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E6, chaps. xvi., xvii.,
V. Chap. xvi. The Seven Vials.
This is by far the most important of all the Visions seen by John, in relation to the earth.
It has also the largest space apportioned to its description.
It consists of the great judgments introduced by the sounding of the seventh Trumpet, which completes "The Mystery of God," by the pouring out of the seven Vials. The next Vision is the last seen in Heaven, and it introduces the actual Revelation or Apocalupsis of the Lord Jesus, personally, to the earth; and thus brings on the conclusion of the whole prophecy.
This Sixth Vision on Earth consists of three divisions, which are so marked and distinct that those who divided the chapters found no difficulty in making a right division here.
The following brief structure of this Vision as a whole, is shown to consist of these three. Their many and various expansions will follow in their respective places. The readers will find no difficulty in following and connecting them, if the references to the back pages and letters be carefully noted:—
E6, chap. xvi.—
The Sixth Vision "on
The Seven Vials
E6 | V | xvi. The Great Judgments. (The Seven
W | xvii. The Great Whore. (Mystery Babylon).
X | xviii. The Great City. (Great Babylon).
Of these three we commence with the first, which we have marked "V," and which consists of the whole of chap. xvi., describing
Eleven times we have the word "great" in this chapter; more often than in any other chapter in the New Testament, the next being chap. xviii., where it occurs nine times.
We are justified, therefore, in entitling the judgments and subjects of these chapters as "great."
All is now ready to begin this final assault on the kingdom of the Infernal Trinity— the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet, which will mark "the great and terrible day of the Lord."
Since we were told of the sounding of the seventh Trumpet (xi. 15), we have been taken back and enlightened as to several important particulars, so that we might understand more clearly the relation of these Visions to each other; we have been informed, by the last heavenly utterances, what we are to look for as the result of these judgments.
The Dragon is to be attacked in his capital and on his throne. The Beasts are to be attacked in their seats of authority; and their followers and worshippers are to "have no rest day and night" upon the earth (xiv. 11).
There is some similarity between the Vial-judgments and those of the Trumpets; but there are some variations also.
The structure of this first division "V," shows that these seven Vials are divided into five groups: each consisting of cause and effect. The third and sixth are marked off by an additional characteristic: the third by "things heard," the sixth by "things seen." The Structure is as follows:—
V. chap. xvi. The Great Judgments. (The 7 Vials).
V | A1 | a1 | xvi. 1, 2. The
b1 | -2. Effect. Sore on worshippers of Beast.
a2 | 3-. The Second Vial.
b2 | -3. Effect. Sea, blood.
B1 | c | 4-. The Third Vial.
d | -4. Effect. Rivers, blood.
e | 5-7. Things heard. (Angelic voices).
A2 | a3 | 8-. The Fourth Vial.
b3 | -8, 9. Effect. Scorching. Worshippers of Beast impenitent.
a4 | 10-. The Fifth Vial.
b4 | -10-11. Effect. Seat of Beast darkness. Men impenitent.
B2 | c | 12-. The Sixth Vial.
d | -12. Effect. Euphrates dried up.
e | 13-16. Things seen. (Three demons like frogs).
A3 | a5 | 17-. The Seventh Vial.
b5 | -17-21. Effect. Earthquake, and Great Babylon comes into remembrance (19).
We have observed above that the 1st and 2nd Vials form a pair, also the 4th and 5th; and, like the 7th, consist of two parts, viz., the pouring out of the Vial and its effect. These three groups are separated by the 3rd and 6th Vial, which have each three parts. To the pouring out of the Vial and its effect is added, in the former case, Things heard; and in the latter case, Things seen. The effect of the last (or seventh) Vial is to bring up "great Babylon into remembrance"; and this leads on naturally and consecutively to the judgment on Babylon in chapters xvii. and xviii.
We now come to the translation.
The first verse is general and introduces the whole seven.
xvi. 1. And I heard a loud voice out of the Temple (Naos), saying to the Seven Angels,
These seven Vials and their effects we take to be literal; i.e., to be exactly what is said of them. They belong to no figures of speech. The language is clear and precise. There is nothing beyond our faith, though there may be beyond our reason. True, they are supernatural, but not unnatural. In the plagues of Egypt, which all take to be literal, we have many judgments exactly similar. Indeed, six out of the seven Vials are just the same as the plagues of Egypt, and God has again and again declared that their final judgments should be like, yea, should be worse than those (Ex. xxxiv. 10).
The first Vial is like the sixth plague, which was of Boils, etc.
The second and third Vials are like the first plague, when the waters became blood.
The fifth Vial is like the ninth plague, when darkness overspread the land.
The sixth Vial is like the second plague, of frogs.
The seventh Vial is like the 7th plague, of hail, &c.
The fourth is the only Vial which has no counterpart in the Egyptian plagues; and that is the great "heat." Now, if six out of these seven judgments have already been once seen and experienced, why should not like plagues be sent again, when it is expressly said that the supernatural events connected with Israel's return shall be "like as it was ... in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt" (Is. xi. 16)?
In the face of this, is it not strange that these Vials should ever be taken to mean:
The first, the French Revolution; and the "sores" its infidelity, &c.
The second, the naval wars of the French Revolution;
The third, Napoleon's campaign in Italy;
The fourth, Napoleon's military tyranny, &c., &c.?
It is a waste of precious time and space even to chronicle such interpretations, which make the Word of God none effect.
Does any believe that we have passed through the greater part of the "great and terrible Day of the Lord" without knowing it; and yet all the time preaching the Gospel of God's Grace, instead of proclaiming that "the hour of his judgment is come"? Is this really "the day of vengeance of our God," and yet Ministers on every hand are telling us how the Millennium is actually dawning; and some that it has already come — a Millennium without Christ? No! Bible students, who believe what God says; and whose one desire is to understand what He has said, can never be satisfied with such confusion as that, which only perplexes the mind, instead of enlightening it.
xvi. 2. And the first went forth, and poured out his Vial into319319 L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. read (...) (eis),into, instead of (...) (epi), upon. the earth; and there broke out a noisome and grievous sore upon320320 L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. read (...) (epi), upon, instead of (...) (eis), in or into. the men who had the mark (or brand) of the Beast, and upon those who were worshipping his image.] The words "poured out" are more than hinted at in Ps. lxxix. 1-6. Lam. iv. 11; and a similar plague had been more than once seen before. Ex. ix. 8-12. Job ii. 7, 8. I Sam. v. 6. Num. xii. 10.
The first to suffer on account of this plague are the worshippers of the Beast and his Image. These had been warned (xiv. 9-11) that those who are engaged in worshipping the Beast (it is the present participle both there and here) should have no rest day and night." Here we see how this is to be brought about: none can rest who are afflicted with these "noisome and grievous sores."
xvi. 3. And the second 321321 L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit "angel." poured out his Vial into the sea: and it became blood, as of one dead; and every living soul died that was in the sea.] We may compare this with the second Trumpet (viii. 8) and the first Egyptian plague (Ex. vii. 20-25. Compare Ps. cv. 29. Isa. l. 2. Nahum i. 2-4). The literal understanding of these plagues makes things so clear, that little or no further explanation is necessary. They explain to us the nature and effect of these judgments.
xvi. 4. And the third 322322 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit "angel." poured out his Vial into the rivers, and323323 L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit (...) (us) into. the fountains of waters; and they became blood. (5) and I heard the angel of the waters saying,
"Righteous art Thou 324324 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit (...) (kyrie) O Lord. , who art and wast,325325 The AV. seems to have added "and shalt be" on its own authority. It must, however, be omitted (with the RV.), as in xi. 17, because He will have then already come. Holy326326 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. substitute (...) (hosios) holy, instead of (...) (kai o) and who [wast]. art Thou, because thou didst judge these things. (6) For they shed the blood of saints and prophets, And thou hast given them blood to drink; —327327 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit (...) (gar) for. They deserve it!"
"Even so, Lord God, the Almighty, True and righteous are Thy judgments."]
This is Divine comment from heaven on the judgment of the third Vial. The expression, "angel of the waters," shows that angels have their spheres and offices; that the operations of nature are not left to blind chance, but that He who made what men call "the laws of nature" has a mighty and capable executive to see that those laws, and God's will, are carried out.
The Altar is either personified (for the prayers of the saints are upon it; and the martyrs are beneath it); or the words "[the angel of] the Altar" must be supplied. In either case, the emphasis is on "the Altar."
The Angel's words, here, show that they are uttered in another dispensation, altogether different from the present dispensation of grace; even in the dispensation of retribution and judgment. That dispensation to which such passages as Ezek. xxxv. 6 and xvi. 38 refer.
Just as Matt. xxiii. 34, 35, and Luke xi. 47-51, refer to a day of judgment and not of grace. God is "not imputing their trespasses" unto His people now, having imputed them all to Christ. This shows that unless we rightly divide the Word according to its dispensation, our reading of it must be in hopeless confusion.
The reference of verse 6 ("They have shed the blood of thy prophets," etc.) is evidently to chap. xvii. 6; xiii. 15; xi. 18; and xviii. 20. Pss. lxxix. and lxxiv. should be read in this connection.
xvi. 8. And the fourth [angel 329329 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit "angel," though the Ellipsis may be thus supplied. ] poured out his Vial upon the Sun; and it was given to him to scorch men with fire. (9) And men were scorched with vehement heat, and they blasphemed the name of God (i.e., God Himself), who hath authority over these plagues: and they repented not, to give Him glory.] At the sounding of the fourth Trumpet the Sun was smitten, but only one third of it. There are to be "signs in the sun" (Luke xxi. 25). Isaiah tells of a time when "the inhabitants of the earth are burned and few men left" (Isa. xxiv. 6; xlii. 25). Compare Mal. iv. 1, which says: "Behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble." The moral effects, here, are a defiance of the demands of the angel in xiv. 6, 7. They refuse to "give glory to God." They cry not for quarter, nor will quarter be given. Yet men tell us that all we have here is the tyranny and oppression of Napoleon!
xvi. 10. And the fifth [angel 330330 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit "angel." But we must supply the Ellipsis, nevertheless. ] poured out his Vial upon the throne of the Beast: and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues from their pain, (11) and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores (verse 2), and repented not and turned not from their works.] This proves that the Seven Assemblies belong, by interpretation to that dispensation of judgment. For to the Assembly at Pergamos Christ says: "I know thy works and where thou dwellest; where the throne of Satan is, and thou holdest fast my name, and didst not deny my faith, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwelleth" (ii. 13; xiii. 2). So that not only is it clear that those Assemblies are on the earth at this time, but that chap. xii. records events prior to chap. ii, and that the persecution and martyrdom of chap. xiii. have already commenced in the days to which chap. ii. 13 refers. This Vial initiates a direct attack on the throne of the Beast, the vice-gerent of Satan. He is no more able to defend himself against this plague of darkness than Pharaoh was (Ex. x. 21-23). The darkness here referred to will be as real as the darkness was in Egypt. Joel prophesied of this when he said (ii. 1, 2, 31):
"The Day of the Lord cometh...
A day of darkness and of gloominess;
A day of clouds and thick darkness.
The sun shall be turned into darkness," etc.
In Mark xiii. 24, 25, the Saviour said "the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light."
Great is the vexation caused by this awful darkness. And yet we are asked to believe that this is nothing more than the Suppression of the Monasteries, etc., in France, in 1789, by Napoleon.
Is this what all the prophets have been occupied with? Even symbols must symbolise something that is congruous. But, here, the bringing on of gross darkness is made to symbolise the suppression of what is the cause of darkness! If it were taken to symbolise the setting up of monasteries, it would be more relevant. No wonder that darkness has come over this book — when imagination is substituted for faith.
The sixth Vial, like the third (xvi. 4, 5), has three divisions (whereas all the others have only two). These three are (1) the pouring out, (2) the effect, and (3) things seen. The third Vial was the same, except that there we had things heard: and here we have things seen.
xvi. 12. And the sixth [angel 331331 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit "angel," though we have to supply the Ellipsis as before. ] poured out his Vial upon the great river the 332332 G.T. omit "the." Tr. and WH. put it in brackets. Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings that come from the East might be prepared.] We take this to refer to the actual river Euphrates. All else in the chapter is literal; and so is this. There is no reason why it should not be so. Those who assert that this means the wane of the Turkish Empire say so on their own responsibility. There is not a word about it here, and there is nothing to lead us to imagine it; especially when we think of the object for which the river is to be dried up. The sixth Trumpet has to do with the river Euphrates also. The context here, and the "things seen" in connection with this Vial, tell us that the kings of the earth are about to be gathered together to the great battle in which the Heavenly and Satanic and earthly forces are about to be engaged. With the view of preparing for this gathering, the way of these kings which are to come from the East, is to be prepared. The Vial is connected with judgment, and not with mercy; and therefore to interpret these kings of the Ten Tribes, or of "Christian princes," or of any propitious or auspicious event, is out of all harmony with the whole scope of the context. At the sounding of the sixth Trumpet a vast supernatural army is let loose to slay a third part of men. Here, under the sixth Vial, a vast human army is gathered together, the whole of which is destroyed by God. Moreover, a similar effect on the river Euphrates is the subject of another prophecy: "And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with His mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river [Euphrates] and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dry-shod" (Isa. xi. 15).
Again, "I will bring them also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and ... the deeps of the river shall dry up; and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away" (Zech. x. 10, 11).
The kings from the East journey Westward to Palestine. East and West are to be reckoned from the standpoint of the prophecy, and not from that of the reader. Here, that standpoint is God's Land and City.
The Euphrates is indeed a great river, as here stated. It is 1,800 miles long, and from Mohammarah to the sea it is 3,6000 feet wide and 30 feet deep.333333 See Col. Chesney's Euphratean Expedition. This river is to be dried up for the more easy gathering of this infernal Crusade against the Lamb and His host. They gather to a scene of slaughter, from which they never return. It is this gathering which the Scripture now proceeds to describe to us.
xvi. 13. And I saw going forth out of the mouth of the Dragon, and out of the mouth of the Beast, and out of the mouth of the False Prophet, three unclean spirits, as it were 334334 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. read (...) (hos), as it were, instead of (...) (homoia), like. frogs. (14) (For they are demon spirits working miracles), which go forth to the kings 335335 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit (...) (tes ges, kai), of the earth, and. of the whole world to gather them together to the 336336 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. add the article. battle of that great day of God, the Almighty.] The Holy Spirit does not say there were frogs, but that they seemed to look like frogs. But He actually says they were not frogs, and thus not like the plague of frogs in Egypt (Ex. viii. 1-14), but "spirits," i.e., demon spirits. They work miracles, as does the false prophet (xiii. 13-15. 2 Thess. ii. 9).
They give apparently convincing evidence of their reality and mission: and if thousands could be gathered to the Crusades by a man (like Peter the hermit), tens of thousands will be gathered by these wonder-working demons, and persuaded to join the advancing hosts against God and His saints. We see a similar and real persuasion in 1 Kings xxii. 19-38. See Joel iii. 9-11. Ps. ii. 1-3.
Then we have this interjectional clause, which must be read as a parenthesis; for it does not interfere with the course of the prophetic events.337337 When a parenthesis is complete in itself, and is independent of the context, it is called Parembole. See Figure of Speech, p. 476.
While the demon spirits are gathering the kings and their armies, John hears the Voice of Christ, saying:
[15. "Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."]
These words are addressed to those in the other host who have not worshipped the Beast or his image, and have not received his mark or the number of his name. They receive this encouraging Benediction. True, it is "as a thief" He is now coming. This proves that the Church of God is not in the judgment scene here described, for the Thessalonian believers were positively assured that the day shall NOT come on them as a thief (I Thess. v. 4. Compare Matt. xxiv. 38-44. Luke xii. 35-40). This blessing is not for us now, in this dispensation of grace, even as the assurance is not for us. The Lord is then about to come as a thief. Hence this announcement; and hence this blessing. Those who will need it will be on the earth at that time, as we learn from chap. iii. 3 (compare Mark xiii. 34-37).
After this Parembole the prophecy proceeds as though it had not been interrupted.
xvi. 16. And they (i.e., the demon spirits of verse 14) gathered them (i.e., the kings and their armies) together unto the place which is called in Hebrew Har-mageddon338338 So spelt by G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. ] This mention of Hebrew connects the Apocalypse with the Gospels (See John v. 2; xix. 13, 17. So Rev. ix. 11). And in this we have also a reference to the Old Testament. The name (...) (har-megiddo) means the mount of Megiddo; and the name is ominous as to what the result of this battle will be. For there Deborah and Barak destroyed Sisera and his host (Judg. v. 19); there King Josiah was overthrown by Pharaoh-Necho, king of Egypt (2 Kings xxiii. 29. 2 Chron. xxxv. 22-25). Slaughter and lamentation are associated with Megiddo (Zech. xii. 11). In Isa. x. 28, which describes the invasion of Anti-Christ, the Septuagint version reads Megiddo.
Megiddo probably means a place of troops (from (...), gad), a troop (Gen. xlix. 19); and the verb (...) (gadad), to cut to pieces. (See Deut. xiv. 1. 1 Kings xviii. 28. Jer. xvi. 6; xli. 5. Mic. v. 1). It is part of the great plain of Esdraelon. It is a real locality, and the transactions yet to take place there will be real also.
Having gathered the hosts of the enemy thither, the sixth Vial ends. The description of the events which took place there is delayed until the events of the seventh Vial bring on the final catastrophe in chap. xix. There we have the battle itself (xix. 11-18). The sixth vial brings us up to the point where everything is seen to be in readiness, and then abruptly breaks off so as to allow of our coming up to the same point through another course of events, which are brought on by the pouring forth of
xvi. 17. And the seventh [angel 339339 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit "angel," but the Ellipsis must be supplied as before. ] poured his Vial upon 340340 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. read (...) (epi) upon, instead of (...) (eis) into. the air; and there came forth a loud voice out of 341341 L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. read (...) (ek) out of, instead of (...) (apo) from, or away from. the Temple (Naos),|| from the throne, saying, "It is done."] i.e., the last Vial has been, at length, poured out; the last judgment entered upon; the last plague begun. This will end all up and fulfil and accomplish all the Divine counsels as to these judgments. Therefore this voice comes forth; and this solemn announcement is made, "It is done." The Temple is seen at the close of each of the three series of judgments. This is the last. In the New Heaven and New Earth there will be no Temple (ch. xxi. 22). This is the final act, which chronologically brings on the opening of heaven and the coming forth of the Son of God Himself to the battle in xix. 11.
|| L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit "of heaven."
But before that happens we are detained and told of the destruction of Babylon and the Empire of the Beast (xvii. and xviii.); and the marshalling of the heavenly forces (chap. xix). We are, however, told of the commotions in heaven and on earth, which are given in a general statement or summary.
xvi. 18. And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders;342342 This is the order according to G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since man was on the earth, so mighty an earthquake, or so great.] Similar results take place at the opening of the seventh Seal (viii. 5); and at the sounding of the seventh Trumpet (xi. 19). This is the great earthquake spoken of by the prophets (Ezek. xxxviii. 20. Isa. ii. 19, 21. Hag. ii. 21, 22).
xvi. 19. And the great city became divided (or split) into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and great Babylon came into remembrance before God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.] Not only is great Babylon split up into three parts by this earthquake, but the capital cities also of the confederated nations, the allies of the Beast (verse 14; xvii. 13-17) were destroyed. Some say that "Great Babylon" means "Rome"; others hold that it means "Jerusalem"; while others, like ourselves, believe what is written. Babel or Babylon was the scene of the first apostasy from God after the Flood. Always the enemy of God's people, she became in later days the metropolis of the first great Gentile Empire as seen in the image and dream of Nebuchadnezzar. God promised to remember His covenant with Israel; and when He did so He promised to also to remember Babylon in the day of His wrath. Hence His people cry concerning it, "Remember, O Lord." Ps. cxxxvii.; xcviii. 3; xv. 8, 42.
Babylon is only partly destroyed now in token of its total destruction soon to follow. One tenth of the city will have fallen, as we are told in xi. 12, 13. And chapters xvii. and xviii. are going to tell us of the causes, and of the manner, and the consequences of that judgment.
xvi. 20. And every island fled away, and certain mountains were not found. (21) And a great hail, as of a talent's weight, falleth out of heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; because the plague thereof is exceedingly great.] The judgments increase in their severity. In chap. vi. 14, the mountains and islands were moved. Here, they flee. By and by the whole earth and heaven will flee away, and no place be found for them. There is no article before mountains, so we have supplied its absence by the word "certain." Had every mountain been meant the article would have been used. Mountains will exist during the millennium. (See Ps. lxxii. 3, 16; cxlviii. 9. Isa. ii. 2; xliv. 23. Ezek. xxxvi. 8). The plague of hail in Egypt was real (Ex. ix. 18-21). So is this. Why not? The stones are indeed great in size. A Jewish talent was 114 lbs. troy weight. Josephus says that stones of a talent's weight were thrown by the Romans against Jerusalem (Wars iii. vii. 9). Surely God can send from heaven what man could send on earth.
M. Huc says, in his Travels in Tartary 343343 See Travels in Tartary, by M. Huc, vol. i. p. 12. "National Illustrated Library." : "Hail is of frequent occurrence in these unhappy districts, and the dimensions of the hailstones are generally enormous. We have seen some that weighed twelve pounds. One moment sometimes suffices to exterminate whole flocks. In 1843, during one of these storms, there was heard in the air a sound as of a rushing wind, and therewith fell in a field near a house, a mass of ice larger than an ordinary millstone. It was broken to pieces with hatchets; yet though the sun burned fiercely, three days elapsed before these pieces entirely melted."
Hail had been before one of God's engines of war, beyond the use or defence of man. (See chap. xi. 19. Ex. ix. 22-26. Ps. lxxviii. 47; cv. 32. Josh. x. 11). And they are the tokens of Divine wrath. (See Isa. xxx. 30. Ezek. xiii. 11).
No wonder the blasphemy that follows from the worshippers of the Beast, impenitent to the end, will also be exceeding great.
This concludes the great Judgments of the Seven Vials recorded in chap. xvi. We come now to chap. xvii., the Judgment of the great Harlot.
This is the second of the three great divisions of the sixth Vision "on Earth." We have shown them as follows:—
The 1st (chap. xvi). The great Judgments.
The 2nd (chap. xvii). The great Harlot.
The 3rd (chap. xviii). The great City.
It is the first of these which we have just completed; and we pass on to the second — in chap. xvii. — which, perhaps more than any other, has caused the widest gulf between the various schools of expositors. It is one of the most prominent of all the subjects of which the Apocalypse treats. Indeed, taken with the eighteenth chapter, which is part of the same Vision (the 6th "on Earth"), it is the most conspicuous prophecy of this book. None of the current expositions are sufficiently consistent or satisfying. Preterist Expositors differ among themselves as to whether "great Babylon" means the City of Rome, or the Church of Rome: Rome Pagan or Rome Papal. But, if this is all that these solemn chapters mean, we may well say with Dr. Seiss, "If we cannot find more solid ground than that on which the Rome theory rests, we must needs consign the whole subject to the department of doubt and uncertainty; and let all these tremendous foreshadowings pass for nothing."344344 Lectures on the Apocalypse, vol. iii. p. 109.
But we shall best accomplish our object by keeping to the Text of the Word itself; learning its scope from its structure; and giving its translation.
No current theory takes in the whole scope. One or two points are seized upon, and treated quite out of all proportion to the rest; while others, quite as essential, are passed over slightly, or ignored altogether. Any satisfying interpretation must take in the whole of what is written; and must treat each part, not as though it were in the way, or inconvenient, but as though it were indispensable.
The chapter itself is divided into two parts; (i.) the Vision, and (ii.) its Interpretation.
W. Chap. xvii. The Great Harlot.
W | Y | xvii. 1-6. The Vision.
Z | xvii. 7-18. The Interpretation.
And first expanding "W," The Vision (xvii. 1-6), we find it is constructed as follows:—
Y | C | f | xvii. 1-. Place: "Hither."
g | -1-. The great harlot.
h | -1. Her seat.
i | 2. Her accomplices.
C | f | 3-. Place: "Wilderness."
g | -3-. The woman.
h | -3. Her seat.
i | 4-6. Herself.
xvii. 1. And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven Vials,] Which of the seven we are not told; but it was probably the last; inasmuch as it was the pouring forth of his Vial that brought Great Babylon into remembrance before God.
"Come hither; I will show to thee the judgment of the great harlot, that sitteth upon many waters: (2) With whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication."]
We have before observed, that when symbols are used in this book they are generally explained by the Holy Spirit Himself. When this is not the case, we must, of course, use our best judgment and compare other Scriptures, so as to see, as far as we can, what the symbol means. But, when He does tell us what the symbols mean, we are not left in any doubt or uncertainty. We cannot go wrong if we keep to the interpretation which the Spirit Himself gives. We are not to re-interpret His interpretation; or to further explain His explanation. If so, we should be treating the Divine interpretation as though it were another symbol. This, therefore, we may not do; but we are to accept it, and believe it, and rest on it.
Now, in this chapter, the Spirit has been pleased to give us His own interpretation of the Vision. We have seen how this is emphasised in the structure, which is expressly divided into these two parts. We have marked them
"Y" (verses 1-6), which is the Vision, and
"Z" (verses 7-18), which is the Interpretation.
These two are again subdivided in a similar and corresponding manner. Each is introduced by a Promise ("C" verses 1, 2 and "D", "E" verse 7); and is followed by the Performance of that promise ("C" verses 3-6 and "E", "D" verses 8-18). See the structure of "Y" and "Z".
In this manner has the Holy Spirit called our attention to His interpretation, and impressed its importance upon us.
If we follow this, all will be easy and plain.
Indeed, it will be better to give the structure of the Interpretation (verses 7-18) here, and now, and incorporate the two together, in order that the one may elucidate the other; and, that we may thus use both to greater profit.
Z. xvii. 7-18. The Interpretation of the Vision.
Z | D | 7-. The Woman.
E | -7. The Beast.
E | 8-17. The Beast.
D | 18. The Woman.
The member E (verses 8-17) will require expansion later on; together with the special consideration for which the structure of that member calls.
Now, there is a well-known principle which is often practised in algebra with great advantage in the solution of a problem; and that is, where one things represents another, to express that one in the terms of the other.
The same principle may be followed here, where we have the Vision and the Divinely-given interpretation. We will re-write the Vision in the terms of the interpretation: i.e., instead of putting what John saw, we will put the explanation at once, and thus bring the whole more clearly before our minds.
We will, therefore, do this, using two different kinds of type to make the matter more clear and enable us to distinguish what is the symbolic prophecy, and what is the Divine interpretation. Thus we shall introduce the interpretation given in the latter part of the chapter, and substitute it (in italic type) for the symbols used in the former part of the chapter, thus:
verse 1. "Come hither: I will show to thee the judgment of that great City that reigneth over the kings of the earth (verse 18), and over peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues (verse 15), with whom the kings of the earth have practised idolatry, 346346 Fornication is everywhere in the Bible the common term used for the sin of idolatry, not only because it is unfaithfulness to God in forsaking Him, the true God, for the worship of false gods; but because it literally formed an essential part of all heathen idolatry. See Lev. xx. 5. Num. xxv. 1. 2 Chron. xxi. 11. Isa. i. 21; xxiii. 17. Jer. ii. 20; iii. 1, 6, 8. Ezek. xvi. 15-17, 28, 29, 31, 34, 35, 41; xx. 30; xxiii. 5, 9, 43, 44. Hos. ii. 5; iii. 3; iv. 5, 10, 13-15. Mic. i. 7. and the inhabitants of the earth have been made to partake of HER idolatrous worship."
This, of course, characterised the worship of Pagan Rome, but cannot truly be said of Papal Rome, of which this chapter is commonly interpreted. But inasmuch as this was the mark of all the heathen nations, it does not, of itself, identify this city with Pagan Rome: for it is a city, the Spirits says (verse 18).
3. And he (i.e., the angel) carried me away by the spirit] as in chap. i. 10, upon which passage it throws great light. (...) (en pneumati) means by the spirit, or by spiritual power, as in i. 10; iv. 2; xxi. 10. Acts viii. 26, 29, 39.
sitting upon a scarlet beast] i.e., supported by that being who is described in verses 8-11.
full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns] Now we must treat this verse as we have treated verses 1, 2 above, and express the vision in the terms of the interpretation:
-3. "And I saw that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth (verse 18), supported by the Beast full of blasphemous names which was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition (verse 8), even he who is the eighth king, and is of the seven (verse 11), having seven kings (verse 10), which support that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth (verses 9, 18); and ten kings which are contemporaneous and which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings at one and the same time with the Beast (verse 12), who is the eighth king (verse 11), that was, and is not, and shall be present" (verse 8).
Now, from this, is it not clear that we are dealing not with world-powers in the successive or mortal stage, but with individuals in their contemporaneous and superhuman form?
It is very important for us to note this important fact, which is vital to the understanding of the whole Vision and its Divinely-given interpretation.
Our business is not to interpret the Vision. That is done for us. What we have to do is first to believe what God says, and then to try and understand it.
The world-powers of Dan. ii. are then seen in their mortal stage, and hence are seen in their successive existence, in which they were rival powers. In Rev. xiii. and xvii. they are seen in their superhuman stage, and they then form one vast colossal Power, having absolute dominion in the world. In Dan. vii. 26, this Power is seen judged as a whole, and goes down into perdition. Dan. vii. 26 treats of the superhuman stage as do chapters xiii., xvii., here.
The Beast receives his deadly wound in his mortal stage, previous to going down into the Abyss. He comes up with the other heads and ten horns. All come together and are seen together in their superhuman form.
Chapter xii. when compared with chap. xiii. and xvii. shows that there are two great confederacies treated of — the Heavenly and the Earthly — and they are not identical.
There is the Dragon Confederacy of seven heavenly dominions with their ten armies. This is a Confederacy of evil angels with Satan at their head (chap. xii).
The other Confederacy is of mortals who went down into the Abyss, and come up a superhuman Confederacy on the earth (chaps. xiii. and xvii).
Angels form the Confederacy under Satan in the heavens.
Superhuman men form the Confederacy under the Beast on earth.
These Confederacies are distinct from each other.
What we are told of the Beast in xvii. 4, concerns his relation to Babylon.
xvii. 4. And the woman (i.e., the great city, verse 18) was arrayed in purple (Judg. viii. 26. Est. i. 6), and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and precious stone and pearls, having a golden cup (Jer. li. 7) in her hand full of abominations and having the unclean things of her fornication:]
Again we must present the vision of this verse in terms of the interpretation:
4. And that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth (verse 18) was beautified with purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stone, and pearls, having a wondrous and attractive idolatrous system full of abominations, and having the unclean provisions for her idolatrous practices."
That great city is described as having all luxuries, combined with her idolatrous worship. The word "Abomination" is used of an idol (see 2 Kings xxiii. 13. Is. xliv. 19); and in the plural, of idolatry (see Deut. xviii. 9; xxix. 17; xxxii. 16. 1 Kings xiv. 24. 2 Kings xvi. 3; xxi. 2; xxiii. 24. So Ezek.. viii. 6, 9, 13, 15, 17; xi. 18; xiv. 6; xvi. 2; xx. 7, 8). Doubtless the idols and idolatry were so called, because of the uncleanness practised in their worship. Can we doubt that when we meet with the word here in Rev. xvii. 4, 5, we have the same idolatrous uncleanliness referred to?
5. And upon her forehead a name written, — a secret sign.] By printing (on its own authority) the word "mystery" in large capital letters, the AV. has made it appear as part of the name. The Revisers have followed this example, printing the name in small capitals instead of large. But they have, in the margin, said "or, a mystery, BABYLON THE GREAT," as though the word "mystery" did not form part of the title. We believe this to be the case, and we further believe that what follows the word "great" does not form any part of this "name," but is the Divine meaning and description of it.
So we read it, that she had a name written on her forehead — a secret symbol —
"BABYLON THE GREAT," the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth.] Written on the woman's forehead, it was a secret sign or symbol. It does not mean that she or any woman could be so described. But that, as the explanation of what the woman represented is deferred till the very last verse of the chapter, the meaning of the name was a secret, till it was then and there revealed that it referred to "that great city" (verse 18), and not to an individual woman, or to any human being.
The word (...) (musterion) means simply a
secret. It occurs in the Septuagint (280 B.C.) only nine times, of
the king's secret which had gone from him (Dan. ii. 18, 19, 27, 28, 29,
30, 47 (twice), and iv. 9). See also its usage in the Apocryphal books
in the same sense.348348
Ecclus. xxii. 22, "If thou hast opened thy mouth
against a friend, fear not; for there may be a reconciling; excepting
it be for upbraiding, and arrogance, and disclosing of a
secret, and a treacherous blow: for these things every friend
Ecclus. xxvii. 16, "He that revealeth secrets destroyeth credit: and shall never find a friend to his mind."
Ecclus. xxvii. 17, "Love thy friend, and keep faith with him; but if thou reveal his secrets thou shalt not pursue after him."
Ecclus. xxvii. 21, "A wound may be bound up; and after reviling there may be a reconcilement; but he that revealeth secrets hath lost hope."
2 Maccabees xiii. 21, "But Rhodocus, from the Jewish ranks, made known to the enemy the secrets of his countrymen."
Wisdom ii. 22, "And they (i.e., the wicked) knew not the secrets of God."
Wisdom xiv. 23, "Slaughtering their children...or celebrating secret rites."
Tobit xii. 7, 11, "It is good to keep close the secret of a king, but to reveal gloriously together the works of God."
Judith ii. 2, "Nebuchadonosor called together all his servants, and all his great men, and communicated with them his secret counsel (lit., the secret of his will)"; i.e., his plan as to the campaign on which they were about to set out. This expression is remarkable: to musterion tes boules. In Eph. i. 9 we have a similar expression: to musterion tou thelematos, the mystery of his will. The words for "will" are different. With Nebuchadonosor it means that which he willed because he had determined to do it. With God (Eph. i. 9) it means that which He willed because He desired to do it— i.e., His secret purpose, counsel, or plan. But the Greek Christian fathers used the word of any such sign, whether of words or actions. They spoke of the offering of Isaac as a musterion: i.e., a sign or symbol of the secret purpose of God concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. And they used it interchangeably with the words (...) (tupose) type; (...) (sumbolon), symbol, and (...) (parabole) parable.
The meaning of the word mystery, therefore, here in
Rev. xvii. 5, 7, must have this later signification which the word had
acquired. We give a few examples in a note.
So in reference to the Paschal Lamb he says, "the
mysterion therefore of the Lamb... was a type of
Speaking of Isaiah vii. 14, "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son," he says, "since this refers to the house of David, Isaiah has explained how that which was spoken by God to David, (...) (in a mystery), would actually come to pass. Perhaps," he adds, "you are not aware, my friends, of this— that there were many sayings written (...) (epikekalumenos) obscurely; or (...) (en parabolais), in parables; (...) (musteriois), for secret signs; or (...) (en sumbolois), in symbols, which the prophets who lived after the persons who said or did them expounded" (Trypho, c. 68). And others might be cited, but these will be sufficient to show us how the word mystery had, at that time, come to be practically synonymous with symbol. Perhaps secret sign would be express it; and this was the usage of the word when this Revelation was given to John. Hence, in this book, we must give the word this signification.
So here, in xvii. 5, 6, the woman's name is a secret sign; and refers to something much deeper than the name itself could convey. The name was the name, not of a woman, but of a city, "that great city," even Babylon. But it signified not merely the material city as such, but the vast system of idolatry connected with it. That is why the explanation of the secret sign follows "the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth." Not merely of Rome, or even Babylon (as a city), but "of the earth": i.e., the mother, or fountain-head of all the systems of idolatry which have since flooded "the earth" from that one great source; and of which Romanism is only a part.
This is the secret of "mystery of iniquity" referred to in 2 Thess. ii. 7.
Babylon was the fountain-head of all idolatry.
We have here two things, (1) the reality, which is that "great city," which will be seen by the uninitiated; and (2) the woman, which is the "secret sign" of what it means.
The picture of the woman, as described, may be regarded as the "drop-curtain." But the initiated are those who will be admitted behind it, and learn "the depths of Satan:" and, behind the scenes in his own great theatre, will learn what Satan's religion means as they "worship the Dragon."
The uninitiated will see only the curtain— the wonderful city. Compare Prov. ix. 13-18, where both are shown and may well be applied to the passage here.
Idolatry was no mere sin into which people gradually sunk; but it was the creation, by Satanic wisdom, of a mighty system, which he intended to us, and to lead up to his own worship.
Nimrod was used as the great founder of this marvellous scheme of Satan. Babylon was his city (Gen. x. 10). Would not Cain's city before the flood answer to the people of that day, the same end as Babylon did afterwards (Gen. iv. 17)? Each would be the capital of their respective idolatrous systems. The words "Cain went out from the presence of the Lord" are very significant. So is the name of Cain's city. He called it "Enoch," which means initiated. 350350 From the root (...) (chahnak), to initiate, to dedicate. The corruption of mankind spoken of in Gen. vi. must have led to abnormal forms, which would account for the half-human, or super-human beings, which became the Nephilim, the Rephaim, and Anakim of Scripture; the Titans of the Greeks. It would account for the worship of Ishtar, Isis, Ashtaroth, and all the abominations of spiritual harlotry.
We thus see how "that great city," Babylon, founded by Nimrod, was the source of all idolatry.
This is not true of Rome. Pagan Rome itself was only one system; one of the polluted streams from that corrupt source. Papal Rome is only another single stream. It is not possible that a part can be the whole! It is not possible that one of many streams can be the fountain-head of all streams. Was there no idolatry before Pagan Rome? Whence then came the worship of "Moloch" and "Remphan," and "Chium," in the wilderness (Acts vii. 43. Amos v. 25, 26); and the worship of Ashtoreth, the abomination (i.e., idol) of the Zidonians, and Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites, and Milcom, the abomination of the children of Ammon, which were introduced by Solomon (1 Kings xi. 5. 2 Kings xxiii. 11)? Was Rome the mother of these? The description here goes back to the origin of all the abominations of heathen idolatry. Rome's place in history makes this an absolute impossibility. It would be just as absurd to say that the Zionist movement of to-day was the source or the mother of the Jewish nation!
Just as impossible was it for the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar's day; and for the same reason. It does not date back far enough. We must go farther back, and find it in Gen. x. 8-10 and xi. 9. There we find it in the land of Shinar. Under Nimrod began the work in the spirit of Anti-christ; his object being to build a city, and make for his People a name, so that they might not be scattered. Babylon was founded in rebellion against God. Nimrod was "a mighty one on the earth" (Gen. x. 8). He called his city Bab-El. 351351 From (...) (babah), a gate, and (...) (El), God; in contrast with Bethel, the house of God. Some take this to mean the court or gate of God; for he, like his antitype, would fain thus exalt himself (2 Thess. ii. 4).
Others derive it from Belus, the name of the principal idol of the Babylonians. Sometimes written Bel (...). If so, Babel would mean — for Bel or of Bel.
In any case we are taken back to the fountain-head, and shown the source and origin of all idolatry. Nimrod is called a mighty hunter.352352 From (...) (tzud) to lie in wait. The Targum of Jonathan (an ancient Jewish commentary) interprets this to mean that he was a mighty rebel before the Lord. The Jerusalem Targum reads it as meaning mighty in sin, lying in wait to catch and overthrow men; drawing them away from the worship of the true God, as taught by Shem, to join that taught by Nimrod. Hence, his name became a proverb for any great rebel or Apostate. (Read Gen. x. 9).
It is equally impossible to interpret the words of Rome — and to say that this woman made "the inhabitants of the earth drunk with the wine of her fornication," i.e., made the whole earth partake of her idolatrous system. Neither of Rome, papal or pagan, can this be said. They both drank of her cup; but it is a perversion of all known history, to say that either of them was the tutor of all the nations; and an insult to common sense to apply this to "the inhabitants of the earth for more that 3,000 years before Rome was dreamt of." As Dr. Seiss well puts it, this wine "was already bottled and labelled before the first dispersion. [Gen. xi.]. It went with that dispersion into every country and nation under heaven. As a matter of fact we find it to this day among all the nations of the earth; affecting, if not controlling their thinking, their politics, their faith, and their worship. Not less than two-thirds of the population of the earth at this hour are Pagan idolators, drivilling under the same old intoxication which came forth from Nimrod and Babylon; whilst the great body of the other third is either Mohammedan, Catholic, Jewish, Infidel, or adherents of some tainted and anti-christian faith and worship. Nor is there a kingdom or government on the face of the whole earth at this hour which does not embody and exhibit more of the spirit of Nimrod than of the spirit, commandments, and inculcations of God. All the kings of the earth, and all the governments under heaven, have more or less joined in the uncleanness of that same old Babylonian Harlot who had defiled every spot and nook of the whole inhabited world, notwithstanding that God from the beginning set His seal of wrath upon it. The Jewish whoredoms, and the Papal whoredoms, and the Mohammedan whoredoms, and the whoredoms of all perverted Christian religionists, though not entirely letting go the confession of one only God, are still, in essence, the same old harlotry which first found place and embodiment on the banks of the Euphrates. It is the same old Babylon, and her harlot daughters, bearing rule or kingdom upon the dominions of the earth, and intoxicating the inhabitants thereof out of the wine of her fornication."353353 Dr. Seiss's Lectures on The Apocalypse, vol. iii., pp. 121-2.
It is indeed surprising how any mistake could have been made in the identification of this woman. For the Holy Spirit first shows us her very name upon her forehead. Then, in verse 18, He tells us as plainly as words can tell anything, that "the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth"; and chap. xvi. 19, as well as xvii. 5, identifies this city with Babylon. God says it is a "city." He does not say a system or a religion, but a "CITY."
Now, when the Vision is a "Woman"; and God tells us that He means by the woman "that great city," Is it legitimate for us to treat this again as another symbol, and say it is not the city He says it is, but another?
There is no limit to such a process as that. We may go on to say that Rome means London, and that London means some other place. Why not be content with the explanation which God has Himself given? instead of taking the solemn responsibility of saying that His explanation is no explanation at all; and that it means something else. We are not saying there are no symbols: We are not saying that Jerusalem is not called Sodom. It is; but God leaves us in no doubt as to what He says and what He means. That is one thing: but it is quite another thing when we treat His own interpretation of a symbol, as though it were only another symbol which is left for us to interpret.
It is not that we wish in any degree to minimise the awful abominations of Romanism. None can have a greater abhorrence of them than we have. We see in it one of the most filthy of all the streams that have flowed from Babylon; but we do try to rise above the level of "a Local Board" when we are dealing with God's account of how He is going to close His great controversy with Jew and Gentile, with Earth and Hell. Our survey must extend beyond the Tiber. We must see something beyond Protestantism and Romanism. These do not make up the whole history of the Universe, either in time or extent.
There are many other absurdities connected with the current interpretations, which we shall notice as we proceed further into this chapter, and consider the Divine interpretation there given of the Vision as a whole. There is one point, however, to be referred to here, and that is "the cup." It is "golden"; and hence, beautiful and attractive in appearance. The cup is one. This tells us that the corrupt streams which flow from this one fountain-head are all one in essence, and character, and effect. It is the religion originally instituted at Babylon, by Nimrod, at the instigation of Satan. (See Appendix).
It is seen in all the great religions of the world. They are all alike in substituting another God for the God of the Bible: a God, made either with the hands or with the imagination; but equally made. And a religion consisting of human merit. These things are common to all systems of false Religion, and unite them in one. True, some of the rivers from this corrupt source are great and mighty; others are in smaller streams, but their waters are one, and the cup is one. Those who say that this "cup" means the cup used in the Mass, furnish us with a good example of the value of all such interpretations. We have only to remember concerning this "cup," here, that all nations are made to drink of it; while the one great characteristic of the Romish "cup" in the Mass is that it is withheld from the people!
6. And I saw the woman (i.e., the great city, verse 18) drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and I wondered when I saw her, with great wonder.]
Here again we must express the Vision in the terms of the Divine Interpretation.
6. And I saw that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth (verse 18) drenched with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the Martyrs of Jesus: and I wondered when I saw the city, with a great wonder.
Here we have another reference to the martyrdoms which will take place during the time covered by the Apocalypse.
They are referred to also in chap. xiii. 7. Dan. vii. 21; xi. 7; xii. 1, 7.
The Psalms, also, connect these martyrdoms with the future "times of trouble" under the rule of the Beast:
"O God, keep not thou silence:
Hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.
For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult:
And they that hate thee have lifted up the head.
They take crafty counsel against thy people,
And consult together against thy hidden ones.
They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation;
That the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
For they have consulted together with one consent;
Against thee do they make a covenant. (Ps. lxxxiii. 1-5, RV.)
The Psalm then goes on to speak of a ten-kingdom confederacy similar to that which we have in Rev. xvii.
Psalm lxxix. also speaks of that same time.
"O God, the heathen (or nations) are come into thine
Thy holy temple have they defiled;
They have laid Jerusalem in heaps.
The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven,
The flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.
Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem;
And there was none to bury them. (verses 1-3, RV.)
That many martyrs — very many — have been killed at the hands of the Church of Rome, if not in the city of Rome itself, none can deny.
But these are not "ALL that have been slain on the earth" as martyrs. Myriads of martyrs for God and His truth were slain, as such, hundreds of years before Rome ever had a Pope. The "prophets" of the Old Testament were dead, and many had been slain as martyrs centuries before Rome existed, whether Papal or Pagan.
Rome, whatever may be her guilt in this matter, cannot be charged with "all" the martyrdom of the ages. All persecution can be traced up to false religion. False religion has ever been possessed of a persecuting spirit from the day that Cain slew his brother Abel; and Rome, as one of the largest streams from the Babylonian fountain of corruption, has slain her full quota, for which she is verily guilty, and will share in the judgment when "the cities of the nations fall." But not all the martyrs have yet been slain. Many passages in this books show us that the days of the coming Great Tribulation will fill up the measure of Babylon's bloodguiltiness. (See chap. vi. 9-11; xi. 7, 8; xii. 13, 17; xiii. 7; xviii. 24; xx. 4). The same future period of martyrdoms is prophesied of or referred to in the Psalms. (See Ps. ix; x; lxxix. 2, 3; xliv. 22; xciv. 5. Also in Dan. vii. 21, 25; viii. 27; xi. 33, 35). All these passages should be carefully read and noted. If these Old Testament passages do not speak of the same future time spoken of in the Apocalypse, to what period can they be referred? When they are read together they form one harmonious whole; but, if they are not rightly divided according to their respective dispensations, all will be, and cannot but be, confusion.
We come, now, to the Interpretation of this Vision (seen by John in xvii. 1-6) which is given to us by Divine inspiration.
We have seen the structure of both the Vision and the Interpretation. As the latter is very brief we may repeat it here.
Z | D | 7-. The Woman.
E | -7. The Beast.
E | 8-17. The Beast.
D | 18. The Woman.
We are struck with the gracious words of the Interpreting Angel. "I will tell thee the secret sign of the woman and the wild Beast" (verse 7). This being so, we are made independent of human interpreters, for God has sent and signified it to us by His special angelic messenger. In fact, we are, here, really placed on the same level as the Apostle John himself. No further explanation than this was given to him by the angelic interpreter. Therefore, we, in reading his words, have exactly what John had himself: no less and no more. Oh for grace and wisdom to understand his words!
7. And the angel said to me, Wherefore didst thou wonder? I will tell thee the secret (i.e., the meaning of the secret sign) of the woman, and of the Beast that carrieth her, that hath the seven heads and the ten horns] We have the promise, as shown by the structure (verse 7); and in the rest of the chapter (verse 8-18) we have the performance of the promise. The woman and the Beast are first mentioned in brief; and then the explanation is given in full, the order being inverted. First the Beast is explained, and then the Woman. Ten verses (8-17) are given to the former, and only one (verse 18) to the latter; so that the Beast is now, evidently, the more important of the two subjects.
We shall have to expand the member consisting of this longer structure concerning "the Beast," marked E. in the above structure.
E. xvii. 8-17. The Beast.
E | F1 | k1 | xvii. 8.
The Beast (His origin and history).
l1 | 9, 10. His confederates (the seven heads or kings).
F2 | k2 | 11. The Beast (further history).
l2 | 12. His confederates (the ten horns; their hour "with the Beast").
F3 | k3 | 13. The Beast (power of horns given to him).
l3 | 14-17. His confederates (their war "with the Lamb").
It will be seen from this Structure that the Interpretation of the Vision concerning the Beast (E. xvii. 8-17) consists of three pairs, the Beast alternating with his Confederates:—
F1 (8-10) gives the first pair.
F2 (11, 12) gives the second pair.
F3 (13-17) gives the third pair.
In order to understand the words of the Interpretation here given, it would be well if we could forget all that we have ever heard from man on this subject. We find even ourselves hampered at every turn by what we have learned from tradition. Not until we can divest ourselves of all traditional interpretations can we hope to understand the interpretation given us in these verses.
The Structure shows us that "the Beast" and his confederates are the two subjects with which we have to do. They are arranged in the form of a repeated alternation; and are given in three pairs.
If we keep these before us we shall be able to distinguish them as we proceed.
F1. xvii. 8-10. The first pair.
8. The Beast which thou sawest was, and is not; and is about to ascend out of the Abyss, and to go 354354 L.A. WH. and RV. marg. read (...) (hupagei), goeth, instead of (...) (hupagein), to go. into perdition: and those who dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose name355355 L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. read the singular number here. is not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the Beast; because he was, and is not, and shall be present. 356356 The reading of the AV. ("and yet is") arises from a different division of the two words in this place. All the best MSS. and Critical Texts read (...) (kai parestai), and shall be present, instead of (...) (kapier estin), and yet is. ] These three notes as to time (twice given in this verse), mark off for us, as clearly as possible, most important and significant points necessary to the interpretation.
The Beast is he who "hath the seven heads and the ten horns" (verse 7). The word "hath" refers to the ten horns equally with the seven heads. The seven are therefore contemporary with the ten.
In their mortal stage of being, the seven kings were successive. But that mortal stage is referred to in Daniel, not in Revelation.
In chap. xiii., the Beast comes up out of the Abyss, and is therefore, clearly, superhuman. During the first half of the week he is in his mortal stage. In the last half he is in his superhuman stage; for in chap. xiii. 3, he is seen as having been "wounded to death." But, here, in chap. xvii., we are taken back, and are further informed as to the past, present, and future of the Beast,
(1) He "WAS," in his mortal stage.
(2) He "IS NOT," for he (at the point of time to which the vision refers) had been assassinated: i.e., had "received his deadly wound," by which he was "wounded to death," and died (xiii. 3).
(3) He "SHALL BE PRESENT," for he "is about to ascend out of the Abyss."
This eighth verse therefore refers to the mid-career of the Beast; and the point of the vision is the moment between the mortal and the superhuman stages: i.e., between chaps. xii. and xiii.
In the ninth verse the previous mortal stage of the seven heads are spoken of. In that stage they were successive; but in their superhuman stage they will be contemporary.
We have already seen that the seven heads or kings are individuals; and that the Beast himself, when revived from the dead, will be "the eighth" king. We believe that all the confusion, and all the divergent opinions on this chapter arise from ignoring this simple fact, and from looking at these as kingdoms instead of "kings"; and as world-powers instead of individuals.
Moreover, further confusion has been introduced by taking the words of the interpreting angel (in verse 10) as referring to the time of his speaking to John; instead of, as in all other cases, as referring to the time of or stage in the fulfilment of the vision. In other words, the expressions "was and is not" (verses 8, 11), and "one is and the other is not yet come" (verse 10), are taken as referring to the moment when the angel was actually speaking to John.
But why not take it, as in all the other cases, as referring to the time when the vision shall be accomplished?
The words of the souls under the altar (chap. vi. 9-11) are regarded as spoken at the time when the fifth seal shall be opened. The cry to the rocks "Fall on us" will be uttered under the sixth seal. The angel himself states (verse 1) that the vision is the future judgment of that great city. When the present time is thus used in prophetic language it refers to the future time which is spoken of as being present, and not to the time when the prophecy was written or spoken.
We have seen, throughout, that this whole book refers to "the Day of the Lord." It is in that day that the Beast will be manifested in his superhuman form with his seven heads and ten kings. At the future point of time spoken of in verse 10, five of these kings will, as to their mortal stage, at that moment "have fallen" (i.e., have been removed by violent death 357357 The word, in the case of individuals, is always used of violent death. See Judge. iii. 25; v. 27. 2 Sam. i. 19, 25. Violence is also true of kingdoms. Isa. xxi. 9. Jer. l. 15; li. 8. Ezek. xxix. 5; xxx. 6. ); one of the kings (the sixth) will be reigning; and the seventh will not at that juncture have yet come. When he shall have come ((...), elthe) he will first overthrow the last three of the seven (Dan. vii. 8); but will remain only for the first half of the seven years, or thereabouts, in his mortal stage (xvii. 10); for he will then receive a deadly wound (by assassination probably), xiii. 3, and afterwards be brought to life by Satanic power, have his deadly wound healed, and become the "eighth" king. In his mortal stage he is the seventh head; but in his superhuman stage he is the eighth king.
All is thus intensely individual. Who the five kings will be, as to their mortal stage; or who the sixth will be, we know not; nor is it necessary for our understanding of the Vision. Who the seventh will be, we do know; for it is the Beast in his mortal stage, "the little horn" of Daniel's Visions. He will be in his superhuman stage, "the eighth" king — the final embodiment of Satanic power, whose doings are described in chap. xiii.
The ten kings of verses 12-17 are not successive in their mortal stage; they will be contemporary when they form an integrant part of the Beast. The seven heads and the ten horns, with the necessary members which go to make up the leopard, the bear, and the lion parts of the beast as an organised body, as shown in chap. xiii. 2, are all superhuman, all contemporary, have all passed through the mortal stage, and have all suffered the first death, so that afterwards they can altogether be "cast alive into a lake of fire," which is the second death (see chap. xix. 20).
It is well to remember that "the time of the end" (Dan. vii.) takes in the full extent of the Gentile Dominion. "The end time" (Dan. viii. 23) is the end of this "time of the end"; the Sunteleia or Consummation. While "The last days" (xi. 21) is the Telos, the crisis of "the end time."
The Sunteleia or "End-time," commencing immediately on the removal of the Church of God, may run into thirty or forty years; and of these, the last "week" of Daniel (ix. 27) will be the last seven.
This allows all the prophetic periods marked off in 42 months, 1,260 days, and 3 1/2 years, to be taken as literal months, days, and years, if we understand them as falling within these last seven years which form the crisis, and end up with the final judgment.
If the period referred to under the word "hour" (one and the same hour, or time) of xvii. 12 and of iii. 10 be the same as the 42 months, then this "day of vengeance" of Isa. lxi. 2 may be these 42 months.
The term kings and kingdoms are used interchangeably in Daniel. The kingdoms of Dan. ii. 37, 39, 40, 42, are spoken of as "these kings" in verse 44, and so elsewhere.
But in looking for them we must note four very great and important governing principles which will be a sure and certain guide in our understanding of this matter. They are these:—
(1) Israel and Israel's Messiah: in other words, God's Anointed, God's Land, God's City, God's People, form the great centre around which all prophecy circles.
(2) Jerusalem is also the centre of the points of the compass. East and west, North and South, are to be reckoned from Jerusalem, or from the standpoint of the writer: and not from that of the reader; or from any other astronomical or geographical arbitrary position.
(3) The "Heads" denote headship over the People, the City, and the Land of Israel.
(4) The world-powers or kingdoms of prophecy are reckoned only as they come into connection with, or into possession of, Israel's Land, and City.
In these four simple propositions we shall find the key to the understanding of the Vision and its interpretation.
The nations were originally formed with reference to Israel; for we are expressly told, in the wondrous "Song of Moses," that "when the Most High (the title that relates to dominion in the Earth) divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel" (Deut. xxxii. 8). The nations were not divided by chance; neither were the stars of heaven; for in Deut. iv. 19 it says "the Lord thy God divided them unto all the nations under the heaven."
Many nations are mentioned in the Bible; but only those are the subject of Divine history and prophecy which have relation to Israel; and even these, in proportion to the closeness and extent of that relation. For example, the monuments show us the large numbers of Dynasties and Kings, etc. there were in Egypt. But only those come into the Word of God which had to do with Israel. Many have been, and are, perplexed because of this Biblical silence as to the ancient kingdoms of Egypt and Assyria, etc.; but this great principle explains it. The Pharaoahs of the Oppression and the Exodus would never have been more than mere names but for their connection with Moses and Israel. "Pharoah, king of Egypt, is but a noise" (Jer. xlvi. 17) — a noise that is heard for a moment and then passes away. Such would Pharaoh (Ramases II. and Meneptah) have been but for Moses and Israel.
There were many kings of Egypt before Pharaoh; and many kings of Babylon all through the centuries; but they are mentioned only as they come into touch with Israel. The Bible ignores them all except on this ground. That is why it could be said to Nebuchadnezzar, "THOU are this head of gold" (Dan. ii. 38). This was said of him only in connection with the Counsels of God, and the People of God; for Nebuchadnezzar was not the head or first king of Babylon. It is of Nimrod that it is written, "the beginning of his kingdom was Babel" (Gen. x. 10). Nimrod was, historically and chronologically, the first king of Babylon, and there was a long list of Babylon's kings from that time before Nebuchadnezzar possessed its throne.
Why, then, after all that lapse of time, is Nebuchadnezzar singled out and spoken of definitely as the "head"? It can be accounted for only on the great principle which we seek to enforce, viz., that all Gentile history is ignored in the Bible, both as to kings and kingdoms, except as they stand and come into the Divine Counsels concerning Israel, and became "heads" over God's Land, and City, and People.
This being so, we have a limit set to our interpretation of the great Kingdoms or Heads in the prophecies given in Daniel and in the Apocalypse. These prophecies are concerned with them only within those limits.
Nebuchadnezzar and his father came into power, and made Babylon the new capital of Assyria in B.C. 625. 358358 See Babylonian Life and History, by Dr. Budge, of the British Museum. Published by the R.T.S., 1885. On this account, and because he was the first of the Gentile powers into whose hands dominion and headship over God's Land and City and People were given, it could be said of him, "Thou art this head of gold" (Dan. ii. 38). There is not a word here as to when he became the "head"; but the fact is declared as to this person that he, as the head of Babylon, was also the head of the Image, and, therefore, the head of Gentile supremacy.
The earlier history of Babylon is not taken into account. A new departure is made in reckoning when, in the Counsels of God, Nebuchadnezzar becomes the king of Babylon.
God sends him notification of the fact in that wonderful dream, where the great outline of this Gentile dominion over Israel's People, City, and Land is made known.
The Image in Dan. ii. is clearly marked as consisting of five parts:—
1. verse 32. "This image's head was fine gold,
2. verse 32. his breast and his arms of silver, (two)
3. verse 32. his belly and his thighs of brass, (three)
4. verse 33. his legs of iron (four)
5. verse 33. his feet part of iron and part of clay." (five).
This seems to be clear enough; only we have always been so accustomed to hear the fifth spoken of as part of the fourth, or the fourth revived, that we read the Scripture in the light of our tradition.
It is not any answer to say that Dan. ii. mentions only four Gentile Powers. Dan. ii. says nothing of the kind. It mentions "the fourth." That is not "four." The Original is not (...) arbag (four359359 As in Dan. i. 17; viii. 8, 22; x. 4; xi. 4. ); but it is (...) rebegahe (fourth360360 As in Dan. iii. 25; vii. 7, 19, 23. These are all the occurrences of both words in the book of Daniel. ). It is most important to note the difference between the ordinal number and the cardinal number. It nowhere says there were only four. On the contrary, the five are twice distinctly enumerated as being perfectly separate and independent. In verses 35 and 45 we have two separate enumerations of these five:
1. the iron,
1. the iron,
2. the clay,
2. the brass,
3. the brass,
3. the clay,
4. the silver, and
4. the silver, and
5. the gold.
5. the gold.
Here, the five are not only mentioned separately, as to their material; but diversely, as to their order; so as to distinguish "the clay" as being one of five, and not as part of the iron (the "fourth") as is usually done.
The same five kingdoms are equally clear in the interpretation:
1. verse 38. "Thou art this head of gold"
2. verse 39. "And after thee shall arise another kingdom..." (two).
3. verse 39. "And another, third kingdom..." (three).
4. verse 40. "And the fourth kingdom..." (four).
5. verse 41. "And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes..." (five).
We need not dwell long on the details of the fulfilment of this Image. They are well known, and belong rather to the book of Daniel than to the Apocalypse. We content ourselves with their enumeration:
1. The first of these Gentile Dominions was given by the God of Heaven to Nebuchadnezzar. It was formally taken from Israel and "given" to the Gentiles. Headship over Jerusalem (as well as over the Gentile powers) was that which specially marked that Gentile Power from all the other Gentile Powers that were, or might be, in the world at that time.
The Powers that followed Babylon successively held Jerusalem in possession; and each succeeded the other, by conquest, in obtaining and holding that possession.
2. The second was Medo-Persia.
3. The third was Greece.
4. The fourth was Rome.
5. The fifth was, either the present power, which succeeded Rome in 636-7, and is still treading down Jerusalem, thus fulfilling the Lord's prophecy in Luke xxi. 24; or, it is a yet future power, which is to be manifested in the Sunteleia after the Church shall have been removed: in which case the Lord's prophecy in Luke xxi. 24 would refer to some future treading down e.g., that mentioned in Rev. xi. 1, 2.
The common interpretation reckons the "feet and toes" as part of the "legs," and divides the fourth power into two manifestations: one past, and the other future. But, even in this case, the future manifestation of the fourth could still be called the fifth as to numerical order.
Surely, the mixture of "clay and iron" can no more be left out of our calculations than any of the other four metals.
But what this fifth power is remains to be seen. It is partly strong and partly fragile361361 This is the meaning of the Chaldee (...) (tevar). The word occurs nowhere else, though there are some sixty other words rendered break. ; i.e., there is in it "the strength of the iron," and the weakness of "potters' clay." There can be no real union between the two characteristics of this fifth kingdom. It can be merely a mechanical mingling like that of iron and potters' clay; for, it truly says, "iron is not mixed with clay" (verse 43).
On the one hand we have a fifth power which did actually succeed the fourth power, as the fourth succeeded the third, as the third succeeded the second, and the second succeeded the first.
Neither of these, so far as we know, ever exercised the universal dominion which was given at the first; but what marked the true succession was Headship over God's Land and God's City, while Israel was excluded from the place and power which had been transferred, and committed to the Gentiles.
When the Lord (in Luke xxi. 24) uttered that prophecy of the treading down of Jerusalem by the Gentiles (not "the nations"), the fourth Gentile power was exercising headship over the Land. To what treading down did He refer? Did He refer to the power which did actually succeed the fourth in 636-7? or Was He referring to a treading down that is still future? and Did He ignore and pass over the present treading down, which has lasted as long as all the other four put together?
Whatever answer we may give to these questions, all must agree that after the Church shall have been removed; and the time shall have come for steps to be taken to reinstate Israel in its own Land, there must necessarily be some Gentile power in possession.
The beginning of the Sunteleia must find some Gentile power exercising sovereignty over the City and the Land; and it cannot be denied that the present power now in possession may be the power found there when Israel comes into connection again with the Land.
Rapid and sudden national changes, of course, may take place any day in the near East. But whatever may happen, the power then in possession will be the fifth, referred to in Dan. ii. and in the angel's words, uttered at the particular point of the Day of the Lord referred to in Rev. xvii. 10, which will be true of the Gentile powers as well as of the individual "heads," or kings, which may arise in the new Jewish State, after its resettlement; and immediately prior to the covenant which Antichrist will make with Israel at the beginning of the Telos, or seventieth week of Dan. ix.
The Zionist Movement commenced with the first National Congress in 1896, and has made great strides since then. Other changes in the Balkan States, and in the Constitution of Turkey, which took place so unexpectedly in 1908, show us how suddenly a change may take place which will lead up to the re-settlement of the Jews in their own land, perhaps, at first, under the suzerainty of the Sultan; and prepare the way for the rise of the Beast, first, in his mortal stage as the seventh head, and then in his superhuman stage as the eighth king.
The dream was not given to Nebuchadnezzar until after his portion of it had been accomplished. The words, "Thou art this head of gold," were not uttered until some years after he had actually become the "head"; and many years after he acted as the "head," when he first came against Jerusalem.
It is clear, therefore, that the date of the dream and its interpretation is not the date from which our reckoning of the times of Gentile dominions is to commence; for they had already commenced, and that dominion was an accomplished fact at the time the dream was given.
It is also clear that the date of the taking of Jerusalem and burning of the Temple is not the commencement of "the times of the Gentiles," or of Gentile dominion; inasmuch as Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in the nineteenth year of his reign, and exercised a Suzerain power for many years before. For he first came against Jerusalem in the eighth year of Jehoiakim, and Jehoiakim served him three years (2 Kings xxiv. 1). Then his son Jehoiachin reigned three months — reckon it one year (2 Kings xxiv. 8), when Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem, and sent him a prisoner to Babylon in the eighth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings xxiv. 12).
Then Nebuchadnezzar set up Zedekiah as king in the place of Jehoiachin (his uncle), and for eleven years he reigned in Jerusalem (2 Kings xxv. 2); but having rebelled and sought to regain his independence (2 Kings xxiv. 20), Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem, and finally took it in his nineteenth year (being the eleventh of Zedekiah, 2 Kings xxv. 8). Not until the twenty-third year of his reign did Nebuchadnezzar complete the carrying away of the people (Jer. lii. 30). Now, if the Holy Spirit reckons the actions of Nebuchadnezzar, not by date of the year, but the year of his reign, we have a clear indication that we are to reckon the years in the same way, and say that "the times of the Gentiles" began with the first year of the reign of him of whom it was afterwards said, "Thou art this head of gold."
If so, then we have a period of at least twenty-three years cut off from, and marking the commencement of, these times of Gentile headship over the Land, the City, and the People.
Why may not the closing period of these Gentile times (called the Sunteleia) be marked by a corresponding or similar number of years (23 or more)?
We believe there is a double fulfilment; first in Kingdoms, then in Kings. There have been, up to the present, four kingdoms, as enumerated above (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome), then the fifth, present or yet future. The Kingdom of the Beast will be the sixth, and the seventh will be "the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ." The Kingdoms being reckoned distinct from the Kings.
So likewise, will there be at the time of the end (in the Sunteleia), five individuals who will briefly and successively contend for independence, and then the sixth (the "one is" referred to at the point of time of the Vision); he will be followed by the Beast, who will be "the seventh head" in his mortal stage for 3 1/2 years, and then "the eighth" king in his superhuman stage for the other 3 1/2 years (the last half of the seven years referred to in Dan. ix. 27).
There were three kings in Jerusalem who struggled for independence, and whom Nebuchadnezzar put down and punished. Why may not there be five individuals in the Sunteleia who will lead the Jews to struggle likewise for independence against the Mohammedan Suzerain power?
We read of "five kings" and the "sixth" in Rev. xvii. 10. Under these the Jews may rebel against the Suzerain power and finally "make a covenant" with the seventh, the Beast (Dan. ix. 27), in order to regain their complete independence.
This would of course be in the mortal stage of these five kings, and of the sixth as well as the seventh. The duration of the mortal stage of the Beast, as the seventh head, will be, we know, only 3 1/2 years.362362 And his superhuman stage will be for a similar period. The rise and fall of the other kings may also be of very short duration. A few years would suffice for the fulfilment of Rev. xvii. 10.
Dan. xi. shows how the Jews will be affected by him who in his mortal career is the first king of Syria: and then, on the rooting up of three of the kings, becomes the seventh head of Gentile power.
At the point contemplated in the Vision (Rev. xvii. 10) this fifth head will have fallen: The fifth head of Gentile dominion over Jerusalem; as well as the fifth of these last individual kings in their mortal stage. Thus a co-terminous point may mark an important epoch, for it is of the "sixth" king that it is said, at this juncture "one is." Of the "seventh," at that moment, it is said he "is not" but is then about to arise and "be present."
During the years of the Sunteleia, or consummation, there will be ample time for the Euphrates valley to be developed and Babylon to be rebuilt. That it will be rebuilt is necessitated by the fact that it has never yet been destroyed in the manner prophesied. The further evidence of this must be reserved till we come to chap. xviii.
One thing we know, and that is, that God will accomplish all that He has foretold; and, if we refer to present movements, it will be only to show how easily and simply all may come about; and so naturally too, as to be almost unnoticed except to those who "know the times."
With regard to the Beast, proper, we are further told in this verse, 8, that the Beast spoken of "shall ascend out of the Abyss and go into perdition." We see this ascending in chap. xiii. 1. This is the Beast in his superhuman stage. For John saw the mark of the wound on him. And John wondered. All shall wonder at this manifestation, and the object of that wonder is this Beast who "was, and is not, and shall be present." The world-powers are, when represented as "the Beast," always viewed as one. The Beast is never seen apart from his seven heads and ten horns; if so, they must be contemporary.
In chap. xvii. the Beast is seen as one individual, as well as collectively. The Dragon in heaven comprises seven heads and ten horns; but, when the one individual who directs all the movements of the Dragon Power is spoken of, Satan is referred to (chap. xi. 7; xiii. 5. Comp. Dan. vii. 11; xi. 36). The same is true when the one who is the executive head of the seven, and all the parts comprising the Beast is referred to.
At the close of his mortal stage, i.e., the first 3 1/2 years, he receives his death wound; and therefore at this stage, before he comes up out of the Abyss in his superhuman form, it can be truly said that he "was" and "shall be present." It could also, at the moment of time referred to by the Angel, be as truly said "and is not."363363 See Gen. v. 24, which explains this. As Enoch "was not" on the earth, but in heaven, whither he had been caught up: so it will be said of the Beast, he "is not" on the earth, because he will then have been cast down into the Abyss.
The "is not" does not mean that he never had an existence, for the very expression implies it; as it could not be used of one who never had any existence at all. Just as with Christ Himself, relatively, as regards the earth, it can at this present moment be truly said He was and is not, and yet shall be present here again.364364 Same as note above. But of course as regards Himself absolutely, "He was, and is, and is to come."
The following verse connects this Beast directly with the Beast of chap. xiii., for it is added
9-. Here is the mind which hath wisdom.] This repetition of xiii. 18 identifies and connects these two chapters. "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the Beast, for it is man's number" (See above, on xiii. 18). The word rendered "mind" in xvii. 9, and "understanding" in xiii. 18, is the same, viz. vous (nous). And this "wisdom" is, to understand that, though a "Beast" is seen in the vision, it is not a wild Beast that is meant, but one great final superhuman personality; viz., "a man" energized by Satanic power.
-9. The seven heads are (or represent) seven mountains on which the woman sitteth, (-10-) and they are (or represent) seven kings:] We translate the last clause thus, with Alford, RV., and others. The punctuation of the AV. in this verse is very faulty. Verse 9 should end with the word "wisdom," and the remainder of the verse should form part of the tenth verse.
The explanation of the angel would not then have been cut in two, and interpreted separately as is commonly the case; and the "seven mountains" would not have been treated independently of the clause which goes on to further explain what they signify. The "seven mountains" are, according to this, "seven kings." It does not say that "there are seven kings" over and above, and beside the "seven mountains;" but that the "seven mountains are (i.e., represent) seven kings." The seven heads belong to the Beast on which the woman sitteth. According to the structure of "E., 1.", verses 9, 10 have for their subject the confederates of the Beast. Now "mountains" cannot be confederates, but kings can. Hence, though the word "mountains" is used, it is at once explained that "kings" are meant, so as to keep us from making a mistake. Compare Zech. iv. 7.
These mountains, then, are no mere heaps of earth or rocks, but "kings." The word "mountain" is often used as a Figure (Symbol, or Metaphor, or Metonymy) for a kingdom. It is used of Babylon itself in Jer. li. 25, and of Messiah's kingdom in Dan. ii. 35.
For interpreters to take these literally as "mountains," in the midst of a context which the same interpreters take to be symbolic; and in the face of the interpretation actually given by the angel that "they are seven kings," is to play fast and loose with the word of prophecy. It says here that "they are seven kings," and we believe what is said.
The seven heads do not belong to any one of the world-Powers; for each kingdom had many such "heads" or kings.
They necessarily belong to all of them, and are viewed as one Beast, so that they may be seen as belonging to, and forming part of, the whole. That is why this Beast in chap. xiii. 2 is like unto a "leopard" (the third, Greece), and his feet as the feet of a "bear" (the second, Persia), and his mouth as a "lion" (the first, Babylon). He combines in himself the symbolic marks of the others.
The woman (i.e., that great city, verse 18) sitteth on many waters (i.e., reigneth over peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues, verse 15), and is seen seated on a scarlet coloured beast (i.e., carried and supported by all the kings and all the members which make up the body of the Beast. This will be the condition of things at the point of view referred to in the Vision. In this 9th verse we have a description of what will be at an early part of the first 3 1/2 years. It is the present tense, "IS SITTING," and is prophetic of what is now still future. It does not say has sat or did sit, but is now sitting, i.e., not at the moment when the Angel was interpreting it to John, but the moment when it will be actually taking place in "the day of the Lord." It is the woman (i.e., that great city, verse 18), upon which our attention is concentrated in this verse, and the support afforded to her at that time. All are contemporary with each other; joined together as the metals are joined to make up the figure of a man.
If in verses 9, 10, literal mountains be meant, then commentators are divided between Constantinople, Brussels, Jerusalem, and Rome.
The late Albert Barnes says, "All respectable interpreters agree that it refers to Rome; either Pagan, Christian, or Papal."
If this be so, then we must be content to be reckoned, with many others, among those who are not "respectable." Rome Papal cannot be meant, as it never had seven regal powers. Rome Christian cannot be meant, as it never had any regal powers at all. Rome Pagan cannot be meant, as no seven kings can be agreed upon by commentators; and it is to be destroyed by the stone of Dan. ii. 35, 45. See also Dan. vii. 26, 27.
Of these seven heads, or kings, it is added, that
-10-. Five are fallen, the 365365 The AV. does not translate the article, which forms part of the Textus Receptus, and G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit the (...) (kai), and. one (the sixth) is (at this stage of the Vision), the other (the seventh), is not yet come.] If this be interpreted of Gentile Dominion at the future point of the Vision referred to by the Angel; then, as to the dominions, the five will have fallen: (1) Babylon, (2) Medo-Persia, (3) Greece, (4) Rome, (5) Mohammedan. The sixth will be the Kingdom of the Beast, (7) the seventh will be the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
And as to the individuals, five of the seven (and the sixth) will have obtained sovereignty or independence for the Jews, and the way will be clear for the seventh to come in his mortal stage.
The seven are all of one series. How can the sixth be Rome, and thus be the Beast, and contain the whole, including the eighth!
If we interpret these kingdoms and kings in any other way, and on any other principle than that given above, we are at once landed in a mass of conflicting opinions and speculations that are perfectly appalling.
Alford gives us (1) Egypt, (2) Nineveh, (3) Babylon, (4) Persia, (5) Greece (with, of course, Rome for the sixth), and the seventh the Christian Empire under Constantine!
Others give us (1) Assyria, (2) Egypt, (3) Babylon, (4) Persia, (5) Greece, (6) Rome, (7) Future.
Others (Moses Stuart among them) give (1) Julius Caesar, (2) Augustus, (3) Tiberius, (4) Caligula, (5) Claudius, (6) Nero, (7) Galba. He also suggests beginning with Augustus, so as to make Nero the sixth; but in this case he defies all history, which makes Domitian the Emperor in John's day.
Others make (1) Romulus, (2) Numa Pompilius, (3) Tullus Hostilius, (4) Ancus Martius, (5) Tarquinius Priscus, (6) Servius Tullius, (7) Tarquinius Superbus.
Others, confining the list to those who died violent deaths, make it (1) Julius Caesar, (2) Tiberius, (3) Caligula, (4) Claudius, (5) Nero, (6) Galba, (7) Otho.
Another suggests (1) Pharaoh, (2) Sennacherib, (3) Belshazzar, (4) Antiochus Epiphanes, (5) Herod Agrippa, (6) Nero Caesar, (7) Napoleon.
These are all by "respectable" interpreters. But is not the confusion such as to make us regard this book with anything but respect? Which of these and many others are we to take as the meaning of the angel's words "five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come"?
With regard to Gentile power, why, we may ask, go back behind the beginning God has Himself set and given when it was said to Nebuchadnezzar, "thou art this head of gold"? (Dan. ii. 38).
Why go back to Egypt, Assyria, and Nineveh; or begin with Rome, when God makes the beginning at Babylon?
And with regard to individuals, Why make all the seven kings belong to one of the four world-powers, when the Beast represents the whole? If we confine ourselves to one — the fourth — it had many more than seven heads. And if we include all the "heads" or "kings" which the whole contained, then we have so many that it is quite impossible to do anything with them in connection with the interpretation of these prophecies.
The greater error has always been in making anything, rather than Israel, the pivot of the prophecies: and reckoning the points of the compass from any centre except Jerusalem, or the place where the Vision was seen, or the prophecy written.
There are other difficulties connected with the common interpretations of the fourth World Power, which makes Rome the whole Beast, and yet one of its heads at the same time. "Respectable interpreters" who make the whole Beast, Rome; make also one of its heads or kings to be Rome; and this one head afterwards comprises the ten kingdoms into which it is subdivided! Whereas the ten kings of Daniel are not identical with the ten of the Apocalypse, for the ten of Rev. xvii. never were kings in their mortal stage, for it expressly says in verse 12 that they "have received no kingdom as yet."
How anyone can hold that this one "head" afterwards comprises the ten kingdoms, it is difficult to understand. Territory may be divided into ten kingdoms, but the "head" cannot be.
The image of Daniel ii. was seen complete as it will be in "the end time," while as yet only the first of these powers was then existing, and all the others were future. So, in like manner, the image is to be viewed also as complete when the whole shall be combined in the Beast (and the seventh and eighth heads), though all the others will then be past. The stone falls on the feet of the image and destroys the whole image at one blow. The Beast as see in Rev. xiii. and xvii. combines the whole, and is destroyed at one stroke at the Apocalypse of the King of kings in Rev. xix.
It is important to observe that the Beast is never seen in the Apocalypse without the seven heads and ten horns, because they are then seen as being contemporary and in their superhuman form. But they were successive in their mortal form.
The Beast in Daniel has not got seven heads. He could not have unless they were contemporary, which is against the prophecy in Daniel. He has ten horns during the time when the seventh head becomes supreme.
The only solution of all these difficulties seems to be in the "eighth" king, who is regarded as "of the seven," and yet fulfils all that is said of "the fourth Beast" and of "the little horn" of Dan. vii. and viii.
(2) that within that duration the whole of unfulfilled prophecy concerning Gentile Dominion must find its place.
(3) that Dan. viii. gives the "end time" of that duration linked on to the earlier period in order to show its connection with the whole. And
(4) that Dan. xi. gives the "last days" of that "end time," but linked on to the earlier verses (xi. 1-4).
Thus we have the whole period of "the times of the Gentiles;" then, "the end time" of Gentile rule; and, finally, "the last days" of that rule.
What is said in Dan. vii. and viii is for the most part still future. It is seen in immediate connection with the setting of the throne of the Ancient of Days (Dan. vii. 9-27). "At the time of the end shall be the Vision" (Dan. viii. 17). It relates to "what shall be in the last end of the indignation, for at the time appointed the end shall be" (Dan. viii. 19). The prophecy relates to "the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full" (Dan. viii. 23; marg., are accomplished).
In Dan. vii. 17, 18, we are expressly told that "these great Beasts, which are four, are four kings which shall arise out of the earth, but the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom." Their rising, therefore, is at the time of the end, and they are "kings."
When it was said to Nebuchadnezzar, "Thou art this head of gold" (Dan. ii. 38), did he realise all that it meant? Did the sons of Abraham realise all the promises to Israel as to the complete possession of the whole Land? Just so with the Beasts of Daniel. In their mortal stage they failed (especially the fourth) to realise all the prophecies of it. But as Israel will realise all its prophecies in its second manifestation, so will it be with the Beast in its superhuman stage.
Rev. xvii. 10 fixes the point of the Vision, there referred to, as being just between the mortal and the superhuman stages.
"Five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come:
-10. and when he shall have come, he must remain a short time.] i.e., a short time compared with the others. We have a similar statement in xii. 12; where, when Satan is cast down, he had "great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
Seven years will be "a short time." Three-and-a-half will be still shorter.
Six "heads" will then have already appeared, both as dominions, and as individuals in their mortal stage. They will have gone down into the Abyss. At that point in the Vision the rise of the "seventh" head will be imminent as to his mortal stage. Then after three-and-a-half years will come his death; and then (after three to four days' public exposure), his re-incarnation.
The seventh head can be no person or king that has ever yet existed on the earth. We have no kingdom here, but a mighty and terrible king. He "falls" like the preceding six. He will be slain with the sword (chap. xiii. 3, 14), but he comes to life again; and then the last great superhuman ruler of "the kingdoms of this world" will stand revealed until he is destroyed by "the King of Kings." Everything will then have been prepared, and events will move with unparalleled rapidity.
The "Kingdoms" and the "Kings," in Dan. and Apoc.:
"HEADS" or "KINGS"
"The times of the Gentiles"
5. Clay (or Iron and Clay)
The Sunteleia, or "Day of the Lord."
1. The 1st Head.
2. The 2nd Head.
3. The 3rd Head.
4. The 4th Head.
5. The 5th Head.
("Five are fallen")
6. The 6th Head.
("one is"; "the other is not yet come")
"The Great Day of the Lord" (The last
6. The Kingdom of the Beast
7. The 7th Head (Mortal Stage)
("who was, and is not, and shall be present" as the 8th King.)
"The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord"
8. The 8th King. The Beast. (His superhuman stage).
7. "The Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ."
The above refers to Headship over God's City, People, and Land. It does not, therefore, include the "Ten Kings" or "Kingdoms," either of Daniel or Revelation, which are outside the Land.
The eleventh verse brings us to the second pair of members which interpret the Beast and his Confederates. Chap. xvii.
verses 8-10 give the first pair;
verses 11, 12 give the second pair;
verses 13-17 give the third pair;
See the Structure above.
F2. xvii. 11, 12. The second pair of members.
11. And the beast that was, and is not, even he himself is an eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.] We must carefully note that which he is commonly spoken of as "the eighth head," he is not so called in Scripture. There, he is known only as "an eighth" king. We have in this verse (according to the Structure) the further history of the Beast.
In verses 8 and 11 we have the two stages of the Beast's career clearly distinguished. In chap. xiii. 3 John saw what had already happened before xiii. 1, in the mortal stage of the Beast, before he came up out of the Abyss. John saw what had caused the Beast to go down into the Abyss. And when John saw him "coming up," he observed (xiii. 3) one from among his heads as having been slain.
In his mortal form he runs his career during the first part of the week (Dan. ix. 27; the "forty and two months" of Rev. xiii. 5). During this period God's two witnesses (xi. 3) are the Divine testimony on earth.
When they shall have finished their testimony, or immediately before the fulfilment of their mission, the Beast (in his mortal form) is killed. He receives his deadly sword-wound (xiii. 3), and comes to life again; he comes up out of the Abyss (xi. 7), makes war on the Two Witnesses, and runs the rest of his career in his superhuman form (xiii.—).
He is the first called "the Beast" in this book, in Rev. xi. 7.
He is "of the seven." That is to say, he is the 7th in another (his 8th, or superhuman) form. And though he is "an eighth" king, there are not really eight, but only seven, for the seventh and eighth are the same personage; therefore, it is said that the eighth is "of the seven."
Roughly speaking, the mortal stage would fill the first half of the last of "the seventy weeks" (i.e., the first 3 1/2 years of Dan. ix. 27); and the superhuman stage would occupy the last half. But there is nothing to show us what length of time will run between his rise and his assassination. Neither can we say exactly how long the time will be between his death-stroke and his reappearance. We suppose the later would not exceed four days.
Then, immediately upon his resurrection, he kills (crucifies?) the Two Witnesses (ch. xi.). Consequently, their 1,260 days must just overlap into his 42 months. They must have witnessed, therefore, for nearly 1,260 days during his mortal stage, before his assassination.
It would appear that he is on the scene, entering into various political affairs, before he is actually manifested as the 7th head, i.e., the Anti-Christ. The "League" of Dan. xi. 23 appears to be made before the "Covenant" of Dan. ix. 27. The "League" is one of the first steps he takes to mix himself up in the Jews' affairs.
The "Covenant" of Dan. ix. 27 seems to be a subsequent advance upon that. The Covenant would mark the beginning of the seven years.
During the first half of the week (in which the seventh head runs and completes his mortal career), God's Two Witnesses (ch. xi. 3) are the proclaimers of the special Divine Testimony on the Earth. Just before the completion of their Testimony the Beast is killed. His mortal stage is thus ended. When he comes to life again, he comes up from the Abyss and makes war upon them, and upon all who will not worship him.
As to the heads: In their mortal stage they are only seven, and are successive. But in their superhuman stage they are still seven (xiii. 1 and xvii. 7), and they are collective in the one — the wild Beast.
This verse thus contains further particulars about the Beast already mentioned in verse 8. And now, in verse 12 we have the confederates again.
12. And the ten horns which thou sawest are (i.e., represent) ten kings, who have not yet received a kingdom; but they receive authority as kings at one and the same hour with the Beast] (i.e., at the same time or season. See chap. xiv. 7, 15; xviii. 10, 17, 19. Matt. xiv. 15; xviii. 1. Mark vi. 35. Luke i. 10; xiv. 17. 1 John ii. 18. John v. 35. 2 Cor. vii. 8. Philem. 15). These ten kings, in their mortal stage, were not actually kings; but now, in their superhuman form, they are contemporary, and receive power at one and the same time with the Beast. Popular phraseology always speaks of them as "ten kingdoms." No wonder they cannot be identified or prognosticated, for the Scripture says nothing about "ten kingdoms," but always "ten kings." The substitution of "kingdoms" only introduces confusion. The verse would then read "They are ten kingdoms, which have received no kingdom as yet, but receive authority as kingdoms." This is absurd as well as confusing.
They are seen as kings only in connection and company with the last or eighth king. We know not who or what these ten kings may be. They are not the "kings of the earth" mentioned in verse 18; for these are subordinate to the ten of which this verse speaks.
On the first emergence of the corporate wild-beast out of the Abyss, the woman (i.e., the great city), Babylon) is supported by it (or as it is expressed, "she sits upon it"). But she is not true to this new and superhuman power. She intrigues with "the kings of the earth" (mortals) while the Beast out of the Abyss is supporting her. As Henry VIII. dealt partially with the Roman Church in England, so will the Beast deal with Babylon universally. He will confiscate her revenues, appropriate her real estate as well as personality. The city, thus "stripped" will be wholly in the hands of this superhuman power (chap. xviii.), and filled with evil spirits, until a mighty angel from heaven completes the destruction.
F3. xvii. 13, 14. The third pair of members.
13. These have one mind (i.e., the same view, intent, and consent), and give up their power and authority unto the beast.] Not only are they contemporaneous as to time, but they are of one accord as to purpose. This will be something very different from a so-called "concert" of Europe. Never were any ten kings found of one accord. It is powerful spirit-influence that brings about this unanimity (ch. xvi. 14).
14. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them: because he is Lord of lords and King of kings; and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.] Here is the war for which the demons go forth to gather the kings of the earth together. Two reasons are assigned for the result of this war. The glory of the King, and His own chosen forces. The battle is prophesied in xvii. 14, but not fought till chap. xix.
15. And he saith to me, The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot (i.e., "the great city") sitteth, are (i.e., represent) peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.] This commences the second division of the Angel's interpretation of the Vision. It is indicated by the words, "And he saith to me," repeated from the commencement of the first division in verse 7. The woman represents "that great city." Babylon is thus addressed (Jer. li. 13): "O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come." How this can be interpreted of Rome we know not; for it is not the vision we have here, but the interpretation of it.
We ask our readers to compare the following passages as here arranged in parallel columns. The first column contains the passages from the Old Testament, and the other from the Apocalypse. Both are distinctly said to concern Babylon. We recognise no authority, however "respectable," which assures us that these passages all refer to Rome:
Rev. xvii. 18 & xviii. 7, 8
Jer. li. 6, 45; l. 8
Jer. l. 15; li. 24-29
16. And the ten horns which thou sawest, and 366366 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. read (...) (kai) and, instead of (...) (epi), upon. the beast, these shall hate the harlot (i.e., that great city), and shall make her desolate and naked (i.e., shall loot the city and strip it), and shall eat her flesh (i.e., take possession of her treasures), and shall burn (i.e., the city) with fire.] How a false system of religion, Papal or any other, can be thus treated we cannot understand. The reading "and," instead of "upon," is very important. It associates the hatred of the eighth king with that of the ten, instead of making him distinct in this hatred, and separate from this war. The word "these" links them all together. The words "these" is masculine, while "the horns" and "the beast" are neuter. It is the figure called Syllepsis, by which the concord of the pronoun is logical rather than grammatical.
The Beast himself will be at the time in occupation of the City, while the Ten Kings are exercising their authority each in his own part of the world; and that, just as the Papacy exercises its authority in many lands — so the woman's agents do the same, with this difference: that in all the kingdoms of the world the (mortal) "kings of the earth" are committing fornication with this woman i.e., are one in religious intrigue and confederacy. Babylon sits upon many waters: i.e., "peoples, multitudes, nations, tongues:" among all these Babylon is religiously a-whoreing.
Above "the Kings of the Earth," (mortals), reign "the Ten Kings." The whole earth is divided to them. For a little while (till they shall have secured a firm position) they will support the woman. As soon as they feel themselves to be secure, then, in all these "peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues" they begin to make war with her simultaneously: the Beast (the last king of Babel in Babylon) and the Ten Kings in their respective parts of the world. So that, in every nation, people, tongue, and multitude, the merchants of the earth can stand afar off and bewail the destruction of the woman. For there will be an auto-de-fe among all the peoples by whom the woman has been supported.
For this destruction compare the passages from Jeremiah given above; and compare them with its execution in Rev. xviii. 8. The reason of this is given in the next verse.
17. For God put it (lit., gave it) into their hearts to carry out (lit., to do) His mind, and to carry out their own mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast until the words of God shall be accomplished.] Apparently it is Satan's work, but God is over all, and He "shall send them strong delusion" (2 Thess. ii. 11. Compare Is. x. 7). They carry out their own wilful desires, but blindly fulfil the counsel of God.
They give their kingdom, not kingdoms. They transfer no territory, for all the kingdoms are one under the Beast which shall "devour the whole earth."
Just as the Beast is one, though composed of many individual superhuman beings; so will the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ be one, though there will be in it many kings and principalities and powers.
These "ten kings" give their royal power. But there is a limit to it all, and that limit is expressed in the words "the true sayings of God," to these all must come: beyond these none can go.
We now come to the end; to the interpretation concerning the woman: the final statement which sets the whole matter at rest.
D. xvii. 18. The Woman.
18. And the woman whom thou sawest is that great city, which exerciseth sovereignty over the kings of the earth] viz., those who have been so called in xvi. 14.
Babylon is the city named in verse 5, but its destruction, as prophesied in chap. xviii., is very different from that of which Jeremiah speaks. Other cities have been suggested, and even England has been added to the interpretations, because of its union of Church and State. Though how it can be a city we know not.
The revival of Babylon is prophesied in Zech. v. 1-11, 500 years before the Christian Era. The lawless woman there, answers to the great harlot here, and the angel says it was intended "to build it an house in the land of Shinar; and it shall be established and set there upon her own base." "The land of Shinar" carries us back, not to Italy, England, or Palestine, but to Babylon and to Gen. xi. 2-9 and Dan. i. 1, 2. That prophecy has never yet been fulfilled. Babylon is to be the last of the powers of the earth to drink the cup of Divine wrath in the day of the Lord (Jer. xxv. 17-26). "All the kings of the earth: and the king of Sheshac (i.e., Babylon) shall drink after them."
The common interpretation of Zech. v. will hardly bear examination: and it is certainly an error to suppose that Rev. xviii. is commercial. Babylon in Rev. xviii. is a buyer and not a seller. It is not an exchange of merchandise. And with respect to Zech., commentators seize upon the measure and weight.
The Ephah is a measure of capacity, dry measure say for grain. As grain is put into a measure, so the sinner will be collect in a heap. Are not these the thieves and perjurers of the previous vision? When the leaden lid is lifted up there is seen a woman sitting in the measure. The woman, it says, is "wickedness," not "commerce." She is not permitted to get out of the measure. The lead is put back again. It seems to have been lifted just to let the prophet see what was inside. The Ephah, with its contents, is not suffered to remain in the Land: it is carried into the land of Shinar. This looks more like the expulsion from Palestine of "wickedness" or reprobates, thieves and perjurers, possibly at the time when the Two Witnesses are on the earth.
It suggests, not commerce, but rather the worst kind of financing maintained by thieving and perjury (Zech.v. 1). So intense is the "wickedness" that a "flying roll," of the same dimensions as the porch of the Temple, goes forth as a curse, showing that the wicked will be judged by Temple measurements.
This is hardly the place to go into the prophecies of Zechariah. But all are too ready to follow a plausible tradition, without independent study of God's Word.
We are all agreed that Zech. v. is future; and that it concerns Babylon. But the question is, Does "lead" (no matter of what weight) ever represent money? And does not a "woman" represent a religious system, rather than commerce?
Jerusalem, we know, is to become a great city, the joy of the whole earth. But, before that comes to pass, Babylon also will become a great city; the astonishment, but the curse, of the whole earth.
We have more than once referred to and spoken of the revival and rebuilding of Babylon. Many laugh at the very idea. But if they will not listen to the clear teachings of the word of God, will they listen to what man says? If they deem this revival as unlikely or impossible, judging by the standard of their own imagination, what will they say to the following, from The Daily Express (London), Jan. 28, 1902? It is not speculation, but news, which is given us under the heading of "Germany's Great Railroad": and the sub-title "Some facts about the grand Mesopotamian railway scheme," by William Durban. He says,
"An immense revolution is likely to be brought about in the Near East within the next decade. The shriek of the locomotive will in a few years be heard echoing over the salt marshes, bituminous plains, and magnificent higher and more fertile tracts, which make the vast Mesopotamian plain between the Euphrates and the Tigris the most curious mosaic of landscape in the world.
"It is startling to think of this coming raid of the engineers into the cradle of the world's most ancient civilisation. Abraham's native country is to be invaded by horded of navvies, and all along the western bank of the mighty historic Tigris will gleam the twin steel riband which will bring the whole length of the effete Empire within the grip of European influence.
"A Resurrection of Babylon."
"The Kaiser has undoubtedly scored. When in December, 1899, it was announced that the German Anatolian Railway Company had received a concession from Adbul Hamid for the construction of a railway from Konieh to Bagdad, it was generally felt that the scheme would hang in the air for at least a generation. But the German Emperor is a model man of business, who has posed of late as the Sultan's 'only friend.' He did not for nothing organize, by means of a splendid squad of military officers, that Turkish army which crumpled up the Greek legions at Domoko and everywhere on the Thessalian plains. The new Irade settles the affair.
"It is a favourite thesis with the people who ponder over prophetic mysteries that both Babylon and Nineveh are to be resuscitated in more than the ancient glories of Nebuchadnezzar and Sennacherib. Who can tell? It is certain that the Kaiser entertains the dream of founding a magnificent empire in the Near East. He is going to work in the way which is like to follow up his sermon at Jerusalem by practical results...
"Few people realise the magnitude of the Sultan's Asiatic dominions. They form the most important section of the earth's surface in connection with the international political situation of the near future. The Eastern Question only sleeps, and its slumbers are very uneasy."
With this comes the news that this Railway is to be begun at once (1902), in five different places: and that Edison has invented a new cement which will enable houses to be built in three or four days!
For ourselves, we need no evidence of this kind; but it clearly shows that what we regard as certain, from God's Word, is not altogether impossible from man's point of view.
This is the third and last of the three great divisions of the Sixth Vision "on earth" (chap. xvi.—).
The first we lettered V. chap. xvi., The Great Judgments.
The second, we lettered W. chap. xvii., The Great Harlot.
The third we are now to consider is X. chap. xviii., The Great City.
The last verse of chap. xvii. closed it by giving the interpretation of the woman as being "that great city." Though the woman is the first thing mentioned in that chapter, yet her interpretation is left till the end, so that the mention of the city may lead on to the account of its destruction, which is the subject of chap. xviii. In chap. xvii. we have the conflict about that great city in which the seven heads, and ten kings, and "the kings of the earth," and the Beast ("the eighth" king), all take part. But now, the city itself is to be judged as a city.
Its fall had already been prophetically fore-announced in preliminary and general terms (xiv. 8). But the seventh Vial has since been poured out, and the city has already been shaken to its foundation (xvi. 17-21). Its final judgment and utter extinction, however, yet remain to be accomplished. And the description of this is now to be given in chap. xviii.
Many who see Rome in some form in chap. xvii., yet find Babylon, literal, in chap. xviii. But where is the authority for making such a vital separation between the subjects of the two chapters? There is no indication of such a marked distinction, either in the Text, or in the context.
It is perfectly well known that Rome was never either "great" or commercial. It is no Port; and no "shipmaster" goes thither. Babylon itself was never "suddenly" destroyed, as this city will be. The suddenness of its destruction is the one dominant feature of this chapter. True, Babylon has come under judgment which is the subject of this and other prophecies concerning her (Is. xlvii. 11 Jer. li. 8). Nothing in history is known to have thus happened to Babylon. And besides, it is prophecy, and not history, which is given to us in this chapter: something that was to happen after this Revelation was given to John. But nothing like this has happened, before or since. So that if Rome be the city, Rome must yet become the great political and religious centre; with port and harbour. And it is quite as difficult to believe in this revival of Rome, as to believe in the revival of Babylon. In either case it is a question of revival. Babylon was not suddenly destroyed. She has gone down in gradual decay, but her history is known, and her ruins stand to-day. Arabs pitch their tents there. It is not the "abode of dragons," as it is yet to be after its sudden destruction (See Is. xiii. 9, 12. Jer. l. 3). There was a church there in Peter's day (1 Peter v. 13). There is to this day a governor of the land, who collects the taxes and customs for the Turkish government.
It does not fulfil the conditions described in Jer. l. 1-4, 28, 40, 41, 46; xxv. 12; li. 3, 6, 26, 27, 29, 43. Is. xiii. 20, where it is said that it is to be "perpetual desolations," "where not man dwelleth," "empty without inhabitant." The above references need not be quoted in full. They have only to be read to convince the reader that they have never yet been fulfilled: This being so, we have the fulfilment of them described in this chap. xviii.
The Structure of the chapter, as a whole, is exquisite; and its symmetry is perfect.
It is composed of a Repeated Alternation of six members; three concerning Babylon and its people (F); and three concerning God and His people (G).
The three concerning Babylon's judgment are (1) The Proclamation of it, (2) The Reasons for it, and (3) The Manner of it.
The three concerning Babylon's people are (1) Their Sin, (2) Their Lamentation, (3) Their Silence.
The Three concerning God's people are (1) Their call to come out of her, (2) Their call to Rejoice over her, (3) Their blood found in her.
We shall have little to do or say regarding this chapter, beyond giving the Structure, and the Translation.
The Structure of chap. xviii. is as follows:—
X. chap. xviii. The Judgment of the Great City.
X | F1 |
m1 | 1, 2. Babylon's judgment. Announcement of it.
n1 | 3. Babylon's associates. Their sin.
G1 | 4. God's people. Their call to "Come out of her."
F2 | m2 | 5-8. Babylon's judgment. Reasons for it.
n2 | 9-19. Babylon's inhabitants. Their lamentation.
G2 | 20. God's people. Their call to "Rejoice over her."
F3 | m3 | 21. Babylon's judgment. Manner of it.
n3 | 22, 23. Babylon's inhabitants. Their silence.
G3 | 24. God's people. Their blood "found in her."
This is the manner in which this solemn chapter is constructed for us, and presented to us.
Every part brings out its perfection, and apprises us of the Divine source of Babylon's judgment; and of the Divine authority and truth of its prophetic declaration.
m1. xviii. 1-3. Babylon's judgment announced.
1.367367 L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit (...) (kai) and. After these things I saw another 368368 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. add (...) (allon) another. angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was lighted up with his glory.] This was another angel, and not the one who had been speaking to John in chap. xvii. The Vision is still "on Earth"; hence, John sees this angel coming down out of heaven. Interpreters seem as anxious to make this, and other of the angels, to be the Lord Jesus, as they are to make all else to be the church. There is no occasion to go beyond the simple understanding of the words. This was no ordinary angel; for he was invested with great power and glory.
Fallen, fallen 370370 Tr. omits the second "fallen;" A. includes it in the text, but puts it in brackets. is Babylon the great, and is become a habitation of demons (see Isa. xxiv. 14, especially in lxx), and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird.
n1. xviii. 3 Babylon's Associates.
3. because all the nations have drunk of the exciting wine371371 L. and A. omit "the wine;" Tr. and WH. put it in brackets; the RV. puts it in the margin. of her fornication and the kings of the earth committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth waxed rich through the power (or abundance) of her luxury."]
This identifies this city with that of chap. xvii. We have the same wine and the same idolatries and the same "kings of the earth." But, in addition to these, we have the announcement which implies that Babylon will become the headquarters of Spiritism, the habitation of demons, and the hold and home of every unclean spirit. As a cage is full of birds, so will Babylon be full of evil spirits and demons, controlling the great apostasy at its fountain head.
It seems impossible to miss the clear marks of identification which are given in verse 3.
If we look at these two chapters carefully, we fail to find the distinction so persistently affirmed. Some one states a thing as a fact; and then others think they see it. There is no such thing as "Mystic Babylon." The Babylon mentioned in chap. xvii. is the same as that of chap. xviii. It is the "Woman" which is a secret symbol or sign. But that means only that we are not to take it literally as a woman, but as "the great city," as is explained in verse 18. Her name is clearly written on her forehead "Babylon the great." What is there "mystical" about this, in the sense of mysterious? Nothing. It means, as we have seen, a secret sign, but that refers to the "Woman" as being the sign or symbol of the "city."
The war which is waged concerning that city in chap. xvii. tells us of its necessary revival. Chicago was once burnt, but in a very few years was entirely rebuilt. The difficulty arises from supposing that all these wonderful events are to be crowded into seven years, and no more. Whereas, after the "calling on high" of Phil. iii. 14, and the Parousia of 1 Thess. iv. and the "meeting of the Lord in the air," and the "gathering unto Him" there, there is practically, so far as we are concerned, no limit to the time which shall elapse before the actual Apocalypse of the Lord as "the King of Kings" (chap. xix.). Several events have to take place before the first half of the last seven years (Dan. ix. 27).
The "end time" of Daniel is longer than this first half of the week, and commences before it.
It begins with the appearance of the four Greek kings of Dan. vii. 17, 23.
According to Dan. xi. 5 (RV.), the King of Egypt precedes the king of the North. So that until this king of the North appears we have not reached the "end time."
There are three kings of the north. First, the one who, before his accession, was one of the princes of the king of the South. This first king is engaged in many wars, which must occupy some considerable time. Upon his death he is succeeded by the one (Dan. xi. 20) who becomes "the seventh head," referred to in the Apocalypse as having been slain to death.
From the rise of the first king of the North to the assassination of the one who is the seventh Head, appears the be the "end time"; and this includes the first-half of the last seven years.
Upon the coming up of this seventh head from the Abyss as the eighth king, he immediately stops "the daily sacrifice."
From this point to the end is the 42 months of Rev. and the "last days" of chap. x. 14, which belong to Dan. xi. 31 to end.
The Sunteleia corresponds to the "end time" of Daniel.
If the length of this Sunteleia should be, say, 33 years, then the Telos would be the last seven years, making them 40 in all.
Nothing whatever is said as to the length of this interval. But the analogy of the two Advents leads us to the belief that there will be a considerable period; and the end of "the times of the Gentiles" may be similar to their commencement.
When Nebuchadnezzar first took Jerusalem, it remained for some twenty to thirty years, during which he set up and put down kings there (see 2 Kings xxiv., xxv. Jer. xxxiv.—). It was not till the close of that long period that he finally burnt the City and the Temple and deported the people to Babylon. So it may easily be again. There may be thirty years or more from the rise of the Zionist movement, which will bring the Jews into a quasi national existence, before the last seven years which shall fulfil the prophecies of Dan. ix. 27.
So that, from this point of view, time is no difficulty to our believing that the ten kings may burn the city (xvii. 16), and yet that it may revive and be destroyed suddenly, as in chap. xviii. The difficulty is not removed by the other interpretation; for how can anything "mystical" be burnt with fire?
The Babylon, then, of this chap. xviii. is the Babylon of chap. xvii. and of all the other chapters which speak of her origin, her character, and her destiny. The "Kings of the Earth" did not thus become partakers of the idolatries of Pagan Rome: neither did the merchants of the earth wax rich through the merchandise of Papal Rome: nor were her adherents and votaries confined to "merchants" and "kings."
This is literal Babylon; and before the Lord's advent (or Apocalypse), as described in chap. xix., takes place, she will have arrived at t his height of idolatry and luxury.
It is strange that, in spite of all this, commentators still cling to the traditional interpretation that Babylon means Rome. Even Alford, after saying "Rome never has been, and from its very position never could be, a great commercial city," adds "I leave the difficulty unsolved." So there is a "difficulty"; but we submit that it is of the commentators' own creation. There is no difficulty if we believe what God says. But so loth are expositors to do this, that Alford says again "the details of this mercantile lamentation far more nearly suit London, than Rome, at any assignable period of her history."
We believe that it is Babylon revived and restored (as other cities have been), and that this state of magnificence will characterise her in the day of the Lord's Apocalypse.
Hence, the final announcement of her then impending judgment is followed by God's call to His people to come out of her.
G1, xviii. 4. God's people. Their call to come out of her.
4. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying
"Come out of her, My people, That ye may not partake of her sins, And that ye receive not of her plagues.]
There is no need for us to take this angel as being Christ. He speaks in the name of God, as in chap. xi. 3. His cry is a warning summons to God's people who will then be on the earth. The church will have been taken up some years before. And there will be others also who will have been safely caught up, and will give forth the rejoicing cry foretold in Rev. xii. 10. We have seen them in chaps. vii., xiv., and xv., "standing before the throne," and upon mount Zion. But the "remnant of her seed" i.e., Israel's seed (chap. xii. 17) will have been taken to Babylon (Micah iv. 8-10); and to them, this warning cry is given. We need not wonder at many of them being found in Babylon; for, where merchandise is to be sold there will these be gathered together. It would be strange were it otherwise.
And this is exactly what is foretold in Jer. l. There the destruction of Babylon is foretold; for it is "the word that the Lord spake against Babylon" (Jer. l. 1). We have not yet heard of any commentator who thought Jeremiah prophesied this of Rome, or of any city except the literal Babylon.
Then, immediately after the announcement "Babylon is taken," we read "In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come; they, and the children of Judah together, going and weeping; they shall go and seek the Lord their God" (verse 4). "MY PEOPLE hath been lost sheep" (verse 6). To these the call will go forth, "Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldean," (verse 8). And again, "Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul (i.e., let every man save his life): be not cut off in her iniquity: for this is the time of the Lord's vengeance"; he will render unto her a recompense (Jer. li. 6, and compare Rev. xviii. 6). And again, "MY PEOPLE, go ye out of her, and deliver every man his soul from the fierce anger of the Lord" (Jer. li. 45).
Israel, as a nation, now repents (Jer. l. 4, 5). Therefore she is no longer "Lo-Ammi," "not my people." Hence this call is made "Come out of her, MY PEOPLE."
This cannot refer to any but to the literal Israel, and to the literal Babylon. No such heavenly call ever went forth to any Christians in Rome. Nor did they come forth as a body. They have been slaughtered there; but that is a very different thing.
In the sentence, "have no fellowship with her sins," the word "sins" is put by Metonymy for the judgment brought about by her sins. (Compare Jer. li. 9). It is because God's People will not have fellowship in her sins that this gracious call to "Come out" from her judgments is given.
The cause of this judgment and of these plagues is now to be stated.
F2, xviii. 5-8. Babylon's judgment. Reasons for it.
5. "Because her sins reached 372372 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. read (...) (ekolle hesan) were joined or builded together; hence, reached, as buildings rise higher and higher; instead of (...) (ekolouthesan) followed. up to heaven, and God remembered her iniquities.]
This is a Hebraism. (Compare Gen. iv. 10; xix. 13. 2 Chron. xxviii. 9. Jer. li. 9. Jonah. i. 12). The length of time during which Babylon's sins have been accumulating is implied in this "remembrance." Compare chap. xvi. 19, "and great Babylon came into remembrance before God." This "remembrance" implies a former rebellion: a rebellion which was repressed by dispersion, but is at the time of the end to find in re-union, another opportunity for outbreak. Thus, in the very same place and under the same circumstances, defiance of God meets with its final judgment. This effectually shuts out Rome (Papal or Pagan); for Rome, though one of the daughters, is certainly not "the mother."
6. Render to her
As she also rendered 373373 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit (...) (humin) to you, so we must fill up the Ellipsis by supplying "to others." to others,
And render double punishment 374374 Lit., "Double the double to her." This is the figure of Metonymy, by which the word "double" is put for completeness or full compensation. Compare Ex. xxii. 7, 9. Isa. xl. 2. Jer. xvi. 18; xvii. 18.
According to her works:
In the cup which she mixed,
Mix for her double.
7. In proportion as she glorified herself,
[and waxed wanton,
So much torment and mourning
[give to her:
Is this call for vengeance given to the church? Certainly not! Nor does it belong to any period of history since the Lord's death; for the present is the day of grace, when God "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust" (Matt. v. 45). This proves that Rev. xviii. belongs to a future dispensation of judgment which has not yet come. Of that day, Ps. cxxxvii. 8, 9 may be applied, even though the interpretation may refer to past history:
"O daughter of Babylon,
Who art to be destroyed.
Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rock" (RV).
These words, so contrary to Christian sentiment, will be perfectly correct in the next dispensation, which will be one of judgment.
The mingled cup refers us back to xvii. 4, and further identifies the two chapters. Babylon is now to drink another cup, herself. Compare Jer. li. 7, and especially chap. xxv., where the cup of God's wrath is sent to the nations (verses 15, 16), and Babylon drinks last (verse 26).
-7. "Because in her heart, she saith,
'I sit a Queen, and a widow I am not; and mourning I shall in no wise see']
These words are spoken of the same Babylon (not Rome) in Isa. xlvii. 8, 9. The whole of that chapter is about Babylon "the daughter of the Chaldeans" (verses 1, 5).
8. "For this cause, in one day, shall come her plagues—, and mourning, and famine (Isa. xlvii. 9); and with fire shall she be utterly burned up; because strong is the Lord God who judged 375375 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. read (...) (krinas) judged, instead of (...) (krinon) judgeth. her.]
This is the burning which has already been mentioned in chap. xvii. 16; but is now, in this chapter more fully described. Isa. xlvii. 9 declares that this judgment shall come suddenly, "in a moment."
This suddenness and completeness of Babylon's judgment and disappearance from the face of the earth is the one prominent feature of this prophecy: and it effectually proves that it has not yet taken place. For Jehovah's prophecies are far too accurate and particular for this suddenness and completeness to be fulfilled by the gradual decay of old Babylon, the site and ruins and remains of which are still to be seen in the land of Shinar.
We now come to the Lamentation over her, and the member n2 above must be expanded.
It consists of eleven verses (xviii. 9-19); and these are elaborately constructed of four members, arranged as an Introversion. Each of the four larger members consists of three smaller ones, each perfect in its correspondence with the others.
n2. xviii. 9-19. Lamentation of the Inhabitants of Babylon.
n2 | H | r | 9. Kings of the earth.
s | 10-. Their Lamentation. "Alas, alas."
t | -10. Reason. "For in one hour."
J | u | 11-. Merchants.
v | -11-. Their Lamentation.
w | -11-14. Reason. "For."
J | u | 15-. Merchants.
v | -15, 16. Their Lamentation.
w | 17-. Reason. "For."
H | r | -17. The Shipmasters. (Sea.)
s | 18, 19. Their Lamentation. "Alas, alas."
t | -19. Reason. "For in one hour."
H. xviii. 9-10. The Lamentation of the Kings of the Earth over Babylon's fall.
9. "And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and waxed wanton with her, shall weep, and wail over her, as soon as they see the smoke of her burning, (10) standing afar off on account of the fear of her torment, saying,
'Alas, alas, the great city Babylon, the mighty city! for in one hour has thy judgment come.']
These are "the kings of the earth" mentioned in xvii. 2; the confederates and associates of Babylon. In xviii. 3 the mourners over Babylon are first enumerated, and afterwards described more fully. 376376 This is the figure of Prosapodosis. See Figures of Speech, p. 394.
We have before noted that "the ten kings" are never seen apart from the Beast; and "the kings of the earth" are never seen apart from Babylon. It is the former who hate and burn Babylon; it is the latter who weep and wail over her. In both chapters (xvii. and xviii.) the city is called "Babylon the great." God and man both so call her.
This great city cannot be separated from her own corrupt religion. They must be connected together, just as chapters xvii. and xviii. are connected; and yet distinguished as they are there distinguished.
Idolatry of the grossest kind is Babylon's sin; and not commerce. Whoredom points to, and means, idolatry. That is Babylon's chief end.
In commerce, goods of many are exchanged for the goods of others. But Babylon will not do that. She is only a buyer. What she gives to "the kings of the earth" and their peoples comes out of her "cup," and that stands for something having to do with religion: just as our Lord's Cup does. So Babylon's cup stands for corrupt religion, which has woman for its central object.
We do not deny that the Church of Rome to-day is preparing for this Womanolatry; and, in all Roman Catholic countries, is fostering (not intentionally, it may be) a Womanolatry of a different kind, which is leading on that moral corruption which will end in a religious corruption of a similar kind.
At the first, Babylon had male Gods. Later on, each male God was given a female partner, with the result that Ishtar became pre-eminent.
This it is that makes the sin of Babylon; and it is this religion of Womanolatry which will be perfected in Babylon. It will be received by "the kings of the earth"; and the peoples of the kings of the earth will be taught it by an order of priests, just as were the people of Ephesus. But Babylon will be the great goddess. She will have her Temples the world over: "Mother of all the harlots." And this is the religion which is being prepared for even now.
In any case, the common view of the chapter as relating only to "Commerce" must be modified. Babylon is a buyer. As a buyer, she cannot be regarded as engaged in Commerce, because that implies manufacture and selling as well as buying; and certainly buying with a view to selling again. But that is not Babylon. She sits, a woman, who buys to satisfy her lusts, and to furnish her allurements.
Surely if Commerce were the point, Babylon would be represented as masculine, as Tyre is (Ezek. xxvi.—). A woman is not the ideal to represent Commerce in the ordinary acceptance of the word.
But Mariolatry is increasing more and more, and is not now confined to Rome. And this is preparing the way for the revival of Ishtar.377377 Already, Commentators are fulfilling 2 Tim. iv. 4; and, turning away their ears from "the truth," are turned into "myths" (for that is the Greek word rendered "fables"). Winkler is quoted by Canon Cheyne with apparent approval, for he says, if scholars accept Winkler's teaching, he will accept their verdict. The latest theological "Myth" which commentators are turning to is this: viz., that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are lunar heroes. Sarah is at once Abraham's sister and his wife; because Sarah, being the counterpart of ISTAR, has a double rôle. She is the daughter of the Moon-god, and, therefore, Abraham's sister; and she is the wife of TAMMUZ, and, therefore, Abraham's wife. See Canon Cheyne in The Nineteenth Century Magazine for January, 1902. It puts woman, as woman, at the head of the universe, teaching that which is a perversion of "the mother of all living." Is not this the only logical reason for the hatred of the Beast? Commerce does not furnish any adequate reason for this hatred.
The great Question will be Supremacy. Who is to be supreme, Woman or Man; Babylon or the Beast? THAT is an all-sufficient reason for their hatred; and as the supremacy involved in Babylon is contrary to God's ordinance, He will "put it into their heart to destroy the woman."
This view makes things much clearer than commerce can do. And if the sin of Babylon be as we have suggested, viz., a system which makes drunk with this false religious excitement the kings of the earth, the Priests and Priestesses, and Temple servers, then it is these who will be stripped of all their possessions and burnt with fire in every land where they are found. This will take place pre-eminently in Babylon. But before this takes place, the call will go forth to God's people to come out of her, that they be not partakers in her judgments.
As this will take place in every land, the kings of the earth can stand afar off and wail; for, the superhuman Ten Kings and the Beast will dominate the world.
The final judgment of Babylon will be sudden and complete. The conflagration will be so great that, from the first, total destruction will be seen to be inevitable.
Three times this lament is made, "Alas! Alas! More literally, "Woe, woe," as elsewhere rendered in this book. But the AV. rendering is very expressive. The Kings of the earth make this lament. The Merchants make it (verse 16): and the Mariners make it (verse 19). In the first, the verbs introducing it are in the Future tense (verse 9): in the second, in the Present (verse 11), and in the third, the Past tense (verse 17). It is as though a moving scene is passing before the eyes, while the interjecting angel explains it.
The lamentation of the merchants is divided into two parts. In J. (xviii. 11-14) the merchandise and its varieties are the subject: while in J. (xviii. 15-17) it is the merchants' irretrievable loss.
J., xviii. 11-14. The Merchants' Lamentation.
11. "And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her; because no one any longer buyeth their cargo (Acts xxi. 3. Ex. xxiii. 5): (12) the cargo of gold, and of silver, and of precious stones, and of pearls, and of fine linen, and of purple, and of silk, and of scarlet, and all thyine wood, and every article of ivory, and every article of most costly wood, and of brass, and of iron and of marble, (13) and cinnamon, and spice,378378 G.L.Tr.A. WH. and RV. add (...) (kai amomum) and amomum, i.e., and spice. and odours (for incense), and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and finest flour, and wheat, and cattle, and sheep, and of horses, and of chariots, and of slaves 379379 Greek, "bodies," put by Metonymy for slaves: just as we put "hands," for workmen. and men. 380380 Lit., "souls of men," a Hebraism for persons of men, or simply men (see Ezek. xxvii. 13. 1 Chron. v. 21, and Num. xxxi. 35, the Hebrew being (...) (nephesh adam). So Gen. xxxvi. 6, where, of course, the Hebrew is somewhat different. (14) And the harvest of thy soul's desire departed from thee, and all the things that were dainty and brilliant have perished 381381 G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. read (...) (apoleto) perishea instead of (...) (apelthen) departed. from thee, and they (men) shall never more at all find them.]
This list of the merchandise is most significant and instructive. We see at once that it consists entirely of luxuries (see verse 3). If Babylon be the Religious system, which we suggest, then her priests and priestesses in every land— the harlot daughters of this harlot mother — will deal in the same luxuries.
It is not commerce that we see in this list. It is no exchange of produce against produce. There is no sin in that. That is a good thing, and not an evil thing. It is in her imports that the city is great; and these imports are luxuries (see verse 3).
The articles of merchandise here are not enumerated in any hap-hazard way, but are arranged so as to impress us with the vast range and character of the commodities.
They are arranged in four groups, and these are subdivided as follows:—
Natural — Adornment (12-) Jewellery.
Apparel (-12-) Drapery.
Artificial — All — Vessels (-12) of Ivory
Vegetable — Aromatic (13-)
Animal — Cattle (-13-)
Human kind (-13)
These call for no comment beyond the great fact that they have no relation whatever to Rome, Pagan or Papal. Even Alford, who holds that Babylon in chap. xvii. means Rome, and is to be identified with chap. xviii., says, "It must not for a moment be denied that the character of this lamentation throws a shade of obscurity over the interpretation, otherwise so plain, from the explanation given in chap. xvii." We admit that, if we start with the assumption that in chap. xvii. we have Rome Papal, and in chap. xviii., Rome Pagan, there is a difficulty; for of neither could this lamentation ever be used. But the difficulty is created by an assumption. It is not in the Word. If we allow God to mean what He says, it is all clear. It is only when we assume that He means something quite different from what He says that we get into difficulties.
Rome's merchants were never "the great men of the earth." Rome's religion is not based on astrology and sorcery. Well may Alford sum it up by saying, "I leave the difficulty unsolved:" and "the details of this mercantile lamentation far more nearly suit London than Rome at any assignable period of her history."
"Babylon the Great" includes more than the city proper on the Euphrates. She sits upon many waters, and includes all the many peoples among whom her "Cup" passes.
In verses 15-17- we have the merchants and their loss; rather than the merchants and the particulars of their merchandise.
J., xviii. 15-17-. The Merchants and their loss.
15. The merchants of these things (viz., in verses 12, 13), who were made rich by her, shall stand afar off on account of the fear of her torment, wailing and mourning, (16)382382 G.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. omit (...) (kai) and. saying,
"Alas! alas! the great city, which was arrayed in fine linens, and purple, and scarlet, and bedecked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! (17-) for in one hour is so great riches come to naught.]
The ruin is complete. It is even as was foretold of this very Babylon, "the beauty of the Chaldee's excellency shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah" (Isa. xiii. 19. Jer. xlix. 18; l. 40).
We now come to the third great category of mourners, (1) the kings of the earth; (2) the merchants of the earth; and now (3) those upon the sea. The mercantile world includes both land and sea. The sea is indeed the chief factor in carriage and freights. Hence, those who have to do with the sea now make their lamentation.
H., xviii. -17-19. The Lamentation of the Shipmasters.
-17. And every shipmaster, and everyone that saileth any whither,383383 i.e., the passengers. So G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. and mariners, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, (18) and cried out as they looked upon the smoke of her burning, saying,
"What city is like unto this great city?"
(19) And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, wailing and mourning, saying,
"Alas! alas! the great city, wherein were made rich all that had their ships in the sea, by reason of her costliness!384384 i.e., costliness including more than costly treasures; costly living as shown in extravagance. for in one hour is she made desolate."]
The mention of passengers shows the nature and extent of the traffic; embracing travellers as well as merchants and traders. Rawlinson385385 Herodotus, i. 512. speaks of the Euphrates as being navigable for ships for some 500 miles from its mouth. And with little effort could be made available for ships of large size.
The "dwellers of the earth" judge by earthly size and grandeur; but God has a different standard, and sees that which shall bring down this tremendous judgment. These again are impressed with its suddenness; and remind us that no such sudden judgment has ever overtaken Babylon.
God's people are again introduced; and the cry goes forth to "Rejoice over" Babylon on this hour of their avengement upon her (Ps. cxxxvii).
G2., xviii. 20. God's people. Their call to "Rejoice over her."
20. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye saints,386386 So G.L.T.Tr.A. WH. and RV. and ye apostles, and ye prophets: for God hath executed your judgment (or avenged 387387 Lit. "judged your judgment." This is the figure of Polyptoton, and is used for emphasis. It means hath fully avenged you. you) upon her."]
The command here given is obeyed in the next (the seventh and last) Vision "in heaven," and the words are given in chap. xix. 1-5. At length the waiting of the Martyrs is about to end (vi. 10-12), and they are to rejoice that God has avenged them. That avengement has now come (Luke xviii. 7, 8). This again shows that the dispensation of grace has ended, and that the coming dispensation of judgment has been entered on in this eighteenth chapter; yea, is about to close.
Some commentators apologise for this rejoicing in vengeance; and endeavour to tone it down, as being inconsistent with the Gospel. Of course it is inconsistent with the Gospel; but this is because the dispensations are not the same. Once rightly divide the word of truth, and all difficulty is removed.
Saints and apostles and prophets have been martyred in and by Babylon: both there, at its fountain head, as well as in some of its many streams by her daughters; for she is a "mother" and has daughters (xviii. 5).
We now come to the final mention of this judgment, and are informed as to the manner of it, and the result of it.
F3., xviii. 21-23. Babylon's Judgment. The manner of it.
21-23. And a mighty angel took up a stone as it were a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying,
"Thus, with violence (or, with a rush)
shall Babylon, that great city, be cast down, and Shall be
found no more at all (Jer. li. 63. Ezek. xxvi.
And sound of harpers, and musicians, and flute players, and trumpeters,
Shall never be heard in thee any
And no craftsman, of any craft
Shall ever be found in thee any
And sound of millstone
Shall ever be heard in thee any
And the light of a lamp
Shall never shine in thee any
And the voice of the bridegroom or bride
Shall never be heard in thee any
Because thy merchants were the great ones of the earth: because by thy sorcery were all the nations deceived." (Is. xlvii. 8, 9).]
Sorcery, corrupt religion, and idolatry are the great means by which Babylon will ensnare the nations. And these are the two things which are rising up and advancing before our eyes.
The great stone represents the great city; and the symbolic act gives, with great vividness, the suddenness of Babylon's final destruction. Four times we have this suddenness emphasised:— "in one day" (verse 8), "in one hour" (verses 10, 17, 19). Every word is employed to impress us with its suddenness and completeness. And inasmuch as all other fulfilled prophecies have been fulfilled to the very letter; and Babylon, though fallen gradually, and very low, has never suffered such a destruction. There is only one conclusion, that in the interval of, say some 30 or more years between the removal of the church and the last "week" of Daniel's prophecy, it will be revived, and exceed all its former magnificence.
Similar desolation was prophesied against Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah (Jer. vii. 34), but this was not to be like Babylon's. They were to be restored again (Jer. xxxiii. 10, 11). But no such restoration follows on the destruction of Babylon here described.
And now we come to the last mention of God's People in connection with Babylon; and the whole scene closes with the one all embracing reason for this judgment.
G3., xviii. 24. God's people. Their blood found in her.
24. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all the slain upon the earth.]
With this we must read Jer. li. 49. "As Babylon hath caused the slain of ISRAEL to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth." This decides for us who the saints, apostles, and prophets are. They are "of Israel" (see verses 47, 48). But their blood is at length avenged, and that "speedily," with a mighty, and sudden, and complete avengement.
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