The History of the Church in the Book of Revelation

history-of-the-church-in-the-book-of-revelationJAMES DURHAM

A Commentary Upon the Book of Revelation

pp. 326 – 338


Lecture I.

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And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts, saying, Come, and see. (Rev. 6:1)

This Chapter beginneth that part of this Book which is properly and mainly prophetical. We heard of the preparation to it in the former two Chapters; serving not only to stir up John, but all that should hear or read, to observe the things that should be revealed. Followeth now the first prophesie to be spoken of, which is manifested to the Church by our Lords opening the seals of the Book: But it will be needfull to premit some generals, before we enter on particulars. 1. Touching our way of proceeding. 2. Concerning the object, and scope of the prophesies. 3. Concerning the series and order of them. 4. Some generals observable about them, for the better understanding of them.

1. For our way of proceeding, we say, 1. That this being an obscure place, and interpretations being many and different, we must have liberty sometimes to propone these that be most probable; that out of them we may take what is safest, seing among three expositions (when a fourth cannot be given) the overthrowing of two, is an establishing of the third. 2. There must be more use made of humane History, and citing of mens names than ordinary, seing the resolving of a prophesie is in an History: and there is no Scripture-story posterior to this. Use then must be made of others, as in the expounding of Daniel is needfull. 3. We intend not to be particular, or peremptory in astricting or limiting applications to times, cases, or persons; seing the same expression may be more comprehensive than only to take in one event, or look to one party or person, it may take in others also; it may therefore sute as well with the scope to comprehend both, when the things included do not overturn one another. 4. Neither will it be meet, where consistent and subordinate senses offer, to adhere to one of them, when it may be as safe to take-in both.

2. For the object and scope of this prophesie, we conceive it to be mainly to set out what concerneth the Church; and occasionally to touch any other thing as may serve to that end; for, it is sent for the behove of our Lord Jesus His Servants, to arm them against trials, to keep them from being offended with them, and to comfort them under them; beside, that God is not in this whole Book (as in the former vision) looked on as in His Government simply, but in reference to His Church chiefly: so it is His Churches sufferings, battels, victories, and others as they are enemies to her, or fighting with her, that are spoken to. 2. Because the Church was especially within the bounds of the Romane Empire, that then did almost command the world, and because they were most manifestly friends or enemies to her; and the effairs of that Empire being of most concernment to the Church, there is mention made sometimes more especially of it. 3. Antichrist being the great, and lasting enemie, and most dangerous to Gods People, and yet pretending to be no enemie; the holy Ghost therefore insisteth most in that particular, (describing, discovering, and pointing him out in his rise, his followers or Church, his raign and ruine) that Believers may be especially guarded against him, and that Christs Church and People may be discerned from Antichrist’s Church, people, or followers. 4. It is not purposed particularly to hold forth every dispensation in the Church, or all changes befalling it, or happening to it, but the special and main ones, most needfull and usefull to be known, and understood by the Church; therefore whileas other prophesies are more generall, this concerning Antichrist, is specially, particularly and at length insisted on, as if the Lord intended especially by this prophesie to meet with him.

3. For the series of the Story, this is certain, the state of the Militant Church is holden forth from that time to the end of the World, but how it is, there is difference. There are three opinions specially in this, 1. Some would carry on the Story in an even line by an uninterrupted series, knitting every Chapter at the back of another; as if the Chapters keeped the order of time, till it come to the end: But this will no wayes consist with the matter contained in these Chapters, especially Chap. 12.13, 14. which certainly is contemporary with and explicatory of the former visions, and so are Chap. 17.18. 2. Some make all these visions to begin and end together, as if in each of them were a full prophesie, extending from the beginning of this Revelation to the end of the World. But this will not hold in the principall prophesies, as will appear. 3. Some divide it in two Books; the first, closed, Chap. 5. The second, opened, Chap. 10. and that these two have two prophesies beginning alike, and ending at the end of the World. But it is certain that that Book, (Chap. 5.) containeth all; for, it containeth the seven seals; they contain the seven trumpets; the seventh trumpet is not blown till Chap. 11. and certainly it containeth the vials, which are the last woes and plagues. 4. We may adde a fourth opinion as a kind of midst, that is, that neither is there a continued series amongst all the prophesies, nor yet are all the visions, or the three principall prophesies contemporary; but that the three principall prophesies, to wit, of the Ieals, trumpets and vials, continue the series from the beginning to the end, and are not contemporary, properly; but that the explicatory visions, though they be not contemporary one with another, yet are they contemporary with these, or some part of these principall prophesies, That is, 1. The seals preceed. 2. The trumpets succeed. 3. After follow the vials, and that immediatly, and these carry it on till the end.

If we consider the matter contained in this Revelation, it may not unfitly be divided in two parts, each of them giving a view of the whole from the beginning to the end; with this difference, that what is more shortly and obscurely pointed at in the one, is more largely and plainly insisted on in the other: for, (from Chap. 6. to the end of the 11. inclusively) there is a view given of affairs concerning the Gospel-church unto the end. And such-like, (from Chap. 12. initio, to the end of this Book,) a review is given of the same extent, to wit, from the first spreading and rise of the Gospel, unto the end of the World: wherein what was more shortly hinted at concerning Antichrist, his rise, and ruine, by the fifth and seventh trumpets, Chap. 9. and 11. is more largely and fully insisted on, from Chap. 13. and forward: So that, upon the matter, this division seemeth not impertinent. Yet, considering the native form in which these prophesies and visions are delivered, and the speciall periods of the Militant Church, which are by speciall events remarkable, and of which the holy Ghost taketh particular notice by beginning, and breaking off purposes at them, by continuing one form of expression (to wit, by the same types of seals, trumpets, or vials) untill such a period run out, and then altering, and proposing the succeeding matter in a different form, and under different types, as altering from seals to trumpets; and then again, when a new period cometh, altering to vials. Considering these things, we conceive, that the dividing of this Book in principall and expository prohesies, and subdividing each of these again in three, will conduce most for a distinct and clear uptaking of the matters revealed, and sute best with the form wherein it is delivered; and by which also of it self it is divided, as will more fully appear in our proceeding. And so the order and series of the prophesies of this Book, are thus to be conceived,

The whole Revelation, as propheticall, is contained in that Book sealed with seven seals, Chap. 5. The six first seals, being opened, deduce the story to one period, to wit, to the end of the Heathen persecution, and the quieting of the Church from that. The seventh seal bringeth-in the trumpets, Chap. 8. and 9. which contain the story of the Churches trouble by intestine enemies, untill Antichrist be at his height. The seventh Chapter containeth no other matter, but is cast in betwixt the first principall prophecy and the second, to make way for the more clear passing from the one to the other; and especially to prepare for, and help to understand the prophesie of the trumpets. Chap. 10, and 11. contain a consolation for the Church in reference to that sad condition. Then in Chap. 12, 13, and 14. is inserted an explicatory prophesie belonging to that same time, and conduceing both for clearing the two prophesies preceding, and also that of the vials following. Then cometh the third principall prophesie of the vials, which hath its preparation, Chap. 15. its execution, Chap. 16. and is enlarged and explained in the two last explicatory prophesies, Chap. 17, 18, &c. unto the end of the Book.

Concerning these three principall prophesies, to wit, 1. Of seals, Chap. 6. 2. Of trumpets, Chap. 8, 9. 3. Of vials, Chap. 16.

Observe, 1. They have all Prefaces, or preparations, before them with songs for up-stirring of the Reader at the entry. Chap. 4. and 5. are preparatory to the prophesie of the seals, Chap. 6. Chap. 7. is preparatory to the trumpets which follow, Chap. 8. and 9. Chap. 15. to the vials, which are comprehended, Chap. 16.

Obs. 2. That all of them have their consolation and explication intermixed with them, or added, relating unto them, Thus the consolation of the Church, against the persecution, intimated by the second, third, and fourth seals, is added in that same Chapter by the fifth and sixth seals: and the explication which is contemporary with it, is in Chap. 12. viz. the first part of it. The consolation laid down in reference to the trumpets, is, Chap. 10, 11. And the explication of them, (for, both the difficulty, and consolation, are expounded) is, Chap. 12. last part, with Chap. 13, 14. The vials are of themselves consolatory, being against the Churches enemies; yet are they particularly explained, and insisted-on from Chap. 17. to the end.

Obs. 3. That each of these prophesies have something inserted in them, which as a key may serve both for the understanding of the meaning of them, and timeing of the thing contained in them. This key, is especially to be found in the consolatory part of each principall prophesie, it being not one of the least consolations to understand them.

4. It is to be observed, That every one of them is linked in, with, and to another, so as the last seemeth to infer a new period; as the seventh seal bringeth the trumpets, the seventh trumpet bringeth the vials, the seventh vial again seemeth to look to an intervall after the beasts destruction before the day of Judgement, and to relate to that vision, Chap. 20, or, at least, to a chief part thereof; so that looking to the principal prophesies in themselves, there are but three periods of the Militant Church; but as the seventh vial containeth somewhat new, and singularily different from the former, there are four. Thus, the Churches estate is either suffering; and that, 1. under Heathen persecuters: this relateth to the seals, and is the first period. Or, 2. it is torn and wasted under Hereticks and Antichrist: this is holden forth by the trumpets, and is the second. Or, 3. it is aspiring to an outgate from these in a more wrestling and fighting way, gaining ground against Antichrist, from his begun fall to his ruine, by degrees: which is held forth by the first six vials, and that is the third. Or, 4. it is more quiet after his ruine: which taketh in that intervall and Kingdom; Chap. 20. I mean that eminent part thereof that falleth under the seventh vial, and that is the fourth. In sum the whole state of the Militant Church, may be divided in two, 1. in a condition, more suffering; Or, 2. more prosperous. Each of which again, may be sub-divided. Her suffering condition, in two, 1. under Heathens; 2. under Antichrist. Her prosperous condition again, may be considedred, as it is begun and fighting, or more quiet, after her eminent enemie Antichrist is down: which, in all, make four periods. But because this last of the Churches quiet condition, seemeth not to be of such continuance as any of the former, it is not set down by distinct types, as they are; and therefore the whole estate of the Church runneth most in three periods according to the principall prophesies of seals, trumpets, and vials. By period in this discourse, understand one continued way of dispensation unto the Church, till by some new interveening change it be broken-off, as, the alteration from Heathen persecuters and Heathen persecution from without, unto intestine persecutions and troubles from within, and the like. That this series may be clear (which we will find agreeable to the nature of, and matter contained in, these prophesies, to History, in what is past, and to reason drawn from solid grounds in the Book it self;) we shall lay down these following propositions, to make out, that these three principal prophesies are not contemporary to each other, and do not deduce the state of the Gospel-church severally from her beginning to the end of the World; and also to make out, that these explicatory prophesies do not belong to any distinct time, different from the former, but are to be understood as contemporary with them, or some part of them.

Propos. 1. These principall prophesies, are not contemporary one with another, in this respect, as if each of them did hold forth a view of the whole Gospel-church from the beginning to the end of the World, as may appear, 1. by the genuine order that is amongst the seals, trumpets, and vials. The trumpets are comprehended under the seventh seal: and therefore cannot be contemporary with the former six, except we say the last were contemporary with the first; which is absurd: for, the second is not so contemporary with the first, nor the third with the second. Likewise, the vials are comprehended under the seventh trumpet, as will be clear, Chap. 11. when the seventh trumpet is expounded: and therefore cannot be contemporary with the former six trumpets, upon the foregoing reason. This argument presseth the more strongly; because, if there be order of time amongst the events, comprehended under the first six seals, so that the following seal comprehendeth matter, in time succeeding the former, Then must the seventh seal contain matter, succeeding in time to the sixth, as the sixth did to the fifth: But the former is true, There is order amongst the first six seals, to wit, the white horse cometh by the first, bloody persecution followeth in the second, and so forth one succeedeth another, as will be clear by the exposition of them: And therefore the seventh must succeed the sixth, except we overturn the whole order of the rest, which seemeth, for weighty and remarkable reasons, to be so particularly mentioned by the holy Ghost.

The same Argument also will bind the more strongly by considering the order that is amongst the vials, and trumpets among themselves: for, if one trumpet, or vial (accordingly as they are designed, 1, 2, &c.) be in time preceeding or succeeding to another, in respect of the matter contained in them, Then that same order must be between the seventh seal, and the trumpets comprehended under it; and the seventh trumpet, which hath the seven vials following upon it (for that same reason which distinguisheth the second from the first, and the sixth from the fifth) will hold also in distinguishing the seventh from the sixth preceeding, But it will be clear that the trumpets have order amongst themselves (as appeareth Chap. 8. last verse, by the three woes of the last trumpets successive one to another) and so also in the matter of the vials, as will appear, Chap. 16. And therefore we conclude, that the trumpets which are contained under the seventh seal, cannot be contemporary with the six former seals, nor can the vials which fall in under the seventh trumpet, be contemporary with the six first trumpets, much lesse with the seals.

2. It may be made out, by the different matter contained in these principall prophesies, that they cannot be contemporary one with another, but must be successive to one another: for, the seals hold forth predominant persecution by Heathens, the trumpets hold forth the tyranny of Antichrist unto its height, which is inconsistent with the former; the vials bring judgement on all the Churches enemies, which is inconsistent with both: which argument will be more clear hereafter.

3. It may be thus made out. It neither of these prophesies begin at one time, nor end at one time; but one of them succeed to another. Then they are not contemporary, but successive one to another: But the first is true. Ergo. 1. They have not one beginning: the vials, Chap. 16. the first of them is poured on them that have the mark of the beast; which beast, was not risen during the seals, and was persecuting under the trumpets, as appeareth, Chap. 11. Therefore the beginning of the vials doth not contemporate either with the seals, or trumpets. Again, the trumpets suppose a Church, unto which they give warning, as appeareth by the Lords sealing, and preparing His own (Chap. 7.) ere the trumpets blow, Chap. 8. And therefore the first trumpet cannot contemporate with the first seal, wherein the preaching of the Gospel, for the begetting of a Church, is held forth, as will appear in the expounding of them. 2. It may be made out, that the close of these three prophesies do not contemporate together: for, it is certain that the vials bring the last judgement, as they are called (Chap. 15.) the last plagues, or (which is all one) the last wo, Chap. 11. and therefore they must be conceived to succeed the seals, and trumpets, which contain, in this respect, the first plagues; for, first and last cannot contemporate one with another. 3. Neither the six first seals, nor the six first trumpets (for, the seventh containeth a different period from the preceding, as is said) reach in their events unto the end of the world; for, the seventh seal (as is said) followeth the sixth, and so the seventh trumpet followeth the former six: and yet, neither the seventh seal, nor the seventh trumpet, can be said to be after the day of judgement, which that would infer.

Yet concerning this, take these advertisements, 1. That when we name an order or series betwixt trumpets, and seals, or amongst themselves, we mean not, as if what is mentioned under one seal, were fully past and ended before another were opened, and so betwixt the seals and trumpets, &c. No, that is not meaned; for, the white horse in the first seal, and the red horse in the second, are still riding, as we will see (Chap. 19.) in the time that belongeth to the vials; but it looketh especially to the rise these, as the white horse goeth before the red, and the red before the black, and the seals before the trumpets, and so forth, although the event, signified by the white horse, may continue after the red is come; and so in other events. Also, It looketh to these events mentioned as in an eminent degree; as for example, when we say the seals hold forth open persecution, and the trumpets error, the meaning is, they hold out these to be at a height more than ordinary, and to be the predominant state or evil of the Church, during that time respectively. 2. We would be advertised, that one of those may well agree, and be applied to another time and occasion by proportion and analogie, bot not simply: As for instance, The white horse cometh first out under the first seal, and ere long the red horse followeth. This may hold Doctrinally in the generall from it, That where ever the Gospel cometh, ere long the devil stirreth up men to persecute it: or, whereever Christ sendeth the Gospel, it holdeth forth that His carand is there to conquer; yet, looking on the words as they are propheticall, they hold forth the first spreading of the Gospel, and the conquest and persecutions that followed it: Otherwise, there were no difference betwixt this Book which is propheticall, and any other which is Doctrinall; seing the generall dispensations which befall the Church, might be gathered from both alike; neither would it make for Christs scope, which is to shew unto His servants things to come, for arming of them against them.

Prep. 2. The first two prophesies hold forth the troubles of the Church; that of the vials, the ruine of her enemies. 1. That the seals (at least, second, third, and fourth) hold forth sad things to the Church, appeareth, 1. From the fifth seal, Chap. 6. in which mention is made of many Martyrs killed for the testimony of Jesus, which must be under the former seals. 2. In that they desire revenge on their persecuters for their bloud; whereby it appeareth, that till that time they had been born down by persecuters as unrevenged, which could not be, if the former seals contained judgement on the world.

2. That the trumpets hold forth a torn and wasted condition of the Church, and God by them giving the alarm thereof, is evident, 1. By the Prophets prophesying in sackcloth, Chap. 11. and the beasts prevailing against the Saints, Chap. 13. which contemporateth with the trumpets. And 2. By this, that when the seventh trumpet sounds (Chap. 11.17.) it is said, that God hath taken to Him His great power, and reigned, as if under the former six His power had lyen by, because His Church was under affliction. 3. That the vials bring judgement on the enemies, appeareth 1. From the Song, Chap. 11. when the seventh trumpet sounds, and Chap. 16.5, and 6. it is the shedding of their bloud who had shed the bloud of His Servants; and it is on the beast his followers and throne, in the Chapters following. And though now and then God took order with particular persecurers; yet such a remarkable change as that, will not agree with a standing persecution, or (to speak so) with a state of persecution, such as was under the former two.

Prop. 3. Though both the seals and trumpets hold out troubles to the Church; yet do they hold forth different troubles, not only in time, but in nature and from different enemies. The seals hold forth bloudy cruelty from Heathens; the trumpets, deceitfull heresies and troubles from false Christians: which may be thus gathered, 1. Concerning the seals, they are bloudy to the Church, as appeareth from the fifth seal, where they cry for vengeance against the shedders of their bloud. 2. That under the seals the Saints are meerly passive, and patient, in bearing out their cause with sufferings towards their enemies, and prayers towards God: But under the trumpets, it is different, 1. God giveth them warning, that they should be active in preparing for that storm. 2. That they are represented as striving, not only in suffering, and prayer, as to outward enemies, but (Chap. 11.) by prophecying, which agreeth better to the vindicating of truth against false Brethren, than towards these who are altogether without. 3. The enemies are diversly described; under the trumpets, come the false Prophet and the locusts, in a secret manner carrying on their design. 4. The effects are different; the seals, shed bloud, and take away the lives of all Professors: by the trumpets again, the clear waters of life are imbittered, and Truth corrupted, Stars made to fall from Heaven, and especially the Prophets persecuted, and insulted over, Chap. 11. 5. It is clear from Gods preparing His own against the trumpets (Chap. 7.) more than against the seals, Chap. 6. Of which difference, this is the reason, that Christ will not keep His people from killing swords, but will guard them from soul-murthering errours, as by Chap. 7. compared with Chap. 9. and 4. is clear. 6. It is most clear; by comparing the explicatory prophesies (Chap. 12. and 13.) which are contemporary to these of the seals and trumpets; from which may be gathered, not onely that the Church hath troubles during that time; but also, that these troubles are to be distinguished either as they proceed from the Dragon, who waiteth to devour the Childe, Chap. 12. which contemporates with the seals; or, as they proceed from the beast, Chap. 13. which hath horns like the Lamb, but indeed speaketh like the Dragon, and succeedeth him in his seat, which contemporateth with the trumpets.

From which we may conclude, 1. That the first period of the Militant Church, to wit, that which belongeth to the seals, is to be fixed at the close of the great persecution by Heathens, and her meeting with new storms from within, by the devils raising up false Teachers, and corrupt Doctrines, with great Patrons to them, both Civil and Ecclesiastick, which is a trial of another nature, and yet of as great concernment to her. Therefore, least being free of the former, she should now think her self free of all, the Lord soundeth a trumpet, and giveth her the alarm of this storm: which time will fall about the three hundred year of our Lord, or thereby, when, at first, the Church enjoyed peace by publike Authority under Constantine, which peace was immediatly marred by the Arrianheresie, and others following it, unto which the trumpets gave warning.

This would not be understood as if the Church wanted heresies under the seals, or persecution under the trumpets: No, the contrary is clear; But this we mean, 1. That under the seals, persecution by bloud, had its height, and was more constant: under the trumpets again, heresies and corrupt Doctrine, had their height, and were for the time respectively predominant in the Church. 2. We mean, that under the seals, persecution was still growing till the change came, as the last persecution by Dioclesian was the greatest; and that under the trumpets, error and declining grew, till Antichrist came to his height; so that though there may be error under the seals, yet error came not to its height then, and was not the predominant evil which troubled the Church as under the trumpets. 3. Although there may be persecution under the trumpets; Yet thus do they differ, 1. In respect of the persecuters; in the one, open enemies to Christ; and in the other, covered enemies to Christ. 2. They differ in respect of the grounds they go upon, and the manner how they prosecute their designs according to their respective principles.

2. Again we may conclude. The period between the trumpets and the vials, is to be fixed at the Lords beginning to pursue Antichrist, and to make the obscured light of the Gospel to break out, to the diminishing of Antichrists tyrannie; which will fall to be about the one thousand five hundred year of our Lord, or somewhat thereafter: for, the first vial, bringeth judgement on his (that is, the beasts) worshippers; which judgement is carried on by one vial after another (Chap. 16.) till he himself be cast in the lake. 2. The sixth trumpet endeth before the last woe, when the seventh is to sound: and (Chap. 10.) it is certified by him that sweareth, that the time of his reigning in a predominant and uncontrolled way shall be continued no longer than the seventh Angel begin to sound; at which time, the vials begin to be poured forth on him. 3. It is clear by the Song, Chap. 11. after the sounding of the seventh trumpet wherein God is praised for avenging of the blood of His Servants, and beginning to reign in Antichrists overthrow before the eyes of the World; which overthrow is carried on by degrees under the seven vials, and God is praised for it at the beginning, it becometh then so certain, though in one instant it be not perfected.

3. We conclude, that the sixth vial endeth at Antichrists casting in the pit, Chap. 19. at the end; the seventh, at the utter overthrow of all the enemies of the Church, and the consummation of all things, yet so as God doth severall wayes, and at several times plague his enemies before this, but their finall and full overthrow goeth along with this.

For these prophesies, which we call explicatory prophesies, they are also three: The first, is in Chap. 12, 13, 14. describing Antichrists rise, reign, and begun ruine; and by the party to whom he succeedeth, to wit, the Dragon, Chap. 12. The second, is, Chap. 17, 18, and 19. holding out a particular explication of his ruine, especially by the fifth and sixth vials. The third, is, Chap. 20, 21, and 22. relating unto the happie estate of the Church here and hereafter, especially under the seventh vial, as at Chap. 20 will be cleared.

That these three must be for time contemporary unto, and for the matter (though in more obscure types) comprehended under the principall prophesies, or some part of them, (which was the second thing proposed concerning this series to be cleared) may appear, 1. If these principall prophesies be linked so together that the one of them immediatly inferreth the other, and yet so, that all of them together do contain a view of the Churches affairs from the beginning unto the end, Then all these explicatory prophesies must contemporate with some of the former, and the matter contained in them must be of that same nature with, and relate unto, the former: But the first is clear from the Propositions formerly laid down. 2. It will be clear by considering the matter of both. The same thing is in the 12. Chap. that we had Chap. 6. And so the 13. Chap. agreeth with the trumpets, even as the Chap. 17, 18, &c. answer unto the vials; with this difference, The principall prophesies shew the events more shortly and darkly; the explicatory, more fully and clearly. The first sheweth the events, what is done; the second sheweth the manner how, and the instruments by whom, and circumstances relating unto them. 3. That the 12. Chap. contemporateth with the seals; the 13 and 14. with the trumpets; the 17 and 18, &c. with the vials, may thus be made out,

1. The ruine of Antichrist (Chap. 17, 18, &c.) is evidently and undeniably contemporary with the vials, Chap. 16. which beginneth and perfecteth that ruine.

2. The rise of Antichrist and his reign (Chap. 13.) doth immediately go before his ruine, and so precedeth the vials immediately; and therefore must contemporate with the trumpets, which do also immediately go before the vials.

3. The Dragons pursuing the Church, (Chap. 12) is immediately antecedent to the beasts rise, Chap. 13. and so must contemporate with the seals, that immediately go before the trumpets, which contemporate with the beasts rise, according to that certain rule, quae conveniunt uni tertio, conveniunt inter se, that is, if the seals belong to the time that goeth immediately before the trumpets, and the persecution of the Dragon (Chap. 12.) belong to that time also, Then they must belong to one and the self same time, and so in the rest. Or thus, to the same purpose, The seals contain the Churches infancy and first trialls, and the 12. Chap. undeniably doth the same; Therefore they are contemporary together. The beast (Chap. 13.) succeedeth the Dragon, as the trumpets do the seals, which proveth again that the beast, Chap. 13. and the trumpets are contemporary; so also must the vials which succeed the trumpets be contemporary with that reviving state of the Church, Chap. 14. which immediately dependeth upon the beasts height, Chap. 13. And this seemeth to be native to the form of the types, the holy Ghost minding to set out things successive one to another by one manner of expression in seven types; and when He stoppeth, or digresseth to set down what is further needfull, for preparation unto, consolation against, amplification, or explication of things, contained in these, He taketh himself to an other manner of expression; as after the trumpets, Chap. 9. untill the 16. and again, when He returneth to the series of the Story to follow on where He left, He taketh up His former way of setting forth events by sevens, as He doth in the 16. Chapter. And no other reason can be given why He interupteth that manner of expression, and returneth to it again, but to help us to know what part of this prophesie to subjoyn to another, and what part of it to take as an explicatory repetition of something already said. This we judged necessary to premise in the entry, that we may the more clearly proceed according to the mould proposed, From which in generall we may Observe,

1. How various the case and state of Christs Church is here on earth, sometimes better, sometimes worse, but most ordinarily under the crosse, there being two prophesies holding forth their suffering, and but one their victory; God in His wisdom hath so mixed the conditions of His Church here with prosperity and adversity, that the one is ever set over against the other, to the end that man should find out nothing after Him, Eccles. 7.14.

Obs. 2. That the best condition of Gods Church, and the worst part of the enemies condition, cometh last. The Church hath a foul morning, and a fair evening; the enemies have a fair morning-blink like Sodom, Gen. 19. but ere long, wrath is poured out of vials upon them.

Obs. 3. That our Lord hath wisely ordered, and circumstantiated the case of His Church unto the end of the world, whether in their afflicted or prosperous condition, whether from enemies without or within. Our Lord knoweth them all, and hath given us a little touch of them; and though we cannot know all the particulars, yet that He not only knoweth them, but hath ordered, measured, and timed all of them with all their circumstances, and so far revealed the same to us, should be ground enough of comfort, patience and submission to us.

Concerning Learned Mede his Synchronisms, or, a particular consideration of the same.

Learned Mede in his accurate Clavis to this Book, doth say down severall Synchronisms, which he divideth in two parts: and because the right contemporating of the several prophesies, doth much conduce to the understanding thereof, we shall (before we proceed) lay down his Synchronisms in order as he hath them; and then shew wherein we agree with them, and wherein we differ from them, according to the former series.

His first Synchronism, Part. 1. doth contemporate these four (that is, maketh them to belong to one time, having the same beginning and close) to wit, First, The woman her being in the wildernesse, Chap. 12. Secondly, The seven headed beast after the healing of its wound, Chap. 13. Thirdly, The treading of the outter Court by the Gentiles. And, fourthly, The Prophets prophesying in sackcloth, Chap. 11. All which are for the same space of one thousand two hundred sixty dayes, Chap. 12, 6. fourty two moneths, Chap. 11, 2. three dayes and an half, Chap. 11. vers. 9, 11. and time, times, and half a time, Chap. 12.14. This is a truth, and a necessarily followeth upon the exposition of these places.

His second Synchronism, is, of the two horned beast, or false prophet, with the ten horned beast, or that which is called the Image of the beast, Cap. 13. To speak properly, these cannot be said to be contemporary, because that supposeth them to relate to diverse things: we do therefore say, that that two horned beast or false prophet, and the ten horned beast, or Image of the beast, do set forth the same object, to wit, the former seven headed beast after the healing of its wound: and so, upon the matter, it is but the same Synchronism with the former, all these types tending to set forth and describe the same Antichrist and his Kingdom, although under severall considerations, because no one type doth sufficiently describe him. This will be clear afterward from the exposition of the 13, and 17. Chapters.

The third Synchronism, is, of the great whore, mysticall Babylon, Chap. 17. v. 1. and the seven headed, and ten horned beast that carrieth her, v. 3. Of this we give the same judgment as of the former, That these do describe the same Antichristian Church, considered diversly in respect of its head and body, as the exposition of that Chapter will clear; and therefore they are to be understood, not as expressing different events that fall together, but as describing the same one thing under different considerations.

The fourth Synchronism, is, of the hundred fourty four thousand sealed virgins, Chap. 7. vers. 4. and Chap. 14. vers. 1, 3, 4. with that Babylonish whore and beast formerly mentioned: this we acknowledge to be truth, and it is made out, Chap. 7. Lect. 1.

His fifth, is but a consectary, drawn from the former four: whereby they are all in their events found to be contemporary one with another; which, according to the former qualifications, is to be admitted.

The sixth doth contemporate the measuring of the inner court, (Chap. 11.1.) with the Dragons watching of the woman, and fighting with Michael, Chap. 12. This we do not agree unto; because, this measuring of the inner Court or Temple, is contemporary with the leaving out of the outter Court, as will appear from the exposition thereof, Chap. 11. But from the former grounds, the leaving out, and treading underfoot the outter Court, doth succeed to the womans bringing forth her childe, chap. 12. and doth contemporate with the Prophets prophesying in sackcloth, Chap.11. Therefore this measuring of the inner Court, cannot be contemporary with the Dragons watching of the woman, but must succeed the same. Neither will the grounds given prove, that this measuring of the inner Court doth preceed in time the treading of the outter Court: not the first ground, to wit, that the building of the inner Court of the Temple was, in respect of order and situation, before the building of the outter Court: Because, first, that is both obscure and uncertain. And, secondly, the scope of that measuring and allusion to the Temple (Chap. 11.) is not to shew any successive different estate of the Church; but to describe her state during the same time, by distributing of her members in two sorts; even as the Temple of old, after it was compleatly built, was divided into two Courts, the greatest whereof, was common to the multitude, and the least and inner Court peculiar to the Priests, who were but a few in comparison of the other, as will be clear from the place; and there is no respect had to the order of its building in respect of time, or priority, at all. The second ground, is built upon this mistake, that the 11. Chap. doth deduce the whole series of the prophesie from the beginning thereof to the end, as being the first new prophesie of the opened Book, Chap. 10. supposed by him to be another from that, mentioned Chap. 5. This will be clear to be a mistaken ground, Chap. 10. and is contrary to what was formerly hinted in the division laid down.

The seventh Synchronism, is of the seven vials, Chap. 16. with the decaying state of the beast and Babylon: which of it self is clear.

In the second part, he doth add other seven Synchronisms, the first whereof, is of the seventh seal, in as far as it respecteth the first six trumpets with the ten horned beast, and all these other prophesies mentioned to be contemporary with the first four Synchronisms in the first part; so that they and the first six trumpets belong to the same time. This, in the generall, we acknowledge to be truth; yet in the application we do exceedingly differ, although we do both grant that the first trumpet doth succeed immediately to the sixth seal, and that the sixth trumpet doth close with the expiring of the 1260. dayes of the Churches wildernesse condition: yea, although we make no great question concerning the duration of that time, to wit, that it doth signifie so many years, for dayes, or neer thereby; yet do we differ in the fixing of the beginning and close thereof: for, he doth not fix the beginning of these dayes untill Popery and the Antichristian Kingdom be as an height, and so closeth them with his full ruine; at least, with the first six vials: We again, do begin the trumpets and these 1260. dayes immediately after the publick authorizing of the Christian Religion in the world, and closeth them at Antichrist his height, and the beginning of his ruine: of which we have spoken, Chap. 11. Lect. 4. and it must be so, considering the grounds formerly laid: for, if the first trumpet contemporate with the seventh seal, and the seventh seal immediately succeed to the sixth, and the six first seals be contemporary with Michael his war with the Dragon, Chap. 12. and if that war did end at Constantine his advancement to the throne of the Empire (which the same Author doth expound to be the womans delivery, and the childe his taking to Heaven, Chap. 12.) it will follow upon these grounds, that the trumpets, and these 1260. dayes, must be begun at that time of Christianity its being publickly authorized in Constantine his time: and if it were not so, there will be a great intervall between the womans delivery, and her flying; or, between the sixth seal, and the seventh seal; which the series of this prophesie will not admit. From which it will follow, that these dayes must expire with Antichrists height and begun fall. Otherwayes also, there would be no proportion between the number of dayes and years, that is, so many years to be understood, as dayes are mentioned (which he himself doth grant.) And that ruine of the Romane Hierarchie mentioned before the blowing of the seventh trumpet, Chap.11. is not a totall ruine of that dominion, as himself seemeth to acknowledge, pag. (miki) 20. but the turn and beginning thereof, as afterward, and, Chap. 11. Lect. 4. will be clear.

The second Synchronism, is, of the measuring of the inner court, and Michael his fighting with the Dragon for the childe, with the first six seals. For the last part thereof, to wit, that Michael his war with the Dragon and the first six seals, do contemporate (if the close thereof be well understood) we acknowledge; but have already shewed, that the measuring of the inner Court can contemporate with none of them.

The third Synchronism, to wit, of all the vials with the sixth trumpet, cannot be admitted, because it is inconsistent with the series formerly laid down, and would quite confound the distinction that is between the principall and explicatory prophesies. This is a main difference and hath many others following upon it: we shall therefore endeavour (beside what is already said, and what may be subjoyned, Chap. 11. Lect. 5. and Chap. 15.) to make out this, that the vials do not contemporate with the sixth trumpet, but do succeed the same, and belong to the seventh trumpet, and contemporate with it, as the seven trumpet did belong to the seventh seal, or were comprehended under the same. Which we demonstrate thus, 1. If the title, nature, effects, object, and time of the seven vials, and of the seventh trumpet be the same, Then must the seven vials and the seventh trumpet be contemporary, expressing the same events: for, there can be no distinction gathered between them, if they be the same in all the former respects; and there can be no greater identity than to be one in all these: yea, particularly one in respect of the ruine of the Churches enemies, and her freedom; But the former is true. Ergo, &c. The title is one; the seventh trumpet is called a wo,and a great wo; the seven vials, are called plagues of God, as if they were the former wo, divided into so many great plagues. Secondly, That their nature is the same, may be read out of their names which do expresse it. Thirdly, Their object is the same: the seventh trumpet bringeth destruction upon those that destroyed the earth, and particularly those who slew the Prophets, and Servants of God, Chap. 11. vers. 18. which can be no other but the judgement on the beast, and his Kingdom, who persecuted the Prophets, vers. 7. and is threatned for that cause, Chap. 13. vers.10. and Chap. 17. The vials again, are poured out on the same object, to wit, on the men that worship the beast upon his throne, great Babylon, &c. Chap. 16. Fourthly, That they belong to the same time, must also be clear; because the seventh trumpet is the last wo, the seven plagues are the last plagues, which doth make them relate to one time. And if they were not wholly contemporary, they both could not be called the last: for, if not so, then the last wo, to wit, the seventh trumpet, would be posterior to the first six vials. And we conceive that the first of these vials is comprehended under the title, last plagues, as well as the seventh; because it also falleth in within the compasse of the last wo, to wit, the seventh trumpet. And if these four considerations prove them not to be the same, we know not what will prove it; or, for what end such coincident expressions are chosen by the Spirit of God. Beside, these seven vials must be called the last plagues, either because they do contemporate with all the three last woes, which cannot be alleaged, or, with the last two only, which also cannot be pleaded-for by him, seing, at most, they begin at the close of the second wo, as is alleaged, or, It must be because they do contemporate with the seventh only, which is the thing we have said: and so they are said to be the last plagues, upon the same account, that the seventh trumpet is called the last wo, to wit, because both had woes and plagues, and the same woes and plagues preceding them, and none succeeding; and therefore as the sixth trumpet must go before the last wo, so must it go before the last plagues, and so none of these vials can contemporate with it, seing they are called last with respect to it and as following upon the same.

To clear and confirm it further, we may consider their periods more particularly, and we will find that they arise and close alike, and therefore that wholly they must be contemporary: First, that they expire together, to wit, at the end of the world, is not questioned; and they could not both be called the last, if it were not so: This then will prove them in part to contemporate. Secondly, In reference to their rise, we say, either the seventh trumpet doth contemporate only with the seventh vial, or with all the seven; or, with some of them, and not with all; But neither the first nor the last can be said: For, 1. All the vials contain matter of one kind, as is already cleared, Therefore there is no reason to divide them, as if one part of them, to wit, the first six, did belong to one wo, to wit, the second wo or sixth trumpet, and others of them to another wo, to wit, the seventh trumpet: there is no reason for this division, especially considering that the last wo is of the same nature as the seven vials are; but the second wo, to wit, the sixth trumpet, is not of the same nature with the last, as the exposition thereof will clear: for which cause, they are divided in distinct woes: The vials therefore being of one nature, cannot agree to woes that are so different in all the former respects. Secondly, That there is some observable march and bound betwixt the second and third wo, cannot be denied; for, it is especially marked in all the three last woes, one wo is past and another cometh, &c. and the exposition will make it out: But if we will apply some vials to the second wo, and others to the third, there will be no such remarkable change to fix the difference betwixt these two woes; because all the vials are but steps and degrees of plagues of the same kind, or rather of one plague, and that on the same object, to wit, Antichrist, &c. But these three woes do expresse judgements of different kinds, and upon different objects.

And it is observeable, that that Learned Author, otherwise most acute in every thing, yet here is at some stand, whether to take in the first five, or the first six vials within the sixth trumpet. And considering, that the seven vials are put together in one form by the holy Ghost, even as the seals and trumpets were, What reason can there be given, why they should be divided, and the last only made to contemporate with the seventh trumpet, and others with the preceding trumpets, as if it were not one principal prophesie as the rest are, more than to divide the trumpets, and to make the last only to contemporate with the seventh seal, and the rest with the other preceding seals, seing the Spirit keepeth the same form in both? Further, we argue thus, if the seventh vial and the seventh trumpet only contemporate together, Then the first six vials must contemporate with the preceding trumpet, to wit, the sixth; But that cannot be said: because first, the vials, carry judgements on the same object with the seventh trumpet, to wit, on the beast, but the sixth trumpet doth contain a judgement of another nature, and on another object, as is said: Therefore the vials cannot belong to it. Secondly, The series and strain of the vials, sheweth that they together, do contain one whole period of the state of the Militant Church, to wit, Antichrists declining and decaying estate, even as the seals and trumpets did contain two former periods, to wit, the Churches sufferings, under Heathenish Persecutions, and Antichrist his rise and height. The sixth trumpet therefore, being a step or degree of a former period, cannot be contemporary with any of the vials, which are steps of a subsequent period; for, two periods, neither in whole, nor in part can be contemporary one with another.

More particularly, their rise must be at one and the same time: for, the seventh trumpet cometh immediatly on the back of the killing of the witnesses, and contemporateth with the whole course of their liberty, as appeareth by this, that then, and not untill then, the Kingdoms of the earth becometh the Lords, Then he taketh to him his great power and reigneth, Then he rewardeth his servants the Prophets, and destroyeth them that destroyed the earth, Then the temple is opened in heaven and the ark of his testament is seen, &c. as it is chap. 11. All which do suppone, that it was other wayes in all these respects before the seventh trumpet did sound, seing these are marked to be effects of the sounding of it: which demonstrateth, that the sounding thereof must be immediatly upon the back of Antichrists height, and killing of the witnesses; and so must carry on his ruine, long before his destruction, which cometh by the sixth vial. It must therefore blow long before the seventh vial; yea, it must contemporate with the first, because they (to wit, all the vials) carry on Antichrist’s ruine, from that same term, as is granted, and will appear from chap.15. where the Angels with the vials (even the first of them) came out of the Temple thus opened by the seventh trumpet, upon the instant of the earthquake and shaking of Antichrists Kingdom, at the expiring of the sixth trumpet, which is the very march thereof: for which, see chap. 11. Lect.•.

Therefore none of these vials can preceed the seventh trumpet, seing before it, the Temple is supposed to be shut. Secondly, This last wo doth immediatly succeed the second wo, and therefore must have its beginning with the first vial, because if six vials did preceed the blowing of the seventh trumpet, Then would a distinct wo interveen between these two, to wit, Antichrists ruine, which is carried on by the first six vials; which were absurd: for, the sixth trumpet is not called a wo as bringing any judgement on Antichrist, as the exposition will clear, and is granted by him. Thirdly, If it were so, that the first six vials did belong to the sixth trumpet, Then would it, to wit, the sixth trumpet, contain two woes, to wit, the plague of Mahomet and the ruine of Antichrist; for, both these give a denomination to severall woes; But the former is absurd. Fourthly, If the seventh trumpet doth comprehend Antichrists ruine and the carrying on thereof to his destruction, Then must it contain the first six vials, because by these he is ruined, and brought to nought, and his judgement is begun immediatly on the back of his height and fall, and perfected by them, Therefore must it here belong to the seventh trumpet, or, the seventh trumpet doth no way belong to the ruine of Antichrist; but it doth belong to his ruine, as was formerly hinted, in the object thereof, and afterward will be clear. Ergo, &c.

Fifthly, If the sixth trumpet doth contain Antichrists height, and the Churches lowest sufferings, Then can it not comprehend the first six vials, because by them Antichrist is ruined and brought to nought; and it is absurd to place Antichrist his height, and totall fall under the same trumpet, or wo, seing they do not fall under one period. Neither will it consist with the nature of this prophesie, that one trumpet, which containeth but a part of one period, should contain effects of so contrary and opposite natures, as Antichrists greatest height, and his totall and full ruine; But the former is true, the sixth trumpet containeth his height and triumph. Ergo, &c. Sixthly, The sixth trumpet doth leave the beast still in some being while the seventh come, as the same Author granteth, Synchronism 1. of this second part; But the sixth vial doth wholly overturn Antichrist and casteth him in the lake, as will appear from Chapters 16, and 19. and is often inculcated by this Author. Therefore the sixth trumpet and the first six vials can no way be contemporary. Seventhly, This seventh trumpet doth contemporate with the palm-bearing company, chap. 7. which palm-bearing company doth immediatly succeed to the sealed company preceeding; so that where the sealed company closeth, there they begin, and the vials doth the same. For, (chap.15.) immediatly upon the hundred fourty four thousand, their being compleat and getting the victory over Antichrists name (which is all one with having palms in their hands) then immediatly came the Angels forth with the vials, and not till then; Therefore it will follow, that the vials must in whole contemporate with the seventh trumpet, the contemporary of that palm-bearing company, according to the common rule, quae conveniunt uni tertio, conveniunt inter se; But the first is true, as from the former grounds is clear. Ergo, &c.

Lastly, If we suppose 1260. dayes to signifie so many years, as he doth; and again, if we suppose that just so many years must interveen between the breaking of that Heathenish persecution, and the blowing of the seventh trumpet, and also of the pouring out of the first vial, Then must the seventh trumpet, and the beginning of the vials, be contemporary; this cannot but hold: But both the former are true, And are to be supposed; the first from his grounds, chap. 11. The second will appear thus, that so many years de facto, or, in experience, have interveened, from the Churches delivery from Heathenish persecution, and her begun delivery from Antichrist, before which, no vial can be said to be poured forth: the other part, to wit, the blowing of the seventh trumpet upon the expiring of these 1260. dayes from that date, is to be made out, chap. 11. Lect. 4. In sum, if it can be made out, that the sixth trumpet is past, and the seventh already hath sounded de facto, Then the debate of contemporating the seventh trumpet with the last vial only, will evanish; because that is the thing driven at; that the seventh trumpet may hold forth an estate of absolute freedom to the Church after Antichrist his full ruine; But, we suppose that the former is made out, chap. 11. Lect. 4. The grounds therefore that are laid to hold up this Synchronism, must also fail.

If it be said, that the seventh trumpet doth suppone an absolute freedom from Antichrist, because in it the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, the Kingdoms of the earth are become His, &c. which cannot be verified during the first six vials while in part Antichrist reigneth, Therefore it must succeed them? Answer, first, This is a mistake of the place, which is not to shew what case the Church shall be in at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, but, by way of anticipation, to shew the effects following thereupon before they come: and serveth to explicate the expected events thereof and make it observable, because of such a wonderfull change, to wit, that Kingdoms and Nations, even now Antichrist, are, by its sounding, to become the Lords: which doth suppone Antichrist to be strong, having many Kingdoms and Nations, and the Church to be few and low when it doth sound.

Secondly, Although it expresse the events in their heighest degree, yet it will not follow that it was at its height instantly at the blowing thereof; but only this, that it was to be so ere it expired; Because it is usuall in this prophesie to expresse the state of the Church, during one period by the most eminent step thereof, as we will find, chap. 11, and 12. where the Church is said to be in the wildernesse during a whole period, because that decay came to a height during that time, although it was not at the first instant so low. Particularly, the whole state of the Church, after Heathenish persecution, is set forth, (chap. 7.) in two periods; the one, to wit, that of the sealed number, is set forth at its lowest, the other, at its heighest victory: yet, no question, ere that palm-bearing company came to a height after the sealing time, there was a fight and wrestling against Antichrist for his weakening. Hence we may reason, either the vials, which bring down Antichrist, must belong to the sealed, or to the palm-bearing company; for, there is no mids: But they cannot belong to the first; because in all periods, the last step is the heighest step, as the last persecuting seal is the sorest: The last trumpet of Antichrist his reign, hath him highest, and the last vial hath his Kingdom lowest: the vials therefore which suppone Antichrists height to be past, and the Churches flourishing condition to be begun, can in respect of none of them contemporate with the sealed number, but with the palm-bearing company; and so all of them must contemporate with the seventh trumpet; which was the thing to be demonstrated.

His fourth Synchronism, is, of the Serpent and Dragon his binding, chap. 20, with the seventh trumpet. This being well understood, according to our former grounds, whereby the seventh trumpet, and all the vials are made contemporary, is to be fixed as a truth: but being understood (as he doth understand it) by contemporating the seventh trumpet with the seventh vial only, and that intervall which followeth the destruction of the beast by the sixth vial, is not to be admitted. And supposing that that binding of Satan, (during these thousand years, chap. 20.) doth contemporate fully with the seventh trumpet, chap. 11. (which is indeed a truth) and supposing that the seventh trumpet doth begin with the seven vials immediatly on the fall of Antichrist his declining Kingdom (which we have formerly made out) It will necessarily follow, that the thousand years are to begin with the vials where the sixth trumpet closet Antichrist his height: and as the seventh trumpet doth not presuppose Antichrists full, but his begun ruine, (as hath been shewn) So it must be said of that thousand years binding of Satan, which is called the time of his binding; because, during that period, he cometh to be bound, although at the entry thereof his restraint be not at its height: concerning which, more is to be seen, chap. 20. Lecture 4.

His fifth Synchronism, is, of the thousand years of Christs reign with the seventh trumpet or intervall following the beasts destruction. This reign of Christs, being the same with Satans restraint; what judgement we have given of the former Synchronism, is also to be applied here.

The sixth Synchronism, is, of the new Ierusalem, and the Lambs wife, with the seventh trumpet and intervall foresaid. This, we cannot admit, because we conceive that new Ierusalem is to set forth the glorified estate of the Church-triumphant, and so falleth not in under the seventh trumpet, safe as that trumpet doth put an end to time and enter the Church (then made ready as a Bride for the Bridegroom) within the palace of the King, and there to abide for ever. But of the grounds thereof, see more, chap. 21. Lect. 1.

The seventh and last Synchronism, is, of that palm-bearing innumerable company, chap. 7. vers. 9. with the seventh trumpet, or, intervall aforesaid. This generall we acknowledge to be a truth, the seventh trumpet being begun with the first vial, as hath been said: but the restricting of it to the intervall, following the destruction of the beast and sixth vial, cannot be admitted: and is the rise of that discrepancie which is in the application of many of these Synchronisms, which otherwayes in the generall are solid, and do agree fully with the series and mould which we have laid down, as in the procedor will appear.

3 thoughts on “The History of the Church in the Book of Revelation

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