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which their grandeur of design and sublimity of expression more exactly accord; for they seem to unite with the apocalyptic prophecy, in pointing ultimately and emphatically to “ the great day of the Lord's wrath.”
Ver. 15, 16, 17. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman and every freeman hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains, fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?] The persons who flee in such dreadful disorder from the face of God and his vicegerent, are the enemies of the heavenly throne, and of his pure religion. They are of all ranks and descriptions; and there is no attempt to oppose his almighty arm, no resistance. They flee before him in the utmost dismay and terror. But the description of the slaughter and execution are withheld for the present; before these are exhibited, the faithful servants of God, and of his anointed, must be saved “ from the wrath to come.”
THE SECOND PART OF THE SIXTH SEAL.
The sealing of the one hundred and forty-four thou
sand, and the presentation of the palm-bearing multitude before the throne.
1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
5 Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
6 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God.
12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever
Amen. 13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes ? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any
heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters : and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Ver. 1. And after these things, I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, &c.] The execution of the divine judgment, so fearfully expected by the inhabitants of the earth, is now committed to four angels, the ministers of divine vengeance, each of whom takes his appointed station, withholding the fury of the tempest, till he receives an additional command. Our Saviour, in the prophecy already quoted, as apparently connected with this scene, mentions “ the four winds of heaven,” as the four cardinal divisions of the whole world, from which his angels are to “ gather together his elect,” when the judgment which he then foretells shall take place. In the figurative language of Scripture, the action of the four winds together implies a dreadful and a general destruction. (Jer. xlix. 36; Dan. vii. 2.)
Ver. 2, 3. And I saw another angel ascending from the East, having the seal of the living God, &c.] The East being the quarter of the heavens from which the luminaries arise, was by the ancients esteemed the chief cardinal point. In the camp of Israel, the East was the front and post of honour : here Moses and Aaron were stationed. The four angels having taken possession of the four quarters, the fifth angel, coming with additional commands to them, now appears in the brightest and most honourable station, and thence he proclaims his orders. By these, the destructive violence decreed, is suspended and restrained, till the servants of God are marked with “ the seal of the living God,”-the seal of him who alone has life in himself, and through whom only others can live.
Seals, among the nations of antiquity, were used to designate property, to mark for each person his own possessions. The seal of God is the divine
mark by which “ he knoweth them that are his.” (2 Tim. ii. 19.) Such, under the divine covenant with Abraham and his descendants, was circumcision ; and baptism, under the Christian covenant, succeeding in the place of circumcision, was accounted by the fathers of the Christian Church to be this seal. But to speak more accurately, and conformably to the expressions of Scripture; the Holy Spirit, given in baptism, is this seal of God, by which the faithful Christian is marked and preserved as the property of his Lord. (See 2 Cor. i. 22; Eph. i. 13; iv. 30.) In these passages it is represented as the earnest and pledge of preservation to life eternal. In the passage before us, this mark is represented figuratively as impressed upon the forehead, which agrees with the imagery of Ezekiel, (ch. ix.) foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, when, before the angelic ministers of vengeance perform the parts appointed to them, another angel is commanded to mark the servants of God on the forehead: and so marked they are to be saved from the general calamity, as were Jeremiah, Daniel, and the three children, and many others whose names have not come down to us.
Ver. 4. An hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.] There are several passages in the New Testament, as well as in the Old, which lead us to expect the restoration of the Jews, and their adoption into the Christian Church. (Rom, i. 16; ii. 9, 10; Matt. xv. 24; Rom. xi. 15–36.) And this extraordinary people, after their conversion to Christianity, may yet be kept apart, and precede other Christians in the paths and rewards of salvation; or, we may suppose the body here so distinguished, to contain pious Christians of all denomina
, tions, a body which, upon the rejection of the Jews,
succeeded to their titles and honours, being called “ the Israel of God.” (Gal. vi. 16; Col. ii. 11; 1 Pet. ii. 6—11.) But whether the number of the sealed be the original Israelites, or of their representatives in the Christian Church, it is a full, complete number, being, as the commentators observe, the complete square root of the number of the tribes, or perhaps of the twelve apostles, on whom, as a foundation, the Christian Church is said to be erected. (1 Kings xviii. 31; Luke xxii. 30; Eph. ii. 20.)
To the reader, who compares the names of the tribes and their order, as exhibited in parallel places of holý writ, some peculiarities will appear in this passage. The tribe of Dan is omitted, and that of Levi, which being dispersed among the other tribes, for the purpose of ministration, had not the allotment of a tribe in Canaan, is taken into its place. For the admission of Levi, a reason may be assigned. This tribe had been excluded, because, being divinely separated for the offices of the priesthood, a separate provision among all the tribes had been assigned to it: but now, being to enter on the heavenly Canaan, where there is no temple, and all are priests to God, (ch. xxi. 22; ver. 10.) the service of this tribe as priests is no longer needed; and therefore it resumes its ancient station among the brethren. For the omission of Dan, the reason commonly assigned is, that this tribe, by an early apostasy, became a common receptacle of idolatry, and thus was the means of corruption to the other tribes. (Jud. xvii.) The same cause is said to operate for the omission of the name of Ephraim, the name of Joseph, the Father, being here used instead. (Mede, p. 455.)
Ver. 9, 10. And after this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, &c.] The one hundred and forty-four