Last Updated on : Thursday, November 20, 2014
|Thirteen Lectures On The Apocalypse|
Revelations Chapters 17 and 18
Much of Rome in the Apocalypse -- No marvel in view of history -- The objection of some people that Babylon is not Rome -- The proof that Babylon of the Apocalypse is Rome -- the scarlet-coloured beast and its lady rider -- the symbol of Roman Europe in its latter day constitution -- an enigma; "that was and is not and yet is": the other enigma: "he is the eighth and is of the seven" -- the standing in God's eyes of all who admire the Roman system -- the ten horns of the time of the end -- their war against the Lamb -- the nature and objects of the struggle from a divine point of view -- the companions of Christ in the conflict -- the called and chosen and faithful -- the hating of the harlot by the horns preliminary to the end -- the anti-Papal policy of the powers -- The perdition awaiting Rome at the Lord's coming -- the summons to the Lord's people to come out of her -- Rome's complacency to the last -- her destined submergence in volcanic fires -- the first and stunning blow in the conflict between Christ and the nations after the destruction of Gog on the mountains of Israel -- the evidence that Rome topographical and not Rome as a system is meant in Rev. 18 -- the terrible category of her crimes -- the song of triumph at her overthrow.
IN the 17th and 18th chapters of the Apocalypse, we shall find ourselves very closely face to face with the subject of Rome. You may think we have had very much of this subject already. No doubt we have. It is a matter of surprise with some people that there is so much about Rome in the interpretation of the Apocalypse. It is certainly the fact that we are never well away from her in the course of the interpretation. It is really no matter of marvel when the relation of Rome to the history of the divine purpose is realized. We may fail to realize this if we live too closely in the narrow circle of our own affairs. Most people never get out of this circle. To them, their own affairs, their own street, their own acquaintance, their own town -- is the measure of their estimate of what is valuable and important. Their own country is the widest stretch of their horizon. The present hour is the only reality with them, and only that within the circle of their senses. Europe, even of the present hour, is to them a misty abstraction -- a something in which they feel no interest: as for Europe of the past, it has no existence for them. To such, the Apocalypse is in the same position and worse -- not only a dark riddle, but a riddle of which they never heard.
However, we are not here to discuss their doleful case. Your knowledge of the truth is a guarantee that in some measure, you have ascended from their low lying plane of life, and mounted to
some height in the nobler life which consists, among other things, of a knowledge of the past in its relation to the present and future well-being of man in the highest sense. In this position, you are able to realize why it is that Rome occupies so large a place in John's prophetic vision of what was to occupy European history between the first and second advents of Christ. She fills so large a place in the vision because she was to fill so large a place in the history. We cannot look back in the most cursory manner without seeing how large her place in the past has been. She was the destroyer of Christ, the slayer of the apostles, the enemy of the faith, and then the professor and champion and corrupter of the faith. She has been the leading influence in the European economy, and continues to affect the principles, and control the actions of millions in every country. She is so large and powerful an institution to the present that, notwithstanding the fall of the temporal power, and the circumscription of the power and wealth of the Church in all countries, statesmen cannot leave the Vatican out of account in their combinations and calculations. No wonder then that Rome should be in sight, so to speak, in nearly all the scenes exhibited to John in forecast of European events.
Some people have a difficulty in realizing that we are with Rome in chapters 17 and 18, because we read a deal about Babylon and nothing about Rome. Rome, say they, is not Babylon, and Babylon is not Rome. Well, if we are dealing with a literal book, their remarks might have some force; but, as has already abundantly transpired, we are dealing with a book of figures and symbols -- symbols confessedly such, yet symbols not wrapped up in utter obscurity -- symbols whose significance is allowed to appear here and there in a manner that supplies clues and keys, putting it into our power to trace and unlock the hidden meanings. Babylon is no exception to this. We read much about Babylon in chapters 17 and 18; and if we had nothing more than the name we should be at a loss. But we have more than the name. We have it in associations that guide us to its application. When we ask, to what and to whom the term is applied, we find ourselves in the presence of the interpretation at once. For example, there are rejoicings at the downfall of Babylon. Among others, we find the apostles commanded to rejoice (verse 20); "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles". Why were they called upon to rejoice? "For God hath avenged you on her." From this, it follows that the Babylon of the
chapter was the murderer of the apostles. We have only to ask, "Who killed the apostles?" to find out what is meant by Babylon in the Apocalypse. It was not Babylon on the Euphrates -- nor the Babylon of Neduchadnezzar and Evil-Merodach -- that put the apostles to death. It was Rome on the Tiber -- Babylon of the seven hills. This identifies Babylon with Rome at once.
The result is reached in another way. There is a certain symbol, labelled "Babylon". The label is this: It is in the 5th verse of chapter 17, "Mystery; Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." To what is this label affixed? Not to a city, but to the woman. It is a writing on the woman's forehead: "I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast ... And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, BABYLON ..." This shows the name is not used plainly. It is used in "mystery", with a hidden and not a plain meaning; and it is in the first instance applied to a woman, and not a city. But this woman stood for a city. So John was told (verse 18): "The woman which thou sawest is that great city that reigneth over the kings of the earth What great city reigned over the kings of the earth in the days of John? When this is answered, Babylon is identified, and the woman's name becomes the name of the city. There is only one answer. One city was "great", reigning over the kings of the earth, and that city was ROME.
When to these two simple and unquestionable modes of identification you add the fact that Rome, in her political and ecclesiastical relations, has been the one eclipsing figure on the historic stage in all the eighteen centuries that have elapsed since Christ's departure, the conclusion is established beyond the reach of objection or doubt. Babylon, apocalyptically, is Rome, just as France is "the street of" Sodom (chap. 11:8). It is impossible to go forward in the understanding of the Apocalypse without having that conclusion forced on conviction. The woman named Babylon was seen "sitting upon many waters" (17:1) -- What is signified by the "many waters"? Verse 15 answers: "The waters thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." Literal Babylon has sustained no such relation to the population of the world since Christ went away. Literal Babylon has ceased to exist at all, in accordance with the prophecy of her downfall, which said: "Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and
Gomorrah. It shall never be dwelt in from generation to generation" (Isa. 13:19-20). "It shall no more be inhabited ... from generation to generation". (Jer. 50:39). But Rome has answered to the prophecy exactly. She has brooded upon all nations: she has sat on the many waters.
But her seat had a particular shape (and here, again, Rome is forced upon our attention). She sat on "a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns" (verse 3). What may be the meaning of this hideous piece of heraldry? The angel gave a word of explanation to John (verse 9), prefacing the words, "Here is wisdom," which is an intimation that it required discernment to penetrate the meaning. "The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And (in addition to that, there is this further meaning :) there are seven kings (or sovereignties -- forms of government) -- five are fallen; ONE IS, and the other is not yet come." Rome, as built on seven hills is notorious; but here is a further explanation, which connects the seven-headed symbol with a form of government actually existing in John's day, and whose five predecessors had passed away. "Five are fallen; ONE IS." Such was the fact concerning Rome. The city of the seven hills had passed through five forms of government, viz., 1, the Regal; 2, the Consular; 3, the Dictatorial; 4, the Decemviral; 5, the Tribunitial. The sixth was the IMPERIAL, which was in the fulness of its power when the Apocalypse was angelically communicated to John. This was the political structure upholding the Babylon of the Apocalypse in her place in history. We look at history, and literal Babylon is nowhere to be seen; while Rome is, in all the exact relations prefigured by the symbolism.
Furthermore, the Babylon of the Apocalypse is contemporary with the Lord's re-appearance in the earth. She meets her doom at his hands, as was evident from the things we had to look at in the 16th chapter last Thursday evening. After the Lord had come as a thief (16:15) "great Babylon comes into remembrance before God to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath." It is further proved by the song of the redeemed when the triumphs effected by Christ are celebrated: "Hallelujah! salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments: for He
hath judged the great whore which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand" (Rev. 19:1-2). This proves that the Apocalyptic Babylon has a long career before the Lord's coming, and receives the retribution of that career when he comes. The inapplicability of this to literal Babylon is evident at a glance: its suitability to the case of Rome is complete.
Finally, the image-vision of Nebuchadnezzar, divinely interpreted by Daniel (Dan. 2), taken in connection with the vision of the four beasts shown to Daniel himself (Dan. 7), shows that Babylon, the destroyer of the saints, corrupter of the earth, the queen of many waters, must be Roman; for, by these visions, it is shown that it is the Roman iron and clay that receives the shattering blow of the stone; and that it is the Roman, or fourth beast, with Papal little horn and companion kings, that is given to the burning flame by the Lord at his coming. The Apocalyptic Babylon must be in the feet of iron and clay, and in the Roman monster of the night visions. We look at Europe as it is now, in the light of these symbols; and it requires no dogmatism to say that Babylon is there. The Roman habitable is sub-divided, as Daniel's visions require: it is cut up into a number of separate, yet connected sovereignties; and prominent among the elements constituting this fourth beast dominion is to be seen an ecclesiastical Babylon -- an ecclesiastical woman -- MOTHER CHURCH -- focused in the city of the seven hills, borne on the back of the political system subsisting in all the kingdoms of Europe. The evidence is complete, and the conclusion is very important; for Rome being Babylon, we are enabled, in the things said of Babylon, to see Rome as God sees her, and to gauge our relations to the present time accordingly.
In what aspect, then, is Rome presented to us in the chapters under our consideration this evening? The answer is very interesting. She is introduced to us in the aspect in which she appears at the time of the end. The symbolism of chapters 17 and 18 relates largely to the day in which we live. This will be evident from a consideration of who it was that exhibited the matter in these chapters to John, and what he said. It is "one of the seven angels which had the seven vials" that said to John, "Come hither: I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore." The seven vials belong to the end, and for one of the seven out-pourers of these vials to show John what is recorded in chapters 17 and 18, is as much as to intimate that what he exhibited
appertained to the vial era, or time of the end. This is more evident from the nature of his communication. For John to be shown the "judgment of the great whore," was to be taken to the time of the end, when that judgment is to be inflicted. It is under the seventh vial, as we have seen, that "Great Babylon comes into remembrance before God, to receive the cup of the fierceness of His wrath." Therefore, for a vial-angel to say, "Come hither, and I will show thee the judgment of the great whore," is as much as saying he would show John in fulness and in detail what is only hinted at under the seventh vial. This judgment is after the coming of Christ, as shown by its position in the vials. The coming of Christ is under the sixth vial (see 16:15), and it is between the first and second parts of the vial. Under the first part there is a "preparation" for the gathering of the nations to Armageddon: then there is the thief-like coming; then there is the gathering to Armageddon, the locality of which is made certain by Ezek. 38 and Joel 3. Christ's coming is between the preparation for the gathering, and the gathering itself; and after the gathering and overthrow of the armies, occurs the final judgment on Babylon. The preparation is the drying of the Euphrates and the activity of the frogs. These have been the conspicuous features of the situation for many years. This is why we entertain the expectation of the coming of Christ at any time.
"He carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns." John observed that the woman was richly arrayed and intoxicated. His attention was earnestly aroused. The picture before him was the symbol of the system of things in the Roman habitable, upon which the destroying judgment of God was to be poured out under the seventh vial. It is the same system that has existed in all the ages that have elapsed since Christ's departure, but with modifications from time to time. The seven heads and ten horns identify it inseparably with historic Rome; but the particular scene, witnessed by John, exhibited the constitution of Europe at the coming crisis of judgment. We look at the European system of to-day; and we ask, Is there any correspondence to this symbol? Is there a confederation of powers on the Roman basis, independently sovereign, and yet combining to sustain among them an ecclesiastical system enthroned on the seven hills, historically reeking with the blood of heretics? Everyone knows that
this is just the situation of affairs. The scarlet-bodied beast is the body politic of Europe; its colour is the symbol of sin -- ("though your sins be as scarlet" -- Isa. 1:18) -- showing that, in divine estimation, European society, which, considers itself Christian and holy, is steeped in wickedness. The "names of blasphemy", with which the body is said to be full, are the great and swelling titles, ecclesiastical, military, and civil (from the "Holy Father" down to the meanest "Rev.") with which the system abounds, which gratify the carnal ambitions of the wearers and rob God of His due, for God only is great, and His name only to be had in reverence, as will be the case in the age about to succeed the present, when "the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of man is brought low, and the Lord alone is exalted in that day."
John wondered at the spectacle, and the angel said he would tell him the mystery -- that is, the concealed meaning -- of the woman and of the beast that carried her (verse 7). The angel then proceeds to explain various particulars, at which we have already looked. They lay hold of historic features; that is, of things that have transpired in ages past. This may seem to conflict with the idea that the picture seen represents the constitution of Europe at the crisis of the advent; but this feeling will disappear, if we realize that you cannot look upon the system at the present moment without looking upon much that is historic. You look at the Pope, for example; he is not the creation of to-day. His position and pretensions require centuries for the explanation of their existence. So with the confederated sovereignties, and the names and titles of the European system: you are looking on history when you look on these; and if you suppose a friend showing and explaining to you the system as it is to-day, you will easily realize how much of this explanation would relate to long-past accomplished things. So it is with the angel's explanation to John. It goes back in the history of the beast and the woman, while dealing with the system as it appears in the time of the end, at the crisis of its destruction.
The angel made to John this curious statement: "The beast that thou sawest was and is not ... and yet is." There is something like an explanation of this puzzle in the words that immediately follow. First as to the "was" (verse 10) -- five are fallen; second, as to "IS" -- one is; third, as to "IS NOT" -- the other is not yet come. This is said in explanation of the seven heads of the beast. The seven heads cover the whole period of time in which the beast having the
heads appears in various forms. When we recognize that the things here spoken of are all aspects of the one Roman system which has had an unbroken history of over 2,000 years, and that these aspects at the moment of their existence were to be seen only one at a time, and yet were the same thing in different forms, we may understand the obscure and apparently contradictory statement made by the angel. The beast (the body politic of Europe in its Roman constitution), was before John's day: it had already filled a large place in accomplished history: yet in the particular latter-day phase exhibited in the symbol shown (viz., organized as a church militant upheld by a concurrence of separate sovereignties into which Rome was to be split up), it was not: it had not come: this phase was a something not to appear on the historic stage for centuries; yet, in the existing Roman power that in John's day bare rule over all the earth (upon which, afterwards, a false profession of Christianity was to be engrafted, with the result of developing the final phase), the beast could be said to be.
There is a further apparent obscurity, which disappears with all the facts in view, viz., the statement: "The beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition". The Roman beast, at the crisis of its destruction, is the Papal phase of the beast; and therefore the eighth in the history of the changes in the forms of government that the Roman system has passed through. It may be well here to repeat the enumeration, gone through a little way back, for another purpose: -- 1, Regal; 2, Consular; 3, Dictatorial; 4, Decemviral; 5, Tribunitial; 6, Imperial; 7, Gothic, kingly; 8, Papal. Now, suppose these phases of Roman power were represented by separate beasts, as is done in several similar cases, the Papal phase would be the one that goes into perdition, seeing that it is under the Papal phase that the fourth (Roman) beast of Daniel's vision is to be destroyed. But "he is of the seven": what are we to make of this? The healing of the wounded sixth head gives us the answer to this. I will not repeat what was said on this; but you will recollect we saw that the establishment of the political Papacy in Rome was the restoration of the imperialism that had been killed there by the sword of the Goths, and therefore the healing of the sixth head. The Papacy is, in reality, the ancient Pagan constitution of Rome revived and reproduced with Christian names and superstitions. Therefore, although the eighth, he is "of the seven and goeth into perdition."
Before passing from this point, it is well to notice the solemn implication of verse 8, as to the position of those before God who sympathize with the Roman system. "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 yet is." What is this but a declaration that the sympathizers with the Roman system, in all its ramifications, are outside the pale of divine regard. The cry of uncharitableness will not scare away an earnest mind from the recognition of divine truth so plainly enunciated. It is either true or not true, that all who admire Papalism and its offshoots are unwritten in the book of life. If true, should we not be very careful to recognize and proclaim the fact? If not true, what are we to do with the Apocalypse and the Scriptures, of which they are an attested part? To attempt to displace them from their position of self-evident authority and truth, is to attempt an impossibility. There is no alternative but to recognize their teaching, however out of accord it may put us with our day and generation.
"The ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast." "As yet", that is in John's day, the sub-division of Rome into separate royalties had not taken place. In due course, it came to pass: when imperial Rome fell, Rome divided into kingdoms rose; and in this condition she has continued for many centuries. The ten horns on the head of Daniel's fourth beast (Dan. 7:7), with the eleventh with eyes (Papacy), that afterwards rose in their midst, were the prophetic forecast of this state of things which has prevailed over twelve centuries. The ten-horned, scarlet-coloured beast of Rev. 17, which we are considering, while embracing the history of that time, represents more particularly the constitution of Roman Europe at the crisis of its destruction, as we have seen. Consequently, the ten kings of verse 12 are the powers that will confederate with Rome in the hour of her retribution. The cause of the unity of mind with which they "give their power and strength unto the beast for one hour" is evidently the Lord's presence in the earth -- (though they know not he is the Lord, but imagine him an anti-Christ). "These", it is added, "shall make war with the Lamb; and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings." The Lamb overcomes them, but not in a moment. To
"make war" with the Lamb is not the work of a day. It implies all that is involved in preparation, organization, discussing plans of campaign, etc., and extends over a considerable period. "One hour" is not literal, of course; it must either be taken generally (e.g., "This is your hour and the power of darkness"), or it must be understood with precision as the fraction of a duplicated day of years -- that is, a year of years. An hour of a day year of years, would be the twelfth part of 360 years -- 30 years. In either case, the statement brings with it the idea of a prolonged struggle. Some have a difficulty in conceiving of a prolonged struggle where Omnipotence is on one side. This difficulty arises from looking at it as a mere question of power. This is not the question. As a question of power there would be no need for war at all, for the Lamb has power to take the life of all his enemies quietly, instantly, and in detail, just as he has power to give life to his friends by resurrection. But there is a purpose to be served, which requires that his enemies put forth their strength in war. The case is illustrated in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. This was effected after a prolonged conflict with Pharaoh. There was no need for this conflict as a question of power. It was in the power of God to have disposed of all the Egyptians at once, as effectually as He disposed of the firstborn on the night before the exodus: but there was a purpose to be served: "Unto thee (Israel) it (the manifestation of God's power) was shown that thou mightest know that the Lord He is God: there is none else beside him" (Deut. 4:35). So in "the war of the great day of God Almighty": the word has to be compelled to recognize the existence of God and to be brought into subjection to His law as the basis of the kingdom which He is to set up over all nations as the result of the war. Thus an intellectual and moral result has to be achieved by the war which the ten horns are permitted to wage upon the Lamb. This requires that they be blinded in the first instance to the true nature of their foe, and that they persevere up to a certain point against the repeated disasters which they will experience in the vain attempt to overthrow the power of the true "Lord of lords and King of kings." At the last, "the Lamb shall overcome them," and then will be fulfilled the words of Isaiah: "The kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard shall they consider." They had chaplains and religious instructors, but never from them have they heard that Christ is coming again to take possession of all their thrones and set up one
divine government which will fill the whole earth and give law, and health, and blessedness to all mankind, in which every form of human government has so miserably failed.
"They that are with him are called and chosen and faithful." Who these are, a knowledge of the truth has caused you to understand. It is the class whom John heard sing earlier in the vision: "Thou hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation: thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10). These are "the called," as Paul told the believers that lived in Rome in his day: "among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:6). What they are called to he also defines: "God hath called you unto his Kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:12). But all who are called are not chosen. Jesus says, "Many are called but few are chosen" (Matt. 20:16). Those who being called, are chosen, are so chosen because they are faithful (Rev. 2:10). Their faithfulness is exhibited as the reason of their choice, when he comes: for he "judges the living and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom" (2 Tim. 4:1). They all stand before his judgment seat when he comes, to receive according to what they have done (2 Cor. 5:10). This takes place under the sixth vial as we have seen: for there the Lord himself says, "Behold, I come as a thief: blessed is he that watcheth, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (Rev. 16:15). Consequently, the judgment of the called is all over before the war of the ten kings with the Lamb begins: for that war is under the seventh vial, and those are with the lamb who being "the called" have been "chosen", having been found "faithful." The brethren of Christ as his co-adjutors and assistants in a work of war and devastation, will appear a strange idea to those who only know the Bible (?) through the medium of pulpit theology: but is a divine idea for all that, and a beautiful idea, when we realize what the world requires and what will come of the terrible work they will do. The result of the work is referred to thus in Psalm 46: "The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the earth melted .... Come, behold the work of the Lord, what desolation He hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth: He breaketh the bow and cutteth the spear in sunder. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen: I will be exalted in the earth."
After telling John (verse 15) that the waters of the symbol signified population, the angel
gives him to understand that at a certain stage of their career the ten horns "shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire." This we have seen fulfilled within the last forty or fifty years. The governments of Europe have concurred in an anti-Papal policy, while obliged to compromise with the Church in their arrangements. The secularization of ecclesiastical property in all the states of Europe (including even Spain, the most pro-Papal of all countries), is a process which illustrates the fulfilment of the prophecy. This is, symbolically, eating the harlot's flesh in a very unmistakable way. Before the days of the French Revolution, the Church possessed nearly a third of the lands of Europe: now she has but a very little. The Church has been hated of the governments; her flesh has been nearly eaten off her bones, and they have burnt her with the fire of war. But a reaction in her favour may be looked for as the end approaches. When Christ appears on the scene, the powers rally round her; for the false prophet is found in their camp, as their inspirer and ecclesiastical leader. But her "last end will be worse than the first;" for Christ himself confronts her as the avenger of the slaughtered saints, and there will be no recovery from the perdition which he will bring upon her.
This is the subject of chapter 18. Chapter 17 brings us so far in the work of overthrowing the ecclesiastical corrupter of the earth. The horns do the first part. There is an orderly gradation in the downfall, as there was in the uprise; first the gradual and providential, then the summary and the divine. The horns do their disestablishing work, and then there is a manifestation from heaven to consummate the work in overwhelming perdition. John sees (verse 1) "another angel coming down from heaven, having great power, and the earth was lightened with his glory." That this angel symbolizes an earth-enlightening power, having a mission against Babylon, is evident from the proclamation he makes (verse 2), "He cried mightily with a strong voice, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of demons, and hold of every foul spirit, and cage of every unclean and hateful bird!" The literal power having this mission is defined by Paul in his words to the Thessalonians, on the same subject, under another style of discourse, viz., the Man of Sin,"whom THE LORD", he says, "shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his
coming." The Lord at his coming is the destroyer of Babylon, in conjunction with his brethren, who, with him, "execute the judgment written." Therefore we cannot be mistaken in regarding this earth-enlightening angel as the symbol of Christ and the saints -- the one glorious mystical angel-man in head and body -- gloriously manifested to proclaim, and therefore to effect, the downfall of the great corrupting institution of the earth, and to fill the earth with the light of the glory of the Lord. The angel cries, "Babylon is fallen!" -- not as a thing done, but as a thing about to be done, for the very next voice recognizes her existence still, "Come out of her, my people". The reason for her fall (verse 3) is true to history. "All nations have drunk of the wine of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her." All nations have received, and imbibed, and been subject to the influence of Rome's religious teaching; and that religious teaching is meant by wine, as a symbol, is evident from its employment (as the good wine) to represent the feast of truth and righteousness, which Jehovah is to spread for all people in Zion at the establishment of His kingdom (Isa. 25:6). Then all the kings of the European system have had constant dealings with Rome as a church. "The merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies." Who are these? Who are the merchants of the earth in Apocalyptic usage? We are not left to guess. The last verse but one of the chapter tells us: "Thy merchants were the great men of the earth" -- therefore not ordinary traders; but dealers in Romish merchandise, traffickers in indulgences, and preferments, and ecclesiastical privileges, immunities and emoluments of all sorts. The Church has been the gate to civil distinction for centuries. The dealers in her wares have been the great men of the earth; their dealership has been a passport to eminence, and a means of wealth everywhere: vide to cardinals, and ecclesiastical magnates of all sorts, to whom secular princes have been aids, accessories, and servants. Even secular princes acquired distinction as friends of the Church. These have been traders -- not common traders, but traders in Romish goods to their great advantage and enrichment, as the history of a thousand years illustrates. To be out of the trade was a dreadful situation at one time. This country was once under the ban of excommunication, and the result was a suspension of business of all sorts -- common businesses, as well as other sorts -- till an understanding was arrived at with Rome. No burials could take place; no
marriages, no baptisms (so-called), no preaching, no traffic in the market. We have to go back to the palmy days of Papal history to see these things in their full light. Rome licensed everything: she sold the right to preach, the power to forgive sins (!), the right to be buried, and the right to escape an imaginary purgatory after death. Immense revenues were derived from this ecclesiastical traffic. No man could buy or sell without the paid-for mark of the beast -- the sign of the cross officially imparted.
"I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not her plagues" (verse 4). This shows that after Christ has come, there will be no invitation to all who choose to separate themselves from the Papal association. The invitation was placed on record long ago, doubtless that it might serve as a guide to all who fear God during the ages of Papal darkness; but it seems specially to point to an invitation to be issued just before judgment is inflicted. It is parallel with what happened in the case of literal Babylon, when the time for her destruction arrived. Israel in her midst was thus addressed "Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the Lord's vengeance; He will render unto her a recompense" (Jer. 51:6). There is an analogy between the two cases, which the truth enables us to perceive. In the case of ancient Babylon, the time for her destruction had arrived: Israel had been long in captivity, and the crisis of Israel's restoration, under Cyrus, was at hand. The era of Babylon's downfall was the epoch of Israel's uprise. And so it is now. When the Lord Jesus appears to destroy the Apocalyptic Babylon, it is that he may also "build again the tabernacle of David that is fallen;" and here is on record a summons to his people to "come out" of the former, for fear of being involved in the retribution that is to descend upon her. Lot, departing from the midst of Sodom, is an illustration. He pressed his sons-in-law to accompany him, but they would not, and were involved in the destruction of the place: Lot's wife, looking back, after having been warned, was smitten; and, says Jesus, "Remember Lot's wife."
The address to "my people," in the midst of Babylon, would indicate a special class. There are only two classes to whom the designation can apply -- 1. Israel after the flesh; and 2. Israel after the spirit, or those who have become Israel by adoption through the belief and obedience of the gospel. Now as the latter at this crisis have been taken away and are in fact waiting with
Christ to pour out the impending judgment, it can only apply to the former who are scattered in thousands in all the territories of the ecclesiastical Babylon. Israel's gathering from their midst is one of the most interesting operations in the setting-up of the kingdom of God. This summons would indicate that to some extent at its first stage, that restoration will be a question of voluntary compliance on the part of the Jews with the invitation addressed to them. It would also indicate another thing: the probability of many preferring to remain in the "Let-us-alone-that-we-may-serve-the-Egyptians" spirit of their ancestors in the days of Moses. The bulk will doubtless respond and "come out," in the readiness to repair to the countries that are to witness the revival of their nationality in the midst of the earth. The prophet testified "they shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for Jehovah will go before them, and the God of Israel will be their rereward" (Isa. 52:12). They will be Jehovah's army in the Roman dominion, with which He will break in pieces the nations. They will move deliberately and according to instructions. They will accomplish the retribution of God upon the European Babylon before their final departure for the land of their fathers, as in the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians before Israel's exodus. They will therefore be in a suitable position to carry out the injunction of verses 6 and 7 of the chapter (18) we are considering: "Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled, fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her." This means a time of great affliction for Rome and all her supporters, ministered at the hands of Israel, used as Jehovah's goodly horse in the battle, and battle axe in war (Zech. 10:3; Jer. 51:20).
To the last, Rome retains the complacent hallucination in which the undisturbed imposture of centuries has confirmed her. "She saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death and mourning and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her" (verses 7 and 8). This shows that Rome retains confidence in her destiny up to the moment the thunders of divine vengeance crash forth upon her affrighted ear. It is to something like this that Paul refers when he says of the day of the Lord's coming, "When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh." It
also shows that in the final perdition of Rome, there is to be something local to the city itself, very sudden, and out of the usual run of calamity. The intimation that her plagues are to come "in one day:" the declaration that "she shall be utterly burned with fire," and the cause alluded to as accounting for her disastrous end -- "strong is the Lord who judgeth her," all point in this direction. The sequel supplies particulars that could not be understood apart from the view of which Dr. Thomas was strongly convinced and which this whole chapter furnished so much reason for entertaining: viz., that the city of Rome itself, and all its environs, will be engulfed in the fiery abyss that underlies the site on which it is built and of which Vesuvius (quiescent for many centuries, but now active) may be considered the chimney. The kings of the earth, her paramours, are represented (verse 9) as seeing the smoke of her burning afar off and lamenting for her catastrophe and the suddenness of it. This shows the kings survive the destruction of the Babylon of this chapter, and that they survive as sympathizers with a calamity which they have not caused. The destruction is therefore something more than a political or ecclesiastical destruction. Literally, of course, they could not see a conflagration in Italy: but in a condensed presentation of the scene, it is not inappropriate to represent them as spectators. They would see in the sense of hearing of it, and being witnesses of it by report. All the world saw the capture of Napoleon III at Sedan, though not with their actual eyes. There may appear to be a little mixing up of literal Rome with the ecclesiastical Rome that "sits on many waters;" but the confusion will only be experienced where there is a supposed obligation to be uniform and precise in the interpretation. There, is a literal Rome and a spiritual Rome, and while these are separate, yet they are to be identified one with the other, and in a sense, you cannot have one without the other. The spiritual Rome is the architectural Rome in her ecclesiastical relations with the peoples of the earth. There could be no "Church of Rome" without a Rome to give that standard of affinity. The literal Rome is the kernel of the affair. It is so even in the symbolism, for the "seven heads" of the monster symbolizing the Roman body politic, lay hold of the fact that Rome is built on seven hills. Now, it would seem appropriate to commence the breaking-up of the Roman system by the destruction of Rome herself: nothing would arouse the world's attention so much to the Roman question in its divine relations as the disappearance in the volcanic subterranean, amid earthquake,
and tempest, and fire, of the city of the Pope, with its presumptuous temple of "St. Peter's," its Vatican Palace, its hundreds of costly churches, and shrines, and all the multiplied paraphernalia of priestly superstition and iniquity. Nothing short of such a catastrophe would answer to the features of this chapter. The apostles are adjured to rejoice over her (verse 20) because of God's avenging of them on her. This could not apply to the Roman Catholic Church, which did not exist when the apostles, were slain. But it would apply exactly to architectural Rome, which was the city of the Caesars who murdered them -- a city doubtless which is the root of the Roman Church, but which church could, however, survive without it. A mighty angel takes up a great stone (verse 21) and casting it into the sea, says, "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found. no more at all". This figure would not be met by any merely ecclesiastical overthrow. The enumeration of the wealth appertaining to the city (verses 12-13) could not be understood as applicable to an institution merely: because "the merchants of these things" appear (verse 15) as "standing afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!" There is no such collection of precious articles and art treasures in the whole world as there is in Rome. The interior walls of St. Peter's are enriched with precious stones, the offerings of devotees. The city is full of shrines at which similar offerings have been made. It has been a superstition with the rich everywhere that costly gifts to the church would purchase the favour of heaven, and in those sent actually to Rome itself there was special virtue. The result is that there is a concentration at Rome in the churches of a vast material wealth of the character described in the category occurring in verse 12 of this chapter. Rome has always been the great market for such things: the jeweller, the sculptor, the painter, the worker in precious stones, and in stained glass and costly embroidery, have found their best employment in Rome -- speaking broadly of her history, covering the centuries. The best musicians are also found there. "The Pope's choir" at the present moment is the finest in Europe. "The voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters" is to be heard no more at all in her when this catastrophe has overtaken her (verse 22). This agrees only with the idea that topographical Rome is meant. The Papal institution survives the destruction foreshown in this chapter,
for the Pope is found at the head of the armies that oppose Christ in the subsequent war (19:19-20). Therefore it cannot be the overthrow of the institution that merchants lament, but the overthrow of the city which is the heart and headquarters of the institution.
It is Rome, which, by the hand of Pilate, killed the Lord Jesus; which, by Nero, beheaded "our beloved brother Paul," and threw his body to the beasts; which, by a similar edict, dishonoured and crucified erring but forgiven, impulsive but lovable, Peter; which slaughtered the friends of Christ by the thousand in the days of Paganism; which, by Titus, levelled Jerusalem with the ground, drowned the flames of the temple in the blood of Israel, and scattered a miserable remnant to the winds; Rome, the implacable enemy and destroyer of the Jews, in all the centuries, Pagan and Papal; Rome, the Papal foe of the Scriptures, and the murderer of the saints; Rome, the inventor of torments and foul iniquities of the monastery and dungeon; Rome, who flaunts among her architectural ornaments the sculptured forms of the dishonoured furniture of Jehovah's sanctuary; Rome of the Caesars, and Rome of the Popes and Cardinals; Rome of the long dark and dreadful history of the world; Rome, the mistress of kings and the debaucher of the nations; Rome, the corrupter of the world to an extent the corrupted populations do not realize in their corruption; seven-hilled Rome on the Tiber, which blasphemes heaven by arrogating to herself the title of the Eternal City, and exhibiting her chief magistrate to all the world as the Holy Father; Great Babylon, the Mother of Harlots and the abominations of the earth; -- this is the Rome that is destined most terribly to fall before the first blast of Jehovah's fury, long pent up "deferred for his name's sake," but shortly to descend in roaring tempest that will sweep away all refuge of lies, and level the pride of man with the dust, that the Lord alone may be exalted, and the nations blessed in Abraham and his seed.
No wonder that such a glorious consummation should be greeted, as John heard it greeted, by an outburst of praise, like the roar of thunder, and the sound of many waters, from the mouths of a countless multitude who said, "Alleluia! salvation, and glory, and honour, and power unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hands." But the more particular consideration of this triumph we must reserve for the next lecture.
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