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20 - And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
21 And there fell upon the men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
To assist us in avoiding the errors of many commentators, in the investigation of this prophecy, it will be useful for us to consider :-First. The form and description of the vial, as collected from scriptural authority, with the action of pouring forth from it, and also its contents. Secondly. What description of persons are, in the instance now before us, the objects of this divine vengeance? Thirdly. At what time does the operation of the vials, as here described, begin; and at what period will it probably be closed ?
1. The pain, or, as we write it, vial, was a basin, bowl, or cup, commonly used in the ancient Church to contain the offering of meal or of incense, standing before the altar of incense for that purpose. It was also used to pour from, as in 1 Sam. x. 1. In these seven vials was deposited neither oil, meal, nor incense, but “ the wrath of God.” When delivered to the angels, they were “ filled with the wrath of God.” 2 All conjecture, by Vitringa and others, whether fire, or any noxious liquor, was in the vials, is therefore needless : they were full of the wrath of God."
When the terrible judgments of the offended God descend upon his enemies, they are said in scriptural language to be " poured out upon them.” (See Zeph. iii. 8; and the same metaphor is thus applied
1 See Daubuz on Rev. v.; and Parkhurst's Greek Lexicon on the
γεμουσας του θυμου του θεου.
xv. 7 ; xvi. 1.
by the three greater prophets in numerous instances, and in the book of Psalms throughout.)
2. The objects of the divine vengeance in the passage before us are the enemies of the Lamb and persecutors of his followers. Nothing can be more plain than this, though it has been so frequently mistaken. At the very first appearance of the seven angels, appointed to pour out the vials, songs of holy joy and thanksgiving break forth from the persecuted saints, whose perseverance in their faith and duty, supported by heavenly assistance, has gained to them the victory, knowing
“ to whom vengeance belongeth, and upon whom it will now fall.” Under this assurance, that the time of retribution is come, they sing their emIVIKLOV, their triumphant song of victory; and the pouring out of the vials confirms and fulfils, in every part of it, their well-founded expectations. The contents of every vial are seen to fall on the beast, his kingdom, and his followers, either by plain literal expression, or fair implication.
It is not upon the race of men, much less upon the pure Christians, as some have imagined, but upon the antichristian men, that the vengeance of God is poured out.
In the received translation, several instances occur, in which oι Ανθρωποι and τους AvOpwrovç are rendered in a general sense men, the article is unnoticed, which, being translated, shows that these are the men of a particular descrip
3. The pouring out of the vials cannot be dated from an earlier time than when the beast and his followers had succeeded in making war upon the saints, and in obtaining an extensive dominion in the world. It could not be before his rise from the sea in his renovated state, with his deadly wound cured, (ch. xiii. 1–3;) for it is under that reappearance that he is permitted to make war upon the saints with success, (ch. xiii. 7;) and the vials being of an avenging character, retaliating upon the antichristian enemy the sufferings undergone by the faithful servants of Christ, this part of the warfare must necessarily be subsequent to the other. And it seems to begin with the voice of the seventh trumpet when it is declared, that the omnipotent “God has
“ taken to himself his great power and dominion,that the nations have been wrathful, but that now his wrath is come,” (ch. xi. 15, ad fin.) From which account it seems probable that the vials, the executioners of this wrath, are to be dated from the time of the seventh trumpet which contains them.
Hence these two periods of the trumpets and the vials cannot synchronise in all their parts, as some commentators have imagined ; much less can they relate to and predict the same events, as others have preposterously affirmed. In fact, though they both belong to the same antichristian warfare, yet the time for the operation of each is separate and distinct. The symbols under the trumpets represent the first period of the warfare, extending through many centuries, during which the beast and his followers, with his prime agent, the second beast or false prophet, made successful war upon the saints; those under the vials designate the latter period of this contest, when success is no longer permitted to the antichristians, and heavenly vengeance pursues them, through successive defeats and sufferings, to their final overthrow and destruction.
This separation of these two periods will be further confirmed by observing, that all the vials are comprehended in the little book of prophecy, (ch. x.) while all the trumpets, except the seventh and last, are exhausted before the appearance of that book. The seventh trumpet does indeed appear to give birth to, and to comprehend, all the vials ; for, at the sound of it, instantaneously the heavenly chorus proclaims that the success of the antichristian warfare is at an end, for “ God has taken to himself his great power and dominion,” (ch. xi. 15.) It is then that the vials of his wrath, hitherto withholden, begin to fall upon his enemies : and these are said
: to be the seven last odnyai, or terrible visitations, on the beast and his followers, " for in them is filled up the wrath of God,” (ch. xvi. 1.)
We may close these preliminary remarks by observing, that, as the symbols under the vials appear to be of a later date—the greater part of them probably not yet fulfilled—we must hesitate in applying them to past events; and, when we acknowledge them to belong to times future, we should be diffident in foretelling the manner in which they shall be accomplished.
We may, under these restrictions, proceed to investigate the seven vials. And first, as they appear to have a strong resemblance or analogy to the seven trumpets, it may be useful to consider the following parallels :
THE SEVEN TRUMPETS.
THE SEVEN VIALS.
1. Upon the land, afflictive to the wor.
shippers of the beast.
2. Upon the sea ; as the blood of a dead
carcase; every soul dies.
1. Upon the land ; hail, fire, and blood;
a third of the trees, and all green
grass burnt up. 2. Upon the sea; a burning moun
tain; a third part of the sea becomes blood; and the third of the crea
tures die. 3. Upon the rivers and springs ; a burn
ing star, wormwood, falls, and
many die of the embittered waters. 4. Upon the sun, moon, and stars; the
third of which is darkened.
3. Upon the rivers and springs, blood;
a just judgment and retaliation on
the murderers of the saints. 4. Upon the sun ; the men are scorched
with great heat; and blaspheme, and repent not.
The three Woes.
5. The bottomless deep opened, 5. Upon the throne of the beast, dark
smoke and darkness, and scor. ening his kingdom; they bite their pion-locusts injure the men tongues from suffering, blaspheme, unsealed, five months.
and repent not of their works.
phrates, lead the cavalry who is dried up to prepare the way of the
The prophecy of the times Frogs, spirits of demons, work. of the Gentiles, and of the ing wonders to gather the kings witnesses, during 1260 days, of the whole world to the battle
opened under this trum- of the great day.
pet. 7. The grand conflict of the 7. Into the air ; “ It is done!" an un
dragon, beast, and false pro- paralleled earthquake divides the phet, with the Lamb and great city into three parts; cities of bis followers; in the course the nations fall; Babylon rememof which the seven vials are bered; island and mountains are no poured out.
more; great hail; men continue to blaspheme.
This apparent similarity of the two septenaries will be greatly diminished, when we recollect, that their relative objects are in direct opposition. The trumpets proclaim war and invasion against the pure Church of Christ, while her enemies are the objects of the vials. Neither do they relate, as I have already observed, to the same period of time.
The four first vials occupy each of them, so very short a compass; the symbols are so few, and of so general a character, that it will be in vain for us to expect from them much certain and important intelligence.
In the first, poured upon the earth, “a noisome and grievous sore” falls upon the men who are marked as subjects, or slaves, of the beast, and
, worshippers of his image. Now such persons will be found during all the long dominion of the beast, in great numbers, and in all the countries where his twofold apostasy has prevailed. All this is very indefinite, and seems to give an unbounded licence of interpretation; in which the commentators have not failed to indulge.
At the discharge of the second vial upon the