Revelation 17

The Spirit of God has shown us the destruction of Babylon under the last vial. We are now to learn in the chapter before us what was her special evil, what there was so hateful to God in Babylon; not only what her own conduct was, but what there was in her connection with others, that God could endure no longer — why it was that He singled her out above all others for His vengeance. And this is not a thing that we can put aside from us, as perhaps some others may be in the Apocalypse, as comparatively foreign or distant. For though there may be, and I doubt not will be, a further development of Babylon, yet God looks at it as a moral whole; as a system of corruption that has been at work, and that is still at work. When judgment can delay no longer, it may have taken a peculiarly aggravated form; but the evil exists and is active. Babylon is not so much the snare of a profane man, as it is that of one who, having a certain idea of religion, seeks to reconcile it with the world. It is then that the corrupting influence becomes a source of chief danger to the soul.

Now we shall find that, first of all, the chapter gives us the vision which the Apostle John is taken to see; and next we have a certain explanation of that vision. The angel’s word commences more particularly in this way at the seventh verse, while the first six verses are occupied with recounting the vision. One other remark I would make before proceeding farther. This chapter does not carry us forward as a matter of history. It is rather the Holy Ghost looking back upon the character, conduct, and relationships of that Babylon which had been already shown as the object of the judgment of God. This is worthy of note, because, if not seen, there is inevitable confusion in our thoughts of the book. In Revelation 14 we had the fall of Babylon in connection with the evil workings of Satan, and with the dealings of God in goodness or power, including the Son of man’s judgment at the close. Now, it is of no little moment to have the precise niche where this intervention of God is to be looked for, and that we had in the next place. For we have seen in the providential judgments of God — by which I mean those which are executed by angels, and not by Christ directly — Babylon reserved for the last stroke of His wrath tinder the seventh vial. It is God acting — God still employing angels. The Lord Jesus is thus far quiescent, if I may so say; not acting yet in vengeance personally upon the earth.

In Rev. 17 the Holy Ghost stops to enter into the details of the moral cause of Babylon’s terrible fall. “There came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore; that sitteth on [the]101 many waters” (ver. 1). it is described as a harlot here; not only as a woman, but as a corrupt and licentious one. And I suppose that no dispassionate person would doubt that this term is used in special reference to religious corruption. A little lower down in the third verse, Babylon is said to be sitting on the beast; here she sits by the many waters. There is a slight difference in the Greek. Sitting by the many waters does not mean that she was literally or locally thereupon, but beside them. Thus, you may say, for instance, that London is seated on the Thames. Now no one of common understanding would suppose the meaning to be that London was actually situated and built over the bed of the river, but that the Thames is the stream which characterizes London. So here in the same way we have the whore described as seated on (i.e. beside) the many waters. These are explained in verse 19. “The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” The figure implies the wide-spread influence which this abandoned woman exercises. But there is more than that. In the second verse it is said, “with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication. and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” This is something more than her seat by the mass of waters. It is immediate intercourse of an evil kind carried on with the kings of the earth — her power in drawing away and seducing the affections from Christ, who is the only worthy object of all love and worship. In the sphere where God’s light had been displayed, the chiefs or leaders are led away by the corruptress, and the people are entirely ruined as to all discernment of the mind of God.

Nothing, then, can be plainer than the general bearing of these few verses. We have the vast influence of Babylon set forth by the figure of a woman seated beside many waters; next we have the great leaders of Christendom, the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication with her; and then the inhabitants of the earth stupefied with the wine of her fornication. There are different degrees of guilt, but all were the result of connection more or less intimate with Babylon. “So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness” (verse 3). In spite of all her pride and worldly glory, to the saint of God the wilderness is the only place where the Spirit leads him to behold her. Had John gone in his own spirit (so to speak), it might have carried him to look at Babylon, not in the wilderness, but rather in the mirage of some garden of the Lord. But he was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord into the wilderness, and there he sees the harlot sitting upon a scarlet-coloured beast; a closer thing and of more ominous import, as we noticed, than her description at the end of verse 1. This shows us the actual position of the woman. She has supremacy over the Roman empire. For there can be no legitimate question that the beast here brought before us is that same Roman empire, of which we have heard such terrible doings, and so portentous a doom, in previous chapters. It is the beast that is full of the names of blasphemy, as his heads were so viewed in Rev. 13:1. Babylon is a whore or corrupting system; but blasphemy is what belongs to the beast. It is a more open and audacious evil. The woman’s way is more seductive, and one that lays hold of the affections. But blasphemy is the expression of a power that fears neither God nor man. As for the woman, though seated on the beast, glad to be exalted through him, and willing to use him for her own purposes, yet is she distinctively the religious system of the world. She is “arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls:” the obvious figures of all that the world counts great and glorious and beautiful here below. But she has also “a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication” (verse 4). In spite of all her glittering, gaudy splendour, how the Holy Ghost brings out together with it what is most nauseous! He has no words too strong to express His sense of what He sees in the cup. It is “full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.” By “abominations” in scripture regularly is meant idolatry. This is the gravest distinguishing feature in Babylon. As the beast was full of names of blasphemy, so was the harlot’s cup full of abominations. But besides the idols, there was this corrupting influence, here called the uncleanness of her fornication. They are two distinct things. There might be the depraving influence without the idols; but in Babylon both are actively at work.

In the Apocalyptic churches it was observed that in Pergamos appears the doctrine of Balaam, who taught among other things to commit fornication. When we came to Thyatira, there we saw Jezebel, who imposed idolatry by force. Here in Babylon both are united. The evils that crept into Christendom in those earlier days, discerned in Pergamos and Thyatira, both appear concentrated and undisguised in the cup of this wicked woman. They were budding then; now they are full-blown in all their hatefulness before the prophet. They may be tricked out in all the meretricious tinsel of this world; but nothing could change or hide their real character before God.

“And upon her forehead a name written, Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (verse 5). There was great pretension to truth — a masterpiece of the enemy in counterfeiting the revealed ways of God. The mystery of Christ and the church had been revealed; now there is the mystery of this anti-church; not the mystery of faith and godliness, but of lawlessness — Babylon the great seated on the beast, the awful contrast of the church which is subject unto Christ. Here she rules the beast. The holy city, Jerusalem, comes down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, — not “that great city”102 but, — the holy city, which is the true way in which God characterizes the bride, the Lamb’s wife, the glorified church. This religious system, on the contrary, sprang from the earth (not to say more than that), enticed into its defiling embrace the kings of the earth, and extended its malignant influence far and wide. Such was Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth. Whatever evil thing was used by Satan for the purpose of ensnaring the affections from Christ, whatever idolatrous object took His place, she is the mother of them all. Babylon is the great parent of all the worldly systems, and of the idolatries used by the enemy to draw away souls entirely from the Lord.

But there is another thing mentioned in the vision still more extraordinary to the prophet’s mind. He could not doubt the religious character of this woman, Babylon the great; he sees her at the same time drunken with the blood of the saints. He could well understand a religious system becoming corrupt. Jerusalem itself had, alas! become as Sodom and Gomorrah, first for guilt and afterwards well-nigh for judgment. But that the woman should be drunken with the blood of the saints was what filled even John’s mind with great astonishment. Bad as passion is, it is not the worst thing that the heart of man is capable of. The deceivableness of false religion is that in which Satan displays his direct power. For the very thing which God has given for light and blessing, to win the heart and to bring into fellowship with Himself, is abused by the enemy to make a man a worse man than ever — twofold more the child of hell than before.

But astonished as John must have been of old to hear such a sentence upon beloved but guilty Jerusalem, here he has to wonder still more when he learns that the woman who had assumed the place of the church should not only end in the same blood-guiltiness, but should be drunken with the blood of the very martyrs of Christ Himself This was what filled his mind with amazement indeed (verse 6).

And we now come to the explanation which the angel furnishes of the vision. It is of deep importance; for you will find that when God interprets, He not merely opens to us that which needed solution, but He gives us truth more abundantly. “And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and the ten horns” (verse 7). This is in fact the main subject of the chapter; it is a description of the woman more particularly, and of her connections with the beast, the Roman empire. For manifestly and beyond denial, the woman and the beast are two distinct things. For if the beast be the Roman empire, as those will have seen who have followed me through this book, the woman cannot be. She may be seated upon the beast, but for that very mason she is not the same thing. And not only is the woman distinct from the beast, but, as we find afterwards, the beast turns against the woman and takes his part in destroying her.

Therefore it is quite evident, that it is impossible to suppose the woman and the beast to be the same thing. In the end they are so violently opposed, that the one becomes the destruction of the other. So that the woman must necessarily be some power distinct from the empire. We shall find more reasons that confirm their distinction.

“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and is to ascend out of the abyss, and go into destruction; and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and shall be present” (verse 8). I have no hesitation in saying that so runs the last clause of the verse. This would not be questioned by those who are sufficiently acquainted with the subject to form an opinion. Persons may differ in the explanation of the verse; but there can be no doubt that such is the true reading. The common text here is almost contradictory of itself, and affords no just sense.

Now let us consider a little what is taught by this verse. The beast is the Roman empire, as we have before seen. But we learn here that that empire was to cease to be. The countries and peoples that composed it would remain; but its imperial unity would cease to exist. The fractional parts would be there, each nation having its own independent government, but there would be no corporate bond. Such is their condition in our day, as it has been for more than a thousand years. “The beast which thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the abyss.” The angel characterizes this empire as no other empire ever has been or could be. It was first found in its strength, then to cease, and afterwards to rise again. But there is an exceedingly grave feature that attaches to the reappearance of the empire; it is to have a diabolical character. And as it comes from Satan, so must it end with Satan: it shall “go into destruction.”

These things could not be said in the same sense or strictness of any other empire. None that has appeared yet upon earth but what has had its rise, its splendour for a little while in full power, and then its extinction, sudden or gradual, never to rise again. I am not aware of any example to the contrary. Most peculiar is the lot of that empire which was so prominent in the apostle John’s mind. It existed in the time of John: under it indeed he was personally suffering. But it was to terminate its career; and then, after a condition of non-existence, to rise out of the abyss or bottomless pit. “They that dwell on the earth shall wonder . . . . when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and shall be present.” When this beast reappears in its last Satanic phase, men would be carried away by their excessive admiration of it.

“Here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth” (verse 9). This is a material point, though simple. It is a local mark, intended to indicate to the wise mind, where this woman has her seat. There ought not to be the least doubt that it is a reference to Rome. The word “Babylon” had been used, it is true, in speaking of it, as Sodom and Egypt were figuratively applied to Jerusalem in Revelation 11; but the Chaldean capital had nothing to do with the city of Rev. 17. That had long passed away as an imperial city; whereas in verse 18 it is said of this Babylon that “it reigneth over the kings of the earth.” More than this, the literal Babylon in Chaldea was built on the plain of Shinar. Here the woman was seated on seven mountains; and all the world is aware that such is the well-known characteristic of Rome. In prose or in poetry, if any city were described as being seated upon seven hills, every one would say, That must be Rome.

But we have an additional explanation in the following verse. “There [or they] are seven kings: the five are fallen, the one is, and the other is not yet come: and when he cometh, he must continue a short space” (verse 10). Here the Holy Ghost, without entering into detail, refers to the various forms of government which were to succeed each other in the famous city Rome: seven heads or kings; but not contemporary: for five, as it is said, were fallen; one is, and the other is not yet come. This implies succession. Five different modes of government had already passed away. “One is,” namely, the imperial form then subsisting, when the apostle lived — the line of Caesars. Another of the seven was not yet come, which, when it did, must continue a short space.

“And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into destruction” (verse 11). There is this peculiar character attributed to the beast here, that in one sense he would be (if the seven, and in another he would form an eighth or extraordinary beast. It would in certain respects be a new form of power altogether, while in others it would be but a revival of what had gone before. The reason is, that the beast at first might be like any other empire. It might owe its rise providentially to human revolutions; for men when they have tried democracy are apt to grow weary and disappointed, and then some vigorous arm takes advantage of the reaction, and a despotic power is the not unnatural result. I have no doubt this will be the history of the west. The eighth head, though an individual ruler, is spoken of as the beast or empire, because he is morally the empire, directing as supreme all its authority. He is of the seven, for there will be a continuance or taking up of some such form of power as before. But he will be the eighth, because there will be something so peculiar as to deserve a name to itself That new feature may refer perhaps to the diabolical power that stamps the beast in his last or quasi-resurrection state.

“And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet, but receive authority as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and authority to the beast.” It is not that we are to suppose “one hour” to mean mystically, or literally, such a brief division of time as it has been the vain attempt of so many persons to try and make out. But the meaning is that these are kings who receive royal authority for one and the same time103 with the beast.

Abstractedly, ever so many years might be meant, or only a short period. It is not a question of what an “hour” means. These ten horns should not merely have their period of authority, but they receive it for one and the same time with the beast. This is most important to the due understanding of this verse. It overthrows all the prophetical systems which have attempted to make out that this chapter has been exhausted in the past or present. The common view of the chapter may have a certain measure of truth; because, as I fully believe, the book of Revelation was intended to be partially accomplished all through the dispensation; but the complete fulfilment is only at the close. The barbarian hordes came down from the north and east of Europe and Asia, about the fifth century, and overspread the Roman empire, bursting over Europe from all points, and attacking it within and on every side, so that the empire, already too extended, and crumbling under its own weight, found it impossible to hold up against these vigorous and repeated assaults from so many quarters. By degrees the Goths and Vandals, etc., settled themselves in the various parts of that which was once united. They were the enemies that destroyed the empire.

But this is not what is shown us in the chapter. It tells us that these kings receive authority for one hour with the beast. Supposing that these barbarian kingdoms had been exactly ten in number, even this does not answer to what we have here; because we are told that these ten kings receive authority for one and the same time with the beast. They only received their power when the beast was dead, when the Roman empire had fallen. They destroyed the beast first, and then erected themselves into independent kingdoms.

Nothing can get rid of the sure and simple fact that these powers were not kingdoms in the empire while the empire lasted. They had not power with the beast, much less did they give their power and strength to the beast. For nothing is more certain than that when they became kingdoms, it was at the expense of the empire. When it was gone, they took up the broken fragments, and converted them into separate kingdoms, France, Spain, etc.; but the empire as such was fallen. The beast that is described here acquires power as an empire at the same time that these kings receive their power as kings. In other words, they are contemporary powers, the beast and the horns, and not that which we find in history at all. This prophecy shows us that the empire is only formed as such again at the same time that these ten kingdoms have their final power. They are co-existing, and have their dominion together — each of these several kingdoms working to a common end under the beast.

Thus in the facts of the past we know there was a united unbroken power, when the Roman empire governed the western world,104 and did not admit of different independent kingdoms within its own limits. There was no such thing then as the kings of Spain, France, Italy, etc. It was an all-absorbing power, and would never have allowed such separate kingdoms to cluster round the imperial city. But the peculiarity of the future revived empire is that it will admit of distinct kings. Two things will be united which never were before. First, there has been the empire without kings — at least, so it was in the west, which is the question here. Then there were kings without the empire. The new feature will be this: neither the beast without the kings, nor the kings without the beast; but both the beast and the kingdoms going on together. This is what never has existed before.

Hence the chapter gives us a view of the Roman empire as it will be resuscitated by the power of Satan, and shows that then it is destined to have the peculiar stamp of the enemy upon it. God Himself allows him to have his way for a short space, and to perpetrate all his wickedness before the end. Just as Judas was filled with Satan when he was about to betray the Lord for the price of a slave. He was under the influence of Satan before; but it is said then that Satan entered into him. He or his high-priest was the son of perdition: and this is the very name that is given to the future power that will rise up against the Lord from heaven. This empire is to rise up out of the bottomless pit, and to be clothed with a diabolical character and energy; and when it comes up, there are to be ten kingdoms, or kings, exercising regal power for the same period with the beast.

The next verse (13) shows us the policy common to them. “These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.” They are not jealous of the beast; their great object is to exalt him and to aggrandize his power. And what is the issue? what the use they make of their combined power? “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him, called and chosen and faithful” (ver. 14). So it is evident from this, that the heavenly saints are already gone to the Lord. It is not that the Lord receives them now; they are with Him in the conflict, and before the conflict begins. And this is confirmed by Revelation 19:14: “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, clean and white.” Whence did they follow Him? Is it not from heaven? Christ is coming to attack the great adversary upon the earth whom Satan employs. But it is heaven that opens, and thence not only Christ comes, but “they that are with him, called and chosen and faithful.”

This is not a description of angels: for though angels may be said to be “chosen” or “elect,” they are never said to be “called.” “Called” is a title only used of men, and supposes the working of grace. Angels are not, and I think could not be, “called;” for if an angel were in a position of evil, he could not be delivered out of it; and if he were in a holy position, he would not need “calling.” Calling always presumes a condition out of which the called are brought. The believer is brought from a place of sin and misery into one of salvation and blessing. This is true of man alone. He, is the only creature of God that is called, through God’s grace, out of a state of ruin into the blessedness and glory of redemption. And as in Revelation 17:14 there is this expression which shows us positively that saints and not angels are spoken of, so in Revelation 19:14 we are told that the armies which follow the Lamb out of heaven are “clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” Now it is said in the same chapter (verse 8) that fine linen is the righteousness of saints. People may ask, Are not angels said to be clothed in linen? Yes, they are; but it is not the same term that is used for instance in Rev. 15:6. The Spirit of God employs a different expression to describe it, never confounding the two things. The plain inference then is that the glorified saints are in heaven with the Lord, before this conflict begins — not that they then meet the Lord in the air. When the Lord comes, we do meet Him in the air. Then it is that He will take us to heaven. But when He comes in order to judge and make war, we come with Him from heaven. How long a time may have expired while we are in heaven, and before we appear with the Lord, we do not know; but the coming of the Lord for the saints is an event that takes place some time before He comes with them. When He comes with the saints, it is for the purpose of judging the beast and his adherents. The church will come with Him then, and the Old Testament saints too; for they will have been caught up to the Lord at the same time that we are, I doubt not. “These shall make war with the Lamb” — but the victory is sure — “and the Lamb shall overcome them, . . . . and they that are with him, called, and chosen, and faithful.”

“And he said unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest and the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” (verses 15, 16). This is another verse of great value for understanding the chapter. The common text thus says, “the ten horns which thou sawest upon105 the beast;” but it ought to be read, “the ten horns which thou sawest and the beast.” The importance of the change in this (and there is the best authority for it), that when people read, “the ten horns upon the beast,” they might have imagined that, the Roman empire being gone, then these ten horns took its place. This would very well have suited the past history. But, as we have seen before, that the ten horns receive their kingdom for the same time with the beast, so here the Spirit of God says, “the ten horns which thou sawest and the beast.” Thus any person who weighs this with verse 12 would perceive how mistaken the usual thought is. “The ten horns which thou sawest and the beast, these shall hate the whom, and shall make her desolate,” etc.†

That Daubuz (1720) should have laboured under a mistake as to the comparative claims of the two readings one can conceive; that Vitringa, spite of his historical lore and general ability in expounding, should have ignored the best witnesses then known, is not perhaps very wonderful. But it is passing strange that in the face of the unanimity of critical editors, presenting every shade of religious prejudice and prepossession, such as Bengel, Griesbach, Lachmann, Matthaei, Scholz, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Vater, etc., who had no preconceived notions to blind their judgment, Mr. Elliott should persist in an opinion so unfounded. It is not a small matter to slight the evidence of the three uncials, forty cursives (some of the highest character), of the AEthiopic, Arabic of the Polyglotts, Syriac, etc. If Wilkins is to be depended on, the Coptic, it seems, should be added. As to the Vulgate, Mr. E. is misinformed. The common printed text, no doubt, has “in bestia;” but the very ancient and best copies (including the Amiatine in the Laurentian Library of Florence, and others already named) read “et bestiam.” Whatever may be the inconsistency of Popish apologists, I cannot admire Protestant special pleading which contends for a reading that is utterly indefensible. In this instance, at least, it is plain which of the two is most open to the charge of blunting the edge of the prophetic sword. Rome is Babylon; but the ten horns AND the beast (hardly the Pope!) are yet to unite in destroying her. It is not the first intimacy or alliance which has closed in hatred and violence. The false prophet continues with the beast to the end; but this neither proves nor disproves that Babylon is the Romish church. Why may there not be a new form of religious wickedness in the Holy Land, even when Rome city and church shall have disappeared?

†The attempt of Protestants is vain to reconcile this statement with their theory that the woman and the beast refer to the church or city of Rome and the Papacy. Thus it has been recently argued that the woman is the Roma Dea, both Pagan and Papal, the scene representing Rome itself, in the latter point of view, the angel’s explanation including also the previous pagan history. Accordingly the idea is that the ten horns undiademed are the Gothic powers desolating Rome, diademed are the same kingdoms giving their power to the Pope. For certainly the barbarians ravaged the empire as a whole, not the city exclusively, and out of the dismembered empire formed their own independent kingdoms. That is, the beast was that which they spoiled and destroyed much more than the woman. Nor were they united in a common feeling of hatred towards Rome. Envy, covetousness, lust of conquest would more aptly characterize the motives of the particular barbarians who attacked the city. Still less can it be said that, diademed or not, they gave their power to the Pope. It would be more true to say that they derived it from him as their ecclesiastical and spiritual head. For my part I altogether admit the principle that the explanation gives us, not merely the key to what was originally seen, but additional truth. Only, as I have shown the absurdity is in supposing that the fresh information is something about the past pagan form of Rome. On the contrary it really furnishes the future closing aspect, when the beast and the ten horns have a common policy, first in wreaking their hatred and indulging their avarice on the whore, and then in mustering their forces with one consent for the final conflict with the Lamb. The beast is to ascend from the abyss, and the Lord of lords descend from the throne of God. The chapter gives us character and description, not dates. The history is resumed in Revelation 19, first as to heaven, and next as to earth; Revelation 17, 18 forming a descriptive episode.

A little sample of this, not of course executed by the beast or by the kings, but by the will of the people, appears in the French revolution of the last century. There you had an infuriate people rising up against the woman (the ecclesiastical power that had ruled the earth being completely given up to the rage of the multitude, and men enriching themselves at her expense). But we must never meet one wrong by being guilty of another. The Christian way to deal with evil is ever by grace lifting us above it. Events that have been seen on a small scale will be then realised on a larger one. Good men — men worthy of honour and in other respects wise — have not only desired to get rid of Babylon, but have been too apt to sanction any means with that aim. I say not that saints are not to rejoice in her fall; but that they ought not to mix themselves up with the instruments of it, nor to cherish unfounded hopes of blessing then and thence.

Rome will always be the central city of this corrupt system. “The woman which thou sawest is the great city that hath sway over the kings of the earth” (verse 18). There will, no doubt, be a further development of it before the close; for she who sits as queen has given proof even in our own days that she can invent new doctrines, and boast new miracles, developing wickedness without conscience and with feeble protest, nay, in the midst of all but universal acclamations. And it will be true, I conceive, of Rome, as in all other cases, that before the judgment comes, her cup will be full. It was so with the iniquity of the Amorites, when God judged them. But God will employ the powers of the earth to deal with Babylon. No doubt the kings will think well of themselves for getting rid of such a scandal; but then the means used may be as bad as that evil itself. And what will be the issue? The millennium? Quite the contrary — they will make war with the Lamb. They will not only have got rid of Babylon, but will combine against Christ in the most direct and deadly way. When this day comes man, instead of being any the better for having turned against Babylon, will give all his power to the beast: and, bad as Babylon is, the beast is more openly wicked. Nothing is more hateful to God under the sun than religion, where it is used as a cover for corruption; and this is Babylon. But as for the beast and the false prophet, they will deny God altogether. As we read in the Psalms, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Babylon is not that wilful rebellious spirit. Therefore, after having destroyed Babylon and eaten her flesh and burnt her with fire, after having enriched themselves at her expense, and having destroyed her, we find that those avenging powers will go to fight with the Lamb; they will set themselves in open opposition to the One of God’s choice, the holy and heavenly Sufferer.

“For God hath put in their hearts to do his mind, and to do one mind, and give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God shall be finished” (verse 17). How remarkable it is to observe that thus it is man accomplishing the words of God, when his only thought is that he, in hatred to God, is blotting out the most corrupt sham from the face of the earth! No doubt Babylon will have deserved it; but the kings, without knowing how, are but doing servile work for Him whose authority they disown. In vain they will have had all God’s dealings under the law before their eyes; they will have had the whole Christian revelation of grace and holiness, founded on and shown in the cross of Jesus, only to despise it; they will have heard and rejected the latter-day testimony, the gospel of the kingdom, which will be given by other, and I believe by Jewish, witnesses, after the church has been taken to heaven. Anything pretending to be a new testimony, while the church is on earth, must be false. But when the church is gone, God will take up His people Israel again, and will give a testimony, not so much meeting souls so as to put them in connection with Christ in heaven, which He is doing now, but sending out far and wide through the habitable world, as a witness to all nations, the glad tidings that God’s King is coming to set up His kingdom; “and then shall the end come.”

It is fellowship with Christ as the suffering One which gives us deliverance from the spirit of the beast, the spirit of proud independence. How shall we overcome with the Lamb? We must be with Him, and this is what. gives the victory now. Our strength, in whatever comes before us, is to ask, How does the Lord feel touching it? Supposing I am invited to go to some great sight, to join in some movement that may be very attractive naturally, the question is, Does the Lord sympathize with it? Is He there? And if this applies to all other questions, still more does it decide in what concerns the holiest things, as for instance worship. What does the Lord sanction and value in His praise? What is most according to His heart and mind? What really and intelligently and obediently gives Him honour? Such is the sole key for faith in this world; it unlocks many a difficulty, and through the opened door there is a plain path for our feet.

The Lord grant that none of us may put aside those solemn truths! To neglect His warning is the very thing that tends so far to bring about the state of things of which we have been speaking. That which carries away in this direction now is slighting the words of God; though we shall in the end be fulfilling them to our own shame. We shall be proving how little we have known of real heart-subjection to God — how little we had appreciated the grace in which we stand, and how little rejoiced in the hope of His glory. We shall manifest that we have not counted it an honour to bow, and to give up what we may like, or what others might like for us, where it was really a question of God’s will. For to us this should decide all; because “we are sanctified unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” that is, to the same character of obedience which marked the Lord Jesus here below. It is not Christian to obey Christ merely because we must. Christ never obeyed thus. If a man only does a thing because if he does it not he knows he must be punished, it shows plainly that his heart is not in it — he does not want to obey. Christian obedience is the desire of doing a thing because it is the will of God, and the Holy Ghost gives us power through presenting Christ to our affections. Remember that to this we are sanctified. Cleansed by the blood of sprinkling, instead of its being a menace of death, as in Ex. 24, we are sanctified unto the obedience of Jesus Christ. We are not under the law but under grace, and led of the Spirit of God. May we enjoy the power of His spirit and the fulness of His salvation! Bear in mind. however, that we are thus saved, not for ourselves, but to obey after the same pattern and measure of obedience as that of Jesus.

101 The article (twice) is omitted by A P, seven cursives, Hippolytus and Andreas. I have therefore bracketed it as a mark of doubt, though disposed to lean towards its reception, spite of its absence in the Sept. Ver. of Jer. 51:13, etc. It is strange that any should imagine a reference in Dan. 7:2, or Rev. 13:1, any more than here, to the literal Mediterranean. In Hebrew (or Chaldee) “the great sea” when used of the Mediterranean is a totally distinct phrase.

102 The common text of Rev. 21:10 is faulty.

103 Quite agreeing with Mr. E. that the notion of horal brevity is untenable, must utterly reject his statement (H. A., iii. pp. 81, 82, and often elsewhere) that “at one and the same time” is either the most natural or the true rendering. It is almost past comprehension how a scholar could have committed himself to what he says in his notes: “There is no doubt that accusative of time may (!) signify duration; but seldom, I believe, except after verbs signifying action such as may imply time; not often after verbs, like λαμβανω, of action instantly, completed.” The truth is, as every person of learning must know, that as a rule the temporal accusative distinctively denotes duration, while the dative is just as notoriously used for a point of time, and the genitive when time is conceived as the necessary condition of the action, and therefore antecedent to it. Nor is this confined to certain words only. “All verbs imply a notion of time (says Jelf, vol. ii. p. 377) over which the action extends, coincident and co-extensive with it; whence all verbs may have an accusative case of this coincident notion of time, if it be required definitely to express it.” That I may not appear to have drawn the distinction of the Greek cases for controversial purposes, I must cite further from Jelf, § 606, obs. 2. “The genitive, accusative, and dative, therefore, are all used to express relations of time, and they differ as follows: the time is represented by the genitive as the antecedent condition of the action; by the dative as the space wherein the action took place; while the accusative expresses the duration of the action. So compare ταύτης τῆς ἡμέρας οἱ Ἕλληνες ἐμαχέσαντο, this day giving them the occasion, with ταυτῃ τῃ ἡμέρᾳ, on this day, and ταύτην τὴν ἡμέραν, throughout this day.” These general principles find the fullest illustration in the Hellenistic of the LXX. and the New Testament, as well as in classical Greek. See, for the time at which (the dative), Gen. 2:2, 3, 17; Gen. 3:5; Gen. 5:1, 2; Gen. 6:4; Gen. 7:11, 13; Gen. 8:4, 5, 13, 14; Gen. 14:4, 5; Gen. 15:16, 18; Gen. 17:26; Gen. 19:33, 34, 35; Gen. 21:4, 8; Gen. 22:3, etc. But why thus run through the occurrences? It were to cite from every book of the Bible, wherein epochs are spoken of. I will only therefore refer to the Apocalypse, as it may be alleged that the Greek is peculiar there: Rev. 1:10; Rev. 2:13; Rev. 9:6; Rev. 10:7; 11, 13; Rev. 18:8, 10, 16, 19. On the contrary, when duration is intended, the accusative is employed with equal regularity: Gen. 3:14, 17; Gen. 5:3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, etc., passim; Gen. 7:4, 12, 17, 24. Gen. 8:10, 12, 22; Gen. 9:28; Gen. 11:11-26 — in every verse, etc. So in Rev. 2:10 (in the text of B, thirty-two cursives, and apparently the ancient versions, Arethas, and the Catena, while A C many cursives, Andreas, etc., have ἡμερῶν); Rev. 6:11; Rev. 8:1; Rev. 9:5, 10; Rev. 11:2, 3, 6 (so in A B C P, most cursives, Hippolytus, Andreas — save in one manuscript — Arethas and the Catena), 9; Rev. 12:6, 14; Rev. 13:5; Rev. 17:10 (not to speak of 12); Rev. 20:2, 4, 6. It is certain, therefore, that the most natural rendering of μίαν ὥραν is (not at, but) for one hour. (Compare Daniel 4:9; Matt. 20:12; 26:40.) As to the action expressed by the verb, the objection is futile. If the angel bound Satan for a thousand years, the ten horns may assuredly receive kingly authority for one and the same time with the beast. It is not the mere act of binding or receiving, but the effect which spreads over the given time. Is it denied then that the point of time is ever found in the accusative? Not at all; “but this only (says Jelf, § 571, obs. i.) in general notions of time, such as seasonably, lastly, where the accusative stands for the cognate substantive.” Nobody can pretend that such is the case in the disputed clause. And in my opinion it is more than questionable in the three exceptions which are produced (as if they were the ordinary construction!) from the New Testament: John 4:52, Acts 10:3, and Rev. 3:3. As to Acts 10:3, we know that the best manuscripts, the Alexandrian, the Vatican, the Sinaitic, the Palimpsest of Paris, the Laudian of Oxford, not to speak of some twenty-five juniors and other good authorities, insert περί, as all do in verse 9. As to John 4:52, may it not be accounted for by a reference to the question of the nobleman? He enquired the hour, τὴν ὥραν, ἐν ῃ. The servants answer, Yesterday ἑβδόμην ὥραν. Then he knew that it was ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῃ ὥρᾳ in which Jesus had spoken the word of healing power. So again, I think, Rev. 3:3 in probably due to a sort of mixed construction dependent on γνῳς. It may not be known generally that this is one of the instances alleged by unfriendly criticism in evidence that the Apocalypse employs the accusative of time contrary to good usage. But this, says Professor Stuart, is the only instance of the kind in the whole book. He explains it thus: “The time which is at the ultimate extent of his coming is here the prominent idea, and therefore the accusative is allowable.” (Comment. Apoc. p. 204.) Matt. 24:41, 42, 43, 44, 50; Luke 12:39, 46, show plainly enough the usage undisturbed by special causes. The difficulty is merely technical in the exceptional cases, which entirely differ from the text in question. As to it I see no ground for a doubt, nor have I any theory to uphold by it; for the true rendering implies the same starting-point, but it also determines the equal duration of the beast and the ten horns. The AEthiopic and Arabic understood the phrase as expressive of duration, the Syriac and Latin as a point of time. But why attach such moment to the Vulgate on a nicety like this, when the words which conclude the verse contain the gross blunder of rendering μετὰ τοῦ θ. as if it were μ. τὸ θ.? Some copies add “et” also — “[et] post bestiam.” Cyril and Theodoret do not touch the question. Can Mr. E, produce a single instance from any correct writer where μίαν ὥραν or ἡμέραν, as here without a mixed construction, is used save for during one hour or day?

104 That is, the properly Roman part only of the empire, as we gather from Dan. 2:34, 35, and Dan. 7 — not to speak of Dan. 11; from all which it is plain that the iron-clay kingdom does not refer to what was once under the Roman sway outside Europe, but to the western part which never belonged to Greece. Persia, or Babylon.

105 Here is another flagrant proof of Mr. E.’s proneness to prefer a manifestly spurious reading which his hypothesis requires to the reading which has the support of the best authorities, and the suffrages of perhaps every critic of weight. But he now omits his words in the fifth edition, “I think with Daubuz, that this reading ( και) is most unlikely. He writes thus: ‘This ( και) is the reading of the Complutensian edition; but the rest have epi to qhrion instead of και το θηριον. This last is not consistent with the description, or distinction, of the ten horns and the beast; and therefore I have received the other in my translation. For the beast, as such, can never (!) be said to hate the whore; but the horns upon the beast may’ (p. 795). Vitringa too adopts the reading επι, ‘decem cornu quae vidisti in Bestia.’ Bellarmine urges the reading και, in defence of the Papacy against Protestants. ‘For how can Bishops of Rome be antichrist,’ he argues, ‘when antichrist is to join with the ten kings and destroy Rome?’ But the infallible Vulgate, we saw, as well as his brother Romanists, Ribera á Lapide, Malvenda, etc., are here against him. The prophetic sword’s edge cannot be so averted from Rome. Bellarmine admits the beast to be antichrist, and the woman of the seven hills to be Rome. And what their pictured relation to each other in the vision but that of the closest intimacy and alliance? If και be read, what is said of the beast’s hating the woman, etc., can be understood only of the city of Rome, not the church of Rome. For the apostate church’s false prophet continues with the beast to the end. So Apoc. 19:19. Compare what is said of treading the winepress without the city, p. 15 supra.” (H.A., vol. iv. p. 30, note l.) He now adds, “But see my note 3 on p. 74 of vol. iii. in support of the reading επι. I there cite Tertullian and Hippolytus, two Fathers of earlier date than any extant Greek MSS. of the Apocalypse in support of επι. It is the reading too of most copies of the Vulgate: Decem cornu[a] quae vidisti in Bestia, and adopted by the Romanists, Ribera, á Lapide, Malvenda, etc., as well as by our Protestant interpreters, Vitringa, Daubuz,” etc. I have examined these citations, and am satisfied that neither Tertullian nor Hippolytus touch the question of ἐπί. Neither quotes the verse, nor says a word but what one who received χαί might say. Their codices too are far inferior in antiquity to the great uncials of the Apocalypse. The best copies of the Vulgate (Amiat. Fuld. Tolet. Demidov. etc.) read “et;” so that no critic could hesitate that Jerome, “that most critical of all the Fathers,” rejected the reading which has crept into the inferior Greek and Latin manuscripts clean contrary to Mr. E.’s statement in vol. iii. p. 74, note 3. The healing of the wounded head is quite consistent with the destruction of the whore. As to the Romanist and Protestant commentators, not one of those cited was conversant with questions of text. So Desmarets, in his treatise on Antichrist, is imprudent enough to say, “Emendatissimi codices plerique. omnes, Stephanorum, nominatim, habeat ἐπί.” Can one wonder that Professor Delitzsch says, One untruth is the mother of the rest? Even Erasmus went against his authority; for Cod. Reuchl. is now known to read καί, not ἐπί. It is not even correct to speak of Tichonius; for he and Bede omit the phrase. On the whole, Bengel (a wild commentator on the book, but a true critic everywhere) was justified in saying of the common reading, “Fecit Erasmus, quem hic quoque sequntur, qui solent, editores quanquam lectionem hanc Latinis deterioribus fictam vel solus Andreas Caesariensis redarguit.” “Inanis esset tot codicum collatio, si talium quoque locorum germana lectio aut postponeretur sine fine, aut saltem in ancipiti relinqueretur.” Even the prejudiced Wolff, who differed from Bengel wherever it was possible, here truly remarks, “Vel omnium vel plerumque codicum Graecorum consensus nun parvi fieri debet.”