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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 20 - Verse 9

Verse 9. And they went up on the breadth of the earth. They spread over the earth in extended columns. The image is that of an invading army that seems, in its march, to spread all over a land. The reference here is to the hosts assembled from the regions of Gog and Magog; that is, to the formidable enemies of the gospel that would be roused up at the close of the period properly called the millennial period—the period of the thousand years. It is not necessary to suppose that there would be literally armies of enemies of God summoned from lands that would be called lands of" Gog and Magog;" but all that is necessarily implied is, that there will be a state of hostility to the church of Christ which would be well illustrated by such a comparison with an invading host of barbarians. The expression "the breadth of the land" occurs in Hab 1:6, in a description of the invasion of the Chaldeans, and means there the whole extent of it; that is, they would spread over the whole country.

And compassed the camp of the saints about. Besieged the camp of the saints considered as engaged in war, or as attacked by an enemy. The "camp of the saints" here seems to be supposed to be without the walls of the city; that is, the army was drawn out for defence. The fact that the foes were able to "compass this camp about," and to encircle the city at the same time, shows the greatness of the numbers of the invaders.

And the beloved city. Jerusalem—a city represented as beloved by God and by his people. The whole imagery here is derived from a supposed invasion of the land of Palestine—imagery than which nothing could be more natural to John in describing the hostility that would be aroused against the church in the latter day. But no just principle of interpretation requires us to understand this literally. Compare Heb 12:22. Indeed, it would be absolutely impossible to give this chapter throughout a literal interpretation. What would be the literal interpretation of the very first verses? "I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand; and he laid hold on the dragon, and bound him." Can any one believe that there is to be a literal key, and a chain, and an act of seizing a serpent, and binding him? As little as it demanded that the passage before us should be taken literally; for if it is maintained that this should be, we may insist that the same principle of interpretation should be applied to every part of the chapter, and every part of the book.

And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. Consumed them—fire being represented as devouring or eating. See Barnes on "Re 17:16".

The meaning is, that they would be destroyed as if fire should come down from heaven, as on Sodom and Gomorrah. But it is not necessary to understand this literally, any more than it is the portions of the chapter just referred to. What is obviously meant is, that their destruction would be sudden, certain, and entire, and that thus the last enemy of God and the church would be swept away. Nothing can be determined from this about the means by which this destruction will be effected; and that must be left for time to disclose. It is sufficient to know that the destruction of these last foes of God and the church will be certain and entire. This language, as denoting the final destruction of the enemies of God, is often employed in the Scriptures. See Ps 11:6; Isa 29:6; Eze 38:22; 39:6.

 

{a} "they went" Isa 8:8; Eze 38:9,16

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