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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 18

1. The Descending Angel




"And after these things I saw an angel descending out of the heaven having great authority; and the earth was illuminated with his glory".

After these things; that is, after the ten horns had made the Roman Harlot desolate and naked, and eaten her flesh, and burned her With fire (ch. 17:16); but not after those things indicated in the 14th verse. The descent of the angel upon Babylon takes place between the finishing of the Harlot's spoliation and consumption by the European Governments; and the conquest of these powers, or rather the commencement of their "war with the Lamb," which ends in their conquest by him. 

In ch. 7:2, John saw an angel that had ascended (anabanta) from the east   from the sun's rising. This was not an angel in power and great authority. His mission of sealing the servants of the Deity in their foreheads, did not require it; for the sealing is a work effected by testimony and doctrine expounded, and reasoned into the understanding and affections.

The angel of this eighteenth chapter does not ascend. His career points in an opposite direction. John saw him descending, katabainonta, "having great authority;" and as authority is of no use in this rebellious world unsustained by power equal to its enforcement, the announcement of the greatness of the authority, implies that he descends also with great power, which is equal to the mighty enterprise of illuminating the earth with his glory.

His mission demands the possession of great power, which, indeed, shall be omnipotent; for, as Isaiah sets it forth, "he bringeth down them that dwell on high, he layeth the lofty city low; he layeth it low even to the ground; he bringeth it to the dust. The foot shall tread it down, the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy" (ch. 26:5). He hath also to "raise up the Tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel and to be a light to the nations for salvation to the ends of the earth" (Isa. 49:6).

This mighty angel John saw descending. It is not without significance that he uses the present participle. There are stages in the descent from "the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens," to the so-called "Patrimony of St. Peter". In the outset of the descent, the justified and glorified Jesus, the Son of the Father's Handmaid, the Man at His right hand whom He hath made strong for Himself, "the Lord the Spirit" (Psa. 116:16; 80:17; 2 Cor. 3:18), descends to Sinai, in whose wilderness he unites himself to his body, the Bride, of whom he becomes the Head. Thus recruited and enlarged, he is the "One Angel", whose measure is "144 cubits" (ch. 19:17; 21:17). Having finished his work in Teman, "he marches through the land in indignation, and threshes the Gentiles" he encounters "in anger". Arrived at the Mount of Olives, he descends from thence into Jerusalem, the city of the Great King. There, "standing in the sun," he pauses in his descent upon the lofty city, Babylon, which he purposes to level with the dust. Before he invades her peoples with his troops (Hab. 3:12,16,3), he sends forth a voice from the heaven, announcing the judgment that impends. When this proclamation is fulfilled, he will then complete his descent upon Babylon, which he will not abandon until he hath abolished her from the earth.

"And the earth was illuminated with his glory". The development of his glory is in the overthrow of the Great Harlot; the destruction of the military and secular political organization or power, "the Beast that carries her," and the conquest of the European kings and their armies: and in the new order of things he establishes upon the ruin of the old. This will be great glory for the descending angel, whose constituents begin their career in poverty, and finish it in the possession of all the wealth and countries of the earth. It will have been a fiery ordeal for the nations, which will have labored in the very fire, and for very vanity; but as the result of the whole operation, "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh (of the Angel) as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:13,14; Isa. 11:9; Num. 14:21; Psa. 72:19).





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