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THE OLIVE-TREES AND THE CANDLESTICKS.
Rev. xi. 4-6. 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
This chapter is an abridged account of the principal matters contained in the little book. It presents us with a summary view, and then with a more detailed account of them; the first is contained in the two first verses, and the second in those which follow. The prophet had been directed, as in verse 1., to measure the worshippers as well as the altar and the temple. These worshippers are represented in verse 3. under the idea of witnesses that were to prophesy 1260 days clothed in sackcloth. The same persons appear to be intended also in verse 4., and are here represented under the emblem of olive-trees and candlesticks. The connexion of this verse with the one immediately preceding, particularly as marked by the relative these, is sufficient to shew that the witnesses, and the olivetrees and candlesticks, are meant of the same persons. The language is taken from the 4th chapter of Zechariah ; in which we find Joshua the high priest, and Zerubbabel the governor of Jerusalem, represented under the same emblems, and deseribed as standing by the Lord of the whole earth. What these eminent men were in their day, the faithful witnesses in later times were to be in theirs; hence what is affirmed of the one is also affirmed of the other.
The church is called a green olive-tree, fair and beautiful, Jer. xi. 16.; individual believers bear the same designation, Ps. lii. 8. This tree is clothed with perpetual verdure, and is therefore a fit emblem of believers, the leaves of whose Christian profession never wither. Being an ever-green, it is remarkable for its beauty; and hence the spiritual beauty of the church is compared to that of the olive. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon,' Hos. xiv. 6. The chief excellency of this tree lies in its fruitfulness; it yields a rich plentiful juice, which is useful for food and ornament, and also for light. It is to the last of these uses that the allusion is made, both in the verse before us, and in the prophecies of Zechariah. In the last, the two olive-trees are described as planted by the side of the candlestick, and as affording it a constant supply of oil, through means of a pipe which passed from the one to the other. Being fed from living trees, it was impossible that that lamp could go out through want of oil; it was like the widow's cruise, supplied from a source that appeared to be inexhaustible. Here the figure is even more remarkable, for these worshippers and witnesses are represented as having in themselves all the juice and fatness of the olive ; for while it is affirmed of them that they are the two candlesticks, it is also affirmed that they are the two olive-trees. We must therefore consider them as having in themselves that mystical oil by which they could give light to others. Not that this can be derived from themselves; all their well-springs are in God: but in the same sense in which our Lord saith, : Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, it shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life, (John iv. 14,), it may be affirmed of all genuine believers, that the mystical oil, of wbich they are partakers, will never be exhausted, but will burn brighter and brighter till they reach the realms of everlasting day.
The symbol of the candlestick is explained in chap. i. 20. « The seven candlesticks are the seven churches.' Here it is meant of the witnesses or true church, by whom the light of truth was to be preserved in the earth, during the reign of the Man of Sin. The kingdom of this adversary would be full of darkness; but wherever the witnesses might be scattered, the true light was to shine until it should break out in all different directions, and enlighten the whole of the habitable world. Hence, it is added in the close of the verse, which stand before the God of the earth. There is an implied comparison between the condition of the church in the literal and her condition in the mystical Babylon, and also between what took place at the return from both. Zerubbabel and Joshua met with great opposition in the work of rebuilding the city and temple of Jerusalem; but, by the good hand of God upon them, they triumphed over all opposition. Jehovah manifested himself to be the God of the whole earth, by making the revolutions and political changes of that age subservient to his designs with respect to the church; and at the end of the 1260 days, when the mystery of God shall be finished, it will be equally manifest, that he is the Lord of the universe, and that he manages all the occurrences which take place among men, in a subserviency to his designs in the church.
In the two following verses we have a further account of the witnesses, particularly of their power to hurt those that might presume to do them an injury; verse 5., And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies. The allusion is borrowed from a miracle of judgment wrought in the time of Elijah. When the messengers of Ahaziah were going to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, whether their master would recover of the hurt which he had received from a fall, Elijah was directed to go and reprove them for their idolatry. "Is it not,' said he, • because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron ?' 2 Kings i. 2, 3. He assured them by the Lord Jehovah, who only could declare the end from the beginning, that Ahaziah would not come down from the bed on which he had gone up, but would die there. This answer so enraged the dying monarch, that he sent a captain with fifty men to apprehend him. God was pleased to vindicate the character of his prophet in a very affecting manner ; fire came down from heaven, and consumed both the captain and the fifty men that were under him. Instead of being humbled by this miracle of judgment, the infatuated king was the more enraged, and sent another captain with the same number of soldiers to apprehend Elijah. These last shared the same fate with the first. The fire of God descended from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty,' verse 12. It is in allusion to these judgments, that we are told in this verse of fire proceeding from the witnesses, and devouring their adversaries. Not that we are to suppose that the witnesses, by any agency of theirs, would inflict a judgment as by fire from heaven upon their adversaries. When a work of judgment is to be performed, it is seldom that God employs any of his own people to be the executioners; his usual way is to make their ene. mies the ministers of his wrath upon each other. But to mark the absolute certainty of what is predicted, things in the language of prophecy are often said to be done, when it is only foretold that they will be accomplished ; and whatever is done according to the predictions of the prophets is, in the style of prophecy, said to be done by the prophets themselves. Hence, Jeremiah' was set over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to put down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant, Jer. i. 9, 10.; and in another text it is threatened, that the word of God in his mouth should be fire, and the people wood, and it should devour them, chap. v. 14. In the same sense we must understand the prophetic language before us. In the course of their ministrations, the prophets clothed in sackcloth would denounce the righteous judgments of God upon their implacable adversaries ; and hence this fire is said to proceed out of their mouths. --The extent, as well as the severity of the judgment, is noticeable. Whether their adversaries be persons of a high or low degree, they have no reason to flatter themselves that they will escape without harm if they dare to do them an injury. Because the witnesses were to be such a length of time in a very low and degraded condition, men might be so foolish as to suppose, that they were forsaken of God, and that those who bore a grudge against them might do what they had a mind to their prejudice. But even in their lowest condition, they were to stand before the God of the whole earth ; and he would not suffer any of them to be touched with impunity.
The absolute certainty of what is here denounced is marked by the repetition in the close of the verse : If any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. A necessity is here intimated for the accomplishment of this prediction. If a cup of cold water, given to a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall not lose its reward, neither will the wrongs and insults of disciples be overlooked. Few things in the history of the church must have struck you more forcibly, than the account of God's judicial procedure with her incorrigible enemies. With many of them he has prosecuted his quarrel as he did with Amalek, till they were left without a name and a representative on the earth.
In the beginning of verse 6., we have an allusion to another very remarkable judgment inflicted in the time of Elijah. Under the form of a solemn oath sworn by the Lord God that liveth, and before whom the prophet was standing, Elijah declared that there should not be rain, but according to his word, 1 Kings xvii. 1.; and, for the space of three years and a half, there was not so much as a single shower of rain in any part of the land of Israel. And here we are told of these New Testament. Elijahs, that they have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy. The allusion is the more noticeable, that the coincidence of time is so remarkably striking. Three years and a half contain 1260 natural days, and during the same number of prophetical days these witnesses had power to shut heaven, that it might not rain. The