And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
Verse 1. - And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me; and spake with me, saying. Omit "unto me." This and the following chapters (to Revelation 19:21) consist of visions which are really included under the seventh vial, but which, on account of their length and elaboration, may be considered apart from the other judgments of that vial. In the preceding chapters we have had placed before us a conspectus of three classes of ungodly people, and the three principles of evil in their abstract form, as represented by the world (the first beast), the flesh (the second beast), and the devil (the dragon). The personal final overthrow of the devil is described in Revelation 20:10; Revelation 17. and 18, are devoted to the description of the judgments of the two former - the world, in its character of the openly hostile persecutor of the Church of God; and the other portion of the ungodly who, while still professing Christianity, find excuses for conforming to the worship of the image of the beast. The first beast is, therefore, identical with Babylon, and represents, as we have seen, the openly hostile and persecuting world power of all ages, of which, in St. John's time, Rome was the foremost embodiment. The second beast is identical with the harlot, and represents faithless Christians, the apostate portion of the Church. The very raison d'etre of the Apocalypse is to deal with these two forms of evil; to declare the overthrow of the one, and to warn and, if possible, reclaim those under the influence of the other. In the latter case, the warning consists in setting forth the judgment in store for faithless Christians; and as this is the course pursued with the former also, the two merge into one, and indeed are declared to be one. The apostle in substance declares that, though there is a prima facie difference between the two forms of ungodliness, there is in reality no distinction to be made, but both are involved in one common final judgment. He thus twice solemnly asserts that the harlot is Babylon (vers. 5 and 18). The comments upon the following chapters will be based upon this hypothesis, the reasons for which will be brought out more clearly as we proceed. The opening words of this chapter leave no doubt that the visions which follow are connected with the vial judgments. The "one of the seven angels" may be the seventh angel, to whom it pertained to unfold the circumstances connected with the last judgment. Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment. Hither, δεῦρο, without the verb, as in Revelation 21:9 and John 11:43. Though this particular narration necessarily takes place after the account of the vials, yet we are not to understand that the events here related are subsequent to these related in the concluding verses of the previous chapter. Note the remarkable similarity between these words and these of Revelation 21:9, and the contrast between the bride, the wife of the Lamb, and the harlot who is connected with the beast. Wordsworth carries the comparison even to the form of words, thus -
The harlot and the beast.
Η πόρνη καὶ τὸ θηρίον
Η νύμφη καὶ τὸ ἀρνίον
The bride and the Lamb. Of the great whore; harlot (Revised Version). There seems no doubt that this figure describes the degenerate portion of the Church of God.
(1) As we have already seen, this symbolism is made use of by St. John to portray the faithlessness of those who are professedly servants of God (see Revelation 2:20; Revelation 14:4), and in this sense it is applied in the great majority of passages of Scripture where it occurs (cf. Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Ezekiel 16; Ezekiel 23; Hosea 2:5; Hosea 3:3; Hosea 4:15; Micah 1:7). In Isaiah 23, and Nahum 3:14 the term refers to Tyre and Nineveh respectively.
(2) There is an intended contrast between the bride and the Lamb, and the harlot who allies herself with the beast (vide supra).
(3) A contrast is also probably intended between the woman clothed with the sun (Revelation 12.), bringing forth the man child, Christ Jesus the Saviour - the representation of the pure Church - and the harlot clothed in scarlet, the mother of harlots and abominations - the representation of the faithless part of the Church.
(4) Both the woman of Revelation 12. and the harlot of this chapter reside in the wilderness, that is, this world (see on Revelation 12:14); indeed, they are to men sometimes indistinguishable (cf. the parable of the wheat and tares).
(5) The faithful Church, the bride, is called a city (Revelation 21:2, 9, 10); so the faithless portion of the Church, the harlot, is identified with the city Babylon (Revelation 11:8; Revelation 17:4, 5). Other coincidences will be noted as we proceed. But it seems equally impossible to accept the view that this faithless portion of the Church refers to papal Rome, and none other. We must include all the faithless of God's Church in all time. If the fulfilment is to be limited at all, it seems more reasonable to suppose that the first reference of St. John was to the faithless members of the seven Churches to which he addresses the Apocalypse. But we are, no doubt, intended to see here a picture of the position of the unfaithful part of the Church wherever it exists, at any time, and which men are certainly not able always to specify and judge. On this point see Professor Milligan's 'Baird Lectures' for 1885, on "The Revelation of St. John." In lect. 5. he says, "But Babylon is not the Church of Rome in particular. Deeply, no doubt, that Church has sinned. ... Yet the interpretation is false .... Babylon cannot be Christian Rome; and nothing has been more injurious to the Protestant Churches than the impression that the two were identical, and that, by withdrawing from communion with the pope, they wholly freed themselves from alliance with the spiritual harlot. Babylon embraces much more than Rome, and illustrations of what she is lie nearer our own door. Wherever professedly Christian men have thought the world's favour better than its reproach; wherever they have esteemed its honours a more desirable possession than its shame; wherever they have courted ease rather than welcomed suffering, have loved self indulgence rather than self sacrifice, and have substituted covetousness in grasping for generosity in distributing what they had, - there the spirit of Babylon has been manifested. In short, we have in the great harlot city neither the Christian Church as a whole, nor the Romish Church in particular, but all who anywhere within the Church profess to be Christ's 'little flock' and are not, denying in their lives the main characteristic by which they ought to be distinguished - that they 'follow' Christ." (For the distinction between the harlot and Babylon, see above.) That sitteth upon many waters. "The" is inserted in B and other manuscripts, probably on account of the reference in ver. 15, but is omitted in א, A, P, and others. This is the description of Babylon in Jeremiah 51:13, whence, doubtless, the expression is derived. In the place quoted, the sentence refers to the many canals of Babylon; but the interpretation of this passage is given in ver. 15, where the waters are stated to be "peoples." This fact sufficiently demonstrates that, though the imagery of the Apocalypse be taken from the Old Testament, it is not always safe to insist on an exactly similar interpretation; the symbols employed may be applied in an independent manner. That the harlot sits on many waters therefore shows us that the faithless portion of the Church is to be found distributed amongst "peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues."
With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
Verse 2. - With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. "Of the earth" is used here (as it frequently is) for the worldly as distinguished from the righteous; and the two classes mentioned indicate the universality of this faithlessness - it is not confined to any one grade of society. As we have seen (see on ver. 1 and Revelation 14:8), the figure of fornication is repeatedly used to describe faithlessness towards God. The verse, therefore, declares that this faithless portion of the Church has chosen rather to render to the world that love which is due to God, and to be connected rather with the powers of this world than to have its treasure in heaven. The expression, "wine of her fornication," is a repetition of that in Revelation 14:8, and is derived from Jeremiah 2:7 (cf. also Revelation 16:19 and Revelation 18:3).
So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
Verse 3. - So he carried me away in the spirit; and he carried, etc. (cf. Revelation 1:10 and Revelation 21:10). In the latter reference the analogy is sufficiently close to lead us to believe that it is intended. Into the wilderness; a wilderness, according to the Revised Version, which is the rendering of Wordsworth and others; but Alford strongly supports the Authorized Version rendering, notwithstanding the absence of the Greek article (see Alford, in loc.). Some commentators have thought that the "wilderness" signifies the desolation which is the lot of the harlot (see ver. 16; Revelation 18:2, 19; also Jeremiah 51:26). But we can hardly avoid the conclusion that the "wilderness" here is that spoken of in Revelation 12:6, 14, which is symbolical of this world, particularly when we remember that the "wilderness" in both cases is the abode of a woman, who moreover is representative of the Church; though in Revelation 12. she represents the Church of God as a whole, persecuted by Satan, and in this place the woman is representative of the faithless part of the Church (see also below on "beast"). Vitringa, referring to Isaiah 21:1, and Revelation 17:1, 15, and Ezekiel 20:35, arrives at a similar conclusion; it is a "wilderness of the people." And I saw a woman. There is no article, but this vision, occurring immediately after the words of ver. 1, "I will show thee... the great harlot," identifies this woman with the harlot of ver. 1. This woman represents the faithless portion of the Church (see on ver. 1); that part which, following after worldly things, has thereby rendered to the beast the love and honour due to God alone. This woman is not identical with the woman of Revelation 12. The latter represents the faithful, the former the faithless, part of the Church. Sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. Here again, as in "wilderness" (vide supra), we have θηρίον, "beast," without the article; but the identity of this "beast" with that of Revelation 13:1 is established by
(1) the same outward characteristics of names of blasphemy, seven heads and ten horns;
(2) its connection with "kings," etc. (vers. 12-14 and Revelation 19:19, 20);
(3) its connection with the "false prophet" (Revelation 13. and Revelation 19:20);
(4) its connection with the harlot - the one representing the world power, the other the faithless, worldly portion of the Church. That the woman sits upon the beast denotes, not that she exercises control and guidance over it (as Alford), for comp. ver. 16, but rather that the woman relies upon the beast for support and safety; thus presenting an accurate description of those who prefer to trust to the power and influence of the world rather than to God. Scarlet (whether the colour of the beast itself or of its trappings is immaterial) may signify either
(1) the worldly pre-eminence and power of which it is the sign, and for which the woman allies herself with the beast; or
(2) the blood-stained persecution of which the beast is the author. The first interpretation coincides best with the words which immediately follow; the second one agrees with the description in ver. 6 and Revelation 13:7. (On the "names of blasphemy," as signifying opposition to and rivalry with God, see on Revelation 13:1.) The seven heads denote universality of (earthly) dominion, and the ten horns denote plenitude of power (see on Revelation 13:1).
And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
Verse 4. - And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour. These words, taken in connection with those that follow, seem to signify the worldly magnificence which may be the portion of the faithless Christian. Some writers see an allusion to the purple robe of Christ. (On the meaning of "scarlet," see on ver. 3.) And decked with gold and precious stones and pearls; gilded with, etc. Similar descriptions are given in Ezekiel 16:13 and Ezekiel 28:13. Compare the description in Revelation 21:11. This account is sufficiently characteristic of the world's attractions to need no comment. Having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication; full of abominations, even the unclean things of, etc. (Revised Version), the Authorized Version reading being placed in the margin. Another reference to Jeremiah 51:7 (cf. also Revelation 14:10). Abominations are all things that are displeasing to God. (On "fornication," see on Revelation 14:8 and Revelation 17:1, 2; it signifies unfaithfulness towards God.)
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Verse 5. - And upon her forehead was a name written. Omit "was." Ὄνομα, "name," is dependent upon ἔχουσα, "having," in ver. 4. This practice was customary with harlots (Juv., 'Sat.,' 6:123; Seneca, 'Controv.,' 1:2). In Revelation 14:1 and Revelation 7:3 the faithful members of God's Church have his Name in their foreheads; here the faithless ones, represented by the harlot, exhibit a spurious imitation. As God's Name marked the former as his, so the name Babylon, etc., marks the latter as belonging to the world (see on Revelation 16:19; 17:5; 18:2). The name consists of the words following, to the end of the verse. MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. The word "MYSTERY" may be
(1) part of the name, standing coordinately with "BABYLON" (Alford, Bleek, Hengstenberg, Vitringa, Wordsworth);
(2) a description of the following title, being thus in apposition with ὅνομα, "name" (Auberlin, De Wette, Dusterdieck, Ebrard);
(3) an adverb used in the same sense as in the last case (Stuart). Whichever view be taken, there can be no doubt that the purpose is to draw attention to the fact which is contained in the following words - a fact which might otherwise be exceedingly difficult to receive. For the rest of the verso asserts that the harlot is Babylon; that is, that the worldly portion of the Church, though nominally Christian, is in reality identical with the world, which is openly antagonistic to God. Indeed, the latter portion of the verse goes even further than this. This faithless (though outwardly Christian) portion of Christ's Church is the mother, that is, the cause of the existence of unfaithfulness to God. So true is it that the professing Christian who is worldly minded does more to cause in others disobedience and unfaithfulness to God, than he who openly declares himself in opposition to God, and even persecutes the faithful; cf. the words to the Church in Laodicea, "I would thou went cold or hot" (Revelation 3:15). (On "ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH," see on ver. 4.)
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
Verse 6. - And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; of the witnesses (cf. Revelation 11:7). Another point of contrast between this woman and the woman of Revelation 12; the former persecutes, the latter is persecuted. It may be asked - How can these words be applied to professing Christians, as they must be, if such be the interpretation of the "harlot"? The answer may be found in Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 2:33, 34 and Jeremiah 3:1-11 we find the origin of this passage. Judah is a harlot (Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1, 8) with a sign upon her forehead (Jeremiah 3:3), who causes transgression in others (Jeremiah 2:33; and compare above, "Mother of harlots "), and in whose "skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents" (Jeremiah 2:34). She is clothed in crimson (Jeremiah 4:30) and golden ornaments (cf. Revelation 17:4); her lovers will despise her (Jeremiah 4:30) and seek her life (cf. Revelation 17:16). Just as it was declared that in Judah was found the blood of the innocent poor, so here we are told that the faithless part of the Church is guilty of the blood of the saints. The reason is found in the inscription. The harlot is absolutely identified with Babylon. No distinction in guilt can be allowed between the openly hostile world and the faithless Christian. "He that is not with me," God declares, "is against me" (Matthew 12:20). The description "drunken with," etc., is similar to that of Babylon in Revelation 18:2; and also in Jeremiah 51:7. And when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration; with a great wonder (Revised Version). Probably because the seer can scarcely realize that some who are professing Christians must be held guilty of such enormities; that the harlot, representing a portion of the Church, faithless even though it be, should be classed with the world, as represented by Babylon and the beast. Perhaps the wonder is caused by the fact that such a thing should ever be permitted to be; this leading to the following explanation, which shows how the unfaithfulness is avenged.
And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
Verse 7. - And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? did thou wonder? — the same word as in ver. 6. Though the seer cannot fully comprehend the terrible significance of the sign he sees, viz. that a portion of the Church is one with the hostile world (see on ver. 6), yet there are sufficient marks wherewith to identify it. The woman, the wilderness, the reliance upon the world power, the inscription, the similar description of Judah in Jeremiah 2 and 3. (see on ver. 6), might have made the interpretation plain. I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns; the ten horns (cf. ver. 5, which declares that this essential unity is a mystery). Observe, too, that the "mystery of the woman and of the beast" is all one. (On the "beast," "the seven heads," and "the ten horns." see on previous verses, especially Revelation 13:1.) In ver. 1 the harlot is said to sit on the waters; here the beast carries her. The two statements are really identical; both the beast and the waters represent the worldly power found among "peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues" (ver. 14).
The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
Verse 8. - The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition; and is about to come up out of the abyss (Revised Version). "And to go" (ὑπάγειν) is read in א, B. P, Vulgate, and almost all cursives; while ὑπάγει, "he goeth," is found in A, 12, Arethas, Irenaeus. The latter part of this passage is related again in Revelation 19:20. The beast, as we have seen is the world power - Satan in his character of "prince of this world." Three stages are marked out in the existence of this world power: first, it was; second, it is not now; thirdly, it reappears, to be cast into perdition. The first period describes the condition of things before the sacrifice of Christ. Then it was that Satan ruled supreme in the world; that the power of the world - the beast - was. But Christ overcame the world (John 16:33); henceforth to all true believers there is "peace," although they may "have tribulation" in the world (John 16:33); for the faithful Christian the power of the world - the beast - is not. Yet, though for the true servant of God there is a sense in which it may be said that this power has no existence, it nevertheless exists in the abyss, that is, in its natural abiding place in the world, among the worldly minded, and thus may cause "tribulation" to the faithful. A further downfall is, therefore, prepared for it - that which will take place at the last day, when it "will ascend from the abyss to go into perdition." This nonexistence, contemporaneously with existence and subsequent reappearance, is exactly what is described in the wound healed (Revelation 13:3; see also the remainder of this verse). The period, therefore, embraced in these words is that of the whole existence of this world. It coincides with the period referred to in Revelation 12:14 and 17, and in Revelation 20:3. Throughout the Apocalypse the word ἄβυσσος, translated "bottomless pit" (Authorized Version) and "abyss" (Revised Version), is used to describe the dwelling place of Satan (see Revelation 9:1, 2, 11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 20:1, 3) while working in the world. "Perdition" is described in Revelation 19:20 as the "lake of fire burning with brimstone." And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is; whose name hath not been written upon the book... beast, how that he was, and is not, and shall be present. The last words show exactly what is meant in the first part of the verse (which see). The first words are a repetition of words in Revelation 13:8 (which see).
And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
Verse 9. - And here is the mind which hath wisdom. Omit "and." Read, Here is the mind (or, meaning), etc. These words (as in Revelation 13:18) draw attention to the explanation which follows - or else that which precedes (cf. Revelation 13:18). They also make it appear that the explanation which the angel offers of the "mystery" is not one to be understood without some difficulty. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. The diversity of opinions on the interpretation of this passage is mainly owing to the fact that writers are not consistent in their application of symbols and numbers; in one place interpreting figuratively, in another literally. We have repeatedly seen that the language of the Apocalypse and its numbers are symbolical. The seals are not literal seals, the Lamb is not a literal Lamb, the beast is not a literal beast, etc. So here, the mountains are not literal mountains. A mountain is a symbol of power (see on Revelation 8:8); seven is the number significant of universality (see on Revelation 1:4; 5:1, etc.). The plain meaning of the passage, therefore, is that the woman relies upon a visibly universal power. This is precisely the idea contained in ver. 3, which describes the faithless part of the Church (the harlot) trusting to the power of the world (the beast). Of course, the most prominent form of this world power in St. John's time was heathen Rome, hence some writers believe that "the seven-hilled city," Rome, is referred to here - either pagan or papal Rome. And, indeed, this may be a partial fulfilment of the vision; but it is not the whole signification. To understand seven mountains literally in this place renders it necessary to interpret forty-two weeks, etc., literally in another.
And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
Verse 10. - And there are seven kings; and they are. Here we have the same idea (cf. ver 9), with a somewhat different aspect. The phrase in ver. 9, "seven mountains," regarded the world power as one universal indivisible whole, without respect to particular times or modes in which it might be exhibited. In this phrase, "seven kings," we have the same world power viewed in its successive exhibitions by different nations; though here again we must be on our guard not to interpret the number seven literally of seven nations. The kings represent Worldly states or kingdoms; seven, again, betokens universality. We are thus told that this world power on which the woman relies is exhibited in the manifestation of power by successive nations, e.g. Egyptian, Assyrian, Roman, etc., as many as have ever existed or shall exist; for this is the meaning of seven. Five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; the five; the one; the other. Omit "and." Here, again, not literally five. The seer divides the whole series of antitheistic world powers into three groups, and he would say, some, probably the majority, of these are passed away; the second group embraces the world power as it is exhibited now, whether Roman, Jewish, or any other; in the third group are included those yet to come. Thus those writers who enumerate Egypt, Nineveh, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Syria, etc., in the first group, are partially correct, and only wrong in so far as they attempt to limit and define the kingdoms; and similarly also those who in the third group place the Roman empire after the barbarian invasions, or imperial Germany, etc. And when he cometh, he must continue a short space; a little while (Revised Version). This "short space" describes the remainder of the time of the world's existence. Such is its meaning in Revelation 6:11 and Revelation 12:12, and again in Revelation 20:3. In a similar manner, also, "shortly come to pass," etc. (Revelation 1:1, 3; Revelation 2:5, 16, etc.; cf also John 16:17, 28).
And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
Verse 11. - And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition; and the beast (neuter, θηρίον) that was and is not, he himself is also an eighth (masculine), and is of (ἐκ, out of) the seven, etc. We may note
(1) that "eighth" refers to "king" in ver. 10, being masculine gender;
(2) the absence of the article before ὄγδος, "eighth," shows that this is not the eighth in a successive series, in which the kings already mentioned form the first seven. The Revised Version probably gives the correct meaning, "is of the seven;" that is, the beast himself consists of, and is formed by, what has been denoted by the seven kings. We have already interpreted the beast as the worldly power - Satan in his capacity of "prince of this world." We have also shown that the "seven kings" describes this worldly power as it exists throughout all ages. This verse, therefore, sums up and reasserts briefly what has been already virtually intimated in the symbolism employed, viz. that the beast is the sum total of what has been described under the form of five kings, then one king, and then one king again (ver. 10). His final doom is also reasserted, "he goeth into perdition" (cf. ver. 8 and Revelation 19:20)
And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
Verse 12. - And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet. The horns, as we have seen, are symbolical of power (see on Revelation 13:1), and ten signifies completeness and sufficiency (Revelation 13:1). By the ten horns, therefore, is expressed widespread, complete power. But this power, says the seer, has not come into existence as yet. He thus points to a coming power, hostile to God, such as is described in that part of the account of the seven kings which states "the other is not yet come" (ver. 10). If; seems probable, therefore, that in describing the forces opposed to God - those past, those present, and those yet to come - St. John foresees that the hostile world power will not be always pre-eminently wielded by one nation, as in his own time; but will be divided into many parts, here represented by the number ten, though not necessarily exactly ten in number. This, indeed, exactly describes what has really been the case since St. John's time, and what, humanly speaking, seems likely to continue to the end of the world. These ten horns seem thus to be identical with the seventh king of ver. 10. Compare the account given of the horns in Daniel 7. But receive power as kings one hour with the beast; authority (Revised Version). One hour denotes "a short time," in which way the Bible constantly describes the period of the world's existence, and especially that period which intervenes between the time of the writer and the judgment day (cf. Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 7:29; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 12:12; Revelation 22:20, etc.). This sentence thus declares that, though in the future divided into many parts, and thus not being visibly as potential as former single united kingdoms, nevertheless this hostile world power will be still formidable, having ranged itself on the side of the beast, acting for and with him, and receiving power from him. Ver 13. - These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast; they give (present tense) their power and authority, etc. That is, though apparently split up into many sections, they form practically one, acting by and for the beast on whose side they range themselves (see on ver. 32).
These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
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 are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Verse 14. - These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them; shall war against. This connects the description with Revelation 16:34 and with Revelation 19:11-21. This war between the Lamb and the powers of evil is that which extends throughout the history of the world (vide infra); it occupies the "one hour" of ver. 12, which is equivalent to the period of the world's existence. But the seer in this verse looks forward also to the termination of the conflict, the result of which, here briefly indicated, is soon to be narrated more fully. For he is Lord of lords, and King of kings. This is the reason given to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 10:17) for obedience to God (cf. also Daniel 2:47; 1 Timothy 6:15; and Revelation 19:16). Though the beast may exercise m this world dominion and power as "prince of this world," yet the Lamb is King still greater, to whom the beast must finally succumb. He is thus King above the kings of Revelation 17:2, 10. And they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. The Revised Version is more correct, And they that are with him, called and chosen and faithful [shall also overcome]. Another evidence of the lifelong nature of this war. Not only Christ wars and overcomes, but those associated with him are permitted to share in the battle and the victory. Christ's saints are called here to battle; in Revelation 19:9 they are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb (cf. also the exhortation to faithfulness in Revelation 2:10). The three epithets describe the progressive life of those who share Christ's victory They are called - as all men are - to serve him; having heard the call, they dedicate their lives to his service, and become his chosen servants; finally, having remained faithful to him, they share in his victory.
And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
Verse 15. - And he saith unto me. As in ver. 7, these words form the preface to a particular description. Having explained the mystery of the beast, to whom the woman looks for support, the angel now proceeds to unfold the mystery of the harlot herself. The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth; viz. those mentioned in ver. 1. In ver. 7 we are told that the beast carries the woman. Both statements are correct. The beast is the world power, which is found among the "peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues." Are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues, The fourfold description of the human race (cf. Revelation 5:9, etc.), which, as a whole, serves the beast (cf. Revelation 13:3, 8, 12, 16), and out of which are selected the redeemed (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 9:9).
And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
Verse 16. - And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast; and the ten horns which thou sawest, and the beast. There is no authority for the ἐπι τὸ θηρίον of Erasmus except the Vulgate, in bestia, and, of course, the description given of the beast (Revelation 13:1, etc,). The two are spoken of separately, on account of the separate juris diction wielded according to vers. 32, 13. These shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire; and shall burn her utterly with fire (Revised Version). These words describe the fate in store for the faithless portion of the Church. That world, to which she trusts, shall turn and rend her - a fitting sequel to her want of faith in the power of Christ. This is exactly the description given of the harlot in Ezekiel 16:37 (cf. also Ezekiel 23:22). "Eat her flesh" and "burn with fire" both describe similar results; possibly the one is thought of in connection with the symbol of "harlot," the other with the symbol of "city," with which the harlot is identical (see on ver. 5; but see Genesis 38:24; Leviticus 21:9; cf. also the judgment upon the wicked rich in James 5:3, "shall eat your flesh as it were fire").
For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Verse 17. - For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled; God did put... to do his mind, and to come to one mind (Revised Version). "His mind" is thought by Bengel, De Wette, and Dusterdieck to signify the beast's mind. Others understand God's mind. In either ease the general sense is plain. While the world power is apparently performing the will of the beast, God is working above all; only by his permission can anything be done (cf. the "it was given" of Revelation 13.). The "words of God" are his denunciations against those who trust to the world (cf. Ezekiel 16:37, quoted on ver. 16).
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Verse 18. - And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. A repetition of the assertion made in ver. 5, viz. that the harlot and Babylon are identical (see on ver. 5). Many writers have been led by this verse to believe that Rome, either pagan or papal, is thus pointed out as the antitype of the harlot. That this is one fulfilment of the vision need hardly be doubted. Rome was in St. John's time the foremost embodiment of the hostile forces of the world. But this is not the whole fulfilment, which is in all time (see above, especially on ver. 1 of this chapter).