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This chapter does little more than sum up what has already been said.
Vs. 1-2. A mighty angel comes down from heaven so bright and effulgent that the earth was lit up with his glory. "And he cried mightily with a strong voice saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." This is just another declaration, after all that have already been made, of the fall and punishment of the great and wicked and persecuting Rome.
Vs. 4,5. Another voice from heaven bids the people of God to come out of her, for her sins have reached unto heaven.
God's people must ever be a separate people, not conformed to the world, but transformed. The mark that you carry in your foreheads must be the mark of a godly heart and a holy life. Paul says: "Come out from among them and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing." And up and down God's word it is written: "Be ye holy for I am holy." After some recital of the wickedness of this great city, it is said in verse eight, "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 that judgeth her." The Revised Version puts that in the past tense: "which judged her;" the sentence is already declared, and now will be executed, or so far as the vision is concerned is executed. But someone may say: Rome did not fall so suddenly nor so utterly and therefore this hardly fits her case. Rome still exists as a city to the present day. But that objection has little force. Rome did fall. When Gibbon sat down one hundred and fifty years ago to write the history of Rome, what title did he give his work? Why, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." But it was not sudden, you say. Let me refer you to old Babylon. When the armies of Cyrus captured her on the night of Belshazzar's feast, the first blow was sudden, but centuries dragged away before her ruin was total. So with Tyre, so with almost every other city that has been destroyed.
Now Rome was frequently sacked and burned, captured again and again, and in her fall there was the suddenness of calamity, and the gradualness of decline. That a city called Rome exists in the present day, does not nullify this interpretation. The old persecuting Rome fell. The enemy of God and the church received her judgment. Rome as a persecuting power went down, as a judgment for her sins, for it was said, v. 24, "In her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints and of all that were slain upon the earth."
There is still a city called Rome near the site of the old one. But the old Roman empire that was the beast, and the harlot city borne by the beast, met their doom at the hands of God.
The purpose of this prophecy clearly embraced the Rome of John's day, and found its fulfillment in the destruction of the great persecuting power. All this seems perfectly evident. The beast with the seven heads and ten horns was Rome with her seven kings of the Caesar dynasty, and her ten subsidiary nations embraced within her great domain.
The harlot woman that rode upon the beast is so clearly defined by the angel that spoke to John that no one can miss the meaning, for "The woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." Reigneth, was reigning then when the Revelation was given.
We have followed in the interpretation of these chapters, what God himself has disclosed, as the meaning of the figures and symbols. And it must ever remain true that the best interpretation of a book is the interpretation which the book itself puts upon itself in a fair and natural construction of the text. We must give attention to what the book says; not to what some fanciful imagination makes it say.
And if we take the book at its face value and its plain meaning we will not lack the moral and spiritual lessons that make it a means of grace.
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." And he who reads this book of Revelation with due attention to its spiritual application, will find it "Profitable for instruction in righteousness," and a means of grace in his daily living, for in this book no quarter is given to sin; and holiness and obedience to God are required of his people, even if they are thrown to lions in the amphitheatre, or burned for torch-lights in one of Nero's garden-parties.
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the Second Week of Advent