Is the evangelical position of yesteryear correct about these being a symbol of military conquest? Fr. Revolution in Prophecy
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[The following letter by William Miller presents what used to be the typical evangelical interpretation of Revelation 11. See also the "7 Trumpet Chart" and "The Seven Trumpets of Revelation: Were the Later Reformers Right?"]

Remarkable Fulfillment of Prophecy,

Relating to France and the "Two Witnesses"

Quotations from Eminent Expositors of Prophecy, with Remarks by Mr. Miller

DEAR BRO. HIMES: I send you a few extracts from some ancient authors on the subject of the "two witnesses." Please to give them a place in your new work, and you will oblige many.

I. I shall quote Dr. Thomas Goodwin, president of the Magdalen College, Oxford, who wrote an exposition of Revelation in A.D. 1639, more than two hundred years since. On Rev.xi.13, he remarks: 

By the tenth part of the city, I understand some one tenth part of Europe. By earthquake here is meant a great concussion or shaking of states, politic, or ecclesiastical. By this earthquake' so falling out in a tenth part of the city, this tenth part of it is so shaken that it falls; that is, ceaseth to be a tenth part of the city, or to belong to its jurisdiction any longer. The effect of this earthquake, and fall of this tenth part of the city, is killing seven thousand of the names of men. Now, by men of name, in scripture, is meant men of title, office and dignity; these having killed the witnesses, themselves are to be killed, by being bereft of their names and titles, which are to be rooted out forever. Now which of these ten kingdoms (may be intended,) it is not hard to conjecture. The saints and churches of France, God has made a wonder unto me in all his proceedings towards them, first and last; and there would seem some great and special honor reserved for them, yet, at the last; for it is certain that the first light of the gospel, by the first and second angel's preaching, in Rev.xiv., which laid the foundation of Antichrist's ruin, was out from among them, namely those of Lyons, and other places in France. And they bore and underwent the great heat of that morning of persecution, which was as great, if not greater, than any since. And so, as that kingdom had the first great stroke, so now it should have the honor of having the last great stroke in the ruin of Rome.

So much for Dr. Goodwin. And who has read the history of the French revolution, but will acknowledge that these extracts breathe a spirit of prophecy, literally fulfilled in about one hundred and fifty years afterwards?

I will next quote Dr. H. Moore. In his book, "MYSTERY OF INIQUITY contained in the kingdom of Antichrist," Book 2, ch. 12, on Rev.xi.13, he observes: 

That an earthquake signifies political commotions and change of affairs, is obvious to any one; but that the city here mentioned should be understood not of a city of brick or stone, but a polity. For I conceive it is plain enough that this city is the very city mentioned in the eighth verse, which is called the great city, and this great city is the whore of Babylon, and the whore of Babylon is nothing but the body of the idolatrous clergy in the empire, who appertain to the seventh or last head of the beast, which is an head of blasphemy, as well as the six first, that is to say, an idolatrous head. Whence we may understand what is meant by these seven thousand names of men; for neither seven nor thousand signify any determinate number, but only the nature or property of these names of men that are said to be slain, namely, that they are TITLES, DIGNITIES, OFFICES OR ORDERS of men belonging to the state of Christendom. As under the seventh head, that is become idolatrous and antichristian, and this number seven is multiplied into a thousand, it signifies a perfect nulling of all such offices and orders of men; for no men at all here are necessarily implied to be slain, but only all antichristian OFFICES and FRATERNITIES to be dissolved and abrogated, and things to be reduced to the purity of the first four hundred years. For to slay by a diorismus, signifies nothing else but a causing a thing to cease to be. This, but little question, is the true meaning of this place. And the tenth part of the city will have a sense marvellously coincident therewith.

The above sentiment was published by Dr. Moore, A.D. 1663. In a little more than a hundred and thirty years afterwards it became a matter of fact, instead of prophecy and opinion. No one need to be informed, that one of the ten kingdoms of western Rome, or of Papacy, France, abolished all titles and orders in one day or decree, in A.D. 1793 or 1794.

I will now give you a few extracts from REV. PETER JURINE, a minister of the French church at Rotterdam, taken from a work entitled "The Accomplishment of Scripture Prophecies, or the approaching Deliverance of the Church." This work was translated into English in the year 1687, more than one hundred and fifty years ago. He says, Part II. page 68, 

We shall see such admirable agreement between the events and the prophecies explained, that shall abundantly convince that what I am about to say is not simple conjecture.

Page 242, on Rev.xi.13, he says, 

There shall be an earthquake, that is, a great emotion and trouble in the world, and in the antichristian kingdom. In this emotion a tenth part of the city shall fall; that is, a tenth part of the antichristian kingdom shall be taken away from it. Now what is the tenth part of the city which shall fall? In my opinion we cannot doubt that it is France. This kingdom is the most considerable part or piece of the ten horns, or states, which once made up the great Babylon city. It fell. This does not signify that the French monarchy shall be ruined; but it may be humbled; but in all appearance, Providence does design for her afterwards a great elevation. It is highly probable that God will not let go unpunished the horrible outrages which it acts at this day (of persecution.)

Afterward, it must build its greatness upon the ruins of the papal empire, and enrich itself with the spoils of those who shall take part with the Papacy. They who persecute the Protestants, know not where God is leading them: this is not the way by which he will lead France to the height of glory. If she comes thither, it is because she shall shortly change her road. Her greatness will be no damage to Protestant states; on the contrary, the Protestant states shall be enriched with the spoils of others, and be strengthened by the fall of Antichrist's empire. This tenth part of the city shall fall with respect to the Papacy; it shall break with Rome, and the Roman religion. One thing is certain, that the Babylonian empire shall perish through the refusal of obedience by the ten kings, who had given their power to the beast. The thing is already come to pass in part. The kingdoms of Sweden, Denmark, England, and the states of Germany, have withdrawn themselves from the jurisdiction of the Pope. They have spoiled the harlot of her riches. They have eaten her flesh, that is, seized on her benefices and revenues which she had in their countries. This must go on, and be finished as it is begun. The kings who yet remain under the empire of Rome, must break with her, leave her solitary and desolate. But who must begin this last revolt? It is most probable that FRANCE shall. Not Spain, which is as yet under the clergy, and plunged in superstition and under tyranny as much as ever. Not the emperor, who in temporals is subject to the Pope, and permits that in his states the archbishop of Strigonium should teach that the Pope can take away the imperial crown from him. It cannot be any country but France.

How can it be possible that this servant of God could, without a prophetic spirit, so exactly describe events more than a hundred years before they were literally fulfilled? I beg of you, my brethren of the ministry, read this over again; compare it with the history of Europe for fifty years past. Why will you be so unbelieving? Are you not ashamed of your unbelief, when you see the faith, boldness, and honesty of this French Protestant, who lived in the days of persecution when the world wondered after the beast? Oh Lord God! what will become of our stallfed, indolent, unbelieving, hypocritical, and proud clergy of the present day? Do they believe any scripture is fulfilling at the present day? No. They are blind and cannot see afar off; they love to slumber, they will not bark. And if any of thy servants do lift up their voices, these will only murmur in their nests, and dream on, I fear, into eternity. Oh God! awaken us to a sense of our awful danger.

Again, he says, 

Seeing that the tenth part of the city that must fall is France, this gives me some hopes that the death of the 'two witnesses' hath a particular relation to this kingdom. It is the street or place of this city, that is, the most fair and eminent part of it. The witnesses must remain dead upon this street, and upon it they must be raised again. And, as the death of the witnesses and their resurrection have a relation to the kingdom of France, it may well fall out that we are not far distant from the time.

On page 50, speaking of the time, he says "that it will fall on the year 1785."

On page 279, he says, 

If I should be mistaken nine or ten years, - I do not think that any could justly treat me as a false prophet, and accuse me of rashness.

In another place, he says, 

And in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand; in the Greek it is names of men, not seven thousand men. I confess that this seems somewhat mysterious: in other places we find not this phrase, names of men, put simply for men. Perhaps there is here a figure of grammar called hypallage casus, so that names of men are put for men of name, that is, of raised or considerable quality, be it on account of riches, dignity, or of learning. But I am more inclined to say, that here these words, names of men, are put for men of name, and must be taken in their natural signification, and do intimate that the total reformation of France shall not be made with bloodshed; nothing shall be destroyed but NAMES, such as the names of Monks, Carmalites, Augustines, Dominicans, Jacobins, Franciscans, Capuchins, Jesuites, Minimes, and an infinite company of others, whose number it is not easy to define, and which the Holy Ghost denotes by the number seven, which is the number of perfection, to signify that the order of monks and nuns shall perish forever. This is an institution so degenerated from its first original, that it is become the arm of Antichrist. These orders cannot perish one with another. These great events deserve to be distinguished from all others, for they will change THE WHOLE FACE OF THE WORLD.

What can we think, when we compare this prophecy, if you please to call it such, with the history of the French revolution, but that God in the fulfillment has given us indubitable proof that these servants of his, in their exposition of this passage, gathered the true and simple meaning of the Holy Spirit? They could not have written to support any particular theory, for neither do any of them appear to have any on this point. They wrote while it was yet a prophecy. They could have no national prejudice, for they were from different nations. Surely, we must admire their harmony, and the power and goodness of God, in thus giving them knowledge of these events spoken of in this prophecy, so as to tell the manner, place, and time when these things should be fulfilled.

Let me quote to you from Rev. John Willison, minister of Dundee, who published a number of sermons under the title of "The Balm of Gilead." In one of these, he says, 

Before Antichrist's fall, one of the ten kingdoms which supported the beast shall undergo a marvelous revolution. Rev.xi.13: 'And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven;' by which tenth part is to be understood one of the ten kingdoms into which the great city, Romish Babylon, was divided. This many take to be the kingdom of France, it being the tenth and last of the kingdoms, according to the rise, and that which gave Rome the denomination of the beast with ten horns, and also it being the only one of the ten that was never conquered since its rise. However unlikely this, and other prophesied events, may appear at the time, yet the almighty hand of the only wise God can soon bring them about when least expected.

These sermons were published in A. D. 1742, more than fifty years before the fulfillment of the prediction.

Many other authors of great celebrity, who wrote many years before the French revolution, might be quoted, who all believed that the two witnesses would be slain in France, that the earthquake would be in that kingdom, and that there the names, titles, or orders of men would be abolished. And nearly all of them fixed the time between the years 1785 and 1795. I will give one more extract on this point, from DR. GILL, taken from a sermon on the answer to the question, "Watchman, what of the night?" published in A. D. 1748, almost one hundred years since. He says, 

If it should be asked, What time it is with us now? whereabout we are? and what is yet to come of this night? as a faithful watchman, I will give you the best account I can. I take it, we are in the Sardian church state, in the last part of it, which brought on the Reformation, and represents that. We are in the decline of that state, and there are many things said of that church which agree with us, as that we have a name that we live, and are dead, &c. - It is a sort of twilight with us, between clear and dark, between day and night. As to what of the night is yet to come, or what will befall the churches, and will bring on the dismal night before us; - they are the slaying of the witnesses, and the universal spread of Popery all over Christendom; and the latter is the unavoidable consequence of the former. The slaying of the witnesses, which I understand not so much in a literal sense, or of a corporal death, though there may be many slain in this sense when it will be, but in a civil sense, with respect to their ministry being silenced by their enemies, and neglected by their friends; - this is an affair that is not yet over: the witnesses have not yet finished their testimony; they are still prophesying, though in sackcloth or under some discouragements; whereas it will be, when they have finished their testimony, and at the close of the 1260 days or years of Antichrist's reign, that they will be killed. - The ruin of Antichrist will immediately follow the rising and ascension of these witnesses; for at the same hour that they shall ascend, will be a great earthquake, or a revolution in the papal state; and the tenth part of the city, or of the Romish jurisdiction, shall fall; that is, one of its ten horns, kings or kingdoms belonging to it, and perhaps the kingdom of FRANCE is meant, and seven thousand men of name will be slain, and the rest be affrighted, and give glory to God; nothing of which has yet been done. From all of which it may be concluded, that the slaying of witnesses is yet to come, and will make the dismal part of that night we are entering into, and which will be accompanied with a universal spread of Popery: - but her 'plagues shall come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine, and she shall be utterly burnt with fire.' Before the utter destruction of Antichrist, he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many; yea, he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas, in the glorious holy mountain, or the mountain of delight, of holiness; and what place is there, in all the globe, to which this description so well answers as Great Britain? (I answer, Italy.) This will be done before, and but a little before, his ruin; for it follows, 'yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.'

If these doctors had lived in this day, with the same spirit in which they then wrote, they would not have called my views "moonshine," for they harmonize to a charm; or if our D. D.s had a little more of their Bible knowledge, some of their modesty, and less of their own sufficiency, they would not bluster in "resolutions," nor be blinded in "lunar rays," but, like our author above quoted, they would be able to give the time of night, that the people might be prepared for the morning.

These writers which I have quoted, and a number more which might be given with equal propriety, predicted, on the authority of the Bible, a grand and very important revolution in France, a change of ecclesiastical and civil polity, the introduction of a new system, fatal to Popery and tyranny, but friendly to the liberty, peace, and happiness of man. They foretold that this revolution should be effected, not in the ordinary course of things, nor by the ministry of the gospel, but by a peculiar dispensation of God; by a sudden convulsion, like an earthquake, attended with the destruction of names, titles, dignities, orders, and the humiliation of the French monarchy, falling from the support of Papacy. They foretold her subsequent exaltation, liberty of the nations, spread of the gospel, and the death and resurrection of the witnesses. They fixed the time between 1785 and 1795. Love, who wrote in 1651, prophesied that Babylon should begin to fall in 1790. Rev. Robert Fleming, minister of the Scotts church in London, in a discourse on the rise and fall of Papacy, published in 1701, says, 

The French monarchy will begin to be humbled as soon as 1794.

What can all this mean? Can you not see the signs of the times in all this? If not, your eyes are indeed closed that you cannot see, and your ears stopped that you will not hear; and in such an hour as ye think not, it will come upon you. Oh! you scoffers, and scorners of the cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!" - what will you do?

(Miller's Works, vol. 1, pp. 203-211)

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