Friday, June 9th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Scott's Commentary on Revelation Scott on Revelation
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 17". "Scott's Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ sor/ revelation-17.html.
Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 17". "Scott's Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
- Henry's Complete
- Clarke Commentary
- Bridgeway Bible Commentary
- Coffman's Commentaries
- Carroll's Biblical Interpretation
- Barnes' Notes
- Bullinger's Companion Notes
- Bell's Commentary
- College Press
- Smith's Commentary
- Dummelow on the Bible
- Constable's Expository Notes
- Ellicott's Commentary
- Expositor's Dictionary
- Hole's Commentary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Gaebelein's Annotated
- Gann on the Bible
- Morgan's Exposition
- Gill's Exposition
- Everett's Study Notes
- Geneva Study Bible
- Haydock's Catholic Commentary
- Commentary Critical
- Commentary Critical Unabridged
- Gray's Concise Commentary
- Sutcliffe's Commentary
- Trapp's Commentary
- Kretzmann's Commentary
- Lange's Commentary
- Grant's Commentary
- Wells of Living Water
- Henry's Complete
- Henry's Concise
- Poole's Annotations
- Pett's Commentary
- Peake's Commentary
- Preacher's Homiletical
- Poor Man's Commentary
- Benson's Commentary
- Scofield's Notes
- The Biblical Illustrator
- Coke's Commentary
- The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- The Pulpit Commentaries
- Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
- Wesley's Notes
- Whedon's Commentary
- Henry's Complete
- AEK Concordant NT Commentary
- Abbott's NT
- Orchard's Catholic Commentary
- Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary
- Daily Study Bible
- Expositor's Greek Testament
- Family Bible NT
- Godbey's NT Commentary
- Alford's Greek Testament Commentary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Bible Study NT
- Bengel's Gnomon
- People's NT
- Robertson's Word Pictures
- Schaff's NT Commentary
- Vincent's Studies
- Burkitt's Expository Notes
- Daily Study Bible
- Box on Selected Books
- Larkin on Revelation
- Koenig on Revelation
- Clark on Revelation
- Wallace on Revelation
- Hampton's Commentary
- Hengstenberg's Commentary
- Knollys on Revelation
- Keathley on Revelation
- Hinds' on Revelation
- Smith's Writings
- Ironside's Notes
- Brown's Commentary
- Luscombe's NT Commentary
- Norris on Revelation
- Restoration Commentary
- Seiss' Lectures
- Scott on Revelation
- Utley Commentary
- Kelly Commentary
- Newell's Commentary
- Zerr's N.T. Commentary
BABYLON AND THE BEAST.
We had the fall of Babylon announced as the third in the chain of events unfolded in chapter 14. Under the seventh Vial the judgment of that guilty system takes place. In other words, Revelation 14:8 synchronises with chapter 16: 19, hence events four, five, six, and seven in chapter 14 have their place after the pouring out of the seventh Vial. This is important as helping to a due understanding of the various parts and visions of the book. Then the character of Babylon, her relation to the Beast, and to the kings of the earth in general, and details of her judgment are unfolded in the two following chapters (Revelation 17:1-18 and Revelation 18:1-24 ). It must not be supposed that the subject-matter of these chapters follows on from the seventh Vial. The account is not consecutive. Babylon occupies a prominent place in history, and figures largely in the Scriptures as the enemy of God and enslaver of His people. She is specially singled out for judgment, and hence the need for a disclosure of her character, her relations, and her end. Why should Babylon be distinguished above all as the subject of the Lord’s vengeance? By whom and by what means is her judgment executed? Chapters 17 and 18 answer these and other questions naturally suggested to inquiring minds. Thus Revelation 14:8 ; Revelation 16:19 ; Revelation 17:1-18 19: 4 all go together, and should be read as one story.
The chapter naturally divides into two parts. The first describes the great harlot as seen by the Seer in vision (vv. 1-6). The second (vv. 7-18) is more full and deeply interesting, as giving a marvellous compendium of the future history of the Beast, both in its relation to the whore and to the Lamb of God. That Rome is meant is certain from verse 18. This part of the prophecy ought to be studied carefully and with prayerfulness by all students of the prophetic Scriptures.
THE HARLOT OF SATAN AND THE BRIDE OF THE LAMB.
In every point of view these two women are set in sharp contrast. The harlot is subject to Satan. The bride is subject to Christ. It is one of the Vial angels which shows both to the wondering Seer. A wilderness * Trackless and without resources spiritual destitution. (Revelation 17:3 ) and a great and high mountain * Greatness and stability established authority. (Revelation 21:10 ) are the respective points of observation. Great Babylon comes out of the earth; its historical origin is human (Genesis 11:1-9 ), its latter-day development satanic, as shown in the Apocalypse. The new Jerusalem descends out of Heaven, its native sphere, and from God, its blessed source. Satan decks the one (Revelation 17:4 ); God adorns the other (Revelation 19:8 ). Eternal ruin is the portion of the harlot; eternal glory the happy lot of the bride.
THE GREAT HARLOT DESCRIBED
(Revelation 17:1-6 ).
THE WOMAN AND THE BEAST.
1. The Seer first beholds the great harlot sitting “ upon the *The insertion of the article is a questioned reading. Its place, however, in the text is supported by many competent authorities. The definite article in introducing subjects of interest is a characteristic feature of the Apocalypse. It marks the definiteness and importance of the subject so spoken of. See “ the Heaven,” “ the rainbow,” “ the seven thunders” (Revelation 10:1-11 ), “ the beast” (Revelation 11:7 ), “ the two wings of the great eagle” (Revelation 12:14 ), etc. The use of the article brings into prominence subjects which might otherwise be regarded as of trivial moment. many waters ” (see Jeremiah 51:13 ).
In the explanation of the vision (vv. 7-18) we are informed who these waters signify: “The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sits, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” The introduction of “multitudes” into the usual formula expressing universality marks the heterogeneous character of those subject to her sway. “The great harlot sits upon the many waters.” She rules and dominates the nations religiously, as the Beast does politically. Her following is an almost universal one. She herself is a vast religious system. The woman and the Beast represent distinct ideas. The former is the religious system; the latter the civil power. Corruption of the truth is characteristic of Babylon. Daring self-will and open opposition to God are marked features of the Beast. Corruption and self-will have been at work from earliest ages, and in fact were the two great evils let loose amongst the race in the period preceding the flood (Genesis 6:11 ). Here we witness the full-blown development of the same crimes. Corruption is Godward; violence manward. The former is embodied and concentrated in the woman, who is a licentious one, for she is termed a harlot and the mother of harlots; the Beast is openly bad and exercises brute force, trampling down ruthlessly all that opposes, and at the end daringly comes out in military force and array against Christ and His heavenly army (Revelation 19:19 ).
The Beast first destroys the woman, then flushed with victory and intoxicated with power madly and impiously leads on his armies against the Lamb and His militant host. The principles of Babylon have been at work from earliest times, but its highest development is yet future. It is not the papal system alone , *“It cannot be doubted that our most eminent divines have commonly held and taught that the apocalyptic prophecies concerning Babylon were designed by the Holy Spirit to describe the Church of Rome. Not only they who flourished at the period of the Reformation, such as Archbishop Cranmer, Bishops Ridley and Jewel, and the Authors of the Homilies, but they also who followed them in the next, the most learned age of our theology I mean the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century proclaimed openly the same doctrine. And it was maintained by those in that learned age who were most eminent for sober moderation and christian charity as well as profound erudition. It may suffice to mention the illustrious names of the two brightest luminaries of the English Church: Richard Hooker and Bishop Andrewes.” Wordsworth on the Apocalypse. Does pagan Rome or papal Rome inherit the character and features of the apocalyptic Babylon? The latter surely. In so far as popery has corrupted the truth, persecuted the saints of God, advanced arrogant and blasphemous claims, assumed universal dominion, and otherwise drunk into the spirit and adopted the principles and practices of the “Great Harlot” she is in character the Babylon of the Apocalypse, but as we have already remarked, the Babylon of prophecy is worse infinitely more than ever the papal system has been. We look for a fuller development of evil. Babylon is future. but the fusion of parties bearing the Christian name into one vast system of evil. The characteristics of the papacy in the Middle Ages are evidently witnessed in the whore of the Apocalypse. “The great whore” is not only Satan’s counterfeit of the true Church, but is the concentrated expression of every antichristian movement and sect then in existence, consolidated and controlled by Satan. The pretensions of the whore, or harlot, are supported by the military forces and prestige of the apostate empire, whilst her influence extends throughout the known world. This gigantic system of spiritual whoredom is, without doubt, Satan’s masterpiece, and the vilest thing beneath the sun.
THE GREAT HARLOT.
Revelation 17:2 . This, then, is Babylon the great: “ With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and they that dwell on the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. ” This is future, although a past resemblance may be sought for in the character and doings of the papacy in the dark times of the Middle Ages. The harlot first forms a guilty alliance with the kings of the earth, i.e. , the great political leaders of Christendom, and then makes drunk with the wine of her fornication “they that dwell on the earth,” that is, the mass of Christian apostates *See remarks on Revelation 2:13 ; on Revelation 3:10 ; on Revelation 8:13 ; and on Revelation 11:8-10 . . The wickedness of these once Christian professors is then filled up. Christ, the heavenly calling, and Christianity abandoned, they give themselves up to the short-lived joys of the harlot’s cup of wine. It is truly awful to contemplate the career, the character, and the doom of those dwellers on the earth , thus morally distinguished and singled out as the worst on the face of the globe.
Adultery , or idolatry “with their idols have they committed adultery” (Ezekiel 23:37 ) is the special sin charged upon Israel of old as being the married wife of Jehovah *The royal consort of the King is Jerusalem (Psalms 45:9 ). The bride and wife of the Lamb is the Church (Revelation 19:7 ; Revelation 21:9 ). The wife of Jehovah is Israel (Jeremiah 3:14 ). The mother of the Man-Child is Israel, strictly speaking, Judah (Revelation 12:1 ; Romans 9:5 ). (Jeremiah 3:14 ; Isaiah 54:1 ). For this she was divorced. *A wife divorced can never again be a virgin ; hence not Israel, but the Church is the bride of the Lamb (see 2 Corinthians 11:2 ; Ephesians 5:32 ). But in the purpose and grace of Jehovah Israel will be reinstated in her former blessed relation, one never again to be forfeited so long as sun and moon endure. Fornication , or illicit intercourse and connection with the guilty and apostate world, is the solemn indictment against Babylon the corrupt and licentious woman who ensnares and captivates with her short-lived pleasures all within her influence kings and people, high and low. The seductive glitter and meretricious display of this abandoned woman affect all classes, and morally ruin those over whom she casts her golden chains and who drink of her cup. Every right and true thought of Christ perishes where the woman’s blandishments are received and her smile courted.
THE BEAST ON WHICH THE WOMAN SITS.
Revelation 17:3 . “ I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. ” The Beast, if not the most prominent figure in the vision, is yet an integral part of the prophecy. The subserviency of the Beast to the harlot is expressed by the Seer, “I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet beast.” The action intimates the thorough and complete subjection of the civil power. The rule and supremacy of the woman over the vast imperial and apostate power is a singular sight. The woman not only sits upon, or beside, the nations and peoples comprised within the prophetic area (v. 1), but also rules the Beast, the then dominating civil and political power on earth (v. 3).
The scene in vision where this strange sight is beheld is a desert , a place of loneliness and utter desolation. What a striking contrast to the display both of the woman and the Beast! The surpassing splendour of both captivates the heart and intoxicates the senses of all, save a suffering remnant to whom this pageant is as a wilderness, for God is not there. It is but a grand flash, a magnificent spectacle before the final crash and overthrow.
But who is the scarlet Beast on whom the woman sits, from whom she derives her material strength, and through whom she enforces her commands? The political government of the world, its glory and greatness are indicated by the scarlet colour. *The three colours in the gate of the Court of the Tabernacle, in the door of the Tabernacle, and in the veil dividing the holy from the most holy were blue, purple, and scarlet. The first points to Christ in His heavenly character; the second to His sufferings on earth; and the third to His assumption of the government and glory of the earth in a coming day. Without doubt it is the world power of Rome that is here referred to, revived in grandeur and greatness, and controlled by Satan. The Beast is first named in the Apocalypse in Revelation 11:1-19 , and is abruptly introduced into the history as a subject well known and understood.
3. “ Full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. ” In chapter 13: 1 the seven heads, or complete governing authority of the empire, have upon them “ names of blasphemy” (see margin of the Authorised Version). Here the Beast itself is said to be “ full of names of blasphemy” (Revelation 17:3 ). It is not simply that the executive of the empire is given over to many and varied expressions of a blasphemous character, but the empire itself, in all its parts, is wholly corrupt; while open, blatant blasphemy characterises it throughout. “Names of blasphemy” intimate many and varied forms of rebellion and self-will against God.
3. “ Having seven heads and ten horns. ” In the earlier notice of the “seven heads” upon the Beast there is indicated the completeness of administrative power (Revelation 13:1 ), but here, as is shown in the explanation (Revelation 17:10 ), the heads represent successive forms of government. The horns represent royal personages (v. 12). In Revelation 12:3 the dragon has seven heads and ten horns; the former being crowned, *In these passages the word should read diadems , not “crowns.” The former refers to the exercise of despotic, arbitrary power; the latter to limited monarchies constitutional kingdoms. not the latter. In Revelation 13:1 the Beast has ten horns and seven heads, the horns in this case being crowned. In our chapter, however, neither heads nor horns are crowned. The royal personages seen in the vision were not in full possession of their royal dignity; thus, in the angel’s explanation of the ten-horned Beast, we read, “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have not yet received a kingdom, but receive authority as kings one hour with the Beast” (v. 12); that is, they reign in royal authority in conjunction with the Beast, the little horn of Daniel 7:8 ; Daniel 7:20 being their master. As the actual reign of these ten kings is regarded as subsequent to the vision the horns are not crowned.
THE WOMAN IN HER GLORY.
Revelation 17:4 . “ And the woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and had ornaments of gold and precious stones and pearls. ” Having had the state in the Beast, we again turn to witness the Church in the woman, and her ascendancy for a time over the civil power. She rides the Beast, and controls it for her own selfish ends and purposes. But she is by far the more dangerous of the two. The Beast openly blasphemes and persecutes the saints then standing for the rights of God. The woman is seductive and attractive, and having gathered to herself the weight and splendour of courts, palaces, and, in short, the tinsel glory of the world, she sits as a queen, and wins by her arts and seductive flatteries the heart of Christendom. God is displaced in the thoughts of men.
Her vesture , purple and scarlet, is that which particularly distinguishes pope and cardinal. Her ornaments of gold, precious stones, and pearls are amongst the chief symbols of papal pride and glory. Silver is not here named. In the services of the papal Church silver is being discarded for gold. But whatever resemblance there may be between Babylon and the Romish Church, the great point is that the woman is arrayed and decked out in the world’s tinsel and finery. She surrounds herself with what the world regards as its highest and most valued possessions and material wealth; that, too, which it lives and labours to amass and accumulate.
4. “ Having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations, and the unclean things of her fornication. ” Babylon as a system is covered with an external grandeur and glory that attracts the natural heart and imagination of man, dazzling and bewildering him. But, worse still, she holds in her hand a golden cup. How tempting! The cup is of gold, but its contents reveal the depths of iniquity to which she has sunk. The scarlet Beast, the colour of the dragon (Revelation 12:3 ), was full of names, or expressions, of blasphemy, so here the woman’s cup was “ full of abominations, and the unclean things of her fornication.” These two evils, idolatry and corruption, characterise the last phase of the professing Church on earth. “Abominations” refer to idolatry (2 Kings 23:13 ; Isaiah 44:19 ; Ezekiel 16:36 ), and “fornication” to gross corruption (Revelation 2:21 : Revelation 9:21 ). Idolatry and the worst forms of wickedness characterise the woman. Her cup is full of horrible evils. The climax has been reached. These things might have been looked for in the midst of the heathen, but for Christendom, now the scene of light, of grace, and truth, to become the very hotbed and cesspool of all that is religiously filthy and vile is indeed a marvel. Yet this chapter sketches in plain word and symbol the future of these lands. Now the Holy Ghost dwells in the professing Church, then Satan will fill it, both with his presence and awful deeds. We thank God for the sure testimony of Jesus that the Church which He builds is invulnerable (Matthew 16:18 ), and its ultimate triumph secured (Ephesians 5:27 ).
BABYLON A MOTHER.
Revelation 17:5 . “ Upon her forehead a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots, and of the abominations of the earth. ” The shameless character of Babylon is next shown. Her name is publicly borne, indelibly stamped upon her forehead, so that all may read and understand the true character of this awful system a travesty of the true Church. Her name is a compound one. First, “Mystery.” *See remarks on Revelation 1:20 ; and on Revelation 10:7 . The general usage of the word in the New Testament signifies what is now revealed, but had hitherto been a secret (Matthew 13:1-58 ; Ephesians 5:32 , etc.). The Church is subject to Christ; the woman is subject to none. She usurps Christ’s place of supremacy over the nations. She is indeed a mystery. She should have stood for God and truth, but now she is witnessed as the embodiment of error, and of all that is morally vile and wicked. Second, “Babylon the Great.” It is a huge system of spiritual evil. Great and bad as Babylon was, the enslaver of God’s people of old, so bad that its doom is irrevocable (Jeremiah 51:64 ), yet it is exceeded by far in its spiritual counterpart, the great Babylon of the Apocalypse. The former was guilty, but the latter much more so. In Babylon the Great we witness the gathering up in one vast system all the evils which in past times have gone to wreck the Church. This is the culmination. The evils which have ever afflicted Christendom are here focused. The last days of the Church on earth are her worst. Christianity is the combined production of the Godhead, but Christendom is here viewed as the vilest thing on earth. Truly, the woman is entitled to the appellation “Babylon the Great.” That which should be her shame and sin she publicly glories in. Third, “The mother of the harlots, and of the abominations of the earth.” Her offspring are numerous. She is the parent, the source of each and every religious system which courts the world. Religious idolatry of every shape and form, every ensnaring thing and object; in short, systems, things, doctrines, and objects used by Satan to turn men from God are here traced to their source Great Babylon. The moral features of Babylon are ever the same unchanged through all the ages. Here she is seen in her worst, because in her last and closing hours, the parent of all that is morally loathsome. This, then, is the character publicly borne by the woman, just as in ancient times it was the practice in certain places for harlots to bear their name and evil reputation on their foreheads. If the admirers of the woman fail to see her true character because intoxicated with her finery and grandeur the spiritual do not.
THE WOMAN DRUNK WITH BLOOD, AND THE WONDER OF THE SEER.
Revelation 17:6 . “ And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. And I wondered seeing her, with great wonder. ” One could readily understand the hatred of the pagan powers to the followers and witnesses of Jesus, but that the woman, the Church of these days and times, should herself shed the blood of God’s saints is indeed a cause of wonder to the Seer. She it was who devised the hellish cruelties of the Middle Ages. The secular power is an instrument in the hands of the woman. The real instigator, the power behind the civil authority, is the whore. In her skirts is found the blood so wantonly shed in all ages. Babylon inherits the guilt of every previous persecuting religious power (Matthew 23:35 ). She has never judged the past. Her history is black enough, and stained in every page with blood, the blood of those dear to God and Christ. The Seer marvels at the awful sight. The Church is here witnessed as the most wicked thing on earth. This, then, is what the professing Church is coming to. Nothing can exceed her in grandeur, in greatness, in idolatry, in filthiness, and in cruelty. “I wondered seeing her, with great wonder.” The earth dwellers are drunk with her wine (v. 2), and the woman herself is drunk with blood. These two, i.e. , the apostates and the woman, are the worst then on the face of the earth, and on both the full fury of God’s indignation bursts forth in flames of inextinguishable wrath.
THE MYSTERY OF THE WOMAN AND THE BEAST EXPLAINED (VERSES 7-18).
Revelation 17:7 . “ And the angel said to me, Why hast thou wondered? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the Beast which carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. ” We have had the mystery of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:1-33 ), now the angel is going to explain to the Seer, and through him to us, the mystery of the woman and the Beast.
THE BEAST: FOUR PHASES OF ITS HISTORY.
Revelation 17:8 . “ The Beast which thou sawest was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss, and go into destruction: and they who dwell on the earth, whose names are not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, shall wonder, seeing the Beast, that it was, and is not, and shall be present. ” Here we have the history of the greatest empire the world has ever beheld compressed into four crisp sentences, as remarkable for their brevity as for their truth. Two of them are yet future. The woman and the Beast are distinct. The former is the ecclesiastical power: the latter the civil authority. Both are viewed as wicked and apostate. The woman is viewed in the vision as in the zenith of her prosperity, proud, seductive, and murderous. She is on the highest pinnacle of pride and power just previous to her downfall. The Beast is viewed as about to enter on the third phase of its history coming out of the abyss. This most awful feature is to be added to its human rise and history Satan brings it out of the prison-house of demons, out of the darkness and wickedness of that domain where his authority reigns supreme.
The angel turns from the woman to the Beast when the vision is explained. John would cease to wonder at the appalling picture.
(1) The ancient empire beheld in vision was ; that is, it existed in its imperial form in John’s day, and on till its destruction in A.D. 476.
(2) “And is not .” It has no present political existence. The kingdoms which composed it of course remain, but the empire as such no longer exists. Modern Europe, with its many conflicting interests, jealousies, and separate kingdoms, is the result of the complete break-up of the once undivided empire of the Caesars. The western part of the empire, which fell last, is by far the guiltiest, as being the scene of Christian light and grace. These two phases of the empire are simple matters of history, but the remaining features are prophetic, and are only written in the pages of the Sacred Volume. God lifts the veil, and we see, after the lapse of many centuries, the empire once more filling the gaze of men an astonishment to an apostate Christendom.
(3) “Is about to come up out of the abyss .” Satan will revive the empire, and then stamp his own character upon it. The human rise of the Beast must be carefully distinguished from its satanic revival in the midst of the seventieth prophetic week at the epoch of Satan’s expulsion from Heaven (Revelation 12:1-17 ). The Seer beholds it in vision on the eve of its revival. “Is about to come up.” The abyss produces this monster of iniquity the Beast. Heaven opens and gives forth the Church the bride of the Lamb.
(4) “ Go into destruction. ” This is the final phase of Gentile power. Rome came into existence 753 B.C. It passed through many trials, weathered many political storms, till it reached the zenith of its glory in the time of Christ. Its connection with Christ and Judah is the great crisis in the history of the empire. The Beast in its representative crucified the Lord after thrice declaring His innocence. Subsequently the blood of the people was shed in such multitudes that millions were involved in the most awful slaughter recorded in history, while the miserable remnants were either sold in such numbers that the slave markets were glutted with the human merchandise, and purchasers could not be found, or dispersed throughout the world. God remembers these deeds. The hour of vengeance has arrived. The Beast is consigned to the lake of fire. Final destruction overtakes the once mighty empire of the Caesars.
SATANIC REAPPEARANCE OF THE EMPIRE
When the empire reappears in its last and satanic form it will be an object of universal wonder, save to the redeemed. What a state of things we have arrived at! Satan brings out of the darkness of the pit a power which he fashions and controls, outwardly like the empire, yet diabolically featured. Men then will wonder and worship both Satan and his human instruments (Revelation 13:4 ; Revelation 13:12 ). The elect had their names written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. Ah! these future times were all thought of and provided for in the foresight of God. This book is the same as that of Revelation 13:8 , only there we are told that the book belongs to the slain Lamb. We read of another book of life in Revelation 3:5 ; there, however, it is the book of Christian profession , true and false, hence some names will be erased and others stand. But in our chapter the book, or register of life, is that of reality , hence no name can be blotted out. All within the wide domain of Christendom shall be carried away in wonder at the reappearance of this marvellous phenomena all save the elect. To such the true character of the Beast will be apparent.
MYSTERY OF THE BEAST.
Revelation 17:9-13 . “ Here is the mind that has wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains, whereon the woman sits. And there are seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes he must remain (only) a little while. And the Beast that was, and is not, he also is an eighth, and is of the seven, and goes into destruction. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have not yet received a kingdom, but receive authority as kings one hour with the Beast. These have one mind, and give their power and authority to the Beast. ” Of all the subjects embraced within the circle of Biblical revelation we know of none which has so occupied unintelligent minds, and produced such a wild crop of the merest conjecture as that of prophecy. Surely in all that concerns the future sobriety of thought is needful. In the domain of prophecy human learning is nigh useless. Human wisdom which would deduce facts and principles from the past or present is of no avail here. The future is alone unfolded in the Holy Scriptures. The gravest mistakes in the interpretation of the prophecies have been made, not by the ignorant multitude, but by learned men. We are absolutely dependent on the teaching of the Holy Scriptures for any knowledge we possess of coming events. God alone can unfold the future (Isaiah 41:21-23 ). Hence the force of the prefatory words, “Here is the mind that has wisdom.” True wisdom takes its stand at the threshold of prophetic inquiry, and reverently asks, “ What is written ?” *“Of the dark parts of Revelation,” says Warburton, “there are two sorts: one which may be cleared up by the studious application of well-employed talents; the other, which will always reside within the shadow of God’s throne, where it would be impiety to intrude.” History is open to the natural man. Prophecy can alone be understood by the spiritually wise. and to that, and that only, yields implicit subjection. To the further explanation of the vision the wise are now directed. The two prominent features of the Beast which carried the woman are its seven heads and ten horns (vv. 3, 7), which occupy the chief place in the explanation. The heads are first named. There is a double application of the symbol “seven heads.”
ROME AND THE PAPACY.
(1) “ The seven heads are seven mountains, whereon the woman sits. ” The seven-hilled city of Rome *“The seven-hilled city” is a term common enough in the history of Rome, especially in its earliest ages. It was one familiar in the social intercourse of the people, as also in its literature. Roman historians and poets seemed proud in so designating their city. Says Wordsworth, “The unanimous voice of Roman poetry during more than five hundred years, beginning with the age of John, proclaimed Rome as the seven-hilled city .” He also adds, “On the imperial medals of that age, which are still preserved, we see Rome figured as a woman on seven hills, precisely as she is represented in the Apocalypse.” is here indicated as the seat and centre of the woman’s almost universal authority and influence. It is where the papacy has been located and has flourished, more or less, for 1500 years. The papacy is now slowly recovering from the wounds inflicted upon it; first in the sixteenth century, and then in our own times stripped of its temporal power. Its vitality is wonderful. Its energies are now concentrated in winning back to its fold the nations of Europe. The conversion of England is a dazzling project, and an event to be expected within a measurable time so thinks and says the papacy. That the peoples of modern enlightened Europe will ultimately be gathered under the sway of the woman seems an evident truth from our chapter, if a sad and sorrowful one. The mighty work of the Reformation in its general and outward results is disappearing, while the acceptance of Romish principles and practices is steadily gaining ground. The persistent and insidious advance of popery in every department of life political, social, and religious is an alarming factor in the present situation. Protestantism as a whole is supremely indifferent. The old war cry, “No popery,” cannot now rouse the nation. It is asleep. The higher critics with their infidel and destructive criticism have undermined faith in the Holy Scriptures; while the efforts of true Christians to stem the torrent of popish error are paralysed owing, in the first place, to the multiplicity of sects, in which combined action is rendered impossible, and, further, because of the growing indifference to what is of God.
POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE BEAST.
(2) “ And there are seven kings ,” i.e. , heads, or forms of civil and political government. The local reference to Rome in verse 9 is undoubted. But a further and additional explanation is offered. The seven heads on the Beast represent seven successive forms of government from the rise of the fourth universal empire on through its history till its end.
Revelation 17:10 . “ Five have fallen. ” *“Fallen,” or “fell,” intimates the ruin or destruction of a system or kingdom (Revelation 14:8 ; Revelation 16:19 ). The death of an individual ruler would not be so spoken of. Hence the term “kings” in our passage signifies the ruling authority for the time being. The four beasts of Daniel 7:1-28 are said to be four kings (v. 17). Thus the term kings must not be confined in its application to royal personages. The context in each case must determine. These are Kings, Consuls, Dictators, Decemvirs, and Military Tribunes.
10. “ One is. ” This is the sixth, or imperial form of government set up by Julius Caesar, and under which John was banished to Patmos under Domitian. The previous forms of authority had ceased. The first emperor, Julius, absorbed the power covered by the old names under which Rome had been governed, and commenced the long and imperial line which became extinct in the year A.D. 476.
10. “ The other has not yet come. ” Thus between the dissolution of the empire and its future diabolic reappearance many centuries have elapsed. “When he comes he must remain (only) a little while.” This is the seventh head. It is the rise of the fallen empire under new conditions as presented in chapter 13: 1. When the Beast next comes upon the scene it will be characterised by the completeness of administrative authority of a blasphemous kind, and will be formed of ten kingdoms, each having its separate monarch, yet all in subordination to the great Gentile chief who will control the empire and hold all with a firm grasp. The brief continuance of this special form of government is plainly stated. “A little while” marks the duration of the anomalous condition of things under the revived empire, yet worse is to follow.
Revelation 17:11 . “ And the beast that was, and is not, he also is an eighth, and is of the seven. ” The gigantic confederation of Rome is here regarded in its essential features as ever the same. He is an “eighth.” We have here an advance upon the historical revival of the Beast (Revelation 13:1 ). For the three years and a half preceding the Advent of the Lord in power and glory the Beast is dominated and controlled by Satan. He had revived it out of the abyss. The Beast in its last and worst state comes out of the abyss, as distinct from its rise at the first (Daniel 7:1-28 . l), or its future human revival (Revelation 13:1 ). It thus presents a complete picture by itself, and is thereby entitled to the appellation an “eighth.” Its diabolical character as revived by Satan accounts for the use of the ordinal. We have the human reappearance of the empire in Revelation 13:1-18 , and its hellish revival in Revelation 17:1-18 .
11. “ Is of the seven. ” There will be certain features peculiar to the Beast in the last two stages of its history. Probably the form of power under the seventh head will be continued, and in some other respects the last holder of Gentile power will tread in the steps of his predecessor. Thus he will be of the seven, yet an eighth as a distinctive person. We may here remark that the Beast and its personal ruler are so vitally connected that the two are spoken of in interchangeable terms; thus the Beast perishes and is thrown, in the person of its last great chief, into the lake of fire. The last sovereign ruler stamps his own character upon the empire. They can be regarded separately as in Daniel 7:1-28 , or identical as in our chapter.
11. “ Goes into destruction ,” or perdition. This is accomplished at the commencement of the millennial reign, and is graphically described in Revelation 19:17-21 . The fowls of Heaven are summoned to the “supper of the great God.” They are called to feed and feast upon the great and mighty of the earth. The two great chiefs, heads respectively of the secular and religious powers, are consigned alive to the lake of fire; their subordinates and armies everlastingly perish. The first five heads fell in succession. Then the sixth came to a violent end; the seventh is merged in the eighth, which suffers a judgment more awful than history records. This head is identified with the Beast itself, and hence if it is destroyed the Beast must go into utter ruin (compare with Daniel 7:11 ).
Having had the “seven heads” explained, we are now informed as to “the ten horns” (v. 12). These horns refer to royal persons. The term “horn” denotes power in the abstract (v. 6; Lamentations 2:3 ); but as used here it refers to kings . The ten horns therefore represent as many distinct royal personages or their kingdoms. Another has tersely said: “The ten kingdoms shall be contemporaneous in contradistinction to the seven heads which were successive .” But the ten kingdoms which existed as to actual territory are here viewed as coming into power with the Beast. See also verse 16, not the ten horns “ upon the beast,” but the ten horns “ and the beast” (R.V.). They do not exist as separate kingdoms or nationalities. There are ten, but they are coexistent with the reign of the Beast. They “received authority as kings one hour with the Beast.” When the Beast reappears on the arena of history it will do so in a ten-kingdom form. It disappeared in A.D. 476, but will next come up in a form hitherto unknown in history. The revived empire will consist of ten kingdoms with their respective chiefs. The duration of the reign of these kings is measured by the reign of the Beast. But not only are these kingdoms in existence during the time that the Beast plays his terrible role , but they are subordinate to him. Willingly they place themselves in absolute subjection to the Beast. “These have one mind, and give their power and authority to the Beast.” The Beast and the horns are contemporary, but the latter bow implicitly to the will of the former. When the empire was broken up, separate kingdoms were constituted historical fact but our prophecy demands the existence of the Beast and the ten kingdoms, the latter subservient to the former.
WAR WITH THE LAMB.
Revelation 17:14 . “ 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. ” Here is recorded the final public act of the Beast and his allies. The conflict itself is fully described in Revelation 19:19-21 . The angel here simply notes the fact, passing over many intervening events. The war has not been actually entered upon, but it is anticipated. Its issue is in no wise doubtful. “The Lamb shall overcome them.” Victory is assured ere the conflict is entered upon, for the mighty Conqueror is King of all who reign, and Lord of all who exercise authority. He is supreme. All power in Heaven and on earth is His (Matthew 28:18 ). Oh, what madness and folly for men and governments to enter the lists with God’s Lamb Who will publicly wield the authority of Jehovah’s throne! How touching the blessed association of the Lamb with the mighty King tenderness and power combined (Revelation 5:5-6 ).
14. “ They that are with Him. ” The militant hosts, the heavenly armies, consist of all the redeemed then in Heaven. There will be other companies of saved persons in Heaven besides the Church (Hebrews 12:23 ). The whole body of heavenly saints accompany their Lord through the opened Heaven, and down to crush the confederated opposition to the rights of the Lamb. For this universal gathering of heavenly saints see Jude 1:14 ; Zechariah 14:5 ; Revelation 19:14 . In the morning of the Lord’s triumphal return “all the holy angels” shall swell His triumph (Matthew 25:31 ; Hebrews 1:6 ). But “they that are with Him” must be confined to saints only. Angels have their part in the war in Heaven (Revelation 12:7 ). Saints alone form the conquering army of the Lamb.
Those who take part in this conflict and who serve under such a renowned Leader are each and all spoken of as “called, and chosen, and faithful.” Called in time (2 Timothy 1:9 ); chosen in eternity (Ephesians 1:4 ); and proved faithful in all and every relation of life, and that even unto death (Matthew 25:21-23 ; Revelation 2:10 ). These epithets, called, chosen, and faithful can only strictly apply to saints.
INTERPRETATION OF THE WATERS.
Revelation 17:15 . “ The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sits, are peoples, and multitudes, *“Usually translated ‘crowds.’” “New Translation.” and nations, and tongues. ” The woman sits upon the Beast (v. 3). The harlot sits upon or beside many waters (v. 1). Having the explanation of these “many waters” before us we can the more readily understand the immense and universal influence which the apostate Church then exercises. The peoples and nations, organised and unformed, specially outside the limits of the existing Roman world, are ensnared and captivated by the allurements of the harlot. She sits enthroned in greatness, and richly adorned with the glories of the world, but without the affections of her deluded followers. There is display, but no reality; no heart for Christ, whose bride she impiously professes to be. Her own exaltation, and that to the spiritual ruin of the deluded millions who received her favours and court her smile, is her sole aim. Her supreme regard is for gold (Revelation 18:12 ); her least concern is for the souls of men (v. 13). The four divisions of the human family are employed to set forth the far-reaching influence of the woman (Revelation 7:9 : Revelation 11:9 ).
DESTRUCTION OF THE HARLOT.
Revelation 17:16-17 . “ And the ten horns which thou sawest, and the Beast, these shall hate the harlot, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and shall burn her with fire. For God has given to their hearts to do His mind, and to act with one mind, and to give their kingdom to the Beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. ” “The ten horns and the Beast” (see R.V. for this important emendation). The ten kingdoms combine with the Beast in hatred to the whore. What a change! It is evident that the Beast and confederate kings exist after the destruction of Babylon, as they, i.e. , the Beast and the horns, are the human instruments in inflicting the Lord’s vengeance on that guilty and apostate system. The secular power is reserved for destruction at the hands of the Lord in Person and at His Coming in power (Revelation 19:1-21 ). The ten horns act in conjunction with the Beast in hatred to the whore. All were united in supporting the claims and pretensions of the woman, and now they are equally agreed in effecting her ruin.
The world’s glory and might is but a passing dream. All not founded on God withers, fades, and perishes. Babylon, when on the highest pinnacle of pride and greatness, in the zenith of her glory, is cut down. Her ruin is complete and final. In righteous retribution her partners in crime become the active instruments in her political overthrow and displacement from power over the nations.
There seems a gradation in the punishment meted out to the harlot. First, hated ; this refers to the loathing and disgust with which her late confederates and supporters regard her. Second, made desolate ; despoiled of her wealth, and utterly wasted (Revelation 18:19 ). Third, naked ; stripped of her purple and scarlet robes, she appears before all in her true character as a shameless and abandoned woman (Ezekiel 23:29 ; Revelation 3:18 ), her moral nakedness and shame apparent to all. Fourth, “ eat her flesh ;” there is significance in the fact that flesh is in the plural; the abundance of her wealth and all she gloried in is devoured by her late admirers, now her bitterest enemies (compare with James 5:3 ; Psalms 27:2 ; Micah 3:2-3 ). Fifth “ burn her with fire ;” utter social and political ruin is here indicated. The main element in the destruction of the literal Babylon was water (Jeremiah 51:1-64 ). The mystical city of that name “shall be utterly burned with fire” (Revelation 18:8 ). Both Babylons are doomed to everlasting desolation. The one has fallen; the other is sure to follow. There is “no healing of the bruise.”
UNION OF THE POWERS IN MIND AND ACTION.
The powers who destroy Babylon glut their vengeance on the guilty system which had so long enslaved them. But here the veil is drawn aside, and we find that whatever they thought they were simply carrying out the divine will. God had decreed the destruction of the worst system on the face of the earth, and the Beast and his vassal kings are His instruments in doing so. “God has given to their hearts to do His mind.” Note the distinction, “their hearts ” and “His mind .” Heartily they enter on the work of destruction, but, after all, they unknowingly accomplish the set purpose of God. The heart and mind of the destroying powers are united. They love the service to which, while they know it not, they have been divinely set apart, and they execute it with fixed determination. Such seems to be the thought conveyed in our text.
Revelation 17:17 . Further, the ten kings “ give their kingdom to the Beast until the words of God shall be fulfilled. ” There is absolute subjection to the Beast. Unable to maintain separate and independent kingdoms the ten kings voluntarily place themselves and their kingdoms under the rule of the Beast, and from henceforth he becomes their master, allowing them but the shadow of royalty. The real power is in the hands of the Beast (Revelation 13:2-7 ). What is attributed to the kings in verse 13 of our chapter is traced to God as the source in verse 17. All the movements amongst the powers of Europe are in the coming crisis an accomplishment of the prophetic “words of God.” We would further add that the complete subjection of the ten kings to the Beast, as indicated in verse 13, is a condition subsequent to the destruction of Babylon. They had previously given their power to the woman, now it is transferred to the Beast. The duration of the reign of the Beast in the last great crisis defines the length of time when the ten horns, or kings, exercise sovereignty *“Receive power (authority) as kings one hour with the beast” signifies at one and the same time ; that is, the horns and Beast exist together, whether the time is limited or prolonged. (v. 12). But that describes a state both previous and subsequent to the downfall of Babylon, whereas the abject slavery of the powers to the Beast is consequent upon and subsequent to the utter ruin of the Romish system.
God works unseen, but not the less truly, in all the political changes of the day. The astute statesman, the clever diplomatist, is simply an agent in the Lord’s hands. He knows it not. Self-will and motives of policy may influence in action, but God is steadily working towards one end, i.e. , to exhibit the heavenly and earthly glories of His Son. Thus, instead of kings and statesmen thwarting God’s purpose they unconsciously forward it. God is not indifferent, but is behind the scenes of human action. The doings of the future ten kings in relation to Babylon and the Beast the ecclesiastical and secular powers are not only under the direct control of God, but all is done in fulfilment of His words.
ROME, THE SEAT AND CENTRE OF THE WOMAN’S AUTHORITY.
Revelation 17:18 . “ And the woman which thou sawest is the great city, which has kingship over the kings of the earth. ” The papacy and Rome cannot be dissociated. Babylon in the future is the full-blown development of the papal system, and finds her home naturally enough in Rome, where she has ever found it. There the most blasphemous doctrines have been taught, and there , too, claims more than human have been advanced. There will be a fuller development of papal error in the coming apostasy. Rome, therefore, is the city here referred to. The woman is the city, not Rome actually, but the system which has its seat in Rome, the Romish Church or system, the delegate of Satan in religious corruption (Revelation 16:19 ), and from thence till her destruction she exercises her baneful influence over the peoples of Christendom. The last verse of this deeply interesting chapter states a truth simple, yet important withal.
An outline of the truths and subjects unfolded in the chapter may prove useful to some.
THE CHAPTER REVIEWED.
The immediate design of this and the next chapter is to supplement fully the two previous, but scant, notices of Babylon (Revelation 14:8 ; Revelation 16:19 ). Here a full and detailed description of her character and doom is given. But there is another subject of judgment besides that of Babylon. The Beast, the apostate secular power, occupies no unimportant place in this prophecy. The two main subjects then are Babylon, the religious system; and the Beast, the civil apostate power; the former occupying the chief place. The Beast, more prominent elsewhere (Revelation 13:1-18 ), is here regarded as secondary in interest to Babylon, the harlot.
The chapter is divided into two parts: first, a vision beheld by the Seer (vv. 1-6); second, the interpretation of the vision by one of the Vial angels (vv. 7-18). We may here remark that the interpretation goes considerably beyond what was seen in the vision. The same principle obtains in Daniel 2:1-49 and in Matthew 13:1-58 . The interpretation adds instruction to that found in dream, vision, or parable. The Seer first beheld the great whore ripe for judgment (v. 1). She is termed “great Babylon” because of the awful and widespread confusion of which she is the embodiment. She is also “the great whore” because of a frightful system of hypocrisy and lust over the souls and bodies of men. Her licentious character, moral of course, is indicated in the term “whore.” She is called a woman because thereby is implied subjection (1 Corinthians 11:3 ). She assumes to be subject to Christ, as the Church is and delights to be (Ephesians 5:23-25 ). But in the case of the woman, her pretensions are hollow and unreal. She really cares nothing for Christ, nor will she bow to His headship or own His authority.
She sits upon or beside “many waters” (v. 1). These waters signify vast multitudes of the human race (v. 15) over whom the woman has cast her spell, alluring them to everlasting ruin.
Then the kings and inhabitants of the earth are introduced in their respective relations to the whore (v. 2). This seems a more intimate connection than is indicated in verse 1. There the influence was universal; here is intimated direct intercourse with the whore. We gather, too, that the world at large is in view in the first verse of the chapter; in the second Christendom only. “The kings of the earth” are not the same as the “ten kings” of verse 12; these latter are kings of the Roman empire, the former signify the chiefs and leaders of Christendom generally.
Next, the woman is seen sitting upon a “scarlet Beast.” This is the same Beast and the same power as that presented in chapter 13. The ancient empire of Rome, defunct for many centuries, is here witnessed on the scene of prophecy covered with the glory and government of the world, as indicated by the scarlet colour. The woman, too, is arrayed in scarlet, and the dragon bears the same colour (Revelation 12:3 ). How eagerly the pomp and glory of this world are sought after! The imperial power is subservient to the woman. The Beast, to whom the dragon commits universal authority, is the mere servant and tool of the woman. The secular power supports her arrogant pretensions.
But the Beast is further described as “ full of names of blasphemy.” Bad as the woman is she is never guilty of this daring and open character of impiety. Deceit, corruption, violence, pride, and shameless evils of every kind are charged home upon ecclesiastical Babylon the whore. Blasphemy and the public denial of God and of Christ are acts of which the Beast is guilty. The names of blasphemy on the heads of the Beast (Revelation 13:1 ) stamp the executive, or governing authority, with this awful character of guilt, but evidently we have here the whole body politic chiefs and people characterised by it. Fear of God is gone. The empire in all its parts is wholly given up to this most horrible iniquity.
Then the Beast is said to have “seven heads and ten horns,” several times repeated. The mention of the Beast in Revelation 13:1 is in similar terms to that of the dragon in Revelation 12:3 . In the case of the dragon the heads, not the horns, are crowned; in the notice of the Beast the horns are crowned, while the heads bear the names or public expressions of blasphemy; in chapter 17 neither heads nor horns are crowned (Revelation 17:3 ). Such then is the general character and description of the Beast, the main supporter of the false and corrupt religious system dominating the empire, and extending her influence throughout Christendom. It does seem, at first sight, strange that the Beast on which such a liberal grant of power is conferred by Satan (Revelation 13:4-7 ) should be found a willing slave at the feet of the woman, but her dazzling splendour and seductive influence are like silken cords binding even the potent chief of the empire to the footstool of her throne.
Having had the Beast before us, we are turned again to view the woman, clothed and adorned with all that the world esteems of highest value (v. 4). She holds a golden cup in her hand; she should have been that in the Lord’s hand. The cup is “full of abominations (idolatry) and the unclean things of her fornication.” * Tyre, not Babylon, of old is charged with fornication; this at once shows what the character of the evil is, viewed morally. All who drink of her cup, and millions do, are morally ruined. Then upon her forehead is stamped her name and character. She bears on her sacerdotal brow the name “Mystery,” of iniquity, surely! The second part of the title, “Babylon the Great,” speaks of the havoc the woman has wrought. She has filled Christendom with innumerable evils, and brought in hopeless confusion. The third part of the name, or title, of the woman is perhaps the worst of all: “The mother of the harlots, and of the abominations of the earth.” Every system which copies the ways and imitates the actions of the woman, imbibing her doctrines and adopting her liturgy, and generally borrowing from or conforming to the Romish Church, now or then, must be regarded as her offspring. She is the mother, or source, of every evil religious system.
But she is a bloody system, as well as a morally licentious one. “I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (v. 6). Papal Rome far exceeded pagan Rome in cruelty and bloodshed; and, besides, she is far more guilty as knowing better. She professed to be the spouse of Christ, and yet murdered at will those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; no doubt the Romish Church believed that in killing the saints she was doing God service (John 16:2 ), but it just shows the awful delusion which had judicially overtaken her. The wonder of the Seer was not caused by the Beast’s persecution (Revelation 13:7 ), but by that of the woman, the professed spouse of Christ, although not she, but the Beast, actually puts the saints to death. But the woman is the power behind.
Then in the second part of the chapter the “mystery of the woman and of the Beast which carries her” is explained. It is a double mystery the woman and the Beast; a travesty of the New Testament mystery “concerning Christ and the Church.” In the mystery of our chapter the woman is first named; in that of Ephesians Christ , and rightly so.
The mystery of the Beast is first explained and shown under four conditions (v. 8). It “ was .” The Beast existed as one vast consolidated empire under a long succession of imperial rulers. “ Is not .” It has now no political existence; of course the countries and territories once within the empire remain, but the empire as such came to an inglorious end, A.D. 476. The ancient empire of world-wide fame and extent has for many centuries ceased to exist. “ Is about to come up out of the abyss. ” Its historical and yet future rise out of the sea (Revelation 13:1 ) is not the point here; comes out of the abyss intimates the epoch at which we have arrived and of which the chapter treats. The Apocalypse gives the history of the last prophetic half week only. “ And go into destruction ,” or perdition. This is the final and everlasting doom of the Beast (Revelation 19:20 ) cast into the lake of fire alive with his fellow in crime the False Prophet; their master the devil will join them in the same awful place of misery a thousand years afterwards (Revelation 20:10 ). The resurrection of the Beast is a cause of wonder to all save the elect (v. 8). Twice the guilty and deluded world wonders, and both times in connection with the reappearance of the Beast on the platform of history (Revelation 13:3 ; Revelation 17:8 ).
“The seven heads are seven mountains;” these refer to the hills on which Rome reposes. * Palestine, Nierinal, Aventine, Caelian, Viminal, Esquiline, Janiculan. The woman sits on the Beast, and on the seven mountains, i.e. , the seven-hilled city of Rome. Rome is so closely interwoven with the life and growth of the papacy that to separate them would be to deal the Romish system a blow from which she could not well recover.
But, further, the seven heads also signify the various and successive forms of government beheld in the “eternal city.” The heads are “seven kings,” of which five are fallen. The five fallen heads have been applied to the successive kingdoms of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Greece, and Persia; others consider the reference is to the first five emperors of Rome, as Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. The first hypothesis cannot be right, for it is the Beast, i.e. , the Roman empire whose condemnation of Christ and dispersion of Judah makes her pre-eminently guilty which is before us in the prophecy. Nor can the second theory be right, for the heads are different forms of government. There might have been some ground for terming these emperors “horns,” but “heads” they cannot be. They each and all represent one head or form of government, viz., the imperial. After the mention of the five fallen phases of civil and political government the Seer proceeds, “one is.” That is the imperial form of rule which existed in John’s day the sixth head. But another has yet “to come” the seventh. Its continuance is but for a brief season, as the eighth, or last, phase of the empire is the point of interest. Satan’s man and king is an eighth, having his rise out of the abyss. He is thus a distinctive object, and fully entitled to the appellation “an eighth,” yet he is “of the seven” (v. 11), as the same character of rule under the seventh head will be continued. The outward forms of government will undergo but little change under the last two phases of the empire respectively arising from the sea and from the abyss . But the sure judgment of God overtakes the guilty and apostate power. It “goes into destruction,” twice repeated (vv. 8, 11).
Next, the ten horns of the Beast are explained (v. 12). These horns are kings, who come within the scope of action only at the same time and along with the Beast; the duration of his existence and reign determines theirs. The whole mind and purpose of these ten sovereigns is to yield themselves entirely to the will and service of the Beast (v. 13).
Then follows the war with the Lamb. The Beast and his confederate kings and armies on the one side, as against the Lamb in His might as Lord and King *In Revelation 19:16 the order in the titles is reversed. There it is King of kings and Lord of lords; here it is Lord of lords and King of kings. of all, and His armies on the other side (v. 14). It is the same war, the same conflict, that is grandly described in Revelation 19:11-21 . In our chapter (17) the last act of the Beast and his vassal kings is anticipated , not actually come. Other events transpire between the account of the closing struggle (Revelation 17:1-18 ) and its actual place in the history (Revelation 19:1-21 ).
The waters beheld by the Seer (v. 1) signify “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (v. 15). An immense moral influence extending far beyond the limits of the prophetic earth. The masses of mankind, organised and unformed, are brought under the influence of the harlot. “ The many waters” (v. 1) draws the attention to the large and multitudinous following of the whore.
The ten horns, or kings, are now seen roused into a state of unusual activity. They, with the Beast, turn round upon the woman, whom they had hitherto upheld, and destroy her. They reduce her to a state of desolation, and grasp at her wealth. Europe, or at least the western part of it, is carried away for a time by the dazzling and meretricious display of the woman, but ultimately snaps the fetters and makes an end of her. They act in vengeful feeling, but, after all, it is God’s will which they carry out (v. 17). The ten kings are now free to give their united authority to the Beast, so that he alone occupies the scene and sphere of prophecy till destroyed by the Lord. This goes on till “the words of God shall be fulfilled.” In all this the ten kings are the prominent actors.
Then the Romish system, numbering more than 200,000,000 souls in her unholy communion, is identified with Rome itself, the city (v. 18). The verse is a simple statement of a well-known and generally acknowledged fact.
In bringing this review to a close we would draw attention to the contrast between the harlot of Satan and the bride of the Lamb. The former occupies chapters 17 and 18; the latter is the main subject of the chapters which follow. The woman and a city in both portions, but set in sharp contrast.
The worldly, or purely secular side of the woman, is specially treated of in the next chapter. The system represented by Babylon is a combination of worldly pride and religious pretension. Union with the world, which is enmity with God, is the whoredom of the woman.
One in commenting on this chapter has well written: “In the chapter he (the Seer) is awed by the contemplation of her splendour and her guilt, while in chapter 18 he describes the lamentation of the world over her fate in language of almost unparalleled sublimity and pathos.”