« PreviousContinue »
this book of Revelation. In chapter xiv, the hundredand-forty-four thousand, having the name of the Father and of the Son on their foreheads, appear again in the train of their Lord, and are expressly said to be “ redeemed from among men, a first fruit to God “and to the Lamb.” There seems no expression here sufficient to determine whether the 144,000 be lineal or adopted Israelites. The word “first fruit,” may be thought to favour the former interpretation, because the first converts to Christianity were certainly Israelites; and Saint James, writing his Epistle to the twelve tribes, calls them, togetler with himself (a lineal Israelite) “ a kind of first fruit of God's crea“ tures t.” But concerning the interpretation of an unaccomplished prophecy, we must not be positive; it may be fulfilled in either way; or in a way which we cannot at present conceive.
Thirdly; the number of the sealed, whether they be original Israelites or not; expresses fulness and perfection, having been observed to amount to a multiplication of the complete square foot of the number of the tribes, or perhaps of the Twelve Apostles, on whom, as a foundation, the Christian Church is said to be erected I; as will more particularly appear in Rev. xxi. 10. 14.
Fourthly; to the reader, who compares the names of the tribes, and their order, as exhibited in this passage, with parallel places in the Bible, some pecus liarities will appear. The chief of which peculiarities are, that the tribe of Dan is omitted, and that of Levi, which, being dispersed among the other tribes for the purposes of ministration, had no allotment in
See ch.ii. 9. and the note.
+ James i. 18. | 1 Kings xviii. 31. Luke xxii. 30. Eph. ii. 20,
Canaan, is taken into its place. A reason may
be assigned for the re-admission of Levi. This tribe had been excluded, because, separated for the priesthood, it had its provision in another form ; but now being to enter on the heavenly Canaan, where there is no temple* ; where all are priests to God t; there is no longer need of a peculiar priesthooil: and therefore this tribe seems properly to resume its ancient station among the brethren. For the omission of Dan, the reason commonly given, is, that this tribe, by its early apostacy, became the common receptacle of idols, and corruptor of the rest | The same cause is assigned for the omission of the name of Ephraïm; the name of Joseph, the father, being here used instead ş. There appears to have been an ancient notion or tradition in the Church; mentioned in the fourth century by Jerome, Ambrose, and by Gregory Nazianzene, that when Antichrist should come, he should be a, Jew, and of the tribe of Dan; which opinion might take, its rise, in, some degree, from this omission of Dan amongst the sealed; though we may trace it in Irenæus ||, who seems to have collected this no. tion principally, from Jer, viij. 16.
Ver. 9, Lo!' a great multitude, which no one could number, from all nations ; &c.] The one-hundred-andforty-four thousand of the sealed, the first fruits to Christ, having led, the way, the Gentiles, afterwards converted, follow, are incorporated with them, and are presented, before the throne, clothed in white rabes, washed pure from their sins **, bearing: palmbranches, the signals of joy and festivitytt, and * Rev. xxi. 22. + Rev. v. 10.
1 Judg. xvii. See Mede's Works, p.455. || De Hæres. lib. y. cap. 30. Gal. ii. 28. Col. iii. 11.
** See note, ch. iii. 4, 5. tt Levit. xiii. 40.
victory. They ascribe their Salvation to God and their Redeemer. And the heavenly angels close around them, and rejoicing at their redemption *, unite in a chorus of praise.
Ver. 13. IV ho are they, and whence came they?] To assist us in answering this question, and in determining who are the persons composing this multitude of palmbearing Saints, we have an heavenly Interpreter; from whom we learn, that “ they are come out of the “great tribulation,” en Tžs Daubaws Tūs negadusnot, as
it is generally translated, “out of great tribulation," is , but out of the great tribulation, that particular tri
bulation, for which such preparation was made by the ministers of God's wrath, in the beginning of this chapter, and from which the sealed only are enabled to escape t. Yet it may be said, this multitude is not of the one-hundred-and-forty-four thousand, who alone are described as sealed. But, observe the remainder of the description. They are said by the elder to " have washed their robes, and made white " their robes in the blood of the Lamb." And what is this, when rendered by plain language, but that, through faith in their Redeemer, they are purified from sin? Which is only another mode of expressing that they are sealed as Christ's propertyf. Therefore the whole body, taken together, first of the one-hundredand-forty-four thousand, then of the great multitude from all nations added to them, seems to express the whole Christian Church, from the time of Christ to the great and last day.
It is the New Jerusalem, as described in ch. xxi, which has its foundation on the
* Luke xv, 10.
+ So Tertullian appears to have read and understood it, in the second century; " ex illd pressurâ magna.” Scorpiace, sect. 12. See note, ch. vii. 2.
Twelve Apostles. So, to compose this assembly we have, first, the Judai-Christian Church, which was the first-fruits; then, the Gentile Churches which were received into it. And, as we are expressly informed by Saint Paul, that the pious Christians, who, previously to the last day, shall be buried in the sleep of death, will not be postponed to those who are caught up alive to meet their Lord, so we may properly suppose this great multitude to contain also those that sleep in Christ. And thus it is the conplete collection of the redeemed from earth, of all ? ages and nations; who, adhering to their allegiance and duty, shall escape out of “the great “ tribulation,” which is the peculiar burthen of this prophecy. The terrible calamities of these latter days are by our Lord represented under the very same terms, 9λεψις μεγαλη, great tribulation t,” and after describing them he assures us, that he shall “send “ forth his angels, and gather together his elect, from “the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth " to the uttermost part of heaven I.” These four winds are in this prophecy described as devastating that earth, from which the sealed, in the words of this Prophecy, and the elect in those of our Saviour, are to be delivered, and collected unto his presence, as is here represented. It was from a justly founded expectation of this signal deliverance, that the Apostles (who appear not to have known the particular time and season of this visitation, concealed even from angels () exhorted the faithful disciples, as their Lord had done before them ), to lift up their heads,
• 1 Thess. iv, 15.
Matt, xxiv. 36. Accs i. 7.
Mark xiii. 27 | Luke xxi. 28.
and look with joyful expectation to these days of vengeance, knowing themselves not to be appointed to wrath, but to Salvation, whether they be found among the dead or among the living, at that aweful hour
Ver. 15. Therefore, &c.] The remaining part of this chapter contains a figurative description, very simple and very interesting, of the future happiness of this redeemed multitude. But the interpretation of it is so obvious, to those who are in the least degree acquainted with the language of Scripture, that I shall content myself with referring to some of the principal passages of the Old and New Testament, where the same figurative language is applied in the same manner.
Ib. Serve him, &c.] Ezek. xxxvii. 23. 28. Psalm xvi, cxl. 13. Is. xxxii. 17. lvii. 15, lxv. Ezra ix. 8. John xiv. 23. Eph. iii. 17. 2 Cor. iv. 16. 1 John iii. 24.
Ver. 16. Hunger--thirst, &c.] Is. xxxii. 2. Ixv. 13. xlix. 10. Ezek. xxxiv. 29. John vi. 14, 35.
Ver. 17. Like a Shepherd.] Is. xl. 11. xlix. 10. Psalm xxiii. 1. lxxx. 1. Jer. xxxi. 10. And see note, ch. ii. 27.
Ib. Tear.] Is. xxx. 19. xxv. 84
Let the reader now compare the happiness of this palm-bearing multitude, as here described, with that of the inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem, in ch. xxi. 14; and he will probably determine the two periods to be the same. Of none other but of happiness in heaven can it be affirmed, (as is affirmed of
1 Thess. v. 1. 12. 2 Thess. ii. 1. 17. Jamės v. 7, 8. i Pet. iv. 13. 2 Pete ji. 12, 13.