My objections to Professor Stuart’s scheme of interpretation—and that of Professor Cowles is much the same—are, in brief, as follows:—
1. He represents his first catastrophe—the destruction of Jerusalem—as being described in Rev. chapter 11; whereas, in truth, there is no catastrophe there. Let any reader look over the chapter, and see if he can find it. There is first the measuring of the mystical temple, signifying the Church, and a leaving out of the court, which is given to the Gentiles, who are to tread down the holy city—another symbol of God’s living Church—forty and two months. Then follows the testimony of the witnesses in sack-cloth, their death, and their resurrection.
This resurrection probably took place at the time of the reformation from Popery, when there were mighty changes in the Roman earth—all prefigured by an earthquake, and the fall of the tenth part of the city—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 Reformation.
The seventh trumpet sounds, and the millennial period is announced. Such is a brief analysis 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 catastrophe, pertaining to Nero, is in the 19th chapter.
But Nero was slain at least two years before Jerusalem was destroyed,—in which time there reigned no less than four emperors. Nero is supposed to have died in the year 68; but Jerusalem was destroyed, 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 whole earth—that is, the Roman earth. Thus, power was given to him that sat on the red horse to take peace from the 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. 6:4,8). And when the first trumpet sounded, there followed hail and fire, mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth (chap. 8:7). In Asia Minor, in he 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 empire.
4. Those who were smitten by the blast of the sixth trumpet,—some of whom were slain, and some spared,—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 plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, 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. 9:20). How is it possible to apply this passage to the Jews, who were not idolaters?’
5. In the same chapter (9.), the number of horsemen drawn together to the battle, and drawn from the East—the region of the Euphrates—is two hundred thousand thousand. Was any such army, or any thing like it, or any army at all, drawn from the region other Euphrates to fight against Jerusalem at the time of its overthrow. Let those who have read the history decide.
6. The woman described in chapter 12., Professors 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 history—if it be history—be thrown in here, in connection 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,—so full of incident and of interest to the Church of God,—the writer of the Apocalypse is thought to take not the slightest notice. On any theory of interpretation, would not this be regarded as a strange fact, an a strong objection?
8. But my principal objection to Professor Stuart’s interpretation of the Apocalypse is, that the has fixed upon a wrong time for the writing of the book, and this vitiates an nullifies all his reasonings 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—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 predictions in regard to these two events, there is not the slightest reference to either of them, as I have before remarked, in all that the Apostle has written.