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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 10 - Verse 5

Verse 5. And the angel which I saw stand, etc. Re 10:2. That is, John saw him standing in this posture when he made the oath which he proceeds to record.

Lifted up his hand to heaven. The usual attitude in taking an oath, as if one called heaven to witness. See Ge 14:22; De 32:40 Eze 20:5-6. Compare Barnes on "Da 12:7".

 

{b} "earth" Ex 6:8; De 32:40 ———————————————————————————————————- This is part 3 of 4 parts of Notes for Revelation 9:20

Part 1 See Barnes "Re 9:20"

Part 2 See Barnes "Re 9:21"

Part 4 See Barnes "Re 10:10"

 

Happily we have also the means of fixing the exact date of this event, so as to make it accord with singular accuracy with the period supposed to be referred to. The general time specified by Mr. Gibbon is A.D. 1055. This, according to the two methods referred to of determining the period embraced in the "hour, and day, and month, and year," would reach, if the period were 391 years, to A. D. 1446; if the other method were referred to, making it 396 years and 106 days to A.D. 1451, with 106 days added, within less than two years of the actual taking of Constantinople. But there is a more accurate calculation as to the time than the general one thus made. In vol. iv. 93, Mr. Gibbon makes this remark: "Twenty-five years after the death of Basil, his successors were suddenly attacked by an unknown race of barbarians, who united the Scythian valour with the fanaticism of new proselytes, and the art and riches of a powerful monarchy." He then proceeds (p. 94, seq.) with an account of the invasions of the Turks. In vol. iii. 307, we have an account of the death of Basil. "In the sixty-eighth year of his age, his martial spirit urged him to embark in person for a holy war against the Saracens of Sicily; he was prevented by death, and Basil, surnamed the slayer of the Bulgarians, was dismissed from the world, with the blessings of the clergy and the curses of the people." This occurred A.D. 1025. "Twenty-five years" after this would make A.D. 1050. To this add the period here referred to, and we have respectively, as above, the years A.D. 1446, or A.D. 1451, and 106 days. Both periods are near the time of the taking of Constantinople and the downfall of the Eastern empire, (A.D. 1453,) and the latter strikingly so; and, considering the general nature of the statement of Mr. Gibbon, and the great indefiniteness of the dates in chronology, may be considered as remarkable.—But we have the means of a still more accurate calculation. It is by determining the exact period of the investiture of Togrul with the authority of caliph, or as the "temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet." The time of this investiture, or coronation, is mentioned by Abulfeda as occurring on the 25th of Dzoulcad, in the year of the Hegira 449; and the date of Elmakin's narrative, who has given an account of this, perfectly agrees with this. Of this transaction, Elmakin makes the following remark: "There was now none left in Irak or Chorasmia who could stand before him." The importance of this investiture will be seen from the charge which the caliph is reported by Abulfeda to have given to Togrul on this occasion: "The caliph commits to your care all that part of the world which God has committed to his care and dominion; and entrusts to thee, under the name of vicegerent, the guardianship of the pious, faithful, and God-serving citizens." (Mandat Chalifa tuae curae omne id terraium quod Deus ejns curae et imperio commisit; tibique civium piorum, fidelium, Deum colentium, tutelam sublocatorio nomine demandat.) The exact time of this investiture is stated by Abulfeda, as above, to be the 25th of Dzoulcad, A. H. 449. Now, reckoning this as the time, and we have the following result: The 25th of Dzoulcad, A. H. 449, would answer to February 2, A. D. 1058. From this to May 29, 1453, the time when Constantinople was taken, would be 395 years and 116 days. The prophetic period, as above, is 396 years and 106 days—making a difference only of 1 year and 10 days—a result that cannot but be considered as remarkable, considering the difficulty of fixing ancient dates. Or if, with Mr. Elliott, (i. 495-499,) we suppose that the time is to be reckoned from the period when the Turkman power went forth from Bagdad on a career of conquest, the reckoning should be from the year of the Hegira, 448, the year before the formal investiture, then this would make a difference of only 24 days. The date of that event was the tenth of Dzoulcad, A. H. 448. That was the day on which Togrul with his Turkroans, now the representative and head of the power of Islamism, quitted Bagdad to enter on a long career of war and conquest. "The part allotted to Togrul himself in the fearful drama soon to open against the Greeks was to extend and establish the Turkman dominion over the frontier countries of Irak and Mesopotamia, that so the requisite strength might be attained for the attack ordained of. God's counsels against the Greek empire. The first step to this was the siege and capture of Moussul; his next of Singara. Nisibis, too, was visited by him; that frontier fortress that had in other days been so long a bulwark to the Greeks. Everywhere victory attended his banner—a presage of what was to follow." Reckoning from that time, the coincidence between the period that elapsed from that, and the conquest of Constantinople, would be 396 years and 130 days—a period that corresponds, with only a difference of 24 days, with that specified in the prophecy according to the explanation given above. It could not be expected that a coincidence more accurate than this could be made out on the supposition that the prophecy was designed to refer to these events; and if it did refer to them, the coincidence could have occurred only as a prediction by Him who sees with perfect accuracy all the future.

(13.) The effect. This is stated, in Re 9:20-21, to be that those who survived these plagues did not repent of their wickedness, but that the abominations which existed before still remained. In endeavouring to determine the meaning of this, it will be proper, first, to ascertain the exact sense of the words used, and then to inquire whether a state of things existed subsequent to the invasions of the Turks which corresponded with the description here.

(a) The explanation of the language used in Re 9:20-21.

The rest of the men. That portion of the world on which these plagues did not come. One third of the race, it is said, would fall under these calamities, and the writer now proceeds to state what would be the effect on the remainder. The language used—"the rest of the men"— is not such as to designate with certainty any particular portion of the world, but it is implied that the things mentioned were of the general prevalence.

Which were not killed by these plagues. The two thirds of the race which were spared. The language here is such as would be used on the supposition that the crimes here referred to abounded in all those regions which came within the range of the vision of the apostle.

Yet repented not of the works of their hands. To wit, of those things which are immediately specified.

That they should not worship devils. Implying that they practised this before. The word used here—daimonion—means properly a god, deity; spoken of the heathen gods, Ac 17:18; then a genius, or tutelary demon, e.g. that of Socrates; and, in the New Testament, a demon in the sense of an evil spirit. See the word fully explained in See Barnes on "1 Co 10:20".

The meaning of the passage here, as in 1 Co 10:20, "they sacrifice to devils," is not that they literally worshipped devils in the usual sense of that term, though it is true that such worship does exist in the world, as among the Yezidis, (see Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, vol. i. pp. 225-254, and Rosenmuller, Morgenland, iii. 212-216;) but that they worshipped beings which were inferior to the Supreme God; created spirits of a rank superior to men, or the spirits of men that had been enrolled among the gods. This last was a common form of worship among the heathen, for a large portion of the gods whom they adored were heroes and benefactors who had been enrolled among the gods—as Hercules, Bacchus, etc. All that is necessarily implied in this word is, that there prevailed in the time referred to the worship of spirits inferior to God, or the worship of the spirits of departed men. This idea would be more naturally suggested to the mind of a Greek by the use of the word than the worship of evil spirits as such—if indeed it would have conveyed that idea at all; and this word would be properly employed in the representation if there was any homage rendered to departed human spirits which came in the place of the worship of the true God. Compare a dissertation on the meaning of the word used here, in Elliott on the Apocalypse, Appendix I. vol. ii.

And idols of gold, and silver, etc. Idols were formerly, as they are now in heathen lands, made of all these materials. The most costly would, of course, denote a higher degree of veneration for the god, or greater wealth in the worshipper, and all would be employed as symbols or representatives of the gods whom they adored. The meaning of this passage is, that there would prevail, at that time, what would be properly called idolatry, and that this would be represented by the worship paid to these images or idols. It is not necessary to the proper understanding of this, to suppose that the images or idols worshipped were acknowledged heathen idols, or were erected in honour of heathen gods, as such. All that is implied is, that there would be such images—eidwla—and that a degree of homage would be paid to them which would be in fact idolatry. The word here used—eidwlon, eidwla—properly means an image, spectre, shade; then an idol-image, or that which was a representative of a heathen god; and then the idol-god itself—a heathen deity. So far as the word is concerned, it may be applied to any kind of image worship.

Which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk. The common representation of idol-worship in the Scriptures, to denote its folly and stupidity. See Ps 115 compare Isa 44:9-19.

Neither repented they of their murders. This implies that, at the time referred to, murders would abound; or that the times would be characterized by that which deserved to be called murder.

Nor of their sorceries. The word rendered sorceriesfarmakeia —whence our word pharmacy, means properly the preparing and giving of medicine, Eng. pharmacy.—Rob. Lex. Then, as the art of medicine was supposed to have magical power, or as the persons who practised medicine, in order to give themselves and their art greater importance, practised various arts of incantation, the word came to be connected with the idea of magic, sorcery, or enchantment. See Schleusner, Lex. In the New Testament the word is never used in a good sense, as denoting the preparation of medicine, but always in this secondary sense, as denoting sorcery, magic, etc. Thus in Ga 5:20, "the works of the flesh— idolatry, witchcraft, etc." Re 9:21, "Of their sorceries." Re 18:23, "For by thy sorceries were all nations deceived." Re 21:8, "Whoremongers, and sorcerers." The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament; and the meaning of the word would be fulfilled in anything that purposed to accomplish an object by sorcery, by magical arts, by trick, by cunning, by sleight of hand, or by deceiving the senses in any way. Thus it would be applicable to all jugglery, and to all pretended miracles.

Nor of their fornication. Implying that this would be a prevalent sin in the times referred to, and that the dreadful plagues which are here predicted would make no essential change in reference to its prevalence.

And of their thefts. Implying that this, too, would be a common form of iniquity. The word used here—klemma—is the common word to denote theft. The true idea in the word is that of privately, unlawfully, and feloniously taking the goods or movables of another person. In a larger and in the popular sense, however, this word might embrace all acts of taking the property of another by dishonest arts, or on false pretence, or without an equivalent.

(b) The next point then is, the inquiry whether there was any such state of things as is specified here existing in the time of the rise of the Turkish power, and in the time of the calamities which that formidable power brought upon the world. There are two things implied in the statement here:

(1) that these things had an existence before the invasion and destruction of the Eastern empire by the Turkish power; and

(2) that they continued to exist after that, or were not removed by these fearful calamities. The supposition all along in this interpretation is, that the eye of the prophet was on the Roman world, and that the design was to mark the various events which would characterize its future history. We look, then, in the application of this, to the state of things existing in connexion with the Roman power, or that portion of the world which was then pervaded by the Roman religion. This will make it necessary to institute an inquiry whether the things here specified prevailed in that part of the world before the invasions of the Turks, and the-conquest of Constantinople, and whether the judgments inflicted by that formidable Turkish invasion made any essential change in this respect.

(1.) The statement that they worshipped devils; that is, as explained, demons, or the deified souls of men. Homage rendered to the spirits of departed men, and substituted in the place of the worship of the true God, would meet all that is properly implied here. We may refer, then, to the worship of saints in the Romish communion as a complete fulfilment of what is here implied in the language used by John. The fact cannot be disputed that the invocation of saints took the place, in the Roman Catholic communion, of the worship of sages and heroes in heathen Rome, and that the canonization of saints took the place of the ancient deification of heroes and public benefactors. The same kind of homage was rendered to them; their aid was invoked in a similar manner, and on similar occasions; the effect on the popular mind was substantially the same; and the one interfered as really as the other with the worship of the true God. The decrees of the seventh general council, known as the second council of Nice, A.D. 787, authorized and established the worshipping (proskunew)—same word used here—(proskunhswsi ta daimonia) of the saints and their images. This occurred after the exciting scenes, the debates, and the disorders produced by the Iconoclasts, or image-breakers, and after the most careful deliberation on the subject. In that celebrated council, it was decreed, according to Mr. Gibbon, (iii. 341,) "unanimously," "that the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the fathers and councils of the church; but they hesitate whether that worship be relative or direct; whether the Godhead and the figure of Christ be entitled to the same mode of adoration." This worship of the "saints," or prayer to the saints, asking for their intercession, it is well known has from that time everywhere prevailed in the Papal communion. Indeed, a large part of the actual prayers offered in their services is addressed to the Virgin Mary. Mr. Maitland, "the able and learned advocate of the Dark Ages," says, "The superstition of the age supposed the glorified saint to know what was going on in the world; and to feel a deep interest, and to possess a considerable power, in the church militant on earth. I believe that they who thought so are altogether mistaken; and I lament, abhor, and am amazed at the superstition, blasphemies, and idolatries, which have grown out of that opinion."—Elliott, ii. p. 10. As to the question whether this continued after the judgments brought upon the world by the hordes "loosed on the Euphrates," or whether they repented and reformed on account of the judgments, we have only to look into the Roman Catholic religion everywhere. Not only did the old practice of "daemonolatry," or the worship of departed saints, continue, but new "saints" have been added to the number, and the list of those who are to receive this homage has been continually increasing. Thus in the year 1460, Catharine of Sienna was canonized by Pope Plus II.; in 1482, Bonaventura, the blasphemer, (In the Hereford Discussion, between the Rev. J. Venn and Rev. James Waterworth, it was admitted by the latter, all able and learned Romish priest, that Bonaventura's Psalter to the Virgin Mary, turning the addresses to God into addresses to the Virgin, was blasphemy.—Elliott, ii. 25.) by Sixtus IV.; in 1494, Anselm by Alexander VI. Alexander's bull, in language more heathen than Christian, avows it to be the Pope's duty thus to choose out, and to hold up the illustrious dead, as their merits claim, for adoration and worship. (Romanas Pontifex viros claros, et qui sanctimonia floruerunt, et eorum exigentibus clarissimis meritis aliorum sanctorum numero aggregari merentur-inter sanctos praedictos debit collocare, et ut sanctos ab omnibus Christi fidelibus coli, venerari, et ADORARI mandare.)

(2.) The statement that idolatry was practised, and continued to be practised, after this invasion: "Repented not that they should not worship idols of gold, silver, and brass." On this point, perhaps it would be sufficient to refer to what has been already noticed in regard to the homage paid to the souls of the departed; but it may be farther and more clearly illustrated by a reference to the worship of images in the Romish communion. Any one familiar with church history will recollect the long conflicts which prevailed respecting the worship of images; the establishment of images in the churches; the destruction of images by the "Iconoclasts;" and the debates on the subject by the council at Hiera; and the final decision in the second council of Nice, in which the propriety of image-worship was affirmed and established. See, on this subject, Bowers' History of the Popes, ii. 98, seq., 144, seq.; Gibbon, vol. iii. pp. 322-341. The importance of the question respecting image-worship may be seen from the remarks of Mr. Gibbon, iii. 322. He speaks of it as "a question of popular superstition which produced the revolt of Italy, the temporal power of the Popes, and the restoration of the Roman empire in the West." A few extracts from Mr. Gibbon—who may be regarded as an impartial witness on this subject—will show what was the popular belief, and will confirm what is said in the passage before us in reference to the prevalence of idolatry. "The first introduction of a symbolic worship was in the veneration of the cross, and of relics. The saints and martyrs, when intercession was implored, were seated on the right hand of God; but the gracious, and often supernatural favours, which, in the popular belief, were showered round their tombs, conveyed an unquestionable sanction of the devout pilgrims who visited, and touched, and kissed these lifeless remains, the memorials of their merits and suffering. But a memorial, more interesting than the skull or the sandals of a departed worthy, is a faithful copy of his person and features delineated by the arts of painting or sculpture. In every age, such copies, so congenial to human feelings, have been cherished by the zeal of private friendship or public esteem; the images of the Roman emperors were adorned with civil and almost religious honours; a reverence, less ostentatious, but more sincere, was applied to the statues of sages and patriots; and these profane virtues, these splendid sins, disappeared in the presence of the holy men, who had died for their celestial and everlasting country. At first the experiment was made with caution and scruple, and the venerable pictures were discreetly allowed to instruct the ignorant, to awaken the cold, and to gratify the prejudices of the heathen proselytes. By a slow, though inevitable progression, the honours of the original were transferred to the copy; the devout Christian prayed before the image of a saint; and the Pagan rites of genuflexion, luminaries, and incense, again stole into the Catholic church. The scruples of reason or piety were silenced by the strong evidence of visions and miracles; and the pictures which speak, and move, and bleed, must be endowed with a Divine energy, and may be considered as the proper objects of religious adoration. The most audacious pencil might tremble in the rash attempt of defining, by forms and colours, the infinite Spirit, the devout Father, who pervades and sustains the universe. But the superstitious mind was more easily reconciled to paint and worship the angels, and above all, the Son of God, under the human shape, which on earth they have condescended to assume. The Second Person of the Trinity had been clothed with a real and mortal body; but that body had ascended into heaven; and had not some similitude been presented to the eyes of his disciples, the spiritual worship of Christ might have been obliterated by the visible relics and representatives of the saints. A similar indulgence was requisite, and propitious, for the Virgin Mary; the place of her burial was unknown; and the assumption of her soul and body into heaven was adopted by the credulity of the Greeks and Latins. The use, and even the worship of images was firmly established before the end of the sixth century; they were fondly cherished by the warm imagination of the Greeks and Asiatics; the Pantheon and the Vatican were adorned with the emblems of a new superstition; but this semblance of idolatry was more coldly entertained by the rude barbarians and the Arian clergy of the West," vol. iii. p. 323. Again: "Before the end of the sixth century, these images, made without hands, (in Greek it is a single word—aceiropoihtov) were propagated in the camps and cities of the Eastern empire; they were the objects of worship, and the instruments of miracles; and in the hour of danger or tumult their venerable presence could revive the hope, rekindle the courage, or repress the fury of the Roman legions," vol. iii. pp. 324, 325. So again, (vol. iii. p. 340, seq.:) "While the Popes established in Italy their freedom and dominion, the images, the first cause of their revolt, were restored in the Eastern empire. Under the reign of Constantine the Fifth, the union of civil and ecclesiastical power had overthrown the tree, without extirpating the root, of superstition. The idols, for such they were now held, were secretly cherished by the order and the sect most prone to devotion; and the fond alliance of the monks and females obtained a final victory over the name and the authority of man." Under Irene a council was convened—the second council of Nice, or the seventh general council, in which, according to Mr. Gibbon, (iii. 341,) it was "unanimously pronounced that the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the fathers and councils of the church." The arguments which were urged in favour of the worship of images, in the council above referred to, may be seen in Bowers' Lives of the Popes, vol. ii. pp. 152-158, Dr. Cox's edition. The answer of the bishops in the council to the question of the empress Irene, whether they agreed to the decision which had been adopted in the council, was in these words: "We all agree to it; we have all freely signed it; this is the faith of the apostles, of the fathers, and of the Catholic church; we all salute, honour, worship, and adore the holy and venerable images; be they accursed who do not honour, worship, and adore the adorable images."—Bowers' Lives of the Popes, ii. 159. As a matter of fact, therefore, no one can doubt that these images were worshipped with the honour that was due to God alone— or that the sin of idolatry prevailed; and no one can doubt that that has been continued, and is still, in the Papal communion.

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