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to whom it is addressed are the martyrs who are to be slain in the last war of antichrist, and immediately to be raised from death, and exalted, because of their fidelity, io eminent stations in the everlasting kingdom of Christ.
And I looked, and behold a white cloud ; and on the cloud one sat like the Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, Thrust thy sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he who sat on the cloud thrust his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.
He who sat on the cloud, like the other principal agents in the visions, except the Son of God, is a symbol of a class and multitude. He is like the Son of Man. He represents human beings therefore indisputably, and human beings doubtless raised from the dead in glory, like the human form of Christ in his exaltation. He obviously is not the representative of angels. The likeness which he bore was given him undoubtedly, and mentioned by the apostle to denote the species of beings whom he symbolizes. There is, indeed, no such analogy between men generally and angels, as to render the former a fit symbol of the latter, were there any occasion for their symbolization. They are not of sufficient strength and dignity, are imperfect in knowledge, and are sinful. Angels, on the other hand, are employed to symbolize, not men generally, but those who are exalted to stations of extraordinary power, and exert vast influences; and there is an obvious propriety in that symbolization ; as there is an analogy between that higher order of beings and men who are raised to a great elevation above the race generally, in office and agency. When angels are exhibited as exerting an agency in the events symbolized on the earth, they appear in their own persons, as in the next vision, and in the binding of Satan in the twentieth chapter. And finally, the symbolization of the saints raised from death in glory by one like the Son of Man in his glorified body, was requisite to avoid the violation of analogy. Any other representation would naturally have implied, that the beings symbolized were either of a different order, or human beings unglorified and mortal. If the phrase, like the Son of Man, be translated like a son of man, it still supports the same conclusion. What reason can be conceived for the symbolic agent's being endowed with that likeness, except that he is the representative of human beings; or for his being said to be like one of the human race, not a mortal man, except that he is a representative of human beings changed from their mortal and unglorified life, to a superior form? As he is the representative, then, of human beings raised from death, in a beauty and dor of form like that of the glorified body of the Redeemer, the golden crown on his head denotes that they had already been presented to the Father, adopted as sons and joint-heirs with Christ, and assigned to stations as kings and priests in his kingdom. The period of this agency is after the revivification of the witnesses therefore, and doubtless also from the vast numbers requisite to such an office, after the visible advent of Christ and resurrection of the holy dead of all ages.
They who are harvested by him are also human beings on the earth, and living therefore and mortal, and are doubtless the saints. In their symbolization by inanimate objects, they are exhibited as passive subjects of the event foreshown, not its efficient agents. As crops are harvested for the purpose of preservation and appropriation to the uses for which they are raised; so the reaping of the subjects of this harvest denotes their being gathered for preservation, and appropriation to the ends for which they are sanctified.
That an angel came forth from the temple, and apprized the reaper when to thrust his sickle, denotes that a messenger from heaven is to announce to those whom he symbolizes the moment when they are to enter on their work; and is in accordance with the representation of Christ, that it is with the voice of a great trumpet that he is to send his angels to gather together his elect.
This beautiful symbol thus foreshows that ere the final destruction of the vassals of antichrist, the living saints are to be gathered together for preservation, and probably for the judgment and acceptance which are symbolized by the parable of the separation of the sheep from the goats; that that event is to take place certainly after the witnesses, and doubtless after the holy dead universally have been raised, accepted, and invested with crowns ; that they are to be the angels who are to gather together the elect, and that they are previously to descend to the clouds, await the approach of the great moment, and receive a signal from heaven when to enter on their work.
Mr. Mede, Mr. Lowman, Mr. Cuninghame, and Mr. Elliott, exhibit the form seated on the cloud as the Son of God. But that is forbidden by the manner in which he is designated. It was natural anterior to the incarnation of the eternal Word, in representing him as in the vision of Daniel, vii. 13, as invested after his incarnation and exaltation with the dominion of the earth, to describe him as like a son of man, or one of the human race. That delineation, and his investiture with the empire of the earth, define him as the incarnate and glorified Word. But after his incarnation, resurrection in glory, and exaltation to the throne, to represent him as like a son of man, were but to resemble him to himself. The comparison would add nothing to our previous knowledge. On the other hand, if the incarnate and glorified Redeemer be the being to whom the symbolic agent is resembled, then the comparison is natural, and conveys the most important information, as it denotes that that agent is a saint raised from death, in a splendor of form and aspect like that of the glorified Redeemer. In all the instances moreover in which the Son of God appears in the visions, he is designated by titles and characteristics that distinguish him from all other beings, and show indisputably that he is the incarnate Word. And finally, it is inconsistent with his dignity and supremacy, to suppose him to be notified by an angel when to harvest the earth. Angels are his ministers, not his directors.
Vitringa and some others regard the reaping as symbolizing a punishment and destruction of men by judgments. But that is to interpret the term by its metaphorical use in other passages of Scripture, and to violate the law which requires a limitation of the import ascribed to symbols, to that which properly belongs to them and the terms with which they are associated, independently of their use in other passages. There is nothing in a harvest or vintage, which necessarily implies, that when used as symbols, those who are the subjects of them are to be destroyed. They are not necessarily processes of destruction, nor in order to the destruction of what would otherwise continue to subsist unchanged; but rather of collection and preservation, in order to appropriation to some subsequent use. Whether, therefore, they are used as symbols of a gathering for destruction or not, is to be determined, not by themselves, but by adventitious terms, and representations connected with them. Thus the vintage is shown to be in order to destruction, by the representation that the clusters are thrown into the great wine-press of God's wrath. But as no such representation is made in respect to the harvest, there is no ground in the symbol itself for the ascription to it of such a meaning. Instead, that omission implies that the end for which the subjects of the harvest are gathered, is different from that for which those who are symbolized by the grapes are reaped ; and that they are saints therefore; and this is corroborated by Christ's representation that he is to send forth his messengers to gather together his elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other; and by the parable of the judgment in which he exhibits the sheep as separated from the goats.
Mr. Daubuz regarded the harvest as symbolizing the Reformation; the being seated on the cloud as representing Luther; and the angel who addressed him as denoting the princes by whom he was aided. But that is wholly to misrepresent the Reformation and the agency of its authors. Luther was a sower of the seed, not a reaper of the harvest. The supposition that the form throned on the cloud symbolizes him, is inconsistent with the representation that he was like one of the human race; as that comparison implies that he differed in some important respect from man as he exists on earth. The princes who aided Luther by their swords, and the usurpation of dominion over the faith and worship of their subjects, were of the body symbolized by the ten-horned wild beast, not an angel coming out of the temple of God in heaven. The harvest and vintage are founded on the mature and fixed character of their subjects, but the Reformation was a change of principles and practice. And finally, there was no such separation of the good and evil at the Reformation, as is denoted by the harvest and vintage. The Protestants and papists continued as before to live together promiscuously, under ihe same laws, sustaining similar relations to the civil rulers, rendering them the same service, and concurring still in the zealous maintenance of many most pernicious errors.
Mr. Cuninghame regards the subjects of the harvest as the innumerable multitude of the seventh chapter, having palms in their hands; and the reaping as representing their being gathered together and transfigured, in order to deliverance from the destruction which is to descend on the idolatrous in the papal empire, and the worshippers of false gods in other nations. But he founds that construction on the erroneous assumption that the personage seated on the cloud, is the Son of God. The language moreover, in which the gathering together of the elect is foretold, Matthew xxiv. 30, is not fraught with any indication that it is in order to their transfiguration, and assumption to heaven; nor is there any intimation that those who are to be transfigured, are to be gathered together in order to that change. Instead, the representation in Matthew xiii. 30, 41-43, implies that it is after the destruction of the enemies of God, that the righteous are to be raised to glory; and it is probably at a much later period.
CHAPTER XIV. 17-20.
And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel went from the altar, having power over the fire, and he cried with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust thy sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are ripe. And the angel thrust his sickle to the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast into the great wine-press of the wrath of God. And the wine-press was trodden without the city. And blood went out of the wine-press up to the horses' bridles for a thousand six hundred furlongs.
The scene presented to the apostle in this vision,-probably the same as in the former,—was the city by which the apostate hierarchies are represented, surrounded by the symbolic earth covered with harvest-fields and vineyards. The harvest had been reaped and gathered into storehouses, the grapes had become ripe and ready for the vintage.
The procedure of the angel with the sickle from the temple in heaven, and descent to the earth, signifies that those whom he represents are to go from the divine presence, and are, therefore, angels. The fire of the altar by which the sacrificial victims were consumed, is a symbol of the instruments of avenging justice. The injunction by the angel having power over the fire, to gather the vine of the earth, implies, therefore, that those whom the clusters represent, are to be gathered for vengeance, and thence are the worshippers of the wild beast and its image. That the