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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 11 - Verse 14

Verse 14. The second woe is past. That is, the second of the three that were announced as yet to come, Re 8:13; compare Re 9:12.

And, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. The last of the series. The meaning is, that that which was signified by the third "woe" would be the next, and final event, in order. On the meaning of the word "quickly," see Barnes "Re 1:1"; compare Re 2:5,16; 3:11; Re 22:7,12,20.

 

In reference now to the important question about the application of this portion of the book of Revelation, it need hardly be said that the greatest variety of opinion has prevailed among expositors. It would be equally unprofitable, humiliating, and discouraging, to attempt to enumerate all the opinions which have been held; and I must refer the reader who has any desire to become acquainted with them, to Poole's Synopsis, in loc., and to the copious statement of Professor Stuart, Com., vol. it. pp. 219—227. Professor Stuart himself supposes that the meaning is, that "a competent number of divinely-commissioned and faithful Christian witnesses, endowed with miraculous powers, should bear testimony against the corrupt Jews, during the last days of their commonwealth, respecting their sins; that they should proclaim the truths of the gospel; and that the Jews, by destroying them, would bring upon themselves an aggravated and an awful doom," ii. 226. Instead of attempting to examine in detail the opinions which have been held, I shall rather state what seems to me to be the fair application of the language used, in accordance with the principles pursued thus far in the exposition. The inquiry is, whether there have been any events to which this language is applicable, or in reference to which, if it be admitted that it was the design of the Spirit of inspiration to describe them, it may be supposed that such language would be employed as we find here.

In this inquiry, it may be assumed that the preceding exposition is correct, and the application now to be made must accord with that; that is, it must be found that events occurred in such times and circumstances as would be consistent with the supposition that that exposition is correct. It is to be assumed, therefore, that Re 9:20-21 refers to the state of the ecclesiastical world after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, and previous to the Reformation; that chapter 10 refers to the Reformation itself; that Re 11:1-2 refers to the necessity, at the time of the Reformation, of ascertaining what was the true church, of reviving the Scripture doctrine respecting the atonement and justification, and of drawing correct lines as to membership in the church. All this has reference, according to this interpretation, to the state of the church while the Papacy would have the ascendency, or during the twelve hundred and sixty years in which it would trample down the church as if the holy city were in the hands of the Gentiles. Assuming this to be the correct exposition, then what is here said (Re 11:3-13) must relate to that period, for it is with reference to that same time—the period of "a thousand two hundred and threescore days," or twelve hundred and sixty years—that it is said (Re 11:3) the witnesses would "prophesy," "clothed in sackcloth." If this be so, then what is here stated (Re 11:3-13) must be supposed to occur during the ascendency of the Papacy, and must mean, in general, that during that long period of apostasy, darkness, corruption, and sin, there would be faithful witnesses for the truth, who, though they were few in number, would be sufficient to keep up the knowledge of the truth on the earth, and to bear testimony against the prevailing errors and abominations. The object of this portion of the book, therefore, is to describe the character of the faithful witnesses for the truth during this long period of darkness; to state their influence; to record their trials; and to show what would be the ultimate result in regard to them, when their "testimony" should become triumphant. This general view will be seen to accord with the exposition of the previous portion of the book, and will be sustained, I trust, by the more particular inquiry into the application of the passage to which I now proceed. The essential points in the passage (Re 11:3-13) respecting the "witnesses" are six:

(1) who are meant by the witnesses;

(2) the war made on them;

(3) their death;

(4) their resurrection;

(5) their reception into heaven; and

(6) the consequences of their triumph in the calamity that came upon the city.

{e} "second woe" Re 8:13

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