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work of his own, and not entirely by the free unmerited favour of God him self, he would not be bound in gratitude to serve God, even for his salvation : hence the necessity of salvation through grace-sovereign grace—to place man in the position of a subject of God.
The kingdom of Christ is of the same character; and Christ being God manifest in the flesh, the two kingdoms are in effect the same. Apparently in order to accommodate the mystery of redemption to the understanding of man, the whole praise and glory of our salvation is represented as being due to Christ the Son of God, in the first instance ;-subsequently the veil of this sonship is lifted, and we find the real Benefactor, Redeemer, and Saviour, to be God himself, who has in the person of his Son wrought out for us this salvation. It is then, as the apostle says in the passage just now quoted, that the end cometh: when the Son gives up the kingdom unto the Father; when the obligation of the redeemed to his Redeemer is transferred from the representative of God to God himself,-from the express image of the Father to the Father immediately; that is, the manifestation is thus changed. There is no change in the fact; God was in Christ, and God is and has been all in all, throughout eternity. With this also the kingdom of heaven must correspond; heaven being, as we have supposed, a figurative appellation of the divine plan of government, as revealed to us in the gospel, showing forth the wondrous works of sovereign grace. This kingdom, like the two others, involves the principle of God's sovereignty and ownership, on the one hand; and on the other, that of man's subjection and entire dependence.
Opposite to this heavenly kingdom, or system, are the kingdoms of the world; worldly systems, involving principles of man's supposed independence of God; setting forth the human subject as dependent upon some merit or action, or conduct of his own, for his eternal well-being; as if man were indebted to himself for his own redemption,-indebted to himself, or to some earthly object, even for his escape from the wrath to come, and for his enjoyment of eternal bliss! Systems of this character are apparently what are called kingdoms of the world; these are to undergo a certain transmu tation; their principles are to be changed, or their elements are to be manifested to be subservient to the kingdom of God.
Some copies of the Greek have this term kingdom in the singular, as that from which we copy. This renders the change more particularly applicable to the earthly kingdom as a whole; that in which the inhabiters of the earth find their safety. This kingdom is made to give up its pretensions, being superseded by the kingdom of God ;—the difference, however, cannot be material, the general feature of the worldly system in one case being represented by a single earthly kingdom; in the other, various systems, with the same general feature, being spoken of as the several kingdoms of
the earth. The main subject of gratulation is the change wrought in these systems. When the truth is fully manifested, erroneous principles will be taken away, and true principles substituted in their place; and this in such a manner as that one Lord and his Christ, God and the Lamb, or God alone one and the same being-is manifested to occupy the position of complete sovereignty.
Vs. 16, 17. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats [thrones], fell upon their faces and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, Ο Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
Καὶ οἱ εἰκοσιτέσσαρες 1 πρεςβύτεροι, οἱ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ καθήμενοι ἐπὶ τοὺς θρόνους αὑτῶν, ἔπεσαν ἐπὶ τὰ πρόσωπα αὑτῶν καὶ προςεκύνησαν τῷ θεῷ, λέγοντες· εἶχαριστοῦμέν σοι, κύριε ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν, ὅτι εἴληφας τὴν δύναμίν σου τὴν μεγάλην καὶ ἐβασίλευσας.
§ 260. And the four and twenty elders,' &c.-The elements supposed to be represented by these elders have been already noticed; this being the fourth description given of their falling down and worshipping: viz., previous to the opening of the seventh seal, and immediately after the sealing of the one hundred and forty-four thousand; immediately after the taking of the sealed book by the Lamb; and immediately before the opening of the seals, and on the occasion of the first exhibition of Divine Majesty. On all these occasions this action of prostration seems to be intended to direct the attention to something about to be manifested. This is the more to be inferred as there is no account after the sounding of this last trumpet of any further prostration. There is nothing said of it at the close of the Apocalypse; as if the revelation having been now gone through, this kind of notice was no more necessary. This thank-offering of the elders, with the reason given for it, appears intended to direct us to seek that reason in what is afterwards to be revealed.
We give thee thanks, because thou hast taken unto thee thy great power, and hast reigned.'-We are to see, in what is to be revealed, how it is that God has taken to himself his great power, and has reigned.
It is not to be supposed that the Supreme Being had ever actually laid aside his power, and afterwards resumed it ;-this could not be but for a certain time he had not permitted it to appear on earth that the power of salvation was in himself alone. This we may suppose to have been the case during the prophesying of the witnesses in sackcloth, and while their dead bodies remained in the street of the great city; while the Holy City was trodden by the Gentiles, and the outer court of the temple was in their possession. While these things, or whenever these things exist, the "great power" of God does not appear, and his reign is not manifest. Now, however, the truth is, or is about to be, exhibited; the language of
these twenty-four elders corresponding with that of the Psalmist, "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty ride prosperously; because of truth and meekness and righteousness, (Ps. xlv. 3, 4.) The twenty-four elders must be presumed to be cognizant of the fact of God's always having possessed the power and rule, but they rejoice that the time has come when this fact is to be manifested.
V. 18. And the nations were angry,
and thy wrath is come, and the time of
the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy
servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
Καὶ τὰ ἔθνη ὠργίσθησαν, καὶ ἦλθεν ἡ ὀργή σου καὶ ὁ καιρὸς τῶν νεκρῶν, κριθῆναι καὶ δοῦναι τὸν μισθὸν τοῖς δούλοις σου, τοῖς προφήταις καὶ τοῖς ἁγίοις καὶ τοῖς φοβουμένοις τὸ ὄνομά σου, τοῖς μικροῖς καὶ τοῖς μεγάλοις, καὶ διαφθεῖραι τοὺς διαφθείροντας τὴν γῆν.
§ 261. And the nations were angry,' &c.-This verse should be read immediately in connection with the preceding, as it is part of the language of the twenty-four elders, and pertains also in anticipation to the subject of the present (seventh) trumpet. The term rendered nations, rà ovn, is the same as that rendered elsewhere Gentiles, and sometimes the heathen. The terms rendered angry and wrath, being both from the same Greek root,* would have been better translated raged and rage; as, the nations raged and thy rage is come: as if it had been said, The nations have been angry, but now thine anger is come; or, the heathen raged, and now thy rage is come; the feebleness of this earthly wrath being contrasted with the terrible might of divine wrath, corresponding with Ps. ii. 1. 2, 5, "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure." This passage is applied, Acts iv. 25, in a primary sense, to the opposition made to Jesus Christ and his apostles, by both Jewish and Roman rulers in Jerusalem; but it is evident that it must have a more extended and spiritual sense, of which this first opposition may be considered a type. So also Ps. xlvi. 6, "The heathen. raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted."
The outer court of the temple was given unto the Gentiles, and they were to tread the holy city under foot forty-two months. We cannot sup
*The Greek verb ogylo, rendered angry, comes from a root signifying great excitement; oorn, impetus, whence the Bacchanalian term orgies. This anger may not be merely the anger of disappointment; it may be the rage of those in power as well as of those who lose their power. The nations madly raged while in power, and. in this state were met by the wrath of God.
pose them to have been angry at this. They were angry with the prophesying of the witnesses, because of the torment or torture of this prophecy, but again they rejoiced when the spirit was separated from the body of the two prophets; and accordingly we may presume, that when the witnesses again stood upon their feet their prophesying caused the same kind of torture as it did before, and probably in a much greater degree, especially from its effects in the falling of the tenth of the city, and the slaying of the seven thousand names of men. This then we may presume to be the period when the nations or Gentiles were angry, being the same moment as that in which the wrath of God is manifested. Figuratively speaking, the divine wrath against false principles is exhibited simultaneously with the exercise of the wrath or opposition of these false principles against those that are true; the Gentiles, they that dwell upon the earth-the men of the city, and the nations-all representing in this chapter the elements of legal and selfrighteous systems arrayed against the principles of salvation by grace. A crisis is now alluded to, when the opposition on the one part is met by the wrath of the Most High on the other-a wrath, however, as we have before suggested, not against the errorist, but against the error. The dwellers upon the earth or the men of the earth, in a literal sense, are sinners; but it was for them that Christ died: "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us," Rom. v. 5. The object of divine wrath, therefore, we may presume is not here the sinner, or man as a sinful being, but those principles which prevent the sinner from availing himself of the mercy of God-at least we suppose such to be the case, in this apocalyptic exhibition. The collision here is between a system or systems of pretended human merits, and the exactions of divine justice; as, if exemplified in man himself, the contest would be between the individual, who trusted in his own righteousness, and the requisition of the law. This unequal contest is now, we may suppose, represented as about to terminate: as it is said, Ps. xlvi. 10, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted' in the earth."
§ 262. And the time of the dead, that they should be judged.'-We find a judgment corresponding with this spoken of Rev. xx. 12, when the dead, small and great, are seen to stand before God: this suggests to us that the matters spoken of in this declaration are equally to be found in the figures of the subsequent exhibition; this prefatory overture of the twenty-four elders enumerating the several heads of the coming representation: the anger of the nations, the wrath of God, the time of the dead, the time of rewarding the servants, &c., and the time of destroying those that destroy the earth.
We shall have occasion to advert hereafter to what we suppose is to be understood by the dead here: meantime we only suggest that it is something
corresponding with dead works—something divested of the spirit of lifeprinciples bringing forth no fruit acceptable to God-mercenary and selfish principles, upon which God cannot be served in the strict sense of the term. These are to be judged, and the folly of their pretensions manifested; as it is said, Heb. vi. 1, "Therefore leaving the [elementary] principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works ;" and ix. 14, "How much more shall the blood of Christ *** * purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." It being necessary to purge away these mercenary elements, before God can be served in spirit and in truth.
'And that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints [holy ones], and to those fearing thy name.'-Here are three several classes of servants, representing we suppose three classes of elements of truth. The subjects of salvation, in a literal sense, receive the reward of the inheritance, (Col. iii. 24,) and this inheritance is that of the merits of their Redeemer. They receive the reward of his merit, not of their own. Literally, even the prophets and best of men, when they have done all, can only say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done only that which it was our duty to do. But in the apocalyptic sense, we suppose these servants to be elements of truth-principles of the economy of salvation, which really and directly serve God and promote his glory. The reward to be given to these principles is the manifestation of their truth— the crown of gold; and the manifestation of their belonging to the economy of grace the white robe; and the manifestation of their victory over the elements of the law-the palms in their hands.
§ 263. And shouldest destroy [or cause to corrupt] those that destroy [or corrupt] the earth.'-This we may presume to refer to the destruction of the harlot Babylon, of the beast, of the false prophet, and of death and hell, as about to be set forth in the subsequent chapters-corrupt principles corrupting the earthly system, and in effect destroying it—for we may presume that it is in consequence of this destruction that a new earth, as well as a new heaven, is said to be seen, Rev. xxi. 1; the difference between the old earth and the new earth, corresponding perhaps with the difference between the old Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem. False systems of self-righteousness, however plausible, being the means of rendering the earthly system a mass of corruption-as a dead body in a state of putrefaction exhibits in the strongest manner its entire want of the spirit of life. These systems, like corrupt trees, being incapable of bringing forth good fruit, must be themselves destroyed; which destruction is accomplished by exhibiting them in their proper characters-exposing them to the action of the revealed word of God-bringing them so into contact with that word that, like chaff, they are consumed as by the fire of a furnace, Matt. vii. 17-19; Luke vi. 43,