Henry Grattan Guinness D. D. (11 August 1835 – 21 June 1910) was an Irish Protestant Christian preacher, evangelist and author. He was the great evangelist of the Evangelical awakening and preached during the Ulster Revival of 1859 which drew thousands to hear him. He was responsible for training and sending hundreds of “faith missionaries” all over the world. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Grattan_Guinness)
The alternate title for this book is
Time as an Interpreter.
My good friend Dr. John Gideon Hartnett sent me the link to this book in PDF format on http://historicism.com/ PDF files are not nearly as easy for me to read as HTML.
H. Grattan Guinness He is also the author of Romanism and the Reformation which is also posted on this site.
The text is slightly edited. I just couldn’t take the time to make all the tables and add all the footnotes. I’m only interested in the message. Yes I know good documentation should have references. You can download and read for yourself the PDF file I got the text from.
This book is continued in Section X The Present Stage
THE lofty decree of Papal Infallibility issued by the Vatican Council of 1870, immediately followed by the sudden and final fall of the Papal Temporal Power, after a duration of more than a thousand years, was the primary occasion of my writing that series of works on the fulfilment of Scripture prophecy which has appeared during the last quarter of a century.
I left Paris, where I had been labouring in the Gospel, at the outbreak of the Franco-German war in July, 1870. It was in the light of the German bombardment of that city, of the ring of fire which surrounded it, and of the burning of the Tuileries, that I began to read with interest and understanding the prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse. Subsequent visits to Italy and Rome enlarged my view of the subject. A library of books bearing on it was accumulated, historical, astronomical, and prophetic, including 150 commentaries on the Apocalypse, ancient and modern, from the commentary of Victorinus in the third century., down to those of Elliott and others in the nineteenth. These studies laid the foundation of my works on prophecy.
The present work, which differs in important respects from my previous works, as being chiefly historical in character, may be fitly introduced by a brief explanation of the method of interpretation which it follows.
A great and incontrovertible principle underlies the method it pursues in the interpretation of the Apocalypse. Simply stated that principle is that :
In two ways does the great Revealer of the prophecy explain its meaning — by words, and deeds ; by written word, and acted deeds. He has given us a verbal explanation of its most central and important vision, one which stands in close and commanding connection with all its other visions and in the long course of Christian history he has fulfilled its predictions.
Thus Scripture is the key to Scripture; and Providence to Prophecy.
The historic interpretation of the Apocalypse which rests on this twofold foundation has been slowly developed under the influence of the divine action in Providence; it has changed in details with the changing currents of Providence; it has grown with the growth of the knowledge of the plans of Providence; it has been confirmed and sealed by the whole course of Providence. It is no vain, or puerile, or presumptuous speculation. It is a reverent submission to the very words of God, and a reverent recognition of His acts. God has spoken; He has given an explanation of the central and commanding vision of that prophecy; and God has acted; He has fulfilled its predictions. In pointing to the words and deeds of God we act as His witnesses. What hath God said? What hath He done? These are the questions. We are wearied with vain speculations as to the meaning of prophecy which have no other foundation than the assertions of men. We are wearied with speculations as to imaginary future fulfilments of prophecies which have been plainly accomplished before our eyes in the past; prophecies on whose accomplishment in the events of Christian history the structure of the great Reformation of the sixteenth century was built; on the fact of whose accomplishment in their days the confessors stood, and the martyrs suffered. Alas! the speculations of men have clouded these facts and brought into disrepute the Holy Word of God. Even good men have been led to neglect the voice of divine prophecy, and to refuse its lamp to light their steps, through the follies of its exponents. Is it not time that the last prophetic book in the Word of God, a book bearing the seal of the signature of the name of “JESUS” should be lifted up from dust of neglect, and set upon a candlestick in the midst of the house, to shed its clear light and cheering beams on all around? Let the reverent believer who “trembles” at God’s word, the patient student who has searched the records of the past, the uncompromising witness who fears not the faces of men, lift up that fallen lamp from the soil on which men have cast it, and place it where Copernicus placed the sun, as a kingly light enthroned in the centre of its system.
In agreement with the foregoing principle I have written, among others, two works, on the interpretation of the symbolical prophecies in Daniel and the Apocalypse by means (1) of divinely given explanations of their meaning contained in the books themselves, and (2) by the events of history. The first of these works, published in 1899, is entitled “A Key to the Apocalypse, or the seven divinely given Interpretations of symbolic prophecy.” The second is the present work.
In the first of these I have shown that as God has graciously given us His own all-wise and infallible explanations of the meaning of certain leading and determinative portions of the symbolical prophecies in the book of Daniel and the Apocalypse, no interpretation of these prophecies can be secure and trustworthy which does not rest on these divine explanations, and employ them as keys to unlock the meaning of the prophecies as a whole.
The seven divinely given interpretations of Daniel and the Apocalypse are the following :
I. The interpretation of the vision of the great image in Daniel 2.
II. The interpretation of the vision of the great tree in Daniel 4.
III. The interpretation of the handwriting on the wall of Belshazzar’s Palace in Daniel 5.
IV. The interpretation of the ram and he-goat in Daniel 8. V. The interpretation of the four wild beast kingdoms, and of the kingdom of the Son of Man, in Daniel 7.
VI. The interpretation of the seven stars, and seven candlesticks in Revelation 1.
VII. The interpretation of the woman “ Babylon the great,” and of the seven-headed, ten-horned beast that carries her, in Revelation 17.
Concerning the last of these interpretations I have shown that “of all the visions in the prophetic part of the Apocalypse (chaps. vi-xxii), that of Babylon and the beast in chap. xvii, is the only one divinely interpreted;” and that through the interpretation of this vision a door is opened to the understanding of the rest of the prophecy.
(1) The woman is interpreted as signifying the city of Rome.
(2) The city is represented as sitting on “seven hills,” the well known seven hills of Rome.
(3) The “many waters” over which she rules are interpreted as “peoples, and multitudes, and nations and tongues.”
(4) The wild beast which sustains and carries her the ten horned wild beast of Daniel’s prophecies, the fourth of his four Gentile kingdoms, the kingdom of Rome-is interpreted in detail.
(a) Its seven heads are interpreted to represent ruling powers. Of these it is expressly stated “five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come.— Thus the sixth head of the wild beast power which carried the harlot is stated to have been in existence when the Apocalypse was written ; and must necessarily therefore refer to the government of the Cesars, as then represented by the Emperor Domitian. This locates the visions of the Apocalypse as relating to Roman and Christian history.
(b) The ten horns are interpreted as ten kingdoms, then future, into which the empire should be divided. These horns, or kingdoms first submit to the harlot city, and then rise against her and “ make her desolate and naked, and eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.”
As to the use of this central interpreted vision to explain the other visions of the Apocalypse I have pointed out that there are three visions in the Apocalypse of the ten horned wild beast power.
The first in chapter 12.
The second in chapter 13.
The third in chapter 17.
(1) That the interpretation of one of these in chapter 17, determines the meaning of all three.
(2) That these three visions of the wild beast power represent successive stages in the history of the Roman Empire, as first under the government of its seven heads; secondly under the government of its ten horns, for in the prophecy the crowns are transferred from the heads to the horns; and thirdly as carrying, and then casting off and destroying, the harlot Babylon.
(3) That the story of Babylon and the Beast occupies the largest and most central part of the Apocalyptic prophecy, being referred to in no less than ten successive chapters: Chapters 11. 125 131 141 15) 16, 17j 18, 19) 20.
(4) That to the visions relating to the Roman Empire under its revived eighth head prophetic times are attached representing
1. The period of the sun-clothed woman in the wilderness (chap. xii).
2. The period of the rule of the eighth head of the wild beast (chap. xiii).
3. The period during which the outer temple court is trodden under foot by the Gentiles (chap. xi).
4. The period during which the witnesses prophesy in sackcloth (chap. xi).
These four periods are manifestly the same period stated in three forms, as days, months, and “times,” or years 1,260 days; forty-two months, and three and one-half “times,” or years: and are to be interpreted on the year-day scale; a scale recognized in both the law and the prophets; the scale on which the ” seventy weeks” to Messiah are universally interpreted; a scale justified by the course and chronology of Christian history, and confirmed by the discoveries of astronomy as to the cyclical character of the prophetic times.
The interpretation of the Apocalypse thus reached is in harmony with that of the book of Daniel, and links both prophecies with one and the same series of events-the course of five kingdoms, the temporal kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, and the eternal kingdom of God. The Apocalypse is simply the story told in advance of the two last kingdoms of Daniel’s prophecy; the story of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and of the rise and establishment of the kingdom of God.
From the interpretation of the Apocalypse by means of the divinely given explanation of its most central and commanding vision, we now advance to the subject of the present volume, the interpretation of the prophecy by the events of history.
History has ever been the interpreter of prophecy. It was so notably in New Testament times, for the sufferings and glories of our Lord, foretold in the Old Testament, remained uncomprehended until their meaning was revealed by the events of history. Similarly the predictions concerning the great apostasy, or “falling away ” from the faith and practice of Apostolic times which has taken place in the Christian Church, were not comprehended till explained by historical events. And thus has it been all along. From the beginning of the world to the present day Time has ever been the chief interpreter of prophecy. For prophecy is history written in advance. As the ages roll by history practically takes the place of prophecy, the foretold becoming the fulfilled.
A clear and comprehensive view of the leading events of Christian history up to the date of the Reformation is afforded by Gibbon’s noble work on “ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” This standard work embraces in a single view the history of the Roman Empire and Christian Church for fourteen centuries, from the time of the Antonines to the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire at the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. It is enhanced by its extensive learning, its philosophic spirit, the lucidity of its arrangement, and the majesty of its style. The value of Gibbon’s work as an unintended key to the Apocalypse is exhibited by the well-known commentator Albert Barnes in the following interesting account of his own experience:
“Up to the time of commencing the exposition of this book (the Apocalypse) I had no theory in my mind as to its meaning. I may add, that I had a prevailing belief that it could not be explained, and that all attempts to explain it must be visionary and futile. With the exception of the work of the Rev. George Croly, which I read more than twenty years ago, and which I had never desired to read again, 1 had perused no commentary on this book until that of Professor Stuart was published, in 1845. In my regular reading of the Bible in family and in private, 1 had perused the book often. 1 read it, as 1 suppose most others do, from a sense of duty, yet admiring the beauty of its imagery, the sublimity of its descriptions, and its high poetic character; and though to me wholly unintelligible in the main, finding so many striking detached passages that were intelligible and practical in their nature, as to make it on the whole attractive and profitable, but with no definitely formed idea as to its meaning as a whole, and with a vague general feeling that all the interpretations which had been proposed were wild, fanciful and visionary.
“In this state of things, the utmost that I contemplated when I began to write on it was, to explain, as well as I could, the meaning of the language and the symbols, without ‘attempting to apply the explanation to the events of past history, or to inquire what is to occur hereafter. I supposed that I might venture to do this without encountering the danger of adding another vain attempt to explain a book so full of mysteries, or of propounding a theory of interpretation to be set aside, perhaps, by the next person that should prepare a commentary on the book.
“Beginning with this aim, I found myself soon insensibly inquiring whether, in the events which succeeded the time when the ‘book was written, there were not historical facts of which the emblems employed would be natural and proper symbols, on the supposition that it was the divine intention in disclosing these visions to refer to them, and whether, therefore, there might not be a natural and proper application of the symbols to these events. In this way I examined the language used in reference to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth seals, with no anticipation or plan in examining one as to what would be disclosed under the next seal ; and in this way also I examined ultimately the whole book: proceeding step by step in ascertaining the meaning of each word and symbol as it occurred, but with no theoretic anticipation as to what was to follow.
To my own surprise, I found, chiefly in Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ a series of events recorded such as seemed to me to correspond to a great extent with the series of symbols found in the Apocalypse. The symbols were such as it might be supposed would he used, on the supposition that they were intended to refer to these events; and the language of Mr. Gibbon was often such as he would have used, on the supposition that he had designed to prepare a commentary on the symbols employed by John. It was such, in fact, that if it had been found in a Christian writer, professedly writing a commentary on the book of Revelation, it would have been regarded by infidels as a designed attempt to force history to utter a language that should conform to a predetermined theory in expounding a book full of symbols. So remarkable have these coincidences appeared to me in the course of this exposition, that it has almost seemed as if he had designed to write a commentary on some portion of this book; and I found it difficult to doubt that that distinguished historian was raised up by an overruling Providence to make a record of those events which would ever afterwards be regarded as an impartial and unprejudiced statement or the evidences of the fulfilment of prophecy. The historian of the I Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ had no belief in the divine origin of Christianity, but he brought to the performance of his work learning and talent such as few Christian scholars have possessed. He is always patient in his investigations; learned and scholar-like in his references; comprehensive in his groupings, and sufficiently minute in his details; unbiased in his statement of facts, and usually cool and candid in his estimates of the causes of the events which he records; and, excepting his philosophical speculations, and his sneers at everything, he has probably written the most candid and impartial history of the times that succeeded the introduction of Christianity that the world possesses; and even after all that has been written since his time, his work contains the best ecclesiastical history that is to be found. Whatever use of it can be made in explaining and confirming the prophecies will be regarded by the world as impartial and fair; for it was a result which he least of all contemplated, that he would ever be regarded as an expounder of the prophecies in the Bible, or be referred to as vindicating their truth.
“It was in this manner that these Notes on the Book of Revelation assumed the form in which they are now given to the world; and it surprises me-and, under this view of the matter, may occasion some surprise to my readers-to find how nearly the views coincide with those taken by the great body of Protestant interpreters. And perhaps this fact may be regarded as furnishing some evidence that after all the obscurity attending it, there is a natural and obvious interpretation of which the book is susceptible ” (Barnes on the Revelation, preface, pp. xi-xiii).
The present volume traces the history of that interpretation, describes its progressive development under the modifying influence of the events of the last nineteen centuries from stage to stage, from its germinant form in the pre-Constantine centuries, through Medieval and Reformation times, down to the present day.
As written later than Elliott’s great work on the Horae Apocalypticae, whose five editions appeared in the years 1844-1862, the present work takes into account the long expected fall of the papal temporal power in 1870, immediately following the decree of papal infallibility; and the present deeply interesting Zionist movement dating from 1897, for the national restoration of the Jews to the land of their fathers.
An important confirmation of the historical interpretation of the Apocalypse afforded by the discovery of the astronomical features of the prophetic times, is briefly set forth at the close of the volume. The extensive astronomical tables published by the author in 1896 are based on the remarkable fact that the prophetic times of Daniel and the Apocalypse are extremely perfect astronomical cycles harmonizing solar and lunar revolutions. The year-day theory resting on Scripture analogy and historic strongly confirmed by the discovery, and the fulfilment is 1,260, 1,290, 1,335, and 2,300 ”days” of Daniel and the Apocalypse proved to represent the same number of years in Jewish and Christian history.
It is a deep satisfaction to the author to remember that whatever may be the views of a modern section of sceptical or speculative interpreters of the Apocalypse, who either see no reference to definite historical events in the prophecy, or relegate its fulfilment to future times, in accepting and advocating its historical interpretation, in regarding it as the story told in advance in symbolic language of the events of the Christian centuries, he is treading in the steps of the greater part of Apocalyptic interpreters from the earliest times, of Justin Martyr; Irenaeus ‘ Tertullian, Hippolytus, Victorinus, Methodius, Lactantius, Eusebius, Athanasius, Jerome, and Augustine among the Fathers; of Bede and Anspert, Andreas and. Anselm, Joachim Abbas and Almeric of the middle ages, of the AIbigenses and Waldenses, of Wickliffe and the Lollards, of John Huss and Jerome of Prague of pre-Reformation times ; of the Reformers, English, Scottish, and Continental; of the noble army of Confessors and Martyrs who suffered under Pagan and Papal Rome; of the Puritan theologians, of the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, of Mede and More, and Sir Isaac Newton, and Jonathan Edwards that greatest of American theologians, of Bengel the learned German exegete, of Alford and Wordsworth, of Birks and Bickersteth, of Faber and Elliott in England, and a host of others, men distinguished for their ability, their assiduity, their spirituality, their deep study of the prophetic world, in short by what appear to be the greatest and best of the expositors of the book. Modern historical interpreters of’ the Apocalypse are in good company; they stand with the Fathers, the Confessors, the Martyrs, the Reformers, with men who suffered for the truth they believed, and were practically guided and inspired by the interpretations they have handed down to posterity. The fanciful interpretations of the Preterists who falsely conceive the Apocalypse to bear a Neronic date, and to be Neronic in its references, have never been a practical power in the history of the Church; the vague interpretations of a modern school, German and English, which ignoring the clearly defined order of the Apocalyptic Visions, their synchronisms acid successions, their system of prophetic times, fixed acid absolute, and sure as the times of the celestial luminaries, reduce the prophecy to a nebulous mass of anticipations of things in general in human history, have wrought no victories, have accomplished no reformations, have sustained no martyrs, and are self-refuted by their impotence, and unworthiness as expositions of the last great revelation of Jesus Christ concerning “ the things” which were to “come to pass.” The same may be said as regards the reveries of the Futurists ; barren of practical and worthy effects, they have denied accomplishments recognized by the great mass of prophetic interpreters in the past; they have invented future fulfilments, as unsubstantial and impossible as the dreams of those who they have forsaken the great trend, the main path, the well trodden highway of Apocalyptic interpretation, based upon divine explanations of prophetic symbols, and unquestionable historic facts, for empty speculations about the future unprofitable speculations mistake bizarre imaginations for sober realities as to the coming universal dominion of a short-lived infidel antichrist, to be seated in a literal temple to be erected by the Jews in Palestine, who in the brief space of three and a half years is to fulfil all the wonders of the Apocalyptic drama, and exhaust the meaning of the majestic prophecy which the Church of God has been blindly misinterpreting and misapplying throughout all these ages. Surely it is time for such interpreters to consider the unscripturalness and unreasonableness of the method of interpretation which they employ, the absence of authority, of warrant, for their views, the entire lack of demonstration human or divine; and the fruitlessness of their speculations, as afford rig no present guidance to the Church, and their injuriousness as extinguishing the lamp which God has given His people to guide their steps along the perilous way of their pilgrimage. 1 am well convinced from wide observation that many excellent persons adopt these modern prophetic speculations because good men have advocated them, here and there and for no better reason; they have heard them advanced in prophetic conferences, they have read them in books. and tracts, full of confident assertions, superficial and dogmatic compositions on the sublimest questions which can exercise the human mind, and they have been satisfied to believe without proof, and to repeat without independent investigation the marvellous inventions of busy brains as to the antichrist of the future, without ever having soberly inquired whether the Reformers and Martyrs were right or not in their recognition of the antichrist as already come, and as long reigning in the professing Church, the Standard Bearer of an abominable apostasy, the very Masterpiece of Satan for the delusion of mankind. Let us appeal to such to open their eyes to the facts of history, to turn their thoughts for awhile to the sublime story of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, of the rise of the great apostasies in the Eastern and Western Church, of the testimony and sufferings of the Christian witnesses of the middle ages, and Reformation days, and of the retributive acts of Providence in our own time, the manifest and awful judgments which have been poured forth on Papal Rome in and since the French Revolution, judgments whose afterwaves are rolling and reverberating still, uttering with no uncertain sound the solemn conclusion that so far from living in days preceding the fulfilment of Apocalyptic prophecy, we are living in the closing days of the accomplishment of the things which it has foretold.
In writing thus, and in making this appeal, 1 write as one who has long and deeply studied both Prophecy and History, and as one who knows that his days are numbered, and that he must give account before long of his stewardship as a teacher in the Christian church, for in the present year of the publication of this volume I have entered on the fiftieth year of my ministry, a ministry in which I have striven to teach in harmony with the oracles of God,” and to declare, as far as in me lies, the whole counsel of God.” I have no private ends to accomplish by the publication of this book; it is written in the interest of truth, as a heritage for my children, a guide to those whom I would not and dare not mislead, a help to young men and women prosecuting their studies in their homes or colleges with a view to future usefulness; and for ministers of the gospel, most of them my younger brethren, to whom I would be of service; and for the sake of any into whose hands it may come, of open heart and unprejudiced mind, desirous of understanding more clearly the meaning of the last predictions in the Word of God. Brethren, beloved in the Lord, in writing thus, it is not 1 who testify, but the voice of a multitude of Witnesses, mostly gathered now before the throne of God. We shall spend eternity with them; are we prepared to join their songs of triumph, to echo the hallelujahs which break from their lips? Is the testimony of the Word of God to us what it was to them? Is our testimony in the world in harmony with theirs? Can we join the Reformers in their witness, and the Martyrs in their song? They stand on the sea of glass mingled with fire, having the harps of God, proclaiming the accomplishment of God’s judgments in the fall of Papal Babylon; shall we stand apart from them, electing to sing some little song of our own out of harmony with the great volume of the voice of God’s redeemed? Let it not be! It would be unworthy of us. Compassed about with “so great a Cloud of Witnesses ” let us lay aside indifference and ignorance, prejudice, and misconception, and take our place with these in the great arena of conflict, dyed with martyr blood, to maintain “the Testimony of Jesus Christ, looking away from all beside to Him as the Author and Finisher of our faith, whose hand has given us this final prophecy to be our armour in the day of battle, our guide in the perils and perplexities of our pilgrimage, our morning star amid the darkness which precedes the dawn of eternal day. Behold the volume whose seals his hand, his providence, have loosed. Seal it not again. Neglect it not. Doubt no more its meaning. For lo Time, that great Interpreter, has rolled back the veil which once hung upon its mysteries, and is irradiating its pages as with the sunlight of heaven.
- 1. Intro
- 2. INTRODUCTION
- 3. INTERPRETATION OF THE APOCALYPSE, SECTION I PRE-CONSTANTINE, OR MARTYR CHURCH STAGE
- 4. SECTION II THE POST-CONSTANTINE, OR IMPERIAL CHURCH STAGE
- 5. SECTION III THE MEDIAEVAL STAGE
- 6. SECTION IV THE DAWN OF THE REFORMATION STAGE
- 7. SECTION V THE REFORMATION STAGE
- 8. SECTION VI THE PURITAN, OR SEVENTEENTH CENTURY STAGE
- 9. SECTION VII THE REVOCATION OF THE EDICT OF NANTES, AND ENGLISH REVOLUTION STAGE
- 10. SECTION VIII THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY NEW ERA STAGE
- 11. SECTION IX THE FRENCH REVOLUTION STAGE