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THE JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD AND THE REWARD OF THE
Rev. xi. 18, 19. 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. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was
seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
The dispensations of Providence have very different aspects towards different bodies and associations of men.
To some they have a most pleasing and inviting smile; but to others they wear a most tremendous and forbidding frown. It frequently happens, too, that the same dispensation brings health and cure to some, but disease and ruin to others. Such were to be the opposite effects of the blast of the seventh trumpet, as described in the verses we have lately considered, and in those now before us. To the friends of truth, the sound of that trumpet was to be like the music of heaven ; but to their bitter and incorrigible adversaries, it was to be more harsh and tremendous than the bursting of a thunder-storm. To the one it was to be like life from the dead; but to the other it was to be the harbinger of certain destruction. In the last of these points of view, it is presented to our notice in the first of these verses now to be considered.
This verse is introduced with a notification respecting the temper of the nations at the time when the sound of the trumpet of the seventh angel began to be heard ; the nations were angry. The word translated nations, is the same that is used in ver. 2., which is there translated Gentiles ; and in both texts the same people are intended. It is manifest that these nations cannot be the same with the kingdoms mentioned in ver. 15., because if these kingdoms, at the sounding of the seventh angel, were become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, they could not be offended at the glorious work of Reformation, in which they took such an active and decided part. Nor could any set of men be offended except the Gentiles, by whom the court was profaned, and the city trodden under foot. As this work issued in their being turned out of the temple, and in the city being rebuilt upon its own heap,' it is only what might have been expected, that their resentment would have been excited to the very uttermost.
The anger spoken of must be understood of the displeasure of the friends of the Popish church at the work of Reformation. When they saw the kingdoms of the world renouncing their subjection to the see of Rome, and openly and solemnly espousing the cause of the Reformation, they could not fail to be displeased. If individual apostacies from the Roman church had formerly excited their resentment, their wrath must have been kindled into a flame, when the defection became so general, that whole kingdoms deserted her communion, and exposed her errors and abominations. Nor did they attempt to smother their resentment, or to keep it burning within their own bosoms; it burst out like a hot consuming flame in all directions, particularly in the thunders and anathemas of their church, consigning to everlasting perdition all the friends of the Reformation ; and in those dreadful massacres and wars extermination which they excited against them. Nor have the expressions of their wrath been limited to the period of the Reformation. So long as the Romish church exists, she will be angry with every Protestant association ; and the more that
her interests at any time are opposed, the more her indignation will be excited.
This intimation respecting the wrath of the Gentiles is followed with a declaration of the Divine displeasure against them; thy wrath is come. The text is laid in the form of an address to God; and this, as well as the other parts of it, belongs to the matter of thanksgiving expressed by the four and twenty elders. Accordingly, the wrath spoken of in this second clause, must be understood of the wrath of God. When such a passion, or any other passion, is ascribed to God, the language must be understood in a figurative sense. The Divine bosom can never be agitated by any tumultuous feelings: the holy calm and tranquillity of his mind can never be disturbed, nor his disposition ruffled by the storm of a revengeful spirit. But analogous to what is the case with men when they are angry, God also on different occasions is said to be angry. When they are displeased, they manifest their displeasure by their conduct; and hence, when the God of judgment proceeds to inflict judgment upon transgressors, he is said, as in this text, to be angry. He had long borne with the insults offered to him by the Gentiles, through means of the superstitious and idolatrous rules of their worship, and the numerous errors and immoralities which were patronized and practised among them; he had also borne with the deceit and violence with which his witnesses had been treated; for 1260 years, he had been like one that winked at their conduct ;—but when the seventh angel began to sound, his displeasure began to be manifested in such a manner as to indicate, that those evils would not be tolerated to the same extent any longer. He then took unto himself his great power and reigned. He shook the foundations of the throne of iniquity, and filled the friends and abettors of that system with such terror, that they gnawed their tongues for pain.
This general intimation respecting the wrath of God is followed with an account of the manner in which it was to be expressed.–First, In the way of judging for the dead; the time of the dead, say they, is come, that they should be judged. This judgment of the dead has been often understood of the last and general judgment, at the end of the world. But if this were the judgment intended, it would be impossible to say how the account of it was thrown in here, as it would be completely disjointed from every thing in this prophecy. The four and twenty elders are speaking of a season which is anterior to the end of time; they are thanking and praising God for the Reformation, and for those events which were either contemporaneous with that work, or followed as fruits and consequences of it. The judgment spoken of in this prophecy is the same with that described by Daniel; I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him : thousands thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him : the judgment was set, and the books were opened,' Dan. vii. 9, 10. It is manifest, from the connexion in which that sublime description is placed, that it is the judgment of the little horn, and not the judgment of the world at the end of time, which is meant. It is that judgment which, as explained in ver. 25., shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. It is a judgment which is to waste and consume the Papal interest till it be completely destroyed. As the prophecy before us exactly corresponds with the season of Daniel's judgment of the little horn, the presumption is strong, that the same judgment is intended in both ; more especially as the account of it is introduced into the prophetical description of the Divine displeasure against the Gentiles, who are doubtless the same people with those that are symbolized by the little horn.
In order to understand this prophecy, it will be necessary to consider, First, Of whom are meant these dead that were to be judged ?--Secondly, In what sense is it predicted that God
would judge them ?-And, Thirdly, When did this work of judgment commence ? and is it now over, or is it still carried on ?
First, Who are meant by the dead that were to be judged? They must be understood either of the dead in Christ, or of Antichrist's dead. But of these last we have no mention whatever, either in this context, or in any of the preceding parts of this book; whereas we often read of those that were slain for the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Many of them fell under Rome Pagan, and a far greater number under Rome Antichristian. So terrible were the slaughters under the last, they appeared as if they had been reduced to two individuals, who, after struggling with their persecutors, likewise fell by the hand of violence; but within the space of three days and a half, and before they were buried, they were restored to life. As we read so frequently in the preceding parts of this book, of the deaths of the members of the true church, and have no intimations respecting the carnage, or even ordinary deaths of their enemies, it is natural to suppose, that the dead in Christ, and especially his martyrs, are intended. The classification in the text is sufficient to determine this point. Here we have two classes of persons that were to be rewarded ; first, those that belonged to Christ, called his servants the prophets, the saints, and such as feared his name, both small and great; and, secondly, their enemies, called, them that destroy the earth. Now if these dead had sustained the same general character, while in life, with those that were the destroyers of the earth, what possible reasons can be given for such an arrangement ? But if we understand them of the dead in Christ, the arrangement is the most natural that can be supposed. As they sustained the same general character, while in life, with those called servants and saints, the account of what God was to do for them is immediately followed by the account of what he was to do for those that were alive; and then follows the prediction of what he would accomplish upon the enemies of both.
The dead here meant seem to be intended of the mar