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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 14 - Verse 8

Verse 8. And there followed another angel. That is, in the vision. It is not necessary to suppose that this would, in the fulfilment, succeed the other in time. The chapter is made up of a number of representations, all designed to illustrate the same general thing, and to produce the same general effect on the mind—that the gospel would be finally triumphant, and that, therefore, the hearts of the troubled and the afflicted should be comforted. The representation in this verse, bearing on this point, is, that Babylon, the great enemy, would fall to rise no more.

Babylon. This is the first time that the word Babylon occurs in this book, though it is repeatedly mentioned afterwards, Re 16:19; 17:5; 18:2,10,21.

In reference to the literal Babylon, the word is used, in the New Testament, in, Mt 1:11-13; Ac 7:43; 1 Pe 5:13.

Babylon was a well-known city on the Euphrates, and was, in the days of its pride and glory, the head of the heathen world. In reference to the meaning of the word in this place, it may be remarked.

(1) that the general characteristics of Babylon were, that it was proud, haughty, insolent, oppressive. It was chiefly known and remembered by the Hebrew people as a power that had invaded the Holy Land; that had reduced its capital and temple to ruins; that had destroyed the independence of their country, subjecting it to the condition of a province, and that had carried away the inhabitants into a long and painful captivity. It became, therefore, the emblem of all that was haughty and oppressive, and especially of all that persecuted the church of God.

(2.) The word must be used here to denote some power that resembled the ancient and literal Babylon in these characteristics. The literal Babylon was no more; but the name might be properly used to denote a similar power. We are to seek, therefore, in the application of this, for some power that had the same general characteristics which the literal Babylon had.

(3.) In inquiring, then, what is referred to here by the word Babylon, we may remark

(a) that it could not be the literal Babylon on the Euphrates, for the whole representation here is of something future, and the literal Babylon had long since disappeared, never, according to the prophecies, to be rebuilt. See Barnes "Isa 13:20, seq.

(b) All the circumstances require us to understand this of Rome—at some period of its history: for Rome, like Babylon, was the seat of empire, and the head of the heathen world; Rome was characterized by many of the same attributes as Babylon, being arrogant, proud, oppressive; Rome, like Babylon, was distinguished for its conquests, and for the fact that it made all other nations subject to its control; Rome had been, like Babylon, a desolating power, having destroyed the capital of the Holy Land, and burnt its beautiful temple, and reduced the country to a province. Rome, like Babylon of old, was the most formidable power with which the church had to contend. Yet

(c) it is not, I suppose, Rome considered as Pagan that is here meant; but Rome considered as the prolongation of the ancient power in the Papal form. Alike in this book and in Daniel, Rome, Pagan and Papal, is regarded as one power, standing in direct opposition to the gospel of Christ; resisting its progress in the world; and preventing its final prevalence. See Barnes on Daniel 7. When that falls, the last enemy of the church will be destroyed, and the final triumph of the true religion will be speedy and complete. See Da 7:26-27.

(d) So it was understood among the early Christians. Mr. Gibbon, speaking of the expectations of the early Christians about the end of the world, and the glory of the literal reign of the Messiah, says, "While the happiness and glory of a temporal reign were promised to the disciples of Christ, the most dreadful calamities were denounced against an unbelieving world. The edification of the New Jerusalem was to advance by equal steps with the destruction of the mystic Babylon; and as long as the emperors who reigned before Constantine persisted in the profession of idolatry, the epithet of Babylon was applied to the city and to the empire of Rome," i. p. 263.

Is fallen. That is, an event appeared in vision, as if a mighty city fell to rise no more.

Is fallen. This is repeated to give emphasis to the declaration, and to express the joyousness of that event.

That great city. Babylon in its glory was the largest city of the world; Rome, in its turn, also became the largest; and the expression used here denotes that the power here referred to would be properly represented by cities of their magnitude.

Because she made all nation, drink of the wine. This language is probably taken from Jer 51:7: "Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord's hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunk of the wine, therefore the nations are mad." Babylon here, in accordance with the usual custom of the sacred writers when speaking of cities, (see Barnes on "Isa 1:8") is represented as a female-here a female of abandoned character, holding in her hand a cup of wine to attract her lovers; that is, she allures and intoxicates them. This a beautiful image to denote the influence of a great and corrupt city, and especially a city corrupt in its religion, and devoted to idolatry and superstition—and may well be applied either to Babylon or Rome, literal or mystical.

Of the wrath. There seems an incongruity in the use of this word here, and Prof. Stuart proposes to render it "the inflammatory wine of her fornication;" that is, inebriating wine; wine that excited the passions and that led to uncleanness. He supposes that the word here used— yumov—means heat, inflammation, corresponding to the Hebrew, ?. There are no instances, however, in the New Testament, in which the word is used in this sense. The common and proper meaning is mind, soul; then mind agitated with passion, or under the influence of desire—a violent commotion of mind, as wrath, anger, indignation.—- Rob. Lex. The ground of the representation here seems to be, that Jehovah is often described as giving to the nations in his wrath an intoxicating cup, so that they should reel and stagger to their destruction. Compare Jer 25:15; 51:7. The meaning here is, that the nations had drunk of that cup, which brought on the wrath of God on account of her "fornication." Babylon is represented as a harlot, with a cup of wine in her hand, and the effect of drinking that cup was to expose them to the wrath of God, hence called "the wine of the wrath of her fornication:" the alluring cup that was followed by wrath on account of her fornication.

Of her fornication. Due to her fornication. The word "fornication" here is used to denote spiritual uncleanness; that is, heathen and superstitious rites and observances. The term is often used in the Scriptures as applicable to idolatry and superstition. The general meaning here is, that Rome—Papal Rome—would employ all forms of voluptuous allurements to bring the nations to the worship of the beast and his image, and that the "wrath" of God would be poured out on account of these abominations. The design of this verse, also, is to impart consolation by the assurance that this great enemy—this mighty, formidable, persecuting power—would be entirely overthrown. This is everywhere held up as the brightest hope of the church; for with this will fall its last great enemy, and the grand obstruction to the final triumph of the gospel on earth will be removed.

{a} "Babylon" Re 18:2,3; Isa 21:9; Jer 51:7,8

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