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jesty to judge the living and the dead, and put an end to the present world. “When you shall see these things come to pass," continues Christ, speaking to his disciples, “know that the kingdom of God is at hand.” Luke xxi. 31. Narrative preparatory to the Prophecy of the Sixth Trumpet.
The sixth or last period of time exhibits many great and extraordinary events, which are not all related by St. John, as some part of them had already been reyealed in former prophecies. On that account we find it necessary to premise a narrative of those facts, which are previous to what is laid down in the Apocalypse. If the order, in which we have ranged the particulars of this prophetic history, should not be approved by the reader, we desire him to reflect, we travel through the dark paths of futurity.
One event, that will chiefly distinguish the sixth age, and will be a prelude to the final period of the human race in this world, is the appearance of that extraordinary man, Antichrist. But the way is to be opened for his coming by two previous incidents, which we learn from St. Paul, and which will enable him to bring on those mischiefs upon mankind, and that desolation upon the earth, which the prophets have foretold. St. Paul thus writes to the Thessalonians in his second epistle, chap. 2,
V. 1. “And we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of our gathering together unto him,
V. 2. “ That you be not easily moved from your mind, nor be frighted, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by epistle as sent from us, as if the day of the Lord were at hand.
V. 3. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,
V. 4. " Who opposeth and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God.
V. 5. “Remember you not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things ?
V. 6. “And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time.
V. 7. “For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only. that he who now holdeth, do hold until he be taken out of the way.
V. 8. “And then that the wicked one shall be revealed,
whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the breath of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming."
Here the apostle admonishes the Thessalonians, not to give way to terrors, as if the last day was near at hand, assuring them that last day would not come, “till there came a revolt first, and the man of sin were revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth, and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God,” v. 3, 4. “By the man of sin, the son of perdition," &c. all Christian antiquity and the subsequent ages have ever understood that superlatively wicked man, Antichrist. The end of the world therefore will not happen till after this man's appearance; and also after what St. Paul calls a revolt, which, it seems, will be previous to Antichrist's coming. This revolt, or, rather according to the Greek text, the apostacy, denotes a defection from faith as the generality of the scripture-interpreters have understood it. Alas! we have already seen a great flood of apostacy spread itself through the western part of Christendom, within the last two centuries and a half, by the rise of Lutheranism, Calvinism, &c. And this had been preceded in the eastern part of the Church by the Greek schism, Mahometanism, Arianism, &c. Even St. Paul assures us, he himself saw this apostacy, or defection from faith, ushering into the world: “ for the mystery of iniquity already worketh,” says he, v. 7. The seeds of it were sown, and had sprung up in the apostle's time, in the heretics called Simonians, Nicholaites, Gnostics, &c. But it will continue to gain ground and to ripen, till it comes to full maturity in the time of Antichrist, who by his extraordinary power, cruel persecutions, and insidious machin nations, will together with his false prophet, seduce a prodigious number of Christians. This we shall see in the following part of the Apocalypse: and it is sufficiently intimated by our Saviour, as we observed under the sixth seal, in these words: “There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and great wonders, insomuch as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matth. xxiv. 24.
Under the term apostacy may be comprehended, not only a defection from faith, but also a general degeneracy of morals, which already shows itself in the surprising growth of licentiousness and irreligion, in a tide of luxury, extravagance, and profligacy. This inundation of vice paves the way for worse, and will spread more and more with the progress of time, till it rises to a general flood of wickedness in
fall upon us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.
V. 17. “For the great day of their wrath* is come, and who shall be able to stand ?"
Here are stupendous prodigies and dreadful disasters announced, many of which cannot be now clearly explained, but will be very conspicuous to those who shall exist at that time. They are the forerunners of the approaching general dissolution of the world, and are employed to announce the last terrible judgment, and to admonish mankind to prepare for it. If the idea, which is conveyed to us by the simple description of these wonders, strikes us with terror, how dreadful must they appear when they really happen! great earthquakes; the sun darkened to such a degree as if covered with black hair-cloth, and the moon reddening like blood : the stars seeming to fall from the heavens as thick as green figs are shaken from the trees in a hurricane of wind: the sky appearing to fold up like a roll of parchment; and all the mountains and islands moved out of their places, perhaps by earthquakes and extremely vehement agitations of the sea. These tremendous phenomena, some real, others appearing to the human eye, show the violent convulsions nature will sustain, and the general confusion of the whole created system. At the sight of such events, what wonder if the wicked of every rank and denomination run to hide themselves for fear, as St. John tells us, and from the consciousness of their guilt suspect the great day is arrived, and that the Almighty is coming to judgment, which will make them wish that the mountains and rocks would fall upon them, to shelter them from the face of their angry God, and from the wrath of the Lamb.
The description here given by our Christian prophet seems to specify only the principal and most terrible of the signs and calamities that will happen in the last period of the world: and in them one may understand are comprehended those that are of a less destructive and terrifying nature. Some or other of these alarms we may suppose will open the sixth age, and will serve to fix the date of the epocha. They will continue to alarm mankind at different times during the course of that period, to remind them of the approaching end of the world. We may also observe that some of these striking events are likewise announced by the ancient prophets, and shall be taken notice of in proper places. T'he extraordinary signs and prodigies both in the heavens and on the earth here described, evidently speak the majesty and power of him, whose approaching coming they are designed to announce. They therefore necessarily tend to reflect that glory on the Lamb, which was said to be his due. Apoc. v. 12.
* In the Greek, “ his wrath.”
The nature of the subject seems to require we should subjoin to the preceding account that other, which our Saviour himself gives of the same or similar prodigies. The assemblage of both will contribute to enlarge our knowledge of that interesting subject; and the comparison of them may serve as a proof, that the expressions used by St. John are to be taken in their natural acceptation, and not in a metaphorical sense, as some might imagine; many of his expressions being similar to those of our Saviour, which have been generally understood in their natural sense.
The account which Christ delivered of the prodigies we are speaking of, is to be found in St. Matthew, chap. 24. St. Mark, chap. 13, and St. Luke, chap. 21. His disciples having asked him by what signs they should know the approaching ruin of Jerusalem, and also what signs would precede the general dissolution of the world, Christ answers both questions. But in the first part of his answer he seems to assign the same prodigies for announcing both those events : as the destruction of Jerusalem may be a very expressive figure of the destruction of the world. And in this sense the holy fathers have explained his discourse. In the latter part of his answer, Christ seems to confine himself solely to the pointing out of the signs, which will be the presages of the approaching end of all things.
He thus begins his discourse: “ Take heed that no man seduce you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am He, I am Christ; and the time is at hand; and they will seduce many: go you not therefore after them.” The appearance of false Christs or false Messiahs was then the first mentioned by our Saviour, and first warning of the approaching fate of Jerusalem. That many such impostors rose up in Judea before the demolition of Jerusalem by the Romans, we learn from Josephus, in his history of the Jewish wars. It is here the opinion of the holy fathers, that Christ intended also to intimate by the preceding words, that false Christs will arise in a similar manner in the last age of the world, and be a sign of its approaching end.
Our Saviour proceeds : “ You shall hear of wars and rumours of wars : See that you be not troubled. For these things must coine to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be pestilences, and famines, and great earthquakes in divers places, and terrors from heaven, and there shall be great signs." "These calamities happened before the ruin of Jerusalem, as the above-mentioned Jewish historian testifies. The same will likewise be experienced, it is supposed, in the last age. But Christ adds: “ Now all these things are the beginnings of sorrows." Though great evils, they are only to be deemed the prelude of greater. Then he goes on : “ But before all these things they will lay their hands on you, and persecute you, and put you to death, &c. Here are the persecutions foretold, which fell upon the apostles and first Christians. The same will likewise rage in a more fierce manner hereafter under Antichrist.
“ And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many: and because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.” From this rise of false prophets or teachers of false doctrine, and the abounding of wickedness, before the fall of the Jewish nation, it is concluded by the holy fathers that similar unhappy circumstances will take place before the finishing of the world. And; indeed, that false prophets or false teachers will then arise, we shall see it again expressed in the sequel of our Saviour's discourse; and that iniquity will likewise abound, is fully intimated by what Christ said on another occasion : “ When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on the earth ?" Luke xviii. 8.
" And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come." A new people of Christians was to be formed by preaching the gospel, before the Jews, the ancient people of God, were rejected, and their city and temple abolished. The gospel will likewise be preached with extraordinary zeal in the latter times over the whole earth, to stem the prevalence of imposture and depravity of morals, and to oppose in particular the furious efforts of Antichrist against religion.
" When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, he that readeth, let him understand. When you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an armi, then know that the desolation thereof is at hand." Here