The apostle is now called away to a fuller description of the woman and the beast, not called up to heaven at all now, for her place and her judgment are on earth. He is called by one of the angels, or messengers of judgment, that had the seven vials of the wrath of God. These angels had the character of perfect righteousness both divine and human: the golden girdle in which the certain energy and pure power of divine righteousness is maintained and vindicated; and white robes, in which the spotlessness of human sanctity and faultlessness, as of God, is expressed. One of these now comes to show the prophet the judgment of the great whore that is seated, in her malignant influence, on the masses of peoples. That is,
the revelation is made according to the character and estimate of this judgment.
The interpretation of this chapter is clearly of the greatest possible importance, as to the form of the corporate power of man, as apart from God, and setting up for independence of Him in the latter days. However, the judgment (though much information be given of her, and of the beast that is found to carry her) is definitely of her in one character,--the great whore. She is judged as such, though much thereon depends; and this I certainly conclude to be mainly her ecclesiastical character, just as the bride, the Lamb's wife, with whom she is in eminent contrast, is the Church; though heavenly glory be her portion, as false earthly glory is the great whore's. But the union with the Lamb is the real distinction of the one; her meretricious conduct (ecclesiastical corruption) is of the other: doubtless the glory of the world is eminently and intimately associated with this. Had she not this in play, much of her grandeur and influence would be lost, and she would cease to have this character. Her union with the world was her whoredom. Babylon may have a king over it--so it is spoken of in the Old Testament; but this is not its character here--she rides the beast. In the Old Testament, she is never, accordingly, spoken of as committing fornication; for in a certain sense (though, perhaps, through him, an evil one), she belonged to the king of the earth: he had made her and builded her for his majesty and his glory. Here, she rides on the beast, using him,. though afterwards hated and impoverished, &c., by the ten kings. Babylon of old had deceived the nations by the multitude of her sorceries and enchantments; but that is another thing: evil or good, she belonged to the king of Babylon; she rose by him, and fell with him. Here she has no king, but lives in evil, her own mistress, with the
kings of the earth. Israel was an adulteress, 1 not Babylon, then.
For this she is judged, though other things and all worldly eclat might surround her, and give her influence over the minds of others.
In the Old Testament, fornication is attached, not to Babylon, but to Tyre, with reference to her merchandise.
The material feature here is, that Babylon is not the seat of earthly power, ruled over and headed at any time by him who exercises apostate royalty upon the earth, but an independent woman. So was Tyre in the world, as thus spoken of: and, where the Prince of Tyre 2 is spoken of, it is not in human earthly language, but the highest character of apostasy, such as can be reached in its full character only by the great enemy, and, it would seem to me, connected with a church or religious standing--a character and apostasy far more terrible than the apostasy of the world, headed by its king, in its full form builded by him. Worldly association, then, this has, and wide extent of merchandising and wealth--a great system of worldly prosperity; but its character for judgment is her fornication, not her purple, her scarlet, and the like,
though all these were connected with it, and designated her. Judgment ruined her as to these; but they were not the cause of judgment. And this is always the case: the becoming worldly, and by this spirit, and to gain this wealth, pandering to the passions of the kings of the earth, is just the very cause of this. But, as in old time the blood of all righteous men was found in God's house, then apostate--not in the world's or the wicked one's outwardly--judged in Jerusalem, not in heathen Rome, so, ever: the ecclesiastical form of wickedness takes the lead, not the worldly. The gainsaying is recorded as the gainsaying of Korah, not of Dathan and Abiram, though the earth might swallow them up too; and the beast may be judged as well as Babylon, but not presented in the same sad terms in God's moral judgment, in the sight of men. Moral corruption is ever worse than evil power.
Babylon was also the mother of harlots, and of the abominations or idolatries of the earth. The invocation of a demon, under the name of Paul, was worse than under the name of Hercules or Theseus; and the uprooting of the mediation of Christ more fatal and destructive (as of the remedy itself), than that of the unity of the one true Jehovah. She was here a mystery. The apostasy of worldly power and grandeur was no mystery to the escaped remnant of Babylon, and the Patmos prisoner of Domitian. That the Church, which the apostle watched over, should assume this form, was a mystery indeed,--ruling that which he was suffering under as a poor despised follower of the crucified Jesus, and corrupting a world of which the Church properly was the only true light. She was the mother of the abominations of the earth; but her sway was over the many waters, peoples, and tongues, and nations, and languages. Rome, I cannot help believing, was the centre of this system. The golden cup was in the
whore's hand, not she a golden cup in the Lord's--she governed and rode the ten-horned beast, that was her long general character, but not her final one: she became the prey and spoil of the kings which had their power with the beast. They gave their power, not to her any longer, but to him. She, not the beast, was drunk with the blood of the saints, and that, as seen sitting in her full ease and comfort there. And this was matter of deep astonishment to the apostle, that she who connected herself in his mind with such a character and pretension should be such.
Thus far the vision: but the interpretation follows, and (as has been elsewhere remarked of Daniel and the parables) the interpretation carries the facts of the prophecy into a further scene, altogether consequent upon that in the prophecy. "The beast which thou sawest." The interpretation takes up the time of the passage into this further scene, which did not exist in the actual vision of the apostle; which saw (in order to give her her full character) the woman in all her splendour. "The beast which thou sawest, was" (to wit, the fourth great empire), "and is not" (i.e., had not, at the noticed period, its united formal character), "and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit"--shall resume this formal character, under the direct influence of Satan, and then be destroyed. And all within the prophetic range of his power (the earth--the woman's influence extended farther, "she sat on the waters") should be amazed when they thus saw it. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman, not the whore, sitteth, "but that great city which reigneth." This cannot mean merely Babylon; for that was the whore's name already on her forehead, and therefore not an explanation to be given. That was her symbolic character; this her local explanation. There are also seven kings; these are p. 108
not the horns, they were not moreover contemporaneous. "Five are fallen, one is" (I take this, from verse 9, to be a direct present explication to the apostle), "the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space." This made the seven. One brief-lived head of the beast was to arise before the last, after the apostle's days. The Spirit of God has not thought it material to give a special designation of this or the previous heads, as not in the present scene affecting the Church or purposes of God, but merely identifying the beast, and not suffering the Church to be led astray.
But there is that which is more distinctly noted, after all this is completed, and all that properly formed the beast in full--an eighth head 1 (which is the beast itself, as arising directly from Satan's power and influence) arises, which is yet of the seven, which is connected with and takes its place among the other heads and forms of the Roman empire, but is also a distinct, definite power, the resurrection-beast of Satan's power; and in this form it is that it goes into perdition.
We have now the woman, the beast, and its heads, described. We have then the conduct of the ten horns, the ten kings. These properly belong to the beast; they had received no kingdom at the time of the vision, formed no part of the then system, but would receive power contemporaneously with the beast. I do not see that this states that they would exist all the time along with the
beast, 1 but that they would not be a power supplanting or without connection with the beast, but that they would exist themselves, contemporaneously, and while the beast existed. They would give their power to the beast. I have no doubt that mainly the beast in its last form is here spoken of, but it is their character generally. They give their kingdom and power to the beast; they have one mind as to this. But though they did this corporately, they had a mind of their own, or at least practically in action. These shall make war with the Lamb: this shall be their conduct and end. The Lamb shall overcome them, for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and then we have His companions the Church and armies of heaven anticipatively brought forward. He is not alone: they that are with Him are "called, and chosen, and faithful." This was the history and the end of the ten kings, but still characteristically; for, if we consult Daniel, three of them fall. Their Victor is then declared and His companions. As the confederacy of the kings gave (for it was man's will) their power to the beast, the Lamb's companions were, on the contrary, called, and chosen, and faithful. The "waters" are then explained so as to need little comment, save as reminding of the extent of general moral influence beyond the prophetic earth: she had her seat there, though she sat on the beast too. Another characteristic was, that she had this influence and place on the peoples and multitudes and nations; all this was an independent influence proper to the woman, and this in her evil character as the whore.
Another incident of much importance in the history is then brought forward. These ten kings are to give their power to the beast. So "God hath put into their hearts
to fulfil his will," and "these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate, and eat her flesh" (devour her wealth and fatness) "and burn her with fire." It was not specifically with these kings she had committed fornication; that had been her general character with the kings of the earth. These ten kings, however, desolate her: the will at this time acts in them, not in the beast. 1 They are the prominent and existing actors, that they may give their power to the beast, whose final character and end we have already seen. This goes on "until the words of God shall be fulfilled." The woman, not the whore, is then designated as that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth (the predominant associated power of the earth): 2 but if acting by corrupt religion, not doing so here as a false prophet, but as a city--a system in her secular, carnal, and worldly, and wealthy character; yet that secularity and wealth, the meretricious secularity 3
and wealth of an active, corrupting will--"the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth."
Having thus seen her in her active will, in her connection with the will of others, and her end in wealth and fatness, the announcement of her fall as a corporate system is declared.
And here I find much more of the purely worldly part of the system; and this is its character, though the other be not denied. And here she is seen as fallen--Babylon the great, not spoken of here as the mother of harlots, the whore, or the woman, but simply as Babylon the great, as a city or dwelling-place. She had not ceased to exist, however, at all; but she was fallen, and become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every unclean spirit,
and the hold of every unclean and hateful bird. This was her present condition and judgment--her condition morally--and as discerned by the Church, who, through the Spirit, knew all things on the testimony of God.
The fall of Babylon seems to be her losing the place of active, governing, or leading power, ruling as such the beast and many waters, involving her moral degradation, not destruction.
God now calls His people out of her. I do not say that this call had not application whenever the truth of the third verse was perceived: but it was now definite and positive, for the truth was declared judicially. Woe to them who remained! Her sins had reached to heaven, and they would receive of her plagues if they stayed. It was a warning on account of consequences now. The separation must be made, for God had begun to judge her. She had already fallen from power, the seductive power of wealth and corruption. She still, it seems, said in her heart, she should be a queen and see no sorrow--still maintained her pride, though she was fallen; and the Church knew God was now judging her. 1 The desolation of all the temporal prosperity of the great city is sorrow and trouble to the kings of the earth. This is a distinct thing from the ten horns hating her and burning her with fire. The kings of the earth are the royal rulers, not these specific ten horns, which give their power to the beast as kingdoms; the horns were the power of the kingdoms, exercised by the ruling power for the time, perhaps.
[paragraph continues] But all those who had been dwelling in the security of the settled and ordered earthly system--the kings of the earth, as the inhabitants of the earth--those who had been committing fornication with the great whore--these bewailed her burning. 1 The ten were a definite class, brought forward with the beast in his last actings against the Lamb, for the accomplishment of which God puts it into their heart to get rid of the great whore. The ten kings are never, as such, spoken of as committing fornication with the harlot. The kings of the earth and inhabitants of the earth are mentioned as having so conducted themselves. The rising of the ten kings into active power is a distinctly noticed and subsequent event. Their specific description as active is from chapter xvii. 12--17.
The destruction and judgment of the great city involved the ruin of all mere secular interests--wealth--all that was Tyrian in its character, though souls of men had been added to that renowned city's traffic; for the great city traded in them also. Anything to enrich characterized the conduct of the city, taught by direct and accomplished apostasy. The city was, in a certain sense, distinct from the merchants. She was the whole system; they stood aloof, from the fear of her torment when God was judging her; and the ship-masters withal. But heaven and the holy apostles and prophets were called to rejoice over her. She had been the enemy of heaven, as the whole lust of the earth, to shut out God; and withal the persecutor and enemy of the revelation and testimony of the heavenly glory, the judgment of the world, and the coming of the Son of man--in a word, of the great power of testimony by which the Church was constituted in the world. Then came the statement of the sudden and total manner of her
final destruction. 1 Her worldly wealth, the power of riches, is marked as her great final character as thus judged and destroyed. And here she was like Babylon of old; and in her was found all the blood slain upon the earth--as in Jerusalem all that was shed up to her destruction--as being the chief and perfected form of apostasy from God.
In this description of Babylon we have the whole spirit
and character of the world except power, royal power; for that is of God, however used, and that (in the hands of the kings of the earth) was corrupted by her; and then these ten horns or kings hated her and destroyed all its fulness and power. These were not Babylon; but they gave their power to the beast; so that power also which did come from God, might be found in open rebellion against Him to whose hand all power was intrusted and given--the Lamb; and thus the last and final form of evil be produced, involving (for it was then the question whose power was to stand) the destruction and setting aside of the form and subsistence of apostasy.
Thus, in Babylon we have wealth, corruption, sorceries, arts, luxuries, bodies and souls of men sold, fornication committed with the kings and dwellers upon earth, and they made drunk with it: 1 the principle of confederate will, but the corruption (not the exercise) of royal secular power as of God, though it might, by seduction, rule and govern this power, and thus separate it from its divine source, and actually set aside and hinder the unqualified assertion of its supremacy, as of God over all. This, as we have seen, is distinct from the direct apostasy of power, which is founded on the hatred and consumption of the whore, and has its place in the beast. Power was given to Nebuchadnezzar, and he built Babylon. But here we have the woman in the exercise of her own will corrupting and ruling, uniting the characters of Israel towards
[paragraph continues] God (save that she was a harlot, not an adulteress, for she had been but espoused as a chaste virgin to Christ), and Tyre towards the world. When in exercise, we have always the ecclesiastical taking the lead in evil, as in Kore and the chief priests: so here this mysterious woman sits on the beast and many waters. When the kings begin to act, and are going to give their power by their will, they begin by her destruction, or consumption at any rate. And note, the act of Christ's power is on the feet and toes themselves. God judges Babylon as a great moral system denying His supremacy, not in open hostility to Christ's power.
We have the fall 1 of Babylon distinguished, I think, from the destruction of Babylon. Her fall includes moral degradation, and being the dwelling-place of unclean spirits. This is judgment on her; and she falls because of her making the nations drink of the wine of the poison of her fornication. (Chap. xiv. 8.) This we find in the ecclesiastical course, so to speak, of closing facts. Her final judgment we find in the close of the filling up of the wrath of God. (Chap. xvi. 19.) The connection of the former seems to be with chapter xviii. 2; of the latter, with chapter xviii. 21.
Thus Babylon was judged--removed out of the way with her corruptions, which corrupted the earth; and the blood of the servants of the Lord God was avenged. This is celebrated as the work of the Lord God by a multitude in heaven, and the mystic representations of the redeemed; but the worship was of God as sitting on the throne, whose power and judgment had been thus exercised. The way
was now made free; and a voice comes forth out of the throne for the voice of praise from all God's servants. His sons could always praise Him in spirit; but here (the prevalence of evil being removed and "delay no longer") they, in their character of servants, and all that feared God, can praise Him; for He now reigned as the Lord God Omnipotent--that character or those characters in which He dealt with the earth whether as God, Creator, Promiser, and Shield of His people while strangers, or the everlasting Accomplisher of all He had promised, Jehovah Elohim Shaddai. All these He took now in power and reigned. This time takes us back to chapter xi. 17: 1 we have had, in the interval, the source, character, and form of evil, and judgment of all but the beast, and open power against the Lamb, which is earthly. All secret or mere corrupt evil, all evil that had its place in heaven, being removed, it was a question of open power--Satan's last and hopeless resource on earth. The praise, accordingly, is returned to God in this character of Lord God Almighty who reigneth; and gladness and joy immediately came forth.
Then His first and immediate purpose manifests itself, before even the Lamb's judgment of His earthly enemies; "the marriage of the Lamb is come." This is a matter of ordinance and dispensation. We are now His children; but the marriage of the Lamb is not yet come, nor is His wife made ready. It is not here, then, children with the
[paragraph continues] Father. But the time for the Lord's manifest glory being come, the Lord God takes His power, judges and removes the evil worldly counterpart, and (the Lamb's wife made ready) the time for it is come: these, however, were heavenly things, 1 and they are passed by. The time, and readiness and nature of her robes only, are passingly mentioned as an important circumstantial characterizing the progress of events: and it closes with pronouncing blessing on those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb; and the prophet returns to the course on the earth again, where the white-robed ones are found the companions of His glory in judgment.
This closed the scene of what was properly heavenly, i.e., the time during which the Lamb (and His followers) were not manifested upon earth. It closes with "these are the true sayings of God." The angel was his fellow servant 2 and the fellow servant of his brethren that had the testimony of Jesus; for the spirit of prophecy still testified of Jesus. God was to be worshipped; this was the great end of the book--to keep the Church in the holy simplicity of true worship in the midst of ruin and apostasy.
Now the heaven is opened. It is not John caught up
The marriage supper seems to be rather the manifestation, as His companions in glory; as the "blessed are the dead," &c., is the rest from their labours, and reception of reward; I do not say the time, but the peculiar blessedness is different. I have some notion that the blessing, chapter xiv., has special connection with xiii. 10, and the blessing here with xiv. 12.
there. It is not a sign there. It is not the temple opened to him there; but heaven is opened and One comes forth. 1 Heaven opened for the Holy Ghost to descend on Jesus here. It opened for the angels of God to ascend and descend on the Son of man. It opened for the Church (to wit, in Stephen closing that period and scene) to see into heaven and be received there. It now was opened, that the King of kings and Lord of lords Himself should come forth thence to act on the earth--to judge and make war in righteousness. It was now the time that power was to be applied to righteousness 2 in the earth. He came in the manifestation of faithfulness and truth; He came with scrutinizing and purging judgment; He came in the assemblage of many royalties; and in the secret of His own power, which none knew but Himself. His armies were in fine linen clean and white--heavenly righteousness and purity--the priests of God. He came with divine vengeance (His garment was dipped in blood), and in that title of the manifestation of the power of God which was from creation downward, "the Word of God." Thus He had created, thus revealed, thus judges. The armies in heaven followed. None were in this conflict with Him on the earth--His own arm brought salvation: He smites, rules, and treads the wine-press of God's wrath. The power and title, in which He is now publicly manifested, is "King of kings, and Lord of lords:" this recalls to xvii. 14.
The birds of the air are summoned to the great supper of destruction.
The ten kings were specially marked in their war against the Lamb; and they did take a lead in it; but the expression here is more general. The beast is found here, and the kings of the earth. Those who ruled the earth were generally found refusing to submit to this royal conqueror--to the Lord. The beast is first and prominent; then the kings of the earth withal and their armies. It was the general character of the state of the earth then.
The beast and the false prophet are taken and put in the lake of fire. The prophet, by his characteristics, is identified with the second two-horned beast which arose out of the earth, which has lost its secular power, but not its character as counsellor of mischief in the latter day. The remnant was slain with the sword of him that sat on the horse--it "proceeded out of his mouth." For, though it was the actual execution of judgment, and no longer merely the sword of the Spirit, but of the Lord, in active imperial judgment of the quick, it was according to the word. It was the judgment of the word which proceeded out of His mouth: they died by that. The proper application of this is to those who were against Him, as coming from heaven to judge those who were directly under the influence and power of apostasy. Still, the kings of the earth is wider than the ten kings, 1 and left general. I doubt, however, whether it includes Gog, whose aim is against the land rather than the Lamb, or even the Prince of princes. With Gog, it is the gratification of covetousness, the lust of possessing. He goes against the land of unwalled villages, and perishes in the mountains of Israel, after Israel is brought back and dwelling in peace.
The beast and the false prophet, these delegates of Satan, the active enemies of the Lamb, were finally judged: but
it does not appear that the deceiving of the nations by Satan thereupon ceases, because he is not yet bound. Still, he cannot now reproduce anything that had before flowed from his place in heaven. On his casting down, his place became, as we have seen, that of open opposition to the Lamb. This is the character of the action of the nations ever afterwards under his influence: nothing like the great previous system. So, even after the thousand years, all is on earth and of this character. He never regained heaven again at all. The beast and the false prophet, the resulting form of the apostasy while Satan was god of this world, never re-appeared either. He established himself evidentially prince of this world by what led to the cross, that being the climax of it. When that was departed from, the Church only became the instrument of his power; sin and the world resuming their dominion under her name. This was maintained in active apostasy by the use of a corrupt church, still on the earth as to means; and, when he was cast down from heaven, it could then only be by open war, as we have seen, against Him who came in His royalty to claim His inheritance. I believe it will be found that the early commerce and colonization of the earth were most intimately connected with idolatry--the children of apostate though once rescued Ham. His first act was casting off or degrading authority as of God; and ere long we find, at the river of Cush, 1 idolatry in practice, and extending even to the Shemitic race, whence Abraham was thence called out.
The former state (i.e., confederacy, trading, false religion)
is spoken of as a woman: 1 this may, as to part of the ideas, be subjected to Christ. Nebuchadnezzar may rule Babylon (the city of confusion); so the Lord Christ "the city of the great King," where God is well known; and Jerusalem may be the queen in gold of Ophir. The latter state of earthly opposition is, either the beast, once subject to the former, and it is by the will of the kings, or in the hands of the wilful king, the fallen and hostile carnal man rising up against the Lord. The former point much explains to me the prince of Tyre in the prophet Ezekiel.
We have, accordingly, to remark that Satan is not bound by him that sat on the horse; but an angel comes down from heaven. It is not the immediate judgment here on Satan by Christ, but the divine power, and providence, and intervention of God, which sets Satan aside and incapacitates him from any further deceiving of the Gentiles till he be let loose.
In verse 4 we begin a new scene--the thrones. It is not judging and making war here, but sitting in royal judgment on thrones. This passage, it seems to me, alludes to the thrones being set (so admitted to mean, I believe, as in Septuagint) in Daniel vii. 9; in the interpretation of which, in verse 22, we read, "judgment was given to the saints of the most High," or of the heavenly places. Here, not only are the thrones set, but he sees people sitting on them: the thrones were filled. This Daniel did not see--it was a period with him: with us it is our glory with Christ. These thrones were set before even the King and His armies came forth; but they formed no part of the actual visible earthly scene (nothing yet of the connection of heaven with the earth); and therefore they are not mentioned. The thrones were set
before the judgment of the beast in Daniel; and those who come forth with the Lamb are sitters on the thrones. But, I repeat, though filled, they are not brought into the scene till they form properly part of it. "When the Son of man shall cone in His glory . . . . then shall He sit on the throne of His glory." They do not take this place properly till He takes it openly (the power being given to Him as Son of man, which is connected with earth): and so these thrones, though seated in heaven. As, in Daniel, "the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High," so this is consequent upon His taking His power and reigning. They reign with Him the thousand years. What follows in the verse is an additional intimation that the others had lost nothing but the enmity of the world, 1 and of Satan even to death, or by their refusal to worship the beast. Their souls were seen. There might have been power to kill the body, but they had never died to God, and now they enjoyed the fruit of it--"they reign in life by one."
The reigning on the thrones actually is consequent upon the removal of the deceiving power of Satan: and so with Christ. He comes first, and then actually takes the throne of the world: His companions have been hidden with Him meanwhile; and though glorified (so I speak of them now), the thrones were not seen till the war ended. The title was full, they were gone to Him. But they did not,
before that, actually possess the kingdom; nor did He Himself. The horse and the throne are distinct things--imperial, active, subduing power; and full, peaceable, judicial power as king. For Christ's act so coming is not a mere passing act. The throne of His glory continues till, as a mediatorial king, He gives it up. On this throne of the Son of man the saints will sit, occupying thrones with Him and judging the world: and this is a reign of peace, but of righteousness withal (this latter Jewish properly): for heaven and earth meet in peace now--peace on earth; because the face of heaven, in its own character through Christ the mediator, and the saints with Him, shines on it now.
In this part there is little mention of the nations, though it be left general; because Christ deals with the nations as identified with earthly Jerusalem: whereas here He is looked upon as coming from heaven to act upon the main scene and agent of Satan's hostile power--the beast and his followers. The nations at this time are more the subjects of Old Testament prophecy; which, while it recognizes the fact of the Lord's coming from heaven with all His saints, occupies itself with the earthly Jerusalem and what passes there. Here we have the display of the first resurrection,--the main subject. Blessed and holy are they! they shall be priests of God and of Christ: there is their highest place, as seen in this book; and they shall reign with Him a thousand years, for He is a priest on His throne. It would be hard to make priests of principles, though, by a figure, we might say principles reign.
After this when the nations form the body of hostile agents, we have Satan's actings in them; but it is no revival of the beast, nor anything in that character. Blessed be God, there was a final ending of that dark and subtle apostasy which resulted from Satan's being in
heaven; but this is a mere exhibition of open, hostile enmity in those whom he has been able to deceive here. We must on no account, therefore, lose sight of this character of present evil and rebellion and apostasy, that it flows from Satan's being in heavenly places (though the Church, in the knowledge of Christ's exaltation, may know His and its entire victory over him). The wrestling, however, is not now with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, with spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. In chapter xii. Satan is cast down from heaven; but here, what he raises on earth against the Lamb is cast into the lake of fire and Satan himself is bound in the bottomless pit, the history of the earth not being yet finished. The coming of Jesus, whose judgment acts on the beast and false prophet, is not the same as the angel of God's providence and power casting Satan into the pit.
The glory and reigning of the Son of man seems to vindicate God as regards the failure of the Noah world. The blessing of the Second Adam, as the Head of a re-deemed race, takes the place of antediluvian evil and wretchedness, in which the children of fallen Adam displayed their character: this closed by the judgment of water, that commenced by that of fire. In the reign of the Son of man with His saints, "a King shall reign in righteousness." In the blessedness of the Second Adam, as Head of the new race when God's tabernacle is with men, therein "dwelleth righteousness," its peaceful and constant habitation without force maintaining it. Partially the principles of these two states mingle, by virtue of the power and influence of the heavenly Jerusalem and its great Bridegroom (and so we have Psalm lxxxv. accomplished): still are they different.
Upon the close of the thousand years, Satan is let loose--deceives
the nations--a separation takes place; and he brings up the deceived against the camp of the saints and the beloved city, to wit, the earthly Jerusalem. Then the devil is cast into the lake of fire, where the beast and the false prophet are already, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
The judgment of the beast and his armies, it appears to me, is not the judgment of Matthew xxv., nor is Matthew xxv. the judgment of the great white throne. That judgment in Matthew appears to me to be the judgment of the nations at large, when Christ is not making war, either as coming from heaven, or as going forth in connection with Jerusalem; but when he is sitting on His throne, having come, and judging the nations for the manner in which they have treated the preachers of the gospel of the kingdom in that going forth which shall specially take place at the close. It is not, "He shall send forth his armies," but the calm and solemn session of the throne on those who have despised Him in His messengers.
Although the fact of the resurrection of the just is mentioned here to separate them out of the judgment, the millennial state itself is little dwelt upon (the chapter being properly the account of the session of judgment). From this we see the partakers of the first resurrection entirely exempt. Then Satan's actings, as introducing the millennial judgments are mentioned, and that judgment 1 itself. On the great white throne (for there were no thrones now) sat One from whose face heaven and earth fled away.
[paragraph continues] This, therefore, was not coming at all--no judgment τῆς οἰκουμένης, of the habitable world as a scene, nor a judgment of the quick. The dead, small and great, stand before God; and they are judged out of the books, according to their works. We have therewith, a general statement of the portion of those not written in the book of life. Whatever differences there may have been in measure, they were all cast into the lake of fire. This was not now a place merely prepared for the devil and his angels. The devil was there. The false prophet and the beast had been there long before: now, all those who were not written in the book of life.
There was now not merely an economic change. The great white throne had no reference to any dispensation, but to the dead. There was an actual physical change--a new heaven and a new earth, and no more sea. And here John sees a new object, new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. This general fact, I conceive, is presented here to give the object. Its bearings are taken up apart: and first the historical progress or result is stated; and we find the tabernacle of God, not the throne or heavenly dwelling of God and the Lamb, but God all in all--the tabernacle of God with men. The race, man, now are blessed with God's presence; and grace had provided a way in the which (with no desolating enquiry of "Where art thou?") God could visit, yea, have His tabernacle among men, now headed up in the blessed last Adam--the risen and glorified Man, not in the first fallen one. The millennium, as we have said, is the contrast to Noachic failure, when Satan is cast out of the heavens, and government comes in, righteous and effectual for blessing and peace. To man's fall, the ruin of the first Adam, is here contrasted the perfect, unfailing, and new and durable blessing of the second--all things made new--no
more death--all evil put in the lake of fire. Chapter xix. 9 is the special recorded blessing of the former state, the marriage of the Lamb: xxi. 5, the blessing of this.
The condition of the earth during the millennium is more properly the subject of the Old Testament prophets--the restitution of all things spoken of by them. The connection of the heavenly blessings with it, during the millennium, is, however, taken up in what follows, to complete the picture, and give the saints the joy of their own portion in it, which, in its own proper and intrinsic character, moreover is eternal. This account is from xxi. 9 to xxii. 5, 6. 1 On this I have but few remarks to make, having so far prolonged this. It is not here the children in the Father's house; it is not dwelling in God as love (and thus, through Jesus, in whom all fulness dwells, filled with His fulness, we in Him, and He in the Father), but the glory of God, the order of all dispensation. Glory is taken up in it (i.e., that which constitutes the glory of each), as displaying the character, foundation, and ways of God, the excellency of mediation, and the basis of righteousness and true holiness, firmly established as the very streets of the city. These constituted the characteristics of the city.
But there is another very interesting point in this character of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Lamb's bride, the perfection and blessedness of mediatorial glory. First, God and the Lamb are the light of it: they enjoy the light of glory; the nations of the spared ones walk in the light of it (i.e., of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Lamb's wife, the glorified saints). It is not merely "nations shall come to the brightness of its rising"--the acknowledgment
of a new and dominant power owned of God and glorified in the earth; it is proper blessing, "they walk in the light of it." And yet more distinctly does it preserve its character of grace, and the immense privilege of grace; and what it possesses in common, it has on incomparably higher ground than even Paradise of old. The Tree of Life has healing in it now. Not merely can the innocent eat and live, but there is remedial blessing in it for those on earth. They worse perhaps in some sort than Adam, but far more glory, and blessing displayed even in glory. The Lamb's bride, answering as a help-meet to the Lamb's heart of love, is minister of blessing to them that need. It is now full blessing, and we ministers of it, "for His servants shall serve Him . . . His name shall be on their foreheads." Far other is the minister of strict earthly righteousness, the earthly Jerusalem--"the people and nations that will not serve thee shall utterly perish." Now this heavenly rule, withal, is recognized as the source of power. The kings of the earth bring their glory to it (not to corrupt Babylon, to their disgrace and ruin). None enter this that defile, but those written in the Lamb's book of life. It is not now merely "the Lord shall reign for ever and ever," but "they shall reign for ever and ever."
From the time of the exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God, and the association of the Church with Him, Christ has been ready to judge. There were many antichrists, whereby it was known that it was the last time, as this same apostle teaches us. And now, in the manifested failure of the Church on earth unfolded in the first chapters, though the Bridegroom might tarry, the Church, knowing His mind, had but one cry, "Come quickly!" In this position, therefore, the Church is practically set.
From the time the prophecy took its course, all was
remediless. When it took it absolutely and definitely in the crisis, it became absolutely and definitely so as to individuals, as regarded the dispensation of judgment--"the door was shut." The Lord declares He has sent His angel to testify these things in the churches. Here we are brought back to what went before the prophetic sayings (the churches being thus made cognizant of the prophetic sayings). The Lord presents Himself to them, as the root indeed, but as the offspring of David, ready to inherit his throne; and the bright and blessed witness of millennial day, and, in one sense, eternal day to the Church. This was the next thought to the Church on this failure. Accordingly, knowing it, the Church is only lifted up into better hopes, and the Spirit, 1 which, as Comforter, abides for ever, takes the lead; and, in its character of Bride, abstracting itself from circumstances and earthly progress and associations, the Church joins its guiding Spirit and says, Come--calls on all who hear, whose ear is open to divine truth, to join in this as its cry, its first utterance, now born into a world of' sorrow even for the Church, which sees its desolation (still, however, maintaining its character of grace, ministerial grace, to the world): "And let him that is athirst come: and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." While the Holy Ghost remains filling the Church, no change of circumstances can prevent it or us from being the ministers of this calling-grace in the midst of a ruined world.
Strictly speaking, then, verse 17 returns to the things that are; verses 10, 11 to the prophetic period, which has closed the hope and testimony of grace, and assumed the testimony of judgment, either preparatory or final. Verse 20 gives the individual seal, as it were, of the apostle's faith to the personal application of the book by the Lord.
As the Church instantly broke forth in answer on the church revelation of Jesus, in exactly corresponding praises to His then revealed character, so now, on the revelation of His millennial and glorified character, it breaks forth by the Spirit, which never leaves it let it be ever so desolate, but rather inspires it with hope in the answering and suitable cry of "Come!" and then looks round, in the sense of this, to renew its service of grace to the world.
In chapter xxi. 9, we have Jehovah sitting on the throne, declaring Himself as Alpha and Omega; here, in chapter xxii. 12, 13, we have Jesus doing so (there closing the millennium--here introducing the millennial times)
103:1 Fornication seems to consist in living in wealth and luxuries, through intercourse with others, not the cultivation of her own resources; therefore it is referred to union with, and dependence on, the world in the case of the Church, and to enriching commerce with other nations in the case of a city, as Tyre. Jerusalem is termed "adulteress," not whore, because she was married to the Lord; but in all these cases there will be found, I conceive, a worshipping of Satan, in this world, as its god, a seeking the power τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. Power national or imperial is a distinct thing, though it may be abused: it is given of God, though it may end in open rebellion.
103:2 The prince and king of Tyre are, however, different. It is the king of whom the position is so astonishingly traced by the Divine hand.
108:1 I feel that probably this has passed, if we take the protracted course, in Charlemagne; if the closing scene, in Buonaparte, because the Roman empire had been destroyed in its full character before Charlemagne; and his was a renewal of what was not. Nominally it continued until Buonaparte, who, as the agent of the French republic, broke it to pieces and renewed the imperial power for a little season.
109:1 [It may have that force as to the last form of the beast out of the abyss.]
110:1 [The better reading, however, adds 'the beast.']
110:2 Such as Rome, for example, before even imperial times.
110:3 I know that many take Babylon as merely a great worldly system. That it is a great worldly system is freely admitted. But the exclusion of the ecclesiastical character in this place seems to me a great error: it is the virus of her active will in this place, though clothed with the world. She is not viewed here as the city of the apostate king at all, though, in the worldly sense, she may be the beginning of his kingdom. He comes in here, as the eighth head of the beast, supplanting the woman. The kings lay her waste to give their power to him; for power, not wealth, is the last form of evil presented, and that against the Lamb, which is true, active rebellion, and more than mere apostasy. God therefore judges Babylon; and the destroyers of her wealth and importance are those who give their kingdom to the beast: thereupon and then the war against the Lamb comes. I have no doubt the principles of Babylon were manifested in her--not royal power. Though Babylon was the beginning of his power in whom royal power was first displayed, yet it was specially what the confederate p. 111 will of man had done; its first form was confederate will in independence of God. This is shewn in the character which constituted the whore, yet had its development by her corruption and fornication: and the effects of this are supplanted by another confederacy, which is not only apostasy, as all human will apart from God is, but active war against God's King, the Lamb.
As to the ten kings, I would here also notice, what, not being the direct subject of the book, I have not noticed hitherto. It appears to me a mistake to include the Grecian or eastern part of the Roman empire in the ten kings or direct power of the beast, though he may seek to possess himself of it as his dominion, and in a measure may do so. The little book of the eleventh chapter takes up the beast in his last Satanic character, in order to complete the scene of the final catastrophe and woe; but the first two woes seem to me to embrace the eastern or Grecian part of the great scene of the prophetic earth. When we come to the geographical divisions and actings at the close (for all are aware that the catastrophe of all the powers of the earth is in the east, in Judea), then the king of the north and the king of the south seem to me to occupy the Grecian part, not the ten kings, though the beast may be seeking to possess himself, as of old, of their territory, and may in part succeed. I allude here to Daniel xi., as may readily be seen.
112:1 The full judgment comes after God's people are come out of her. Her fall is a warning to them, these are rapidly brought together here at her judgment. [I have left this statement as it is, though its full force may be questioned, because it is a very nice point of interpretation, and it was no harm to have this view before us.]
113:1 See Ezekiel xxvii. 35, 36, and the previous verses. The prince of Tyre sits in the midst of the seas.
114:1 There seems to me, an intimate connection between the continuance of Babylon and the serpent being in heavenly places. He exercises his power thus as influence, secretly, as false worship. He is the object of false worship; and hence, in this dispensation, he works by the corruption of christian profession; and yet this still as the god of this world, which title he cannot lose, for it is all he has:--"the course of this world . . . . the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." This is said of him as still is ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις, in the heavenlies.
False worship, as the source of power, would be its heathen character; false worship, as the source or means of fellowship, its Babylonish character in the christian dispensation. In a word, this is rather his anti-priestly character and spiritual influence: the man of sin, or lawless one, is not revealed. Power continues outwardly owned of God, and the letter [he that letteth] remains. When he is cast down, he loses this character, which is opposed to Christ as Priest, and to Him as acting by His Spirit in maintaining the holy communion of His saints and washing their feet. He then raises power as of earth (the king doing according to his will) against the heavens, for he has no place in then even falsely. He could render his influence as anti-priest paramount to supreme civil authority, which is of God, using the name of God falsely in religion; but he cannot, save in open rebellion when cast down, bring power against God. [The substance of this note is of great importance: only it must not be supposed that the first sentence is to be taken strictly as the existence of Babylon. But I apprehend there will be a total change when Satan is cast down, perhaps practically prepared before. The principles, I have no doubt, are already at work.]
115:1 The character of Babylon as whore seems lost by the enmity of the ten horns, because she cannot help it. The religious mischief is, after this, done by the false prophet, the other form of the two-horned beast. Thereon the character of Babylon becomes more purely secular; but the devil dwells there, or it is the habitation of demons, and not therefore simply worldly interests.
116:1 [I have still left this, though it may be too precise as a system. Still both are spoken of. There is an excessive degradation; the fair form of ecclesiastical character is gone, and it is thorough demon wickedness. In this case, xviii. 4-8, and as above 21, would seem to coalesce with xvi. 19.]
117:1 When God takes to Himself His power and reigns, and the worldly kingdom of our Lord and His anointed is come. It is taken up here on the actual judgment and removal out of the way of Babylon, as the earthly mystery opposed to the heavenly bride of Christ: so that, as the Lord God Omnipotent takes His power, the Lamb thereupon takes His bride. Her fall, which seems more connected with the fall of Satan from heaven, is a previous thing.
118:1 The marriage of the Lamb was not before the world; though, having espoused her in the heavens, He may then in the gladness of His heart bring her forth in glory.
118:2 Note, sonship is not the point of this book, but dealings on earth: therefore the angel says, "fellow servant" to those who, in their higher character, are really sons and joint heirs.
119:1 I have long felt, and it is clear from this passage, that the Church is actually with Christ in heavenly places before this; for they come forth with Him. [See Colossians iii. 1-4.]
119:2 "Judgment shall return to righteousness; and all the upright in heart shall follow it." Psalm xciv. 15.
120:1 [Only that the kings of the earth compose the ideal completeness of the earth under the beast.]
121:1 Of this idolatrous and worldly power, Egypt, Babylon, and Tyre (from which last the worldly and apostate character is specially drawn) were the great centres mentioned in scripture. The last committed fornication with all the kingdoms of the earth (this in connection with her trade, &c.).
122:1 As Babylon, or the great city, Tyre: adulterous Israel and idolatry.
123:1 I think I see here an assertion of threefold presentation of those who shall occupy the thrones, or at least live and reign with Christ a thousand years. First, the general body of the saints of the heavenlies, including the Church,--they sat on thrones; next, those beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the word of God; thirdly, those who had not worshipped the beast. This is important as shewing the place of all these classes.
126:1 If any ask what comes of the living saints as to their change at the close of the millennium, the answer is--scripture says nothing, save that from other passages we know, on principle, they will have incorruptible natures in that scene when all things are made new.
128:1 Chapter xxi. 8, closes the historical statement: what follows is description, and that of the millennial effect of the city as well as of the city itself.
130:1 The Spirit saying it slimed that it was not merely a holy though untaught desire, but the mind of the Spirit itself, in and to the Church, who, what He hears, speaks. It was the divine mind, but, so taught, all the bride's affections, separated in heart and spirit to Christ, centre and express themselves in this desire. "He that heareth" is he whose heart is opened to the truth, but has not learnt the separated bridal state of the Church, espoused as a chaste virgin unto Christ.