And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying to me, Come here…
I. THE WOMAN.
1. Her position, which was indicative of power. John saw her seated upon a beast, "dreadful, and terrible, and strong exceedingly"; for so, in the book of Daniel, we find him described. Again, it was a position indicative of hostility to God. For the beast on which the woman sat was "full of names of blasphemy." Then it was a position indicative of the unsightliness of vice. What a hideous monster was this beast, "having seven heads and ten horns"; and how strange was the picture presented to the apostle's view of "the great whore," as seated upon him. Here, too, was a position indicative of cruelty towards men, as well as of hostility towards God. The beast on which she sat was scarlet-coloured, betokening war and bloodshed. It was a position, nevertheless, of allurement and seduction. For she was seen as one who had in her hand "a golden cup," too successfully held forth to "the inhabitants of the earth," who are represented as having been "made drunk with the wine of her fornication." Her position once more was that of a deceiver and destroyer. The cup held forth was "golden." But its contents, as seen by the apostle — what were they? It was "full of abominations," etc.
2. Her attire. "The woman was arrayed in purple, and scarlet-coloured," indicative of her real dignity; "and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls" — illustrative of her vast wealth. How many, beholding a female thus adorned, would at once wish to occupy her place! Yet such might be arrayed on earth in purple, and fail of being hereafter arrayed in white in heaven. Instead of wishing to be "decked with gold and precious stones," such as John saw glittering on "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth," let the heart go after that "redemption of the soul" which is "precious, and ceaseth for ever."
3. Her names.
(1) "Mystery." Such she would have been to John but for the angel's explanation. Such, even with that explanation, she to certain extent remained to him. And such she was destined to remain to the Church of God through a long succession of ages. Let it be observed, however, that inquiry into the import of the vision was, as it were, challenged by the angel who showed this "woman" to John. We do not, therefore, act unbecomingly in endeavouring to ascertain what this "woman" was destined to represent to the apostle.
(2) "Babylon the Great." In having this name inscribed upon her "forehead, she was exhibited to the apostle in a vaunting attitude, and as under the influence of a spirit, similar to that of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30). Elsewhere, too, in this book we find her displaying a boastful and vainglorious temper of mind (Revelation 18:7). This should be a lesson to us not to be high-minded, as the possessors of either worldly or religious distinctions.
(3) "The mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth." This was indeed to have "a whore's forehead," and to be, as the Jewish nation was once charged with being, one that "refused to be ashamed." Behold the woman with unblushing effrontery proclaiming to the world her character and misdoings; and see, m her, the foreshowing of those "latter times," in which "doctrines of devils" shall be promulgated, and "men, giving heed to seducing spirits, shall depart from the faith"; times when there shall be a "forbidding to marry." It would seem that in this way Babylon the Great is destined to become "the mother of harlots" — namely, by an authoritative prohibition of the nuptial tie; a doing away with marriage throughout the wide extent of her dominion, and a consequent abandonment of society to general dissoluteness.
4. Her condition. "And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints," etc. What spectacle was this! fitted to awaken in his bosom feelings at once of disgust and horror. How fearful an amount of persecuting rage against the Church of God, as destined to become apparent in the days of the ascendency of "Babylon the Great," was thus prophetically indicated to him! And of what an amount of suffering, on the part of the saints, and of the witnesses for Jesus, was he thus made aware beforehand.
II. THE BEAST.
1. His colour. A scarlet-coloured beast. What did this indicate? Perhaps, his regal character. We are forewarned that he will be a king of widely-extended rule. In another vision John saw "power given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations." "And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." We conclude, then, that in being foreshown to John as a scarlet-coloured beast, the regal character of the Man of sin may have been prophetically indicated, and in particular his character, as vicegerent on earth, of the "great red dragon" (Revelation 12:3). But it is more probable that, in presenting him thus to the view of the apostle, the Divine purpose may have been to foreshow to the Christian world the character of antichrist, as a warrior and persecutor of the Church of God. Such he most certainly will be. As a scarlet-coloured beast he might be very fitly presented to view — a monster dyed, as it were, in blood — when it is considered that the time of his ascendency will be "a time of trouble such as never was, since there was a nation to that same time" (compare Revelation 12:12; Daniel 12:1), and "except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved." Power was given to him to make war forty-and-two months — no longer. Then he was, as foreshown to John, "cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone."
2. His names. "He was full of names of blasphemy," which make us, as they made the apostle, aware that antichrist, when he shall come, besides "wearing out the saints," will "speak great words against the Most High" — "marvellous things against the God of gods." In times long gone he was foreshown to the prophet Daniel as one who would act thus. It will be one special end of his mission, as Satan's prime minister in the world, to blaspheme.
3. His figure. He had "seven heads and ten horns," and must, hence, have presented to the apostle an aspect at once singular, hideous, and terrible — indicative, however, of large intelligence and vast power.
4. His manifestation, contemporaneously with that of "Babylon the Great." Together they will flourish — together they will fall. The day of power to both will be one and the same. The day of doom also.
5. His subservience to her exaltation and advancement. She is seated on him. He "carrieth her." Her prosperity, glory, and dominion will be consequent on, and commensurate with, his own.
III. THE APOSTLE'S WONDER AT THE SPECTACLE. "And when I saw her I wondered with great admiration." But John was rebuked on account of the "great admiration" with which he "wondered" at the woman on whom he was looking. He writes, "And the angel said unto me, wherefore didst thou marvel?" What you have now before you is not, in itself, a spectacle that ought to be wondered at, as it now is, by you. And, even if the world will wonder at it, should you do so? "They shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life, from the foundation of the world" (ver. 8). But "wherefore shouldst thou marvel?"
IV. THE ANGEL'S PROMISE TO JOHN. "I will tell thee the mystery of the woman." This vision was granted to the apostle for the purpose of instruction, not of mere entertainment. The angel will unfold the mystery to him. The promised revelation, however, of all to him, a holy man of God and a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, is in accordance with what we read elsewhere (Psalm 25:14).
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: