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Fifth. The next thing to be noticed, is the time this persecution is to last.
“And they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put into graves.” (ver, 9.)
Here is another and a very strong proof, in addition to those above-named, that the “great city” must mean a great empire, and the Roman empire; otherwise the “dead bodies” of the witnesses could not be seen by the peoples, and kingdoms, and tongues ; for these expressions signify, throughout the whole of the Revelation, the several nations which compose that empire.
It is likewise a proof that the time here mentioned cannot signify literal time; since it is not possible that so many different nations should be represented as looking upon the dead bodies of the witnesses, that is, upon the ruins of the whole church, for three days and an half only. Especially when we see half a day added to the number, which it seems absurd to imagine of an event that is to be of so general an extent all over the Roman empire. It must therefore necessarily be symbolical time, as before explained, “a year for a day,” and signify that this fiercest persecution of the church is to last THREE YEAR's AND AN HALF, -and but three years and an half /
From its being said that the peoples, and kindreds, and tongues shall see these dead bodies all the three years and an half, it would appear as if what is
signified by the slaughter of the witnesses would be an act suddenly decisive and complete. And this is what we might expect from the kind of instrumentality which is to bring it about, and the kind of death to be inflicted. It is not, as hath been already explained, a bodily death, but is agreeable to the ordinary signification of killing and slaying throughout the whole of this book; as for instance, the killing of the third part of men in the sixth trumpet; the not killing them in the former trumpet; the death of the creatures in the sea in the second; in all these death is taken for the extinction of the name and profession of the whole or part of the Roman nation, or a political death. In the present case it is a total suppression of the public profession of the true religion, which is the mystical life of the witnesses; it is death to the testimony they bear to the truth : it is the true members of the church of Christ coerced into a state of perfect silence. Although however the act which brings about this state will be suddenly decisive and complete, yet there must be a peculiar significancy in its being said their dead bodies shall not be suffered, throughout the whole time the persecution lasts, to be buried or put into graves. It appears plainly to intimate, that the oppressed church shall be kept in a visible though ruined and crushed condition, and that in a way that shall aggravate its misery; but how, the event must explain. There is evidently something in the character of the persecution altogether that will terrifically distinguish it from all preceding ones. The state
of the church at all other times during the 1260 years, has only the name of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth; but this is represented by making war with them, and overcoming them, and killing them; which must signify, that it is as much more considerable than any former one, as the killing of a man is in comparison of his being in a sorrowful and a mourning condition. The three years and an half being an incomplete number, I cannot but consider must, in like manner to the “time times and an half,” + have a reference to some seven, as the whole number of it, of which they are the half. For this term of three and an half, is in itself so precise and so unusual a determination of the whole time of an event, and the whole number seven is so commonly used to signify the whole of things of the same kind, or the perfection of a series of actions, that I cannot but consider this as belonging to some remarkable seven. It is, I think, not improbable but that it may be the week or seven days mentioned in the last verse of the 9th chapter of Daniel; and more especially as a direct reference is made to its bisection. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week,” or in the half of the week, “he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” The sacrifice and the oblation ceased after the three years and an half of the public ministry of our Lord himself by his death and resurrection, and left the remaining three years and an half to be fulfilled by some other similar ministry. For both parts of the week being to confirm the same covenant, according to Wintle,” for the purpose of making a firm covenant, if one has a reference to a ministry, so must the other. In this view of the subject there appears to be an uncommon beauty, as well as a deepening interest in the idea, that as one part of the week commenced the Christian dispensation, so the other part will close it—the first, by the personal ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ himself; the last, by those of his witnesses; and the parallel, as we shall immediately see, will be most close.
* See Diss. ch. x. p. 262.
Sixth. The public rejoicing which this persecution will occasion, and the assigned reason—
“And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry; and shall send gifts one to another: because these two witnesses tormented them that dwell upon the earth.” (v. 10.)
The rejoicing here spoken of appears to be that of the highest description, and is set forth in such particulars as to shew it to be complete. The language used is the same as that ascribed to the Jews on the days of their greatest rejoicing, and such as was shewn on the occasion of their great deliverance from the malice of Haman : “A day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another.” This unbounded delight, it is said, will be shown by those that dwell on the earth, because the two witnesses have tormented them. What has been done is a matter of history; and therefore the witnesses having tormented them that “dwell on the earth,” who it is that are intended by this description may be best ascertained by inquiring who it is that have been tormented by them. It is first necessary to explain, that this tormenting appears to allude to the words of Ahab to Elijah, F “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” and means bringing a curse upon the land. It is the necessary result of that enmity which was put between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman—an enmity which has never ceased to be shewn, wherever God hath been truly worshipped. “How is it,” asks Mr. Thelwall, “that the humble disciple of Jesus, who simply takes God at his word, receives without hesitation, upon his authority, every sentence in the Bible ; and desires and acts accordingly—that this man is excepted from all rules of toleration? that his opinions are not to be endured? And if he escape actual buffeting, cruel injustice, and bloody persecution, it is only that the inward hatred of the liberals may vent itself upon him in a ten-fold contempt? How is this? I will tell you : It is natural that the children of the devil, however different from each other in some respects, should all agree in tolerating one
* Wintle on Daniel.