The LANGUAGE of the Apocalypse, like the prophecies of the Old Testament, is partly symbolical and partly alphabetical.
In the principal predictions both languages are found. The symbolical is usually first introduced, and then an explanation follows in plain words.
The symbolical language is of the nature of a picture,
representing the thing intended by a figure or emblem, instead of expressing it by its name, or describing it by words. This is called hieroglyphic (hieros glupho, sacred sculpture)
and was the ancient mode of writing, in the first stage of that art, before the alphabet was invented, and is still practiced in some nations. It was certainly
very suitable to revelations communicated in visions; since it shows the very thing which the prophet saw and thus leaves the vision entire
upon record, still to be seen and studied by the Churches. As it respects simple objects and events, the hieroglyphic writings are the most
equivical of all others. They are equally intelligible to people of all tongues and nations. A picture needs no translation.
Provided the symbols have a fixed and determinate meaning, there will be less ambiguity or possibility of mistake in this than in any other mode of writing.
If the same figures or hieroglyphic always means the same thing, it cannot be misapplied. Those who have examined this circumstance with the
greatest accuracy, have found that the Holy Spirit has, without any deviation, always employed the symbols in one uniform method, and that the prophets
forever introduce the same figure in the same primary sense.
With respect to the order maintained in this book, it is observable, that a whole series of events, as they are to succeed
each other are commonly introduced in one general exhibition; after which, many of the particular events belonging to that series
are again brought into view, and, with some concomitant circumstances, more minutely described. This accounts for the repetitions
and apparent perplexities which so frequently occur; and, without attending to this, a labyrinth of errors cannot be avoided. Another rule respecting order is, that
whenever a number of visions or predictions immediately follow each other, in an uninterrupted course, there the order of events, in regard to the time of
their respective accomplishment, is always to be considered as strictly expressed.
In a late commentary upon the Revelation, by Dr. Brice Johnson, the reader will find the most satisfactory explanation of the symbolic language.
This Commentary is, perhaps, the best of any published upon the Apocalypse, and ought to be consulted by all who wish to obtain a satisfactory view
of the prophecies recorded in that book.
THE hieroglyphic in the vision, recorded Rev. xiv. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, exhibits a number of sealed persons in a conspicuous
station, standing with a Lamb, and singing a song which the world could not understand. The literal exposition describes
the character of the sealed, by such accurate and distinguishing marks, as renders it impossible to mistake the intention
of the prediction.
The whole of this vision corresponds so exactly with what we find in the seventh chapter of this book, that we must refer
to that passage to understand the meaning of this. Previous to the prophecies respecting an inimical power,
which would be permitted to tyrannize, for many centuries, over the Church; it pleased the Lord to give assurance, that
a seed should be preserved, who would maintain the truth and hand it down inviolate to posterity; a people who would know
the Redeemer, and be known and owned of him, as his faithful disciples. Accordingly, in the seventh chapter. before the
scenes of defection and the consequent judgments open, the seal of God is affixed upon a number of persons. A seal is
an appropriating mark, and serves as a pledge of distinction and preservation.
The foundation of God standest sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his. His people are sealed with
the Holy Spirit to the day of their redemption. And as they name the name of Christ, so they depart from iniquity.
Those who were sealed were such as answer to this description. Their faith would be built upon the foundation of the prophets
and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; wherefore the symbolical number of twelve, the number of the
patriarchs, squared by twelve, the number of the apostles, is used; and this is multiplied by one thousand,
in reference, probably, to the thousand years of the Millennium, when such sealed ones would be multiplied a thousand times:
To these the names of the tribes of Israel, not in regular order or exact enumeration are annexed.
This hieroglyphic denotes, that during the long despotism of antichrist, when the Church would fly into the wilderness, the
great body of professing Christians would be insincere and corrupted; that a true spiritual Israel would, notwithstanding, be
always preserved; that these compared to the great mass, would be very few; that the sealed should not be confined
to any particular tribe or denomination; that their sincerity would be known and acknowledged by none but their divine Master;
and, finally, that they should be certainly preserved from the