[Table of Contents]|
B. W. Johnson|
Vision of the Ages (1881)
THE OPEN BOOK.
The Radiant Angel.--The Open Book.--The Seven Thunders.--The
Book Eaten.--The |
The feature of the tenth chapter which is most prominent is a radiant angel with a small book open in his hand. This little book we are assured, and the reasons are given below, is the New Testament. The chapter presents one of the sublimest pictures found, even in this book of sublime imagery. In order to understand its meaning, we must keep before us the time in which this great angel appears. The sixth trumpet under the seventh seal has been reached, and this angel, together with the events described in the tenth and eleventh chapters,--the open book, the oath of the  angel, the eating of the book, the measuring of the temple, and the death and resurrection of the two witnesses, all lie after the appearance of the sixth trumpet, and before the seventh and last trumpet is blown. It has been found that the imagery of the sixth trumpet was fulfilled in the uprising, history, and conquests of the Turkish power,--the power which finally overthrow the Eastern Empire, occupied the Holy Land, and established itself in the lands of the Bible. Its conquests were completed, Constantinople occupied, and its empire erected triumphantly on the ruins of its rival in 1453, the close of the prophetic period marked out for the duration of its destructive work. We must then look after that date for the historical events which correspond to the symbols found in the tenth and eleventh chapters.
It will be observed also that the character of the symbols undergoes a change. The angel of the tenth chapter differs widely from the six trumpet angels. The student of prophecy will conclude that he not only symbolizes a movement of vast importance, but that this movement is religious in its nature. 1. He is a mighty angel; 2. he comes down from heaven, enveloped in a cloud; 3. the rainbow about his head is the symbol of hope and peace; 4. the shining of his face and feet indicate that he  shall spread light and intelligence; and, 5. his standing on sea and land shows that his mission was to the whole world.
And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: and he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not."--10:1-4.
If the preceding interpretations are correct these symbols will find a fulfilment in events that occur after 1453. Their character seems to describe some mighty religious movement of a grand, imposing and beneficent character. In the verses just before, in the ninth chapter, the great Romish apostasy has been described, and it would seem natural that these passages should have some connection with the preceding verses, and that they would probably refer to some movement to destroy its influence.
There is a movement which, beginning in the fifteenth century, under the auspices of Wiclif, John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, was fully developed in the sixteenth century, about seventy years after the fall of Constantinople, and which appears to me to fully meet the  demands of the prediction. The great Protestant Reformation, coming at the right time in history, is the mightiest religious movement that the world has known since the introduction of Christianity. If the apostate Church is a subject of prophecy it is only reasonable that the mighty movement which sought to break the power of Rome, and to bring back the children of Israel from their long Babylonish captivity, would also be portrayed by the prophet. It would be hard to find more fitting imagery than that of this passage, to portray that event. It indicates a mighty and beneficent interposition of God, and there are certain points to which I ask the reader's attention:
The angel holds in his hand an open book. The roll is not only unsealed, but it is unrolled so that it can be read. This open book occupies a very conspicuous place in his work. The book in the angel's hand must be an emblem of some fact. I think that we need be at no loss to understand its meaning when we remember that the Reformation was the work of a book. Whatever the Romish clergy may pretend now, there is no doubt that before the Reformation they had taken the New Testament from the people. The whole influence of the Catholic Church was opposed to its circulation, and in many instances persons have been  burned for no other crime than having the Bible in their houses. The book was left sealed up in dead languages, and it was impossible for it to be read in the native tongue of any European people. This radiant angel, however, has in his hand a book open, significant of the fact that in God's providence the Reformation should present the New Testament, on open, to the world.
Wiclif translated the- New Testament into the English language from the Latin Vulgate; at a later period this was followed by the translations of Tyndale and Coverdale. Luther grew up in ignorance of the Bible and of true religion, but after he had reached manhood, found a Latin Bible in the solitude and gloom of an Augustinian monastery. Until he saw this he did not even know that there were other scriptures than those given in the Catholic Breviary. The study of that Bible made him a reformer. The Reformation was caused by the book, and it in turn translated the New Testament and scattered it broadcast throughout Germany. Indebted for its origin to the book, it made it an open book to the world. It has caused the Bible to be translated into every tongue, and to become the cheapest book of the world. A movement that rescued the banished New Testament, that was itself due to its  teachings, and which has resulted in that book being printed in every tongue of earth, and being furnished at prices that enable every family to possess the sacred volume, is certainly fitly symbolized by a book open in the hands of a radiant angel.
THE SEVEN THUNDERS.
This angel "cried in a loud voice," likened to the deafening roar of the lion. We are not told what he said, but there is no doubt that it was his purpose to call the attention of the inhabitants of the earth and sea upon which he stood, to the book that he hold in his hand. "When he cried seven thunders uttered their voices." In all the best manuscripts the definite article precedes the seven thunders in all three of the instances in which it occurs. This would imply that something definite and well known was meant. As there has been no allusion before to the thunders, they must be pointed out by well-known facts of history which give them prominence. We speak of the sun, the moon, the president, even if they have not been mentioned before, because they are well known. Certain facts will help us to understand what is meant. 1. The apostate power which had taken away and closed the book of the New Testament was called the seven-hilled city, and is  alluded to in Revelation as the woman that sat on seven mountains (chap. 17:9). 2. The word thunder has been constantly used to describe the threatening, blasphemous, and authoritative fulminations issued by the seven-hilled power against its enemies. To illustrate this, Le Bas says in his life, of Wiclif, page 198: "The thunders which shook the world when they issued from the seven hills, sent forth an uncertain sound, comparatively faint and powerless, when launched from a region of less devoted sanctity." These ecclesiastical thunders derived their power from the fact that they were hurled from the seven-hilled city. Very appropriately the bulls and anathemas of Rome may then be called the seven thunders. 1. It is a historic fact that the opening of the book by the Reformation, called forth the loudest voices of the seven thunders. The anathemas that had been wont to shake the nations were hurled at Luther and his supporters. Scarcely had Luther published his Theses, when an attack was made upon them by the Papal Censor at Rome, which was dedicated to Pope Leo and, ere a year had elapsed, a solemn Papal bull was issued and committed to Cardinal Cajetan, the Papal Legate in Germany, for promulgation against Luther. This was followed by others, and at last the thunders of  damnation were launched against the German reformers by the seven-hilled potentate, who claimed to be the vicegerent of God. It is clear that the seven thunders did utter their voices.
John says that he was about to write what they uttered. His act is symbolic. He becomes himself a part of the symbolism. His act shows that the voices of the seven thunders claimed a record as of divine authority. There was something uttered, and what was uttered was so presented that John was about to record it in the word of God. Then he heard a voice from heaven which bade him seal up what was uttered and write it not. It was to have no part in the words recorded by the divine sanction, and as far as the divine authority is involved, was to be consigned to oblivion.
When we remember that the thunders that issued from the Vatican were regarded by the nations as the voice of God, and that the Pope claimed to be the vicar of Christ, we can understand the meaning of John's symbolical purpose to record them as a part of the word of God, and also that of the heavenly voice which forbade them to be written. It simply represents what did take place among the reformers. There was an open book offered to the world. This resulted in the voices of the thunders of the seven-hilled city. At first there  was a disposition on the part, even of Martin Luther, to listen to these thunders as divine. Let us listen to his own words:
"When I began the affair of the indulgences I was a monk and a most mad Papist. So intoxicated was I, and drenched in Papal dogmas, that I would have been most ready to murder, or to assist others in murdering, any person who would have uttered a syllable against the duty of obedience to the Pope."
Again he says:
"After being enabled to answer every objection which could be brought against me from Scripture, one difficulty alone remained--the Church ought to be obeyed. If I had then braved the Pope, as I do now, I should have expected, every hour, that the earth would be opened to swallow me alive, like Korah and Abiram."
In 1518 he wrote to the Pope defending his course in attacking Tetzel, but adding, "I will acknowledge thy voice as the voice of Christ presiding and speaking in thee." Thus, when the seven thunders uttered their voices, he was about to write them in the Scripture; that is, to receive them as of divine authority. This was, at first, the disposition of all the reformers, but by some means the voice of heaven forbade them, and " they wrote them not." When in 1520, the Pope's Bull of anathemas and excommunication was hurled against Luther, he refused to listen to the voice of the thunders, and in return did an act that electrified Europe.  Having summoned a vast audience at Wittemburg, he committed the Bull to the flames by the hands of the common hangman. He had then heard the voice from heaven, which said, write not. This memorable deed marks the completion of the first epoch of the Reformation.
"And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea, and upon the earth, lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth forever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets."--10:5-7.
The reader will observe that this follows immediately after the seven thunders uttered their voices. It seems to be in the nature of a response. The seven-hilled power had always been a persecuting power, claimed universal dominion, and that its kingdom would be eternal. In response to the anathemas, thunders, and persecutions, called forth by the Reformation, the great angel who stands on both sea and land lifted his hand and uttered his solemn oath that the period of probation, persecution and suffering on the part of the Church, soon shall end. In chap. 6:11, the suffering martyrs of Pagan persecution are told that they should "rest a little season (chronos), until their  fellow-servants and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." That second great period of persecution, here predicted, came when the seven thunders uttered their voices to anathematize the Reformation; but then the apocalyptic angel gives the suffering church the assurance of a solemn oath that time (chronos, the same word which is used in chap. 6:11,) should come, to a close when the seventh angel, the only remaining angel, should begin to sound. He does not affirm that time shall end until the last trumpet has blown. As that is the next great epoch in the world's history, outlined by the trumpets, it is affirmed that the days of tribulation are drawing to a close, and that the long-looked-for day of triumph, when Christ shall reign with his saints over every enemy, is near at hand. Nor does he affirm that absolute time shall end, but the great period of human history, stretching from the first sin to the glorious consummation when the kingdoms of the earth shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and his Christ. This is evident from the declaration that, when the angel sounds and time shall end, then "the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared to his servants, the prophets." Then shall all the mystery of God, the mystery of godliness, of redemption through Christ, the  whole history of the grace of God as manifested in the struggling Church, be completed as the prophets have declared in portraying its history and that of the world.
"And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey; and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings."--10:8-11.
I have already taken it for granted that the acts of John himself in this book of symbols, are symbolical. His readiness to write the things uttered by the seven thunders, and the command that he should not write them, the command to take the open book, to eat it, and the effects, are all probably symbols of events that have occurred in the history of the Church. What I suppose to be meant can be explained in a few words, but in order to have a connected view, I will give a synopsis of the events of the chapter. 1. The angel holds in his hand an open book. 2. He calls attention to it in a loud voice. 3. The seven thunders launch their thunderbolts against the reception of the  open book by the world. 4. John is about to record their words, but is forbidden. 5. The angel affirms with an oath, that the duration of the power and terror of the seven thunders shall be short, and that soon the seventh angel shall sound universal redemption and triumph. 6. John is bidden to take the book. 7. He receives it and is told to eat it, or to receive and devour its contents. 8. Its words are sweet like honey. In the nineteenth Psalm the word of the Lord is compared to the sweetness of honey. 9. There are bitter effects that follow. The great object of this angel seems to be to present the open book to the world. The book is mentioned four times in the chapter; twice it is stated that the book was open. John, in behalf of humanity, receives the book; a symbol of the reception of the New Testament in their own tongues, received by the nations as a result of the Reformation. The word of the Lord was received by the people with great eagerness and joy. They found it "sweeter than honey in the honey comb." But while they devoured the word with great enjoyment, the results that followed were full of bitterness. In many countries the New Testament was a forbidden book and those who accepted it were subjected to bitter persecution. The Catholic Inquisition was organized in order to persecute  and destroy those who had "devoured" the book. It would be impossible for the pen of history to portray the bitterness, horror and bloodshed wrought by this engine of Satan. In a single province, the Netherlands, under a single governor, the Duke of Alva, no less than 18,000 persons were put to death.
There is portrayed last another consequence of eating the book. "Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." To prophesy is not only to foretell future events, but to declare the message of God. This message had been declared once by the apostles, both in person, and by those who preached their words. For long ages before the Reformation this proclamation had almost ceased, but when the open book was received by the world and was devoured, the consequence was a revival of the apostolic preaching. John, the last of the apostles, and the representative of the apostolic body, again preached before peoples and nations through those who faithfully presented the apostolic gospel.
The division of the New Testament into chapters is often unfortunately made, and especially so in Revelation. The separation between the tenth and eleventh chapters breaks a subject in the midst, and serves to mislead  the reader. The great thought from the opening of the tenth chapter until the seventh angel sounds in the eleventh chapter, is the OPEN BOOK. In the tenth chapter it is seen in the hands of the angel, and is received by John symbolically. In the eleventh it appears as the divine measure by which the Church and its worship are measured; and again as the two witnesses, crucified, resurrected, exalted. As the result of this exaltation the grand triumph is reached, and the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Lord and his Christ. Our attention is called in the beginning of the eleventh chapter to
THE MEASUREMENT OF THE CHURCH.
"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles; and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months."
There are several points that must be noticed: 1. Who measures? 2. The measure used. 3. What is measured?
1. A reed is given to John to be used as a measure. It is not an angel who measures, but an apostle, the sole representative of the apostles then living. The apostle is a representative of the apostolic body. It is the apostles who are to measure. 
2. The measure is not a human one. John did not make it, nor did any other apostle, nor any man, or body of men. The reed was given to him. It is a divine measure. Whatever is measured is to be compared with a divine standard. There is a divine standard for measurement which was given by our Lord to the apostles. That is the New Testament of Jesus Christ.
3. The temple is to be measured. There was no temple, then standing in Jerusalem. Near twenty years before it had been destroyed, never to be restored. There was no temple of God made with human hands upon the earth. There can then be no reference to a material temple, but rather to the spiritual temple of which the tabernacle and temple were types. Every student of the Scripture knows that this spiritual temple is the Church of Jesus Christ. "Do you know," says Paul, I Cor. 3: 16, "that you (the church at Corinth) are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?" The temple measured is undoubtedly the congregation of God's people. But the altar is also measured. What does this signify? In the Jewish temple the altar was the place where the worship centered. Without the altar worship was impossible. The temple worship was the worship of the altar, and the altar is taken  as a symbol of worship. It evidently then means that the worship of the Church shall be measured. Those that worship at the altar shall be measured also. By this divine reed the apostles shall measure the Church, the modes of worship, and the character of the worshipers. After this explanation of the meaning of terms, the significance becomes plain. This prediction will be fulfilled if, under the sixth trumpet, before the seventh is blown, a corrupted Church, corrupted during long ages of apostasy, shall be compared with some divine standard. Or, in other words, after 1453 there ought to be an effort to reform the Church, and to conform it to the New Testament. Let us ask again who shall measure the Church? Not Popes, not councils, not apostolic fathers, but the reed is given to an apostle, the living representative of the apostolic body. The twelve to whom were given twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, shall also measure the Church of Jesus Christ in the day signified by the symbolism employed. How? The reed was not their own creation but was given to them. There is but one, divine measure that has ever been given. The. New Testament, written by apostles, given to them by inspiration, is the divine standard with which the Church, the worship and the worshipers, must be tested.  Not the traditions of men, not the decisions of councils, not the decrees of synods, or conferences, not the creeds of any uninspired body that ever met on the face of the earth, but the standard measure, is the New Testament.
THE TRUE CHURCH.
This is not the only place where the reed is named as the appointed instrument for the measurement of the Church. If the reader will turn to the twenty-first chapter he will find that the New Jerusalem, the holy city, is measured by an angel with a golden reed. In Ezekiel, chap. 40, the prophet sees an angel measure with a reed a temple such as has never been seen by mortal vision. The temple itself is just equal to the measure, and it is composed of many chambers, all equal in size to the reed, to each other, and to the temple itself, of which they are parts! This strange symbolism, this representation of what is apparently impossible, most beautifully represents the character of the true Church, when it has reached the fullness of the divine measure, and appears as the New Jerusalem.
The whole temple is just the size, neither larger nor smaller than the reed. The true Church corresponds exactly with the divine measure of the Word. It neither adds to itself  things unknown to the apostles, nor omits the things therein enjoined. As the temple of Ezekiel was composed of chambers, each of which was the same size of the temple, so the Church is composed of many congregations, each of which should correspond exactly to the measure of the whole body. These individual congregations which make up the spiritual temple, cannot therefore differ from each other in name, in creeds, in rites, in observances, as do the sects of modern times. In the true Church there will be one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one hope, one name, one practice.
The symbolism recorded by the apostle evidently describes the measurement of the Church, its worship, and of its worshipers by the divine standard of the New Testament. Our next inquiry is whether history records the fulfilment. Do we find aught in history, subsequent to 1453, which can be regarded a fulfilment of the prophecy? Earlier reformers, such as Waldo, Wiclif, and Huss, made an attempt to reform the Church, but the whole world dates the beginning of the Protestant Reformation with Luther. It was in 1517 that he nailed to the doors of the church in Wittemburg his Theses, by which he broke with Rome. It was held by the Papacy, which then lorded over Christendom, that the writings of the  Fathers, tradition, and the decrees of councils were not only an additional measure, but might even set aside the Word of God. The great Reformation planted itself upon the principles maintained by Martin Luther, and the cornerstone of Protestantism is that the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice of the Christian Church.
It is true that Protestantism has not always been faithful to its own principles. Even Luther forgot them, and substituted the Augsburg Confession as a measuring reed; others adopted the Thirty-nine Articles, the Westminster Confession, or some other human standard, but the principle survived, and ever since the days of Luther men have been studying the New Testament and testing churches, rites, and professed Christians, by this divine standard. For long centuries before the era of Luther the Christian world had lain wrapped in slumber, and trusted to popes, councils, and priests, for the interpretation of the Bible, but since that day the world has awaked from its slumbers. The Bible has been wrested from the hands of the clergy and restored to the people. There have been three centuries of search for the old land-marks, long obscured by the rubbish of tradition and priestcraft. For forty-two months the Holy City had been trodden  down by the Gentiles, and to tear away the ruins and discover the old paths has been the work of ages devoted to the study of the Bible.
The court without is not to be measured. The connection shows that the court of the Gentiles, which surrounded the temple on all sides, is meant. This was typical of the world, and the fact that it is not to be measured, shows that the world, and those who follow the world, whether sinners or professing Christians, do not come up to the divine standard. This outer court is said to be given to the Gentiles, and it is added that they shall tread the Holy City underfoot for forty-two months. The Holy City is a type of the Church, and this language implies its oppression for a period of twelve hundred and sixty days, or years. This period is referred to at least five times in the Bible, and I will consider its meaning at length in connection with the two witnesses, introduced in the third verse.
THE TWO WITNESSES.
The third verse introduces these two witnesses, to whom power is given to prophesy in sackcloth for twelve hundred and sixty days. There has been little agreement among expositors concerning the meaning of this passage. I think, however, that a close examination will,  guide the reader into the truth, and that he will find in the passage, when understood, a wonderful fulfilment of prophecy.
"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as. they will." 11:3-6.
The reader will note certain facts here stated concerning these witnesses: 1. There are two witnesses, and only two. 2. These two are witnesses. Their business is to testify to certain facts or truths. 3. The Lord says they are "my" witnesses. They testify for the Lord. 4. The Lord gives these witnesses power. "I will give power," etc. 5. They shall testify in sackcloth. This implies that they shall testify in sorrow, robed in mourning. 6. They shall do this 1260 days, or, since a day in prophecy is the symbol of a year, for a period of 1260 years. 6. These witnesses are likened to two olive trees and to two candlesticks. 8. It is stated that they shall have power to destroy their enemies. 9. Also to intercept blessings. 10. At the end of three and a half years, or 1260 days,  shall be slain. 11. Shall he unburied, but after three and a half days shall rise again. 12. Shall have great power and glory and be exalted to heaven. 13. The city of sin shall then be overthrown, and 14. The kingdoms of the earth become the kingdoms, of the Lord.
There are a number of facts recorded here which must be true of the witnesses, and the business of the interpreter is simply to ascertain whether there is anything of which they are true and which would correspond with these facts. 1. The first one of the fourteen facts I have noted is that there were only two witnesses. I have lying before me an open Bible. I find that the Book of Revelation is in what is called the New Testament. The whole Bible is divided into two great divisions, which are called the Old and New Testaments. There are then two Testaments. Note further that the term testament is a word that signifies to bear witness. It is derived from a Latin word, testor, which means, I testify. The two testaments then mean simply two witnesses. We have, therefore, in the Old and New Testaments, two witnesses, whether they are those described by John or not. 2. These two witnesses of the Bible each testify of the Lord. He said to the Jews concerning the Old Testament Scriptures, "They testify of me." The Apostle John says  concerning his life of the Savior, "These things were written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." One of these witnesses testifies of the Lord in type and prophecy; the other testifies by its history of facts. 3. The two witnesses are the Lord's. He gives them their power and they testify of him. Thus far the two witnesses of the Bible correspond exactly with the two witnesses of the prophecy. I will pass over some of the marks that we have already noted, for the present, but will return to them when I have considered other marks that are more apparent. The seventh mark noted above is that the witnesses are two olive trees and two candlesticks. The office of the candlestick, or rather of the lamp, for such is the meaning of the original term, is to give light. The olive tree furnished the oil needful for the lamp. The idea evidently is that the two witnesses are, like the lamp fed with olive oil, sources of light. This fact is also true of the Bible. "Thy word," says the Psalmist, "is a lamp unto the feet and a light to the path." The souls of all the saints testify to the light shed in upon them by the Word of God. The eighth mark is that the two witnesses have power to destroy. The Word of God can save and it can destroy. It can justify and it can condemn. In the Judgment the fate of men  will be decided by the Word. If the reader will turn to Rev. 19:11-45, and read what is written of the conquests, triumphs, and destruction of the Word of God, he will require nothing more upon this point.
IN SACKCLOTH TWELVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY DAYS.
The two witnesses are to prophesy, or testify, in sackcloth for 1260 days. Sackcloth was, among the people of the East, the garb of mourning. It is a symbol of sorrow and of tribulation. For the long period of 1260 years the two witnesses shall testify in times of mourning, and shall be in tribulation. There shall be hindrances and restraints to their testimony. Such is the meaning of the prophecy. Does history show this to be true of the two witnesses of the Bible?
Every one knows how the facts correspond. When the Romish apostasy was developed, it took the Bible out of the hands of the people and buried it in the cells of monasteries. It was regarded as unhallowed for one not a priest to read the Scriptures. It was urged that priests only were able to interpret them. Even the priests were compelled to preach the Word just as the Church directed. When some of them were honest enough to preach what they found in the Bible, they were put to death. A  whole army of martyrs, John Huss, Savonarola, Latimer, Ridley, and others, suffered because they preached faithfully what they read. During many centuries it was a crime for one of the people to have a Bible in his possession. Wherever the Bible was found it was burned, and thousands of saints were sent to the stake for no other crime than having in their possession a copy of the Word of God. In addition to all this the Bible was locked up in languages that the people did not understand. When it was read in the churches the Latin version was used, and it was the fixed policy of the Papacy that it should not be translated into living tongues. Certainly, during a long period, when the Scriptures were locked up in dead languages, and never read nor translated into the tongues spoken by the people, when it was a crime to own a Bible, and when the Bible in a living language was burnt whenever found, the two witnesses prophesied in sackcloth.
This period of mourning, during which the witnesses shall prophesy in sackcloth, is 1260 days. The same period is named in several places in this prophecy. In Daniel 7:25 it is stated that the youngest horn of the sea monster shall have dominion for a time, times, and half a time. This is understood to be a period of three and a half years, forty-two months, or  1260 days. The outer court of the Holy City shall be trodden down by the Gentiles for forty-two months, or 1260 days (verse 2). The woman was fed of God in the wilderness for 1260 days (Rev. 13:6). She was nourished a time, times, and a half time, or three and one-half years, or 1260 days (chap. 13:14). In five different passages the same period of time is named, and evidently covers in each case, the same period of the history of the Church. The day being used as a symbol for a year, we know that for 1260 years, the horn spoken of by Daniel, which speaks great words against the Most High, shall have dominion; that for the same period the Gentiles, the enemies of the saints, shall be in power; the two witnesses prophesy in sackcloth and the woman, the type of the true Church, flee into the wilderness. This remarkable period is that of the power and glory of Rome. It becomes us, once for all, to settle when this period began and when it ends.
It has been usual to begin it in A. D. 606, when the Emperor Phocas bestowed upon the Pope the title of Universal Bishop, but from this view I am compelled to dissent. The period would then end in 1866. There is nothing seen in history at that time that would correspond to the slaying of the witnesses.
The rise of the great Apostasy was gradual.  Even in Paul's time the mystery of iniquity had begun to work. It is somewhat difficult to mark the exact point in this development of the Romish power, which may be regarded as the beginning of the 1260 years. It is easier to mark the end, when the witnesses were slain. I therefore selected an event which it appeared to me would be fittingly represented by the slaying of the two witnesses. I found such an event in 1793, and I then counted back from it 1260 years in order to see if I could find aught that would correspond to the beginning of such a period. This brought me to A. D. 533. What do we find at that time?
In A. D. 527 Justinian ascended the Imperial throne. Before his reign the schism had begun between the Greek and the Roman churches. He healed that schism by force in favor of Rome.. If the reader will open Gibbon, Vol. IV., p. 528, he will find an account of a terrible persecution, inaugurated by this monarch, in order to make all conform to the Papal rule. "His reign," says Gibbon, "was a uniform, yet various scene of persecution. * * Churches with their congregations were surrounded by Catholic soldiers, and the houses were burned with the congregations in them." At this period then the Church is drenched in blood in order to make the Romish power universal. The \ witnesses certainly prophesy in mourning. What more? In A. D. 531, Justinian decreed the subjugation of the whole Church to the Roman Pope, and A. D. 5339 he bestowed upon him the title of Rector Ecclesiæ, or Lord of the Church. (D'Aubigne's Reformation, Vol. 1, p. 42.)
In A. D. 533 the "Man of Sin" was certainly fully revealed. The Papacy was completely established. The secular ruler of the world sanctioned the claims of the Pope to the supremacy, declared him by edict to be absolute ruler of the Church, and supported his pretensions by a terrible persecution of all who refused to do him homage. The climax of the long series of encroachments upon the purity and freedom of the Church was reached at this time, and it is certain that when those who sought to follow the Bible rather than obey the Pope were persecuted unto death, then the witnesses began to testify in sackcloth. The prophetic period began in 533. This is shown by every mark connected with the beginning of that period. At this time the little horn was fully developed, the Holy City trodden down by Gentiles, the Church driven into the wilderness, and the two witnesses were certainly clothed in sackcloth. For these reasons then I would place the beginning of this period at this date. It remains to be seen whether the  witnesses were slain 1260 years after, or in 1793. I will quote the words of the apostle:
"And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, and where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. And after three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entereth into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear full upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up higher. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud and their enemies beheld them."--11:7-12.
Let the reader note the facts here affirmed concerning the slaying of the two witnesses. 1. It will take place when they have finished their testimony. This does not mean when they have ended testifying, but when they have made their testimony complete. 2. It is the beast from the "bottomless pit" that makes war upon them. This pit is referred to in chap. 9:2. Out of it then came a diabolical, false and infidel power. The power that wages war upon the witnesses will be a similar unbelieving power and will like it wage bitter warfare upon all who profess to follow Christ. 3. Their  dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city. Two cities are named in Revelation. One is the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, the true Church and finally, the redeemed and glorified Church; the other is "that great city which reigneth over the kings of the, earth," and is variously called "Sodom, Egypt, the city where our Lord was crucified," and "Babylon." It represents the apostate Church. These witnesses will then lie exposed in the broad street of the false Church, or somewhere in the dominions or presence of Rome.
During the long period extending from A. D. 533 to 1792, a prophetic period of 1260 years, the two witnesses, the Old and New Testaments, remained in sackcloth. Even where the light had begun to spring up and the Protestant Reformation had taken the place of the Romish faith, there was still intoleration. Puritans were persecuted in England, Baptists in Lutheran Germany, Calvin burnt Servetus in Geneva, Quakers and Baptists were punished for their religion in the American colonies. Still, although the Bible had been translated into various tongues, the witnesses, until nearly the close of the eighteenth century, everywhere testified in sackcloth, for the reason that the world had not yet learned the principles of free religious toleration. Men were not allowed  to read and understand the Bible for themselves. At the close of that period it might be said that their testimony was complete. The Bible was translated into every civilized tongue.
"War was made upon them." Near the close of the last century the most determined attack ever known was made upon the Bible. Voltaire and Rousseau led in France; Frederick the Great in Germany; Tom Paine, Hume, Gibbon, and Bolingbroke in England; Thomas Jefferson and Paine in America. At last the culmination was reached in France. The nation rose in a crusade against all religion. The Convention, composed of the representatives of the mightiest nation then upon the earth, by national law abolished not only the Bible but God. They decreed that France would worship no gods but Reason and Liberty. Atheism became the law of the State.
This is the only instance known to all history of a deliberate legislative enactment abolishing all religion. Most fitly might such an event be styled the slaying of the witnesses who testify of the Lord. For 1260 years the testimony of the witnesses had been in part suppressed; in 1793 it was enacted that they should testify no more, or henceforth should be silent as death. It was decreed that time should  date no more from the Christian era, and that the week itself should be abolished because it was a Bible division of time. Let it be borne in mind: 1. that the war was waged by the power from the bottomless pit; an infidel power; 2. the witnesses were slain by the state which had done more than all others to build up and uphold the temporal power of the Pope. They lie in the street of the great city. 3. It is just 1260 years, the prophetic period, from the time when the Pope was styled Lord of the Church by imperial authority, until the date of the abolition of the Bible and of God by "the eldest son of the Church," or from A. D. 633 to A. D. 1793.
They lie unburied in the streets. Some have supposed that this refers to the contemptuous treatment given to the witnesses. None but the most savage power will leave its slain enemies unburied. There was never a more savage power than this infidel France of 1793. I suppose that it rather refers to the fact that they could not get the witnesses out of sight. Though slain by law, the Bible still remained and haunted its enemies. Its enemies could not abolish it from their remembrance.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE WITNESSES.
After three days and a half the witnesses  came to life. This implies that they regain their power and influence. The French "Convention," which inaugurated the Reign of Terror, guillotined all the royal family and many thousand citizens, decreed the dethronement of God, and made itself a terror to mankind, continued in existence for a little more than three years, and in about three and a half years the French nation began to recover from its madness. Its atheistic laws were repealed, and Christianity was acknowledged as the religion of the State. This was not all. The resurrected witnesses were in sackcloth no longer. The age of religious toleration had come. With the beginning of the present century a movement began to sweep over every civilized land in favor of religious liberty. It began in the United States, it extended to Great Britain, and has swept on until there is not a Catholic country where the laws do not permit the reading of the Bible and the preaching of the gospel. The sackcloth is laid aside, and the witnesses are taken up to heaven. This signifies, not their removal, but exaltation to a power and glory unknown for 1260 years. Do we behold it?
1. With the nineteenth century began a mighty movement to extend the circulation of the Bible. It is now translated into every written tongue of earth, and the Bible societies  have made it the cheapest book in the world. To all who are not able to buy it is freely given. All are free to study it for themselves.
2. Ours is also the age of missions. At the same time began a movement to preach the truths of the Bible to all nations. There is no accessible land on the face of the earth where the voice of the missionary is not now heard.
3. But even beyond these facts there began, at the close of the last century and developed itself in the first quarter of the present, a movement to tear away the human creeds that had fettered the Word of God. The watchword of the reformers was the Bible alone. The movement has gathered power as it has gone on, until the creeds of men are as weak as the green withes of the Philistines. The day is near at hand when they will be laid aside forever. There is certainly manifested in these facts an exaltation of the witnesses to heaven.
"And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven."
Here we have presented the results of the exaltation of the witnesses. At the time of the exaltation a great earthquake takes place. This earthquake is not a physical agitation of the earth, but a moral and religious upheaval,  an agitation of thought. The shaking of the earth is a symbol of the convulsion of society. This earthquake prostrates a tenth part of the city, "Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord was crucified," and after the destruction of a part of its population, the rest give glory to God.
I have reached a part of Revelation where I speak with great modesty. The events here described are in part at least yet in the future. It is perhaps possible for us to form a correct idea of the unfulfilled part from its connection with what has already passed into history. The following conclusions seem to be justified:
1. As a result of the exaltation of the witnesses, or in other words, of the general diffusion of Bible knowledge, the power of Rome must be shaken. This has already taken place. The Bible is being distributed in France, Spain, Italy, and in Rome itself. The people are fast breaking loose from the superstition of ages. Priestcraft has lost its hold upon all the more intelligent portion of society. A great moral earthquake began the very hour the witnesses were exalted and has continued to the present time.
2. A tenth part of the city shall be shaken down. As there were ten kingdoms which upheld the papacy, (Rev. 17:12) this prophecy means that one of these kingdoms shall fall  away from Rome. I think that we can see that this event is in progress. The Italian nation has seized upon the property of the monastic orders, established universal religious toleration, wrested from the Pope the States of the Church, and occupied Rome itself. The Pontiff, secluded in the Vatican, holds no communication with the King of Italy who occupies an old Papal palace in Rome. Victor Emmanuel died in excommunication, and the present King of Italy is under Papal censure. Protestant churches are being established in every city of Italy, and it would not be surprising that the State, at any time, should formally dissolve all connection with the Romish Church. A similar tendency has prevailed in France since the fall of Napoleon III. The State has exiled the Jesuits, prohibited other religious orders from teaching the children and taken education out of the hands of the priests. It has also placed Protestant churches on the same footing before the law as the Catholic, and it is certain that if the Republic is perpetuated, France will be lost to the Papacy.
The slaying of seven thousand men refers to some event that will clearly fulfill the prophecy, but cannot be described because it has not yet occurred. As a consequence "the remnant are affrighted and give glory to the God of heaven,  which probably signifies their repentance and return to the true faith. The "Great City" is to be overthrown and the instrumentality by which this shall be accomplished is the Word of God. When this event is fully consummated the period indicated by the sixth trumpet,--the age of the world which embraces the nineteenth century,--shall come to a close.
"The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever."--11:14, 15.
Here is the final triumph. It is the brightness of Zion's glad morning, the long-deferred day of victory, the ushering in of the conquering reign of Christ. The agency by which this conquest is effected is the exaltation of the witnesses, or the diffusion of the Word of God. This exaltation causes the earthquake, the fall of a part of the Great City, the destruction of a part of its inhabitants, and the repentance of the remnant. These events are followed by the seventh trumpet and the proclamation of the universal reign of Christ. Then the heavenly inhabitants join in pæans of victory and songs of praise and thanksgiving.
"And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying,  We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. 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 destroyeth the earth."--11:16-18.
The eighteenth verse will sufficiently explain why this also should be called a woe trumpet. It is the trumpet of judgment. The same events are given in detail in the closing chapters of Revelation.
The eighteenth verse of the eleventh chapter brings us to the end of the first series of visions. The seventh trumpet of the seventh seal sounds the general judgment and the triumph of righteousness. In this series of visions the outlines of secular history have been prominent; the fate of the persecuting nations, and especially of the Roman Empire, have been foreshadowed; the final overthrow of wickedness is revealed, and suffering saints are cheered by beholding the ultimate triumph of the Church. This brings us to the end of the world and of the first part of the Book of Revelation. 
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B. W. Johnson|
Vision of the Ages (1881)
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