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  • Author: Rev. William Bruce
  • Publisher: James Speirs
  • Publication Date: 1877
  • Total Pages: 458

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Commentary on the Revelation of St. John

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No part of the Sacred Scripture has been the subject of such deep and anxious study as the Book of Revelation, and none has received so many and such various interpretations. This may be accounted for by the nature of the book itself. At once prophetic and enigmatic, it gives the greatest stimulus to human curiosity, and affords the widest scope for human ingenuity. The variety and uncertainty of the expositions it has received arise from one cause: John has been to Christians what Moses was to the Jews, a veiled prophet. "Moses put a veil over his face, that the ·children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which veil is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart" (2 Cor. iii. 13-15). That which was abolished, to the end of which the children of Israel could not steadfastly look, was the Israelitish dispensation. That which is abolished, to the end of which Christians cannot look, is the Christian dispensation. By the Christian dispensation we do not of course mean Christianity. This will never end, but will continue to increase in strength and glory from generation to generation; but the first dispensation of the church passes away, to be succeeded by another and a better. As the Isruelitiah dispensation was abolished by the First COIning of Christ, the Christian dispensation is abolished by His Second Coming. Here is the grand mistake of Christians and of Christian commentators: they have been looking for the Corning of the Lord as the signal for the destruction of the world. The end of the age (aiwv) which our Lord's disciples inquired after, and which He encouraged them to expect, has been converted by their successors into the end of the world. True, the Lord's description of the end of the age or dispensation, and of His Second Coming, might lead the mere literalist to understand Him to predict the eud of the material world, The sun is to be darkened, the moon is not to give her light, and the stars are to fall from heaven; and heaven and earth themselves are to pass away. But how is it that men who aresupposed to be acquainted with the figurative language of Scripture, and who know that similar predictions had been previously fulfilled, have understood and continue to understand all this literally? It is because their minds were blinded ; for until this day there remaineth the veil untaken away in the reading of the New Testament. This veil is done away in Christ-at His Second Coming, The event has given the interpretation. Its previous concealmen, twas the Lord's permission. No prophecy can be clearly understood before the time of its fulfilment. No church can look steadfastly to its own end. This is no cause of reproach. It is as necessary as it is natural. The Lord works, out His own wise and beneficent ends in ways that are known only to Himself; and which we would only interfere with by knowing. The true interpretation of the book is now known, because the Second Coming of the Lord has already taken place. The event has explained the prediction, and thus revealed the mystery. The Second Coming of the Lord, as will be shown in the ex~lanation of the book, is not a personal appearance in the clouds of our atmosphere, but a spiritual event, effected by the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, in which the Lord has made Himself visible to the minds of men, in the power and great glory of His own Divine Humanity. He comes to establish anew His kingdom upon earth. The first Christian dispensation is meant by: the earth and the heaven that fled away from the face of Him that sat upon the throne; and the second Christian dispensation is meant by the new heaven and the new earth that John afterwards beheld, The New Jerusalem, which he saw coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, is the appropriate Scripture emblem of the New Church, as a dispensation of truth and love.

Commentators having been in error respecting the leading events of the prophecy; they could not but be mistaken regarding the nature of its subordinate parts. The Revelation has been generally supposed to give a continuous history of the church from its beginning. This, however, is a mistake. It describes the state of the church at the time of its end. But it describes the state of the church, as it appeared, not in the natural, but in the spiritual world. That part of the spiritual world in which the manifestations of its state took place is the middle region, or world of spirits, into which all souls enter, and where they remain, some for a shorter, some for a longer period, before they pass in~oheaven or hell. There, also, all judgment takes place. There, and not in the natural world, was set a great white throne; and there the dead, small and great, stood before Him who sat upon it, and were judged everyone according to his works. A general judgment takes place at the end of every general dispensation. Indeed, the general judgment brings the dispensation to an end. And when the dispensation is abolished, a new dispensation commences. All that is related in the Revelation previous to the judgment is descriptive of the preparation for it. And all that is related after the judgment is descriptive of the new order of things which succeeds, when the former things have passed away. This being the case, it is evident that no explanation of the vision of St. John could have been given, except by one who was not only mentally enlightened to understand the Divine and spiritual subjects of which the Revelation treats, but whose spiritual sight was opened to behold the things which exist in the other life. Only by one thus qualified to reveal the secrets contained in the vision of St. John could the Apocalypse be laid open, as it now is in the writings of the Lord's servant, Emanuel Swedenborg.

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