Revelation Part 12: The Return of the Lord God Almighty (Revelation 17-19)
(New American Standard Bible, 1995):
Rev. 17:1 ¶ Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
Rev. 17:2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality."
Rev. 17:3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.
Rev. 17:4 The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality,
Rev. 17:5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."
Rev. 17:6 And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly.
Rev. 17:7 And the angel said to me, "Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
Rev. 17:8 ¶ "The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.
Rev. 17:9 "Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits,
Rev. 17:10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.
Rev. 17:11 "The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction.
Rev. 17:12 "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour.
Rev. 17:13 "These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.
Rev. 17:14 "These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful."
Rev. 17:15 ¶ And he *said to me, "The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
Rev. 17:16 "And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.
Rev. 17:17 "For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.
Rev. 17:18 "The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth."
Rev. 18:1 ¶ After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.
Rev. 18:2 And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.
Rev. 18:3 "For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality."
Rev. 18:4 ¶ I heard another voice from heaven, saying, "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;
Rev. 18:5 for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
Rev. 18:6 "Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.
Rev. 18:7 "To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I SIT as A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW, and will never see mourning.'
Rev. 18:8 "For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.
Rev. 18:9 ¶ "And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning,
Rev. 18:10 standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.'
Rev. 18:11 ¶ "And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more—
Rev. 18:12 cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble,
Rev. 18:13 and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives.
Rev. 18:14 "The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them.
Rev. 18:15 "The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning,
Rev. 18:16 saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls;
Rev. 18:17 for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!' And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance,
Rev. 18:18 and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?'
Rev. 18:19 "And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!'
Rev. 18:20 "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her."
Rev. 18:21 ¶ Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, "So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.
Rev. 18:22 "And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer;
Rev. 18:23 and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.
Rev. 18:24 "And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth."
Rev. 19:1 ¶ After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,
¶ "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God;
Rev. 19:2 BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS ON HER."
Rev. 19:3 And a second time they said, "Hallelujah! HER SMOKE RISES UP FOREVER AND EVER."
Rev. 19:4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!"
Rev. 19:5 And a voice came from the throne, saying,
¶ "Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great."
Rev. 19:6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying,
¶ "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Rev. 19:7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."
Rev. 19:8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Rev. 19:9 ¶ Then he *said to me, "Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" And he *said to me, "These are true words of God."
Rev. 19:10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
Rev. 19:11 ¶ And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.
Rev. 19:12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.
Rev. 19:13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
Rev. 19:14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
Rev. 19:15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
Rev. 19:16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
Rev. 19:17 ¶ Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, "Come, assemble for the great supper of God,
Rev. 19:18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great."
Rev. 19:19 ¶ And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
Rev. 19:20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
Rev. 19:21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
Novum Testamentum Graece (New Testament in Greek)
Nestle-Aland, 27th Edition, prepared by Institut für neutestamentliche Testforschung Münster/Westfalen, Barbara and Kurt Aland (Editors). Copyright © 1898 and 1993 by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
Used by permission.
Morphological tagging by William D. Mounce and Rex A. Koivisto
Copyright © 2003 William D. Mounce.
Copyright © 2006 OakTree Software, Inc.
All rights reserved.
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Rev. 17:1 Ļ Kai« h™lqen ei–ß eķk tw◊n eŻpta» aÓgge÷lwn tw◊n eķco/ntwn ta»ß eŻpta» fiaņlaß, kai« eķlaņlhsen met∆ eķmouv le÷gwn Deuvro, dei÷xw soi to\ kri÷ma thvß po/rnhß thvß megaņlhß thvß kaqhme÷nhß eķpi« uJdaņtwn pollw◊n,
Rev. 17:2 meq∆ hįß eķpo/rneusan oiŻ basilei√ß thvß ghvß, kai« eķmequ/sqhsan oiŻ katoikouvnteß th\n ghvn eķk touv oi¶nou thvß pornei÷aß aujthvß.
Rev. 17:3 kai« aÓph/negke÷n me eiķß e¶rhmon eķn pneu/mati. kai« ei•don gunai√ka kaqhme÷nhn eķpi« qhri÷on ko/kkinon, ge÷monta ojno/mata blasfhmi÷aß, e¶cwn kefala»ß eŻpta» kai« ke÷rata de÷ka:
Rev. 17:4 kai« hJ gunh\ h™n peribeblhme÷nh porfurouvn kai« ko/kkinon, kai« kecruswme÷nh crusi÷wŲ kai« li÷qwŲ timi÷wŲ kai« margari÷taiß, e¶cousa poth/rion crusouvn eķn thĮv ceiri« aujthvß ge÷mon bdelugmaņtwn kai« ta» aÓkaņqarta thvß pornei÷aß aujthvß,
Rev. 17:5 kai« eķpi« to\ me÷twpon aujthvß oŃnoma gegramme÷non, musth/rion, BABULWN H MEGALH, H MHTHR TWN PORNWN KAI TWN BDELUGMATWN THS GHS.
Rev. 17:6 kai« ei•don th\n gunai√ka mequ/ousan eķk touv aiľmatoß tw◊n aJgi÷wn kai« eķk touv aiľmatoß tw◊n martu/rwn ∆Ihsouv. Kai« eķqau/masa iķdw»n aujth\n qauvma me÷ga:
Rev. 17:7 kai« ei•pe÷n moi oJ aŗggeloß Dia» ti÷ eķqau/masaß; eķgw» eķrw◊ soi to\ musth/rion thvß gunaiko\ß kai« touv qhri÷ou touv bastaņzontoß aujth/n, touv e¶contoß ta»ß eŻpta» kefala»ß kai« ta» de÷ka ke÷rata:
Rev. 17:8 to\ qhri÷on o§ ei•deß h™n kai« oujk e¶stin, kai« me÷llei aÓnabai÷nein eķk thvß aÓbu/ssou, kai« eiķß aÓpwņleian uJpaņgei: kai« qaumasqh/sontai oiŻ katoikouvnteß eķpi« thvß ghvß, w—n ouj ge÷graptai to\ oŃnoma eķpi« to\ bibli÷on thvß zwhvß aÓpo\ katabolhvß ko/smou, blepo/ntwn to\ qhri÷on oĘti h™n kai« oujk e¶stin kai« pare÷stai.
Rev. 17:9 řWde oJ nouvß oJ e¶cwn sofi÷an. aiŻ eŻpta» kefalai« eŻpta» oŃrh eiķsi÷n, oĘpou hJ gunh\ kaņqhtai eķp∆ aujtw◊n. kai« basilei√ß eŻptaņ eiķsin:
Rev. 17:10 oiŻ pe÷nte e¶pesan, oJ ei–ß e¶stin, oJ aŗlloß ouŃpw h™lqen, kai« oĘtan e¶lqhĮ ojli÷gon aujto\n dei√ mei√nai,
Rev. 17:11 kai« to\ qhri÷on o§ h™n kai« oujk e¶stin. kai« aujto\ß oŃgdoo/ß eķstin kai« eķk tw◊n eŻptaņ eķstin, kai« eiķß aÓpwņleian uJpaņgei.
Rev. 17:12 kai« ta» de÷ka ke÷rata aĪ ei•deß de÷ka basilei√ß eiķsi÷n, oiľtineß basilei÷an ouŃpw e¶labon, aÓlla» eķxousi÷an wJß basilei√ß mi÷an w‚ran lambaņnousin meta» touv qhri÷ou.
Rev. 17:13 ouįtoi mi÷an gnwņmhn e¶cousin, kai« th\n du/namin kai« eķxousi÷an aujtw◊n twŲ◊ qhri÷wŲ dido/asin.
Rev. 17:14 ouįtoi meta» touv aÓrni÷ou polemh/sousin, kai« to\ aÓrni÷on nikh/sei aujtou/ß, oĘti ku/rioß kuri÷wn eķsti«n kai« basileu\ß basile÷wn, kai« oiŻ met∆ aujtouv klhtoi« kai« eķklektoi« kai« pistoi÷.
Rev. 17:15 Kai« le÷gei moi Ta» uĘdata aĪ ei•deß, ouį hJ po/rnh kaņqhtai, laoi« kai« oŃcloi eiķsi«n kai« e¶qnh kai« glw◊ssai.
Rev. 17:16 kai« ta» de÷ka ke÷rata aĪ ei•deß kai« to\ qhri÷on, ouįtoi mish/sousin th\n po/rnhn, kai« hjrhmwme÷nhn poih/sousin aujth\n kai« gumnh/n, kai« ta»ß saņrkaß aujthvß faņgontai, kai« aujth\n katakau/sousin [eķn] puri÷:
Rev. 17:17 oJ ga»r qeo\ß e¶dwken eiķß ta»ß kardi÷aß aujtw◊n poihvsai th\n gnwņmhn aujtouv, kai« poihvsai mi÷an gnwņmhn kai« douvnai th\n basilei÷an aujtw◊n twŲ◊ qhri÷wŲ, aŗcri telesqh/sontai oiŻ lo/goi touv qeouv.
Rev. 17:18 kai« hJ gunh\ h§n ei•deß e¶stin hJ po/liß hJ megaņlh hJ e¶cousa basilei÷an eķpi« tw◊n basile÷wn thvß ghvß.
Rev. 18:1 Meta» tauvta ei•don aŗllon aŗggelon katabai÷nonta eķk touv oujranouv, e¶conta eķxousi÷an megaņlhn, kai« hJ ghv eķfwti÷sqh eķk thvß do/xhß aujtouv.
Rev. 18:2 kai« e¶kraxen eķn iķscuraŲ◊ fwnhĮv le÷gwn ŕEpesen, e¶pesen Babulw»n hJ megaņlh, kai« eķge÷neto katoikhth/rion daimoni÷wn kai« fulakh\ panto\ß pneu/matoß aÓkaqaņrtou kai« fulakh\ panto\ß ojrne÷ou aÓkaqaņrtou kai« memishme÷nou,
Rev. 18:3 oĘti eķk [touv oi¶nou] touv qumouv thvß pornei÷aß aujthvß pe÷ptwkan paņnta ta» e¶qnh, kai« oiŻ basilei√ß thvß ghvß met∆ aujthvß eķpo/rneusan, kai« oiŻ e¶mporoi thvß ghvß eķk thvß dunaņmewß touv strh/nouß aujthvß eķplou/thsan.
Rev. 18:4 Kai« hŃkousa aŗllhn fwnh\n eķk touv oujranouv le÷gousan ∆Exe÷lqate, oJ lao/ß mou, eķx aujthvß, iľna mh\ sunkoinwnh/shte tai√ß aJmarti÷aiß aujthvß, kai« eķk tw◊n plhgw◊n aujthvß iľna mh\ laņbhte:
Rev. 18:5 oĘti eķkollh/qhsan aujthvß aiŻ aJmarti÷ai aŗcri touv oujranouv, kai« eķmnhmo/neusen oJ qeo\ß ta» aÓdikh/mata aujthvß.
Rev. 18:6 aÓpo/dote aujthĮv wJß kai« aujthĮ aÓpe÷dwken, kai« diplwņsate [ta»] dipla◊ kata» ta» e¶rga aujthvß: eķn twŲ◊ pothri÷wŲ wŲ— eķke÷rasen keraņsate aujthĮv diplouvn:
Rev. 18:7 oĘsa eķdo/xasen aujth\n kai« eķstrhni÷asen, tosouvton do/te aujthĮv basanismo\n kai« pe÷nqoß. oĘti eķn thĮv kardi÷aŲ aujthvß le÷gei oĘti Kaņqhmai basi÷lissa, kai« ch/ra oujk eiķmi÷, kai« pe÷nqoß ouj mh\ i¶dw:
Rev. 18:8 dia» touvto eķn miaŲ◊ hJme÷raŲ hĘxousin aiŻ plhgai« aujthvß, qaņnatoß kai« pe÷nqoß kai« limo/ß, kai« eķn puri« katakauqh/setai: oĘti iķscuro\ß [Ku/rioß] oJ qeo\ß oJ kri÷naß aujth/n.
Rev. 18:9 kai« klau/sousin kai« ko/yontai eķp∆ aujth\n oiŻ basilei√ß thvß ghvß oiŻ met∆ aujthvß porneu/santeß kai« strhniaņsanteß, oĘtan ble÷pwsin to\n kapno\n thvß purwņsewß aujthvß,
Rev. 18:10 aÓpo\ makro/qen eŻsthko/teß dia» to\n fo/bon touv basanismouv aujthvß, le÷gonteß Oujai÷ oujai÷, hJ po/liß hJ megaņlh, Babulw»n hJ po/liß hJ iķscuraņ, oĘti miaŲ◊ w‚raŲ h™lqen hJ kri÷siß sou.
Rev. 18:11 kai« oiŻ e¶mporoi thvß ghvß klai÷ousin kai« penqouvsin eķp∆ aujth/n, oĘti to\n go/mon aujtw◊n oujdei«ß aÓgoraņzei oujke÷ti,
Rev. 18:12 go/mon crusouv kai« aÓrgu/rou kai« li÷qou timi÷ou kai« margaritw◊n kai« bussi÷nou kai« porfu/raß kai« sirikouv kai« kokki÷nou, kai« pa◊n xu/lon qu/iŌnon kai« pa◊n skeuvoß eķlefaņntinon kai« pa◊n skeuvoß eķk xu/lou timiwtaņtou kai« calkouv kai« sidh/rou kai« marmaņrou,
Rev. 18:13 kai« kinnaņmwmon kai« aŗmwmon kai« qumiaņmata kai« mu/ron kai« li÷banon kai« oi•non kai« e¶laion kai« semi÷dalin kai« si√ton kai« kth/nh kai« pro/bata, kai« iľppwn kai« rJedw◊n kai« swmaņtwn, kai« yuca»ß aÓnqrwņpwn.
Rev. 18:14 kai« hJ ojpwņra sou thvß eķpiqumi÷aß thvß yuchvß aÓphvlqen aÓpo\ souv, kai« paņnta ta» lipara» kai« ta» lampra» aÓpwņleto aÓpo\ souv, kai« oujke÷ti ouj mh\ aujta» euJrh/sousin.
Rev. 18:15 oiŻ e¶mporoi tou/twn, oiŻ plouth/santeß aÓp∆ aujthvß, aÓpo\ makro/qen sth/sontai dia» to\n fo/bon touv basanismouv aujthvß klai÷onteß kai« penqouvnteß,
Rev. 18:16 le÷gonteß Oujai÷ oujai÷, hJ po/liß hJ megaņlh, hJ peribeblhme÷nh bu/ssinon kai« porfurouvn kai« ko/kkinon, kai« kecruswme÷nh [eķn] crusi÷wŲ kai« li÷qwŲ timi÷wŲ kai« margari÷thĮ,
Rev. 18:17 oĘti miaŲ◊ w‚raŲ hjrhmwņqh oJ tosouvtoß plouvtoß. kai« pa◊ß kubernh/thß kai« pa◊ß oJ eķpi« to/pon ple÷wn, kai« nauvtai kai« oĘsoi th\n qaņlassan eķrgaņzontai, aÓpo\ makro/qen e¶sthsan
Rev. 18:18 kai« e¶kraxan ble÷ponteß to\n kapno\n thvß purwņsewß aujthvß le÷gonteß Ti÷ß oJmoi÷a thĮv po/lei thĮv megaņlhĮ;
Rev. 18:19 kai« e¶balon couvn eķpi« ta»ß kefala»ß aujtw◊n kai« e¶kraxan klai÷onteß kai« penqouvnteß, le÷gonteß Oujai÷ oujai÷, hJ po/liß hJ megaņlh, eķn hĮį eķplou/thsan paņnteß oiŻ e¶conteß ta» ploi√a eķn thĮv qalaņsshĮ eķk thvß timio/thtoß aujthvß, oĘti miaŲ◊ w‚raŲ hjrhmwņqh.
Rev. 18:20 Eujfrai÷nou eķp∆ aujthĮv, oujrane÷, kai« oiŻ a‚gioi kai« oiŻ aÓpo/stoloi kai« oiŻ profhvtai, oĘti e¶krinen oJ qeo\ß to\ kri÷ma uJmw◊n eķx aujthvß.
Rev. 18:21 Kai« h™ren ei–ß aŗggeloß iķscuro\ß li÷qon wJß mu/linon me÷gan, kai« e¶balen eiķß th\n qaņlassan le÷gwn OuĘtwß oJrmh/mati blhqh/setai Babulw»n hJ megaņlh po/liß, kai« ouj mh\ euJreqhĮv e¶ti.
Rev. 18:22 kai« fwnh\ kiqarwŲdw◊n kai« mousikw◊n kai« aujlhtw◊n kai« salpistw◊n ouj mh\ aÓkousqhĮv eķn soi« e¶ti, kai« pa◊ß tecni÷thß [paņshß te÷cnhß] ouj mh\ euJreqhĮv eķn soi« e¶ti, kai« fwnh\ mu/lou ouj mh\ aÓkousqhĮv eķn soi« e¶ti,
Rev. 18:23 kai« fw◊ß lu/cnou ouj mh\ faņnhĮ eķn soi« e¶ti, kai« fwnh\ numfi÷ou kai« nu/mfhß ouj mh\ aÓkousqhĮv eķn soi« e¶ti: oĘti [oiŻ] e¶mporoi÷ sou h™san oiŻ megista◊neß thvß ghvß, oĘti eķn thĮv farmaki÷aŲ sou eķplanh/qhsan paņnta ta» e¶qnh,
Rev. 18:24 kai« eķn aujthĮv ai–ma profhtw◊n kai« aJgi÷wn euJre÷qh kai« paņntwn tw◊n eķsfagme÷nwn eķpi« thvß ghvß.
Rev. 19:1 Ļ Meta» tauvta hŃkousa wJß fwnh\n megaņlhn oŃclou pollouv eķn twŲ◊ oujranwŲ◊ lego/ntwn ÔAllhlouiŌaņ: hJ swthri÷a kai« hJ do/xa kai« hJ du/namiß touv qeouv hJmw◊n,
Rev. 19:2 oĘti aÓlhqinai« kai« di÷kaiai aiŻ kri÷seiß aujtouv: oĘti e¶krinen th\n po/rnhn th\n megaņlhn hĘtiß e¶fqeiren th\n ghvn eķn thĮv pornei÷aŲ aujthvß, kai« eķxedi÷khsen to\ ai–ma tw◊n dou/lwn aujtouv eķk ceiro\ß aujthvß.
Rev. 19:3 Ļ kai« deu/teron ei¶rhkan ÔAllhlouiaņ: kai« oJ kapno\ß aujthvß aÓnabai÷nei eiķß tou\ß aiķw◊naß tw◊n aiķwņnwn.
Rev. 19:4 Ļ kai« e¶pesan oiŻ presbu/teroi oiŻ ei¶kosi te÷ssareß kai« ta» te÷ssara zwŲ◊a kai« proseku/nhsan twŲ◊ qewŲ◊ twŲ◊ kaqhme÷nwŲ eķpi« twŲ◊ qro/nwŲ le÷gonteß ∆Amh/n, ÔAllhlouiaņ.
Rev. 19:5 kai« fwnh\ aÓpo\ touv qro/nou eķxhvlqen le÷gousa Ļ Aiķnei√te twŲ◊ qewŲ◊ hJmw◊n, paņnteß oiŻ douvloi aujtouv oiŻ fobou/menoi aujto/n, oiŻ mikroi« kai« oiŻ megaņloi.
Rev. 19:6 Ļ Kai« hŃkousa wJß fwnh\n oŃclou pollouv kai« wJß fwnh\n uJdaņtwn pollw◊n kai« wJß fwnh\n brontw◊n iķscurw◊n, lego/ntwn Ļ ÔAllhlouiaņ, oĘti eķbasi÷leusen Ku/rioß oJ qeo\ß [hJmw◊n], oJ pantokraņtwr.
Rev. 19:7 cai÷rwmen kai« aÓgalliw◊men, kai« dwņsomen th\n do/xan aujtwŲ◊, oĘti h™lqen oJ gaņmoß touv aÓrni÷ou, kai« hJ gunh\ aujtouv hJtoi÷masen eŻauth/n,
Rev. 19:8 kai« eķdo/qh aujthĮv iľna peribaņlhtai bu/ssinon lampro\n kaqaro/n, to\ ga»r bu/ssinon ta» dikaiwņmata tw◊n aJgi÷wn eķsti÷n.
Rev. 19:9 Ļ Kai« le÷gei moi Graņyon Makaņrioi oiŻ eiķß to\ dei√pnon touv gaņmou touv aÓrni÷ou keklhme÷noi. kai« le÷gei moi Ouįtoi oiŻ lo/goi aÓlhqinoi« touv qeouv eiķsi÷n.
Rev. 19:10 kai« e¶pesa e¶mprosqen tw◊n podw◊n aujtouv proskunhvsai aujtwŲ◊. kai« le÷gei moi ›Ora mh/: su/ndoulo/ß sou/ eiķmi kai« tw◊n aÓdelfw◊n sou tw◊n eķco/ntwn th\n marturi÷an ∆Ihsouv: twŲ◊ qewŲ◊ prosku/nhson: hJ ga»r marturi÷a ∆Ihsouv eķsti«n to\ pneuvma thvß profhtei÷aß.
Rev. 19:11 Kai« ei•don to\n oujrano\n hjnewŲgme÷non, kai« iķdou\ iľppoß leuko/ß, kai« oJ kaqh/menoß eķp∆ aujto\n pisto\ß [kalou/menoß] kai« aÓlhqino/ß, kai« eķn dikaiosu/nhĮ kri÷nei kai« polemei√.
Rev. 19:12 oiŻ de« ojfqalmoi« aujtouv flo\x puro/ß, kai« eķpi« th\n kefalh\n aujtouv diadh/mata pollaņ, e¶cwn oŃnoma gegramme÷non o§ oujdei«ß oi•den eiķ mh\ aujto/ß,
Rev. 19:13 kai« peribeblhme÷noß iŻmaņtion rJerantisme÷non aiľmati, kai« ke÷klhtai to\ oŃnoma aujtouv ÔO Lo/goß touv Qeouv.
Rev. 19:14 kai« ta» strateu/mata ta» eķn twŲ◊ oujranwŲ◊ hjkolou/qei aujtwŲ◊ eķf∆ iľppoiß leukoi√ß, eķndedume÷noi bu/ssinon leuko\n kaqaro/n.
Rev. 19:15 kai« eķk touv sto/matoß aujtouv eķkporeu/etai rJomfai÷a ojxei√a, iľna eķn aujthĮv pataņxhĮ ta» e¶qnh, kai« aujto\ß poimanei√ aujtou\ß eķn rJaņbdwŲ sidhraŲ◊, kai« aujto\ß patei√ th\n lhno\n touv oi¶nou touv qumouv thvß ojrghvß touv qeouv touv pantokraņtoroß,
Rev. 19:16 kai« e¶cei eķpi« to\ iŻmaņtion kai« eķpi« to\n mhro\n aujtouv oŃnoma gegramme÷non BASILEUS BASILEWN KAI KURIOS KURIWN.
Rev. 19:17 Ļ Kai« ei•don eľna aŗggelon eŻstw◊ta eķn twŲ◊ hJli÷wŲ, kai« e¶kraxen [eķn] fwnhĮv megaņlhĮ le÷gwn pa◊sin toi√ß ojrne÷oiß toi√ß petome÷noiß eķn mesouranh/mati Deuvte sunaņcqhte eiķß to\ dei√pnon to\ me÷ga touv qeouv,
Rev. 19:18 iľna faņghte saņrkaß basile÷wn kai« saņrkaß ciliaņrcwn kai« saņrkaß iķscurw◊n kai« saņrkaß iľppwn kai« tw◊n kaqhme÷nwn eķp∆ aujtou/ß, kai« saņrkaß paņntwn eķleuqe÷rwn te kai« dou/lwn kai« mikrw◊n kai« megaņlwn.
Rev. 19:19 Kai« ei•don to\ qhri÷on kai« tou\ß basilei√ß thvß ghvß kai« ta» strateu/mata aujtw◊n sunhgme÷na poihvsai to\n po/lemon meta» touv kaqhme÷nou eķpi« touv iľppou kai« meta» touv strateu/matoß aujtouv.
Rev. 19:20 kai« eķpiaņsqh to\ qhri÷on kai« met∆ aujtouv oJ yeudoprofh/thß oJ poih/saß ta» shmei√a eķnwņpion aujtouv, eķn oi–ß eķplaņnhsen tou\ß labo/ntaß to\ caņragma touv qhri÷ou kai« tou\ß proskunouvntaß thĮv eiķko/ni aujtouv: zw◊nteß eķblh/qhsan oiŻ du/o eiķß th\n li÷mnhn touv puro\ß thvß kaiome÷nhß eķn qei÷wŲ.
Rev. 19:21 kai« oiŻ loipoi« aÓpektaņnqhsan eķn thĮv rJomfai÷aŲ touv kaqhme÷nou eķpi« touv iľppou thĮv eķxelqou/shĮ eķk touv sto/matoß aujtouv, kai« paņnta ta» oŃrnea eķcortaņsqhsan eķk tw◊n sarkw◊n aujtw◊n.
The Triumph of Almighty God (17:1-22:5)
A. The Fall of Babylon (17:1-19:5)
B. The Wedding Supper of the Lamb (19:6-10)
C. The Final Battle (19:11-21)
Ch 17: 1-7: The woman on the Beast is a reference to Rome itself, "Babylon the Great" was a reference to the earlier center of the Babylonian Empire, noted for its excesses and cruelties, which Rome handily surpassed.
17:5: Everyone in John's revelation has their title or name written on their forehead or hand, an apocalyptic literary eccentricity. The NIV, KJV and other translations make this identifier more mysterious than the original Greek seems to, they translate it as:
This title was written on her forehead:
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES ¶ AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Quite frankly, I think this is an unnecessarily odd and misleading translation, as the Novum Testamentum Graece (New Testament in Greek) translation (The one I use above) very clearly shows this word "mystery" to be indicating that what was written was mysterious, not as part of the title itself (musth/rion is the word translated as "mystery" or more properly "mysterious," and note the preceding and following commas):
kai« eķpi« to\ me÷twpon aujthvß oŃnoma gegramme÷non, musth/rion, Babulw»n hJ megaņlh, hJ mh/thr tw◊n pornw◊n kai« tw◊n bdelugmaņtwn thvß ghvß.
17:8b: "…because he once was, now is not, and yet will come" is the counterfeit reference to Satan as the complete opposite of Christ,
Rev. 1:8 ¶ "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
17:9: A veiled reference to Rome, the "city of seven hills," as well as a more specific reference to powerful rulers and empires of those last days. (kings are often described as "mountains" in ANE literature) It is awfully tempting to talk about such titans and empires today as meeting these descriptions, but that would be wrong…
17:16: A somewhat confusing passage, why would those who follow the Antichrist hate the very empire he sets up and uses to his purposes? Once the Antichrist consolidates his power, and has no more use for the false religion (the "great prostitute'), he will discard it, and those who have been blinded by its lies will turn on it with great fury.
Chapter 18: All through this chapter the "Babylon" referenced most likely refers to an actual, physical city the Antichrist builds up during the Tribulation period. God's destruction of this mighty center of economic power and trade will prove a stark warning as to what is about to come to those who have sided with the Antichrist against Him.
18:2: The great angel is not announcing that the fall of Babylon had already occurred at this time (which leads to some confusion if you assume that), he is announcing its future destruction as being such an irreversible fact that it might as well have already occurred.
18:4-5: A stark warning for Christians to avoid entangling themselves in this terrible and sinful society; although we arecalled to live in the world and witness to the lost through our lives, we are specifically commanded, repeatedly, to avoid turning our attention from God and towards the marketplace:
Romans 12:2: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Chapter 19:11: This is the passage which is the central event of all scriptural prophecy, the return of Jesus Christ in power and glory.
19:12b: A reference to Christ's power over all other "gods" and
their earthly believers. In the ANE, soothsayers and prophets often claimed
they could gain power over a "god" or metaphysical spirit by learning their
"mystery" name. Christ's "mystery" name is known only to himself, therefore,
none my claim to have any power or authority over Him.
19:10 The Testimony of Jesus Is the Spirit of Prophecy?
For a long period of time the church has relegated prophecy either to the classical prophets of the biblical period or to preaching (which is normally the gift of teaching, not prophecy). While the revival of interest in prophecy in the church began close to two hundred years ago, there has been a recent upsurge in interest in prophecy, both in scholarly circles and in church ministry. Revelation 19:10 appears to have something to say to this trend, especially since it comes from a Christian prophet. In the middle of a picture of "the wedding supper of the Lamb," when the hopes of the church will be consummated in union with her Lord, John is overwhelmed. He falls at the feet of the angel who is explaining everything to him, bowing his head to the pavement in worship. We are not surprised that the angel stops him (and will do so again in Rev 22:8–9), but the statement that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" needs explanation. What does it mean? What is "the testimony of Jesus"? Just what is the "spirit of prophecy"? What might either of these have to do with prophecy today?
The New Testament mentions the gift of prophecy several times, most significantly in 1 Corinthians 12–14, although Acts mentions prophets several times as well. Yet we know very little concerning what New Testament prophets spoke about, other than the words of Agabus (Acts 11:27–28; 21:1), with the exception of Revelation.10 This whole book is designated as prophecy (Rev 1:3; 22:7, 18–19) and is therefore our most extensive example of Christian prophecy. Within this context John says that "the testimony of Jesus" is "the spirit" of this prophecy.
Prophecy was not, of course, to be accepted without testing it to see if it were genuine or distorted in some way. Several New Testament passages address this issue. Colossians 2:18 suggests that some Christians had been led into the worship of angels, probably through prophetic speculation. The church is called to weigh prophecy (1 Cor 14:29), for, given our fallenness, prophetic words are normally more or less words from God, not the pure word. According to 1 John 4:1, Christians are not to trust every spirit, as not all are the Holy Spirit. Finally, in Revelation, "Jezebel" "calls herself a prophetess," functioning within the church (Rev 2:20), and the beast "out of the earth" (Rev 13:11), who persecutes the church, is called a false prophet (Rev 19:20). All of this shows the need for knowing the criteria for testing prophecy.
The angel in this verse notes that he and the Christians "hold to the testimony of Jesus" and that this same "testimony" is "the spirit of prophecy." That is, it is by this testimony or witness that one can discern the genuine prophetic Spirit. But what is "the testimony [or witness] of Jesus"? The phrase itself occurs several times in Revelation (Rev 1:2, 9; 12:17; 19:10; 20:4), while a related phrase occurs in Revelation 17:6. There are two interpretations of it. In the first, it is the testimony or witness that Jesus bore to God in his life and teaching, carrying that witness to the point of death and still bearing it from his exalted place in heaven. In support of this interpretation we see that Jesus is called the "faithful witness" (Rev 1:5; 3:14), and the whole book of Revelation is referred to as his testimony through his angel (Rev 22:16). The second interpretation is that this is a testimony about Jesus that one makes by conforming to his commands and confessing one's allegiance and his truth with one's mouth. In support of this we note those who are called witnesses or who give testimony, such as Antipas (Rev 2:13), the martyrs (Rev 6:9), the two witnesses (Rev 11:3) and the victors (Rev 12:11).
Given that both of the meanings are supported in the text, we may have created a false dichotomy between them, although the accent in the "testimony of Jesus" passages appears to fall on the latter rather than the former meaning. What Jesus witnessed to in his life and death is precisely what faithful Christians are to witness to in theirs. A true testimony to Jesus means obedience to his commands and faithfulness to his teaching. And, as Jesus openly confessed his allegiance to his Father, so the true Christian openly acknowledges faithfulness to Jesus. Life and word go together; the Christian who does not live like Jesus is a contradiction in terms, as is the idea of a secret Christian. Thus we see in Revelation 17:6 that the saints (not just the best of them) bore testimony to Jesus. In Revelation 12:17 to "obey God's commandments" is the equivalent of holding to "the testimony of Jesus." In Revelation 1:2, 9; 20:4 the "testimony of Jesus" is a parallel idea to "the word of God." The true Word of God, of course, was incarnate in Jesus (according to Jn 1), came through Jesus and is about Jesus.
That "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy," then, means that true prophecy inspired of the Holy Spirit will be in conformity to the life and teaching of Jesus (who was himself in conformity with the rest of the Word of God) and will ultimately point to Jesus. By this standard one may evaluate both the life and the words of a prophet. Revelation itself, then, is on the one hand an attempt to uphold the standards that Jesus taught and lived (such as its call to watching; its rejection of compromise with the world; its demanding that God alone be worshiped; and its rejection of sexual immorality) and on the other hand a call to value the redemption by his blood, live in accordance with his faithfulness unto death, and expect his final victory as King of kings and Lord of lords. While addressed to human beings in seven churches, its ultimate focus is Jesus. It does indeed pass its own test.
In a time when the church is rediscovering the gift of prophecy, then, this verse is very relevant.11 It is not the messenger who should be honored, but the giver of the message, Jesus himself. He becomes the standard by which all is measured. It is Jesus who clearly distinguishes between John and Jezebel, between the true spirit of prophecy and the spirit of the antichrist. Thus the true prophet is that prophet who lives like Jesus, teaches in harmony with Jesus and points others to Jesus as their Lord and King.
10 Scholars also have believed that some of Paul's sayings and (more controversially) some of Jesus' sayings in the Gospels are the products of Christian prophets, but since none of these are actually called prophecy, even the most sure of them must be classed as disputed in terms of being prophecy. We will therefore keep our focus on what is actually called prophecy.
11 Note, for example, Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway, 1988); Clifford Hill, Prophecy Past and Present (Crowborough, U.K.: Highland Books, 1989); and Graham Houston, Prophecy: A Gift for Today? (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1989). Of the three, Hill's is the best, but all of them advocate a role for prophecy (meaning a direct word from God, not simply inspired exegetical preaching) today, and two of them have the imprimatur of no less than F. F. Bruce and I. Howard Marshall, indicating these scholars' positive evaluation of their solid exegetical basis.
IVP-New Bible Commentary
17:1-19:10 The reign and the ruin of the city of the antichrist
This section expands the vision of the judgment of the seventh cup, briefly described in 16:17-21. It is important to observe that it does not describe what takes place after that judgment, for in it the end comes (16:17). Rather, the passage tells how ‘Babylon' is made to drain the cup appointed for her (16:19).
The imagery in ch. 17 fluctuates in a complicated fashion. In ch. 12 the dragon with seven heads and ten horns is said to represent the devil (v 9), and in ch. 13 he is an incarnation of the spirit of evil, the antichrist. In ch. 17 the beast supports a woman, seated on it; she is declared to be the city of antichrist (18), and the beast is clearly the empire that maintains her. This use of the symbolism is comprehensible, for in the Akkadian form of the battle of the monster of the sea and the gods of heaven the monster is feminine. The woman and the beast are alternative ways of representing a single power of evil. But further, in v 11 the beast is a king, in whom the nature of the empire is embodied. This accords with the frequent manner of identifying kings and their kingdoms in apocalyptic writings (see especially Dn. 2:38-44; 7:2-8, 15-26). The portrayal of the woman who represents the city of the Antichrist in this chapter is contrasted in extremist fashion with the description of the woman who represents the city of God in chs. 19 and 21-22. For example, the former is described as THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES (5); the latter as the pure ‘bride', ‘the wife of the Lamb' (19:7; 21:9). Babylon is drunk with the blood of the saints and by her wine brings death to the world (6; 19:2); the bride offers water of life to the world (22:17) and witnesses to the redemption of the eternal kingdom of God (21:6-22:5). Babylon ends in eternal destruction (19:3); the bride–city is the heart of the new creation (21:1-5). Revelation is well characterized as ‘The tale of two cities'!
17:1-6 A vision of Babylon in her glory
1-2 The angel's words to John could form a fitting title to the whole of 17:1-19:10: The punishment (or ‘judgment') of the great prostitute. The city of Tyre was called a harlot by Isaiah (Is. 23:15-17), and so was Jerusalem (Is. 1:21; Je. 3) and Nineveh (Na. 3:4-5). The latter part of v 2 alludes to Jeremiah's address to Babylon, ‘You who live by many waters and are rich in treasures' (Je. 51:13). The River Euphrates flowed through the city, which also had many canals, and maintained an irrigation system that brought wealth. From v 9 it is clear that the city of Rome is in mind—it has become the new ‘Babylon', repressing the people of God and corrupting the whole earth.
3 In v 1 the ‘prostitute' sits on many waters, but here she is seated on a beast in a desert; the contrary imagery is explained by the association of the desert with demonic beings (cf. Lk. 11:24). The beast is scarlet, sharing the likeness of the dragon, i.e. the devil (12:3). It was covered with blasphemous names, referring primarily to the claims of the Roman emperors to divinity.
4 The luxury and moral filth of the city are here vividly set forth, again with the aid of Jeremiah's characterization of Babylon (Je. 51:7).
5 The statement of the name on the prostitute's forehead alludes to the custom of Roman harlots having their names written on the headband which Roman women used to wear. The prefix mystery signifies that the name is symbolic (cf. 11:8). The title characterizes the tyrant city as of the same nature as that against which the prophets of old vehemently protested. 6 The woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, especially through the inexpressibly cruel persecution of Nero, but also in anticipation of the war of the antichrist against the church.
17:7-18 The vision interpreted: Babylon's doom
For the explanation of the vision in vs 1-6, v 8 is crucial. The ‘beast' on which the woman ‘rides' is plainly the empire of the antichristian city, yet the language appears to relate to an individual who once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss (cf. 11:17). In reality this expression applies to both empire and emperor. The ancient myth of the conquest of the primeval monster of the sea came to denote on the one hand the nature of the political powers that oppressed the people of God (therefore God opposing!) and on the other hand their certain defeat by God. In some versions the monster was slain, in others he was simply subdued. The former is in view in Is. 51:9-10 and is applied to the defeat of Egypt at the exodus; the latter appears in Is. 30:7 to indicate the powerlessness of Egypt to aid Israel. Applying this to the end times it may be said that the monster from the Abyss was, it was overcome and rendered helpless, and so is not, but it will yet come; and so the power of Satan will be seen in another political power headed by another evil ruler. In John's time a peculiar circumstance made this concept extraordinarily powerful. When Nero died the news seemed too good to be true. Rumours circulated that he was still alive and would return at the head of an army to attack Rome. As years passed it was realized that he had died, but the fear spread that he would rise from the dead. So in true apocalyptic symbolism John combined the two expectations to express the hideous reality of the godless city and its godless ruler, both hellish in their nature and both instruments of the devil. (On this theme, see further the note on the antichristian empire at the end of the exposition of ch. 18.)
9-11 The duality of application of this imagery is expressed in v 9, but with a specific identification: the seven heads of the beast are seven hills on which the woman sits, i.e. Rome, familiarly known as ‘the city of the seven hills'. Rome was acting the part of the ‘Mother of prostitutes'. But the seven heads also represent seven kings. Whatever the number seven meant to other writers, to John it was a symbol of completeness. Accordingly, five have fallen means that the majority have come and gone; one is relates to the present ruler; the other (i.e. the seventh) has not yet come, but when he does he must remain for a little while, naturally, because ‘the time is near' (1:3). After his departure the beast will reveal itself in all its bestiality in an eighth king, who is not a newcomer, for he has already appeared as one of the seven, i.e. Nero; but he is not to be feared, for he is going to his destruction, as every God–opposing monster is doomed to go.
12-14 The ten horns, in line with Dn. 7:7, are interpreted as ten kings. In Daniel's vision they precede the anti–god power (some are overthrown by him; Dn. 7:24), but in John's vision they are confederate with the antichrist, rulers of satellite states or governors of provinces. But they have not yet received a kingdom, and when they do they will receive their authority along with the beast for one hour. So short is the time when they are allowed to go on rampage! Their war against the Lamb is useless, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings —including antichrist's kings; and his called, chosen and faithful followers will share his victory (cf. the promises to the ‘overcomers' in chs. 2-3).
15-18 While the waters of Babylon were literally meant in Jeremiah's prophecy (Je. 51:13; see note on v 1), John regards them as aptly symbolizing the people over whom the antichristian city rules. The returning antichrist with his confederates will hate the prostitute and bring her to ruin (the language of v 16 is drawn from Ezekiel's description of the chastisement of Israel; Ezk. 23:25-29). No explanation is given why the antichristian ruler turns against the antichristian city. The popular Nero story expected the emperor to arise to overwhelm the empire, yet this chapter, and v 13 explicitly, assumes that he will rule over the empire and with its aid rage against the works of God. But God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose. The agents of the devil execute the will of God. Evil is destroyed by evil and reaps its own harvest. The antichrist and his allies, like the devil they serve, are in the hands of God until God's words are fulfilled. 18 The woman is now identified, at least as clearly as apocalyptic writing allowed, and enough for John's readers to know of whom he speaks: she is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth, i.e. in John's day Rome, the mistress of the world. For the significance of this identification for modern Christians, see the note on the antichristian empire at the end of the exposition of ch. 18.
18:1-24 A dirge upon Babylon
This chapter is modeled on the doom songs of OT prophets over oppressive and arrogant nations of their times. So reminiscent is it of these that it may be said to summarize all prophetic oracles on the doom of unrighteous peoples. The prophecies against Babylon (Is. 13, 21, 47; Je. 50, 51) and against Tyre (Ezk. 26, 27) appear to have been especially in John's mind. The song about the ruin of Babylon is considerably longer than John's description of the event in 17:12-18, but it forms part of that story and supplies a powerful climax to it.
1 The glory of the angel coming down from heaven is described in words used by Ezekiel of the glory of God returning to the restored temple in the new age (Ezk. 43:1-2).
2 Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great! is a quotation from Is. 21:9. For the rest of the verse cf. Is. 13:21-22. Strictly speaking this picture is not consistent with that in 19:3, but they are different ways of portraying the judgment of God on a city. John has no hesitation in mixing his symbolism, and he expects his readers to interpret it in the light of the prophetic scriptures. 3 John lays to Rome's charge the responsibility for the corruption of the whole earth, therefore this new Babylon must be destroyed from the earth.
4 Cf. Is. 52:11; Je. 51:6, 45. 5 Cf. Je. 51:9. 6 See Is. 4:2; Je. 16:18; 50:29. The cry of v 6 could be thought of as addressed to the avenging armies of the antichrist and his allies. See 17:12, 13, 16. Rome's judgment is to be proportionate to her self–glorification, wantonness and pride; cf. Is. 47:7-9.
8 Of the plagues that overtake ‘Babylon' death is likely to signify pestilence (see on 6:8), and mourning calamity, so making the three plagues ‘pestilence and calamity and famine'. The destruction by fire is performed by the invading armies under the antichrist; cf. 17:16.
The lamentations over Babylon are uttered by the kings of the earth (9-10), merchants (11-17a) and sailors (17b-19). John is here particularly indebted to Ezekiel's doom song over Tyre (Ezk. 26-27). 9 The kings of the earth are those mentioned in 17:18, not those in alliance with the beast (17:16-17; cf. Ezk. 26:16-17). 10 The substance of each lamentation is the same: In one hour your doom has come (see vs 17, 19).
11-13 Cf. the list of merchant nations that traded with Tyre (Ezk. 27:12-24) and their astonishment and fear (Ezk. 27:35-36). Vs 12-13 furnish a list of goods sold by the merchants to Rome; cf. the imports of Tyre (Ezk. 27:12-24). Citron wood was a sweet scented hard wood from North Africa, especially used for making expensive tables. Ivory was popular among Romans both for decorating furniture and ornaments. The term for spice denoted a fragrant plant from India, used for making costly hair ointment. Chariots are of a special kind, having four wheels and often expensively decorated. Two words are used for slaves, bodies and human souls. The latter expression occurs in Ezk. 27:13, and while in ordinary speech both were synonymous the latter virtually signified human livestock. On this Swete commented: ‘The world of St. John's day ministered in a thousand ways to the follies and vices of Babylon, but the climax was reached in the sacrifice of human life which recruited the huge familiae of the rich, filled the brothels, and ministered to the brutal pleasures of the amphitheatre' (The Apocalypse of St. John, p. 235).
17-19 The concern of the seamen, as that of the merchants, is not for the city, nor for those who perished with it, but for their own loss of revenue.
20 The appeal to rejoice over the judgment of Babylon should be separated from the lament of the sailors. It is best viewed as the completion of the angel's statement beginning in v 4, and including the lamentations of the kings, merchants and seamen. Whether intentional or not, 19:1-7 forms a fitting response to the cry.
21 The symbolic action of the angel is suggested by a similar one performed over Babylon by Jeremiah (Je. 51:63-64). Vs 22-23 are reminiscent of Ezk. 26:13 and Je. 25:10 in their descriptions of the cessation of crafts, industry, the joys of marriage and all means of illumination. Your merchants were the world's great men was uttered by Isaiah concerning the merchants of Tyre (Is. 23:8). It is adduced as a reason for Rome's judgment because, to judge from v 3, its merchants fostered the wantonness of the city and so were themselves bound up with the luxurious vice of Rome. Isaiah had already commented on the sorceries of the original Babylon (47:12), and Nahum condemned those of Nineveh (Na. 3:4). The NIV renders the term ‘sorcery' by magic spell; this harmonizes well with the view that it represents not so much literal witchcraft as ‘the witchery of gay luxurious vice and its attendant idolatries, by which the world was fascinated and led astray' (Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, p. 240). 24 Cf. Mt. 23:35, where our Lord so accuses Jerusalem. John's statement is justified not only by the persecutions of the past and of the future tribulation, but also by his understanding of Rome as the incarnation of the spirit of evil that has ever assaulted God's people (see notes on 17:7-18).
Note on the antichristian empire. One urgent question arises from the reading of chs. 13, 17 and 18. In these descriptions of the doom of the city and empire of the antichrist there is little doubt that Rome was in John's mind. He all but names it in 17:9, 18, and through his use of the mystic name Babylon. His prophecies set forth the impending appearance of an antichrist who would embody its wickedness, but whose reign would last only a short time, concluding with the destruction of the city and the appearance and reign of Christ. It is the height of irony that Rome, instead of becoming the sphere of the antichrist's rule, capitulated to the Christ of God and came to be a world centre of Christianity. Many have concluded that John's prophecies therein received their true fulfilment; but the prophet, with his anticipation of the coming of Christ and the descent of the city of God from heaven, would hardly have acknowledged that interpretation.
Here it is necessary to recall that John's vision is fundamentally related to those of the OT prophets. All the prophets, in their representations of the overthrow of the oppressor nations of their day, looked for the establishment of the kingdom of God to follow on those judgments (e.g. Isaiah awaited the Messianic deliverance following on God's judgment of Assyria, Is. 10-11; Habakkuk looked towards the destruction of Babylon, Hab. 2:2-3; Jeremiah and Ezekiel expected it after the return of the Jews under Cyrus, Je. 29-31x; Ezk. 26; and every vision of Daniel looks for it to follow the overthrow of the tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes; see especially Dn. 7-9, 11-12). In the NT the evangelists place our Lord's teaching on the second advent in proximity to his prophecies concerning the judgment on Jerusalem (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21), and that advent is awaited in the not distant future, though never dated (cf. Rom. 13:11-12; Heb. 10:37; Jas. 5:8; 1 Pet. 4:7; 1 Jn. 2:18). To this John was no exception. Two realities would have been before his mind: on the one hand, the Lord had achieved a redemption that brought the kingdom of God into the world, and he was to come soon for its consummation; on the other hand, the ‘mystery of lawlessness' was most obviously at work in the world (2 Thes. 2:7), and Rome was already playing the part of the antichrist. The stage was thus set for the end, and John describes the drama as taught by the prophets, by Christ, and by his apostles. He applies that doctrine to the situation of his day. The time scale was too short, but the essence of his prophecy is not thereby invalidated. The ‘many antichrists' (1 Jn. 2:18) since John's day have increasingly approximated to his portrait and will culminate in one who will perfectly fulfil it.
The symbolism used in this ‘portrait' of the antichrist is as evident as that employed in the portrayal of Satan, the city and the empire, and its use in ch. 12. John adapts the contemporary expectation of Nero's resurrection from the dead to depict the coming antichrist as ‘another Nero'. There is a parallel to this in his application of the prophecy that Elijah will come before the day of the Lord (Mi. 4:5). John would have known how Jesus applied this prophecy to the ministry of John the Baptist (Mk. 9:12-13); he himself puts it to an even wider use in relation to the ministry of the entire church (ch. 11). It was as natural for him to represent the antichrist as working ‘in the spirit and power of Nero' (cf. Lk. 1:17), by employing the story of ‘Nero redivivus' without further explanation, as it was for him to use the prophecy of ‘Elijah redivivus' without explanation.
Just as we should not try to define Jesus' coming with outward calculations, but pay attention rather to what God's providential rule creates before our eyes, so we should allow God to fulfil John's prophecy in his own way and day.
19:1-10 Thanksgiving for the judgment of Babylon
The words of praise that thunder from heaven for the manifest justice of God in destroying the city of antichrist form a response to the cry of the angel in 18:20 to ‘Rejoice' over what God has done. The praises of heaven are recorded in vs 1-4, and those of ‘saints, apostles and prophets' in vs 6-8. The order of heaven's praises in ch. 5 is reversed; first the myriads of angels voice their exultant joy, then the twenty–four elders and four living creatures add their Amen. The call for praise from the servants of God, small and great (5) is answered in the roar of the redeemed in vs 6-8. The fourfold Hallelujah in this passage is unique in the NT; the term occurs nowhere else in its pages. We know it through its use in the Psalms, in particular the so–called Hallel, i.e. Pss. 113–118, sung at Israel's festivals and associated above all with the Passover.
1-2 The song expands 7:10 and is similar in meaning to 12:10. Salvation includes deliverance from anti–god powers and therefore judgment. The angels celebrate the latter, as is characteristic of Revelation (cf. 7:9, after the judgments of the seals; 11:16-18 after the trumpet judgments; 15:3-4 in anticipation of the outpouring of the cups of wrath).
3 The second Hallelujah celebrates the irreversibility of Babylon's destruction. Its language echoes Is. 34:9-10, the day of the Lord on Edom, which itself recalls the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The description of the unquenched fire of burning pitch in Edom, however, is followed by one of the land being inhabited by wild birds and animals, entailing two symbolic pictures of judgment, strictly irreconcilable. So also v 3 has to be qualified by John's description of the new creation (21:1-5), wherein there will be no room for Babylon's fires.
5 The voice from the throne will be from one of the four living creatures, not from the glorified Christ, who would hardly call on God's people to Praise our God. 6-8 The praises of the church relate to the coming of God's reign and the wedding of the Lamb rather than the desolation of Babylon. The statement, our Lord God Almighty reigns should be, as in 11:16, ‘our Lord God Almighty has begun his reign'—he has brought to perfection his kingdom of salvation with illimitable blessing for humankind. Now, therefore, is the time for he wedding of the Lamb, in a similar sense, for the church is already the bride of Christ, but not yet the ‘radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish' (Eph. 5:25-26). The explanatory comment Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God (8) clearly comes from John and is no part of the song. But note the delicate balance of the grace of God and human response entailed in the statements, Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear, for holiness is the gift of God, and the bride has made herself ready, engaging in righteous acts of the saints. This twofold reality continues through the entire Christian life (cf. Phil. 2:12-13).
9 The fourth beatitude of Revelation anticipates the climax of the relations of Christ and his people. Those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb are believers, indicating that a double symbolism is here employed: the bride and the guests are one (cf. 21:9-10, where the bride is also the holy city). These are the true words of God; they include also those that tell of the judgment on Babylon and the blessedness of participation in the Lamb's marriage, i.e. the visions of 17:1 up to this point.
10 The angel refuses John's worship since he too is a fellow–servant who holds to the testimony of Jesus. God alone is to be worshipped, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. That rendering could mean that Jesus' witness is the ‘breath' or principle of prophecy, but that is too impersonal. The statement is illuminated when it is realized that the favourite name of Jews for the Spirit of God was ‘the Spirit of prophecy'; hence it means, ‘The testimony borne by Jesus is the burden of the Spirit who inspires prophecy', and he glorifies the Lord! That perfectly expresses the teaching on the Holy Spirit in the discourses of Jn. 14-16 (see especially Jn. 14:26; 16:12-15).
19:11-22:5 The revelation of the Christ and of the city of God
The judgment of Babylon has been the theme of 17:1-19:10, stated above all in the seventh cup judgment of 16:17-21. But we have not yet been told of the fate of the antichrist and his confederates, the subject of the sixth cup judgment (16:12-14). This prefaces the final visions of the triumph of Christ and his kingdom, which consist of a description of the coming of Christ and the subjugation of the evil powers (19:11-20:3); the kingdom of Christ in this world (20:4-10); the last judgment (20:11-15); and the new creation and the city of God (21:1-22:5).
19:11-21 The rider on the white horse
11-15 The portrayal of Christ's coming is achieved through a series of symbolic pictures which highlight aspects of an event too great to comprehend in advance. When heaven is opened the first thing John sees is a white horse, with Faithful and True riding it. We do not commonly think of Jesus returning on a horse, accompanied by multitudes of angels on horses, nor should we do so. It is a representation of Jesus the almighty Conqueror, ‘Field Marshal' of the armies of heaven, coming to subdue the rebellious of earth, which are led by the powers of hell. His blazing eyes relate to judgment; his many crowns to his position as ‘King of kings and Lord of lords'. He has a name... that no–one knows but he himself, yet his names are given in vs 11, 13, 16; these testify as to who he is, but God alone can grasp the mystery of his person (cf. Mt. 11:27). His blood–dipped robe is that of God (see Is. 63:1-6), which the rabbis said God would wear on the day of his vengeance on Rome. The armies of heaven that follow the Christ are the ‘hosts of heaven', i.e. the angels that surround him (cf. 1 Ki. 22:19; Ps. 103:20; Dn. 7:9-10, 13; Mk. 8:38; 13:26-27; 2 Thes. 2:5-6). The Lord will strike down the nations with the sword of his mouth and tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty ——two complementary pictures wherein Jesus is revealed first as a soldier and then as a farmer securing his grape harvest.
16-18 The angel's summons to the birds of prey to gather together for the great supper of God is drawn from Ezekiel's vision of the overthrow of Gog and Magog (Ezk. 39:17-20), though the assault of Gog and Magog is set by John at the close of the earthly kingdom (20:7-9), in harmony with Ezekiel's vision (Ezk. 38:7-9). This great supper of God for birds of prey is a gruesome counterpart to the feast that begins the kingdom of God (Is. 25:6), here described as the wedding supper of the Lamb.
19-21 The beast and his confederates gathered to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. They are gathered, that is, to Armageddon (16:16). But there is no battle! The armies of heaven watch while the beast and the false prophet are captured, the Christ wields the sword of his mouth, and the devil is thrown into the Abyss. This is a judgment scene by the power of the word of God. The whole description is pictorial, including the horse of Christ, the sword issuing out of his mouth and the vultures that gorge the flesh of the slain. We cannot be sure of the details of the picture, apart from one dominant reality: the victory of Christ over those who oppose him is total. The antichrist and the false prophet are thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This fiery lake is a variant picture of hell, which in Greek is Gehenna, a transliteration of the Hebrew Gehinnom, ‘the valley of Hinnom', where the Jews in Jeremiah's time offered by fire human sacrifices (see Je. 7:31). In apocalyptic literature, both terms are pictorial, the former a development of the concept of the Abyss, both representing the inescapable judgment of God on those who persist in rebellion.
A Vision of the Harlot
Although the Old Testament usually reserved the designation "harlot" for God's faithless people (e.g., Lev 17:7; Is 1:21; Jer 3:1-14; Ezek 16, 23; Hos 4:15), it was also appropriately applied to mighty mercantile or military centers. Thus Isaiah 26:16-18 portrayed Tyre as a harlot who served all the kingdoms of the world; Nineveh as capital of a world empire also was called a harlot and sorceress, who sold nations (into slavery) by both devices (Nah 3:4). (Sorcery and harlotry are also linked in Is 57:3; cf. 2 Kings 9:22.) The false prophetess portrayed earlier in the book appears to be an agent of the system (Rev 2:20). see comment on 18:23.
17:1. Angelic guides were common in apocalypses, especially when the writer was given a tour of heaven or earth. Ancient art pictured cities as their patron goddess, often enthroned on the shore of a river; Rome, whose empire spread throughout the Mediterranean coasts, is naturally portrayed here as sitting on many waters (cf. Ps 65:7; Is 17:12-13).
17:2. Rulers of client states in Asia and Syria subservient to Rome were called "kings," even though they had to please Rome and cooperate with its agents; they also raised no objections to the imperial cult. Undoubtedly they did not think they were prostituting themselves, but any rare pockets of nationalistic resistance (such as in Judea, which was monotheistic besides) would have differed with their evaluation. For the nations' becoming drunk on Babylon's wine, see Jeremiah 51:7.
17:3. For being carried away in visions by the Spirit, see Ezekiel 8:3, 11:1 and 24 (a "strong spirit" in 2 Baruch; angels in 1 Enoch). The wilderness was the place of the new exodus (Rev 12:14), although it was also associated with the demonic in some Jewish tradition; the point here may be that the woman who fancied herself seated on many waters would actually be "desolate" (using a Greek word related to the word for "desert," i.e., barren like the wilderness- 17:16). The beast (13:1) might be related to the she-wolf of Roman legend associated with the goddess Roma (seated on seven hills) on some contemporary Roman coins (although John had ample Jewish precedent in representing kingdoms as beasts, e.g., Dan 8). The scarlet color of the beast is probably related to the blood of martyrs with which it was stained (Rev 17:6), or to the ostentation of the wealthy or of prostitutes (cf. Jer 4:30). (The allusion to the red heifer of Num 19 suggested by some commentators would work better if the heifer could be conflated with the scapegoat sent into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement, bearing Israel's sins- Lev 16; but there is no evidence that such a conflation is in view.) On the blasphemous names see comment on 13:1 and 5-6.
17:4. True purple and scarlet required expensive dyes and were thus worn only by the wealthy, such as queens (18:7) like Jezebel, or by well-to-do prostitutes, who used purple attire to attract attention. Many ancient moralists reviled the ostentation of wealthy women, but John also intends a contrast between the earthly splendor of Rome, renowned throughout its provinces, and the true splendor of the heavenly woman (12:1) and heaven's court (4:3-11; comparison of characters was a major feature of ancient speech and writing).
17:5. As "mother" (cf. 2:23) of "harlots" and "abominations" (perhaps idolatries), "Babylon" is pictured as the most terrible of them all. (In the East, where married women generally covered their hair, a "harlot's forehead" [ Jer 3:3; cf. Hos 2:2 ] might seem an obvious image in this period; of course everyone in Revelation is identified by his or her forehead or hand anyway [ Rev 7:3; 13:16 ]. Older Greek literature reports the slander that Babylonian women were all required to play the harlot once in life, but it is doubtful that this association was popular in the New Testament period; the imagery comes instead from the Old Testament.)
The Meaning of the Harlot
17:6. Although the verse refers to Christians martyred under Rome in general, Rome's thirst for blood may have brought a special image to many minds. Rome's officials kept the multitudes happy with free grain and public amusements, the latter including especially bloodshed in the arena. Criminals and slaves were special candidates for satiating the public appetite for violent entertainment; once Christians were considered criminals, their large numbers would supply an inordinate proportion of victims. see comment on 16:6.
17:7-8. Again using the ancient rhetorical technique of comparison, Revelation pictures the beast who "was and is not and is to come"—a parody on the eternality of God (1:4). Apocalyptic texts often specialized in explaining cryptic revelations, frequently with the aid of an angel.
17:9. It was common knowledge that the original city of Rome sat on seven hills; this datum appears throughout Roman literature and on Roman coins and was celebrated in the name of the annual Roman festival called Septimontium. Here the hills have become mountains in characteristic apocalyptic hyperbole. (The seven mountains of paradise in 1 Enoch 24:2 and 32:1 are probably unrelated, unless by way of radical contrast. But the Sibylline Oracles also prophesied judgment against "seven-hilled Rome"—2:18; 11:109-16.) Like many Jewish interpreters who construed Old Testament language in a variety of ways, John here allows his symbolism to stand for more than one referent (Rev 17:10-11).
17:10-11. Some commentators count the kings starting from the first emperor (Augustus) but use up the seven before reaching the current emperor, Domitian, although the text itself claims that one of the seven was then reigning (v. 10). An allusion to the legendary kings who preceded the Roman Republic fails because obviously none of them is still living, either.
The real clue is that one king was then reigning, and one of the seven would return. Whether an author writing in the reign of the Flavian king Domitian would count the three brief rulers between Nero and Vespasian as "kings" is doubtful; hence Nero, probably viewed as less than seven kings before Domitian, would appear as one of the seven. Interestingly, Nero was also expected to return (see comment on 13:1-10). (Many commentators have missed this connection with what is widely accepted as background for Rev 13.)
17:12. Ten horns represented ten kings in Daniel 7:24, possibly successors of Alexander the Great's Greco-Macedonian kingdom (although most Jewish people in the Roman era read Daniel's fourth kingdom as Rome). It has been suggested that John reapplies the language for the fourteen Parthian satraps, but it would apply more naturally to Rome's client states in the East (cf. Rev 17:2).
17:13. The kings' unified conspiracy against God would come to nothing; this conviction had long been part of Jewish hope (cf. Ps 2:2; 83:5).
17:14. "King of kings" had long been applied to supreme rulers of the East (Ezek 26:7; Dan 2:37; cf. 2:47) and was now used as the title of the Parthian king. More significantly, Jewish people regularly applied these titles to God (from Deut 10:17).
17:15-16. The Roman Empire and its allies would eventually turn on Rome itself—a threat concerning the self-destructiveness and lack of faithfulness of those who pursue evil. The image is from the Old Testament (Jer 4:30; Lam 1:2; Ezek 23:9). The burning derives from Daniel 7:11. Although fire was the standard method for destroying captured cities in antiquity (Amos 1:4), some knowledgeable readers might have remembered the rumor that Nero burned down Rome in A.D. 64 and blamed it on the Christians: Rome thus ought to be wiser than to embrace a new Nero. (The suggestion that Rome was burned like a priest's daughter guilty of harlotry in the Old Testament [ Lev. 21:9 ] is also worthy of mention, although less likely than the interpretations just given.)
17:17. Jewish people recognized that the present world was dominated by evil powers but viewed them only as angels with limited authority; they recognized that God rules the ages. They also realized that, as in the Old Testament, he raises up one nation to judge another, but his purposes are far different from the purposes of the finite nations themselves (e.g., Jer 51:11, 29; 52:3; Joel 2:11).
17:18. In John's day, no one in the Roman Empire could have doubted that the city that "reigns over kings" meant Rome, any more than anyone would have doubted that the seven hills (17:9) alluded to Rome.
A Dirge over Babylon
Most of this chapter consists of funeral dirges over Babylon, following Old Testament models; prophets sometimes ironically mourned a city's destruction, thereby prophesying its ruin. It is difficult for us to catch the impact today: an aged prophet, confined to an island for defying the whims of the mightiest empire the world had ever known, prophesied that empire's destruction. Yet the faith he proclaimed has spread throughout the world, and Rome has now been fallen for fifteen centuries. Although "Babylon" stood for Rome in John's day, other embodiments of the oppressive world system have risen and fallen since then.
Ancient rhetoricians and writers often showed off their epideictic (praise) rhetorical skills by praising important cities, as in Aelius Aristides' lavish flattery of Rome. In contrast to such praises, John describes the city's power and wealth to condemn it, as the Old Testament prophets did with arrogant empires, and to produce a funeral eulogy that curses instead of blesses. Oracles of woe against the nations were common in the Old Testament and continued in some Jewish literature of John's day (particularly Sibylline Oracles).
18:1. Powerful angels were frequently described as shining like lightning or the sun (Dan 10:6 and often in later Jewish texts).
18:2. Old Testament prophets often pronounced an event as done even though it had yet to be fulfilled in practice. John takes this taunt lamentation directly from the Old Testament (Is 21:9; cf. Jer 51:8), as well as the description of a barren land possessed only by desert creatures (Is 34:9-15; cf. Jer 50:13; 51:29, 37; other cities- Jer 9:11; 49:33; cf. Baruch 4:33-35).
18:3. Later Jewish resistance oracles (some Sibylline Oracles) likewise portrayed Rome as lying with many suitors but headed for judgment.
18:4. In pronouncing judgment on Babylon, Jeremiah warned his people—who were supposed to be at home there in the short term (29:4-10)-to flee from the city's midst, because God would destroy it (51:6, 45; cf. Zech 2:7); even the presence of some of the righteous would not stay the judgment (cf. Gen 19:17). (In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the righteous were to "separate" themselves from the "children of the pit"; in one Essene commentary on Nahum, when the iniquity of those who were leading people astray was exposed, the righteous of Ephraim would flee from among them, joining the forces of the true Israel.) Getting out of an imminently doomed city was common sense for anyone who believed the prophecy (cf. Tobit 14:8; Ex 9:20-21).
18:5. Jewish people recognized in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen 15:16; 2 Kings 22:20) that if God's full judgment was delayed, it meant only that he was storing up retribution for the sins of many generations to pour them out on an even more wicked generation (also Mt 23:34-36).
18:6. Paying retribution to the wicked according to their mistreatment of others was a fairly common theme in the Old Testament (Neh 4:4; Esther 9:25; Ps 7:15-16; 35:8; 57:6; Prov 26:27; 28:10; Dan 6:24; Jer 50:15, 29 -Babylon; Obad 15); paying someone back "double" indicated that the retribution would be more than complete (Is 40:2). For the cup with the wine of judgment, cf. Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 51:22 and other references in comment on Revelation 14:9-10.
18:7. Here John cites Isaiah 47:8-9 (also used by the Sibylline Oracles), condemning Babylon's arrogance and smug security that it would never fall (cf. also, e.g., Is 32:9; Jer 48:11; 49:31; Ezek 16:49; Amos 6:1; Obad 3). Rome's luxury (including grain subsidies to keep the masses happy) came at the expense of other nations, such as the heavily taxed peasants of Egypt. The thoughtless extravagance of the Roman elite invited God's wrath; cf. Amos 4:1-2.
18:8. Beset by problems ignored by its king Nabonidus, ancient Babylon had fallen without battle to its conquerors in a single night, as Jewish people well knew (Dan 5:30). But this new "Babylon," the new site of the oppression of God's people, would be judged with fire (see comment on Rev 17:16).
18:9-10. Although the imagery is not totally consistent here (cf. 17:16; but apocalyptic imagery did not have to be consistent), genuine mourning might be natural: client kings were normally appointed only with the favor of Rome, and Rome's fall would grant freedom and prestige to political competitors.
18:11. The imperial grain fleet, by which the fertile soil around the Nile fed the masses of Italy, represented the largest form of transport in the Mediterranean world, but Revelation especially addresses the luxury trade (18:12-16), focusing on nonessential items secured for those who could afford them. The image of merchants mourning over a great trade center is from descriptions of Tyre in Isaiah 23:1-8 and especially Ezekiel 27, a passage that describes in more detail the city's greatness.
18:12-13. As commentators have pointed out, gold, ivory and this special kind of scented wood ("citron wood"— NIV, NASB) were imported especially from North Africa, precious stones and pearls particularly from India, purple dye mainly from Phoenicia, silk and cinnamon from China, the other spices from Arabia and slaves ultimately from subjugated peoples but in more recent times mainly from breeding slaves. "Human lives" (NASB, NRSV, TEV), distinguished from "slaves," probably refers to people reserved for gladiatorial shows and other forms of death to entertain the public; criminals, prisoners of war, the lowest of slaves and Christians were commonly used in such shows.
A second-century writer estimated Rome's imports just from China, India and Arabia at roughly thirty million denarii (a denarius was a day's wage in Palestine). Rome was a center of international trade, and no merchant marine existed like Rome's for a thousand years after its demise.
18:14-15. For "fear" at its fall, cf. the reaction predicted for Tyre's fall in Ezekiel 26:17-18; the merchants' investments are lost.
18:16. On the adornments cf. 17:4; these represent Rome's extravagance and wealth. Those who had never been to Rome often had an exaggerated opinion of its greatness (some later Mesopotamian rabbis spoke of 365 sections of Rome, each with 365 palaces, each with 365 stories!). But it was the most powerful city that the ancient Mediterranean had ever known and that most of the world would know for many centuries after it. No one in the provinces could describe the judgment on Rome and not think of the destruction of great wealth (e.g., also the Sibylline Oracles).
18:17-19. The merchants themselves had good reason to mourn—they were now out of business, perhaps with outstanding debts on their expensive cargoes that would lead to the loss of everything they had.
18:20. Judgment of the wicked is vindication of the righteous; cf. 6:9-11. The Greek phrase (literally "God has judged your judgment from her") may mean that God convicted Rome by applying to that city the judgment of its own law courts against the Christians. When Rome was later sacked by the barbarians of northern Europe after its acceptance of Christendom, the North African theologian Augustine explained that the judgment was due to Rome's past sins (cf. 18:5) and a church too weak to avert judgment in its own time (cf. 18:4).
18:21. In Jeremiah 51:63-64, the prophet is commanded to hurl a stone into the Euphrates and declare that Babylon would likewise sink, never to rise again. Here the stone is the kind of millstone turned by a donkey, so heavy that it could never be retrieved from the sea (Mk 9:42).
18:22. The ghastly silence of Babylon here means complete devastation, as it meant in Isaiah 13:20-22: the city is without inhabitants.
18:23. The "voice of the bridegroom and bride" was the ultimate sound of joy; the prophets used the image of its stifling for terrible destruction (Jer 16:9; 25:10; Joel 1:8). Babylon, who would be left a widow (Rev 18:7, following Is 47:8), was a sorceress (Is 47:9) like Nineveh of old, a harlot who enslaved nations (Nah 3:4); the "sorceries" (KJV) here may refer to love potions or to the occult rites of their pagan priests.
18:24. God dealt vengeance against those stained with the blood of the innocent (Jer 2:34). Although it is not technically true that all the righteous were killed in Rome (cf. Mt 23:35), Rome assumed responsibility for their slaughter as the present embodiment of the oppressive empire, a trait of corporate human sin that recurs throughout history.
Praise over Babylon's Fall
The scene shifts immediately from mourning on earth to rejoicing in heaven; the martyrs have been vindicated at last. Although the reference is particularly to Rome, it looks beyond Rome to the oppressive elements of the world system that carry on Rome's role until the return of Christ. (According to some commentators, chap. 19 applies only to Rome's fall, whereas chap. 20 presents the rest of human history until Christ's return. This view is also defensible; one's conclusion will depend on how figuratively one reads the language of chap. 19.)
19:1. "Hallelujah" is frequent in the Psalms (cf. Ps 146-150), a strong command to praise the Lord (a piel -it is the strongest possible command, probably originally uttered by the inspired Levite musicians summoning their hearers to worship); it was appropriate in all worship, especially in praising God for his magnificent acts (e.g., after deliverance— 3 Maccabees 7:13, or in end-time Jerusalem— Tobit 13:18). It functioned as a call to worship in the temple, and so functions in the heavenly courts of worship (Rev 19:1, 3, 6; cf. v. 5).
19:2. Vindication for the righteous included just punishments against their killers; see Deuteronomy 32:43; cf. Psalm 79:10 and Jeremiah 51:48-49 (on Babylon).
19:3. This quotation is from the description of the fall of Edom's leading city in Isaiah 34:10 but naturally applied to all cities that practiced the same wickedness, including the world system (cf. 66:24). (The application from city to society or world would have been as natural in the first century as application from one city to another; philosophers often viewed the whole state as a macrocity.) This language of smoking ruins was natural war imagery, and as an eternal devastation it is also repeated in the Sibylline Oracles.
19:4. The Old Testament pictures God enthroned both in heaven and above the cherubim on the ark in his temple; given the derivation of the four living creatures from Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1, the image may again be one of a heavenly temple as well as of a throne room.
19:5-6. For the "sound of waters" see comment on 1:15. Music and celebration were crucial at a wedding. God was often called "Almighty," and the Old Testament frequently celebrates his reign, especially with regard to his rule over creation (Ps 97:1), great deliverances (Ex 15:18) and the end time (Is 24:23; 52:7; Mic 4:7).
19:7. In Isaiah 25:6-7 God announces a great banquet for all peoples (cf. Rev 19:7), and in Isaiah 25:8 the promise of deliverance from death. In Isaiah 25:9 God's people celebrate their salvation, declaring, "Let us rejoice and be glad" in the salvation God had enacted on their behalf (slightly different in the LXX). The Old Testament and later Jewish literature often compared Israel to a bride wedded to God; cf. Revelation 21:2. The messianic age or world to come was also often portrayed as a banquet.
19:8. Pure linen was mandatory apparel for the high priest entering the holy of holies (Lev 16:4), extended in time to all ministers in the sanctuary; angels were often supposed to be dressed in linen too (probably based on Dan 12:6-7). Its symbolic use for purity and (here) righteous deeds would thus be natural.
19:9. The banquet here is from Isaiah 25:6, and the image of end-time reward was often developed in Jewish tradition (see comment on Rev 19:7).
19:10. Revelation seems to encourage the view that Christians on earth worship with the angels, in communion with the worship of heaven (a common Jewish view); but the book simultaneously rejects the views of those who prayed to and praised angels (amulets and incantations attest that some Jews invoked angels). Most of early Judaism associated the Spirit of God with the spirit of prophecy; for John, all witnesses of Jesus dependent on the Spirit (thus, ideally, all Christians) were prophets in the broadest sense of the term. It was, in fact, the proper witness to Jesus that distinguished true prophets from false ones (1 Jn 4:1-6), an important issue among some of the book's hearers (Rev 2:20).
The Final Invasion
This section is the ultimate climax of the book, for which readers have waited since 1:7. All the previous armies and other judgments were mere preludes to the coming of the final King of kings on a white horse.
19:11. Roman princes customarily rode white horses in military triumphs; the emperor Domitian had himself ridden one behind his father and brother in their Judean triumph after the Jewish war of 66-70. But the image of Jesus returning on a white horse, conjoined with the title "King of kings" (19:16), may mean that Jesus is portrayed like the Parthian king (cf. 6:2), his whole army coming on white horses (19:14). The pretentious claims of the emperor and all who were like him would be nothing before the true divine king from heaven.
The image may allude to God going forth as a warrior on behalf of his people (e.g., Is 31:4; 42:13; 59:16-18; Hab 3:11-13; Zech 14:3; cf. Ex 15:3). This is the ultimate " holy war," anticipated in the Old Testament, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, by the Zealots and by other Jewish people, although not all these sources expected the deliverance and armies to come directly from heaven.
19:12. On "eyes like a fiery flame" see comment on 1:14 (Dan 10:6); diadems (in contrast to many New Testament references to "crowns," most of which refer to victors' garlands) were for rulers. That his name is unknown may simply be a way of saying that no one has power over him (ancient magicians claimed that they could coerce spirits once they knew their names); compare Revelation 2:17.
19:13. The garments of God were stained with the blood of the winepress in Isaiah 63:2-3, when God was avenging his servants by judgment (cf. Rev 14:17-20); a later Jewish tradition naturally connects this text with the idea of Genesis 49:10-11, reading the latter as proclaiming that the warrior Messiah will be stained with blood. Compare Wisdom of Solomon 18:15-16, where God's slaying the first-born of Egypt is figuratively described as his Word leaping out of heaven like a mighty warrior; his commandment goes forth as a sharp sword (cf. Rev 19:15).
19:14. The armies of heaven were sometimes revealed in the Old Testament (2 Kings 2:11; 6:17; Is 66:15; Hab 3:8; cf. Ps 68:17; Jer 4:13), although God's "hosts" were usually pictured on chariots there, whereas here they ride horses—the customary means of attack for the Parthians. In each case the portrayal matches the most devastating sort of aggressors known in the writer's time. White horses were often considered superior and associated with royalty, and were connected with the Parthians more than with other peoples. Most Palestinian Jews believed that Israel would participate in the final battle (Dead Sea Scrolls; cf. Ps 149:6-9), but the image in this case seems to be the angelic host (also viewed as warriors on horseback, e.g., 2 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees).
19:15. The words of God's mouth could be described as a sword (Hos 6:5; cf. the Similitudes of Enoch) and the Messiah's decrees as a rod (Is 11:4); the mouth of Isaiah's servant also resembles a sharp sword (Is 49:2). (The writer of 4 Ezra 13 also describes a fire going forth from the Messiah to devour the wicked; the fire is said to represent the law of God. In Psalms of Solomon 17:24 and 35-36, the Messiah smites the nations of the earth with the word of his mouth. This is envisioned more literally than simply the image of a commander's orders going forth, as in Judith 2:2-3, although the latter may be what the image means.) God's sword is also described as his instrument of judgment (Is 34:5; Jer 12:12; 47:6), especially in the end (Is 66:15-16). The sword was a Roman symbol of an authority's right over life and death (capital punishment) but appears throughout the Old Testament prophets as an image for judgment by war.
19:16. In Roman antiquity, horses and statues were sometimes branded on the thigh, but people were not (cf. Ex 28:36-38). This is a symbolic depiction; everyone in Revelation is identified by a name on his or her person (e.g., 7:3; 13:16). "King of kings" was the title of the king of Parthia but had been applied in Jewish tradition long before that Parthian usage to God himself, the suzerain King who rules over all the kings of the earth (see comment on 17:14; cf. Deut 10:17; Dan 2:47; Zech 14:9).
The Defeat of the Wicked
19:17-18. The saints have one feast (19:7-9), the birds of the air another (19:17-18). Revelation takes the image here from Ezekiel 39:17 (cf. Is 49:26; Zeph 1:7), which occurs after the final battle with Gog (cf. Rev 20:8). The description of such ultimate destruction of their mighty oppressors (cf. also Sibylline Oracles) would have been a powerful encouragement to the persecuted Christians hearing the book.
19:19. In this depiction of the end, it is the armies, rather than the entire populations of the nations themselves, who are destroyed at this point (cf. 20:8); different Jewish views on the exact character of the final war tried to reconcile different Old Testament images of the end.
19:20-21. Some of these details (judgment by fire, the defeat of Satan and his forces, with special attention to the evil leaders) are standard in accounts of the end time; others are unique to John's story line (the evil emperor and his sorcerer/propaganda minister being thrown into the furnace alive). Cf. Isaiah 30:33 and Daniel 7:11.
Revelation 17:1-18. THE HARLOT BABYLON'S GAUD: THE BEAST ON WHICH SHE RIDES, HAVING SEVEN HEADS AND TEN HORNS, SHALL BE THE INSTRUMENT OF JUDGMENT ON HER.
As Revelation 16:12 stated generally the vial judgment about to be poured on the harlot, Babylon's power, as the seventeenth and eighteen chapters give the same in detail, so the nineteenth chapter gives in detail the judgment on the beast and the false prophet, summarily alluded to in Revelation 16:13-15, in connection with the Lord's coming.
1. unto me — A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic omit. many — So A. But B, "the many waters" (Jeremiah 51:13); Revelation 17:15, below, explains the sense. The whore is the apostate Church, just as "the woman" (Revelation 12:1-6) is the Church while faithful. Satan having failed by violence, tries too successfully to seduce her by the allurements of the world; unlike her Lord, she was overcome by this temptation; hence she is seen sitting on the scarlet-colored beast, no longer the wife, but the harlot; no longer Jerusalem, but spiritually Sodom (Revelation 11:8).
2. drunk with — Greek, "owing to." It cannot be pagan Rome, but papal Rome, if a particular seat of error be meant, but I incline to think that the judgment (Revelation 18:2) and the spiritual fornication (Revelation 18:3), though finding their culmination in Rome, are not restricted to it, but comprise the whole apostate Church, Roman, Greek, and even Protestant, so far as it has been seduced from its "first love" (Revelation 2:4) to Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, and given its affections to worldly pomps and idols. The woman (Revelation 12:1) is the congregation of God in its purity under the Old and New Testament, and appears again as the Bride of the Lamb, the transfigured Church prepared for the marriage feast. The woman, the invisible Church, is latent in the apostate Church, and is the Church militant; the Bride is the Church triumphant.
3. the wilderness — Contrast her in Revelation 12:6, 14, having a place in the wilderness -world, but not a home; a sojourner here, looking for the city to come. Now, on the contrary, she is contented to have her portion in this moral wilderness. upon a scarlet . . . beast — The same as in Revelation 13:1, who there is described as here, "having seven heads and ten horns (therein betraying that he is representative of the dragon, Revelation 12:3), and upon his heads names (so the oldest manuscripts read) of blasphemy"; compare also Revelation 17:12-14, below, with Revelation 19:19, 20, and Revelation 17:13, 14, 16. Rome, resting on the world power and ruling it by the claim of supremacy, is the chief, though not the exclusive, representative of this symbol. As the dragon is fiery-red, so the beast is blood-red in color; implying its blood-guiltiness, and also deep-dyed sin. The scarlet is also the symbol of kingly authority. full — all over; not merely "on his heads," as in Revelation 13:1, for its opposition to God is now about to develop itself in all its intensity. Under the harlot's superintendence, the world power puts forth blasphemous pretensions worse than in pagan days. So the Pope is placed by the cardinals in God's temple on the altar to sit there, and the cardinals kiss the feet of the Pope. This ceremony is called in Romish writers "the adoration." [Historie de Clerge, Amsterd., 1716; and LETTENBURGH'S Notitia Curiae Romanae, 1683, p. 125; HEIDEGGER, Myst. Bab. , 1, 511, 514, 537]; a papal coin [Numismata Pontificum, Paris, 1679, p. 5] has the blasphemous legend, "Quem creant, adorant." Kneeling and kissing are the worship meant by John's word nine times used in respect to the rival of God (Greek, "proskunein "). Abomination, too, is the scriptural term for an idol, or any creature worshipped with the homage due to the Creator. Still, there is some check on the God-opposed world power while ridden by the harlot; the consummated Antichrist will be when, having destroyed her, the beast shall be revealed as the concentration and incarnation of all the self-deifying God-opposed principles which have appeared in various forms and degrees heretofore. "The Church has gained outward recognition by leaning on the world power which in its turn uses the Church for its own objects; such is the picture here of Christendom ripe for judgment" [AUBERLEN]. The seven heads in the view of many are the seven successive forms of government of Rome: kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, military tribunes, emperors, the German emperors [WORDSWORTH], of whom Napoleon is the successor (Revelation 17:11). But see the view given, see note on Revelation 17:9, see note on Revelation 17:10, which I prefer. The crowns formerly on the ten horns (Revelation 13:1) have now disappeared, perhaps an indication that the ten kingdoms into which the Germanic-Slavonic world [the old Roman empire, including the East as well as the West, the two legs of the image with five toes on each, that is, ten in all] is to be divided, will lose their monarchical form in the end [AUBERLEN]; but see Revelation 17:12, which seems to imply crowned kings.
4. The color scarlet, it is remarkable, is that reserved for popes and cardinals. Paul II made it penal for anyone but cardinals to wear hats of scarlet; compare Roman Ceremonial [3.5.5]. This book was compiled several centuries ago by MARCELLUS, a Romish archbishop, and dedicated to Leo X. In it are enumerated five different articles of dress of scarlet color. A vest is mentioned studded with pearls. The Pope's miter is of gold and precious stones. These are the very characteristics outwardly which Revelation thrice assigns to the harlot or Babylon. So Joachim an abbot from Calabria, about A.D. 1200, when asked by Richard of England, who had summoned him to Palestine, concerning Antichrist, replied that "he was born long ago at Rome, and is now exalting himself above all that is called God." ROGER HOVEDEN [Annals, 1.2], and elsewhere, wrote, "The harlot arrayed in gold is the Church of Rome." Whenever and wherever (not in Rome alone) the Church, instead of being "clothed (as at first, Revelation 12:1) with the sun" of heaven, is arrayed in earthly meretricious gauds, compromising the truth of God through fear, or flattery, of the world's power, science, or wealth, she becomes the harlot seated on the beast, and doomed in righteous retribution to be judged by the beast (Revelation 17:16). Soon, like Rome, and like the Jews of Christ's and the apostles' time leagued with the heathen Rome, she will then become the persecutor of the saints (Revelation 17:6). Instead of drinking her Lord's "cup" of suffering, she has "a cup full of abominations and filthinesses." Rome, in her medals, represents herself holding a cup with the self-condemning inscription, "Sedet super universum." Meanwhile the world power gives up its hostility and accepts Christianity externally; the beast gives up its God-opposed character, the woman gives up her divine one. They meet halfway by mutual concessions; Christianity becomes worldly, the world becomes Christianized. The gainer is the world; the loser is the Church. The beast for a time receives a deadly wound (Revelation 13:3), but is not really transfigured; he will return worse than ever (Revelation 17:11-14). The Lord alone by His coming can make the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ. The "purple" is the badge of empire; even as in mockery it was put on our Lord. decked — literally, "gilded." stones — Greek, "stone." filthiness — A, B, and ANDREAS read, "the filthy (impure) things."
5. upon . . . forehead . . . name — as harlots usually had. What a contrast to "HOLINESS TO THE LORD," inscribed on the miter on the high priest's forehead! mystery — implying a spiritual fact heretofore hidden, and incapable of discovery by mere reason, but now revealed. As the union of Christ and the Church is a "great mystery" (a spiritual truth of momentous interest, once hidden, now revealed, Ephesians 5:31, 32), so the Church conforming to the world and thereby becoming a harlot is a counter "mystery" (or spiritual truth, symbolically now revealed). As iniquity in the harlot is a leaven working in "mystery," and therefore called "the mystery of iniquity," so when she is destroyed, the iniquity heretofore working (comparatively) latently in her, shall be revealed in the man of iniquity, the open embodiment of all previous evil. Contrast the "mystery of God" and "godliness," Revelation 10:7; 1 Timothy 3:16. It was Rome that crucified Christ; that destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews; that persecuted the early Christians in pagan times, and Protestant Christians in papal times; and probably shall be again restored to its pristine grandeur, such as it had under the Caesars, just before the burning of the harlot and of itself with her. So HIPPOLYTUS [On Antichrist ] (who lived in the second century), thought. Popery cannot be at one and the same time the "mystery of iniquity," and the manifested or revealed Antichrist. Probably it will compromise for political power (Revelation 17:3) the portion of Christianity still in its creed, and thus shall prepare the way for Antichrist's manifestation. The name Babylon, which in the image, Daniel 2:32, 38, is given to the head, is here given to the harlot, which marks her as being connected with the fourth kingdom, Rome, the last part of the image. Benedict XIII, in his indiction for a jubilee, A.D. 1725, called Rome "the mother of all believers, and the mistress of all churches" (harlots like herself). The correspondence of syllables and accents in Greek is striking; "He porne kai to therion; He numphe kai to arnion ." "The whore and the beast; the Bride and the Lamb." of harlots — Greek, "of the harlots and of the abominations." Not merely Rome, but Christendom as a whole, even as formerly Israel as a whole, has become a harlot. The invisible Church of true believers is hidden and dispersed in the visible Church. The boundary lines which separate harlot and woman are not denominational nor drawn externally, but can only be spiritually discerned. If Rome were the only seat of Babylon, much of the spiritual profit of Revelation would be lost to us; but the harlot "sitteth upon many waters" (Revelation 17:1), and "ALL nations have drunk of the wine of her fornication" (Revelation 17:2; Revelation 18:3; "the earth," Revelation 19:2). External extensiveness over the whole world and internal conformity to the world — worldliness in extent and contents — is symbolized by the name of the world city, "Babylon." As the sun shines on all the earth, thus the woman clothed with the sun is to let her light penetrate to the uttermost parts of the earth. But she, in externally Christianizing the world, permits herself to be seduced by the world; thus her universality or catholicity is not that of the Jerusalem which we look for ("the MOTHER of us all," Revelation 21:2; Isaiah 2:2-4; Galatians 4:26), but that of Babylon, the world-wide but harlot city! (As Babylon was destroyed, and the Jews restored to Jerusalem by Cyrus, so our Cyrus — a Persian name meaning the sun — the Sun of righteousness, shall bring Israel, literal and spiritual, to the holy Jerusalem at His coming. Babylon and Jerusalem are the two opposite poles of the spiritual world). Still, the Romish Church is not only accidentally and as a matter of fact, but in virtue of its very PRINCIPLE, a harlot, the metropolis of whoredom, "the mother of harlots"; whereas the evangelical Protestant Church is, according to her principle and fundamental creed, a chaste woman; the Reformation was a protest of the woman against the harlot. The spirit of the heathen world kingdom Rome had, before the Reformation, changed the Church in the West into a Church-State, Rome; and in the East, into a State-Church, fettered by the world power, having its center in Byzantium; the Roman and Greek churches have thus fallen from the invisible spiritual essence of the Gospel into the elements of the world [AUBERLEN]. Compare with the "woman" called "Babylon" here, the woman named "wickedness," or "lawlessness," "iniquity" (Zechariah 5:7, 8, 11), carried to Babylon: compare "the mystery of iniquity" and "the man of sin," "that wicked one," literally, "the lawless one" (2 Thessalonians 2:7, 8; also Matthew 24:12).
6. martyrs — witnesses. I wondered with great admiration — As the Greek is the same in the verb and the noun, translate the latter "wonder." John certainly did not admire her in the modern English sense. Elsewhere (Revelation 17:8; 13:3), all the earthly-minded ("they that dwell on the earth") wonder in admiration of the beast. Here only is John's wonder called forth; not the beast, but the woman sunken into the harlot, the Church become a world-loving apostate, moves his sorrowful astonishment at so awful a change. That the world should be beastly is natural, but that the faithful bride should become the whore is monstrous, and excites the same amazement in him as the same awful change in Israel excited in Isaiah and Jeremiah. "Horrible thing" in them answers to "abominations" here. "Corruptio optimi pessima "; when the Church falls, she sinks lower than the godless world, in proportion as her right place is higher than the world. It is striking that in Revelation 17:3, "woman" has not the article, "the woman," as if she had been before mentioned: for though identical in one sense with the woman, Revelation 12:1-6, in another sense she is not. The elect are never perverted into apostates, and still remain as the true woman invisibly contained in the harlot; yet Christendom regarded as the woman has apostatized from its first faith.
8. beast . . . was, and is not — (Compare Revelation 17:11). The time when the beast "is not" is the time during which it has "the deadly wound"; the time of the seventh head becoming Christian externally, when its beast-like character was put into suspension temporarily. The healing of its wound answers to its ascending out of the bottomless pit. The beast, or Antichristian world power, returns worse than ever, with satanic powers from hell (Revelation 11:7), not merely from the sea of convulsed nations (Revelation 13:1). Christian civilization gives the beast only a temporary wound, whence the deadly wound is always mentioned in connection with its being healed up the non-existence of the beast in connection with its reappearance; and Daniel does not even notice any change in the world power effected by Christianity. We are endangered on one side by the spurious Christianity of the harlot, on the other by the open Antichristianity of the beast; the third class is Christ's little flock." go — So B, Vulgate, and ANDREAS read the future tense. But A and IRENAEUS, "goeth." into perdition — The continuance of this revived seventh (that is, the eighth) head is short: it is therefore called "the son of perdition," who is essentially doomed to it almost immediately after his appearance. names were — so Vulgate and ANDREAS. But A, B, Syriac, and Coptic read the singular, "name is." written in — Greek, "upon." which — rather, "when they behold the beast that it was," etc. So Vulgate. was, and is not, and yet is — A, B, and ANDREAS read, "and shall come" (literally, "be present," namely, again: Greek, "kai parestai "). The Hebrew, "tetragrammaton," or sacred four letters in Jehovah, "who is, who was, and who is to come," the believer's object of worship, has its contrasted counterpart in the beast "who was, and is not, and shall be present," the object of the earth's worship [BENGEL]. They exult with wonder in seeing that the beast which had seemed to have received its death blow from Christianity, is on the eve of reviving with greater power than ever on the ruins of that religion which tormented them (Revelation 11:10).
9. Compare Revelation 13:18; Daniel 12:10, where similarly spiritual discernment is put forward as needed in order to understand the symbolical prophecy. seven heads and seven mountains — The connection between mountains and kings must be deeper than the mere outward fact to which incidental allusion is made, that Rome (the then world city) is on seven hills (whence heathen Rome had a national festival called Septimontium, the feast of the seven-hilled city [PLUTARCH]; and on the imperial coins, just as here, she is represented as a woman seated on seven hills. Coin of Vespasian, described by CAPTAIN SMYTH [Roman Coins, p. 310; ACKERMAN, 1, p. 87]). The seven heads can hardly be at once seven kings or kingdoms (Revelation 17:10), and seven geographical mountains. The true connection is, as the head is the prominent part of the body, so the mountain is prominent in the land. Like "sea" and "earth" and "waters . . . peoples" (Revelation 17:15), so "mountains" have a symbolical meaning, namely, prominent seats of power. Especially such as are prominent hindrances to the cause of God (Psalms 68:16, 17; Isaiah 40:4; 41:15; 49:11; Ezekiel 35:2); especially Babylon (which geographically was in a plain, but spiritually is called a destroying mountain, Jeremiah 51:25), in majestic contrast to which stands Mount Zion, "the mountain of the Lord's house" (Isaiah 2:2), and the heavenly mount; Revelation 21:10, "a great and high mountain . . . and that great city, the holy Jerusalem." So in Daniel 2:35, the stone becomes a mountain — Messiah's universal kingdom supplanting the previous world kingdoms. As nature shadows forth the great realities of the spiritual world, so seven-hilled Rome is a representative of the seven-headed world power of which the dragon has been, and is the prince. The "seven kings" are hereby distinguished from the "ten kings" (Revelation 17:12):the former are what the latter are not, "mountains," great seats of the world power. The seven universal God-opposed monarchies are Egypt (the first world power which came into collision with God's people,) Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Medo-Persia, Rome, the Germanic-Slavonic empire (the clay of the fourth kingdom mixed with its iron in Nebuchadnezzar's image, a fifth material, Daniel 2:33, 34, 42, 43, symbolizing this last head). These seven might seem not to accord with the seven heads in Daniel 7:4-7, one head on the first beast (Babylon), one on the second (Medo-Persia), four on the third (Greece; namely, Egypt, Syria, Thrace with Bithynia, and Greece with Macedon): but Egypt and Greece are in both lists. Syria answers to Assyria (from which the name Syria is abbreviated), and Thrace with Bithynia answers to the Gothic-Germanic-Slavonic hordes which, pouring down on Rome from the North, founded the Germanic-Slavonic empire. The woman sitting on the seven hills implies the Old and New Testament Church conforming to, and resting on, the world power, that is, on all the seven world kingdoms. Abraham and Isaac dissembling as to their wives through fear of the kings of Egypt foreshadowed this. Compare Ezekiel 16:1-63; 23:1-49, on Israel's whoredoms with Egypt, Assyria, Babylon; and Matthew 7:24; 24:10-12, 23-26, on the characteristics of the New Testament Church's harlotry, namely, distrust, suspicion, hatred, treachery, divisions into parties, false doctrine.
10. there are — Translate, "they (the seven heads) are seven kings." five . . . one — Greek, "the five . . . the one"; the first five of the seven are fallen (a word applicable not to forms of government passing away, but to the fall of once powerful empires: Egypt, Ezekiel 29:1-30:26; Assyria and Nineveh, Nahum 3:1-19; Babylon, Revelation 18:2; Jeremiah 50:1-51:64; Medo-Persia, Daniel 8:3-7, 20-22; 10:13; 11:2; Greece, Daniel 11:4). Rome was "the one" existing in John's days. "Kings" is the Scripture phrase for kingdoms, because these kingdoms are generally represented in character by some one prominent head, as Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, Medo-Persia by Cyrus, Greece by Alexander, etc. the other is not yet come — not as ALFORD, inaccurately representing AUBERLEN, the Christian empire beginning with Constantine; but, the Germanic-Slavonic empire beginning and continuing in its beast-like, that is, HEATHEN Antichristian character for only "a short space." The time when it is said of it, "it is not" (Revelation 17:11), is the time during which it is "wounded to death," and has the "deadly wound" (Revelation 13:3). The external Christianization of the migrating hordes from the North which descended on Rome, is the wound to the beast answering to the earth swallowing up the flood (heathen tribes) sent by the dragon, Satan, to drown the woman, the Church. The emphasis palpably is on "a short space," which therefore comes first in the Greek, not on "he must continue," as if his continuance for some [considerable] time were implied, as ALFORD wrongly thinks. The time of external Christianization (while the beast's wound continues) has lasted for centuries, ever since Constantine. Rome and the Greek Church have partially healed the wound by image worship.
11. beast that . . . is not — his beastly character being kept down by outward Christianization of the state until he starts up to life again as "the eighth" king, his "wound being healed" (Revelation 13:3), Antichrist manifested in fullest and most intense opposition to God. The "he" is emphatic in the Greek. He, peculiarly and pre-eminently: answering to "the little horn" with eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things, before whom three of the ten horns were plucked up by the roots, and to whom the whole ten "give their power and strength" (Revelation 17:12, 13, 17). That a personal Antichrist will stand at the head of the Antichristian kingdom, is likely from the analogy of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Old Testament Antichrist, "the little horn" in Daniel 8:9-12; also, "the man of sin, son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8), answers here to "goeth into perdition," and is applied to an individual, namely, Judas, in the only other passage where the phrase occurs (John 17:12). He is essentially a child of destruction, and hence he has but a little time ascended out of the bottomless pit, when he "goes into perdition" (Revelation 17:8, 11). "While the Church passes through death of the flesh to glory of the Spirit, the beast passes through the glory of the flesh to death" [AUBERLEN]. is of the seven — rather "springs out of the seven." The eighth is not merely one of the seven restored, but a new power or person proceeding out of the seven, and at the same time embodying all the God-opposed features of the previous seven concentrated and consummated; for which reason there are said to be not eight, but only seven heads, for the eighth is the embodiment of all the seven. In the birth-pangs which prepare the "regeneration" there are wars, earthquakes, and disturbances [AUBERLEN], wherein Antichrist takes his rise ("sea," Revelation 13:1; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:9-11). He does not fall like the other seven (Revelation 17:10), but is destroyed, going to his own perdition, by the Lord in person.
12. ten kings . . . received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings . . . with the beast — Hence and from Revelation 17:14, 16, it seems that these ten kings or kingdoms, are to be contemporaries with the beast in its last or eighth form, namely, Antichrist. Compare Daniel 2:34, 44, "the stone smote the image upon his feet," that is, upon the ten toes, which are, in Daniel 2:41-44, interpreted to be "kings." The ten kingdoms are not, therefore, ten which arose in the overthrow of Rome (heathen), but are to rise out of the last state of the fourth kingdom under the eighth head. I agree with ALFORD that the phrase "as kings," implies that they reserve their kingly rights in their alliance with the beast, wherein "they give their power and strength unto" him (Revelation 17:13). They have the name of kings, but not with undivided kingly power [WORDSWORTH]. See AUBERLEN'S not so probable view, see note on Revelation 17:3. one hour — a definite time of short duration, during which "the devil is come down to the inhabitant of the earth and of the sea, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." Probably the three and a half years (Revelation 11:2, 3; 13:5). Antichrist is in existence long before the fall of Babylon; but it is only at its fail he obtains the vassalage of the ten kings. He in the first instance imposes on the Jews as the Messiah, coming in his own name; then persecutes those of them who refuse his blasphemous pretensions. Not until the sixth vial, in the latter part of his reign, does he associate the ten kings with him in war with the Lamb, having gained them over by the aid of the spirits of devils working miracles. His connection with Israel appears from his sitting "in the temple of God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4), and as the antitypical "abomination of desolation standing in the Holy place" (Daniel 9:27; 12:11; Matthew 24:15), and "in the city where our Lord was crucified" (Revelation 11:8). It is remarkable that IRENAEUS [Against Heresies, 5:25] and CYRIL OF JERUSALEM [RUFINUS, Historia Monachorum, 10.37] prophesied that Antichrist would have his seat at Jerusalem and would restore the kingdom of the Jews. JULIAN the apostate, long after, took part with the Jews, and aided in building their temple, herein being Antichrist's forerunner.
13. one mind — one sentiment. shall give — So Coptic. But A, B, and Syriac, "give." strength — Greek, "authority." They become his dependent allies (Revelation 17:14). Thus Antichrist sets up to be King of kings, but scarcely has he put forth his claim when the true KING OF KINGS appears and dashes him down in a moment to destruction.
14. These shall . . . war with the Lamb — in league with the beast. This is a summary anticipation of Revelation 19:19. This shall not be till after they have first executed judgment on the harlot (Revelation 17:15, 16). Lord of lords, etc. — anticipating Revelation 19:16. are — not in the Greek. Therefore translate, "And they that are with Him, called chosen, and faithful (shall overcome them, namely, the beast and his allied kings)." These have been with Christ in heaven unseen, but now appear with Him.
15. (Revelation 17:1; Isaiah 8:7.) An impious parody of Jehovah who "sitteth upon the flood" [ALFORD]. Also, contrast the "many waters" Revelation 19:6, "Alleluia." peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues — The "peoples," etc. here mark the universality of the spiritual fornication of the Church. The "tongues" remind us of the original Babel, the confusion of tongues, the beginning of Babylon, and the first commencement of idolatrous apostasy after the flood, as the tower was doubtless dedicated to the deified heavens. Thus, Babylon is the appropriate name of the harlot. The Pope, as the chief representative of the harlot, claims a double supremacy over all peoples, typified by the "two swords" according to the interpretation of Boniface VIII in the Bull, "Unam Sanctam," and represented by the two keys: spiritual as the universal bishop, whence he is crowned with the miter; and temporal, whence he is also crowned with the tiara in token of his imperial supremacy. Contrast with the Pope's diadems the "many diadems" of Him who alone has claim to, and shall exercise when He shall come, the twofold dominion (Revelation 19:12).
16. upon the beast — But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "and the beast." shall make her desolate — having first dismounted her from her seat on the beast (Revelation 17:3). naked — stripped of all her gaud (Revelation 17:4). As Jerusalem used the world power to crucify her Saviour, and then was destroyed by that very power, Rome; so the Church, having apostatized to the world, shall have judgment executed on her first by the world power, the beast and his allies; and these afterwards shall have judgment executed on them by Christ Himself in person. So Israel leaning on Egypt, a broken reed, is pierced by it; and then Egypt itself is punished. So Israel's whoredom with Assyria and Babylon was punished by the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. So the Church when it goes a-whoring after the word as if it were the reality, instead of witnessing against its apostasy from God, is false to its profession. Being no longer a reality itself, but a sham, the Church is rightly judged by that world which for a time had used the Church to further its own ends, while all the while "hating" Christ's unworldly religion, but which now no longer wants the Church's aid. eat her flesh — Greek plural, "masses of flesh," that is, "carnal possessions"; implying the fulness of carnality into which the Church is sunk. The judgment on the harlot is again and again described (Revelation 18:1; 19:5); first by an "angel having great power" (Revelation 18:1), then by "another voice from heaven" (Revelation 18:4-20), then by "a mighty angel" (Revelation 18:21-24). Compare Ezekiel 16:37-44, originally said of Israel, but further applicable to the New Testament Church when fallen into spiritual fornication. On the phrase, "eat . . . flesh" for prey upon one's property, and injure the character and person, compare Psalms 14:4; 27:2; Jeremiah 10:25; Micah 3:3. The First Napoleon's Edict published at Rome in 1809, confiscating the papal dominions and joining them to France, and later the severance of large portions of the Pope's territory from his sway and the union of them to the dominions of the king of Italy, virtually through Louis Napoleon, are a first instalment of the full realization of this prophecy of the whore's destruction. "Her flesh" seems to point to her temporal dignities and resources, as distinguished from "herself" (Greek ). How striking a retribution, that having obtained her first temporal dominions, the exarchate of Ravenna, the kingdom of the LOMBARDs, and the state of Rome, by recognizing the usurper Pepin as lawful king of France, she should be stripped of her dominions by another usurper of France, the Napoleonic dynasty! burn . . . with fire — the legal punishment of an abominable fornication.
17. hath put — the prophetical past tense for the future. fulfil — Greek, "do," or "accomplish." The Greek, "poiesai," is distinct from that which is translated, "fulfilled," Greek, "telesthesontai," below. his will — Greek, "his mind," or purpose; while they think only of doing their own purpose. to agree — literally, "to do" (or accomplish ) one mind" or "purpose." A and Vulgate omit this clause, but B supports it. the words of God — foretelling the rise and downfall of the beast; Greek, "hoi logoi," in A, B, and ANDREAS. English Version reading is Greek, "ta rhemata," which is not well supported. No mere articulate utterances, but the efficient words of Him who is the Word: Greek, "logos." fulfilled — (Revelation 10:7).
18. reigneth — literally, "hath kingship over the kings." The harlot cannot be a mere city literally, but is called so in a spiritual sense (Revelation 11:8). Also the beast cannot represent a spiritual power, but a world power. In this verse the harlot is presented before us ripe for judgment. The eighteenth chapter details that judgment. CHAPTER 18
Revelation 18:1-24. BABYLON'S FALL: GOD'S PEOPLE CALLED OUT OF HER: THE KINGS AND MERCHANTS OF THE EARTH MOURN, WHILE THE SAINTS REJOICE AT HER FALL.
1. And — so Vulgate and ANDREAS. But A, B, Syriac, and Coptic omit "And." power — Greek, "authority." lightened — "illumined." with — Greek, "owing to."
2. mightily . . . strong — not supported by manuscripts. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "with (literally, ‘in') a mighty voice." is fallen, is fallen — so A, Vulgate, Syriac, and ANDREAS. But B and Coptic omit the second "is fallen" (Isaiah 21:9; Jeremiah 51:8). This phrase is here prophetical of her fall, still future, as Revelation 18:4 proves. devils — Greek, "demons." the hold — a keep or prison.
3. drunk — Revelation 14:8, from which perhaps "the wine" may have been interpolated. They have drunk of her fornication, the consequence of which will be wrath to themselves. But A, B, and C read, "(owing to the wrath of her fornication all nations) have fallen." Vulgate and most versions read as English Version, which may be the right reading though not supported by the oldest manuscripts. Babylon, the whore, is destroyed before the beast slays the two witnesses (Revelation 11:7), and then the beast himself is destroyed. the wine — so B, Syriac, and Coptic. But A, C, and Vulgate omit. abundance — literally, "power." delicacies — Greek, "luxury." See note on 1 Timothy 5:11, where the Greek verb "wax wanton" is akin to the noun here. Translate, "wanton luxury." The reference is not to earthly merchandise, but to spiritual wares, indulgences, idolatries, superstitions, worldly compromises, wherewith the harlot, that is, the apostate Church, has made merchandise of men. This applies especially to Rome; but the Greek, and even in a less degree Protestant churches, are not guiltless. However, the principle of evangelical Protestantism is pure, but the principle of Rome and the Greek church is not so.
4. Come out of her, my people — quoted from Jeremiah 50:8; 51:6, 45. Even in the Romish Church God has a people: but they are in great danger; their only safety is in coming out of her at once. So also in every apostate or world-conforming church there are some of God's invisible and true Church, who, if they would be safe, must come out. Especially at the eve of God's judgment on apostate Christendom: as Lot was warned to come out of Sodom just before its destruction, and Israel to come from about the tents of Dathan and Abiram. So the first Christians came out of Jerusalem when the apostate Jewish Church was judged. "State and Church are precious gifts of God. But the State being desecrated to a different end from what God designed it, namely. to govern for, and as under, God, becomes beast-like; the Church apostatizing becomes the harlot. The true woman is the kernel: beast and harlot are the shell: whenever the kernel is mature, the shell is thrown away" [AUBERLEN]. "The harlot is not Rome alone (though she is pre-eminently so), but every Church that has not Christ's mind and spirit. False Christendom, divided into very many sects, is truly Babylon, that is, confusion. However, in all Christendom the true Jesus-congregation, the woman clothed with the sun, lives and is hidden. Corrupt, lifeless Christendom is the harlot, whose great aim is the pleasure of the flesh, and which is governed by the spirit of nature and the world" [HAHN in AUBERLEN]. The first justification of the woman is in her being called out of Babylon the harlot, as the culminating stage of the latter's sin, when judgment is about to fall: for apostate Christendom, Babylon, is not to be converted, but to be destroyed. Secondly, she has to pass through an ordeal of persecution from the beast, which purifies and prepares her for the transfiguration glory at Christ's coming (Revelation 20:4; Luke 21:28). be not partakers — Greek, "have no fellowship with her sins." that ye receive not of her plagues — as Lot's wife, by lingering too near the polluted and doomed city.
5. her sins — as a great heap. reached — Greek, "reached so far as to come into close contact with, and to cleave unto."
6. Addressed to the executioners of God's wrath. Reward — Greek, "repay." she rewarded — English Version reading adds "you" with none of the oldest manuscripts. But A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic omit it. She had not rewarded or repaid the world power for some injury which the world power had inflicted on her; but she had given the world power that which was its due, namely, spiritual delusions, because it did not like to retain God in its knowledge; the unfaithful Church's principle was, "Populus vult decipi, et decipiatur." "The people like to be deceived, and let them be deceived." double — of sorrow. Contrast with this the double of joy which Jerusalem shall receive for her past suffering (Isaiah 61:7; Zechariah 9:12); even as she has received double punishment for her sins (Isaiah 40:2). unto her — So Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS. A, B, and C omit it. in the cup — (Revelation 18:3; Revelation 14:8; 17:4). filled — literally "mixed." fill to her double — of the Lord's cup of wrath.
7. How much — that is in proportion as. lived deliciously — luxuriously: see note on Revelation 18:3, where the Greek is akin. sorrow — Greek, "mourning," as for a dead husband. I sit — so Vulgate. But A, B, and C prefix "that." I . . . am no widow — for the world power is my husband and my supporter. shall see no sorrow — Greek, "mourning." "I am seated (this long time ) . . . I am no widow . . . I shall see no sorrow," marks her complete unconcerned security as to the past, present, and future [BENGEL]. I shall never have to mourn as one bereft of her husband. As Babylon was queen of the East, so Rome has been queen of the West, and is called on Imperial coins "the eternal city." So Papal Rome is called by AMMIAN MARCELLIN [15.7]. "Babylon is a former Rome, and Rome a latter Babylon. Rome is a daughter of Babylon, and by her, as by her mother, God has been pleased to subdue the world under one sway" [AUGUSTINE]. As the Jew's restoration did not take place till Babylon's fall, so R. KIMCHI on Obadiah, writes, "When Rome (Edom) shall be devastated, there shall be redemption to Israel." Romish idolatries have been the great stumbling-blocks to the Jews' acceptance of Christianity.
8. death — on herself, though she thought herself secure even from the death of her husband. mourning — instead of her feasting. famine — instead of her luxurious delicacies (Revelation 18:3, 7). fire — (See note on Revelation 17:16). Literal fire may burn the literal city of Rome, which is situated in the midst of volcanic agencies. As the ground was cursed for Adam's sin, and the earth under Noah was sunk beneath the flood, and Sodom was burnt with fire, so may Rome be. But as the harlot is mystical (the whole faithless Church), the burning may be mainly mystical, symbolizing utter destruction and removal. BENGEL is probably right in thinking Rome will once more rise to power. The carnal, faithless, and worldly elements in all churches, Roman, Greek, and Protestant, tend towards one common center, and prepare the way for the last form of the beast, namely, Antichrist. The Pharisees were in the main sound in creed, yet judgment fell on them as on the unsound Sadducees and half-heathenish Samaritans. So faithless and adulterous, carnal, worldly Protestant churches, will not escape for their soundness of creed. the Lord — so B, C, Syriac, and ANDREAS. But A and Vulgate omit. "Strong" is the meaning of God's Hebrew name, "EL." judgeth — But A, B, and C read the past tense (Greek, "krinas "), "who hath judged her": the prophetical past for the future: the charge in Revelation 18:4 to God's people to come out of her implies that the judgment was not yet actually executed.
9. lived deliciously — Greek, "luxuriated." The faithless Church, instead of reproving, connived at the self-indulgent luxury of the great men of this world, and sanctioned it by her own practice. Contrast the world's rejoicing over the dead bodies of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:10) who had tormented it by their faithfulness, with its lamentations over the harlot who had made the way to heaven smooth, and had been found a useful tool in keeping subjects in abject tyranny. Men's carnal mind relishes a religion like that of the apostate Church, which gives an opiate to conscience, while leaving the sinner license to indulge his lusts. bewail her — A, B, C, Syriac, Coptic, and CYPRIAN omit "her."
10. God's judgments inspire fear even in the worldly, but it is of short duration, for the kings and great men soon attach themselves to the beast in its last and worst shape, as open Antichrist, claiming all that the harlot had claimed in blasphemous pretensions and more, and so making up to them for the loss of the harlot. mighty — Rome in Greek means strength; though that derivation is doubtful.
11. shall — So. B. But A and C read the present, "weep and mourn." merchandise — Greek, "cargo": wares carried in ships: ship-lading (compare Revelation 18:17). Rome was not a commercial city, and is not likely from her position to be so. The merchandise must therefore be spiritual, even as the harlot is not literal, but spiritual. She did not witness against carnal luxury and pleasure-seeking, the source of the merchants' gains, but conformed to them (Revelation 18:7). She cared not for the sheep, but for the wool. Professing Christian merchants in her lived as if this world not heaven, were the reality, and were unscrupulous as to the means of getting gain. Compare Notes, see on Zechariah 5:4-11, on the same subject, the judgment on mystical Babylon's merchants for unjust gain. All the merchandise here mentioned occurs repeatedly in the Roman Ceremonial.
12. (See note on Revelation 17:4). stones . . . pearls — Greek, "stone . . . pearl." fine linen — A, B, and C read Greek, "bussinou" for "bussou," that is, "fine linen manufacture" [ALFORD]. The manufacture for which Egypt (the type of the apostate Church, Revelation 11:8) was famed. Contrast "the fine linen" (Ezekiel 16:10) put on Israel, and on the New Testament Church (Revelation 19:8), the Bride, by God (Psalms 132:9). thyine wood — the citrus of the Romans: probably the cypressus thyoyides, or the thuia articulata. "Citron wood" [ALFORD]. A sweet-smelling tree of Cyrene in Lybia, used for incense. all manner vessels — Greek, "every vessel," or "furniture."
13. cinnamon — designed by God for better purposes: being an ingredient in the holy anointing oil, and a plant in the garden of the Beloved (Song Of Songs 4:14); but desecrated to vile uses by the adulteress (Proverbs 7:17). odours — of incense. A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac prefix "and amomium" (a precious hair ointment made from an Asiatic shrub). English Version reading is supported by Coptic and ANDREAS, but not oldest manuscripts. ointments — Greek, "ointment." frankincense — Contrast the true "incense" which God loves (Psalms 141:2; Malachi 1:11). fine flour — the similago of the Latins [ALFORD]. beasts — of burden: cattle. slaves — Greek, "bodies." souls of men — (Ezekiel 27:13). Said of slaves. Appropriate to the spiritual harlot, apostate Christendom, especially Rome, which has so often enslaved both bodies and souls of men. Though the New Testament does not directly forbid slavery, which would, in the then state of the world, have incited a slave revolt, it virtually condemns it, as here. Popery has derived its greatest gains from the sale of masses for the souls of men after death, and of indulgences purchased from the Papal chancery by rich merchants in various countries, to be retailed at a profit [MOSHEIM, III, 95, 96].
14. Direct address to Babylon. the fruits that thy soul lusted after — Greek, "thy autumn-ripe fruits of the lust (eager desire) of the soul." dainty — Greek, "fat": "sumptuous" in food. goodly — "splendid," "bright," in dress and equipage. departed — supported by none of our manuscripts. But A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "perished." thou shalt — A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "They (men) shall no more find them at all."
15. of these things — of the things mentioned, Revelation 18:12, 13. which — "who." made rich by — Greek, "derived riches from her." stand afar off for the fear — (Compare Revelation 18:10). wailing — Greek, "mourning."
16. And — so Vulgate and ANDREAS. But A, B, and C omit. decked — literally, "glided." stones . . . pearls — Greek, "stone . . . pearl." B and ANDREAS read "pearls." But A and C, "pearl."
17. is come to naught — Greek, "is desolated." shipmaster — Greek, "steersman," or "pilot." all the company in ships — A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "Every one who saileth to a place" (B has ". . . to the place"), every voyager. Vessels were freighted with pilgrims to various shrines, so that in one month (A.D. 1300) two hundred thousand pilgrims were counted in Rome [D'AUBIGNE, Histoire de la Reformation ]: a source of gain, not only to the Papal see, but to shipmasters, merchants, pilots, etc. These latter, however, are not restricted to those literally "shipmasters," etc., but mainly refer, in the mystical sense, to all who share in the spiritual traffic of apostate Christendom.
18. when they saw — Greek, "horontes." But A, B, C, and ANDREAS read, Greek, "blepontes," "looking at." Greek, "blepo," is to use the eyes, to look: the act of seeing without thought of the object seen. Greek, "horao," refers to the thing seen or presented to the eyes [TITTMANN]. smoke — so B, C. But A reads "place." What city is like — Compare the similar beast as to the beast, Revelation 13:4: so closely do the harlot and beast approximate one another. Contrast the attribution of this praise to God, to whom alone it is due, by His servants (Exodus 15:11). MARTIAL says of Rome, "Nothing is equal to her;" and ATHENAEUS, "She is the epitome of the world."
19. wailing — "mourning." that had ships — A, B, and C read, "that had their ships": literally, "the ships." costliness — her costly treasures: abstract for concrete.
20. holy apostles — So C reads. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS read, "Ye saints and ye apostles." avenged you on her — Greek, "judged your judgment on (literally, exacting it from ) her." "There is more joy in heaven at the harlot's downfall than at that of the two beasts. For the most heinous of all sin is the sin of those who know God's word of grace, and keep it not. The worldliness of the Church is the most worldly of all worldliness. Hence, Babylon, in Revelation, has not only Israel's sins, but also the sins of the heathen; and John dwells longer on the abominations and judgments of the harlot than on those of the beast. The term ‘harlot' describes the false Church's essential character. She retains her human shape as the woman, does not become a beast: she has the form of godliness, but denies its power. Her rightful lord and husband, Jehovah-Christ, and the joys and goods of His house, are no longer her all in all, but she runs after the visible and vain things of the world, in its manifold forms. The fullest form of her whoredom is, where the Church wishes to be itself a worldly power, uses politics and diplomacy, makes flesh her arm, uses unholy means for holy ends, spreads her dominion by sword or money, fascinates men by sensual ritualism, becomes ‘mistress of ceremonies' to the dignitaries of the world, flatters prince or people, and like Israel, seeks the help of one world power against the danger threatening from another" [AUBERLEN]. Judgment, therefore, begins with the harlot, as in privileges the house of God.
21. a — Greek, "one." millstone — Compare the judgment on the Egyptian hosts at the Red Sea, Exodus 15:5, 10; Nehemiah 9:11, and the foretold doom of Babylon, the world power, Jeremiah 51:63, 64. with violence — Greek, "with impetus." This verse shows that this prophecy is regarded as still to be fulfilled.
22. pipers — flute players. "Musicians," painters and sculptors, have desecrated their art to lend fascination to the sensuous worship of corrupt Christendom. craftsman — artisan.
23. What a blessed contrast is Revelation 22:5, respecting the city of God: "They need no candle (just as Babylon shall no more have the light of a candle, but for a widely different reason), for the Lord God giveth them light." candle — Translate as Greek, "lamp." bridegroom . . . bride . . . no more . . . in thee — Contrast the heavenly city, with its Bridegroom, Bride, and blessed marriage supper (Revelation 19:7, 9; 21:2, 9; Isaiah 62:4, 5). thy merchants were — So most of the best authorities read. But A omits the Greek article before "merchants," and then translates, "The great men of . . . were thy merchants." sorceries — Greek, "sorcery."
24. Applied by Christ (Matthew 23:35) to apostate Jerusalem, which proves that not merely the literal city Rome, and the Church of Rome (though the chief representative of the apostasy), but the WHOLE of the faithless Church of both the Old and New Testament is meant by Babylon the harlot; just as the whole Church (Old and New Testament) is meant by "the woman" (Revelation 12:1). As to literal city, ARINGHUS in BENGEL says, Pagan Rome was the "general shambles" for slaying the sheep of Jesus. FRED. SEYLER in BENGEL calculates that papal Rome, between A.D. 1540 and 1580, slew more than nine hundred thousand Protestants. Three reasons for the harlot's downfall are given: (1) The worldly greatness of her merchants, which was due to unholy traffic in spiritual things. (2) Her sorceries, or juggling tricks, in which the false prophet that ministers to the beast in its last form shall exceed her; compare "sorcerers" (Revelation 21:8; 22:15), specially mentioned among those doomed to the lake of fire. (3) Her persecution of (Old Testament) "prophets" and (New Testament) "saints."
Revelation 19:1-21. THE CHURCH'S THANKSGIVING IN HEAVEN FOR THE JUDGMENT ON THE HARLOT. THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB: THE SUPPER: THE BRIDE'S PREPARATION: JOHN IS FORBIDDEN TO WORSHIP THE ANGEL: THE LORD AND HIS HOSTS COME FORTH FOR WAR: THE BEAST AND THE FALSE PROPHET CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE: THE KINGS AND THEIR FOLLOWERS SLAIN BY THE SWORD OUT OF CHRIST'S MOUTH.
1. As in the case of the opening of the prophecy, Revelation 4:8; 5:9, etc.; so now, at one of the great closing events seen in vision. the judgment on the harlot (described in Revelation 18:1-24), there is a song of praise in heaven to God: compare Revelation 7:10, etc., toward the close of the seals, and Revelation 11:15-18, at the close of the trumpets: Revelation 15:3, at the saints' victory over the beast. And — so ANDREAS. But A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic omit. a great voice — A, B, C, Vulgate, Coptic, and ANDREAS read, "as it were a great voice." What a contrast to the lamentations Revelation 18:1-24! Compare Jeremiah 51:48. The great manifestation of God's power in destroying Babylon calls forth a great voice of praise in heaven. people — Greek, "multitude." Alleluia — Hebrew, "Praise ye JAH," or JEHOVAH: here first used in Revelation, whence ELLICOTT infers the Jews bear a prominent part in this thanksgiving. JAH is not a contraction of "JEHOVAH," as it sometimes occurs jointly with the latter. It means "He who Is": whereas Jehovah is "He who will be, is, and was." It implies God experienced as a PRESENT help; so that "Hallelujah," says KIMCHI in BENGEL, is found first in the Psalms on the destruction of the ungodly. "Hallelu-Jah" occurs four times in this passage. Compare Psalms 149:4-9, which is plainly parallel, and indeed identical in many of the phrases, as well as the general idea. Israel, especially, will join in the Hallelujah, when "her warfare is accomplished" and her foe destroyed. Salvation, etc. — Greek, "The salvation . . . the glory . . . the power." and honour — so Coptic. But A, B, C, and Syriac omit. unto the Lord our God — so ANDREAS. But A, B, C, and Coptic read, "(Is) of our God," that is, belongs to Him.
2. which did corrupt the earth — Greek, "used to corrupt" continually. "Instead of opposing and lessening, she promoted the sinful life and decay of the world by her own earthliness, allowing the salt to lose its savor" [AUBERLEN]. avenged — Greek, "exacted in retribution." A particular application of the principle (Genesis 9:5). blood of his servants — literally shed by the Old Testament adulterous Church, and by the New Testament apostate Church; also virtually, though not literally, by all who, though called Christians, hate their brother, or love not the brethren of Christ, but shrink from the reproach of the cross, and show unkindness towards those who bear it.
3. again — Greek, "a second time." rose up — Greek, "goeth up." for ever and ever — Greek, "to the ages of the ages."
4. beasts — rather, "living creatures." sat — Greek, "sitteth."
5. out of — Greek, "out from the throne" in A, B, C. Praise our God — Compare the solemn act of praise performed by the Levites, 1 Chronicles 16:36; 23:5, especially when the house of God was filled with the divine glory (2 Chronicles 5:13). both — omitted in A, B, C, Vulgate, Coptic, and Syriac. Translate as Greek, "the small and the great."
6. many waters — Contrast the "many waters" on which the whore sitteth (Revelation 17:1). This verse is the hearty response to the stirring call, "Alleluia! Praise our God" (Revelation 19:4, 5). the Lord God omnipotent — Greek, "the Omnipotent." reigneth — literally, "reigned": hence reigneth once for all. His reign is a fact already established. Babylon, the harlot, was one great hindrance to His reign being recognized. Her overthrow now clears the way for His advent to reign; therefore, not merely Rome, but the whole of Christendom in so far as it is carnal and compromised Christ for the world, is comprehended in the term "harlot." The beast hardly arises when he at once "goeth into perdition": so that Christ is prophetically considered as already reigning, so soon does His advent follow the judgment on the harlot.
7. glad . . . rejoice — Greek, "rejoice . . . exult." give — so B and ANDREAS. But A reads, "we will give." glory — Greek, "the glory." the marriage of the Lamb is come — The full and final consummation is at Revelation 21:2-9, etc. Previously there must be the overthrow of the beast, etc., at the Lord's coming, the binding of Satan, the millennial reign, the loosing of Satan and his last overthrow, and the general judgment. The elect-Church, the heavenly Bride, soon after the destruction of the harlot, is transfigured at the Lord's coming, and joins with Him in His triumph over the beast. On the emblem of the heavenly Bridegroom and Bride, compare Matthew 22:2; 25:6, 10; 2 Corinthians 11:2. Perfect union with Him personally, and participation in His holiness; joy, glory, and kingdom, are included in this symbol of "marriage"; compare Song of Solomon everywhere. Besides the heavenly Bride, the transfigured, translated, and risen Church, reigning over the earth with Christ, there is also the earthly bride, Israel, in the flesh, never yet divorced, though for a time separated, from her divine husband, who shall then be reunited to the Lord, and be the mother Church of the millennial earth, Christianized through her. Note, we ought, as Scripture does, restrict the language drawn from marriage-love to the Bride, the Church as a whole; not use it as individuals in our relation to Christ, which Rome does in the case of her nuns. Individually, believers are effectually-called guests; collectively, they constitute the bride. The harlot divides her affections among many lovers: the bride gives hers exclusively to Christ.
8. granted — Though in one sense she "made herself ready," having by the Spirit's work in her put on "the wedding garment," yet in the fullest sense it is not she, but her Lord, who makes her ready by "granting to her that she be arrayed in fine linen." It is He who, by giving Himself for her, presents her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, but holy and without blemish. It is He also who sanctifies her, naturally vile and without beauty, with the washing of water by the word, and puts His own comeliness on her, which thus becomes hers. clean and white — so ANDREAS. But A and B transpose. Translate, "bright and pure"; at once brilliantly splendid and spotless as in the bride herself. righteousness — Greek, "righteousnesses"; distributively used. Each saint must have this righteousness: not merely be justified, as if the righteousness belonged to the Church in the aggregate; the saints together have righteousnesses; namely, He is accounted as "the Lord our righteousness" to each saint on his believing, their robes being made white in the blood of the Lamb. The righteousness of the saint is not, as ALFORD erroneously states, inherent, but is imputed: if it were otherwise, Christ would be merely enabling the sinner to justify himself. Romans 5:18 is decisive on this. Compare Article XI, Church of England. The justification already given to the saints in title and unseen possession, is now GIVEN them in manifestation: they openly walk with Christ in white. To this, rather than to their primary justification on earth, the reference is here. Their justification before the apostate world, which had persecuted them, contrasts with the judgment and condemnation of the harlot. "Now that the harlot has fallen, the woman triumphs" [AUBERLEN]. Contrast with the pure fine linen (indicating the simplicity and purity) of the bride, the tawdry ornamentation of the harlot. Babylon, the apostate Church, is the antithesis to new Jerusalem, the transfigured Church of God. The woman (Revelation 12:1-6), the harlot (Revelation 17:1-7), the bride (Revelation 19:1-10), are the three leading aspects of the Church.
9. He — God by His angel saith unto me. called — effectually, not merely externally. The "unto," or into," seems to express this: not merely invited to (Greek, "epi "), but called INTO, so as to be partakers of (Greek, "eis "); compare 1 Corinthians 1:9. marriage supper — Greek, "the supper of the marriage." Typified by the Lord's Supper. true — Greek, "genuine"; veritable sayings which shall surely be fulfilled, namely, all the previous revelations.
10. at — Greek, "before." John's intending to worship the angel here, as in Revelation 22:8, on having revealed to him the glory of the new Jerusalem, is the involuntary impulse of adoring joy at so blessed a prospect. It forms a marked contrast to the sorrowful wonder with which he had looked on the Church in her apostasy as the harlot (Revelation 17:6). It exemplifies the corrupt tendencies of our fallen nature that even John, an apostle, should have all but fallen into "voluntary humility and worshipping of angels," which Paul warns us against. and of thy brethren — that is, a fellow servant of thy brethren. have the testimony of Jesus — (See note on Revelation 12:17). the testimony of — that is, respecting Jesus. is the spirit of prophecy — is the result of the same spirit of prophecy in you as in myself. We angels, and you apostles, all alike have the testimony of (bear testimony concerning) Jesus by the operation of one and the same Spirit, who enables me to show you these revelations and enables you to record them: wherefore we are fellow servants, not I your lord to be worshipped by you. Compare Revelation 22:9, "I am fellow servant of thee and of thy brethren the prophets "; whence the "FOR the testimony," etc. here, may be explained as giving the reason for his adding "and (fellow servant) of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus." I mean, of the prophets; "for it is of Jesus that thy brethren, the prophets, testify by the Spirit in them." A clear condemnation of Romish invocation of saints as if they were our superiors to be adored.
11. behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him — identical with Revelation 6:2. Here as there he comes forth "conquering and to conquer." Compare the ass -colt on which He rode into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-7). The horse was used for war: and here He is going forth to war with the beast. The ass is for peace. His riding on it into Jerusalem is an earnest of His reign in Jerusalem over the earth, as the Prince of peace, after all hostile powers have been overthrown. When the security of the world power, and the distress of the people of God, have reached the highest point, the Lord Jesus shall appear visibly from heaven to put an end to the whole course of the world, and establish His kingdom of glory. He comes to judge with vengeance the world power, and to bring to the Church redemption, transfiguration, and power over the world. Distinguish between this coming (Matthew 24:27, 29, 37, 39; Greek, "parousia ") and the end, or final judgment (Matthew 25:31; 1 Corinthians 15:23). Powerful natural phenomena shall accompany His advent [AUBERLEN].
12. Identifying Him with the Son of man similarly described, Revelation 1:14. many crowns — Greek, "diadems": not merely (Greek, "stephanoi ") garlands of victory, but royal crowns, as KING OF KINGS. Christ's diadem comprises all the diadems of the earth and of heavenly powers too. Contrast the papal tiara composed of three diadems. Compare also the little horn (Antichrist) that overcomes the three horns or kingdoms, Daniel 7:8, 24 (Quaere, the Papacy? or some three kingdoms that succeed the papacy, which itself, as a temporal kingdom, was made up at first of three kingdoms, the exarchate of Ravenna, the kingdom of the Lombards, and the state of Rome, obtained by Pope Zachary and Stephen II from Pepin, the usurper of the French dominion). Also, the seven crowns (diadems) on the seven heads of the dragon (Revelation 12:3), and ten diadems on the ten heads of the beast. These usurpers claim the diadems which belong to Christ alone. he had a name written — B and Syriac insert, "He had names written, and a name written," etc. meaning that the names of the dominion which each diadem indicated were written on them severally. But A, Vulgate, ORIGEN, and CYPRIAN omits the words, as English Version. name . . . that no man knew but . . . himself — (Judges 13:18; 1 Corinthians 2:9, 11; 1 John 3:2). The same is said of the "new name" of believers. In this, as in all other respects, the disciple is made like his Lord. The Lord's own "new name" is to be theirs, and to be "in their foreheads"; whence we may infer that His as yet unknown name also is written on His forehead; as the high priest had "Holiness to the Lord" inscribed on the miter on his brow. John saw it as "written," but knew not its meaning. It is, therefore, a name which in all its glorious significancy can be only understood when the union of His saints with Him, and His and their joint triumph and reign, shall be perfectly manifested at the final consummation.
13. vesture dipped in blood — Isaiah 63:2 is alluded to here, and in Revelation 19:15, end. There the blood is not His own, but that of His foes. So here the blood on His "vesture," reminding us of His own blood shed for even the ungodly who trample on it, is a premonition of the shedding of their blood in righteous retribution. He sheds the blood, not of the godly, as the harlot and beast did, but of the blood-stained ungodly, including them both. The Word of God — who made the world, is He also who under the same character and attributes shall make it anew. His title, Son of God, is applicable in a lower sense, also to His people; but "the Word of God" indicates His incommunicable Godhead, joined to His manhood, which He shall then manifest in glory. "The Bride does not fear the Bridegroom; her love casteth out fear. She welcomes Him; she cannot be happy but at His side. The Lamb [Revelation 19:9, the aspect of Christ to His people at His coming] is the symbol of Christ in His gentleness. Who would be afraid of a lamb? Even a little child, instead of being scared, desires to caress it. There is nothing to make us afraid of God but sin, and Jesus is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. What a fearful contrast is the aspect which He will wear towards His enemies! Not as the Bridegroom and the Lamb, but as the [avenging] judge and warrior stained in the blood of His enemies."
14. the armies . . . in heaven — Compare "the horse bridles," Revelation 14:20. The glorified saints whom God "will bring with" Christ at His advent; compare Revelation 17:14, "they that are with Him, called, chosen, faithful"; as also "His mighty angels." white and clean — Greek, "pure." A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and CYPRIAN omit "and," which ORIGEN and ANDREAS retain, as English Version.
15. out of his mouth . . . sword — (Revelation 1:16; 2:12, 16). Here in its avenging power, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, "consume with the Spirit of His mouth" (Isaiah 11:4, to which there is allusion here); not in its convicting and converting efficacy (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12, 13, where also the judicial keenness of the sword-like word is included). The Father commits the judgment to the Son. he shall rule — The HE is emphatic, He and none other, in contrast to the usurpers who have misruled on earth. "Rule," literally, "tend as a shepherd"; but here in a punitive sense. He, who would have shepherded them with pastoral rod and with the golden scepter of His love, shall dash them in pieces, as refractory rebels, with "a rod of iron." treadeth . . . wine-press — (Isaiah 63:3). of the fierceness and wrath — So ANDREAS reads. But A, B, Vulgate, Coptic, and ORIGEN read, "of the fierceness (or boiling indignation ) of the wrath," omitting "and." Almighty — The fierceness of Christ's wrath against His foes will be executed with the resources of omnipotence.
16. "His name written on His vesture and on His thigh," was written partly on the vesture, partly on the thigh itself, at the part where in an equestrian figure the robe drops from the thigh. The thigh symbolizes Christ's humanity as having come, after the flesh, from the loins of David, and now appearing as the glorified "Son of man." On the other hand, His incommunicable divine name, "which no man knew," is on His head (Revelation 19:12), [MENOCHIUS]. KING OF KINGS — Compare Revelation 17:14, in contrast with Revelation 19:17, the beast being in attempted usurpation a king of kings, the ten kings delivering their kingdom to him.
17. an — Greek, "one." in the sun — so as to be conspicuous in sight of the whole world. to all the fowls — (Ezekiel 39:17-20). and gather yourselves — A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS read, "be gathered," omitting "and." of the great God — A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS read, "the great supper (that is, banquet) of God."
18. Contrast with this "supper," Revelation 19:17, 18, the marriage supper of the Lamb, Revelation 19:9. captains — Greek, "captains of thousands," that is, chief captains. The "kings" are "the ten" who "give their power unto the beast." free and bond — specified in Revelation 13:16, as "receiving the mark of the beast." The repetition of flesh (in the Greek it is plural: masses of flesh ) five times in this verse, marks the gross carnality of the followers of the beast. Again, the giving of their flesh to the fowls to eat, is a righteous retribution for their not suffering the dead bodies of Christ's witnesses to be put in graves.
19. gathered together — at Armageddon, under the sixth vial. For "their armies" in B and ANDREAS, there is found "His armies" in A. war — so ANDREAS. But A and B read, "the war," namely, that foretold, Revelation 16:14; 17:4.
20. and with him the false prophet — A reads, "and those with him." B reads, "and he who was with him, the false prophet." miracles — Greek, "the miracles" (literally, "signs") recorded already (Revelation 13:14) as wrought by the second beast before (literally, ‘in sight of') the first beast. Hence it follows the second beast is identical with the false prophet. Many expositors represent the first beast to be the secular, the second beast to be the ecclesiastical power of Rome; and account for the change of title for the latter from the "other beast" to the "false prophet," is because by the judgment on the harlot, the ecclesiastical power will then retain nothing of its former character save the power to deceive. I think it not unlikely that the false prophet will be the successor of the spiritual pretensions of the papacy; while the beast in its last form as the fully revealed Antichrist will be the secular representative and embodiment of the fourth world kingdom, Rome, in its last form of intensified opposition to God. Compare with this prophecy, Ezekiel 38:1-39:29; Daniel 2:34, 35, 44; 11:44, 45; 12:1; Joel 3:9-17; Zechariah 12; 13; 14. Daniel (Daniel 7:8) makes no mention of the second beast, or false prophet, but mentions that "the little horn" has "the eyes of a man," that is, cunning and intellectual culture; this is not a feature of the first beast in the thirteenth chapter, but is expressed by the Apocalyptic "false prophet," the embodiment of man's unsanctified knowledge, and the subtlety of the old serpent. The first beast is a political power; the second is a spiritual power — the power of ideas. But both are beasts, the worldly Antichristian wisdom serving the worldly Antichristian power. The dragon is both lion and serpent. As the first law in God's moral government is that "judgment should begin at the house of God," and be executed on the harlot, the faithless Church, by the world power with which she had committed spiritual adultery, so it is a second law that the world power, after having served as God's instrument of punishment, is itself punished. As the harlot is judged by the beast and the ten kings, so these are destroyed by the Lord Himself coming in person. So Zephaniah 1:1-18 compared with Zephaniah 2:1-15. And Jeremiah, after denouncing Jerusalem's judgment by Babylon, ends with denouncing Babylon's own doom. Between the judgment on the harlot and the Lord's destruction of the beast, will intervene that season in which earthly-mindedness will reach its culmination, and Antichristianity triumph for its short three and a half days during which the two witnesses lie dead. Then shall the Church be ripe for her glorification, the Antichristian world for destruction. The world at the highest development of its material and spiritual power is but a decorated carcass round which the eagles gather. It is characteristic that Antichrist and his kings, in their blindness, imagine that they can wage war against the King of heaven with earthly hosts; herein is shown the extreme folly of Babylonian confusion. The Lord's mere appearance, without any actual encounter, shows Antichrist his nothingness; compare the effect of Jesus' appearance even in His humiliation, John 18:6 [AUBERLEN]. had received — rather as Greek, "received," once for all. them; that worshipped — literally, "them worshipping" not an act once for all done, as the "received" implies, but those in the habit of "worshipping." These both were cast . . . into a lake — Greek, ". . . the lake of fire," Gehenna. Satan is subsequently cast into it, at the close of the outbreak which succeeds the millennium (Revelation 20:10). Then Death and Hell, as well those not found at the general judgment "written in the book of life"; this constitutes "the second death." alive — a living death; not mere annihilation. "Their worm dieth not, their fire is not quenched."
21. the remnant — Greek, "the rest," that is, "the kings and their armies" (Revelation 19:19) classed together in one indiscriminate mass. A solemn confirmation of the warning in Psalms 2:10.
Analysis of the Chapter
THIS chapter properly commences a more detailed description of the judgment inflicted on the formidable Antichristian power referred to in the last chapter, though under a new image. It contains an account of the sequel of the pouring out of the last vial, and the description, in various forms, continues to the close of chap. xix. The whole of this description (chap. xvii.-xix.) constitutes the last great catastrophe represented under the seventh vial, Rev. 16:17-21, at the close of which the great enemy of God and the church will be destroyed, and the church will be triumphant, Rev. 19:17-21. The image in this chapter is that of a harlot, or abandoned woman, on whom severe judgment is brought for her sins. The action is here delayed, and this chapter has much the appearance of an explanatory episode, designed to give a more clear and definite idea of the character of that formidable Antichristian power on which the judgment was to descend. The chapter, without any formal division, embraces the following points:—
(1.) Introduction, Rev. 17:1-3. One of the seven angels entrusted with the seven vials comes to John, saying that he would describe to him the judgment that was to come upon the great harlot with whom the kings of the earth had committed fornication, and who had made the dwellers upon the earth drunk by the wine of her fornication; that is, of that Antichristian power so often referred to in this book, which by its influence had deluded the nations, and brought their rulers under its control.
(2.) A particular description of this Antichristian powers represented as an abandoned and attractive female, in the usual attire of an harlot, Rev. 17:3-6. She is seated on a scarlet-coloured beast, covered over with blasphemous names—a beast with seven heads and ten horns. She is arrayed in the usual gorgeous and alluring attire of an harlot, clothed in purple, decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, with a golden cup in her hand full of abomination and filthiness. She has on her forehead a name expressive of her character. She is represented as drunken with the blood of the saints, and is such as to attract attention
(3.) An explanation of what is meant by this scarlet-clothed woman, and of the design of the representation, Rev. 17:7-18. This comprises several parts:
(a) A promise of the angel that he would explain this, Rev. 17:7.
(b) An enigmatical or symbolical representation of the design of the vision, Rev. 17:8-14. This description consists of an account of the beast on which the woman sat, Rev. 17:8; of the seven heads of the beast, as representing seven mountains, Rev. 17:9; of the succession of kings or dynasties represented, Rev. 17:9-11; of the ten horns as representing ten kings or kingdoms giving their power and strength to the beast, Rev. 17:12-13; and of the conflict or warfare of all these confederated or consolidated powers with the Lamb, and their discomfiture by him, Rev. 7:14.
(c) A more literal statement of what is meant by this, Rev. 17:15-18. The waters on which the harlot sat represent a multitude of people subject to her control, Rev. 17:15. The ten horns, or the ten kingdoms, on the beast, would ultimately hate the harlot, and destroy her, as if they should eat her flesh, and consume her with fire, Rev. 17:16. This would be done because God would put it into their hearts to fulfil his purposes, alike in giving their kingdom to the beast, and then turning against it to destroy it, Rev. 17:17. The woman referred to is at last declared to be the great city which reigned over the kings of the earth, Rev. 17:18. For particularity and definiteness, this is one of the most remarkable chapters in the book, and there can be no doubt that it was the design in it to give such an explanation of what was referred to in these visions, that there could be no mistake in applying the description. "All that remains between this and the twentieth chapter," says Andrew Fuller, "would in modern publications be called notes of illustration. No new subject is introduced, but mere enlargement on what has already been announced."—Works, vi. 205.
1. And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials. See Note on Rev. 15:1, 7.
Reference is again made to these angels in the same manner in Rev. 21:9, where one of them says that he would show to John "the bride, the Lamb's wife." No particular one is specified. The general idea seems to be, that to those seven angels was entrusted the execution of the last things, or the winding up of affairs introductory to the reign of God, and that the communications respecting those last events were properly made through them. It is clearly quite immaterial by which of these it is done. The expression "which had the seven vials" would seem to imply that though they had emptied the vials in the manner stated in the previous chapter, they still retained them in their hands.
And talked with me. Spake to me. The word talk would imply a more protracted conversation than occurred here.
Come hither. Gr., deuro—"here, hither." This is a word merely calling the attention, as we should say now "here." It does not imply that John was to leave the place where he was.
I will show thee. Partly by symbols, and partly by express statements: for this is the way in which, in fact, he showed him.
The judgment. The condemnation and calamity that will come upon her.
Of the great whore. It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to represent a city under the image of a woman—a pure and holy city under the image of a virgin or chaste female; a corrupt, idolatrous, and wicked city under the image of an abandoned or lewd woman. See Note on Isa. 1:21
"How is the faithful city become an harlot." Compare Note on Isa. 1:8.
In Rev. 16:18 it is expressly said that "this woman is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth"—that is, as I suppose, Papal Rome; and the design here is to represent it as resembling an abandoned female—fit representative of an apostate, corrupt, unfaithful church. Compare Note on Rev. 9:21.
That sitteth upon many waters. An image drawn either from Babylon, situated on the Euphrates, and encompassed by the many artificial rivers which had been made to irrigate the country, or Rome, situated on the Tiber. In Rev. 16:15, these waters are said to represent the peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues over which the government symbolized by the woman ruled. See Note on Rev. 16:15.
Waters are often used to symbolize nations.
2. With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication. Spiritual adultery. The meaning is, that Papal Rome, unfaithful to God, and idolatrous and corrupt, had seduced the rulers of the earth, and led them into the same kind of unfaithfulness, idolatry, and corruption. Compare Jer. 3:8-9; 5:7; 13:27; 23:14; Ezek. 16:32; 23:37; Hos. 2:2
Hos. 4:2. How true this is in history need not be stated. All the princes and kings of Europe in the dark ages and for many centuries were, and not a few of them are now, entirely under the influence of Papal Rome.
And the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. The alluring cup which as an harlot she had to said extended them. See this image explained in See Note on Rev. 14:8.
There it is that Babylon—referring to the same thing—had "made them drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication;" that is, of the cup that led to wrath or punishment. Here it is said that the harlot had made them "drunk with the wine of her fornication;" that is, they had been, as it were, intoxicated by the alluring cup held out to them. What could better describe the influence of Rome on the people of the world, in making them, under these delusions, incapable of sober judgment, and in completely fascinating and controlling all their powers?
3. So he carried me away in the spirit. In vision. He seemed to himself to be thus carried away; or the scene which he is about to describe was made to pass before him as if he were present.
Into the wilderness. Into a desert. Compare Note on Rev. 12:6.
Why this scene is laid in a wilderness or desert is not mentioned. Prof. Stuart supposes that it is because it is "appropriate to symbolize the future condition of the beast." So De Wette and Rosenmuller. The imagery is changed somewhat from the first appearance of the harlot in Rev. 17:1. There she is represented as "sitting upon many waters." Now she is represented as "riding on a beast," and, of course, the imagery is adapted to that. Possibly there may have been no intentional significancy in this; but on the supposition, as the interpretation has led us to believe all along, that this refers to Papal Rome, may not the propriety of this be seen in the condition of Rome and the adjacent country, at the rise of the Papal power? That had its rise (See Note on Dan. 7:25, seq.) after the decline of the Roman civil power, and properly in the time of Clovis, Pepin, or Charlemagne. Perhaps its first visible appearance as a power that was to influence the destiny of the world, was in the time of Gregory the Great, A. D. 590-605. On the supposition that the passage before us refers to the period when the Papal power became thus marked and defined, the state of Rome at this time, as described by Mr. Gibbon, would show with what propriety the term wilderness or desert might be then applied to it. The following extract from this author, in describing the state of Rome at the accession of Gregory the Great, has almost the appearance of being a designed commentary on this passage, or is, at any rate, such as a partial interpreter of this book would desire and expect to find. Speaking of that period, he says, (Decline and Fall, iii. 207-211:) "Rome had reached, about the close of the sixth century, the lowest period of her depression. By the removal of the seat of empire, and the successive loss of the province, the sources of private and public opulence were exhausted; the lofty tree under whose shade the nations of the earth had reposed was deprived of its leaves and branches, and the sapless trunk left to wither on the ground. The ministers of command and the messengers of victory no longer met on the Appian or Flaminian way; and the hostile approach of the Lombards was often felt and continually feared. The inhabitants of a potent and peaceful capital, who visit without an anxious thought the garden of the adjacent country, will faintly picture in their fancy the distress of the Romans; they shut or opened their gates with a trembling hand, beheld from the walls the flames of their houses, and heard the lamentations of their brethren who were coupled together like dogs, and dragged away into distant slavery beyond the sea and the mountains. Such incessant alarms must annihilate the pleasures, and interrupt the labours of rural life; and the Campagna of Rome was speedily reduced to the state of a dreary WILDERNESS, in which the land is barren, the waters are impure, and the air infectious. Curiosity and ambition no longer attracted the nations to the capital of the world; but if chance or necessity directed the steps of a wandering stranger, he contemplated with horror the vacancy and solitude of the city; and might be tempted to ask, where is the Senate, and where are the people?
In a season of excessive rains, the Tiber swelled above its banks, and rushed with irresistible violence into the valleys of the seven hills. A pestilential disease arose from the stagnation of the deluge, and so rapid was the contagion that fourscore persons expired in an hour in the midst of a solemn procession which implored the mercy of heaven. A society in which marriage is encouraged, and industry prevails, soon repairs the accidental losses of pestilence and war; but as the far greater part of the Romans was condemned to hopeless indigence and celibacy, the depopulation was constant and visible, and the gloomy enthusiasts might expect the approaching failure of the human race. Yet the number of citizens still exceeded the measure of subsistence; their precarious food was supplied from the harvests of Sicily and Egypt; and the frequent repetition of famine betrays the inattention of the emperor to a distant province.
The edifices of Rome were exposed to the same ruin and decay; the mouldering fabrics were easily overthrown by inundations, tempests, and earthquakes; and the monks who had occupied the most advantageous stations exulted in their base triumph over the ruins of antiquity.
"Like Thebes, or Babylon, or Carthage, the name of Rome might have been erased from the earth, if the city had not been animated by a vital principle which again restored her to honour and dominion. The power as well as the virtue of the apostles revived with living energy in the breasts of their successors; and the chair of St. Peter under the reign of Maurice, was occupied by the first and greatest of the name of Gregory. The sword of the enemy was suspended over Rome; it was averted by the mud eloquence and seasonable gifts of the Pontiff, who commanded the respect of heretics and barbarians." Compare Rev. 13:3, 12-15.
On the supposition now that the inspired author of the Apocalypse had Rome in that state when the civil power, declined and the Papacy arose in his eye, what more expressive imagery could he have used to denote it than he has employed" On the supposition—if such a supposition could be made—that Mr. Gibbon meant to furnish a commentary on this passage, what more appropriate language could he have used? Does not this language look as if the author of the Apocalypse and the author of the "Decline and Fall" meant to play into each other's hands?
And in further confirmation of this, I may refer to the testimony of two Roman Catholic writers, giving the same view of Rome, and showing that, in their apprehension also, it was only by the reviving influence of the Papacy that Rome was saved from becoming a total waste. They are both of the middle ages. The first is Augustine Steuchus, who thus writes: "The empire having been overthrown, unless God had raised up the Pontificate, Rome, resuscitated and restored by none, would have become uninhabitable, and been a most foul habitation thenceforward of cattle. But in the Pontificate it revived as with a second birth; its empire in magnitude, not indeed equal to the old empire, but its form not very dissimilar: because all nations, from East and from West, venerate the Pope, not otherwise than they before obeyed the Emperors." The other is Flavio Blondas: "The princes of the world now adore and worship as Perpetual Dictator the successor not of Caesar but of the Fisherman Peter; that is, the Supreme Pontiff, the substitute of the aforesaid Emperor." See the original in Elliott, iii. 113.
And I saw a woman. Evidently the same which is referred to in Rev. 17:1.
Sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast. That is, either the beast was itself naturally of this colour, or it was covered with trappings of this colour. The word scarlet properly denotes a bright red colour—brighter than crimson, which is a red colour tinged with blue. See Note on Isa. 1:18.
The word here used—kokkinon—occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: Matt. 27:28; Heb. 9:19; Rev. 17:3-4; 18:12, 16, in all which places it is rendered scarlet. See Notes on Matt. 27:28; Heb. 9:19.
The colour was obtained from a small insect which was found adhering to the, shoots of a species of oak in Spain and Western Asia. This was the usual colour in the robes of princes, military cloaks, etc. It is applicable in the description of Papal Rome, because this is a favourite colour there. Thus it is used in Rev. 12:3, where the same power is represented under the image of a "red dragon." See Note on Rev. 12:3.
It is remarkable that nothing would better represent the favourite colour at Rome than this, or the actual appearance of the pope, the cardinals, and the priests in their robes, on some great festival occasion. Those who are familiar with the descriptions given of Papal Rome by travellers, and those who have passed much time in Rome, will see at once the propriety of this description, on the supposition that it was intended to refer to the Papacy. I caused this inquiry to be made of an intelligent gentleman who had passed much time in Rome—without his knowing my design—what would strike a stranger on visiting Rome, or what would be likely particularly to arrest his attention as remarkable there; and he unhesitatingly replied, "the scarlet colour." This is the colour of the dress of the cardinals—their hats, and cloaks, and stockings being always of this colour. It is the colour of the carriages of the cardinals, the entire body of the carriage being scarlet, and the trappings of the horses the same. On occasion of public festivals and processions, scarlet is suspended from the windows of the houses along which processions pass. The inner colour of the cloak of the pope is scarlet; his carriage is scarlet; the carpet on which he treads is scarlet. A large part of the dress of the body-guard of the pope is scarlet; and no one can take up a picture of Rome without seeing that this colour is predominant. I looked through a volume of engravings representing the principal officers and public persons of Rome. There were few in which the scarlet colour was not found as constituting some part of their apparel; in not a few the scarlet colour prevailed almost entirely. And in illustration of the same thought, I introduce here an extract from a foreign newspaper, copied into an American newspaper of Feb. 22, 1851, as an illustration of the fact that the scarlet colour is characteristic of Rome, and of the readiness with which it is referred to in that respect: "Curious Costumes.—The three new cardinals, the archbishops of Thoulouse, Rheims, and Besancon, were presented to the President of the French Republic by the Pope's Nuncio. They wore red caps, red stockings, black Roman coats lined and bound with red, and small cloaks." I conclude, therefore, that if it be admitted that it was intended to represent Papal Rome in the vision, the precise description would have been adopted which is found here.
Full of names of blasphemy. All covered over with blasphemous titles and names. What could more accurately describe Papal Rome than this? Compare for some of these names and titles, See Notes on 2 Thess. 2:4; 1 Tim. 4:1, seq. See Notes on Rev. 13:1, Rev. 13:5.
Having seven heads and ten horns. See Note on Rev. 13:1.
4. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour. On the nature of the scarlet colour, See Note on Rev. 17:3.
The purple colour—porfura—was obtained from a species of shell-fish found on the coasts of the Mediterranean, which yielded a reddish-purple dye, much prized by the ancients. Robes dyed in that colour were commonly worn by persons of rank and wealth, Mark 15:17, 20; Luke 16:19.
The purple colour contains more blue than the crimson, though the limits are not very accurately defined, and the words are sometimes interchanged. Thus the mock robe put on the Saviour is called in Mark 15:17, 20, porfuran—purple, and in Matt. 27:28, kokkinhn—crimson. On the applicability of this to the Papacy, See Note on Rev. 17:3.
And decked with gold. After the manner of an harlot, with rich jewelry.
And precious stones. Sparkling diamonds, etc.
And pearls. Also a much-valued female ornament. Compare Note on Matt. 7:6.
Having a golden cup in her hand. As if to entice lovers. See Note on Rev. 14:8.
Full of abominations. Of abominable things; of things fitted to excite abhorrence and disgust; things unlawful and forbidden. The word, in the Scriptures, is commonly used to denote the impurities and abominations of idolatry. See Note on Dan. 9:27.
The meaning here is, that it seemed to be a cup filled with wine, but it was in fact a cup full of all abominable drugs, leading to all kinds of corruption. How much in accordance this is with the fascinations of the Papacy, it is not necessary now to say, after the ample illustrations of the same thing already furnished in these Notes.
And filthiness of her fornication, The image here is that of Papal Rome, represented as an abandoned woman in gorgeous attire, alluring by her arts the nations of the earth, and seducing them into all kinds of pollution and abomination. It is a most remarkable fact that the Papacy, as if designing to furnish a fulfilment of this prophecy, has chosen to represent itself almost precisely in this manner—as a female extending an alluring cup to passers by. Apostate churches, and guilty nations, often furnish the very proofs necessary to confirm the truth of the Scriptures.
5. And upon her forehead. In a circlet around her forehead. That is, it was made prominent and public, as if written on the forehead in blazing capitals. In Rev. 13:1, it is said that "the name of blasphemy" was written on the "heads" of the beast. The meaning in both places is substantially the same, that it was prominent and unmistakable. See Notes on Rev. 13:1; Rev. 14:1.
Was a name written. A title, or something that would properly indicate her character.
Mystery. It is proper to remark that there is nothing in the original as written by John, so far as now known, that corresponded with what is implied in placing this inscription in capital letters; and the same remark may be made of the "title" or inscription that was placed over the head of the Saviour on the cross, Matt. 27:37; Mark 15:26# Luke 23:38; John 19:19. Our translators have adopted this form, apparently, for the sole purpose of denoting that it was an inscription or title. On the meaning of the word mystery, See Notes on 1 Cor. 2:7, 1 Tim. 3:16.
Here it seems to be used to denote that there was something hidden, obscure, or enigmatical under the title adopted; that is, the word Babylon, and the word mother, were symbolical. Our translators have printed and pointed the word mystery as if it were part of the inscription. It would probably be better to regard it as referring to the inscription thus: "a name was written—a mysterious name, to wit, Babylon," etc. Or, "a name was written mysteriously." According to this it would mean, not that there was any wonderful "mystery" about the thing itself, whatever might be true on that point, but that the name was enigmatical or symbolical; or that there was something hidden or concealed under the name. It was not to be literally understood. Babylon the great. Papal Rome, the nominal head of the Christian world, as Babylon had been of the heathen world. See Note on Rev. 14:8.
The mother of harlots.
(a) Of that spiritual apostasy from God which in the language of the prophets might be called adultery, See Note on Rev. 14:8;
(b) the promoter of lewdness by her institutions. See Note on Rev. 9:21.
In both these senses, there never was a more expressive or appropriate title than the one here employed.
And abominations of the earth. Abominable things that prevail on the earth, Rev. 17:4. Compare Note on Rev. 9:20-21.
6. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints. A reeling, intoxicated harlot—for that is the image which is kept up all along. In regard to the phrase "drunken with blood," compare Jer. 46:10. "The phraseology is derived from the barbarous custom (still extant among many Pagan nations) of drinking the blood of the enemies slain in the way of revenge. The effect of drinking blood is said to be to exasperate, and to intoxicate with passion and a desire of revenge."—Prof. Stuart, in loc. The meaning here is, that the persecuting power referred to had shed the blood of the saints; and that, in its fury, it had, as it were, drunk the blood of the slain, and had become, by drinking that blood, intoxicated and infuriated. No one need say how applicable this has been to the Papacy. Compare, however, See Note on Dan. 7:21, 25; Rev. 12:13-14; Rev. 13:15 ".
And with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. Especially with their blood. The meaning is, that the warfare in which so much blood was shed was directed against the saints as such, and that in fact it terminated particularly on those who, amidst cruel sufferings, were faithful witnesses for the Lord Jesus, and deserved to be called, by way of eminence, martyrs. Compare Notes on Rev. 2:13; Rev. 6:9; Rev. 11:5, Rev. 11:7.
How applicable this is to the Papacy, let the blood shed in the valleys of Piedmont; the blood shed in the Low Countries by the Duke of Alva; the blood shed on St. Bartholomew's day; and the blood shed in the Inquisition, testify.
And when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. I was astonished at her appearance; at her apparel, and at the things which were so significantly symbolized by her.
7. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? He was doubtless struck with the appearance of John as he stood fixed in astonishment. The question asked him why he wondered, was designed to show him that the cause of his surprise would be removed or lessened, for that he would proceed so to explain this that he might have a correct view of its design.
I will tell thee the mystery of the woman. On the word mystery, See Note on Rev. 17:5.
The sense is, "I will explain what is meant by the symbol—the hidden meaning that is couched under it." That is, he would so far explain it that a just view might be obtained of its signification. The explanation follows, Rev. 17:8-18.
And of the beast that carrieth her, etc. Rev. 17:3.
8. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not. In the close of the verse it is added, "and yet is"—"the beast that was, and is not, and yet is." There are three things affirmed here: first, that there is a sense in which it might be said of the power here referred to that it "was," or that before this it had an existence; second, that there was a sense in which it might be said that it is "not"—that is, that it had become practically extinct; and, third, that there is a sense in which that power would be so revived that it might be said that it "still is." The "beast" here referred to is the same that is mentioned in Rev. 17:3; 13:1, 3, 11-16.
That is, there was one great formidable power, having essentially the same origin, though manifested under somewhat different modifications, to one and all of which might, in their different manifestations, be given the same name, "the beast."
And shall ascend out of the bottomless pit. ek thß abussou. On the meaning of the word here used, See Note on Rev. 9:1.
The meaning here is, that this power would seem to come up from the nether world. It would appear at one time to be extinct, but would revive again as if coming from the world over which Satan presides, and would in its revived character be such as might be expected from such an origin.
And go into perdition. That is, its end will be destruction. It will not be permanent, but will be overthrown and destroyed. The word perdition here is properly rendered by Prof. Stuart destruction, but nothing is indicated by the word of the nature of the destruction that would come upon it.
And they that dwell on the earth. The inhabitants of the earth generally; that is, the matter referred to will be so remarkable as to attract general attention.
Shall wonder. It will be so contrary to the regular course of events; so difficult of explanation; so remarkable in itself, as to excite attention and surprise.
Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. See Note on Rev. 13:8.
The idea seems to be, that those whose names are written in the book of life, or who are truly the friends of God, would not be drawn off in admiration of the beast, or in rendering homage to it.
When they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. That is, the power that once was mighty; that had declined to such a state that it became, as it were, extinct; and that was revived again with so much of its original strength that it might be said that it still exists. The fact of its being revived in this manner, as well as the nature of the power itself, seemed fitted to excite this admiration.
9. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. Here is that which requires wisdom to interpret it; or, here is a case in which the mind that shows itself able to explain it will evince true sagacity. So in Rev. 13:18. See Note on Rev. 13:18.
Prof. Stuart renders this, "Here is a meaning which compriseth wisdom." It is undoubtedly implied that the symbol might be understood—whether in the time of John, or afterwards, he does not say; but it was a matter which could not be determined by ordinary minds, or without an earnest application of the understanding.
The seven heads are seven mountains. Referring undoubtedly to Rome—the seven-hilled city—Septicollis Roma. See Note on Rev. 12:3,
On which the woman sitteth. The city represented as a woman, in accordance with a common usage in the Scriptures. See Note on Isa. 1:8.
10. And there are seven kings. That is, seven in all, as they are enumerated in this verse and the next. An eighth is mentioned in Rev. 17:11, but it is at the same time said that this one so pertains to the seven, or is so properly in one sense of the number seven, though in another sense to be regarded as an eighth, that it may be properly reckoned as the seventh. The word kings here—basileiß—may be understood, so far as the meaning of the word is concerned,
(a) literally as denoting a king, or one who exercises royal authority;
(b) in a more general sense as denoting one of distinguished honour—a viceroy, prince, leader, chief, Matt. 2:1, 3, 9; Luke 1:5; Acts 12:1
(c) in a still larger sense as denoting a dynasty, a form of government, a mode of administration—as that which in fact rules. See Note on Dan. 7:24, where the word king undoubtedly denotes a dynasty, or form of rule. The notion of ruling, or of authority, is undoubtedly in the word—for the verb bwsileuw means to rule, but the word may be applied to anything in which sovereignty resides. Thus it is applied to a king's son; to a military commander; to the gods; to a Greek archon, etc. See Pussow. It would be contrary to the whole spirit of this passage, and to what is demanded by the proper meaning of the word, to insist that the word should denote literally kings, and that it could not be applied to emperors, or to dictators, or to dynasties.
Five are fallen. Have passed away as if fallen; that is, they have disappeared. The language would be applicable to rulers who have died, or who had been dethroned; or to dynasties or forms of government that had ceased to be. In the fulfilment of this, it would be necessary to find five such successive kings or rulers who had died, and who appertained to one sovereignty or nation; or five such dynasties or forms of administrations that had successively existed, but which had ceased.
And one is. That is, there is one—a sixth—that now reigns. The proper interpretation of this would be, that this existed in the time of the writer; that is, according to the view taken of the time of the writing of the Apocalypse, at the close of the first century.
And the other is not yet come. The sixth one is to be succeeded by another in the same line, or occupying the same dominion.
And when he cometh. When that form of dominion is set up. No intimation is yet given as to the time when this would occur.
He must continue a short space. oligon. A short time; his dominion will be of short duration. It is observable that this characteristic is stated as applicable only to this one of the seven; and the fair meaning would seem to be, that the time would be short as compared with the six that preceded, and as compared with the one that followed—the eighth—into which it was to be merged, Rev. 17:11.
11. And the beast that was, and is not. That is, the one power that was formerly mighty; that died away so that it might be said to be extinct; and yet (Rev. 17:8) that "still is," or has a prolonged existence. It is evident that by the "beast" here there is some one power, dominion, empire, or rule, whose essential identity is preserved through all these changes, and to which it is proper to give the same name. It finds its termination—or its last form—in what is here called the "eighth;" a power which, it is observed, sustains such a peculiar relation to the seven that it may be said to be "of the seven," or to be a mere prolongation of the same sovereignty.
Even he is the eighth. The eighth in the succession. This form of sovereignty, though a mere prolongation of the former government—so much so as to be in fact but keeping up the same empire in the world, appears in such a novelty of form that in one sense it deserves to be called the eighth in order, and yet is so essentially a mere concentration and continuance of the one power, that in the general reckoning (Rev. 17:10) it might be regarded as pertaining to the former. There was a sense in which it was proper to speak of it as the eighth power; and yet, viewed in its relation to the whole, it so essentially combined and concentrated all that there was in the seven, that, in a general view, it scarcely metired a separate mention. We should look for the fulfilment of this in some such concentration and embodiment of all that it was in the previous forms of sovereignty referred to, that it perhaps would deserve mention as an eighth power, but that it was nevertheless such a mere prolongation of the previous forms of the one power, that it might be said to be "of the seven;" so that, in this view, it would not claim a separate consideration. This seems to be the fair meaning; though there is much that is enigmatical in the form of the expression.
And goeth into perdition. See Note on Rev. 17:8.
In inquiring now into the application of this very difficult passage, it may be proper to suggest some of the principal opinions which have been held, and then to endeavour to ascertain the true meaning.
I. The principal opinions which have been held may be reduced to the following:—
(1.) That the seven kings here refer to the succession of Roman emperors, yet with some variation as to the manner of reckoning. Prof. Stuart begins with Julius Caesar, and reckons them in this manner: the "five that are fallen" are Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius. Nero, who, as he supposes, was the reigning prince at the time when the book was written, he regards as the sixth; Galba, who succeeded him, as the seventh. Others, who adopt this literal method of explaining it, suppose that the time begins with Augustus, and then Galba would be the sixth, and Otho, who reigned but three months, would be the seventh. The expression, "the beast that was, and is not, who is the eighth," Prof. Stuart regards as referring to a general impression among the heathen and among Christians, in the time of the persecution under Nero, that he would again appear after it was reported that he was dead, or that he would rise from the dead and carry on his persecution again. See Prof. Stuart, Com. vol. ii. Excur. iii. The beast, according to this view, denotes the Roman emperors, specifically Nero, and the reference in Rev. 17:8 is to "the well-known hariolation respecting Nero, that he would be assassinated, and would disappear for awhile, and then make his appearance again to the confusion of all his enemies." "What the angel," says he, "says, seems to be equivalent to this: The beast means the Roman emperors, specifically Nero, of whom the report spread throughout the empire that he will revive, after being apparently slain, and will come, as it were, from the abyss or Hades, but he will perish, and that speedily,'" vol ii. p. 323.
(2.) That the word "kings" is not to be taken literally, but that it refers to forms of government, dynasties, or modes of administration. The general opinion among those who hold this view is, that the first six refer to the forms of the Roman government:
(5) military tribunes;
(6) the imperial form, beginning with Augustus. This has been the common Protestant interpretation, and in reference to these six forms of government, there has been a general agreement. But, while the mass of Protestant interpreters have supposed that the "six" heads refer to these forms of administration, there has been much diversity of opinion as to the seventh; and here, on this plan of interpretation, the main, if not the sole difficulty lies. Among the opinions held are the following:—
(a) That of Mr. Mede. He makes the seventh head what he calls the "Demi-Caesar," or the "Western emperor who reigned after the division of the empire into East and West, and which continued, after the last division under Honorins and Arcadius, about sixty years—a short space."—Works, book iii. chap. 8; book v. chap. 12.
(b) That of Bishop Newton, who regards the sixth or imperial "head" as continuing uninterruptedly through the line of Christian as well as Pagan emperors, until Augustulus and the Heruli; and the seventh to be the Dukedom of Rome established soon after under the exarchate of Ravenna.—Prophecies, pp. 575, 576.
(c) That of Dr. More and Mr. Cunninghame, who suppose the Christian emperors, from Constantine to Augustulus, to constitute the seventh head, and that this had its termination by the sword of the Hernil.
(d) That of Mr. Elliott, who supposes the seventh head or power to refer to a new form of administration introduced by Diocletian, changing the administration from the original imperial character to that of an absolute Asiatic sovereignty. For the important changes introduced by Diocletian that justify this remark, see the "Decline and Fall," vol i. pp. 212-217.
Numerous other solutions may be found in Poole's Synopsis, but these embrace the principal, and the most plausible that have been proposed.
II. I proceed, then, to state what seems to me to be the true explanation. This must be found in some facts that will accord with the explanation given of the meaning of the passage.
(1.) There can be no doubt that this refers to Rome—either Pagan, Christian, or Papal. All the circumstances combine in this; all respectable interpreters agree in this. This would be naturally understood by the symbols used by John, and by the explanations furnished by the angel. See Rev. 17:18: "And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." Every circumstance combines here in leading to the conclusion that Rome is intended. There was no other power or empire on the earth to which this could be properly applied; there was everything in the circumstances of the writer to lead us to suppose that this was referred to; there is an utter impossibility now in applying the description to anything else.
(2.) It was to be a revived power; not a power in its original form and strength. This is manifest, because it is said (Rev. 17:8) that the power represented by the beast "was, and is not, and yet is:" that is, it was once a mighty power; it then declined so that it could be said that "it is not;" and yet there was so much remaining vitality in it, or so much revived power, that it could be said that it "still is"—kaiper estin. Now, this is strictly applicable to Rome when the Papal power arose. The old Roman might had departed; the glory and strength evinced in the days of the consuls, the dictators, and the emperors, had disappeared; and yet there was a lingering vitality, and a reviving of power under the Papacy, which made it proper to say that it still continued, or that that mighty power was prolonged. The civil power connected with the Papacy was a revived Roman power—the Roman power prolonged under another form—for it is susceptible of clear demonstration that if it had not been for the rise of the Papal power, the sovereignty of Rome as such would have been wholly extinct. For the proof of this, see the passages quoted in See Note on Rev. 17:3.
Compare Note on Rev. 13:3, 12, 15.
(3.) It was to be a power emanating from the "abyss," or that would seem to ascend from the dark world beneath. See Rev. 17:8. This was true in regard to the Papacy, either
(a) as apparently ascending from the lowest state and the most depressed condition, as if it came up from below, (See Note on Rev. 17:3, compare Rev. 13:11;) or
(b) as, in fact, having its origin in the world of darkness, and being under the control of the prince of that world—which, according to all the representations of that formidable Antichristian power in the Scriptures, is true, and which the whole history of the Papacy, and of its influence on religion, confirms.
(4.) One of the powers referred to sustained the other. "The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth," Rev. 17:9. That is, the power represented by the harlot was sustained or supported by the power represented by the seven heads or the seven mountains. Literally applied, this would mean that the Papacy, as an ecclesiastical institution, was sustained by the civil power with which it was so closely connected. For the illustration and support of this, see See Note on Rev. 13:2-3, 12, 15.
In the Notes on those passages, it is shown that the support was mutual; that while the Papacy in fact revived the almost extinct Roman civil power, and gave it new vitality, the price of that was that it should be in its turn sustained by that revived Roman civil power. All history shows that that has been the fact; that in all its aggressions, assumptions, and persecutions, it has in fact, and professedly, leaned on the arm of the civil power.
(5.) A more important inquiry, and a more serious difficulty, remains in respect to the statements respecting the "seven kings," Rev. 17:10-11. The statements on this point are, that the whole number properly was seven; that of this number five had fallen or passed away; that one was in existence at the time when the author wrote; that another one was yet to appear who would continue for a little time; and that the general power represented by all these would be embodied in the "beast that was, and is not," and that might, in some respects, be regarded as an "eighth." These points may be taken up in their order.
(a) The first inquiry relates to the five that were fallen and the one that was then in existence—the first six. These may be taken together, for they are manifestly of the same class, and have the same characteristics, at least so far as to be distinguished from the "seventh," and the "eighth." The meaning of the word "kings" here has been already explained, Rev. 17:10. It denotes ruling power, or forms of power; and, so far as the signification of the word is concerned, it might be applicable to royalty, or to any other form of administration. It is not necessary, then, to find an exact succession of princes or kings that would correspond with this—five of whom were dead, and one of whom was then on the throne, and all soon to be succeeded by one more who would soon die.
The true explanation of this seems to be that which refers this to the forms of the Roman government or administration. These six "heads" or forms of administration were, in their order, Kings, Cansuls, Dictators, Decemvirs, Military Tribunes, and Emperors. Of these, five had passed away in the time when John wrote the Apocalypse; the sixth, the Imperial, was then in power, and had been from the time of Augustus Caesar. The only questions that can be raised are, whether these forms of administration were so distinct and prominent, and whether in the tunes previous to John they so embraced the whole Roman power, as to justify this interpretation; that is, whether these forms of administration were so marked in this respect that it may be supposed that John would use the language here employed in describing them. As showing the probability that he would use this language, I refer to the following arguments, viz.:
(1.) The authority of Livy, lib. vi. cap. 1. Speaking of the previous parts of his history, and of what he had done in writing it, he says, "Quae ab condita urbe Roma ad captam eandem urbem Romani sub regibus primurn, consulibus deinde ac dictatoribus, decemviris ac tribunis consularibus gossere, foris bella, domi seditiones, quinque libris exposui." That is, "In five books I have related what was done at Rome, pertaining both to foreign wars and domestic strifes, from the foundation of the city to the time when it was taken, as it was governed by kings, by consuls, by dictators, by the decemvirs, and by consular tribunes." Here he mentions five forms of administration under which Rome had been governed in the earlier periods of its history. The imperial power had a later origin, and did not exist until near the time of Livy himself.
(2.) The same distribution of power, or forms of government, among the Romans, is made by Tacitus, Annal., lib. i. cap. 1: "Urbem Romam a principio Reges habuere. Libertatem et Consulatum L. Brutus instituit. Dictaturae ad tempus sumebantur. Neque Decemviralis potestas ultra, biennium, neque tribunorum militum consulare jus diu vasuit. Non Cinnae, non Syllae longa dominatio: et Pompeii Crassique potentia cito in Caesarem, Lepidi atque Antonii arma in Augustum cessere; qui cuncta, discordiis civilibus fessa, nomine Principis sub imperium accepit." That is, "In the beginning, Rome was governed by Kings. Then L. Brutus gave to her liberty and the Consulship. A temporary power was conferred on the Dictators. The authority of the Decemvirs did not continue beyond the space of two years; neither was the consular power of the Military Tribunes of long duration. The rule of Cinna and Sylla was brief, and the power of Pompey and Crassus passed into the hands of Caesar, and the arms of Lepidus and Antony were surrendered to Augustus, who united all things, broken by civil discord, under the name of Prince in the imperial government." Here Tacitus distinctly mentions the six forms of administration that had prevailed in Rome, the last of which was the imperial. It is true, also, that he mentions the brief rule of certain men—as Cinna, Sylla, Antony, and Lepidus; but these are not forms of administration, and their temporary authority did not indicate any change in the government—for some of these men were dictators, and none of them, except Brutus and Augustus, established any permanent form of administration.
(3.) The same thing is apparent in the usual statements of history, and the books that describe the forms of government at Rome. In so common a book as Adams' Roman Antiquities, a description may be found of the forms of Roman administration that corresponds almost precisely with this. The forms of supreme power in Rome, as enumerated there, are what are called ordinary and extraordinary magistrates. Under the former are enumerated kings, consuls, praetors, censors, quaestors, and tribunes of the people. But of these, in fact, the supreme power was vested in two, for there were, under this, but two forms of administration—that of kings and consuls—the offices of praetor, censor, quaestor, and tribune of the people being merely subordinate to that of the consuls, and no more a new form of administration than the offices of Secretary of the State, of War, of the Navy, of the Interior, are now. Under the latter—that of extraordinary magistrates—are enumerated Dictators, Decemvirs, Military Tribunes, and the Interrex. But the Interrex did not constitute a form of administration, or a change of government, any more than when the President or Vice-president of the United States should die, the performance of the duties of the office of President by the Speaker of the Senate would indicate a change, or than the Regency of the Prince of Wales in the time of George III. constituted a new form of government. So that, in fact, we have enumerated, as constituting the supreme power at Rome, kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, and military tribunes—five in number. The imperial power was the sixth.
(4.) In confirmation of the same thing, I may refer to the authority of Bellarmine, a distinguished Roman Catholic writer. In his work De Pontiff., cap. 2, he thus enumerates the changes which the Roman government had experienced, or the forms of administration that had existed there:
5. Military Tribunes with consular power;
6. Emperors. See Poole's Synop., in loc. And
(5) it may be added, that this would be understood by the contemporaries of John in this sense. These forms of government were so marked that, in connexion with the mention of the "seven mountains," designating the city, there could be no doubt as to what was intended. Reference would at once be made to the Imperial power as then existing, and the mind would readily and easily turn back to the five main forms of the supreme administration which had existed before:
(b) The next inquiry is, what is denoted by the seventh. If the word "kings" here refers, as is supposed, (See Note on Rev. 17:10,) to a form of government or administration; if the "five" refer to the forms previous to the imperial, and the "sixth" to the imperial; and if John wrote during the imperial government, then it follows that this must refer to some form of administration that was to succeed the imperial. If the Papacy was "the eighth, and of the seven," then it is clear that this must refer to some form of civil administration lying between the decline of the Imperial and the rise of the Papal power: that "short space"—for it was a short space that intervened. Now, there can be no difficulty, I think, in referring this to that form of administration over Rome—that "dukedom" under the exarchate of Ravenna, which succeeded the decline of the Imperial power, and which preceded the rise of the Papal power;—between the year 566 or 568, when Rome was reduced to a dukedom, under the exarchate of Ravenna, and the time when the city revolted from this authority and became subject to that of the Pope, about the year 727. This period continued, according to Mr. Gibbon, about two hundred years. He says, "During a period of two hundred years, Italy was unequally divided between the kingdom of the Lombards and the exarchate of Ravenna. The offices and professions, which the jealousy of Constantine had separated, were united by the indulgence of Justinian; and eighteen successive exarchs were invested, in the decline of the empire, with the full remains of civil, of military and even of ecclesiastical power. Their immediate jurisdiction, which was afterwards consecrated as the patrimony of St. Peter, extended over the modern Remagna, the marshes or valleys of Ferrara and Commachio, five maritime cities from Rimini to Ancona, and a second inland Pentapolis, between the Adriatic coast and the hills of the Appenine. The duchy of Rome appears to have included the Tuscan, Sabine, and Latian conquests, of the first four hundred years of the city, and the limits may be distinctly traced along the coast, from Civita Vecchia to Terracina, and with the course of the Tiber from Areerin and Narni to the port of Ostia."—Dec. and Fall, iii. 202. How accurate is this if it be regarded as a statement of a new power or form of administration that succeeded the imperial—a power that was in fact a prolongation of the old Roman authority, and that was designed to constitute and embody it all! Could Mr. Gibbon have furnished a better commentary on the passage if he had adopted the interpretation of this portion of the Apocalypse above proposed, and if he had designed to describe this as the seventh power in the successive forms of the Roman administration? It is worthy of remark, also, that of this account in Mr. Gibbon's history immediately precedes the account the rise of the Papacy; the record respecting the exarchate, and that concerning Gregory the Great, described by Mr. Gibbon as "the Saviour of Rome," occurring in the same chapter.—Vol, iii. 202-211.
(c) This was to "continue for a short space"—for a little time. If this refers to the power to which in the remarks above it is supposed to refer, it is easy to see the propriety of this statement. Compared with the previous form of administration—the imperial—it was of short duration; absolutely considered, it was brief. Mr. Gibbon (iii. 202) has marked it as extending through "a period of two hundred years;" and if this is compared with the form of administration which preceded it, extending to more than five hundred years, and more especially with that which followed—the Papal form—which has extended now some twelve hundred years, it will be seen with what propriety this is spoken of as continuing for "a short space."
(d) "The beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven," Rev. 17:11. If the explanations above given are correct, there can be no difficulty in the application of this to the Papal power; for
(1) all this power was concentrated in the Papacy, all that revived or prolonged Roman power had now passed into the Papacy, constituting that mighty dominion which was to be set up for so many centuries over what had been the Roman world. See the statements of Mr. Gibbon, (iii. 207-211,) as quoted in Rev. 17:3.
Compare also, particularly, the remarks of Augustine Steuchus, a Roman Catholic writer, as quoted in See Note on Rev. 17:3
: "The empire having been overthrown, unless God had raised up the Pontificate. Rome, resuscitated and restored by none, would have become uninhabitable, and been thenceforward a most foul habitation of cattle. But in the Pontificate it revived as with a second birth; in empire or magnitude not indeed equal to the old empire, but its form not very dissimilar: because all nations, from East and from West, venerate the Pope, not otherwise than they before obeyed the emperor."
(2.) This was an eighth power or form of administration-for it was different, in many respects, from that of the kings, the consuls, the dictators, the decemvirs, the military tribunes, the emperors, and the dukedom—though it comprised substantially the power of all. Indeed, it could not have been spoken of as identical with either of the previous forms of administration, though it concentrated the power which had been wielded by them all.
(3.) It was "of the seven;" that is, it pertained to them; it was a prolongation of the same power. It had the same central seat—Rome; it extended over the same territory, and it embraced sooner or later the same nations. There is not one of those forms of administration which did not find a prolongation in the Papacy; for it aspired after, and succeeded in obtaining, all the authority of kings, dictators, consuls, emperors. It was in fact still the Roman sceptre swayed over the of world; and with the strictest propriety it could be said that it was "of the seven," as having sprung out of the seven, and as this, see perpetuating the sway of this mighty domination. For full illustration See Notes on Dan. 7:1 and Revelation 13.
(4.) It would "go into perdition;" that is, it would be under this form that this mighty domination that had for so many ages ruled over the earth would die away, or this would be the last in the series, The Roman dominion, as such, would not be extended to a ninth, or tenth, or eleventh form, but would finally expire under the eighth. Every indication shows that this is to be so, and that with the decline of the Papal power the whole Roman domination, that has swayed a sceptre for two thousand five hundred years, will have come for ever to an end. If this is so, then we have found an ample and exact application of this passage even in its most minute specifications.
12. And the ten horns which thou sawest. On the scarlet-coloured beast, Rev. 17:3.
Are ten kings. Represent or denote ten kings; that is, kingdoms or powers. See Note on Dan. 7:24.
Which have received no kingdom as yet. That is, they were not in existence when John wrote. It is implied, that during the period under review they would arise, and would become connected, in an important sense, with the power here represented by the "beast." For a full illustration respecting the ten "kings," or kingdoms here referred to, see Notes on Daniel 7, at the close of the chapter, II., (2.).
But receive power. It is not said from what source this power is received, but it is simply implied that it would in fact be conferred on them.
As kings. That is, the power would be that which is usually exercised by kings.
One hour. It cannot be supposed that this is to be taken literally. The meaning clearly is, that this would be brief and temporary; that is, it was a form of administration which would be succeeded by one more fixed and permanent. Any one can see that, in fact, this is strictly applicable to the governments which sprang up after the incursion of the Northern barbarians, and which were finally succeeded by the permanent forms of government in Europe. Most of them were very brief in their duration, and they were soon remodelled in the forms of permanent administration. Thus, to take the arrangement proposed by Sir Isaac Newton,
(1) the kingdom of the Vandals and/klans in Spain and Africa;
(2) the kingdom of the Suevians in Spain;
(3) the kingdom of the Visigoths;
(4) the kingdom of the Alans in Gallia;
(5) the kingdom of the Burgundians;
(6) the kingdom of the Franks;
(7) the kingdom of the Britons;
(8) the kingdom of the Huns;
(9) the kingdom of the Lombards;
(10) the kingdom of Ravenna—how temporary were most of these; how soon they passed into the more permanent forms of administration which succeeded them in Europe!
With the beast. With that rising Papal power. They would exercise their authority in connexion with that, and under its influence.
13. These have one mind. That is, they are united in the promotion of the same object. Though in some respects wholly independent of each other, yet they may be regarded as, in fact, so far united that they tend to promote the same ultimate end. As a fact in history, all these kingdoms, though of different origin, and though not unfrequently engaged in war with each other, became Roman Catholics, and were united in the support of the Papacy. It was with propriety, therefore, that they should be regarded as so closely connected with that power that they could be represented as "ten horns" on the seven-headed monster.
And shall give their power and strength unto the beast. Shall lend their influence to the support of the Papacy, and become the upholders of that power. The meaning, according to the interpretation above proposed, is, that they would all become Papal kingdoms, and supporters of the Papal power. It is unnecessary to pause to show how true this has been in history. At first, most of the people out of whom these kingdoms sprang were Pagans; then many of them embraced Christianity under the prevailing form of Arianism, and this fact was for a time a bar to their perfect adhesion to the Roman See; but they were all ultimately brought wholly under its influence, and became its supporters. In A.D. 496, Clovis, the king of the Franks, on occasion of his victory over the Allemanni, embraced the Catholic faith, and so received the title transmitted downward through nearly thirteen hundred years to the French kings as his successors, of "the eldest son of the church;" in the course of the sixth century, the kings of Burgundy, Bavaria, Spain, Portugal, England, embraced the same religion, and became the defenders of the Papacy. It is well known that each one of the powers above enumerated as constituting these ten kingdoms, became subject to the Papacy, and continued so during their separate existence, or when merged into some other power, until the Reformation in the sixteenth century, All "their power and strength was given unto the beast;" all was made subservient to the purposes of Papal Rome.
14. These shall make war with the Lamb. The Lamb of God—the Lord Jesus, (See Note on Rev. 5:6;) that is, they would combine with the Papacy in opposing evangelical religion. It is not meant that they would openly and avowedly proclaim war against the Son of God, but that they would practically do this in sustaining a persecuting power. It is unnecessary to show how true this has been in history; how entirely they sustained the Papacy in all its measures of persecution.
And the Lamb shall overcome them. Shall ultimately gain the victory over them. The meaning is, that they would not be able to extinguish the true religion. In spite of all opposition and persecution, that would still live in the world, until it would be said that a complete triumph was gained.
For he is Lord of lords, and King of kings. He has supreme power over all the earth, and all kings and princes are subject to his control. Compare Rev. 19:16.
And they that are with him. The reference is to the persecuted saints who have adhered to him as his faithful followers in all these protracted conflicts.
Are called. That is, called by him to be his followers; as if he had selected them out of the world to maintain his cause. See Note on Rom. 1:7.
And chosen. See Notes on John 15:16; 1 Pet. 1:2.
In their stedfast adherence to the truth, they had shown that they were truly chosen by the Saviour, and could be relied on in the warfare against the powers of evil.
And faithful. They had shown themselves faithful to him in times of persecution, and in the hour of darkness.
15. And he saith unto me. The angel, Rev. 17:7. This commences the more literal statement of what is meant by these symbols.
The waters which thou sawest. See Note on Rev. 17:1.
Are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. For an explanation of these terms, See Note on Rev. 7:9.
The meaning here is,
(a) that these waters represent a multitude of people. This is a common and an obvious symbol—for outspread seas or raging floods would naturally represent such a multitude. See Isa. 8:7-8; 17:12-13; Jer. 47:2.
Compare Iliad, v. 394. The sense here is, that vast numbers of people would be subject to the power here represented by the woman.
(b) They would be composed of different nations, and would be of different languages. It is unnecessary to show that this, in both respects, is applicable to the Papacy. Nations have been, and are, subject to its control, and nations speaking a large part of the languages of the world. Perhaps under no one government-not even the Babylonian, the Macedonian, or the ancient Roman—was there so great a diversity of people, speaking so many different languages, and having so different an origin.
16. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast. Rev. 17:3. The ten powers or kingdoms represented by those horns. See Note on Rev. 17:12.
These shall hate the whore. There seems to be some incongruity between this statement and that which was previously made. In the former, (Rev. 17:12-14,) these ten governments are represented as in alliance with the beast; as "giving all their power and strength" unto it; and as uniting with it in making war with the Lamb. What is here said must, therefore, refer to some subsequent period, indicating some great change in their feelings and policy. We have seen the evidence of the fulfilment of the former statements. This statement will be accomplished if these same powers represented by the ten horns, that were formerly in alliance with the Papacy, shall become its enemy, and contribute to its final overthrow. That is, it will be accomplished if the nations of Europe, embraced within the limits of those ten kingdoms, shall become hostile to the Papacy, and shall combine for its overthrow. Is anything more probable than this? France (See Note on Rev. 16:1) has already struck more than one heavy blow on that power; England has been detached from it; many of the states of Italy are weary of it, and are ready to rise up against it; and nothing is more probable than that Spain, Portugal, France, Lombardy, and the Papal States themselves will yet throw off the yoke for ever, and put an end to a power that has so long ruled over men. It was with the utmost difficulty in 1848 that the Papal power was sustained, and this was done only by foreign swords; the Papacy could not probably be protected in another such outbreak. And this passage leads us to anticipate that the period will come—and that probably not far in the future—when those powers that have for so many ages sustained the Papacy will become its determined foes, and will rise in their might and bring it for ever to an end,
And shall make her desolate and naked. Strip her of all her power and all her attractiveness. That is, applied to Papal Rome, all that is so gorgeous and alluring—her wealth, and pomp, and splendour—shall be taken away, and she will be seen as she is, without anything to dazzle the eye or to blind the mind.
And shall eat her flesh. Shall completely destroy her—as if her flesh were consumed. Perhaps the image is taken from the practices of cannibals eating the flesh of their enemies slain in battle. If so, nothing could give a more impressive idea of the utter destruction of this formidable power, or of the feelings of those by whom its end would be brought about.
And burn her with fire. Another image of total destruction. Perhaps the meaning may be, that after her flesh was eaten, such parts of her as remained would be thrown into the fire and consumed. If this be the meaning, the image is a very impressive one to denote absolute and total destruction. Compare Note on Rev. 18:8.
17. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will. That is, in regard to the destruction of this mighty power. They would be employed as his agents in bringing about his designs. Kings and princes are under the control of God, and, whatever may be their own designs, they are in fact employed to accomplish his purposes, and are instruments in his hands. See Note on Isa. 10:7.
And to agree. See Rev. 17:13. That is, they act harmoniously in their support of this power, and so they will in its final destruction.
And give their kingdom unto the beast. See Note on Rev. 17:13.
Until the words of God shall be fulfilled. Not for ever; not as a permanent arrangement. God has fixed a limit to the existence of this power. When his purposes are accomplished, these kingdoms will withdraw their support, and this mighty power will fall to rise no more.
18. And the woman which thou sawest. Rev. 17:3.
Is that great city. Represents that great city.
Which reigneth over the kings of the earth. Rome would of course be understood by this language in the time of John, and all the circumstances, as we have seen, combine to show that Rome, in some form of its dominion, is intended. Even the name could hardly have designated it more clearly, and all expositors agree in supposing that Rome, either as Pagan or as Christian, is referred to. The chapter shows that its power is limited; and that although, for purposes which he saw to be wise, God allows it to have a wide influence over the nations of the earth, yet in his own appointed time the very powers that have sustained it will become its foes, and combine for its overthrow. Europe needs but little farther provocation, and the fires of liberty, which have been so long pent up, will break forth, and that storm of indignation which has expelled the Jesuits from all the courts of Europe; which has abolished the Inquisition; which has more than once led hostile armies to the very gates of Papal Rome, will again be aroused in a manner which cannot be allayed, and that mighty power which has controlled so large a part of the nations of Europe for more than a thousand years of the world's history, will come to an end.
Analysis of the Chapter
THIS chapter may be regarded as a still further explanatory episode, (comp. Anal. to chap. xvii.,) designed to show the effect of pouring out the seventh vial (Rev. 16:17-21) on the formidable Antichristian power so often referred to. The description in this chapter is that of a rich merchant-city reduced to desolation, and is but carrying out the general idea under a different form. The chapter comprises the following points:—
(1.) Another angel is seen descending from heaven, having great power, and making proclamation that Babylon the great is fallen, and is become utterly desolate, Rev. 18:1-3.
(2.) A warning voice is heard from heaven, calling on the people of God to come out of her, and to be partakers neither of her sins nor her plagues. Her torment and sorrow would be proportionate to her pride and luxury; and her plagues would come upon her suddenly—death, and mourning, and famine, and consumption by fire, Rev. 18:4-8.
(3.) Lamentation over her fall—by those especially who had been connected with her; who had been corrupted by her; who had been profited by her, Rev. 18:9-19.
(a) By kings, Rev. 18:9, 10. They had lived deliciously with her, and they would lament her.
(b) by merchants, Rev. 18:11-17. They had trafficked with her, but now that traffic was to cease, and no man would buy of her. Their business so far as she was concerned, was at an end. All that she had accumulated was now to be destroyed; all her gathered riches were to be consumed; all the traffic in those things by which she had been enriched was to be ended; and the city that was more than all others enriched by these things, as if clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, was to be destroyed for ever.
(c) By ship-masters and seamen, Rev. 18:17-19.
They had been made rich by this traffic, but now all was ended; the smoke of her burning is seen to ascend, and they stand afar off and weep.
(4.) Rejoicing over her fall, Rev. 18:20. Heaven is called upon to rejoice, and the holy apostles and prophets, for their blood is avenged, and persecution ceases in the earth.
(5.) The final destruction of the city, Rev. 18:21-24. A mighty angel takes up a stone and casts it into the sea as an emblem of the destruction that is to come upon it. The voice of harpers, and musicians, and pipers would be heard no more in it; and no craftsmen would be there, and the sound of the millstone would be heard no more, and the light of a candle would shine no more there, and the voice of the bridegroom and the bride would be heard no more.
1. And after these things. After the vision referred to in the previous chapter.
I saw another angel come down from heaven. Different from the one that had last appeared, and therefore coming to make a new communication to him. It is not unusual in this book that different communications should be entrusted to different angels. Compare Rev. 14:6, 8-9, 15, 17-18.
Having great power. That is, he was one of the higher rank or order of angels.
And the earth was lightened with his glory. The usual representation respecting the heavenly beings. Compare Exod. 24:16; Matt. 17:2; Luke 2:9
Acts 9:3. This would, of course, add greatly to the magnificence of the scene.
2. And he cried mightily. Literally, "he cried with a strong great voice." See Rev. 10:3.
Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen. See Note on Rev. 14:8.
The proclamation here is substantially the same as in that place, and no doubt the same thing is referred to.
And is become the habitation of devils. Of demons—in allusion to the common opinion that the demons inhabited abandoned cities, old ruins, and deserts. See Note on Matt. 12:43-45.
The language here is taken from the description of Babylon in Isa. 13:20-22; and for a full illustration of the meaning, See Note on Isa. 13:20, seq.
And the hold of every foul spirit—fulakh. A watch-post, station, haunt of such spirits. That is, they, as it were, kept guard there; were stationed there; haunted the place.
And a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. That is, they would resort there, and abide there as in a cage. The word translated "cage" is the same which is rendered "hold"—fulakh. In Isa. 13:21, it is said, "and owls shall dwell there;" and in Isa. 14:23, it is said that it would be a "possession for the bittern." The idea is that of utter desolation; and the meaning here is, that spiritual Babylon—Papal Rome (Rev. 14:8) will be reduced to a state of utter desolation resembling that of the real Babylon. It is not necessary to suppose this of the city of Rome itself—for that is not the object of the representation. It is the Papacy, represented under the image of the city, and having its seat there. That is to be destroyed as utterly as was Babylon of old; that will become as odious, and loathsome, and detestable as the literal Babylon, the abode of monsters is.
3. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. See Note on Rev. 14:8.
This is given as a reason why this utter ruin had come upon her. She had beguiled and corrupted the nations of the earth, leading them into estrangement from God, and into pollution and sin. See Note on Rev. 9:20-21.
And the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her. Spiritual adultery; that is, she has been the means of seducing them from God and leading them into sinful practices.
And the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. The word tendered "abundance" here, means commonly power. It might here denote influence, though it may also mean number, vanity, wealth. Compare Rev. 3:8, where the same word is used. The word rendered delicacies—strhnouß—occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means rudeness, insolence, pride; and hence revel, riot, luxury. It may be rendered here properly luxury, or proud voluptuousness; and the reference is to such luxuries as are found commonly in a great, a gay, and a splendid city. These, of course, give rise to much traffic, and furnish employment to many merchants and sailors, who thus procure a livelihood, or become wealthy as the result of such traffic. Babylon—or Papal Rome—is here represented under the image of such a luxurious city; and of course, when she fails, they who have thus been dependent on her, and who have been enriched by her, have occasion for mourning and lamentation. It is not necessary to expect to find a literal fulfilment of this, for it is emblematic and symbolical. The image of a great, rich, splendid, proud, and luxurious city having been employed to denote that Antichristian power, all that is said in this chapter follows, of course, on its fall. The general idea is, that she was doomed to utter desolation, and that all who were connected with her, far and near, would be involved in her ruin.
4. And I heard another voice from heaven. He does not say whether this was the voice of an angel, but the idea seems rather to be that it is the voice of God.
Come out of her, my people. The reasons for this, as immediately stated, are two:
(a) that they might not participate in her sins; and
(b) that they might not be involved in the ruin that would come upon her. The language seems to be derived from such passages in the Old Testament as the following: Isa. 48:20, "Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing." Jer. 51:6, "Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul; be not cut off in her iniquity." Jer. 51:45, "My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the Lord." Compare Jer. 1:8.
That ye be not partakers of her sins. For the meaning of this expression, See Note on 1 Tim. 5:22.
It is implied here that by remaining in Babylon they would lend their sanction to its sins by their presence, and would, in all probability, become contaminated by the influence around them. This is an universal truth in regard to iniquity, and hence it is the duty of those who would be pure to come out from the world, and to separate themselves from all the associations of evil.
And that ye receive not of her plagues. Of the punishment that was to come upon her—as they must certainly do if they remained in her. The judgment of God that was to come upon the guilty city would make no discrimination among those who were found there; and if they would escape these woes, they must make their escape from her. As applicable to Papal Rome, in view of her impending ruin, this means
(a) that there might be found in her some who were the true people of God;
(b) that it was their duty to separate wholly from her—a command that will not only justify the Reformation, but which would have made a longer continuance in communion with the Papacy, when her wickedness was fully seen, an act of guilt before God;
(c) that they who remain in such a communion cannot but be regarded as partaking of her sin; and
(d) that if they remain, they must expect to be involved in the calamities that will come upon her. There never was any duty plainer than that of withdrawing from Papal Rome; there never has been any act attended with more happy consequences than that by which the Protestant world separated itself for ever from the sins and the plagues of the Papacy.
5. For her sins have reached unto heaven. So in Jer. 51:9, speaking of Babylon, it is said, "For her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies." The meaning is not that the sins of this mystical Babylon were like a mass or pile so high as to reach to heaven, but that it had become so prominent as to attract the attention of God. Compare Gen. 4:10, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground." See also Gen. 18:20.
And God hath remembered, her iniquities. He had seemed to forget them, or not to notice them, but now he acted as if they had come to his recollection. See Note on Rev. 16:19.
6. Reward her even as she rewarded you. It is not said to whom this command is addressed, but it would seem to be to those who had been persecuted and wronged. Applied to mystical Babylon—Papal Rome—it would seem to be a call on the nations that had been so long under her sway, and among whom, from time to time, so much blood had been shed by her, to arise now in their might, and to inflict deserved vengeance. See Note on Rev. 17:16-17.
And double unto her double according to her works. That is, bring upon her double the amount of calamity which she has brought upon others; take ample vengeance upon her. Compare, for similar language, Isa. 40:2, "She hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." Isa. 61:7, "For your shame ye shall have double."
In the cup which she hath filled. To bring wrath on others. See Note on Rev. 14:8.
Fill to her double. Let her drink abundantly of the wine of the wrath of God—double that which she has dealt out to others. That is, either let the quantity administered to her be doubled, or let the ingredients in the cup be doubled in intensity.
7. How much she hath glorified herself. Been proud, boastful, arrogant. This was true of ancient Babylon that she was proud and haughty; and it has been no less true of mystical Babylon—Papal Rome.
And lived deliciously. By as much as she has lived in luxury and dissoluteness, so let her suffer now. The word used here and rendered lived deliciously—estrhniase is derived from the noun—strhnoß—which is used in Rev. 18:3, and rendered delicacies. See Note on Rev. 18:3.
It means "to live strenuously, rudely," as in English, "to live hard;" and then to revel, to live in luxury, riot, dissoluteness. No one can doubt the propriety of this as descriptive of ancient Babylon, and as little can its propriety be doubted as applied to Papal Rome.
So much torment and sorrow give her. Let her punishment correspond with her sins. This is expressing substantially the same idea which occurs in the previous verse.
For she saith in her heart. This is the estimate which she forms of herself.
I sit a queen. Indicative of pride, and of an asserted claim to rule.
And am no widow. Am not in the condition of a widow—a state of depression, sorrow, and mourning. All this indicates security and self-confidence, a description in every way applicable to Papal Rome.
And shall see no sorrow. This is indicative of a state where there was nothing feared, notwithstanding all the indications which existed of approaching calamity. In this state we may expect to find Papal Rome, even when its last judgments are about to come upon it; in this state it has usually been; in this state it is now, notwithstanding all the indications that are abroad in the world that its power is waning, and that the period of its fall approaches.
8. Therefore. In consequence of her pride, arrogance, and luxury, and of the calamities that she has brought upon others.
Shall her plagues come in one day. They shall come in a time when she is living in ease and security; and they shall come at the same time—so that all these terrible judgments shall seem to be poured upon her at once.
Death. This expression and those which follow are designed to denote the same thing under different images. The general meaning is, that there would be utter and final destruction. It would be as if death should come and cut off the inhabitants,
And mourning. As there would be where many were cut off by death.
And famine. As if famine raged within the walls of a besieged city, or spread over a land.
And she shall be utterly burned with fire. As completely destroyed as if she were entirely burned up. The certain and complete destruction of that formidable Antichristian power is predicted under a great variety of emphatic images. See Rev. 14:10-11; 16:17-21; 17:9, 16.
Perhaps in this so frequent reference to a final destruction of that formidable Antichristian power by fire, there may be more intended than merely a figurative representation of its final ruin. There is some degree of probability, at least, that Rome itself will be literally destroyed in this manner, and that it is in this way that God intends to put an end to the Papal power, by destroying that which has been so long the seat and the centre of this authority. The extended prevalence of this belief, and the grounds for it, may be seen from the following remarks:
(1.) It was an early opinion among the Jewish Rabbis that Rome would be thus destroyed. Vitringa, on the Apocalypse, cites some opinions of this kind; the Jewish expectation being founded, as he says, on the passage in Isa. 34:9, as freedom was supposed to mean Rome. "This chapter," says Kimchi, "points out the future destruction of Rome, here called Bozra, for Bozra was a great city of the Edomites." This is, indeed, worthless as a proof or an interpretation of Scripture, for it is a wholly unfounded interpretation; it is of value only as showing that somehow the Jews entertained this opinion.
(2.) The same expectation was entertained among the early Christians. Thus Mr. Gibbon, (vol. i.p. 263, chap. xv.,) referring to the expectations of the glorious reign of the Messiah on the earth, (compare Note on Rev. 14:8,) says, speaking of Rome as the mystic Babylon, and of its anticipated destruction: "A regular series was prepared [in the minds of Christians] of all the moral and physical evils which can afflict a flourishing nation; intestine discord, and the invasion of the fiercest barbarians from the unknown regions of the North; pestilence and famine, comets and eclipses, earthquakes and inundations. All these were only so many preparatory and alarming signs of the great catastrophe of Rome, when the company of the Scipios and Caesars should be consumed by a flame from heaven, and the city of the seven hills, with her palaces, her temples, and her triumphal arches, should be burned in a vast lake of fire and brimstone." So even Gregory the Great, one of the most illustrious of the Roman pontiffs, himself says, acknowledging his belief in the truth of the tradition—Roma a Gentilibus non exterminabitur; sed tempestatibus, coruscis turbinibus, ac terrae motu, in se marcescet.—Dial, ii. 16.
(3.) Whatever may be thought of these opinions and expectations, there is some foundation for the opinion in the nature of the case.
(a) The region is adapted to this. "It is not AEtna, the Lipari volcanic islands, Vesuvius, that alone offer visible indications of the physical adaptedness of Italy for such a catastrophe. The great Appenine mountain-chain is mainly volcanic in its character, and the country of Rome more especially is as strikingly so almost as that of Sodom itself." Thus the mineralogist Ferber, in his Tour in Italy, says, "The road from Rome to Ostia is all volcanic ashes till within two miles of Ostia." "From Rome to Tivoli! went on fields and hills of volcanic ashes or tufa." "A volcanic hill in an amphitheatrical form includes a part of the plain over Albano, and a flat country of volcanic ashes and hills to Rome. The ground about Rome is generally of that nature," pp. 189, 191, 200, 234.
(b) Mr. Gibbon, with his usual accuracy, as if commenting on the Apocalypse, has referred to the physical adaptedness of the soil of Rome for such an overthrow. Speaking of the anticipation of the end of the world among the early Christians, he says, "In the opinion of a general conflagration, the faith of the Christian very happily coincided with the tradition of the East, the philosophy of the Stoics, and the analogy of nature; and even the country, which, from religious motives, had been chosen for the origin and principal scene of this conflagration, was the best adapted for that purpose by natural and physical causes; by its deep caverns, beds of sulphur, and numerous volcanoes, of which those of AEtna, of Vesuvius, and of Lipari, exhibit a very imperfect representation." vol. i. p. 263, chap. xv. As to the general state of Italy, in reference to volcanoes, the reader may consult, with advantage, Lyell's Geology, book ii. chap. ix.—xii. See also Murray's Encyolopaedia of Geography, book ii. chap. ii. Of the country around Rome it is said, in that work, among other things, "The country around Rome, and also the hills on which it is built, is composed of tertiary marls, clays, and sandstones, and intermixed with a preponderating quantity of granular and lithoidal volcanic tufas. The many lakes around Rome are formed by craters of ancient volcanoes." "On the road to Rome is the lake of Vico, formerly the lacus Cimini, which has all the appearance of a crater."
The following extract from a recent traveller will still further confirm this representation: "I behold everywhere—in Rome, near Rome, and through the whole region from Rome to Naples—the most astounding proofs, not merely of the possibility, but the probability, that the whole region of central Italy will one day be destroyed by such a catastrophe, [by earthquakes or volcanoes.] The soil of Rome is tufa, with a volcanic subterranean action going on. At Naples, the boiling sulphur is to be seen bubbling near the surface of the earth. When I drew a stick along the ground, the sulphurous smoke followed the indentation; and it would never surprise me to hear of the utter destruction of the southern peninsula of Italy. The entire country and district is volcanic. It is saturated with beds of sulphur and the substrata of destruction. It seems as certainly prepared for the flames, as the wood and coal on the hearth are prepared for the taper which shall kindle the fire to consume them. The Divine hand alone seems to me to hold the element of fire in check by a miracle as great as that which protected the cities of the plain, till the righteous Lot had made his escape to the mountains."—Townsend's Tour in Italy in 1850.
For strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. That is, God has ample power to bring all these calamities upon her.
9. And the kings of the earth. This verse commences the description of the lamentation over the fall of the mystical Babylon.
Who have committed fornication. That is, who have been seduced by her from the true God, and have been led into practical idolatry. See Note on Rev. 14:8.
The kings of the earth seem to be represented as among the chief mourners, because they had derived important aid from the power which was now to be reduced to ruin. As a matter of fact, the kings of Europe have owed much of their influence and power to the support which has been derived from the Papacy, and when that power shall fall, there will fall much that has contributed to sustain oppressive and arbitrary governments, and that has prevented the extension of popular liberty. In fact, Europe might have been long since free, if it had not been for the support which despotic governments have derived from the Papacy.
And lived deliciously with her. In the same kind of luxury and dissoluteness of manners. See Rev. 18:3, 7. The courts of Europe, under the Papacy, have had the same general character for dissoluteness and licentiousness as Rome itself. The same views of religion produce the same effects everywhere.
Shall bewail her, and lament for her. Because their ally is destroyed, and the source of their power is taken away. The fall of the Papacy will be the signal for a general overturning of the thrones of Europe.
When they shall see the smoke of her burning. When they shall see her on fire, and her smoke ascending towards heaven. See Note on Rev. 14:11.
10. Standing afar off for the fear of her torment. Not daring to approach, to attempt to rescue and save her. They who had so long contributed to the support of the Papal power, and who had in turn been upheld by that, would not now even attempt to rescue her, but would stand by and see her destroyed—unable to render relief.
Alas, alas, that great city Babylon. The language of lamentation that so great and so mighty a city should fall.
For in one hour is thy judgment come. See Note on Rev. 18:8.
The general sentiment here is, that in the final ruin of Papal Rome, the kings and governments that had sustained her, and had been sustained by her, would see the source of their power taken away, but that they would not, or could not, attempt her rescue. There have been not a few indications already that this will ultimately occur, and that the Papal power will be left to fall, without any attempt on the part of those governments which have been so long in alliance with it to sustain or restore it.
11. And the merchants of the earth. Who have been accustomed to traffic with her, and who have been enriched by the traffic. The image is that of a rich and splendid city. Of course, such a city depends much on its merchandise; and when it declines and falls, many who had been accustomed to deal with it as merchants or traffickers are affected by it, and have occasion to lament its fall.
Shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more. The merchandise which they were accustomed to take to the city, and by the sale of which they lived. The enumeration of the articles of merchandise which follows, seems to have been inserted for the purpose of filling out the representation of what is usually found in such a city, and to show the desolation which would occur when this traffic was suspended.
12. The merchandise of gold, and silver. Of course, these constitute an important article of commerce in a great city.
And precious stones. Diamonds, emeralds, rubies, etc. These have always been important articles of traffic in the world, and, of course, most of the traffic in them would find its way to great commercial cities.
And pearls. See Note on Matt. 7:6.
These, too, have been always, and were particularly in early times, valuable articles of commerce. Mr. Gibbon mentions them as among the articles that contributed to the luxury of Rome in the age of the Antenines: "Precious stones, among which the pearl claimed the first rank after the diamond," vol. i.p. 34.
And fine linen. This was also a valuable article of commerce. It was obtained chiefly from Egypt. See Note on Isa. 19:9.
Linen among the ancients was an article of luxury, for it was worn chiefly by the rich, Exod. 28:42; Lev. 6:10; Luke 16:19.
The original word here is bussuß, byssus, and it is found in the New Testament only in this place, and in Luke 16:19. It was a "species of fine cotton, highly prized by the ancients." Various kinds are mentioned—as that of Egypt, the cloth which is still found wrapped around mummies; that of Syria, and that of India, which grew on a tree similar to the poplar; and that of Achaia, which grew in the vicinity of Elis. See Rob. Lex.
And purple. See Note on Luke 16:19.
Cloth of this colour was a valuable article of commerce, as it was worn by rich men and princes.
And silk. Silk was a very valuable article of commerce, as it was costly, and could he worn only by the rich. It is mentioned by Mr. Gibbon as such an article in Rome in the age of the Antenines: "Silk, a pound of which was esteemed not inferior in value to a pound of gold," i. 34. On the cultivation and manufacture of silk by the ancients, see the work entitled, The History of Silk, Cotton, Linen, and Wool, etc., published by Harper Brothers, New York, 1846, pp. 1-21.
And scarlet. See Note on Rev. 17:3.
And all thyine wood. The word here used—quinon—occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It denotes an evergreen African tree, from which statues and costly vessels were made. It is not agreed, however, whether it was a species of cedar, savin, or lignum-vitae, which latter constitutes the modern genus thuja, or thyia. See Rees' Cyclo., art. Thuja.
And all manner vessels of ivory. Everything that is made of ivory. Ivory, or the tusk of the elephant, has always been among the precious articles of commerce.
And all manner vessels of most precious wood. Furniture of costly weed—cedar, the citron tree, lignum-vitse, etc.
And of brass, and iron, and marble. Brass or copper would, of course, be a valuable article of commerce. The same would be the case with iron; and so marble for building, for statuary, etc., would likewise be.
13. And cinnamon. Cinnamon is the aromatic bark of the Laurus Cinnamomam, which grows in Arabia, India, and especially in the island of Ceylon. It was formerly, as it is now, a valuable article in the Oriental trade.
And odours. Aromatics employed in religious worship, and for making perfumes. Mr. Gibbon (i. 34) mentions, among the articles of commerce and luxury in the age of the Antenines, "a variety of aromatics that were consumed in religious worship and the pomp of funerals." It is unnecessary to say that the use of such odours has been always common at Rome.
And ointments. Unguents—as spikenard, etc. These were in common use among the ancients. See Notes on Matt. 14:7; Mark 14:3.
And frankincenes. See Note on Matt. 2:11.
It is unnecessary to say that incense has been always much used in public worship in Rome, and that it has been, therefore, a valuable article of commerce there.
And wine. An article of commerce and luxury in all ages.
And oil. That is, olive oil. This, in ancient times, and in Oriental countries particularly, was an important article of commerce.
And fine flour. The word here means the best and finest kind of flour.
And beasts, and sheep, and horses. Also important articles of merchandise.
And chariots. The word here used—redwn—means, properly, a carriage with four wheels; or a carriage drawn by mules, (Prof. Stuart.) It was properly a travelling carriage. The word is of Gallic origin.—Quinctil, i. 9; Cic. Mil. 10; Att. v. 17, vi. 1. See Adams's Rom. Ant. p. 525. It was an article of luxury.
And slaves. The Greek here is swmatwn—"of bodies." Prof. Stuart renders it grooms, and supposes that it refers to a particular kind of slaves who were employed in taking care of horses and carriages. The word properly denotes body—an animal body—whether of the human body, living or dead, or the body of a beast; and then the external man—the person, the individual. In later usage, it comes to denote a slave, (see Rob. Lex.,) and in this sense it is used here. The traffic in slaves was common in ancient times, as it is now. We know that this traffic was carried on to a large extent in ancient Rome—the city which John probably had in his eye in this description. See Gibbon, Dec. and Fall, i. pp. 25, 26. Athenseus, as quoted by Mr. Gibbon, (p. 26,) says that "he knew very many Romans who possessed, not for use, but for ostentation, ten and even twenty thousand slaves." It should be said here, however, that although this refers evidently to traffic in slaves, it is not necessary to suppose that it would be literally characteristic of Papal Rome. All this is symbolical, designed to exhibit the Papacy under the image of a great city, with what was customary in such a city, or with what most naturally presented itself to the imagination of John as found in such a city; and it is no more necessary to suppose that the Papacy would be engaged in the traffic of slaves, than in the traffic of cinnamon, or fine flour, or sheep and horses.
And souls of men. The word used, and rendered souls—yucaß—though commonly denoting the soul, (properly the breath, or vital principle,) is also employed to denote the living thing—the animal—in which the soul or vital principle resides; and hence may denote a person or a man. Under this form it is used to denote a servant, or slave. (See Rob. Lex.) Prof. Robinson supposes that the word here means female slaves, in distinction from those designated by the previous word. Prof. Stuart (in loc.) supposes that the previous word denotes a particular kind of slaves—those who had the care of horses—and that the word here is used in a generic sense, denoting slaves in general. This kind of traffic in the "persons" or souls of men is mentioned as characterizing ancient Tyre, in Ezek. 27:13: "Jayan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants; they traded in the persons of men." It is not quite clear why, in the passage before us, this traffic is mentioned in two forms—as that of the bodies and the souls of men; but it would seem most probable that the writer meant to designate all that would properly come under this traffic—whether male or female slaves were bought and sold; whether they were for servitude, or for the gladiatorial sports, (see Wetstein, in loc.;) whatever might be the kind of servitude that they might be employed in, and whatever might be their condition in life. The use of the two words would include all that is implied in the traffic—for, in most important senses, it extends to the body and the soul. In slavery, both are purchased; both are supposed, so far as he can avail himself of them, to become the property of the master.
14. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after. Literally, "The fruits of the desire of thy soul." The word rendered fruits—opwra—properly means, late summer; dog-days—the time when Sirius, or the dog-star, is predominant. In the East, this is the season when the fruits ripen, and hence the word comes to denote fruit. The reference is to any kind of fruit that would be brought for traffic into a great city, and that would be regarded as an article of luxury.
Are departed from thee. That is, they are no more brought for sale into the city.
And all things which were dainty and goodly. These words "characterize all kinds of furniture and clothing which were gilt, or plated, or embroidered, and therefore were bright or splendid."—Prof. Stuart.
And thou shalt find them no more at all. The address here is decidedly to the city itself. The meaning is, that they would no more be found there.
15. The merchants of these things. Who trafficked in these things, and who supplied the city with them, Rev. 18:11.
Which were made rich by her. By traffic with her.
Shall stand afar off. Rev. 18:10.
For fear of her torment. Struck with terror by her torment, so that they did not dare to approach her, Rev. 18:10.
16. And saying, Alas, alas, etc. See Note on Rev. 18:10.
That was clothed in fine linen. In the previous description, (Rev. 18:12-13,) these are mentioned as articles of traffic; here the city, under the image of a female is represented as clothed in the most rich and gay of these articles.
And purple, and scarlet. See Note on Rev. 17:3-4. Compare 18:12.
And decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls. See Note on Rev. 17:4.
17. For in one hour. In a very brief period—so short that it seemed to them to be but one hour. In the prediction (Rev. 18:8) it is said that it would be "in one day," (See Note on Rev. 18:8) here it is said, that to the lookers-on it seemed to be but an hour. There is no inconsistency, therefore, between the two statements.
So great riches is come to nought. All the accumulated wealth of so great and rich a city. This should have been united with Rev. 18:16, as it is a part of the lamentation of the merchants, and as the lamentation of the mariners commences in the other part of the verse. It is so divided in the Greek Testaments.
And every ship-master. This introduces the lamentation of the mariners, who would, of course, be deeply interested in the destruction of a city with which they had been accustomed to trade, and by carrying merchandise to which they had been enriched. The word ship-master—kubernhthß—means, properly, a governor; then a governor of a ship—the steersman, or pilot, Acts 27:11.
And all the company in ships. Prof. Stuart renders this coasters. There is here, however, an important difference in the reading in the text. The commonly received text is, paß epi twn ploiwn o omiloß—"the whole company in ships," as in our common version; the reading which is now commonly adopted, and which is found in Griesbach, Hahn, and Tittman, is o eti topon plewn "he who sails to a place;" that is, he who sails from one place to another along the coast, or who does not venture out far to sea; and thus the phrase would denote a secondary class of sea-captains or officers—those less venturesome, or experienced, or bold than others. There can be little doubt that this is the correct reading, (comp. Wetstein, in loc.,) and hence the class of seamen here referred to is coasters. Such seamen would naturally be employed where there was a great and luxurious maritime city, and would have a deep interest in its fall.
And sailors. Common seamen.
And as many as trade by sea. In any kind of craft, whether employed in a near or a remote trade.
Stood afar off. See Note on Rev. 18:10.
18. And cried, etc. That is, as they had a deep interest in it, they would, on their own account, as well as hers, lift up the voice of lamentation.
What city is like unto this great city? In her destruction. What calamity has ever come upon a city like this?
19. And they east dust on their heads. A common sign of lamentation and mourning among the Orientals. See Note on Job 2:12.
By reason of her costliness. The word rendered costliness—timiothß—means, properly, preciousness, costliness; then magnificence, costly merchandise. The luxury of a great city enriches many individuals, however much it may impoverish itself.
For in one hour is she made desolate. So it seemed to them. See Note on Rev. 18:17.
20. Rejoice over her. Over her ruin. There is a strong contrast between this language and that which precedes. Kings, merchants, and seamen, who had been countenanced and sustained by her in the indulgence of corrupt passions, or who had been enriched by traffic with her, would have occasion to mourn. But not so they who had been persecuted by her. Not so the church of the redeemed. Not so heaven itself. The great oppressor of the church, and the corrupter of the world, was now destroyed; the grand hindrance to the spread of the gospel was now removed, and all the holy in heaven and on earth would have occasion to rejoice. This is not the language of vengeance, but it is the language of exultation and rejoicing in view of the fact that the cause of truth might now spread without hindrance through the earth.
Thou heaven. The inhabitants of heaven. Compare Note on Isa. 1:2.
The meaning here is, that the dwellers in heaven—the holy angels and the redeemed—had occasion to rejoice over the downfall of the great enemy of the church.
And ye holy apostles. Professor Stuart renders this, "Ye saints, and apostles, and prophets." In the common Greek text it is, as in our version, "holy apostles and prophets." In the text of Griesbach, Hahn, and Tittman, the word kai (and) is interposed between the world "holy" and "apostle." This is, doubtless, the true reading. The meaning then is, that the saints in heaven are called on to rejoice over the fall of the mystical Babylon.
Apostles. The twelve who were chosen by the Saviour to be his witnesses on earth. See Note on 1 Cor. 9:1.
The word is commonly limited to the twelve, but in a larger sense it is applied to other distinguished teachers and preachers of the gospel. See Note on Acts 14:14.
There is no impropriety, however, in supposing that the apostles are referred to here as such, since they would have occasion to rejoice that the great obstacle to the reign of the Redeemer was now taken away, and that that cause in which they had suffered and died was now to be triumphant.
And prophets. Prophets of the Old Testament, and distinguished teachers of the New. See Note on Rom. 12:6.
All these would have occasion to rejoice in the prospect of the final triumph of the true religion.
For God hath avenged you on her. Has taken vengeance on her for her treatment of you. That is, as she had persecuted the church as such, they all might be regarded as interested in it, and affected by it. All the redeemed, therefore, in earth and in heaven, are interested in whatever tends to retard or to promote the cause of truth. All have occasion to mourn when the enemies of the truth triumph; to rejoice when they fall.
21. And a mighty angel. See Note on Rev. 18:1
This seems, however, to have been a different angel from the one mentioned in Rev. 18:1, though, like that, he is described as having great power.
Took up a stone like a great millstone. On the structure of mills among the ancients, See Note on Matt. 24:41.
And cast it into the sea. As an emblem of the utter ruin of the city; an indication that the city would be as completely destroyed as that stone was covered by the waters.
Saying, Thus with violence. With force—as the stone was thrown into the sea. The idea is, that it would not be by a gentle and natural decline, but by the application of foreign power. This accords with all the representations in this book, that violence will be employed to overthrow the Papal power. See Rev. 17:16-17. The origin of this image is probably Jer. 51:63-64: "And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and east it into the midst of Euphrates; and thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring on her."
22. And the voice of harpers. Those who play on the harp. This was usually accompanied with singing. The idea in this verse and the following is substantially the same as in the previous parts of the chapter, that the mystical Babylon—Papal Rome—would be brought to utter desolation. This thought is here exhibited under another form—that all which constituted festivity, joy, and amusement, and all that indicated thrift and prosperity, would disappear. Of course, in a great and gay city there would be all kinds of music; and when it is said that this would be heard there no more, it is a most striking image of utter desolation.
And musicians. Musicians in general; but perhaps here singers, as distinguished from those who played on instruments.
And of pipers. Those who played on pipes or flutes. See Notes on 1 Cor. 14:7; Matt. 11:17.
And trumpeters. Trumpets were common instruments of music, employed on festival occasions, in war, and in worship. Only the principal instruments of music are mentioned here, as representatives of the rest. The general idea is, that the sound of music, as an indication of festivity and joy, would cease.
Shall be heard no more at all in thee. It would become utterly and permanently desolate.
And no craftsman, of whatsoever craft. That is, artificers of all kinds would cease to ply their trades there. The word here used—tecnithß—would include all artizans or mechanics; all who were engaged in any kind of trade or craft. The meaning here is, that all these would disappear; an image, of course, of utter decay.
And the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more. Taylor (Frag. to Cal. Dic. vol. iv. p. 346) supposes that this may refer, not so much to the rattle of the mill, as to the voice of singing which usually accompanied grinding. The sound of a mill is cheerful, and indicates prosperity; its ceasing is an image of decline.
23. And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee. Another image of desolation, as if every light were put out, and where were total darkness;
And the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee. The merry and cheerful voice of the marriage procession in the streets, (See Note on Matt. 25:1-7, seq.,) or the cheerful, glad voice of the newly-married couple in their own dwelling, (See Note on John 3:29.
For thy merchants were the great men of the earth. Those who dealt with thee were the rich, and among them were even nobles and princes; and now that they trade with thee no more, there is occasion for lamentation and sorrow. The contrast is great between the time when distinguished foreigners crowded thy marts, and now, when none of any kind come to traffic with thee. The origin of this representation is probably the description of Tyre in Ezek. 27:1.
For by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. This is stated as a reason for the ruin that had come upon her. It is a common representation of Papal Rome that she has deceived or deluded the nations Of the earth, (See Note on Rev. 13:14) and no representation ever made accords more with facts as they have occurred. The word sorceries here refers to the various arts—the tricks, impostures, and false pretences, by which this has been done. See Note on Rev. 9:21.
24. And in her. When she came to be destroyed, and her real character was seen.
Was found the blood of prophets. Of the public teachers of the true religion. On the word prophets, See Note on Rev. 18:20.
And of saints. Of the holy. See Note on Rev. 18:20.
And of all that were slain upon the earth. So numerous have been the slain; so constant and bloody have been the persecutions there, that it may be said that all the blood ever shed has been poured out there. Compare Note on Matt. 23:35.
No one can doubt the propriety of this representation with respect to Pagan and Papal Rome.
In regard to the general meaning and application of this chapter, the following remarks may be made:—
(1.) It refers to Papal Rome, and is designed to describe the final overthrow of that formidable Antichristian power. The whole course of the interpretation of the previous chapters demands such an application, and the chapter itself naturally suggests it.
(2.) If it be asked why so much of this imagery is derived from the condition of a maritime power, or pertains to commerce, since both Babylon and Rome were at some distance from the Sea, and neither could with propriety be regarded as sea-port towns, it may be replied,
(a) that the main idea in the mind of John was that of a rich and magnificent city;
(b) that all the things enumerated were doubtless found, in fact, in both Babylon and Rome;
(c) that though not properly sea-port towns, they were situated on rivers that opened into seas, and were therefore not unfavourably situated for commerce; and
(d) that in fact they traded with all parts of the earth. The leading idea is that of a great and luxurious city, and this is filled up and decorated with images of what is commonly found in large commercial towns. We are not, therefore, to look for a literal application of this, and it is not necessary to attempt to find all these things, in fact, in the city referred to. Much of the description may be for the mere sake of keeping, or ornament.
(3.) If this refers to Rome, as is supposed, then, in accordance with the previous representations; it shows that the destruction of the Papal power is to be complete and final. The image which John had in his eye as illustrating that was undoubtedly ancient Babylon as prophetically described in Isa. 13:1; 14:1, and the destruction of the power here referred to is to be as complete as was the destruction described there. It would not be absolutely necessary in the fulfilment of this to suppose that Rome itself is to become a heap of ruins like Babylon, whatever may be true on that point, but that the Papal power as such is to be so utterly destroyed that the ruins of desolate Babylon would properly represent it.
(4.) If this interpretation is correct, then the Reformation was in entire accordance with what God would have his people do, and was demanded by solemn duty to him. Thus, in Rev. 18:4, his people are expressly commanded to "come out of her, that they might not be partakers of her sins, nor of her plagues." If it had been the design of the Reformers to perform a work that should be in all respects a fulfilling of the command of God, they could have done nothing that would have more literally met the Divine requirement. Indeed, the church has never performed a duty more manifestly in accordance with the Divine will, and more indispensable for its own purity, prosperity, and safety, than the act of separating entirely and for ever from Papal Rome.
(5) The Reformation was a great movement in human affairs. It was the index of great progress already reached, and the pledge of still greater. The affairs of the world were at that period placed on a new footing, and from the period of the Reformation, and just in proportion as the principles of the Reformation are acted on, the destiny of mankind is onward.
(6.) The fall of Papal Rome, as described in this chapter, will remove one of the last obstructions to the final triumph of the gospel. In See Note on Rev. 16:10,seq. we saw that one great hindrance to the spread of the true religion would be taken away by the decline and fall of the Turkish power. A still more formidable hindrance will be taken away by the decline and fall of the Papal power; for that power holds more millions of the race under its subjection, and with a more consummate art, and a more powerful spell. The Papal influence has been felt, and still is felt, in a considerable part of the world. It has churches and schools and colleges in almost all lands. It exercises a vast influence over governments. It has powerful societies organized for the purpose of propagating its opinions; and it so panders to some of the most powerful passions of our nature, and so converts to its own purposes all the resources of superstition, as still to retain a mighty, though a waning hold on the human mind. When this power shall finally cease, any one can see that perhaps the most mighty obstruction which has ever been on the earth for a thousand years to the spread of the gospel will have been removed, and the way will be prepared for the introduction of the long hoped-for millennium.
Analysis of the Chapter
THIS chapter, as well as the last, is an episode, delaying the final catastrophe, and describing more fully the effect of the destruction of the mystical Babylon. The chapter consists of the following parts:—
I. A hymn of the heavenly hosts in view of the destruction of the mystical Babylon, Rev. 19:1-7.
(a) A voice is heard in heaven shouting Hallelujah, in view of the fact that God had judged the great harlot that had corrupted the earth, Rev. 19:1, 2.
(b) The sound is echoed and repeated as the smoke of her torment ascends, Rev. 19:3.
(c) The four and twenty elders, and the four living creatures, as interested in all that pertains to the church, unite in that shout of Hallelujah, Rev. 19:4.
(d) A voice is heard from the throne commanding them to praise God, Rev. 19:5; and
(e) the mighty shout of Hallelujah is echoed and repeated from unnumbered hosts, Rev. 19:6, 7.
II. The marriage of the Lamb, Rev. 19:8, 9. The Lamb of God is united to his bride—the church—never more to be separated; and after all the persecutions, conflicts, and embarrassments which had existed, this long-desired union is consummated, and the glorious triumph of the church is described under the image of a joyous wedding ceremony.
III. John is so overcome with this representation, that in his transports of feeling he prostrates himself before the angel, who shows him all this, ready to worship one who discloses such bright and glorious scenes, Rev. 19:10. He is gently rebuked for allowing himself to be so overcome that he would render Divine homage to any creature, and is told that he who communicates this to him is but a fellow-servant, and that God only is to be worshipped.
IV. The final conquest over the beast and the false prophet, and the subjugation of all the foes of the church, Rev. 9:11-21.
(a) A description of the conqueror—the Son of God, Rev. 9:11-16. He appears on a white horse—emblem of victory. He has on his head many crowns; wears a vesture dipped in blood; is followed by the armies of heaven on white horses; from his mouth goes a sharp sword; and his name is prominently written on his vesture and his thigh—all emblematic of certain victory.
(b) An angel is seen standing in the sun, calling on all the fowls of heaven to come to the great feast prepared for them in the destruction of the enemies of God—as if there were a great slaughter sufficient to supply all the fowls that feed on flesh, Rev. 19:17, 18.
(c) The final war, Rev. 19:19, 21. The beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies are gathered together for battle; the beast and the false prophet are taken, and are cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; and all that remain of the enemies of God are slain, and the fowls are satisfied with their flesh. The last obstacle that prevented the dawn of the millennial morning is taken away, and the church is triumphant.
1. And after these things. The things particularly that were exhibited in the previous chapter. See Note on Rev. 18:1.
I heard a voice of much people in heaven. The voice of the worshippers before the throne.
Saying, Alleluia. The Greek method of writing Hallelujah. This word—allhlouia—occurs in the New Testament only in this chapter, Rev. 18:1, 3, 4, 6.
The Hebrew phrase—? Hallelujah—occurs often in the Old Testament. It means properly Praise Jehovah, or Praise the Lord. The occasion on which it is introduced here is very appropriate. It is uttered by the inhabitants of heaven, in the immediate presence of God himself, and in view of the final overthrow of the enemies of the church and the triumph of the gospel. In such circumstances it was fit that heaven should render praise, and that a song of thanksgiving should be uttered in which all holy beings could unite.
Salvation. That is, the salvation is to be ascribed to God. See Note on Rev. 7:10.
And glory, and honour. See Note on Rev. 5:12.
And power. See Note on Rev. 5:13.
Unto the Lord our God. That is, all that there is of honour, glory, power, in the redemption of the world belongs to God, and should be ascribed to him. This is expressive of the true feelings of piety always; this will constitute the song of heaven.
2. For true and righteous are his judgments. That is, the calamities that come upon the power here referred to are deserved.
For he hath judged the great whore. The power represented by the harlot, See Note on Rev. 17:1.
Which did corrupt the earth with her fornication. See Notes on Rev. 14:8; Rev. 17:2; Rev. 17:4; Rev. 17:5; Rev. 18:3.
Compare Note on Rev. 9:21.
And hath avenged the blood of his servants. See Notes on Rev. 18:20, Rev. 18:24.
At her hand. Shed by her hand.
3. And again they said, Alleluia. See Note on Rev. 19:1.
The event was so glorious and so important; the final destruction of the great enemy of the church was of so much moment in its bearing on the welfare of the world, as to call forth repeated expressions of praise.
And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. See Note on Rev. 14:11.
This is an image of final ruin; the image being derived probably from the description in Genesis of the smoke that ascended from the cities of the plain, Gen. 19:28. On the joy expressed here in her destruction, compare Note on Rev. 18:20.
4. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts. See Notes on Rev. 4:4, Rev. 4:6, Rev. 4:7.
As representatives of the church, and as interested in its welfare, they are now introduced as rejoicing in its final triumph, and in the destruction of its last foe.
Fell down. Prostrated themselves—the usual posture of worship.
And worshipped God that sat on the throne. Rev. 4:2-3, 10. That is, they now adored him for what he had done in delivering the church from all its persecutions, and causing it to triumph in the world.
Saying, Amen. See Note on Matt. 6:13.
The word here is expressive of approbation of what God had done; or of their solemn assent to all that had occurred in the destruction of the great enemy of the church.
Alleluia. See Note on Rev. 19:1.
The repetition of this word so many times shows the intenseness of the joy of heaven in view of the final triumph of the church.
5. And a voice came out of the throne. A voice seemed to come from the very midst of the throne. It is not said by whom this voice was uttered. It cannot be supposed, however, that it was uttered by God himself, for the command which it gave was this: "Praise our God," etc. For the same reason it seems hardly probable that it was the voice of the Messiah, unless it be supposed that he here identifies himself with the redeemed church, and speaks of God as his God and hers. It would seem rather that it was a responsive voice that came from those nearest the throne, calling on all to unite in praising God in view of what was done. The meaning then will be, that all heaven was interested in the triumph of the church, and that one portion of the dwellers there called on the others to unite in offering thanksgiving.
Praise our God. The God that we worship.
All ye his servants. All in heaven and earth; all have occasion for thankfulness.
And ye that fear him. That reverence and obey him. The fear of the Lord is a common expression in the Scriptures to denote true piety. Both small and great. All of every class and condition-poor and rich—young and old; those of humble, and those of exalted rank. Compare Psa. 148:7-13.
6. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude. In Rev. 19:1, he says that he "heard a great voice of much people;" here he says he "heard as it were a voice of great multitude." That is, in the former case he heard a shout that he at once recognised as the voice of a great multitude of persons; here he says that he heard a sound not distinctly recognised at first as such, but which resembled such a shout of a multitude. In the former case it was distinct; here it was confused—bearing a resemblance to the sound of roaring waters, or to muttering thunder, but less distinct than the former. This phrase would imply
(a) a louder sound; and
(b) that the sound was more remote, and therefore less clear and distinct.
And as the voice of many waters. The comparison of the voices of a host of people with the roar of mighty waters is not uncommon in the Scriptures. See Notes on Isa. 17:12; Isa. 17:13.
So in Homer—
"The monarch spoke, and straight a murmur rose,
Loud as the surges when the tempest blows;
That dash'd on broken rocks tumultuous roar,
And foam and thunder on the stony shore."
And as the voice of mighty thunderings. The loud, deep, heavy voice of thunder. The distant shouts of a multitude may properly be represented by the sound of heavy thunder.
Saying, Alleluia. See Note on Rev. 19:1.
This is the fourth time in which this is uttered as expressive of the joy of the heavenly hosts in view of the overthrow of the enemies of the church. The occasion will be worthy of this emphatic expression of joy.
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Jehovah—God Almighty—the true God. The meaning is, that as the last enemy of the church is destroyed, he now truly reigns. This is the result of his power, and therefore it is proper that he should be praised as the omnipotent or Almighty God—for he has shown that he can overcome all his enemies, and bring the world to his feet.
7. Let us be glad and rejoice. Let all in heaven rejoice—for all have an interest in the triumph of truth; all should be glad that the government of God is set up over an apostate world.
And give honour to him. Because the work is glorious; and because it is by his power alone that it has been accomplished. See Note on Rev. 5:12.
For the marriage of the Lamb is come. Of the Lamb of God—the Redeemer of the world. See Note on Rev. 5:6.
The relation of God, and especially of the Messiah, to the church, is often in the Scriptures represented under the image of marriage. See Note on Isa. 54:4, seq. See Notes on Isa. 62:4-5; 2 Cor. 11:2, Eph. 5:23,seq. Compare Jer. 3:14; 31:32; Hos. 2:19-20.
The idea is also said to be common in Arabic and Persian poetry. It is to be remembered also, that Papal Rome has just been represented as a gay and meretricious woman; and there is a propriety, therefore, in representing the true church as a pure bride, the Lamb's wife, and the final triumph of that church as a joyous marriage. The meaning is, that the church was now to triumph and rejoice as if in permanent union with her glorious head and Lord.
And his wife hath made herself ready. By putting on her beautiful apparel and ornaments. All the preparations had been made for a permanent and uninterrupted union with its Redeemer, and the church was henceforward to be recognised as his beautiful bride, and was no more to appear as a decorated harlot—as it had during the Papal supremacy. Between the church under the Papacy, and the church in its true form, there is all the difference which there is between an abandoned woman gaily decked with gold and jewels, and a pure virgin chastely and modestly adorned, about to be led to be united in bonds of love to a virtuous husband.
8. And to her was granted. It is not said here by whom this was granted, but it is perhaps implied that this was conferred by the Saviour himself on his bride.
That she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white. See Notes on Rev. 3:4; Rev. 3:5, Rev. 3:18; See Note on Rev. 7:13.
White has, perhaps, in all countries been the usual colour of the bridal dress—as an emblem of innocence.
For the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. Represents the righteousness of the saints; or is an emblem of it. It should be remarked, however, that it is implied here, as it is everywhere in the Scriptures, that this is not their own righteousness, for it is said that this was "given" to the bride—to the saints. It is the gracious bestowment of their Lord; and the reference here must be to that righteousness which they obtain by faith—the righteousness which results from justification through the merits of the Redeemer. Of this Paul speaks, when he says, (Phil. 3:9,) "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." Compare Notes on Rom. 3:25; Rom. 3:26.
9. And he saith unto me. The angel who made these representations to him. See Rev. 19:10.
Write, blessed are they. See Note on Rev. 14:13.
Which are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb. The idea of a festival, or a marriage-supper, was a familiar one to the Jews to represent the happiness of heaven, and is frequently found in the New Testament. Compare Notes on Luke 14:15; Luke 14:16; Luke 16:22; Luke 22:16; Matt. 22:2.
The image in the passage before us is that of many guests invited to a great festival.
And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. Confirming all by a solemn declaration. The importance of what is here said; the desirableness of having it fixed in the mind amidst the trials of life and the scenes of persecution through which the church was to pass, makes this solemn declaration proper. The idea is, that in all times of persecution; in every dark hour of despondency, the church, as such, and every individual member of the church, should receive it as a solemn truth never to be doubted, that the religion of Christ would finally prevail, and that all persecution and sorrow here would be followed by joy and triumph in heaven.
10. And I fell at his feet to worship him. At the feet of the angel. See Note on Rev. 19:9.
This is a common posture of adoration in the East. See Rosenmuller's Morgenland, in loc. See Note on 1 Cor. 14:25.
John was entirely overcome with the majesty of the heavenly messenger, and with the amazing truths that he had disclosed to him, and in the overflowing of his feelings he fell upon the earth in the posture of adoration. Or it may be that he mistook the rank of him who addressed him, and supposed that he was the Messiah whom he had been accustomed to worship, and who had first (chapter 1) appeared to him. If so, his error was soon corrected. He was told by the angel himself who made these communications that he had no claims to such homage, and that the praise which he offered him should be rendered to God alone. It should be observed that there is not the slightest intimation that this was the Messiah himself, and consequently this does not contain any evidence that it would be improper to worship him. The only fair conclusion from the passage is, that it is wrong to offer religious homage to an angel.
And he said unto me, See thou do it not. That is, in rendering the homage which you propose to me, you would in fact render it to a worship; creature. This may be regarded as an admonition to be careful in our not to allow our feelings to overcome us; and not to render that homage to a creature which is due to God alone. Of course, this would prohibit the worship of the Virgin Mary, and of any of the saints, and all that homage rendered to a created being which is due to God only. Nothing is more carefully guarded in the Bible than the purity and simplicity of worship; nothing is more sternly rebuked than idolatry; nothing is more contrary to the Divine law than rendering in any way that homage to a creature which belongs of right to the Creator. It was necessary to guard even John, the beloved disciple, on that subject; how much more needful, therefore, is it to guard the church at large from the dangers to which it is liable. I am thy fellow servant. Evidently this was an angel, and yet he here speaks of himself as a "fellow-servant" of John. That is, he was engaged in the service of the same God; he was endeavouring to advance the same cause, and to honour the same Redeemer. The sentiment is, that in promoting religion in the world, we are associated with angels. It is no condescension in them to be engaged in the service of the Redeemer, though it seems to be condescension for them to be associated with us in anything; it constitutes, no ground of merit in us to be engaged in the service of the Redeemer, (compare Luke 17:10,) though we may regard it as an honour to be associated with the angels, and it may raise us in conscious dignity to feel that we are united with them.
And of thy brethren. Of other Christians; for all are engaged in the same work.
That have the testimony of Jesus. Who are witnesses for the Saviour. It is possible that there may be here a particular reference to those who were engaged in preaching the gospel, though the language will apply to all who give their testimony to the value of the gospel by consistent lives.
Worship God. He is the only proper object of worship; he alone is to be adored.
For the testimony of Jesus. The meaning here seems to be, that this angel, and John, and their fellow-servants, were all engaged in the same work—that of bearing their testimony to Jesus. Thus, in this respect, they were on a level, and one of them should not worship another, but all should unite in the common worship of God. No one in this work, though an angel, could have such a pre-eminence that it would be proper to render the homage to him which was due to God alone. There could be but one being whom it was proper to worship, and they who were engaged in simply bearing testimony to the work of the Saviour should not worship one another.
Is the spirit of prophecy. The design of prophecy is to bear testimony to Jesus. The language does not mean, of course, that this is the only design of prophecy, but that this is its great and ultimate end. The word prophecy here seems to be used in the large sense in which it is often employed in the New Testament—meaning to make known the Divine will, (See Note on Rom. 12:6,) and the primary reference here would seem to be to the preachers and teachers of the New Testament. The sense is, that their grand business is to bear testimony to the Saviour. They are all—whether angels, apostles, or ordinary teachers—appointed for this, and therefore should regard themselves as "fellow-servants." The design of the angel in this seems to have been, to state to John what was his own specific business in the communications which he made, and then to state a universal truth applicable to all ministers of the gospel, that they were engaged in the same work, and that no one of them should claim adoration from others. Thus understood, this passage has no direct reference to the prophecies of the Old Testament, and teaches nothing in regard to their design, though it is in fact undoubtedly true that their grand and leading object was to bear testimony to the future Messiah. But this passage will not justify the attempt so often made to "find Christ" everywhere in the prophecies of the Old Testament, or justify the many forced and unnatural interpretations by which the prophecies are often applied to him.
11. And I saw heaven opened. He saw a new vision, as if an opening were made through the sky, and he was permitted to look into heaven. See Note on Rev. 4:1.
And behold, a white horse. On the white horse as a symbol, See Note on Rev. 6:2.
He is here the symbol of the final victory that is to be obtained over the beast and the false prophet, (Rev. 19:20,) and of the final triumph of the church.
And he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True. He is not designated here by his usual and real name, but by his attributes. There can be no doubt that the Messiah is intended, as he goes forth to the subjugation of the world to himself. The attributes here referred to—faithful and true—are peculiarly appropriate, for they are not only strongly marked attributes of his character, but they would be particularly manifested in the events that are described. He would thus show that he was faithful—or worthy of the confidence of his church in delivering it from all its enemies; and true to all the promises that he has made to it.
And in righteousness he doth judge. All his acts of judgment in determining the destiny of men are righteous. See Note on Isa. 11:3-5.
And make war. That is, the war which he wages is not a war of ambition; it is not for the mere purpose of conquest; it is to save the righteous, and to punish the wicked.
12. His eyes were as a flame of fire. See Note on Rev. 1:14.
And on his head were many crowns. Many diadems, indicative of his universal reign. It is not said how these were worn or arranged on his head—perhaps the various diadems worn by kings were in some way wreathed into one.
And he had a name written. That is, probably on the frontlet of this compound diadem. Compare Notes on Rev. 13:1; Rev. 14:1.
That no man knew but he himself. See Note on Rev. 2:17.
This cannot here mean that no one could read the name, but the idea is, that no one but himself could fully understand its import. It involved a depth of meaning, and a degree of sacredness, and a relation to the Father, which he alone could apprehend in its true import. This is true of the name here designated—"the word of God"—the Logos—logoß; and it is true of all the names which he bears. See Matt. 11:27. Compare a quotation from Dr. Buchanan in the Asiatic Researches, vol. i., vi. p. 264, as quoted by Rosenmuller, Morgenland, in loc.
13. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood. Red, as if dipped in blood—emblem of slaughter. The original of this image is probably Isa. 63:2-3. See Note on Isa. 63:2-3.
And his name is called The Word of God. The name which in Rev. 19:12 it is said that no one knew but he himself. This name is o logoß ton qeou, or "the Logos of God." That is, this is his peculiar name; a name which belongs only to him, and which distinguishes him from all other beings. The name Logos, as applicable to the Son of God, and expressive of his nature, is found in the New Testament only in the writings of John, and is used by him to denote the higher or Divine nature of the Saviour. In regard to its meaning, and the reason why it is applied to him, See Note on John 1:1.
The reader also may consult with great advantage an article by Professor Stuart in the Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. vii., pp. 16-31. The following may be some of the reasons why it is said (Rev. 19:12) that no one understands this but he himself:
(1.) No one but he can understand its full import, as it implies so high a knowledge of the nature of the Deity;
(2.) no one but he can understand the relation which it supposes in regard to God, or the relation of the Son to the Father;
(3.) no one but he can understand what is implied in it, regarded as the method in which God reveals himself to his creatures on earth;
(4.) no one but he can understand what is implied in it in respect to the manner in which God makes himself known to other worlds. It may be added as a further illustration of this, that none of the attempts made to explain it have left the matter so that there are no questions unsolved which one would be glad to ask.
14. And the armies which were in heaven followed him. The heavenly hosts; particularly, it would seem, the redeemed, as there would be some incongruity in representing the angels as riding in this manner. Doubtless the original of this picture is Isa. 63:3: "I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me." These hosts of the redeemed on white horses accompany him to be witnesses of his victory, and to participate in the joy of the triumph, not to engage in the work of blood.
Upon white horses. Emblems of triumph or victory. See Note on Rev. 6:2.
Clothed in fine linen, white and clean. The usual raiment of those who are in heaven, as everywhere represented in this book. See Rev. 3:4-5; 4:4; 7:9, 13; 15:6.
15. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword. See Note on Rev. 1:16.
In that place the sword seems to be an emblem of his words or doctrines, as penetrating the hearts of men; here it is the emblem of a work of destruction wrought on his foes.
That with it he should smite the nations. The nations that were opposed to him; to wit, those especially who were represented by the beast and the false prophet, Rev. 19:18-20.
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron. See Notes on Rev. 2:27; Rev. 12:5.
And he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. This language is probably derived from Isa. 63:1-4. See it explained in See Note on Isa. 63:1, seq., and See Notes on Rev. 14:19, Rev. 14:20.
It means here that his enemies would be certainly crushed before him—as grapes are crushed under the feet of him that treads in the wine-vat.
16. And he hath on his vesture. That is, this name was conspicuously written on his garment—probably his military robe.
And on his thigh. The robe or military cloak may be conceived of as open and flowing, so as to expose the limbs of the rider; and the idea is, that the name was conspicuously written not only on the flowing robe, but on the other parts of his dress, so that it must be conspicuous whether his military cloak were wrapped closely around him, or whether it was open to the breeze. Grotius supposes that this name was on the edge or hilt of the sword which depended from his thigh.
A name written. Or a title descriptive of his character.
King of kings, and Lord of lords. As in Rev. 17:5, so here, there is nothing in the original to denote that this should be distinguished as it is by capital letters. As a conspicuous title, however, it is not improper. It means that he is, in fact, the sovereign over the kings of the earth, and that all nobles and princes are under his control—a rank that properly belongs to the Son of God. Compare Note on Eph. 1:20-22.
See also Rev. 19:12 of this chapter. The custom here alluded to of inscribing the name or rank of distinguished individuals on their garments, so that they might be readily recognised, was not uncommon in ancient times. For full proof of this, see Rosenmuller, Morgenland, iii. 232-236. The authorities quoted there are, Thevenot's Travels, i. 149; Gruter, p. 989; Dempster's Etruria Regalis, T. ii. tab. 93; Montfaucon, Antiq. Expliq. T. iii. tab. 39. Thus Herodotus, (ii. 106,) speaking of the figures of Sesostris in Ionia, says that, "Across his breast, from shoulder to shoulder, there is this inscription in the sacred characters of Egypt, ‘I conquered this country by the force of my arms.'" Comp. Cic. Verr. iv. 23; Le Moyne ad Jer. xxiii. 6; Munter, Diss. ad Apoc. xvii. 5, as referred to by Prof. Stuart, in loc.
17. And I saw an angel standing in the sun. A different angel evidently from the one which had before appeared to him. The number of angels that appeared to John, as referred to in this book, was very great, and each one came on a new errand, or with a new message. Every one must be struck with the image here. The description is as simple as it can be; and yet as sublime. The fewest words possible are used; and yet the image is distinct and clear. A heavenly being stands in the blaze of the brightest of the orbs that God permits us here to see—yet not consumed, and himself so bright that he can be distinctly seen amidst the dazzling splendours of that luminary. It is difficult to conceive of an image more sublime than this. Why he has his place in the sun is not stated, for there does not appear to be anything more intended by this than to give grandeur and impressiveness to the scene.
And he cried with a loud voice. So that all the fowls of heaven could hear.
Saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven. That is, to all the birds of prey—all that feed on flesh—such as hover over a battle-field. Compare Note on Isa. 18:6 ".
See also Jer. 7:33; 12:9; Ezek. 39:4-20.
Come and gather yourselves together. All this imagery is taken from the idea that there would be a great slaughter, and that the bodies of the dead would be left unburied to the birds of prey.
Unto the supper of the great God. As if the great God were about to give you a feast: to wit, the carcases of those slain. It is called "his supper" because he gives it; and the image is merely that there would be a great slaughter of his foes, as is specified in the following verse.
18. That ye may eat the flesh of kings. Of the kings under the control of the beast and the false prophet, Rev. 16:14; 17:12-14.
And the flesh of captains. Of those subordinate to kings in command. The Greek word is ciliarcwn—chiliarchs—denoting captains of a thousand, or, as we should say, commanders of a regiment. The word colonel would better convey the idea with us; as he is the commander of a regiment, and a regiment is usually composed of about a thousand men.
And the flesh of mighty men. The word here means strong, and the reference is to the robust soldiery—rank and file in the army.
And the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them. Cavalry—for most armies are composed in part of horsemen.
And the flesh of all men, both free and bond. Freemen and slaves. It is not uncommon that freemen and slaves are mingled in the same army. This was the case in the American Revolution, and is common in the East.
Both small and great. Young and old; of small size and of great size; of those of humble, and those of exalted rank. The later armies of Napoleon were composed in great part of conscripts, many of whom were only about eighteen years of age, and to this circumstance many of his later defeats are to be traced. In the army that was raised after the invasion of Russia, no less than one hundred and fifty thousand of the conscripts were between eighteen and nineteen years of age.—Alison's History of Europe, iv. 27. Indeed, it is common in most armies that a considerable portion of the enlistments are from those in early life; and besides this, it is usual to employ mere boys on various services about a camp.
19. And I saw the beast. See Notes on Rev. 13:1, Rev. 13:11.
Compare Rev. 17:13.
And the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together. There is allusion here to the same assembling of hostile forces which is described in Rev. 16:13-14, for the great decisive battle that is to determine the destiny of the world—the question whether the Messiah or Antichrist shall reign. There can be no doubt that the writer in these passages designed to refer to the same events—the still future scenes that are to occur when the Roman, the Pagan, and the Mohammedan powers shall be aroused to make common cause against the true religion, and shall stake all on the issue of the great conflict. See Notes on Rev. 16:13, Rev. 16:14.
Against him that sat on the horse. The Messiah—the Son of God. See Note on Rev. 19:11.
And against his army. The hosts that are associated with him—his redeemed people. See Note on Rev. 19:14.
20. And the beast was taken. That is, was taken alive, to be thrown into the lake of fire. The hosts were slain, (Rev. 19:21,) but the leaders were made prisoners of war. The general idea is, that these armies were overcome, and that the Messiah was victorious; but there is a propriety in the representation here that the leaders—the authors of the war—should be taken captive, and reserved for severer punishment than death on the battle-field would be—for they had stirred up their hosts, and summoned these armies to make rebellion against the Messiah. The beast here, as all along, refers to the Papal power; and the idea is that of its complete and utter overthrow, as if the leader of an army were taken captive and tormented in burning flames, and all his followers were cut down on the field of battle.
And with him the false prophet. As they had been practically associated together, there was a propriety that they should share the same fate. In regard to the false prophet, and the nature of this alliance, See Note on Rev. 16:13.
That wrought miracles before him. That is, the false prophet had been united with the beast in deceiving the nations of the earth. See Note on Rev. 16:14.
With which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast. See Note on Rev. 13:16-18.
By these arts they had been deceived; that is, they had been led into the alliance, and had been sustained in their opposition to the truth. The whole representation is that of an alliance to prevent the spread of the true religion, as if the Papacy and Mohammedanism were combined, and the one was sustained by the pretended miracles of the other. There would be a practical array against the reign of the Son of God, as if these great powers should act in concert, and as if the peculiar claims which each set up in behalf of its own Divine origin became a claim which went to support the whole combined organization.
These both were east alive into a lake of fire. The beast and the false prophet. That is, the overthrow will be as signal, and the destruction as complete, as if the leaders of the combined hosts should be taken alive, and thrown into a pit or lake that burns with an intense heat. There is no necessity for supposing that this is to be literally inflicted—for the whole scene is symbolical—meaning that the destruction of these powers would be as complete as if they were thrown into such a burning lake. Compare Note on Rev. 14:10-11.
Burning with brimstone. Sulphur—the usual expression to denote intense heat, and especially as referring to the punishment of the wicked. See Note on Rev. 14:10.
21. And the remnant. The remainder of the assembled hosts—the army at large, in contradistinction from the leaders.
Were slain with the sword. Cut down with the sword; not rescued for protracted torment. A proper distinction is thus made between the deceived multitudes and the leaders who had deceived them.
Of him that sat upon the horse. The Messiah, Rev. 19:11.
Which sword proceeded out of his mouth. See Note on Rev. 19:15.
That is, they were cut down by a word. They fell before him as he spake, as if they were slain by the sword. Perhaps this indicates that the effect that is to be produced when these great powers shall be destroyed is a moral effect; that is, that they will be subdued by the word of the Son of God.
And all the fowls were filled with their flesh. See Note on Rev. 19:17.
An effect was produced as if the fowls of heaven should feed upon the carcases of the slain.
The general idea here is, that these great Antichristian powers which had so long resisted the gospel, and prevented its being spread over the earth; which had shed so much blood in persecution, and had so long corrupted and deceived mankind, would be subdued. The true religion would be as triumphant as if the Son of God should go forth as a warrior in his own might, and secure their leaders for punishment, and give up their hosts to the birds of prey. This destruction of these great enemies—which the whole course of the interpretation leads us to suppose is still future—prepares the way for the millennial reign of the Son of God—as stated in the following chapter. The "beast" and the "false prophet" are disposed of, and there remains only the subjugation of the great dragon—the source of all this evil—to prepare the way for the long-anticipated triumph of the gospel. This subjugation of the great original source of all those evil influences is stated in Rev. 20:1-3; and then follows the account of the thousand years' rest of the saints, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment.
Jewish New Testament Commentary
The judgment, except for v. 16, is described in Chapter 18.
Sitting by many waters. See 14:8N on Babylon.
Great whore... The kings of the earth went whoring with her. Nahum 3:4 calls Nineveh, another of Israel's nemeses, "the charming and bewitching harlot who sells nations with her lewd practices and families by her witchcrafts." Compare 18:3, 7, 12-23. Isaiah 23:17 says that Tyre "will play the harlot with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth."
The people... have become drunk. See 18:3; also Jeremiah 51:7, quoted in v. 4N.
Beast... having... ten horns. See 12:3-4N, 13:1-8&N.
Gold cup. Jeremiah 51:7: "Babylon was a gold cup in the hand of Adonai that made all the earth drunk; the nations have drunk of her wine; therefore the nations are mad."
Cup filled with obscene and filthy things. At 18:6 this cup becomes the cup of God's raging fury, as at 14:10, 16:19.
Contrast this name with that written on the forehead of the redeemed (see 14:1&N, 22:5&N).
Babylon the Great. See 14:8N.
On seeing her, I was altogether astounded, since a whore does not usually dress so magnificently (v. 4; see G. E. Ladd, Revelation, ad loc.)
See 13:1-8&NN, and compare Daniel 7:19-25.
The beast once was (in the form of Antiochus IV "Epiphanes"), now is not in such an evil form, and will come as the anti-Messiah — as explained in 13:1-8N. Since the beast pretends to the position of God, the angel sarcastically describes him in language similar to that used to describe God, "the One who is, who was and who is coming" (1:4 &N). This beast, Satan, will come up from the Abyss and be "set free for a little while" (20:2-3, 7-8), but he is on his way to destruction in "the lake of fire and sulfur" (20:9-10).
The people living on earth (those in v. 2; see 3:10N) whose names have not been written in the Book of Life (see 20:12bN) since the founding of the world are to be contrasted with "God's people... who testify about Yeshua" (v. 6). Also compare 13:3-4, 8; Ep 1:3-12; and Co 1:14-23.
Seven hills. See 14:8N on Babylon.
Seven kings — five have fallen, one is living now, and the other is yet to come. A difficult verse in a difficult book. If "Babylon" means Rome or the Roman Empire (see 14:8N), the fallen could be the first five emperors, of whom Nero was the last. After three emperors who ruled for a very short time each came Vespasian, who would be the sixth, ruling from 69 to 79 C.E., and living now. Titus would be yet to come. In his commentary on Revelation R. H. Charles considers Nero to be the "beast" of this chapter, expected to return from the dead leading the kings of the east against Rome (see 13:17b-18N).
Ten horns. See v. 3N.
He is Lord of lords and King of kings. See 19:16N.
They will hate the whore. The ten horns and the beast, who are evil, hate the whore, who is also evil. Those who are good love even those who, unlike themselves, are evil. But those who are evil hate not only the good but also even those who are like themselves, evil.
And consume her with fire (also 18:8). The same punishment as for the daughter of a cohen who profanes her father by playing the whore, Leviticus 21:9.
God put it in their hearts to do what will fulfill his purpose. In the Tanakh God often uses the wicked to accomplish his purposes; see Exodus 10:1, Habakkuk 1:5-11. This verse is a strong statement of God's sovereignty, like Ro 9:6-29&NN. Though much is said in the book of Revelation about Satan and his power, there is no dualism, not the slightest suggestion that Satan is on a par with God. God's words must accomplish their intent (compare Isaiah 55:10-11, Mt 24:35, Ro 8:28).
The Great City. See 14:8N.
The judgment against Babylon (see 14:8N) is against her pride, ruthlessness, greed (1 Ti 6:9-10) and materialism. It is a just judgment (15:3; 16:5, 7; 18:10, 20; 19:2), praised by God's people but mourned by the worldly and wicked who share her values.
Much in this chapter resembles the lamentation in Ezekiel 27-28 over the commercial center and port of Tzor (Tyre). It is highly significant that Tyre is often understood as a surrogate for Satan's realm of activity and its king for Satan himself (this identification is based especially on Ezekiel 28:11-19). By analogy, the destruction of Babylon in this chapter is really the destruction of Satan's kingdom; the destruction of Satan himself in Chapter 20 invokes "Gog and Magog" as described in Ezekiel 38-39, which also resembles Ezekiel 27-28.
The size of a great millstone. The name "Gat-Sh'manim" ("Gethsemane," Mt 26:36&N) means "oil press," that is, a stone mill for grinding olives into pulp for their oil. Until quite recently the Arabs in the villages here in Israel used such presses for the same purpose, and many of the millstones are still around. They are circular with a hole in the center about 9 inches square; diameter averages about five feet, thickness a foot and weight well over a ton.
The voice of bridegroom and bride (a phrase found at Jeremiah 7:34, 16:9, 25:16, 33:1) will never again be heard in you, but they will be heard soon at the inauguration of God's reign (19:7-9 &N).
Compare 6:9-11, 16:5-7, 17:6, 19:2; also Mt 23:35.
Halleluyah! Hebrew for "Praise Yah!" ("Praise the Lord!"), rendered in the Greek text as Allelouia, and found in the Bible 22 times in Psalms 104-150 and 4 times in these six verses. The huge crowd in heaven praises God for judging Babylon the Great and for actively beginning to rule his Kingdom (v. 6).
Halleluyah! Adonai, God of heaven's armies (see 1:8N), has begun his reign (or: "has become King"). God's universal rule is a major theme of the Tanakh (Psalms 103:19, 145:13; Isaiah 2:2-4, 9:5-6(6-7), 11:6-9; Micah 4:1-4; Zechariah 14:9). On the one hand, the New Testament presents the "Kingdom" or "rulership" of God (see Mt 3:2N on "Kingdom of Heaven") as a reality present at this moment through trusting in Yeshua the Messiah (Mt 5:3, 10; 11:11; 12:28; 25:34; 26:29; Lk 17:21; Ro 14:17; 1C 4:20; Co 1:13). On the other hand, it also describes the Kingdom as a future promise yet to be fully manifested (Mt 6:10, 7:21; Lk 22:30, 23:42; 1C 6:9-10; Ga 5:21; 2 Ke 1:11). The present verse inaugurates God's kingly reign, although its establishment requires several stages: first is the wedding feast of the Lamb (vv. 7-9), climaxed by the return of the Messiah (vv. 11-15); then Satan must be chained (20:1-3, 7-10), judgment must take place (20:11-15), and only then does Yeshua actually rule (21:3-4, 22:3-5); compare 1C 15:23-28.
The "Hallelujah Chorus" in George F. Handel's oratorio, The Messiah, consists of the KJV renderings of this verse and phrases from 11:15 and 19:16. Messianic prophecies from the Tanakh and other Bible verses about Yeshua constitute its entire libretto.
The wedding of the Lamb (Yeshua the Messiah), and his bride or "wife" (the Body of all believers throughout history, the Messianic Community). Although in the ‘olam haba individual resurrected believers will not marry (Mt 22:30), the Messianic Community as a whole is the Bride of the Messiah. Similar imagery of the Messiah as bridegroom and the inauguration of the Kingdom as wedding is found also at Mt 22:1-14, 25:1-13; Mk 2:18-20; Yn 3:28-30; Ro 7:1-4; 1C 6:13-20; 2C 11:2 and Ep 5:25-33.
The Tanakh similarly pictures Israel as the wife of YHVH — see Isaiah 54:1-8, 62:4-5; Jeremiah 31:31(32); Ezekiel 16; and the whole book of Hosea, especially Chapters 1-3. Midrash Rabbah to Song of Songs 4:10 names ten places in the Tanakh which speak of Israel directly or allegorically as a bride.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a Jewish believing scholar whose theology might be categorized as a modified Dispensationalism, distinguishes radically between the "wife of Jehovah," Israel, and the "bride of the Messiah," the Messianic Community; see his commentary on Revelation called The Footsteps of the Messiah, Appendix III ("The Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of Christ").
My view is that the distinction between the Church and the Jewish people is less sharp and more subtle than Dispensationalism has generally depicted it (see Ro 11:23-24&N), and that Yeshua the Messiah sometimes represents and sometimes is intimately identified with the Jewish people (see Mt 2:15&N). For these reasons I see no significant substantive distinction to be made between the bride of the Messiah and the wife of YHVH. Rather, the Bible employs a variety of metaphors to express the future intimacy of God with his people; different ones are used at 21:2-3, 22:3-5.
Fine linen, bright and clean contrasts with the garish dress of the harlot (17:4). "Fine linen" means or "results from" (literally, "is") the righteous deeds, etc.
I fell at his feet to worship him, etc. Compare Ac 10:25-26&N. The early believers sometimes were led astray into angel-worship, but this was condemned (Co 2:18). Perhaps Yochanan, in awed confusion, thought the voice of the angel was that of the Messiah and reports his embarrassment at his mistake.
The testimony of Yeshua is the Spirit of prophecy. A difficult phrase. I think the author is explaining why he was instructed not to worship the angel; compare Kefa's similar remark to Cornelius (Ac 10:25-26&N). Yochanan and his brothers have in themselves Yeshua's testimony or "evidence," that is, what Yeshua said about himself and his Messianic Community (similarly at 1:2b, 22:16). This evidence which believers have in them is the Spirit of prophecy (Greek prophźteia, "speaking forth" on behalf of God), that is, the Holy Spirit, who speaks forth God's truth whenever they live a godly, Messianic life and communicate the Good News to others.
At Ti 2:13&N we are taught "to expect the blessed fulfillment of our certain hope, which is the appearing of the Sh'khinah of our great God and the appearing of our Deliverer, Yeshua the Messiah." The present verses describe this eagerly awaited Second Coming.
In the Tanakh YHVH wars victoriously over his enemies (Isaiah 13, 31, 63:1-6; Ezekiel 38-39; Joel 4:9-21(3:9-21); Zechariah 14); here we see that it is through Yeshua the Messiah that he does this. Moreover, Yeshua's work upon his return is not only to reward the righteous (vv. 6-10) but also to conquer and judge the wicked, as seen from Mt 13:41-42, 25:41-46; Ro 2:5-6, 8-9, 16; 1 Th 1:7-9, 2:8. The first time, God did not send his Son into the world to judge but to save (Yn 3:17); however, God has entrusted all judgment to the Son (Yn 5:22), and this takes place at his Second Coming.
A white horse, different from the one at 6:2&N, with a different rider.
Faithful and True — words applied to the Messiah also at 3:14. The two words mean virtually the same thing, since the Hebrew idea of truth was not correspondence to reality (as in Greek thought), but reliability. The "God of truth" (Elohim emet, Jeremiah 10:10) is not primarily the God who reveals eternal verities, but the God who can be trusted to keep his covenant. When Yochanan in his Gospel wrote that "grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah" (Yn 1:17), he meant that in the life, death and resurrection of the Messiah, God's faithfulness was revealed in fulfillment of his covenant. Likewise, the return of Yeshua will be the faithful reappearance of him who has already appeared among men; this time he comes to bring God's covenant promises to their final and full consummation. (Adapted from George E. Ladd, Revelation, ad loc.)
His eyes were like a fiery flame (1:14).... the name by which he is called is, "THE WORD OF GOD" (1:2, 6:9, 20:4).... Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword (1:16; 2:12, 16). The sword here and at v. 21 is the Word of God (see 1:2N, 1:16&N). See MJ 4:12-13&N for the same three metaphors (Word of God, sword, eyes).
A name written which no one knew but himself. Yeshua has three public names in vv. 11-16; each reveals aspects of his nature (see Yn 1:12N on how names were understood in antiquity). Yet even on the day of the eschatological battle there are elements which remain hidden.
Soaked in blood. This could be the blood of the enemies' armies (vv. 19, 21), Yeshua's own blood shed on the execution-stake or the blood of martyred believers (6:9-10 &N, 12:11&N). Most interpreters opt for the first.
The armies of heaven, the angels. God is called "Adonai, God of heaven's armies" many times in the book of Revelation (see 1:8&N). "Adonai my God will come, and all holy ones with him" (Zechariah 14:5). Yeshua returns with angels (Mk 8:38, Lk 9:26, 1 Th 3:13, 2 Th 1:7). However, the believers too accompany him as he overcomes his enemies (17:14 (above; also Mt 24:31, 1 Th 4:15-17&N).
He will rule them with a staff of iron. See 2:26-27N, 11:18&N, 12:5. Winepress, etc. See 14:14-20N.
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (in reverse order at 17:14). A title expressing Yeshua's rulership over all creation (1C 15:25-28&NN, Pp 2:9-11&N, MJ 2:8&N). It is equivalent to the phrase "King of kings of kings" which the Siddur (prayerbook) applies to YHVH in this song which introduces Shabbat in many Jewish homes:
"Shalom ‘aleikhem, mal'akhey-hasharet, mal'akhey-Elyon,
miMelekh-malkhey-ham'lakhim, HaKadosh, barukh hu.
Bo'akhem l'shalom,... barkhuni l'shalom,... tzetkhem l'shalom...."
"Welcome, ministering angels, messengers from the Most High,
from the King of kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be he.
Come in peace,... bless me with peace,... go in peace...."
The extra "kings of" in Yeshua's title is necessary because the ruler of Persia styled himself "king of kings" — and truly so, since Esther 1:1 says that Achashverosh (Ahasuerus, Xerxes) ruled 127 countries (and, by implication, their kings as well). See also citation of Avot 3:1 in 20:11-15N below.
This is the Battle of Armageddon (see 16:16&N); the Messiah defeats the anti-God forces, both the instigators in the spiritual realm (v. 20) and their human followers (v. 21).
Birds of carrion feast on their flesh (vv. 17-18). The imagery is from the book of Ezekiel 39:17-20, although Ezekiel is speaking of the battle of Gog and Magog, which does not appear in Revelation until 20:8&N. See v. 21N.
Compare Psalm 2:2, Joel 4:9-17(3:9-17); see 14:14-20N, 16:16&N.
Here is God's answer to the logical conundrum, "How do you throw away the trash can?" The beast... and with him the false prophet (see 13:1-18&NN, 14:8-11&NN) are thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur (compare Ezekiel 38:22), "prepared for the Adversary and his angels" (Mt 25:41). At 20:10 Satan himself joins these "angels" of his to be "tormented forever and ever"; compare Daniel 7:11, and see 12:12N, 14:10aN. Death and Sh'ol themselves are thrown into this lake of fire, as there is no longer any need for them (20:13-14 &N). And in the final judgment of humanity, "Anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life was hurled into the lake of fire" (20:15 &N).
Compare Mt 3:10-12; 5:22; 10:28 ("Do not fear those who kill the body but are powerless to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gey-Hinnom"; and see Lk 12:4-5); 13:40-43; 18:8-9; 23:15, 33; 25:46. Also note Mk 9:43, 48 ("If your hand makes you sin, cut it off! Better that you should be maimed but obtain eternal life, rather than keep both hands and go to Gey-Hinnom, to unquenchable fire..., where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." There Mark is citing the most important Tanakh reference to eternal fiery punishment, Isaiah 66:24 (quoted below in 21:1-8N). In Lk 16:23-24 torment by fire is experienced by the dead already in Sh'ol, even before the lake of fire. In Lk 17:29-30 fire and sulfur are cited as God's means of punishment and destruction in the days of Sodom (Genesis 19). See also 2 Th 1:8, MJ 12:29, 2 Ke 3:7, Yd 7.
And all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. In Judaism, following biblical practice, the honored dead are buried. Not to be buried is a disgrace (see 2 Kings 9:34), and being torn apart by buzzards and dogs is the ultimate disgrace (note Yeshua's figurative use of this fact at Mt 24:28&N).
Elijah prophesied about Ach'av (Ahab), the king of the Northern Kingdom (Israel), and his wife Izevel (Jezebel):
"Adonai also said of Izevel, ‘The dogs will eat Izevel by the wall of Yizre‘el. Any of Ach'av's people that die in the city the dogs will eat, and the birds flying around will eat those who die in the field.'"(1 Kings 21:23-24)
Elisha later confirmed that
"The dogs will eat Izevel in the area of Yizre‘el, and no one will bury her." (2 Kings 9:10)
God fulfilled the prophecy about Izevel at 2 Kings 9:32-37. Yehu (Jehu, later the king) had her thrown to her death from a high window of her castle. But even he wanted to show her dead body the respect of burial:
"Go, take care of this cursed woman, and bury her; for she is a king's daughter. So they went to bury her; but all they found of her was the skull, the feet and the palms of her hands."
Yehu then recognized that Elijah and Elisha's prophecies about her had come true.
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament
1. Sitteth upon many waters. Said of Babylon, Jeremiah 51:13; the wealth of Babylon being caused both by the Euphrates and by a vast system of canals. The symbol is interpreted by some commentators as signifying Babylon, by others pagan Rome, Papal Rome, Jerusalem. Dante alludes to this passage in his address to the shade of Pope Nicholas III., in the Bolgia of the Simonists.
"The Evangelist you pastors had in mind,
When she who sitteth upon many waters
To fornicate with kings by him was seen.
The same who with the seven heads was born,
And power and strength from the ten horns received,
So long as virtue to her spouse was pleasing."
"Inferno," xix., 106–110.
2. Have committed fornication. The figure of a harlot committing fornication with kings and peoples occurs frequently in the prophets, representing the defection of God's Church and its attachment to others. See Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:1, 6, 8; Ezekiel 16:15, 16, 28, 31, 35, 41; 23:5, 19, 44; Hosea 2:5; 3:3; 4:14. The word is applied to heathen cities in three places only: to Tyre, Isaiah 23:15, 16, 17; to Nineveh, Nahum 3:4; and here.
3. sitting. To manage and guide the beast.
A scarlet-colored beast. The same as in ch. 13:1. This beast is ever after mentioned as to\ qhri÷on the beast. For scarlet, see on Matthew 27:6.
4. Purple (porfu/roun). See on Luke 16:19.
Decked (kecruswme÷nh). Lit., gilded.
Precious stones (li÷qwŲ timi÷wŲ)Lit., precious stone.
Golden cup. Compare Jeremiah 51:7.
Abominations (bdelugmaņtwn). See on Matthew 24:15.
5. Upon her forehead a name. As was customary with harlots, who had their names inscribed on a ticket. Seneca, addressing a wanton priestess, "Nomen tuum pependit a fronte," thy name hung from thy forehead. See Juvenal, Satire vi., 123 sqq., of the profligate Messalina, "having falsely assumed the ticket of Lycisca."
Mystery. Some understand this as a part of the name, others as implying that the name is to be interpreted symbolically.
Babylon. See on 1 Peter 5:13. Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Jerome use Babylon as representing the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages Rome is frequently styled the Western Babylon. The sect of the Fraticelli, an eremitical organization from the Franciscans in the fourteenth century, who carried the vow of poverty to the extreme and taught that they were possessed of the Holy Spirit and exempt from sin — first familiarized the common mind with the notion that Rome was the Babylon, the great harlot of the Apocalypse (see Milligan, "Latin Christianity," Book xii., ch. vi.). On the passage cited from Dante (ver. i.), Dean Plumptre remarks: "The words have the interest of being a medieval interpretation of Revelation 17:1–15, in which, however, the harlot and the beast seem somewhat strangely blended. The harlot is the corrupted Church of Rome; the seven heads are the seven hills on which the city is built; or perhaps, with an entirely different exegesis, the seven gifts of the Spirit, or the seven sacraments With which that Church had, in its outset, been endowed: the ten horns are the ten commandments. As long as the Church was faithful to her spouse, she had the moral strength which came from those gifts, and the divine law which she represented. When that failed, she became as a harlot, and her whoredom with kings was the symbol of her alliance with secular powers for the oppression of the nations" (On "Inferno," xix., 110).
6. Saints — martyrs. The saints include the martyrs or witnesses, but the latter word emphasizes the testimony of the saints which has been the cause of their death. For martyr; see on 1 Peter 5:1.
8. To go into perdition (uJpaņgein). Some good texts read uJpaņgei, goeth. For the verb, see on John 6:21; 8:21.
In the book (eķpi÷). Lit., upon.
From the foundation of the world. In ordinary New Testament Greek these words would belong to are written. construe with the words immediately preceding. Compare ch. 13:8, and Matthew 25:34.
And yet is (kai÷per eķsti÷n). Read kai« paņrestai, and shall come. Lit., shall be present.
9. Here is (w—de). Bespeaking attention and spiritual discernment for that which follows. See on ch. 13:18.
The mind (oj nouvß).
I. Nouvß is the organ of mental perception and apprehension — of conscious life, the mind, comprising the faculties of perceiving and understanding, of feeling, judging, determining.
(a) The intellectual faculty or understanding (Luke 24:45). So here, according to some.
(b) The reason, regarded as the faculty of perceiving divine things: of recognizing goodness and hating evil (Romans 1:28; 7:23; Ephesians 4:17).
(c) The power of calm and impartial judgment (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
II. Nouvß is a particular mode of thinking and judging: moral consciousness as a habit of mind or opinion. Hence thoughts, feelings, purposes (Romans 14:5; 1 Corinthians 1:10). Some render here meaning.
Seven mountains. Many interpreters regard this as conclusively defining the reference of the woman to Rome, which was built upon seven hills. Others deny the local reference, and understand the principle of worldly greatness and ambition. Others again claim that many cities besides Rome can boast of their seven hills, as Constantinople, Brussels, and especially Jerusalem.
Upon them. Redundant, the idea being already expressed by where. A Hebraism.
10. Are fallen (e¶pesan). Lit., fell. Constantly used in the Septuagint of the violent fall or overthrow of kings or kingdoms. See Ezekiel 29:5; 30:6; Isaiah 21:9; Jeremiah 50:15; 51:8.
12. Kings which (oiľtineß). The compound relative classifying: "of the kind which."
13. Mind (gnwņmhn). Meaning primarily the faculty of knowing, mind, reason; then that which is thought or known; opinion, purpose. See Acts 20:3; 1 Corinthians 7:25; Philemon 14.
Shall give (diadidwņsousin). dido/asin, the present tense, give. The force of diaņ is over; give over.
Power and authority (du/namin kai« eķxousi÷an). For the distinction, see on 2 Peter 2:11.
15. The waters. The explanation of the symbol given here is in accordance with Isaiah 8:7; Psalm. 18:4, 16; 124:4.
Peoples and multitudes, etc. See on 1 Peter 2:9; Mark 12:37.
16. Upon the beast (eķpi÷). Read kai« and: "the ten horns — and the beast."
Desolate (hjrhmwme÷nhn). Lit., desolated, the verb being in the perfect participle.
Shall eat her flesh. A token of extreme hostility. See Psalm 27:2; Micah 3:3. Xenophon, speaking of the hatred between the pure Spartans and the Helots, says that no one of the pure Spartans could conceal his readiness to eat the Helot raw. Notice the plural saņrkaß flesh, and see on James 5:3.
Burn (katakau/sousin). Rev., giving the force of kataņ down, burn utterly. According to some interpreters the figure is changed from the woman to a city; but this is unnecessary, as the language is probably taken from the punishment of fornication on the part of a priest's daughter (Leviticus 21:9; compare Leviticus 20:14).
17. Hath put (e¶dwken). Rev., with stricter rendering of the aorist, did put. Lit., did give.
To fulfill His will (poihvsai th\n gnwņmhn aujtouv). See on ver. 13. Rev., more literally, to do his mind.
To agree (poih/sai mi÷an gnwņmhn). Lit., to make one mind. Rev., come to one mind.
The words (ta» rJh/mata). But read oiŻ lo/goi the prophetic words. For the distinction, see on Luke 1:37.
18. Reigneth (e¶cousa basilei÷an). Lit., hath a kingdom.
1. Was lightened. Compare Ezekiel 43:2.
2. Mightily with a strong voice (eķn iķscu/iŌ fwnhvĮ mega»lhĮ). Lit., in strength with a great voice. Omit megaņlhĮ great, and read iķscura◊Ų fwnhvĮ with a mighty voice. So Rev.
Babylon — is fallen. The Rev. improves on the A.V. by placing fallen in the emphatic position of the Greek: "Fallen, fallen is Babylon." Compare Isaiah 21:9.
Is become (eķge÷neto). Lit., became.
Devils (daimo/nwn). Properly, demons, which Rev., strangely commits to the margin. See on Mark 1:34. See Isaiah 13:20–22; 34:13–15. Also on Luke 11:24.
Hold (fulakh\). See on 1 Peter 3:19, and Acts 5:21. Rev., in margin, prison.
Cage (fulakh\). The word rendered above hold. Rev., hold. Some, however, explain it, not as a cage where they are kept, but as a place of safety to which they resort.
Bird (ojrne÷ou). Only in Revelation, here, 19:17, 21. Compare Jeremiah 1:39.
3. Have drunk (pe÷pwken or pe÷pwkan). Some, however, read pe÷ptwkan have fallen. So Rev.
Of the wine (eķk touv oi¶nou). Thus if we read have drunk. If we adopt have fallen, eķk is instrumental, by. So Rev.
Of the wrath. The wine of fornication has turned to wrath against herself.
Merchants (e¶mporoi). The word originally means one on a journey by sea or land, especially for traffic. Hence a merchant as distinguished from kaņphloß a retailer or huckster.
The abundance of her delicacies (thvß dunaņmewß touv strh/nouß aujthvß). Lit., as Rev., the power of her luxury. Strhvnoß is akin to stereo/ß firm, hard, stubborn (see on steadfast, 1 Peter 5:9). Hence over-strength, luxury, wantonness. Only here in the New Testament. The kindred verb strhniaņw to live deliciously occurs ch. 18:7, 9.
4. Come out of her. Compare Jeremiah 51:6, 45; Isaiah 48:20; 52:11; Num. 16:26.
Have fellowship with (sugkoinwnh/shte). This compound verb is not of frequent occurrence in the New Testament. It is found only in Ephesians 5:11, Philippians. 4:14, and here. On the kindred noun sugkoinwno\ß companion, see on ch. 1:9.
5. Have reached (hjkolou/qhsan). Lit., followed. But the best texts read eķkollh/qhsan clave. Compare Jeremiah 51:9. For different applications of the verb see on Matthew 19:5; Luke 15:15; Acts 5:13. Compare the classical phrase for following up closely a fleeing foe, hoerere in terga hostium, to cleave to the backs of the enemy. See also Zechariah 14:5 (Sept.), "The valley of the mountains shall reach (eķgkollhqh/setai) unto Azal." The radical idea of the metaphor is that of following or reaching after so as to be joined to.
6. Double (diplwņsate). Only here in the New Testament. Compare Isaiah 40:2; Jeremiah 16:18; Zechariah 9:12. The Levitical law insisted on the double recompense. See Exodus 22:4, 7, 9.
7. Lived deliciously (eķstrhni÷asen). See on ver. 3.
Torment (basanismo\n). Only in Revelation. On the kindred word, baņsanoß torment, see on Matthew 4:23, 24.
I sit a queen and am no widow. See Isaiah 47:8; Zephaniah 2:15.
8. Therefore shall her plagues come, etc. See Isaiah 47:8, 9.
Who judgeth (oj kri÷nwn). Read kri÷naß judged.
11. Merchandise (go/mon). Only here, ver. 12, and Acts 21:3. From ge÷mw to be full. Hence, literally, lading or cargo. So Rev., in margin.
The main features of the following description are taken from that of the destruction of Tyre, Ezekiel 26, 27.
12. Fine Linen (bu/ssou). See on Luke 16:19.
Purple (porfu/raß). See on Luke 16:19.
Silk (shrikouv). Properly an adjective, meaning pertaining to the Seres. From Shvreß Seres, a people of India, perhaps of modern China.
Before the time of Justinian, when silkworms were first brought to Constantinople, it was thought that the Seres gathered or combed the downy substance woven by the worms from the leaves of certain trees. Hence Virgil speaks of the Seres, how they comb (depectant) the fine fleeces from the leaves ("Georgics," ii., 121).
Silk was a costly article of luxury among the Romans, so that Tacitus relates that in the reign of Tiberius a law was passed against "men disgracing themselves with silken garments" ("Annals," ii., 33). "Two hundred years after the age of Pliny," says Gibbon, "the use of pure or even of mixed silks was confined to the female sex, till the opulent citizens of Rome and the provinces were insensibly familiarized with the example of Elagabalos, the first who, by this effeminate habit, had sullied the dignity of an emperor and a man. Aorelian complained that a pound of silk was sold at Rome for twelve ounces of gold" ("Decline and Fall," ch. xl.). At the time of Justinian the Persians held a monopoly of this trade. Two missionary monks residing in China imparted to Justinian the project of introducing the eggs of the silkworm into Europe, and returning to China concealed the eggs in a hollow cane and so transported them.
Scarlet. See on Matthew 27:6.
Thyine wood (xu/lon qu/iŌnon). On]y here in the New Testament. From qui÷a or qu/a the citrus, a North-African tree, a native of Barbary, used as incense and for inlaying. Pliny speaks of a mania among the Romans for tables made of this wood. The most expensive of these were called orbes, circles, because they were massive plates of wood cut from the stem in its whole diameter. Pliny mentions plates four feet in diameter, and nearly six inches Thick;. The most costly were those taken from near the root, both because the tree was broadest there, and because the wood was dappled and speckled. Hence they were described by different epithets according as the markings resembled those of the tiger, the panther, or the peacock.
Vessel (skeuvoß). See on 1 Peter 3:7, and Acts 9:15. Also on goods, Matthew 12:29; Mark 3:27; and strake sail, Acts 27:17.
Of ivory (eķlefaņntinon). Only here in the New Testament. References to ivory are frequent in the Old Testament. The navy of Tarshish brought ivory to Solomon with apes and peacocks (1 Kings 10:22). His great throne was made of it (1 Kings 10:18). Ahab's ivory palace (1 Kings 22:39) was probably a house with ivory panels. "Ivory palaces" are mentioned in Psalm 45:8, and "houses of ivory" in Amos 3:15. The Assyrians carried on a great trade in this article. On the obelisk in the British Museum the captives or tribute-bearers are represented as carrying tusks. The Egyptians early made use of it in decoration, bringing it mostly from Ethiopia, where, according to Pliny, ivory was so plentiful that the natives made of it door-posts and fences, and stalls for their cattle. In the early ages of Greece ivory was frequently employed for ornamental purposes, for the trappings of horses, the handles of kegs, and the bosses of shields. Homer represents an Asiatic woman staining ivory with purple to form trappings for horses, and describes the reins of chariot-horses as adorned with ivory. The statue of Jupiter by Phidias was of ivory and gold. In the "Odyssey" of Homer, Telemachus thus addresses his companion, the son of Nestor as they contemplate the splendor of Menelaus' palace:
"See, son of Nestor, my beloved friend,
In all these echoing rooms the sheen of brass,
Of gold, of amber and of ivory;
Such is the palace of Olympian Jove."
"Odyssey," iv., 71–74.
Marble (marmaņrou). From marmai÷rw to sparkle or glisten.
13. Cinnamon (kinaņmwmon). Mentioned as one of the ingredients of the holy oil for anointing (Exodus 30:23), and as a perfume for the bed (Proverbs 7:17).
And spice (kai« aŗmwmon). These words are added by the best texts. A fragrant Indian plant, with seed in grape-like clusters, from which ointment was made. Preparations for the hair were made from it. Virgil, describing the coming golden age, says: "The Assyrian amomum shall spring up as a common plant" ("Eclogue" iv., 25; Compare "Eclogue" iii., 89). Forbiger (Virgil) says that the best was raised in Armenia, a poorer quality in Media and Pontus.
Fine flour (semi÷dalin). Only here in the New Testament.
Cattle (kth/nh). See on Luke 10:34.
Merchandise of horses. Merchandise is not in the text. It resumes the construction of go/mon merchandise with the genitive in ver. 12.
Chariots (rJedw◊n). A Latin word though of Gallic origin, rheda. It had four wheels.
14. The fruits (hj ojpwņra). Originally, the late summer or early autumn; then, generally, used of the ripe fruits of trees. Only here in the New Testament. Compare the compound fqinopwrina» autumn (trees). See on whose fruit withereth, Jude 1:12, and compare Summer-fruits, Jeremiah 40:10.
That thy soul lusted after (thvß eķpiqumi÷aß thvß yuchvß souv). Lit., of the desire of thy soul.
Dainty (lipara»). From li÷poß grease. Hence, literally, fat. Only here in the New Testament. Homer uses it once in the sense of oily or shiny with oil, as the skin anointed after a bath. "Their heads and their fair faces shining" ("Odyssey," xv., 332). So Aristophanes ("Plutus," 616), and of oily, unctuous dishes ("Frogs," 163). Of the oily smoothness of a calm sea, as by Theocritus. The phrase liparoi« po/deß shining feet, i.e., smooth, without wrinkle, is frequent in Homer. Thus, of Agamemnon rising from his bed. "Beneath his shining feet he bound the fair sandals" ("Iliad," ii., 44). Also of the condition of life; rich, comfortable: so Homer, of a prosperous old age, "Odyssey," xi., 136. Of things, bright, fresh. Of soil, fruitful. The city of Athens was called liparai«, a favorite epithet. Aristophanes plays upon the two senses bright and greasy, saying that if any one flatteringly calls Athens bright, he attaches to it the honor of sardines — oiliness ("Acharnians," 638, 9).
Goodly (lampra»). A too indefinite rendering. Better, Rev., sumptuous. See on Luke 23:11; James 2:2. Mostly in the New Testament of clothing. See on ch. 15:6.
16. Decked (kecruswme÷nh). See on ch. 17:4.
17. Shipmaster (kubernh/thß). From kubernaņw to govern. Strictly, steersman. Only here and Acts 27:11.
All the company in ships (pa◊ß eķpi« tw◊n ploi÷wn oj oĘmiloß). The best texts substitute oj eķpi« to/pon ple÷wn, that saileth anywhere, lit., saileth to a place. So Rev.
Trade by sea (th\n qaņlassan eķrgaņzontai). Lit., work the sea, like the Latin mare exercent, live by seafaring. Rev., gain their living by sea.
19. Cast dust on their heads. Compare Ezekiel 27:30. See on Luke 10:13.
20. Hath avenged you on her (e¶krinen to\ kri÷ma uJmw◊n eķx aujthvß). Rev., more literally, hath judged your judgment on her or from her. The idea is that of exacting judgment from (eķx). Compare the compound verb eķkdikei√ß avenge, or exact vengeance from (ch. 6:10). The meaning is either, that judgment which is your due, or what she hath judged concerning you.
21. A mighty angel (ei–ß aŗggeloß iķscuro\ß). Lit., "one strong angel."
A great millstone. See on Matthew 18:6.
With violence (oJrmh/mati). Lit. with an impulse or rush. Only here in the New Testament.
22. Harpers. See on ch. 14:2.
Musicians (mousikw◊n) Only here in the New Testament. There seems to be no special reason for changing the rendering to minstrels, as Rev. The term music had a much wider signification among the Greeks than that which we attach to it. "The primitive education at Athens consisted of two branches: gymnastics for the body, music for the mind. Music comprehended from the beginning everything appertaining to the province of the nine Muses; not merely learning the use of the lyre or how to bear part in a chorus, but also the hearing, learning, and repeating of poetical compositions, as we]l as the practice of exact and elegant pronunciation — which latter accomplishment, in a language like the Greek, with long words, measured syllables, and great diversity of accentuation between one word and another, must have been far more difficult to acquire than it is in any modern European language. As the range of ideas enlarged, so the words music and musical teachers acquired an expanded meanings so as to comprehend matter of instruction at once ampler and more diversified. During the middle of the fifth century B.C. at Athens, there came thus to be found among the musical teachers men of the most distinguished abilities and eminence, masters of all the learning and accomplishments of the age, teaching what was known of Astronomy, Geography, and Physics, and capable of holding dialectical discussions with their pupils upon all the various problems then afloat among intellectual men" (Grote, "History of Greece," vi., ch. lxvii.).
Pipers (aujlhtw◊n). Rev., flute-players. Only here and Matthew 9:23. The female flute-players, usually dissolute characters, were indispensable attendants at the Greek banquets. Plato makes Eryximachus in "the Symposium," say: "I move that the flute-girl who has just made her appearance, be told to go away and play to herself, or, if she likes, to the women who are within. Today let us have conversation instead" ("Symposium," 176). Again, Socrates says: "The talk about the poets seems to me like a commonplace entertainment to which a vulgar company have recourse; who, because they are not able to converse and amuse one another, while they are drinking, with the sound of their own voices and conversation, by reason of their stupidity, raise the price of flute-girls in the market, hiring for a great sum the voice of a flute instead of their own breath, to be the medium of intercourse among them" (Protagoras," 347). Compare Isaiah 24:8; Ezekiel 26:13.
Millstone. Compare Jeremiah 25:10; Matthew 24:41.
23. Bridegroom — bride. Compare Jeremiah 25:10.
Great men (megista◊neß). Rev., princes. See on ch. 6:15.
By thy sorceries (eķn thvĮ farmakei÷aŲ sou). See on ch. 9:21. Rev., more literally, with thy sorcery.
Were deceived (eķplanh/qhsan). Or led astray. See on Mark 12:24.
1. Hallelujah (aÓllhlou/iŌa). Hebrew. Praise ye the Lord. Only in Revelation and in this chapter. Fifteen of the Psalms either begin or end with this word. The Jewish anthem of praise (Psalm 104–109), sung chiefly at the feasts of the Passover and of Tabernacles, derived its title of the Great Hallel from the frequent use of that phrase.
Honor. Omit. On the doxologies in Revelation, see on ch. 1:6.
2. True (aÓlhqinai«). See on John 1:9.
Did corrupt (e¶fqeiren). The imperfect tense denoting habit.
Avenged (eķxedi÷khsen). Exacted vengeance from (eķx).
At her hand (eķk). Lit., "from her hand." See on ch. 2:7; 18:20.
3. Her smoke, etc. Compare Isaiah 34:10.
5. All ye His servants — small and great. Compare Psalm 115:13; 134:1.
7. The marriage of the Lamb. For the figure, compare Isaiah 54:1–8; Ezekiel 16:7–14; Hosea 2:19; Matthew 9:15; John 3:29; Ephesians 5:25.
8. Fine linen (bu/ssinon). See on Luke 16:19. The four vestments of the ordinary Jewish priest were made of linen or byssus. Their symbolic meaning depended in part on the whiteness and luster of their substance (kaqaro\n kai« lampro/n pure and bright).
Righteousness (dikaiwņmata). More strictly, as Rev. righteous acts.
10. See thou do it not (oĘra mh/). See not (to do it).
The testimony of Jesus (hj marturi÷a touv ∆Ihsouv). Some explain as the testimony which proceeds from Jesus. Jesus, by imparting this testimony to believers imparts to them the spirit of prophecy. Others, the witness which is born to Jesus. The way of bearing this witness, the substance and essence of this testimony is the Spirit of prophecy.
11. A white horse. Compare ch. 6:2.
12. Crowns (diadh/mata). See on 1 Peter 5:4; James 1:12.
13. Dipped (bebamme÷non). The readings differ; some giving rJerantisme÷non sprinkled, others perireramme÷non sprinkled round. Rev., sprinkled. Compare Isaiah 63:2, 3.
The Word of God (oj Lo/goß touv Qeouv). This name for our Lord is found in the New Testament only in the writings of John. It is one of the links which connects Revelation with John's other writings. Compare John 1:1–14; 1 John 1:1. Some object to this on the ground that, in the Gospel of John, the term is used absolutely, the Word, whereas here it is qualified, the Word of God, which the Evangelist nowhere employs, and in 1 John 1:1, the Word of life. But, as Alford observes: "It may be left to any fair-judging reader to decide whether it be not a far greater argument for identity that the remarkable designation oj Lo/goß the Word is used, than for diversity, that, on the solemn occasion described in the Apocalypse, the hitherto unheard adjunct of God is added." The idea of God which is represented here, underlies the absolute term the Word in John 1:1. It is further urged that in the Gospel oj Lo/goß is applied to the prehistoric Christ, while in this passage it is applied to the historic Christ. But the Dame of the historic Christ is that referred to in ver. 12, not in ver. 13. It is the name "which no one knoweth but He Himself," expressing the character of His whole redeeming work. The name in ver. 13 is that which belongs originally and essentially to Him.
14. Followed (hjkolou/qei). Note the imperfect tense denoting progression, and thus describing the advancing movement of the host.
15. Sword. See on ch. 1:16.
Smite (pataņsshĮ). See on ch. 11:6.
Shall rule (poimanei√). See on ch. 2:27.
Wine-press. See on ch. 14:19.
Of the fierceness and wrath (touv qumouv kai« thvß ojrghvß). Omit and, and render, as Rev., the fierceness of the wrath. See on John 3:36.
Of Almighty God (touv qeouv touv pantokraņtoroß). Lit., of God the all-ruler. See on ch. 1:8.
16. On His thigh. Some explain, on the garment where it covers the thigh to which the sword is bound. Compare Psalm 45:3. Others, partly on the vesture, partly on the thigh itself, where, in an equestrian figure, the robe drops from the thigh. According to the former explanation kai« and is to be taken as explanatory or definitive of the words on His vesture. Others again suppose a sword on the hilt of which the name is inscribed. Expositors refer to the custom of engraving the artist's name on the thigh of a statue. Thus Cicero says: "A most beautiful statue of Apollo, on the thigh of which the name of Myron had been graven in tiny letters of silver" ("Against Verres," iv., 43). Herodotus describes a figure of Sesostris, bearing across the breast from shoulder to shoulder the inscription written in the sacred character of Egypt: "With my own shoulders I conquered this land" (ii., 106). Rawlinson says that Assyrian figures are found with arrow-headed inscriptions engraved across them, and over the drapery as well as the body.
17. An angel (eľna aŗggelon). Lit., "one angel."
Fowls (ojrne÷oiß). See on ch. 18:2. Rev., birds.
Midst of heaven. See on ch. 8:13.
Gather yourselves together (sunaņgesqe). The best texts read sunaņcqhte be gathered together, as Rev. Compare Ezekiel 39:17 sqq.
The supper of the great God (to\ dei√pnon touv megaņlou Qeouv). Read to\ me÷ga touv for touv megaņlou, and render the great supper of God.
18. Captains (ciliaņrcwn). See on Mark 6:21; Luke 7:2.
20. Was taken (eķpiaņsqh). See on Acts 3:7.
Mark. See on ch. 13:16.
Lake (li÷mnhn). See on Luke 5:1.
Brimstone. See on ch. 14:10.
21. Were filled (eķcortaņsqhsan). See on Matthew 5:6.
Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 52a: Revelation 1-5, Volume 52b: Revelation 6-16 & Volume 52c: Revelation 17-22, David E. Aune
Barnes' Notes on the New Testament: Revelation of St. John the Divine, Albert Barnes
The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24 and The Book of Ezekiel: Chapter 25-48: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Damiel I. Block
An Introduction to the New Testament, D. A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo
Dr. Constable's Notes on Revelation, Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Dallas Theological Seminary (his class notes)
Revelation: Four Views. A Parallel Commentary, Steve Gregg
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871 Edition, Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown
Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, Dennis E. Johnson
Revelation Unveiled, Tim LaHaye
Macarthur New Testament Commentary Series: Revelation 1-11, Revelation 12-22, John MacArthur
The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, Robert H. Mounce
The Preacher's Commentary: 1,2 & 3 John/Revelation, Earl F. Palmer
Exploring Revelation: Am Expository Commentary, John Phillips
The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, Vern S. Poythress
"Behold, He Cometh": A Verse-by-Verse Commentary on the Book of Revelation, John R. Rice
Jewish New Testament Commentary, David H. Stern
Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary and Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary, Robert L. Thomas,
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Marvin R. Vincent
The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Revelation, Michael Wilcock
IVP Pocket Dictionaries:
Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzke and Cherith Fee
Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies, Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta -
Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of
Religion, Stephen Evans -
Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament
Greek, Matthew S. DeMoss Intervarsity Press' New Testament Commentary Intervarsity Press' New Bible Commentary Intervarsity Press' Hard Sayings of the Bible
IVP Pocket Dictionaries:
- Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzke and Cherith Fee Nordling
- Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies, Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta
- Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion, Stephen Evans
- Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek, Matthew S. DeMoss
Intervarsity Press' New Testament Commentary
Intervarsity Press' New Bible Commentary
Intervarsity Press' Hard Sayings of the Bible
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