«The Apocalypse A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ by J. A. Seiss, D.D. Lecture Seventeenth ...»
The Jews were familiar with seven angels of this particular class. Gabriel is one of them, as he himself said to Zacharias: "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God" (Luke 1:19). Michael is another, as he is ranked with Gabriel in the book of Daniel, and there pronounced one of the princes, even "the great prince" of the prophet's people. In the Apocryphal book of Tobit, Raphael is named as still another, where he announces himself, and says, "I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One." Whether we take this book as inspired, as the Romanists do, or as not inspired, as the Protestants generally regard it, there is no matter touching this point. The passage referred to (Tob. 12:15) shows what the ancient people of God held for truth, and the representation harmonizes with the text and with the accepted books of Holy Scripture. The ancients believed that there are seven presence angels, and the Apocalypse ratifies that belief.1 These presenceangels are the highest and mightiest of created beings. It is their privilege to "stand in the presence of God." They stand; this is the posture of service; but standing in the presence of God is to be above all other servants. The seven Persian princes who "saw the king's face" were the highest officers of the realm, and next to the monarch in rank and power (Esth. 1:14). And what these princes were to the Persian kings, these presenceangels are to God.
We thus get a glance into the economy of heaven. A democratic chaos for the state, and a Laodicean herd for the Church, constitute the world's ideal of perfection in these days. But the heavenly state is very different. It is not a monotonous and lawless commonalty, but a complete organism, in which each has his prescribed sphere and office, in orders towering above orders, and princedoms over princedoms, till we reach the seven archangels standing in the immediate presence of God, and holding place next to the eternal throne itself.
And these sublimest ministers of God appear here as the prime executors of the oncoming administrations. The Savior Himself said: "In the end of this world, the Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire" (Matt. 13:4042). And here John beholds those angelsthe glorious septemvirate of celestial archregentsthe mightiest and the highest creatures in the universepresenting themselves for the momentous work.
"And to them were given seven trumpets." Trumpets are expressive instruments. The voice of the trumpet is the most significant voice known to the Holy Scriptures. God Himself gave His ancient people very special directions with regard to the use of the trumpet. It is itself described as a crya loud and mighty crywhich related only to important occasions. The time for the blowing of trumpets was always a time of momenta time of solemnitya time for men to bestir themselves greatly in one way or another.
Trumpets connect with war. The command was: "If ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresses you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets" (Num. 10:9). Jeremiah cries: "O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war!" (Jer. 4:19.) Trumpets were for the convocation of the people and the moving of the camps of Israel. This is minutely prescribed in Numbers 8.
Trumpets proclaimed the great festivals. "Ye shall blow with the trumpets over burntofferings, and over the sacrifice of your peaceofferings." "Ye shall have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation." "Thou shalt cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout the land." And so "when the burntoffering began, the song of the Lord began also with the trumpets." (Num. 10:10; Lev. 23:24; 25:9; 2 Chr. 29:27.) 1 The book of Enoch (chap. 20) has the following: "These are the names of the angels who watch. Uriel, one of the holy angels, who presides over clamor and terror; Raphael, one of the holy angels, who presides over the spirits of men;
Raguel, one of the holy angels, who inflicts punishment on the world and the luminaries; Michael, one of the holy angels, who, presiding over human virtue, commands the nations; Sarakiel, one of the holy angels, who presides over the spirits of the children of men that transgress; Gabriel, one of the holy angels, who presides over Ikesat, over paradise, and over the cherubim."
Trumpets also related to the announcements of royalty. Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet were directed to anoint Solomon king over Israel, and blow with the trumpet and say, God save King Solomon. It is also written: "They hasted greatly . . . and blew with trumpets, saying, Jehu is king." (Kings 1:34,39; 2 Kings 9:13.) Trumpets are also associated with the manifestation of the terrible majesty and power of God. When the Almighty appeared on Mount Sinai, there was "the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled" (Ex. 19:16). And Amos says: "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?" (Amos 3:6.) Trumpets connect with the overthrow of the ungodly. It was at the blowing of the trumpets that the walls of Jericho fell down, and the city was given into the hands of Joshua (Josh. 6:1316).
Trumpets also proclaimed the laying of the foundations of God's temple (Esdras 3:10).
With these facts before us, we are already in a degree prepared to anticipate what these seven trumpets are to bring forth. Their number is the complete number, and we may expect from them everything to which trumpets stand related in the Scriptures. Are they related to war? Then war is coming; yea, "the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Are they for the calling of convocations and signals for motion? Then we may look for great gatherings and mighty changes. Do they herald great solemnities and blessed feasts and sacrifices? Then may we anticipate the sublimest festivals, and victories, and jubilee, and burning up of the victims of sin that the world has ever yet seen. Do they declare investiture with dominion and the commencement of a new reign? Then may we look for the setting up of a new administration and the opening of the reign of the true David, the greater than Solomon. Do they declare the presence of God in His awful majesty? Then may we expect a revelation of Divine power and Godhead which shall fill heaven and earth with trembling. Do they bring the fall of the cities of the wicked and the destruction of their inhabitants? Then we may look for the end of great Babylon and the sweeping of the dominion of Antichrist and all his confederates from the earth. Do they tell of the founding and building of the permanent temple of the Lord? Then may we look for the incoming of that true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man, and of that firmlyfounded city whose maker and builder is God. And all this accords entirely with what John subsequently describes as resultant from the sounding of these seven trumpets.
We thus also come upon an important fact which is, for the most part, very strangely perverted. Writers on the Apocalypse generally treat it as if it depended for its imagery and materials upon the ancient Jewish regulations. They thus put the copy for the original, and deal with the original as if it were the copy. All the ancient regulations were nothing but copies and types. They were commanded to be made after some heavenly model, of which they were to be the remembrancers and prophecies. They were not the truethe realbut only earthly imitations of it. The true ideal is what John beholds in this book. These seven presenceangels with their seven trumpets are the true heavenly realities, with reference to which all the ancient laws relating to trumpets were ordained. What we here have is not the work of John elaborating a dramatic poem out of the elements of the ancient ritual, but an Apocalypse of the great realities themselves, with reference to which those old appointments were constructed, as earthly pictures and mimic predictions. We go back to the ancient laws and we there see reflected in earthly forms what John beholds in heavenly reality; and we reverse the whole order and involve ourselves in inextricable confusion when we take the images in his visions as mere earthly and Jewish drapery, and not rather as the very things from which those Jewish ceremonies took their existence and peculiarities. The Apocalypse is not a poem in Jewish dress, but the Jewish ceremonies were an earthly poem of the Apocalypse. Let this be understood, and much of the darkness hanging over the meaning of this book will at once disappear.
III. But, before these presenceangels sound their trumpets, "another angel" appears and another scene intervenes, to which are attention must be given.
Many understand by this angel the Lord Jesus himselfthe JehovahAngel of the Old Testament, and the same referred to in the preceding chapter as the Sealer of the 144,000. In both instances the officer is called "another angel," which, while it associates him with angels as to ministry, seems to imply some Being very different from angels as to nature. This angel has a censer of gold, an implement belonging to the Holy of holies, and used only by the high priest; which would seem to indicate our great High Priest that has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. This angel casts fire into the earth; and Jesus says of Himself, "I came to cast fire into the earth; and what could I wish if it were already kindled? . . Suppose ye that I came to give peace in the earth? I tell you nay, buy rather division" (Luke 12:4952). This is in some sense realized in the course of the history and doings of the Church; but we know that it is to be much more literally and terribly fulfilled in the day of judgment; and here would seem to be its exact accomplishment. This angel offers the prayers of all the saints, and renders them savory before God. Such an office is nowhere in the Scriptures assigned to angels proper, but is everywhere assigned to the Lord Jesus Christ.
There would seem to be strong reason, therefore, for supposing that this Angel is really the JehovahAngel, and none other than the Lord Jesus Christ in His capacity of our great High Priest. Primasius says: "The Angel here is our Lord, by whom all our prayers have access to God (Eph. 2:18; 3:12), and therefore the Apostle says, through Him we offer sacrifices of praise to God continually (Heb. 13:15; 1 Pet. 2:5); and St. John says, He is our Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1)." Wordsworth affirms that "this interpretation is sanctioned by other ancient interpreters, such as Augustine and Bede, and by Vitringa, Bohmer, and others, of later date;" and that "Christ, in His human character and priestly office, may be called another Angel", as the high priest on the day of atonement is called an angel with reference to his ministrations, and as he believes Christ is called in chapters 10:1; 14:17; 18:1; 20:1. Cocceius was of the same opinion.
Neither does it overthrow this view that the incenses offered up by this angel are represented as "given to Him." If the incenses here are to be taken as explained in chap. 5:8, that is, as the prayers themselves, of course they are given to Him, for he offers no prayers of saints which have not been put into His hands. And if it is the virtue of His Mediatorship that is to be understood by the incenses, there is still an important sense in which that is given to Him. It is given to Him in the sense of award, both by saints themselves, who credit and trust in Him as able to do for them, and by Sovereign Majesty, who adjudges Him entitled to exercise such offices and powers. Even all the glories of His Apocalypse are represented (chap. 1:1) as given to Him, though they are equally His own right, and the result of His personal obedience unto death, with His merits as our Advocate and Intercessor.