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which refers to the desolation of the land of Edom; there is no reference to the unending torture of its inhabitants. It is obviously precarious to attempt to extract formal doctrine from rhetorical passages such as this. While we are bound to admit that the doctrine of Hell
, with its everlasting and hopeless punishment, is in fact directly derived from the pictures of the punishment of sinners as presented to us in Apocalyptic literature, it represents the dogmatic hardening of a conception which was not really thought out. Annihilation of sinners or punishment till the last Day’is the general idea in these writers.
This suggests yet a further difference which is not so generally realised. It concerns the life after death, and especially that which we call the Intermediate State.' When the final judgment was expected soon this was unimportant. The departed could be thought of as 'souls beneath the Altar,' living a kind of half-life, waiting for the resurrection from the dead and the assumption of their spiritual bodies or garments of light. The Apocalyptic scheme implied the death of some and the survival of others in the Pauline Epistles, if not in the Apocalypse), with a speedy judgment and resurrection. Any intermediate state was so brief that its conditions could be ignored. In the Apocalypse, as Dr Charles rightly points out, the familiar pictures of the redeemed before the Throne, in chaps. vii, xiv, and xv, are 'proleptic,' anticipating either the Millennium or the final bliss of Heaven; they are not intended to refer to the present state of the departed. But the long postponement of the Second Coming, even if we continue to expect it in anything like its literal sense at the end of time, has dislocated the scheme. It becomes more and more difficult to conceive of increasing numbers of the departed existing for lengthening centuries in this imperfect condition. We rightly ascribe to them now the fullness of life with God and Christ; whatever we mean by spiritual body or resurrection we place it at the time of death. Therefore are they before the throne
• of God and they serve Him day and night in His temple.' Descriptions such as these are not to us anticipatory; they refer to the state of the departed as we conceive it
It is, indeed, sometimes said that the insistence on these differences of outlook and the assumption that the Apocalyptic scheme was intended at all literally are based on a misunderstanding. We are reminded that we are dealing with poetry, not with prose; that we must not interpret oriental writers with their fondness for picture and their exuberant imagination as though they were matter-of-fact journalists. The reminder is useful, but it will not carry us all the way. We must distinguish between two types of symbolism or allegory. These may be illustrated by the difference between Watts' pictures and a Punch' cartoon. In the former we have, let us say, the figure of a woman with a broken lyre, and it stands for the abstract idea of Hope. In the latter we may have precisely similar figures, but in most cases they do not represent general principles, but concrete persons, countries, or events. So, when Enoch represents the nations under the figure of animals-sheep, bulls, lions, and so on-he is speaking symbolically of certain definite events, not merely allegorising facts of the spiritual life or recurrent tendencies in human nature and history, after the manner of Bunyan. He describes the actual nations of the world, and the details of their history under the cloak of this symbolism. And the point is that he passes from a quite literalistic survey of Israel's history in the past to his anticipation of the future, the setting up of the throne, the Judgment, the fiery abyss, the New House (i.e. Jerusalem on earth), and the Resurrection. Clearly, these are intended as actual events of the future, just as the preceding chapters describe what has happened in the past.
In the same way, when we read about the light of the sun being seven-fold, or of the sun and moon being darkened, it is not enough to say that light is a natural symbol of happiness and darkness of calamity. These are not merely poetical expressions for the joy that no man taketh from us, or for the gloom of separation from God. They denote something physical, an actual increase of the light, however brought about, which would be visible to the eye, or an actual darkness. The trumpet at the last judgment may not have been intended to denote a literal • brass band, but it did mean a sound audible to the ears of men. The stars
falling from Heaven implied an actual convulsion of Nature, though the details might be poetical or exaggerated. The Son of man coming on the clouds might not mean strictly His riding on the cloud as a chariot, but it did imply His visible appearance in the skies. The nearness of the end meant more than a nearness relative to the infinite vistas of eternity. No doubt there is a margin of uncertainty as to where the line is to be drawn between figure, allegory, and poetry on the one hand, and actual events on the other. But there can be no question as to the general method of interpretation. The Apocalyptic books were not written as allegories of the working of general principles, or dramatic representations of the triumph of right and wrong in the abstract, or of spiritual experiences of the individual soul. They expressed the beliefs of their age as to what was actually to happen in the near future. A fair paratlel may be found in the sense in which the Middle Ages interpreted the beliefs in Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and Judgment; in the general thought even of educated people these were understood in a matter-of-fact way at their face value. Of course, in both cases, the interpretation included spiritual values; but it presupposed a primary literal meaning.
We hold then that these differences of outlook cannot be explained away. It is worth while insisting upon them, because it is only when they have been frankly recognised and allowed for that we are in a position to extract for ourselves the full value of the underlying spiritual truths. So long as we are trying to compromise, either by the pretence that our scheme of things is the same as that of the Apocalyptist, or by half-suggestions that his scheme was really ours, there is always a subconscious feeling of unreality. Even Dr Charles, though in general he insists so clearly on the necessity of the primary historical interpretation, seems once or twice to allow himself an undue latitude of reading modern ideas into our writer.
'John the Seer insists not only that the individual follower of Christ should fashion his principles and conduct by the teaching of Christ, but that all governments should model their policies by the same Christian norm. claims that there can be no divergence between the moral
laws binding on the individual and those incumbent on the State, or any voluntary society or corporation within the State.' But it is surely alien to the outlook of the seer to suggest that he has any idea of the permeation of international morality by the gradual sway of Christian principles, or by the evangelisation of the world in anything like the modern sense. • The kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ'; the kings of the earth bring their glory and their homage to the New Jerusalem; but, as Dr Charles himself recognises, such conceptions refer only to the final triumph or to the Millennial reign of the saints when conditions have been altered by a miraculous intervention of God and the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem. In the world as we know it, the Apocalyptist sees only bitter hostility between the nations and the Church. It is true • the triumph is to be realised on earth’; but is not to be realised under the ordinary conditions of human history and development. John is not asking or expecting the Roman Government or the local State to adopt Christian principles in their social and foreign politics.
But once we recognise without reserve the complete difference of outlook, we can go on with a clear conscience to make our modern applications. In Dr Charles' words, .No great prophecy receives its full and final fulfilment in any single event or series of events. But if it is the expression of a great moral and spiritual truth, it will of a surety be fulfilled at sundry times and in divers manners and in varying degrees of completeness.' Antichrist, for example, is not to us a single figure of horror who is to appear at the end of time, but a principle of evil which incarnates itself in various ways and in various degrees. We can follow John in insisting that there can be no compromise between Babylon and the Church, between the Beast or the False Prophet and the Lamb and His followers, not as standing for different sets of people whom you will find in Who's Who,' or for organisations tabulated in Whitaker'; but as representing the eternal principles of wrong and of right, of hatred and of love. We can read our Apocalyptist and bathe ourselves to the full in his magnificent conviction of the certainty of the final issue. We can learn his
lesson of the supreme value of courage and faith in dark days. Always is it true that cowards or the faint-hearted are among the first of those whose part is in the second death.' Always is it true that those who are sealed with the mark of the Lamb, who enroll themselves on His side, are safeguarded from all the spiritual assaults of our ghostly enemies. Always do we pray and work for the coming of that city which is both the gift of God descending from Heaven, and yet also the creation of men who are ready to dare all in the service of the Eternal values of righteousness, truth, and beauty.
Of all this the Revelation is one of the supreme expressions in literature. It more than justifies its place in the canon, and the labour spent on it; it is 'a tract for hard times,' a vision of hope which has a fresh application for every generation. But in order to taste its full flavour, it is not enough to be content with those outstanding passages to which, as we suggested, the ordinary reader tends to confine his attention. Their full force can only be felt when they are placed in their context. The book must be read as a whole. It is a dramatic unity in which the plot unfolds itself in an ordered sequence. The very grotesqueness and horrors have their place as a counterfoil to the visions of peace and joy, Almost breathlessly we watch for the coming of the final triumphant dénouement, as chapter by chapter we follow the alternations of the conflict between the Church and Babylon. Only in the light of the fierce and relentless bitterness of the maddened powers of Antichrist can we do justice to the suppressed fury of righteous indignation which finds its climax in the Judgment on Babylon the Great the Mother of harlotries and of the abominations of the earth.'
‘And the voice of the bridegroom and the bride
Shall be heard no more in thee; And no craftsmen of whatever craft
Shall be found any more in thee. And the voice of the millstone
Shall be heard no more in thee; And the light of the Lamp
Shall shine no more in thee. Rejoice over her, thou Heaven, And ye Saints, and ye Apostles, and ye Prophets, For God hath given Judgment in your cause against her.'