to the same order of men.... Let no one confound the bishops of this
primitive and golden period of the church, with those of whom we read in
the following ages. For, though they were both distinguished by the same
name, yet they differed extremely, and that in many respects." Vol. I,
p. 99.

This fact is now admitted by nearly all denominations, even
Episcopalians. In the work entitled "Episcopacy Tested by Scripture,"
published by the Protestant Episcopal Tract Society, New York, the
author, one of their able advocates, makes the following admission
concerning the title _bishop_ in the New Testament, "that the name is
there given to the middle order or presbyters; and _all_ that we read in
the New Testament concerning _bishops_, including of course the words
_overseer_ and _oversight_, which have the same derivation, is to be
regarded as pertaining to that middle grade"--the presbyters or elders.
Page 12.

The noted historian Waddington, also an Episcopalian, makes the same
admission in the following words: "It is also true that in the earliest
government of the first Christian society, that of Jerusalem, not the
elders only, but the 'whole church' were associated with the apostles;
and it is even _certain_ that the terms _bishop_ and _elder_ or
_presbyter_ were, in the first instances, and for a short period,
sometimes used synomously, and indiscriminately applied to the _same
order_ in the ministry." Church History, Part I, p. 41. The italicizing
is mine.

The well-known historian Milman, also an Episcopalian, in his History of
Christianity, says, "The earliest Christian communities appear to have
been ruled and represented, in the absence of the apostle who was their
first founder, by their elders, who are likewise called bishops, or
overseers of the church." Page 194.

Kurtz, in his Church History, says: "To aid them in their work, or to
supply their places in their absence (Acts 14:23), the apostles ordained
rulers in every church, who bore the common name of _elders_ from their
dignity, and of _bishops_ from the nature of their office. That
originally the elders were the same as the bishops, we gather with
absolute certainty from the statements of the New Testament and of
Clement of Rome, a disciple of the apostles. (See his first epistle to
the Corinthians, Chaps. 42, 44:52.) 1. The presbyters are expressly
called bishops--compare [the Greek especially] Acts 20:17 with verse 28,
and Titus 1:5 with verse 7. 2. The office of presbyter is described as
next to and highest after that of apostle (Acts 15:6, 22). Similarly,
the elders are represented as those to whom alone the rule, the teaching
and the care of the church is entrusted (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:1,
etc.).... In [several] passages of the New Testament and of Clement we
read of many bishops in one and the same church. In the face of such
indubitable evidence, it is difficult to account for the pertinacity
with which Romish and Anglican theologians insist that these two offices
had from the first been different in name and functions.... Even Jerome,
Augustine, Urban II. (1091) and Petrus Lombardus admit that originally
the two had been identical. It was reserved for the Council of Trent to
convert this truth into a heresy." Pages 67, 68. Chrysostom, Theodoret,
and others also admitted the same.

Many similar historical testimonies now lying before me to the humble
equality of the New Testament ministry could be added; but lest the
reader become weary, I will conclude with the following beautiful
description from D'Aubigne in his noted History of the Reformation: "The
church was in the beginning a community of brethren, guided by a few of
the _brethren_." Again, "All Christians were priests of the living God,
with _humble pastors_ as their guides." Vol. I, pp. 35, 50.

With this description of the early ministers of Christ, who went forth
under the symbol of the first horseman to disciple all nations, we have
the events pertaining to the early history of the church, laid before
us; until the opening of the second seal brings us to another important
phase of its history.

3. And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second
beast say, Come and see.

4. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was
given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and
that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him
a great sword.

The symbol of this seal is that of a rider going forth on a red horse
armed with a great sword with which to take peace from the earth and to
kill. It is drawn from the same source as that of the preceding one, but
differing greatly in the character of the horseman and the object of his
mission. The symbol is one of great dignity--a living, intelligent
agent--drawn from civil and military life. For the same reason as given
before, we must go out of the department of civil life into the history
of religious affairs to find its fulfilment.

Notice, also, the peculiar characteristics of this horseman and wherein
he differs from that of the first seal. The color of the horse is red,
denoting something very different from the peace, purity, and benignity
of the white. Instead of gaining glorious spiritual conquests and
triumphs, like him of the first seal, he was to take peace from the
earth. In the place of a victor's crown, he possesses "a great sword"
with which to kill, denoting an agent of great destruction.

Where shall we look in the history of religious affairs to find the
object that meets the requirements of this symbol? Who were the active,
intelligent agents that appeared as the great opposers of the
establishment of Christianity by the rider of the white horse? We find
the answer undoubtedly in the propagators of the _Pagan religions_. As
soon as Christianity began to gain a foothold in the Roman Empire, the
priests and supporters of Paganism were exasperated to the last degree,
and they determined to crush out the Christian religion. An example of
Pagan opposition is found in the nineteenth chapter of Acts, where it is
recorded that the preaching of the gospel so stirred the people of
Ephesus that they were filled with wrath and for the space of about two
hours cried out, saying, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" This great
conflict between Christianity and Paganism will be more fully described
under other symbols in a subsequent chapter, therefore I will make this
description brief.

The destruction of life brought about by this rider of the red horse
doubtless signifies the great slaughter of the Christians at the hands
of the Pagans. During ten seasons of severe persecution, which occurred
under the reigns of the emperors Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Marcus
Aurelius, Septimus Severus, Maximus, Decius, Gallus, Valerian, and
Diocletian, the Christians suffered every indignity that their
relentless persecutors could heap upon them. They had their eyes burned
out with red-hot irons; they were dragged about with ropes until life
was extinct; they were beheaded, stoned to death, crucified, thrown to
wild beasts, burned at the stake; yet "they overcame by the blood of the
Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives
unto the death." Chap. 12:11.

It may appear at first that taking the rider of the horse as a symbolic
agent but the killing which he effected as literal, is an inconsistency
and a variation from the laws of symbolic language; but such is not
necessarily the case. One principle laid down in the beginning was, that
the description of an object or event must necessarily be literal when
no symbolic object could be found to analagously represent it. The
destruction of human life could not well be represented symbolically,
there being no destruction analagous to it whose meaning would be
obvious; hence it must appear as a literal description. This is proved
by many texts in the Revelation that will admit of no other application;
such as verses 9-11 of this chapter; chapter 13:10; 17:6; etc.

But the literal destruction of life may be chosen as a symbol to
represent a destruction to which it is plainly analagous; such as the
destruction of spiritual life, the overthrow of the civil or
ecclesiastical institutions of society, etc. That it is sometimes
employed thus as a symbol will be shown clearly in subsequent chapters.
Hence, in every instance where killing men is the work of a symbolic
agent, the context, or general series of events with which it is
connected, must determine whether the literal or symbolical
signification is intended. In the present prophecy under consideration
it is much more consistent to give it the literal application; for the
devotees of Paganism did not destroy the spiritual life of the church,
which would be an analagous killing; neither did they succeed in
overthrowing the structure of Christianity.

5. And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third
beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and
he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

6. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A
measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a
penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

This symbol is also that of a horseman, differing from the preceding
ones only in his characteristics. He is seated upon a black horse,
denoting something dark or appalling in its nature, the very opposite of
that of the first seal. He possesses no bow nor crown, but instead he
has a pair of balances in his hand for weighing food. This he deals out
only at exorbitant prices--"a measure of wheat for a penny, and three
measures of barley for a penny." The penny, or denarius, is equal to
about fifteen cents of our money, and was the ordinary wages of a day
laborer. In the parable of our Lord recorded in Mat. 20, the householder
is represented as hiring laborers for a penny a day to labor in his
vineyard. The measure, or _choenix_, of wheat was the usual daily
allowance of food for a man. So according to the rate given, it would
require a day's labor to supply food sufficient for one man, which shows
an enormous price placed upon these necessaries of life. In ordinary
times the penny would procure about twenty measures of wheat instead of
one, and fifty or sixty measures of barley instead of three. Surely this
represents famine prices.

The expression "see thou hurt not the oil and the wine" seems to have
some direct connection with the exorbitant schedule of food rates. The
following facts of history, as recorded by Lord, will serve to make the
matter clear: "The taxes required in the Roman empire, to sustain the
court and civil service, the army and desolating wars, and the hungry
brood of office-holders, as well as to provide largesses to the
soldiers, were excessive in the extreme, so as to prove an almost
insupportable burden to the people. The ordinary and economical expenses
of the government were great; but when we take into view that during a
period of seventy-two years previous to Diocletian, there were
twenty-six individuals who held the imperial crown, besides a great
number of unsuccessful aspirants, and that each of these must secure the
favor of the army and the people by large donations of money, we may
well conceive that the taxes and exactions laid to raise the needed
amount must have proved a crushing burden. They were so great as
sometimes to strip men of their wealth and reduce them to poverty. These
were laid upon everything that could be brought into service. Nothing
was too insignificant to escape.... The taxes might be paid in money, or
in produce, grain, fruit, oil, or whatever else it might be;... The
exactions were so excessive that the people were led to avoid them in
every possible mode, as men always will under such circumstances." Once
in fifteen years, a Roman indiction, an assessor would go round to levy
upon the products of the soil, and the assessment was made according to
the amount of the yield. One method adopted to secure a lower assessment
at this time was that of mutilating their fruit trees and vines. We find
among the Roman laws severe enactments against such as "feign poverty,
or cut a vine, or stint the fruit of a tree" in order to avoid a fair
valuation, and the penalty attached was the death of the offender and
the confiscation of all his property. The fact that this law existed
shows that the offense was committed and also that the exactions of the
government must have been of the most oppressive kind.

With these facts before us it is easy to discern the nature of the
symbol, being that of a Roman magistrate prepared to enforce his severe
exactions upon the people at the exorbitant rate of three measures of
wheat for a penny and three measures of barley for a penny, accompanied
by the solemn injunction, "See thou hurt not the oil and the wine," that
is, the olive-trees and the vines.

It is evident that we must, as before, go out of the department of civil
and military life into the realm of ecclesiastical history to find the
true fulfilment of this symbol. The black color of the horse would
denote something directly opposite to that of the first seal; and since
the symbol of the first seal represented the establishment of the pure
gospel of Jesus Christ, this symbol must represent the great apostasy
and spiritual darkness that covered the world at a later period. And if
the horseman of the first seal represented the chosen ministry who went
forth in a glorious mission to win trophies of grace, the horseman of
this seal must represent _an apostate ministry_, possessing power and
authority to enforce the severest exactions upon the bread of life, thus
producing a desolating spiritual famine.

This marvelous change from the humble apostolic ministry to an apostate
one did not occur suddenly, but by degrees; and as it has a great
bearing upon other lines of truth to be brought out in subsequent
chapters, it will be profitable to consider the most important steps by
which this transformation was effected.

When the desire for precedence or superiority first manifested itself
among the disciples, Christ repressed it (Mat. 20:25, 26), and it
appeared no more in their midst; but before the close of the first
century it is evident that a thirst for preeminence existed in the
hearts of some who had been the servants of the church. An example of
this is to be found in Diotrephes, who exalted himself above his
ministerial associates. The Apostle John says concerning him: "I wrote
unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence
among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore if I come, I will remember his
deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not
content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and
forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church." 3 John
9, 10.

In the historical extracts given in the explanation of the first
horseman, it is clear that the first ministers were all equal; but a
time came about the close of the first century when the most influential
among the clergy grasped the power and exalted themselves to a position
of authority over the rest. The manner in which this transformation was
effected is explained by the learned Gieseler as follows: "After the
death of the apostles, and the pupils of the apostles, to whom the
general direction of the churches had always been conceded, some one
amongst the presbyters of each church was suffered gradually to take the
lead in its affairs. In the same irregular way the title of _bishop_ was
appropriated to the first presbyter." Eccl. Hist., Vol. I, p. 65. In the
days when the apostles were active in the affairs of the church there
were but two classes in the ministry--elders, or bishops, and deacons;
but when one of the presbyters was exalted to a higher position than the
rest and assumed to himself the exclusive use of the word bishop, there
were three classes. To quote the words of Geo. P. Fisher: "After we
cross the limit of the first century we find that with each board of
elders there is a person to whom the name of bishop is specially
applied, although, for a long time, he is likewise often called a
presbyter. In other words, in the room of a two-fold, we have a
three-fold ministry." Hist. of the Christian Church, p. 51.

The height to which the single bishop of authority in a church had been
exalted is well illustrated in the Ignatian Epistles. Ignatius was
bishop of Antioch and was condemned by the emperor Trajan to suffer
death by being thrown to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre in Rome.
His execution in this manner took place Dec. 20, A.D. 107. He wrote a
number of epistles, a few extracts from which I will give. "Wherefore it
is fitting that ye should run together in accordance with the will of
your bishop, which thing also ye do. For your justly renowned
presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the
strings are to the harp." To the Ephesians, Chap. 4. "See that ye all
follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father.... Let no man
do anything connected with the church without the bishop." To the
Smyrnaean's, Chap. 8. "It is not lawful without the bishop either to
baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve
of, that is also pleasing to God." Smyrnaean's, Chap. 8. "It is well to
reverence both God and the bishop. He who honors the bishop has been
honored of God; but he who does anything without the knowledge of the
bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil." Smyrnaean's, Chap. 9.

The power of these bishops advanced steadily during the second century.
The churches of the cities where they were located extended themselves
into the surrounding country and smaller towns, and the presbyters or
elders of these inferior churches were presided over by the bishop of
their mother church, and in this manner the great system of diocesan
episcopacy was developed.[3]

[Footnote 3: The ancient signification of the term _diocese_ must not be
confounded with the modern usage of the term. It then designated a
territory or district, usually containing a number of minor churches,
presided over by one bishop.]

In the latter part of the second century when the disputes concerning
Easter and Montanism arose, the custom of diocesan bishops consulting
with each other on important doctrines began, and this developed in the
third century into regular provincial synods, or councils. On account of
the ecclesiastical or political importance of the cities in which they
were located, certain bishops had a special deference given them, and
they were not slow to take advantage of the opportunity to exalt
themselves to the presidency of these councils; and in a very short time
they possessed immense power and constituted entirely a separate order,
designated by the term metropolitan.

The manner in which this important step in the great apostasy was taken
and the effects produced thereby is well described in the words of the
historian Mosheim (referring to events of the third century), from whom
I quote: "In process of time, all the Christian churches of a province
were formed into one large ecclesiastical body, which, like confederate
states, assembled at certain times, in order to deliberate about the
common interests of the whole.... These councils ... _changed the whole
face of the church_, and gave it a new form; for by them the ancient
privileges of the people were considerably diminished, and the power and
authority of the bishops greatly augmented.... At their first appearance
in these general councils, they acknowledged that they were no more than
the delegates of their respective churches, and that they acted in the
name, and by the appointment of their people. But they soon changed this
humble tone, imperceptibly extended the limits of their authority,
turned their influence into dominion, and their councils into laws; and
openly asserted, at length, that Christ had empowered them to prescribe
to his people, _authoritative rules of faith and manners_.... The order
and decency of these assemblies required that some one of the provincial
bishops met in council, should be invested with a _superior_ degree of
power and authority; and hence the rights of _metropolitans_ derive
their origin."--Church History, Cent. II, Part 2.

When a usurping clergy grasps the power to prescribe "authoritative
rules of faith and manners," to employ the words of Mosheim, we may well
conceive that the true amount of pure spiritual food was exceedingly
small and could be procured only at starvation rates. He who reads the
ecclesiastical events of the third century will find it only too true
that many of the cardinal virtues of apostolic Christianity were almost
lost sight of and that a great spiritual famine existed in the earth
over which this dark horseman of the third seal careered. Instead of
salvation through the Spirit of God being carefully taught, baptismal
regeneration was exalted, and the people were instructed in the saving
virtues of the eucharist. The Platonic idea concerning sin having its
seat in the flesh was adopted, and therefore perfect victory or
sanctification was made to consist in the mortification of the natural
appetites and desires of the body, with the result that a life of
fasting, celibacy, or self-inflicted torture was looked upon as the
surest means of obtaining the favor of Heaven. The writings of such
eminent church Fathers as Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian and others now
lying before me, contain the surest evidences of the woeful extent to
which this dark cloud of superstition and error had settled down over
the world during the period of which I write.

7. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of
the fourth beast say, Come and see.

8. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat
on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was
given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with
sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of
the earth.

The usual interpretation given this horse and its rider is to apply it
to the desolating wars and famines that occurred in the Roman Empire.
This view is embodied in the celebrated painting "Death on the Pale
Horse," in which death is represented as going forth with war,
pestilence, famine, and wild beasts, to ravage the Roman empire. We are
informed by historians that dreadful pestilences and famines did prevail
and in some places nearly depopulated the country, and that the
remaining inhabitants could not make head against the beasts that
multiplied in the land. But the fact that such events occurred is not
sufficient proof that this symbol has reference to such. Famines and
pestilences may have occurred many times without forming a part of the
Apocalyptic vision.

The greatest objection to giving this part of the vision such a literal
interpretation is, that it fails to bring out its symbolic character. To
what, then, does it refer? We have, as before, a horseman, indicating
that the agent is one of the same general character, differing mainly in
his features and mission. This horse was of a livid, cadaverous hue,
denoting an agent of ghastly, terrible nature. The living rider bore the
awful name of "Death," or as in the original, "The Death," by way of
emphasis. Death literally was not the agent--it is not so stated--but
the rider was termed The Death, or The Destroyer, because of his
terrible mission; and Hell followed with him.

Applying the laws of symbolic language as heretofore, it is evident that
this symbol represents a great persecuting ecclesiastical power. And
with this thought before us, we can scarcely fail to recognize it as a
true description of _the Papacy_. The great apostasy, described under
the preceding seal, prepared the way for the final and complete
establishment of the "man of sin"; but during the period there brought
to view the ministers of religion, power-seeking and apostate as they
were, were unable to enforce their claims by the power of persecution.
Under the present seal, however, is represented a later stage of their
corruption, when a great hierarchal system, sustained and upheld by the
arm of civil power, was able to bear tyrannical rule over a great
portion of the earth. During this period clerical ambition and
usurpation reached its greatest height.

After speaking of the power possessed by the metropolitans, Mosheim
says: "The universal church had now the appearance of one vast republic,
formed by a combination of a great number of little states. This
occasioned the creation of a new order of ecclesiastics, who were
appointed in different parts of the world, as _heads_ of the church, and
whose office it was to preserve the consistence and union of that
immense body, whose members were so widely dispersed throughout the
nations. Such was the nature and office of the Patriarchs." Church
History, Cent. II, part 2.

Thus, the bishops, or metropolitans, of certain of the most important
cities were exalted to a still higher position as special _heads_ of the
church. They were termed _Exarchs_ at first, after the title of the
provincial governors, but afterwards received the more ecclesiastical
appellation _Patriarchs_. The term Patriarch had been in use for a long
time in the church signifying merely a bishop, irrespective of the
dignity he possessed, but it was finally limited to this higher class of
the clergy, in which sense I now employ it. The cities that first
enjoyed this chief distinction were Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch. The
general council of Nice (A.D. 325) in its sixth canon recognized the
superior authority already possessed by these cities. See D'Aubigne's
Hist, of Reformation, Vol. I, p. 41. The general council of
Constantinople in its third canon placed the bishop of Constantinople in
the same rank with the other three Patriarchs; and the general council
of Calcedon exalted the See of Jerusalem to a similar dignity, doubtless
because of its ancient importance as the birthplace of Christianity.
Thus, Patriarchs were established in the five political capitals of the
Roman empire; and they were considered the "_heads of the church_,"
having spiritual authority over the whole empire. These were the only
Patriarchates of importance. Certain ecclesiastics of the Church of Rome
even at the present time bear the honorary title Patriarch; but, to
quote the words of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "In a strictly technical
sense, however, that church recognizes only five Patriarchates, those of
Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome." Art.
Patriarch. In the years 637 to 640 Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch
fell into the hands of the Saracen followers of Mohammed, which
terminated their importance, and later the Greek schism separated the
Patriarch of Constantinople from Rome; and thus the Patriarch of Rome
was left in undisputed possession of the field and was soon recognized
as universal head of the church. So under the symbol of this dread rider
on a pale horse is portrayed the great hierarchal system by which the
Papacy was fully developed in the West.

It is fitting that we notice particularly the agents of destruction
employed by this rider. He possesses a sword with which to kill--the
same instrument wielded by the rider of the red horse--but it is evident
that he uses it with more terrific energy, by reason of which he
receives the name Death, or The Destroyer. It is possible, also, that in
this case a sword, wielded by the hand of an ecclesiastical power, may
be used as a symbol of a spiritual cutting off, or excommunication. The
sword of excommunication has been the most terrible ever wielded by
human hand. When this pale horseman was careering over the world in the
zenith of his power, excommunication and interdiction were the terror of
individuals and the scourge of nations. At his word the rights of an
individual as king, ruler, husband or father, nay, even as a _man_, were
forfeited, and he was shunned like one infected with the leprosy. At his
command the offices of religion were suspended in a nation, and its dead
lay unburied, until its proud ruler humbled himself at the feet of the
ecclesiastical tyrant who bore rule over the "fourth part of the

[Footnote 4: This tyranny of the Popes is well illustrated by the
quarrel that took place between Hildebrand (Pope Gregory VII.) and Henry
IV. of Germany. Gregory attempted to make certain reforms, but Henry
refused to recognize those innovations. Gregory excommunicated the
emperor, with the result that he was "shunned as a man accursed by
Heaven." His authority lost and his kingdom on the point of going to
pieces, Henry had but one thing to do--seek the pardon of the Pope. He
found the Pontiff at Canoosa, but Gregory refused to admit the penitent
to his presence. "It was winter, and for three successive days the king,
clothed in sackcloth, stood with bare feet in the snow of the court-yard
of the palace, waiting for permission to kneel at the feet of the
Pontiff and to receive forgiveness." On the fourth day he was granted
admittance to the presence of the Pope.

During the Pontificate of Innocent III. Philip Augustus, king of France,
put away his wife. Innocent commanded him to take her back and forced
submission by means of an interdict. This submission of a brave, firm,
and victorious prince shows the tremendous power wielded by the Popes in
that period.

The manner, also, in which Innocent III. humbled King John of England
affords another illustration of the power of the Popes. John caused the
vacant See of Canterbury to be filled, in accordance with the regular
manner of election, by one of his favorites. Innocent declared the
appointment void, as he desired that the place should be filled by one
of his friends. John refused to allow the Pope's archbishop to enter
England as Primate. Innocent then excommunicated John, laid all England
under an interdict, and incited Philip, king of France, to war, offering
him John's kingdom upon the very liberal condition that he go over and
take it. The outcome of the matter was that John was compelled to yield
to the power of the Pope. He even gave him England as a perpetual fief,
and agreed to pay the Papal See the annual sum of one thousand marks.]

The loss of life by spiritual famine was extreme. The Word of God, which
is spirit and life to God's people (Jno. 6:63), was laid under interdict
and the common people deprived of its benefits. At the time the black
horse appeared, a little food could be obtained at famine prices; but
when the fourth arrived, he was empowered to kill "with hunger." Also,
one of his agents of destruction was death, or pestilence, a fit symbol
of false and blasphemous doctrines breathed forth like a deadly
pestilence blasting everything within its reach. Invocation of saints,
worship of images, relics, celibacy, works of supererogation,
indulgences, and purgatory--these were the enforced principles of
religion, and like a pest they settled down upon the people everywhere.

This rider also brought into operation "the beasts of the earth" to aid
him in his destructive work. To kill with sword or hunger shows that
such work of destruction is performed solely by him who has it in his
power; but to kill with beasts indicates that _they_ perform the deadly
work according _to their own natures_. Nothing is clearer than the fact
that wild beasts stand as a symbol of persecuting tyrannical
governments; hence we are to understand that this rider was to employ
also the arm of civil power to aid him in the deadly work. How
strikingly this represents the historical facts of the case! In all
truly Roman Catholic countries the civil governments were only a cipher
or tool in the hands of the church, and the ecclesiastics were the real
rulers of the kingdom. But whenever any dark work of persecution was to
be performed, the wild beast was let loose to accomplish the result.
When charged, however, with the bloody work, the Catholics always
answer, "Oh, we _never persecute_--don't you see, it is the wild beasts
that are covered with gore--our hands are clean," yet they themselves
held the chain that bound the savage monsters. We shall have occasion in
a subsequent chapter to trace further the pathway of this dread rider as
he reels onward in the career of ages, "drunken with the blood of the

This work of destruction performed by the dread rider on the pale horse
is considered by many as a literal description of the persecutions of
the Papacy. While Catholics usually charge the civil powers with this
bloody work, it is an undeniable fact of history that the Popes often
ordered or sanctioned crusades against the Waldenses, Albigenses, and
other peoples (see remarks on verses 9-11, chap. 17:6), in which the
sword, starvation, and every other means of cruelty imaginable were
brought into use to exterminate the so-called heresy. And in view of the
fact explained in the comments on verses 3 and 4 of this chapter, that
_killing_ is sometimes to be understood in a literal sense on account of
there being nothing to analagously represent such destruction of life,
it is not a violation of the laws of symbolic language thus to interpret
it. It might be consistent in this case to give it a twofold
application; the agreeing facts of history regarding the Papacy strongly
suggest it. Thus, the _sword_ could signify a literal destruction of
life, as in verse 4, and also, in the present case, an ecclesiastical
cutting off by the Papacy, or excommunication; and _hunger_ could
signify literal death by starvation, and also, as in verses 5 and 6, a
destruction of spiritual life, etc.

Where, let me ask, in the whole compass of human writings can be found a
series of events of such thrilling interest, so great in magnitude, as
is contained in these eight verses? Who but the Omnipotent could have
conceived such a wonderful development of the power of iniquity and with
such master-strokes of power compressed them into so small a scene of
symbolic imagery? The impress of divinity is here speaking from every

9. And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar
the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for
the testimony which they held:

10. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord,
holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them
that dwell on the earth?

11. And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it
was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little
season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that
should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

Upon the opening of this seal the scene changes entirely. No more
horsemen appear, but instead the souls of the martyrs are seen at the
altar crying for vindication of their blood upon the cruel oppressors of
earth. The question arises, Are these souls symbols of something else,
or are they what they are here stated to be, "the souls of them that
were slain"? Evidently, the latter, appearing under their own name and
character, because they can not properly be symbolized. They were
disembodied spirits, and where is there anything of analagous character
to represent such? Angels can not; for whenever they are employed as
symbols, it is to designate distinguished agencies among men. They
therefore appear under their own appropriate title as "the _souls_ of
them that were slain."

These souls appeared "under the altar," that is, _at the foot of the
altar_, being the same as that described in chap. 8:3--"And another
angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and there was
given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of
all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne." Thus, the
heavenly world, as opened up before John, appeared symbolized after the
sanctuary of the temple in which stood the golden altar, or altar of
incense. Some have supposed that the brazen altar was the one referred
to, signifying the living sacrifice these souls made of themselves to
God. But there is no altar mentioned in the symbols except the golden
altar. Besides, these were not sacrificial victims; for Christ was made
a complete sacrifice for sin, while these only suffered martyrdom
because of their faithfulness to the cause of Christ. It is much more
reasonable to suppose that their interceding cries went up from the
golden altar, where the "prayers of all saints" ascended with much

Their prayers to God for the avenging of their blood shows the
expectation on their part that the judgments of Heaven would descend
upon the cruel and haughty persecutors and oppressors of earth, and
their surprise was that the day of retribution had been so long delayed.
The history of the church as developed under the preceding seals gives
particular force to this cry of the martyrs. For nearly three centuries
the civil power of Pagan Rome had been employed to crush the cause of
God. During ten terrible seasons of persecution they had been crucified,
slain with the sword, sawn asunder, devoured by beasts in the arena, and
given to the flames. When Constantine, a nominal Christian emperor,
ascended the throne and protected religion by law, it was believed that
persecutions must cease; but soon the discovery was made that the sword
had only changed hands, there having risen an ecclesiastical hierarchy
destined to "glut itself upon the blood of which heathen Rome had only
tasted." The world was now made the arena for the terrible coursings of
the pale horseman, and the "beasts of the earth" were let loose to fall
with savage fury upon their helpless victims, until millions lost their
lives at the instigation of the apostate Church of Rome. Is it any
wonder that the souls of these martyrs should cry unto God for the
vindication of their righteous blood?

It is said that "white robes were given unto every one of them." By
referring to chap. 3:4; 7:9, 13, 14, it will be seen that "white
garments" and "white robes" are sometimes used as a symbol to describe a
part of the heavenly inheritance. The martyr-spirits, although impatient
at the delay of avenging judgment, received a righteous reward. But the
period of tribulation to the church was not yet over. The cup of
iniquity in the hands of her enemies was not yet full, and they were
told to "rest for a little season, until their fellowservants also, and
their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be
fulfilled." The account given seems to indicate an important epoch, a
period in which the martyrs had reason to expect the vindication of
their righteous blood, but which, instead, was to be followed by another
great period of persecution. Considering the time of the events already
described in this series of prophecy, we have no difficulty in fixing
the chronology of this event at the dividing-point between the era of
Papal supremacy and the age of Protestantism--or at the Reformation of
the Sixteenth Century. Did severe slaughter and persecution follow the
Reformation? Witness the reign of Mary Tudor, frequently styled "Bloody
Mary." During three years of her reign, 1555 to 1558, two hundred and
eighty-eight were _burnt alive_ in England! Think of the inhuman
massacre of the innocent Waldenses of southern France by the violent
bigot Oppede (1545), who slew eight hundred men in one town, and thrust
the women into a barn filled with straw and reduced the whole to
ashes--only a sample of his barbarity; or of their oppression in
southern Italy by Pope Pius IV. (1560), at whose command they were slain
by thousands, the throats of eighty-eight men being cut on one occasion
by a single executioner! Witness the horrible massacre of St.
Bartholomew in Paris (Aug. 21, 1572), when the Queen dowager, the
infamous Catherine de Medici, lured immense numbers of the innocent
Hugenots into the city under the pretext of witnessing a marriage
between the Hugenot Henry, king of Navarre, and the sister of Charles
IX., king of France--when the gates were closed and the work of
wholesale slaughter began at a given signal and raged for three days,
during which time from six to ten thousand were butchered in Paris
alone! Think of the rivers of blood in the Netherlands, where the Duke
of Alva boasted that in the short space of six weeks he had put eighteen
thousand to death! Witness the dragoonading methods and other inhuman
persecutions to "wear out the saints of the Most High," that followed
the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) by Louis XIV., king of
France, during whose reign three hundred thousand were brutally
butchered--while Pope Innocent XI. extolled the king by special letter
as follows: "The Catholic church shall most assuredly record in her
sacred annals a _work of such devotion toward her_, and CELEBRATE YOUR
NAME WITH NEVER-DYING PRAISES ... for _this most excellent
undertaking_"!! My heart sickens with horror in the contemplation of
such events. Eternal God! can thy righteous eye behold such
heart-rending scenes of earth, and thy hand of power not be extended to
humble to the dust these cruel, haughty oppressors of thy people?

12. And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo,
there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as
sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

13. And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a
fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a
mighty wind.

14. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled
together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their

15. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich
men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every
bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in
the rocks of the mountains;

16. And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us
from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the
wrath of the Lamb;

17. For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be
able to stand?

Upon the opening of this seal the scene changes again. The symbols are
all drawn from an entirely different source. We are taken out of the
department of civil life into the scenes of nature, which is a clear
evidence that the history of the church is no longer under
consideration. Had God intended to here continue her history, he would
no doubt have employed symbols derived from the same source as those
preceding, so as to prevent our being led astray. No more horsemen or
living characters appear, but we behold the most terrific convulsions of
nature--a mighty earthquake, the darkening of the sun and the moon, the
falling of the stars, and finally the dissolution of the heavens,
together with the mountains and the islands being removed. If the
history of the church is no longer under consideration, this great
change of symbols directs us with absolute certainty into the political
and civil world for their fulfilment. Of course, we are not to suppose
that this is a literal description.

In this manner the dignity and the excellence in the use and the
interpretation of symbols is preserved. To describe the religious
history of the church, noble symbols chosen from the department of human
life are selected; while symbols drawn from an inferior department--that
of nature--are chosen to represent political affairs. This point will
appear very clear as we proceed in the interpretation of the Apocalypse.
It is just what we might naturally expect.

The question may be asked, If these symbols from nature represent
political affairs, where in the events of civil history shall we look
for their fulfilment? Every one will readily perceive the analogy
between an earthquake and a political revolution, when all society is in
a state of agitation as when the solid earth trembles. It is also
evident that the sun, moon, and stars bear the same analagous
relationship to the earth that kings, rulers, and princes do to the body
politic; while the firmament of heaven is analagous to the entire fabric
of civil government, the symbolic heaven in which the symbolic orbs are
set to give light.

The symbols, then, point us to the most terrible revolutions--when
society is in a state of agitation, when kingdoms are overthrown and
their rulers and princes thrown from their positions or made objects of
the most gloomy terror; yea, when the entire fabric of civil government
is finally overthrown and all the institutions and organizations of
society are swept away as with a tornado. This is the time of
consternation to the great men of earth, when they shall hide
"themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains," and say to
the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him
that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the
great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" This is
the time that the martyrs looked forward to when they cried, "How long,
O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them
that dwell on the earth?" A large portion of the Apocalypse is occupied
with the history of these persecuting powers, civil and ecclesiastical.
It is their dominacy that constitutes the long period of tribulation to
the church, when the witnesses prophesy in sackcloth and the faithful
are ground into the dust by the feet of these proud oppressors as they
stand in the high places of the earth. But the cries of the slaughtered
saints have ascended to the throne as incense; God speaks; the judgments
of Heaven descend upon these lofty ones; and a voice from heaven
declares, "They have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and _thou
hast given them blood to drink_; for they are worthy."

This is surely a striking combination of symbols, and the way they are
arranged would indicate that their fulfilment occupied a considerable
period of time. First we have a great earthquake, afterwards the
darkening of the sun and the moon, with the falling of the stars, and
finally the dissolution of the heavens themselves, with the sweeping
away of mountains and islands. This description covers the same period
as that described under the seven last plagues, beginning with certain
fearful revolutions in which the nations that had slaughtered the
millions of God's people were given "blood to drink," and ending finally
in "the great day of his wrath" that shall sweep them from their
positions eternally. The full explanation of these events can not at
present be appreciated by the reader, therefore I reserve it for the
future, to be more fully developed under other symbols.

In these six seals we have a vivid outline of mighty events, political
and ecclesiastical, extending from the earliest stage of Christianity to
the end of time. This description in advance was no mere human
production. No human foresight would have detected, and no mortal mind
would have conceived, events so wonderful and so farreaching in their
character. Any other history would sooner have been imagined. It takes
divine wisdom to understand the true position of the church in the
present, and she can scarcely read her past history by natural wisdom
alone, much less outline the future. First the establishment of
Christianity is symbolized, then the violence of the Pagan party, the
apostasy, and final establishment of the "man of sin," until the
millions of earth are crushed by the spiritual tyranny or by the arm of
civil power, and the cry of the martyrs goes up "How long, O Lord?" But
they are told to rest "a little season," when they shall witness the
hand of God laid upon these persecuting nations of earth, convulsing
them in the most fearful revolutions, and ending finally in their
complete overthrow in that last "great day of God Almighty."


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.

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.

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 Nepthalim 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 Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the
tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of
Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

A clear understanding of the two visions in the chapter before us can be
obtained only by considering the plan of the prophecy already referred
to. The events are narrated by series. A particular theme is taken up
and followed through to its completion; then the narrative returns and
another theme is introduced. But this is not all. Whenever the history
of abounding error or iniquity is set forth, we have in immediate
connection and in perfect contrast therewith a history of the true
people of God; thus, the contemporaneous history of righteousness and
iniquity, truth and error, a true church and a false one. The visions of
this chapter cover the same period of time as the events described in
the preceding chapter, but form the most perfect contrast. The student
of Revelation who unfolds the dark history of apostasy and iniquity
contained in the preceding seals might naturally be led to ask, Is this
the melancholy end of God's church? Does it deteriorate rapidly and turn
out so badly, after all? As an answer to these questions, God gives us
next a history of his own people, showing that he preserved his own
church complete, although Antichrist reigned in power.

The principal points in the vision before us are the tempestuous winds
about to descend upon the earth, and the sealing of God's servants. The
first of these, being drawn from nature, would lead us to look for its
fulfilment in political events; while the latter, derived from human
life, directs us into the affairs of the church. The "four winds of the
earth" from the "four corners of the earth" signify all the winds from
every direction--the cardinal points of the compass; while the four
angels signify all the agencies that have control of these winds, which
for the present are held in restraint in order to give opportunity for
the sealing of the Lord's servants. _Angels_ in the Scripture is
frequently used to denote evil agencies as well as good, the context
determining which is meant. See Chap. 12:7. The design of the winds was
to "hurt the earth, the sea, and the trees."

What, let me ask, in the political world is analagous to tempestuous
storms sweeping over the earth? What but huge masses of men, excited by
fierce passions, precipitating themselves upon the inhabitants of an
empire, sweeping everything before them in the fury of their march and
spreading desolation on every side? In the symbols of the next chapter
we find that just such hordes of men--barbarians--under their angels, or
leaders, precipitated themselves upon the Roman empire; and the fearful
effects upon the earth, the sea, and the green trees produced thereby,
is particularly detailed. For the present, however, they are held under
restraint until the sealing of the servants of God should be
accomplished, then they were to go forward in their work of destruction.

The sealing of the servants is not making them the people of God, but
rather marking or designating them as such, just as later we find the
devotees of a corrupt apostate church specified as having the "mark of
the beast." Considerable light can be thrown upon the subject of the
sealing of God's servants and of the mark of the beast by consulting
Roman history for the origin of such expressions. The many conquests of
the Roman arms furnished so many prisoners that they became a drug in
the slave-markets of the world, and were so numerous that in many places
they outnumbered the Roman citizens ten to one. In the first century
before Christ it is said that some Sicilian estates were worked by as
many as twenty thousand slaves. "That each owner might know his own, the
poor creatures were _branded like cattle_." The "mark of the beast"
possessed by the followers of a false communion will be found to consist
of an Antichristian spirit by which they are filled with "doctrines of
devils." So, also, "the seal of the living God" consists of the giving
of the Holy Spirit, by which his people are led into all truth. See John
14:26. While Sabbatarians vainly try to prove that keeping the seventh
day is the seal of God in this dispensation, yet there is not one text
of Scripture that hints such a thing, but, on the contrary, the
Scriptures are against them. "Grieve not the _Holy Spirit_ of God
whereby _ye are sealed_ unto the day of redemption." Eph. 4:30. Again,
the Word of God says, "Now he which stablished us with you in Christ,
and hath anointed us is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the
earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." 2 Cor. 1:21, 22. The time this
sealing of the people of God takes place is thus described: "_After_
that ye believed, ye were _sealed_ with that Holy Spirit of promise."
Eph. 1:13. The winds of heaven were restrained until the work of _full
salvation_ could be firmly established in the earth. When Christ
appeared, the Roman empire was in a state of comparative quiet, and the
immense hosts of foreign invaders did not appear until the firm
establishment of Christianity, being held back by the power of God until
his work should be accomplished.

In the description of the sealing given, twelve thousand were selected
from each of the twelve tribes. Some have supposed this to have
reference solely to salvation work among the Jewish nation; but that
would be adopting the literal mode of interpretation, thus destroying
its symbolic character. The twelve tribes are chosen from the proper
department to represent the church or "Israel of God" in this
dispensation, irrespective of nationality. The twelve gates in the wall
of the heavenly city are named after the twelve tribes of the children
of Israel (chap. 21:12), showing that it is only through "Israel" that
any one can enter the New Jerusalem. Since the gospel is given to all
nations, this can not signify literal Israel. "The children of the
promise are counted for the seed." Rom. 9:8. "If ye be Christ's, then
are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. 3:29.
Since the vision is symbolical, we are to consider the numbers given as
symbolical also, the definite number of twelve thousand from each of the
tribes showing that the church of God was _complete and perfect_, no
part being omitted.

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.

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 honor, and power, and might, be unto our God
for ever and ever. Amen.

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

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 mountains of waters: and
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

In this scene the vision is carried forward to the close of the long
period of tribulation and persecution to the church of God, when all her
enemies are finally overthrown; and here are the glorious results, the
harvest gathered: a great multitude whom no man can number, gathered out
of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, standing before
the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in
their hands, the symbols of their victory. The scene is laid in heaven,
and refers undoubtedly to the end of time when the heavenly world will
be opened up to all the faithful who have suffered for Christ amid the
trials and the oppositions through which his church is called to pass in
this present world. We are expressly informed by one of the elders who
these are in white robes and whence they came, so there can be no
question respecting them. This is the glorious company of the redeemed
of all ages who "came out of great tribulation, and have washed their
robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are
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. They shall hunger
no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them,
nor any heat." What a contrast with the scenes of earth, when oppressed
by famine, and cold, and nakedness, and peril, and sword, they were
killed all the day long! But their sufferings are over; "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."

This redeemed company is represented as uniting in a song of praise and
thanksgiving to God for bringing them through their long period of
trial, "saying Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and
unto the Lamb"; while heaven resounds with universal praise as the
angels and all the redeemed host take up the chorus and swell the mighty
anthem "saying, Amen; blessing, and glory, and wisdom and thanksgiving,
and honor, and power, and might be unto our God forever and ever. Amen."

It is clear that, in this chapter and the one preceding, we have two
grand parallel and comprehensive histories--in one, the process of
corruption in the so-called church and the final judgments that overtook
these cruel persecutors of the Lord's people; in the other, the setting
apart and sealing of God's servants, their preservation from the
contaminations of an apostate church, and the final glorious triumph of
all who endure unto the end.

This vision has often been applied in a figurative manner to the
spiritual reign of God's people on earth before the end of time--that
they are overcomers through the blood of Christ, that God dwells with
them in his church, that their spiritual needs are all supplied so they
hunger and thirst no more--but a careful study of the plan of the
prophecy will show that its real signification is the heavenly state at
the end. As the sixth seal describes the final overthrow of all the
antichristian powers that have oppressed God's people on earth; so this
vision describes the great white-robed company gathered out of every
nation, kindred, tongue, and people, who have been preserved faithful
through all these trials and tribulations, and who receive at last the
crown of everlasting life. This last vision will be more fully described
under certain symbols contained in the last two chapters of this book;
while the earthquake, the falling of the stars, etc., of the sixth seal
will be more perfectly detailed in chapters 15 and 16.


And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in
heaven about the space of half an hour.

2. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to
them were given seven trumpets.

3. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a
golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that
he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the
golden altar which was before the throne.

4. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of
the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.

5. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the
altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and
thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

The remainder of the book is embraced in the contents of the seventh
seal. This may appear a little singular at first, being so much larger
than the preceding ones. But it is easily understood when we consider
the six as being a synopsis of the whole book, containing a history of
the church apostate to the final consummation, and also the
contemporaneous history of the truth church of God; while the seventh
gives in detail the account of these great persecuting powers, civil and
ecclesiastical, and the trials and triumphs of the saints in the New
Jerusalem--developing more fully the events described under the six.

Upon the opening of the seventh seal, "there was silence in heaven about
the space of half an hour." Whether this interval of silence is intended
to be symbolical of any event on earth I do not know; neither have I
seen any solution of the matter that is consistent or satisfactory. Some
have supposed that it denoted a cessation of persecution among the
Christians of earth. But if that were the case, then its opposite,
"voices in heaven," would indicate seasons of persecution. There were
several seasons of rest from persecution enjoyed by the early saints,
and why should one period be singled out more than the rest and be thus
described? Besides, "a half hour," according to prophetic time would
signify only about one week, a period too short certainly to take
account of. Others have supposed that it signified the end of the world,
and that heaven would then be deserted for a short time while the
judgment was taking place. But the events following show that the end of
the world is not here described, therefore it can not have reference to
such. Moreover, it is extremely doubtful whether silence in heaven would
be a proper symbol of such an event. I do not perceive the analogy. In
fact, such an interpretation of _silence_ would be literal and not

Its explanation would seem to be found in connection with certain facts
stated respecting the opening of the preceding seals--that voices
followed them. When the first four seals were opened, John heard the
voices of the four beasts, "as it were a voice of thunder"; and on the
opening of the fifth, he heard the souls of the martyrs crying unto God;
but when the seventh was opened, there was silence for a time. The
contrast is noticeable; but whether it has any special signification, I
am unable to say; perhaps not.

Before the sounding of the seven trumpets, the acceptableness of the
prayers of the saints is represented by an angel offering incense "upon
the golden altar which was before the throne." This scene was doubtless
introduced to lend encouragement to God's children--that, although
iniquity abounded on every side and the judgments of God were poured out
upon the people, still the prayers of the faithful few were acceptable
in his sight, ascending before the throne like sweet incense from off
the golden altar.

After offering up the incense with the prayers of all saints, the same
angel took his censer and filled it with fire from off the altar and
cast it (the fire) upon the earth--a token of God's avenging
judgments--"and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and
an earthquake." These, of course, were on earth, and symbolized the
revolutions and convulsions now about to take place in the empire.

6. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared
themselves to sound.

7. The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire
mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the
third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt

We here enter upon a series of prophecies developing fully the
successive steps in the decline of the Western Roman empire, by which it
finally tottered to its fall. It was necessary that this persecuting,
tyrannical government should be subverted in order to give opportunity
for the establishment of apostate Christianity in the form of the
Papacy, as it constituted the "let" or hindrance to the full development
of the "man of sin" mentioned by the apostle in 2 Thes. 2. That
persecuting, Pagan Rome was a serious obstacle confronting the
development of apostasy was recognized even by the early Christians.
Thus, Tertullian, in his notable Apology, chapter 32, says: "Christians
are under a particular necessity of praying for the emperors, and for
the continued state of the empire; because we know that dreadful power
which hangs over the world, and _the conclusion of the age, which
threatens the most horrible evils, is restrained by the continuance of
the time appointed for the Roman empire_. This is what we would not
experience; and while we pray that it may be deferred, we hereby show
our good-will to the perpetuity of the Roman state." In a subsequent
chapter it will be seen that Pagan Rome, broken up into minor divisions
and no longer able to maintain her position in the political world,
resigns her power and authority into the hands of the rising Papacy.
Therefore it is not surprising that the means by which this great change
is effected should be made the subject of prophetic revelation. Besides,
we have other things to guide us in the interpretation. We can readily
identify the symbols under the fifth trumpet with the curse of
Mohammedanism in the Eastern empire, and we would naturally suppose that
the first four precede those. Again, the symbols are all drawn from the
natural world, which leads us assuredly into the political affairs of
the empire for their fulfilment. They are also of the most destructive
nature, therefore we look for objects of a corresponding desolating
character. Finally, the vision of the preceding chapter represents
fierce, destructive winds as about to descend upon the earth, being
temporarily held in check to give opportunity for the primitive
establishment of Christianity, implying that they would afterwards be
let loose to burst like a tornado upon the empire. It is said positively
that power was given "to hurt the earth and the sea" (chap. 7:2), and in
the vision before us the effects produced upon the earth and the trees
are particularly detailed.

"The earth" signifies the Roman empire, or that portion of the earth
made the subject of apocalyptic vision. That this application of the
word _earth_ is correct, is shown by various Scriptures. "And it came to
pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus
that _all the world_ should be taxed." Luke 2:1. "The queen of the South
... came from the _uttermost parts of the earth_ [southern Arabia] to
hear the wisdom of Solomon." Mat. 12:42. "Ye shall be witnesses ... unto
the _uttermost part of the earth_." Acts 1:8. The apostles carried the
gospel personally, only throughout the territory of the then-known
civilized world--the Roman empire. Upon this earth there descended in
the vision before us a fierce storm of hail and fire, mingled with
blood. Its being mingled with blood would indicate its destructive
effects. One characteristic of this symbol particularly is worthy of
notice. Hail and fire cast upon the earth would become absorbed speedily
or pass into new combinations with the surrounding elements, thus not
remaining in any permanent form except in its effects. In this
particular it is wholly unlike the symbol of the next trumpet, which is
that of a burning mountain cast into the sea, for such a body would
naturally remain permanently where it fell; whereas a storm of hail and
fire would soon disappear. Also, the statement that this storm was cast
upon the earth would indicate that it was a calamity descending from
without upon the empire.

Where, now, do we find the object that fully meets the requirements of
this symbol--destructive agents descending upon the Roman empire like a
furious storm of hail and fire, accomplishing the first important step
toward the subverting of the empire? We find it in the irruption of the
fierce Gothic tribes of the North, who, under Alaric, burst like a
tornado upon the empire about the beginning of the fifth century,
spreading destruction and desolation upon every side.

The following quotations and facts from the highest authority on the
subject, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Vol. III, pp.
190-294), will give the reader an idea of the awful effects produced by
the invasions of these barbarous tribes. The great Theodosius, emperor
of the Western Roman empire, "had supported the frail and mouldering
edifice of the republic," but upon his death he was succeeded by the
weak Honorious. In a few months the Gothic barbarians were in arms. "The
barriers of the Danube were thrown down, the savage warriors of Scythia
issued from their forests ... and the various tribes of barbarians, who
glory in the Gothic name, were irregularly spread over the woody shores
of Dalmatia to the walls of Constantinople." They were "directed by the
bold and artful genius of Alaric," who soon concluded that the conquest
of Constantinople was an impracticable enterprise. He "disdained to
trample any longer on the prostrate and ruined countries of Thrace and
Dacia, and he resolved to seek a plentiful harvest of fame and riches in
a province which had hitherto escaped the ravages of war.... The troops
which had been posted to defend the straits of Thermopylae retired ...
without attempting to disturb the secure and rapid passage of Alaric;
and the fertile fields of Phocis and Baeotia were instantly covered by a
deluge of barbarians, who massacred the males of an age to bear arms,
and drove away the beautiful females, with the spoil and cattle of the
flaming villages. The travelers who visited Greece several years
afterwards, could easily discover the deep and bloody traces of the
march of the Goths.... The whole territory of Attica, from the
promontory of Sunium to the town of Megara, was blasted by his baleful
presence; and, if we may use the comparison of a contemporary
philosopher, Athens itself resembled the bleeding and empty skin of a
slaughtered victim.... Corinth, Argos, Sparta, yielded without
resistance to the arms of the Goths; and the most fortunate of the
inhabitants were saved, by death, from beholding the slavery of their
families and the conflagration of their cities."

Arcadius, the emperor of the East, wishing to dissuade Alaric from
further conquests and such wholesale massacres, promoted him to the rank
of Master-general of the eastern Illyricum, but it had an opposite
effect. "The birth of Alaric, the glory of his past exploits, and the
confidence in his future designs, insensibly united the body of the
[Gothic] nation under his victorious standard; and, with the unanimous
consent of the barbarian chieftains, the Master-general of Illyricum was
elevated, according to the ancient custom, on a shield, and solemnly
proclaimed king of the Visigoths. Armed with this double power, situated
on the verge of the two empires, he alternately sold his deceitful
promises to the courts of Arcadius and Honorious; until he declared and
executed his resolution of _invading the dominions of the West_.... He
was tempted by the fame, the beauty, the wealth of Italy, which he had
twice visited; and he secretly aspired to plant the Gothic standard on
the walls of Rome, and to enrich his army with the accumulated spoils of
three hundred triumphs." He marched into Italy, and the emperor fled
before him. A temporary respite was finally procured by the promise of a
payment of four thousand pounds of gold.

Alaric soon appeared, however, before the very walls of Rome, and that
splendid city, surrounded by hordes of barbarians, was soon reduced to a
wretched condition by famine. Two representatives of the Romans waited
upon Alaric for terms of peace, stating that if such could not be
arranged the inhabitants of the city, animated by despair, would fight
to the bitter end. To this the haughty conqueror made this famous reply:
"The thicker the grass, the easier it is mowed." With an insulting
laugh, he named the ransom required--all the gold and silver contained
in the city, all the rich and precious movables, together with all the
slaves. Then the ministers humbly asked, "What do you intend to leave
us?" "Your lives," the haughty king replied, and retired. He finally
relaxed a little and fixed other terms, which included the immediate
payment of the enormous sum of five thousand pounds of gold, thirty
thousand pounds of silver, besides other treasure. "The victorious
leader, who united the daring spirit of a barbarian with the art and
discipline of a Roman general, was at the head of a hundred thousand
fighting men; and Italy pronounced, with terror and respect, the
formidable name of Alaric."

A second time Rome was besieged by Alaric and taken. Honorious was
deposed and Attalus made emperor; but Honorious was afterwards restored.
In A.D. 410 he again marched upon the city, captured and entered it.
"Eleven hundred and sixty-three years after the foundation of Rome, the
imperial city, which had subdued and civilized so considerable a part of
mankind, was delivered to the licentious fury of the tribes of Germania
and Scythia." For six days the city was sacked by the barbarous
soldiery, and the horrible scenes of robbery, murder, and rapine that
ensued can not be described. It has been said that "civilized warfare is
sufficiently terrible," but that would be almost a blessing compared
with such scenes as these. For a space of four years Alaric ravaged
Italy almost without opposition.

The slaughter and devastation that followed this storm of "hail and
fire" is thus described: "The banks of the Rhine were crowned like those
of the Tiber, with houses and well-cultivated farms; and if a poet
descended the river, he might express his doubts on which side was
situated the territory of the Romans. This scene of peace and plenty was
suddenly changed into a desert, and the prospect of the smoking ruins
could alone distinguish the solitude of nature from the desolation of
man. The flourishing city of Mentz was surprised and destroyed, and many
thousand Christians inhumanly massacred in the church. Wurms perished
after a long and obstinate siege. Strasburg, Spires, Rheims, Tournay,
Arras, Amiens, experienced the cruel oppression of the German yoke, and
the consuming flames of war spread from the banks of the Rhine over the
greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul. That rich and
extensive country, as far as the ocean, the Alps and the Pyrenees, was
delivered to the barbarians, who drove before them, in a promiscuous
crowd, the bishop, the senator and the virgin, laden with the spoils of
their houses and altars."

Another historian describing the same, a few years after the event,
says: "The barbarians meeting with little resistance, indulged in the
utmost cruelty. The cities which they captured, they so utterly
destroyed that no traces of them now remain, except in Thrace and
Greece, except here and there a tower or a gate. All the men who opposed
them they slew, young and old, and indeed spared not women, nor even
children. Whence there is still but a sparse population in Italy. The
plunder which they seized in every part of Europe was immense, and
especially at Rome, where they left nothing, either public or private."
In this latter description reference is also made to some later
invasions, but they were all of the same desolating character.

These historical facts show how the green grass, or the feebler portion
of society--the tender sex, the young, and the aged--were consumed
before this fearful storm of hail and fire; and also how the trees, or
the stronger portion--those better able to make resistance--suffered

It is also a fact to be observed that these fierce tribes which overran
Italy, harassed or captured Rome repeatedly, and threatened the
overthrow of the empire, made no permanent settlement in that territory.
"Under Alaric the Goths make no lasting settlement. In the long tale of
intrigue and warfare between the Goths and the two Imperial courts which
fills up this whole time, cessions of territory are offered to the
Goths, provinces are occupied by them, but as yet they do not take root
anywhere; no Western land as yet becomes Gothia,"--Encyclopaedia
Britannica, Art. Goths. After the death of Alaric (A.D. 412), however,
they settled in the southern part of Spain and Gaul[5]--part of the
territory of the West--but they no longer threatened the life of the
empire; but, on the contrary, they became allies of the Romans in
opposing the dreadful incursions of the Huns and other barbarians. Thus
their invasion of the West was at first terribly destructive--like a
storm of hail and fire--but their ravages soon ceased, except in their
disastrous and weakening effects.

[Footnote 5: This division of the Gothic tribes is commonly called the
Visigoths (Western Goths), as distinguished from the Ostrogoths, or
Eastern Goths.]

8. And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain
burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of
the sea became blood;

9. And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea,
and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were

The symbol of this trumpet is that of a volcanic mountain cast into the
sea, whence it sends forth its streams of lava in every direction until
a third of the creatures in the sea are destroyed, thus spreading
desolation on every side. It would naturally remain where it fell, a
permanent instrument of destruction.

We have here a description of the next step of importance in the
downfall of the Western empire. The second great invasion was that of
"the terrible Genseric" with his Vandal hordes, who pushed southward
through Gaul and Spain, conquered the Carthaginian territory of northern
Africa, and there formed a permanent independent government in A.D. 439.
From this fixed place, he continued for years to make incursions upon
the bordering cities and islands, burning the cities, murdering the
inhabitants, and intercepting the commerce of the Mediterranean. During
his military career, 429-468, he became the terror of the inhabitants of
the empire, insomuch that historians designate him "the terrible
Genseric." The depredations committed by his followers were but a
repetition of such scenes of barbarity as have already been described in
the invasions of Alaric under the first trumpet, therefore I will not
devote much space to the historical facts in the case. Their deeds,
however, were such that the very term _Vandal_ has come to be used as a
designation of any man of ferocious character. Concerning the important
part that this chieftain acted in the downfall of the Western empire,
Gibbon uses this significant language: "Genseric, a name which, in the
destruction of the Roman empire, has deserved an equal rank with the
names of Alaric and Attila." Vol. III, p. 370.

In the year 454 the empress Eudoxia wished to be revenged on Maximus,
who had murdered her husband Valentinian and had grasped the throne, and
she secretly invited Genseric to attack Rome. That fierce general, who
is described by the Encyclopaedia Britannica as "cruel to
blood-thirstiness, cunning, unscrupulous, and grasping," was glad to
undertake the task, and he soon landed an army of Vandals and African
Moors at the gates of the city. It was soon taken and for fifteen days
given over to be sacked by the barbarous soldiery. When they had glutted
their savage instincts with the horrible deeds of murder and rapine,
loaded with the spoils of the imperial city, they returned to Africa,
taking with them an immense number of captives, including Eudoxia and
her two daughters. This desolating incursion left the empire weak and
tottering to its fall. Genseric "became the tyrant of the sea; the
coasts of Italy, Greece, and Asia, were again exposed to his revenge and
avarice. Tripoli and Sardinia returned to his obedience; he added Sicily
to the number of his provinces; and before he died, in the fulness of
years and glory, he beheld the FINAL EXTINCTION of the empire of the
West." Gibbon, Vol. III, pp. 497, 498.

By "the sea" into which this burning mountain was cast is meant, not the
Mediterranean nor any other literal sea, but the heart of the empire,
and that in a state of agitation. The empire was in a state of
comparative quiet when Alaric appeared; therefore the storm of hail and
fire is represented as falling upon "the earth," as a result of which
society was thrown into a state of great agitation, and moved to its
depths, like an ocean in a storm. This was its condition when Genseric,
from his fixed position in Africa, began his desolating incursions;
therefore the next symbol is that of a mountain cast into "the sea." By
the sea becoming blood is doubtless meant the destruction of life in the
empire, and "the third part" denotes the vast extent of the destruction.

I must speak with hesitation on what is signified by "the creatures
which were in the sea" and the "ships." By analogy I would be led to
refer the former to the rulers and the dignitaries in the empire, they
bearing an analagous position to the empire that fishes do to the waters
of the sea; while the latter may refer to public monuments and

10. And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star
from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the
third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;

11. And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third
part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the
waters, because they were made bitter.

The description given of this star is similar to that of a large burning
meteor, such as we frequently see shooting athwart the heavens. It fell
rapidly to earth, as such meteors often do, and struck the
fountain-heads of the rivers, imparting to them such a poisonous quality
as caused the death of those who drank the waters.

This symbol is also drawn from the natural world, and hence we must look
for its fulfilment in political events. The rapidity of its fall and
disappearance in the waters would direct us to an agent who would appear
suddenly and soon disappear, and whose career would leave bitter
results. The direct effects of this meteor were experienced by the
rivers and the fountains of waters, which bear an analagous relation to
the sea that bordering tribes and nations do to an empire. The heart of
the empire, or "the sea," was directly affected by the burning mountain,
under the preceding trumpet; while the tributaries of the sea, or the
bordering tribes, are made the subject of direct attack under this
symbol and the poisonous qualities of their waters carried to far
distant points.

Under this striking symbol we have a description of the third important
step in the downward course of Rome--the short but eventful career of
Attila, with his terrible Scythians, or Huns. Singularly, Attila was
said to "possess the iron sword of the war-god _Mars_," and he claimed
for himself the designation or title "The Scourge of God"; while his
followers were even more cruel and barbarous, if possible, than the
Goths and the Vandals.

Coming from the remote solitudes of Asia under the leadership of their
fierce king, they poured like a tornado, first upon the inhabitants of
the Eastern empire (in 442, 445) and then turned their attention
westward. Attila ruled over "nearly all the tribes north of the Danube
and the Black sea," and under his banner fought Ostrogoths, Gepidae,
Alani, Heruli, and many other Teutonic peoples. Says Gibbon: "The whole
breadth of Europe, as it extends above five hundred miles from the
Euxine to the Adriatic, was at once invaded, and occupied, and desolated
by the myriads of barbarians whom Attila led into the field." It was the
boast of Attila that the grass never grew on the spot which his horse
had trod. In 451 he led his forces, seven hundred thousand strong,
through the center of Germany into the heart of Gaul, where he was met
at Chalons by the combined forces of the Visigoths, Alans, Franks and
Romans, and was defeated, with the loss of one hundred and seventy
thousand of his men. This was one of the most gigantic as well as one of
the most important battles of history. A rivulet flowing through the
field of battle is said to have been colored and swollen by the blood of
the slain. The next year, however, with a greater force at his command,
he fell with headlong fury upon northern Italy; but he did not attack
Rome. Suddenly and seemingly without cause, he withdrew his army; and
this peculiar action of his has been the wonder of historians ever
since. Says the Encyclopaedia Britannica: "Attila at once withdrew from
Italy, but the motive which led him to act thus is not known." According
to the prophecy, he was to fall upon the "rivers and fountains of
waters" only. A short time later, in 453, he died, and "the vast empire
over which he had ruled broke up _immediately_ after his death, no one
chief being powerful enough to seize the supremacy." Thus his short but
wonderful career of about twelve years ended suddenly, like a meteor
falling into a river.

But the effects of this invasion were farreaching. Rome in her declining
strength, being unable to cope with these immense hordes of barbarians,
was forced to call to her assistance the half-civilized tribes of Gothic
barbarians against a more dreaded foe. The success that attended these
conflicts of the combined forces were the means of giving greater
political importance to these Gothic tribes and securing their
independence. But while they rose, Rome fell. By the very act of
employing such weapons in defense, Rome robbed herself of the little
political strength remaining, and she was obliged to accept the bitter

Under each of these first three trumpets the extent of destruction is
indicated by the expression "the third part." Since the successive steps
in the downfall of the empire is the subject under consideration, this
expression as here applied doubtless has particular reference to the
loss of political power and life, rather than referring directly to the
loss of human life sustained. With this thought in view, it is evident
that the political importance of the empire was entirely destroyed by
these desolating incursions. Of the truth of this fact all historians
agree. Nothing of Rome remained, except the semblance of a government,
when the time arrived for the sounding of the next trumpet.

12. And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun
was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part
of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the
day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.

The symbol of this trumpet is that of an eclipse of sun, moon, and
stars, so that they shone not for a third part of the day and night.
Under the sixth seal we showed that these luminaries of heaven are taken
as symbols of rulers and princes; for the latter bear an analagous
relation to the empire that the former do to the earth. In the
darkening, then, of the sun, moon, and stars, we are to look for some
disastrous change or overthrow in the imperial government. Such an event
occurred only a few years after the events described under the preceding
trumpets. With her political strength and resources exhausted, Rome
could no longer maintain a separate existence, and Odoacer, king of the
Heruli, overthrew Momyllus Augustulus, the last of the Roman line of
emperors, and caused himself to be proclaimed king of Italy in A.D. 476.
This terminated the Western empire; and thus was the Roman sun eclipsed
in darkness. In a subsequent chapter, however, we will find the eclipse
lifted at a later period and _New Rome_ enjoying all the power and
authority lost in her predecessors of the old Augustin line.

Odoacer continued in possession of his kingdom seventeen years. Then he
was defeated and slain by Theodoric, and by him the kingdom of the
Ostrogoths was established in Italy. Sixty years later this kingdom was
subverted by Belisarius, the general of Justinian, emperor of the East,
to whom it became a tributary province. In each of the principal cities
of Italy Justinian appointed a governor with the title of Duke, in
subordination to another with the title of Exarch, whose residence was
at Ravenna. "Thus, at last, was Rome, once the proud mistress of the
world, reduced to a poor dukedom, made tributary to the Exarch of
Ravenna, and he holding his authority at the will of the emperor of
Constantinople, the seat of the Eastern empire."

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