that John was called upon by the better part of
the Churches to transfer the seat of his activity to
this quarter.' ^
Nero put an end to his life, and the persecution
ceased in the year 68. Some two or three years
after the death of Paul, John would hardly have
removed to Asia Minor during the violence of this
persecution j and he must have resided there some
considerable time before he had become intimately
acquainted with the Churches, and acquired such
an influence and authority, as would justify him
in directing such messages to them as we find in
the Revelation. The probability therefore is, that
John was not in Asia Minor, or, if there, was not in
circumstances to present them with such a book as
that before us, until long after Nero was dead, and
his bitter persecution of the Christians had ceased.
' ITist. of Apostolic Churches, p. 399.
^ Planting and training the Apostolic Churches, p. 219.
12 THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED:
A variety of e^ddence, drawn from the Apocalypse
itself, goes to assure us that it could not have been
written until near the close of the first century.
It was not till this time that the first day of the
week began to be called ' the Lord's day,' yet it was
on 'the Lord's day' that John was in the Spirit, and
saAV the opening vision of the Apocalypse (Rev. i. 10).
It was not till near the close of the first century
that there was a presiding elder, an angel, in each
of the Churches. ā¢ Previous to this the elders of a
Church were always classed together, but each of
the seven Churches of Asia seems to have had a
presiding officer, or elder, when the Apocalypse
The Gnostic errors had begun to show them-
selves in the time of Paul, but they had not been
matured and organised under heresiarchs before
the close of the first century ; yet we hear of the
Nicolaitanes, a sect of Gnostics, in two of the
messages to the Churches of Asia (Rev. ii. 6, 15).
Near the close of the first century, and not
earlier, the Gnostic leaders commenced the work
of mutilating the sacred books of the Christians.
It was this practice, probably, which led to the
closing denunciations of the Apocalypse : * If any
man shall add unto these things, God shall add
unto him the plagues that are written in this book :
and if any man shall take away from the words of
WHEN WRITTEN, AND BY WHOM. 13
the book of this prophecy, God shall take away
his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy
city, and from the things that are written in this
book.' There had been no occasion for language
such as this until near the close of the first century.
It is obvious that the seven Churches of Asia
were in a very different condition, when the Apo-
calypse was written, from what they were in the
time of Nero and of Paul. The Church at Ephesus
had ' lost its first love.' The Church at Smyrna
had those in its communion who belonged to ' the
synagogue of Satan.' The Church at Pergamos
harboured not only the Nicolaitanes, but those who
held ' the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to
cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel.'
The Church at Thyatira suffered ' the woman
Jezebel ' to teach, to seduce its members to commit
fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
The Church at Sardis had only ' a few names ' left
which had not defiled their garments ; while the
members of the Church at Laodicea had become so
lukewarm and offensive to Christ, that He was
ready to ' spue them out of His mouth.'
In short, these Churches had all of them de-
clined ā sadly declined, from what they were when
Paul wrote his Epistles to some of them ; and time
must he allowed ā a considerable time, in which to
account for their defections. If we suppose the
14 THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED:
Apocalypse written during the persecution under
Nero, ā only a few years subsequent to the writing of
Paul's Epistles, ā the requisite time is not furnished.
But if the book was written thirty years later, in
the persecution under Domitian, the declension can
be accounted for, at least on the score of time.
The testimony of the Fathers on the point before
us is just what, in view of the facts above detailed,
we might expect. With few exceptions, it is unani-
mous in ascribing the exile of John, and the writing
of the Apocalypse, to the time of Domitian. We
commence with Irenseus, bishop of Lyons, in Gaul.
He had been a disciple of Polycarp, who was a dis-
ciple of the apostle John. He must have been
familiarly acquainted with the circumstances of
John's banishment, with the time of it, and the
person by whom it had been decreed. He could
not have been mistaken on these points, nor is there
any mistake or ambiguity in his testimony. ' The
Apocalypse,' he tells us, was seen not long ago^ but
almost in our own generation^ near the end of the reign
of Domitian!^ This testimony has never been set
aside, and never can be. It is enough of itself,
considering the circumstances, to decide the ques-
tion before us.
But this testimony does not stand alone. It is
concurred in by nearly all the more distinguished
^ Contra Haeres, v. 20.
WHEN WRITTEN, AND BY WHOM. 15
Fathers. Victorinus says repeatedly, that John
was banished by Domitian, and m his time saw the
Revelation. Hippolytus speaks of John as having
been exiled to Patmos under Domitian, where he
saw the Apocalypse.^ Eusebius, speaking of the
persecution, says : ' In this persecution, John the
apostle and evangelist, being still alive, was ba-
nished into the isle of Patmos.'^ Jerome, in his
book of illustrious men, says : * Domitian, in the
fourteenth year of his reign, raised the next perse-
cution after Nero, when John was banished to the
isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Revelation.'
In another work, he says : ' John was a prophet.
He saw the Revelation in the isle of Patmos, where
he was banished by Domitian.'^ Sulpicius Severus
says, that * John, the apostle and evangelist, was
banished by Domitian to the isle of Patmos, where
he had visions, and where he wrote the Revela-
It would be needless to multiply quotations like
these, and pursue them to a later period. It has
been said that these testimonies are of little value,
since they are all based one upon another, and
ultimately upon that of Irenaeus. But this is not
true ; at least, no one has any right or reason to
affirm that it is true. They go to show what was
Ā» Works, p. 90. 3 ^Yorks, vol. vi. p. 446.
^ Ecc. Hist. Lib. 3, cap. 18. "* \yorks, vol. iv. chap. 120.
16 THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED:
the settled conviction of the Cliurch on the point
before ns, from the second century to the sixth, ā
the very time when the question could best be
settled ; and, in the judgment then formed, and so
unanimously expressed, it becomes us of the nine-
teenth century to acquiesce. It cannot be reversed
but upon vastly weightier reasons than any that
have yet been urged.
It will be seen that the question here discussed
has a vital bearing on the interpretation of the
Apocalypse. If this book was written near the
close of the first century, almost thirty years after
the death of Nero and the fall of Jerusalem, then it
is vain to look for its fulfilment in either of these
events. There is not the slightest allusion to either
of them, from one end of the book to the other.
But as many persons at this day, ā following
Professor Stuart and the Germans, ā are inclined
to adopt their scheme of interpretation, it may be
well to examine it more particularly.
REVIEWS EXAMINED. 17
REVIEW OF PROFESSOR STUART ON THE APOCALYPSE :
WITH OCCASIONAL REFERENCES TO THE COMMENTARY OF
AMONG my ministerial friends who have passed
away, no one stood higher than the late Pro-
fessor Moses Stuart of Andover. I loved and
honoured him while he lived, and venerate his
memory now that he is gone. He was the father of
biblical learning in this country. He did more to
promote a knowledge of the original Scriptures, espe-
cially those of the Old Testament, than any other
individual. On most of his exegetical writings I
set a high value, and it is with pain that I feel con-
strained to differ from him in regard to any of them.
But his learned, laboured, exhaustive work on the
Apocalypse I consider the least valuable of his Com-
mentaries. The plan of this Commentary, borrowed
mostly from the Germans, is founded on a false
assumption ; and this fact vitiates, confuses, and
half spoils the whole.
Professor Stuart assumes that the Apocalypse
w^as written about the year 68, just before the
18 THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED:
death of Nero, and two years previous to the de-
struction of Jerusalem by Titus.
In the Apocalypse, we have set before us, he
says, three distinct catastrophes :
1. The fall of Jerusalem, in chapters vi.-xi.
2. The fall of Nero, and ultimately of Pagan
Rome, in chapters xii.ā xix.
3. The overthrow of Gog and Magog, after the
close of the millennium.
There is no reference to Papal Rome anywhere.
The prophetic symbols, from the beginning of the
sixth chapter to the close of the eleventh, all relate to
the destruction of Jerusalem. Those from the twelfth
to the nineteenth, to the fall of Nero and of Pagan
Rome. The piincipal reasons assigned for referring
all the debatable parts of tlie Apocalypse to the for-
mer two of these catastrophes, are the following : ā
1. On any other supposition, the symbols of the
Apocalypse would not have been understood by
those to whom the book was addressed, nor even
by John himself.
This consideration seems to have had great
weight in the mind of Professor Stuart, and also
of Professor Cowles, as both writers refer to it
often, and in various connections. Let us then in-
quire, for a moment, how much it is likely that
John understood of the Apocalypse at the time
when he was receiving and writing it.
REVIEWS EXAMINED. 19
John knew what he saw in vision ā the symbols,
pictures, and images that were presented. He
knew what he heard said and sung among the
celestials. He knew enough, to record what he
had seen and heard in plain intelligible language.
But did he know to what particular events the
symbols which he employed ā the horsemen, the
locusts, the beasts, the trumpets, the vials, etc.,
referred ā what they were designed to represent,
so that he could have written out a clear and full
explication of them ? I doubt it. It is not at all
likely that he had such an understanding as this of
what he was writing. Nor was such knowledge
on his part at all necessary to accomplish his object
in preparing the work, or the object of the Spirit in
enabling him to prepare it. This was, to comfort
the afflicted persecuted people of God with the
assurance, that all heaven was in sympathy with
them in their trials, and that they were sure to end
in victory and peace. Such was the immediate
object of the Apocalypse ; and this could be as
well answered without a particular understanding
of the significance of each of the symbols, as with
It is in this way that the book has been a light
and a comfort to the Church in all succeeding ages.
Christians have not known ā in general they have
not pretended to know, the particular significance
20 THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED:
of tlie symbols. Yet tliey have derived mucli in-
struction and comfort from the book.
Indeed, the knowledge of the ancient prophets,
in predicting the Messiah and the way of salvation
through Him, did not extend much farther than has
been here represented ; for we are told that they
searched diligently * what, or what manner of time,
the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify,
when it testified beforehand the suiFerings of Christ,
and the glory that should follow ' (1 Pet. i. 11).
And, so far as John understood his writings, I
suppose the Churches to which they were addressed
understood them, and no further. They knew what
John had written, what things he had described,
and the meaning of his words. But did their know-
ledge extend much beyond this? I think not.
Further knowledge was not necessary to their en-
couragement and comfort; and judging from the
specimens which we have of the explications and
comments of the early Christians, we cannot give
them much credit for their knowledge of the Apo-
calypse. They early began to allegorize it after
the fashion of the times. They appealed to it
in support of their millenarian views, which had
begun to prevail before the Apocalypse was
written. And of all the wild vagaries that have
ever been written on this book, some of their in-
terpretations were the wildest. Take, for ex-
REVIEWS EXAMINED. 21
ample, the comments of Hippolytiis on Rev. xii.
' The woman is the Church ; the sun which encom-
passes her means the Word of God ; the moon
under her feet indicates that her splendour is
celestial. The crown of twelve stars indicates the
twelve apostles ; the woes of parturiency show
that the Church at all times is bringing forth the
Word of God, which suffers persecution by the
world. By the two eagles' wings given to the
woman, in order to aid her flight, we are to under-
stand belief in Christ, who, on the cross, spread out
His two hands like wings for a protection to His
followers.' This will do as a specimen of patristic
2. Professor Stuart, and others who follow him,
endeavour to support their theory by certain repre-
sentations of the Apocalypse, which, ā though in the
midst of symbols, and themselves manifestly sym-
bolical, ā it is insisted must be understood literally.
Thus, because the 144,000 sealed ones in Rev.
vii. are said to be taken from the twelve tribes of
Israel, it is thought that they include none but
believing Jews, ā the same that took warning and
fled from Jerusalem when the city was destroyed.
But do not these interpreters know that the whole
Christian Church is called in Scripture 'the Israel
of God,' though a vast majority of its members are
not, and, since the first century, never have been
I'i, THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED
converted Jews? As well miglit it be inferred,
since the names of ' the twelve tribes of Israel ' are
inscribed over the gates of the celestial city, chap-
ter xxi. 12, that none bnt converted Jews can ever
pass through them into heaven.
If the passage before us is to be understood
literally, then, not only were 144,000 converted
Jews sealed, but 12,000 were sealed from each of
the twelve tribes. Now, does any one believe such
a statement as this? Professor Stuart did not
believe it.^ Clearly the passage is to be understood,
not literally, but symbolically ; and thus understood,
it is easy of interpretation.
In Rev. xi. 1, 2, John s?Cys, that there was given
him a reed, and he was commanded to rise and mea-
sure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that
worship therein. * But the court that is without the
temple leave out, and measure it not ; for it is given
unto the Gentiles. And the holy city shall they
tread under foot forty and two months.' From this,
it is confidently affirmed, that the temple at Jeru-
salem was standing when the passage was written.
The whole question resolves itself into this : Is
this passage to be understood literally, or symboli-
cally ? If literally, then John, on the isle of Patmos,
in the ^gean sea, was commanded to take a mea-
suring-rod and hie away to the literal Jerusalem,
^ See Commentaiy, vol. ii. p. 173.
REVIEWS EXAMINED. 23
and measure the temple, and the altar, and them
that worship therein ! And now, I ask, Who be-
lieves this ? Who can believe it ? But this is not
all. In measuring the temple and the altar, John
was to leave out the court of the temple, and not
measure it ; for this was given to the Gentiles to be
trodden under foot. According to this, interpreted
literally, the Romans were not to destroy the temple
itself, but only the court ; whereas it is certain that
they did destroy the entire temple, court and all,
leaving not one stone upon another.
What then are we to say of the representation
in Rev. xi. 1, 2 ? Is it to be understood literally or
symbolically? Literally, it cannot be understood.
So says Professor Stuart himself.-^ But symboli-
cally understood, the interpretation is easy. The
temple and the holy city signify the Church of God,
which was to be persecuted and trodden down of
the wicked for a given time, but ultimately was to
be delivered, and to triumph.
It is further said, that the two witnesses spoken
of in this chapter, must have been slain in the literal
Jerusalem, because their dead bodies are said to
' lie in the street of the great city, which spirit-
ually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our
Lord was crucified.' Upon this, I have only to ask,
Are Sodom and Egypt to be understood literally?
^ Vol. ii. p. 213.
24 TEE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED:
And if not, why is Jerusalem to be taken literally?
And if the whole passage is to be understood sym-
bolically, as it certainly must be, then it furnishes
no more evidence that the literal Jerusalem was
standing when John wrote the Apocalypse, than
that the literal Sodom was.
3. Professor Stuart claims credit for his theory
of the Apocalypse, on account of the absurd expli-
cations which have been given on the commonly
received theory. 'Men have regarded the Apoca-
lypse as a prophetic syllabus of all civil and eccle-
siastical history, from the author s time to the end
of the world.'
We admit that a great many absurd and foolish
things have been said by commentators, though
we doubt whether any have gone so far as Pro-
fessor Stuart represents, making the Apocalypse a
syllabus of all civil and ecclesiastical history. But
have there not been as absurd explications by Ger-
mans and Roman Catholics, who in general adopt
the theory of Professor Stuart ? It would be easy
to show as much as this, without looking beyond
the pages of Stuart's Commentary.
Professors Stuart and Cowles think to avoid such
absurdities, by saying that most of the symbols
which John employs have no particular significance.
They are the mere dress and furniture of the poem.
The seals and the trumpets mean nothing, except
REVIEWS EXAMINED. 25
that Jerusalem was to be destroyed, as besieged
cities commonly are, by the sword, the famine, and
In a few instances, however, these men venture
upon the interpretation of symbols ; and, we doubt,
whether explications more absurd were ever uttered.
As before remarked. Professor Stuart makes the
beast, whose head was wounded to death, and after-
wards healed, to be Nero ; because some of the old
heathen soothsayers had a groundless prediction,
that when Nero died he would be restored to life.
And Professor Ccwles interprets the seventh trum-
pet, ā on the sounding of which ' great voices were
heard in heaven saying, The kingdoms of this world
are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His
Christ,' ā as denoting the destruction of Jerusalem ! !
' The seventh angel's trump involves this ; nothing
less, nothing more,' p. 138. His only reason for
this interpretation is, thai his theory demands it.
Jerusalem must be destroyed just at this point,
and the seventh trumpet must denote it.
My objections to Professor Stuart's scheme of
interpretation ā and that of Professor Cowles is
much the same ā are, in brief, as follows : ā
1. He represents his first catastrophe ā the de-
struction of Jerusalem ā as being described in Rev.
chapter xi. ; whereas, in truth, there is no catas-
trophe there. Let any reader look over the chapter,
26 THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED:
and see if he can find it. There is first the measur-
ing of the mystical temple, signifying the Chm'ch,
and a leaving out of the court, which is given to
the Gentiles, who are to tread down the holy city ā
another symbol of God's living Church ā forty and
two months. Then follows the testimony of the
witnesses in sack-cloth, their death, and their re-
surrection. This resurrection probably took place
at the time of the reformation from Popery, when
there were mighty changes in the Roman earth ā
all prefigured by an earthquake, and the fall of the
tenth part of the city ā the Popish hierarchy. That
the city here spoken of, a tenth part of which fell,
cannot be the literal Jerusalem, is evident from the
fact, that Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the
Romans shortly after the earthquake of the Refor-
mation. Tlie seventh trumpet sounds, and the mil-
lennial period is announced. Such is a brief an-
alysis of this chapter ; and where in it are we to look
for any such great catastrophe as the destruction
of Jerusalem by the Romans ? I cannot find it ; nor
do I believe any sober interpreter can.
2. But if there be such a catastrophe here as
Professor Stuart represents, it ought to be called
the second, and not the first. The second catas-
trophe, pertaining to Nero, is in the 19th chapter.
But Nero was slain at least two years before Jeru-
salem was destroyed, ā in which time there reigned
REVIEWS EXAMINED. 27
no less than four emperors. Nero is supposed to
have died in the year 68 ; but Jerusalem was de-
stroyed, under Vespasian, in the year 70. Why
then, we ask, was the first catastrophe made the
second, and the second the first ? Why were not
these events predicted, if predicted at all, in the
order of time ?
3. The symbols of destruction in the Revelation,
which Professor Stuart refers to Jerusalem, are said
by the writer to apply to the ichole earth ā that is,
the Roman earth. Thus, power was given to him
that sat on the red horse to take peace from tlie
earth. And power was given unto him on the pale
horse ' over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with
the sword, and with hunger, and with the beasts of
the earth' (chap. vi. 4, 8). And when the first
trumpet sounded, there followed hail and fire,
mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the
earth (chap. viii. 7). In Asia Minor, in the last half
of the first century, the term earth could never have
been understood as referring to the little and remote
province of Judea. It must have meant the Roman
4. Those who were smitten by the blast of the
sixth trumpet, ā some of whom were slain, and
some spared, ā could not have been Jews ; since
they are expressly said to have been idolaters.
' The rest of the men that were not killed by these
28 THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED:
plagues yet repented not of the works of their
hcands, that they should not worship devils, and
idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and
of wood: which can neither hear, nor see, nor
walk ' (chap. ix. 20). How is it possible to apply
this passage to the Jews, who were not idolaters?'
5. In the same chapter (ix.), the number of
horsemen drawn together to the battle, and drawn
from the East ā the region of the Euphrates ā is
two hundred thousand thousand. Was an}^ such
army, or any thing like it, or any army at all,
drawn from the region of the Euphrates to fight
against Jerusalem at the time of its overthrow.
Let those who have read the history decide.
6. The woman described iu chapter xii., Pro-
fessors Stuart and Cowles both take to be the virgin
Mary, giving birth to the Saviour of the world,
and then fleeing to her hiding-place in Egypt ;
thus looking backward a period of seventy years,
and not forward, as a prophet should do, into the
future. And why should this little scrap of his-
tory ā if it be history ā be thrown in here, in con-
nection with the destruction of Jerusalem ?
7. This scheme of interpretation makes a long
stride from the fall of Nero in the first century, or
of Pagan Rome in the time of Constantine, to the
incoming of the millennium. Of all the intervening
space, ā so full of incident and of interest to the
REVIEWS EXAMINED. 29
Cliurch of God, ā the writer of the Apocalypse is
thought to take not the sHghtest notice. On any
theory of interpretation, would not this be regarded
as a strange fact, and a strong objection ?
8. But my principal objection to Professor Stuart's
interpretation of the Apocalypse is, that he has
fixed upon a wrong time for the writing of the
book, and this vitiates and nullifies all his reason-
ings on the subject. We have shown, we think
conclusively, that this book was written, not
during the persecution under Nero, but thirty years
later, in the time of Domitian ā long after Nero
was dead and Jerusalem destroyed. And this
changes the whole aspect and import of the book.
Instead of being filled up with symbols and predic-