Revelation 17:7
"Why are you astonished?" said the angel. "I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and ten horns.
A Picture of Moral ErrorD. Thomas Revelation 17:7-13
A Picture of Moral ErrorD. Thomas, D. D.Revelation 17:7-14
The Army of the LambA. Roberts, M. A.Revelation 17:7-14
The Great Moral CampaignD. Thomas, D. D.Revelation 17:7-14
The Overcoming LambC. H. Wetherbe.Revelation 17:7-14
The Royal ChristC. Conway, B. A.Revelation 17:7-14
War and ConquestW. S. Edwards.Revelation 17:7-14

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, etc. Whilst to the eye of the Infinite the greatest cities of the world, the mightiest empires, the most stupendous productions of human art are as nothing, and less than nothing, "vanity," those great moral principles which are the expressions of his own nature, the laws that control the destinies of moral mind, are of transcendent import. What are Egypt, Babylon, Rome, Paris, St. Petersburg, New York, London, etc., to him? Shifting clouds, melting into infinite space; little bubbles, rising from and breaking into the ever changing, ever rolling stream of time. But justice, truth, love, - what are these? As real, as changeless, as lasting, as God himself. Hence it is that in going through this Apocalypse I all but ignore the fanciful and conflicting interpretations presented by what are called Evangelical expositors, and concern myself with those two principles, good and evil, that touch the spring of all human activities. Looking at these verses as an illustration of moral error, three things are observable.

I. ITS HISTORY IS MARVELLOUS. John, in his vision, seems to have wondered at this vision of the "mother of harlots," riding on the beast with "seven heads and ten horns." "The angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel [wonder]?" (ver. 7). Evil is indeed a "marvel," a wonder. It is mysterious on several accounts.

1. On account of the darkness that enfolds its introduction. When thinking of the introduction of moral evil, there are tour questions which we ask with intense anxiety, but to which we seek a satisfactory solution in vain.

(1) When did it arise? A commencement it must have had. Evil is not eternal; there is but one Eternal Being in the universe, and he is "glorious in holiness." Evil, then, had a beginning; but when? Who shall tell the morning when the first dark cloud rose upon the bright firmament of moral mind? Who shall tell when the first breath of sin ruffled the peaceful atmosphere of God's creation? The events of that morning are not chronicled in the annals of our world.

(2) How did it rise? There are two principles on which we can account for the prevalence of sin amongst men now - internal tendencies and external circumstances. Man now has a strong disposition to sin, so that as soon as he begins to act he begins to sin, and then the outward circumstances under which he is brought up tempt him to wrong. To the latter we refer the introduction of sin into our world. Adam had no unholy tendencies, but an external force was brought to bear upon his holy nature, which turned him from rectitude. But the first sinner, whoever he might be, had neither this internal tendency nor the external circumstances. All within and without, above, beneath, and around, was in favour of holiness. The whole current of inner feeling and the mighty tide of outward events were all flowing in favour of perfect purity. How could a being sin in such circumstances? How could he strike a discordant note amongst such harmonies? How could he rise up against and conquer all the mighty influences which were in favour of holiness? How could he lift his nature against the Eternal and "defy the Omnipotent to arms"? All is mystery.

(3) Where did it arise? In what province of the universe? Amidst what order of intelligences?

(4) And then, why did it arise? Omniscience must have foreseen it, and all the evil consequences that must start out from it. Almightiness could have prevented it. Why did he allow it to enter? Oh, why?

2. On account of the mask under which it works. Evil never appears in its own true character. Dishonesty wears the aspect of rectitude; falsehood speaks the language of truth; selfishness has the voice of benevolence; profanity robes itself in the garb of sanctity; the "prince of darkness" appears like an angel of light. The most monstrous deeds that have been perpetrated under these heavens have been done in the name of religion. The Alexanders and the Caesars of this world have fought their sanguinary battles, and reared their empires upon slaughtered nations in the name of religion. The popes of the world have erected their iron throne upon the soul of Christendom in the name of religion. The persecutors of the world have invented their Inquisitions, built their dungeons, and kindled their fires in the name of religion. Ah me! the Son of God himself was put to death in the name of religion. Wrong is necessarily hypocritical.

3. On account of the wonderful issues that will result from it. Results will spring from evil which the originators and agents never designed, nay, which they would dread. The introduction of sin became the occasion of a new and brighter manifestation of God. All the glorious developments of Divine justice and love and power which we have in Christ owe their existence to evil. Evil has done an immense injury to the universe, but I believe that in the long run of ages it will be found to have been overruled for a greater good.

II. ITS COURSE IS LAMENTABLE. "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit [is about to come out of the abyss], and go into perdition" (ver. 8). What meaneth this? The Roman emperors, especially Nero, is the answer of some. My answer is deeper, broader, more practical. It is moral error; that which originated all that was bad in Rome, in Babylon, ay, and in the world and ages throughout. Moral error is the beastifying force in human nature; it makes men beasts everywhere. Its beginning and end are lamentable; it rises from the "bottomless pit," from the fathomless abysses of impure lusts, ravenous greed, burning ambition, sensual yearnings, impious irreverences, and blasphemous assumptions, etc. Its end is lamentable. It leads to "perdition," to ruin. The course of moral error is like the course of the meteor, which, rising from the abysses of the sulphurous cloud, flashes across the concave heavens, and then falls into darkness and forgetfulness. "Lust, when it conceiveth, bringeth forth sin; sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." "The wages of sin is death" - the death of everything that gives value to life; the death of an approving conscience, pure friendships, bright hopes, etc. What a glorious contrast is the course of moral truth to this! "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Light is the emblem of intelligence, purity, and blessedness. The march of the good is like the march of the sun.

1. Glorious. How glorious is the sun as it rises in the morning, tinging the distant hills with beauty, at noon flooding the earth with splendour, in evening fringing the clouds with rich purple, crimson, and gold!

2. Commanding. The sun is the ruler of the day; at his appearance the world wakens from its slumbers; the winds and waves obey him; as he moves, all nature moves.

3. Useful. The sun enlightens the system and maintains harmony throughout every part. It renews the earth, quickens the seeds into life, covers the landscape with beauty, ripens the harvest for man and beast.

4. Independent. Troops of black clouds may roll over the earth, but they touch not the sun; furious storms may shake the globe, but the sun is beyond their reach. It is always behind the darkest clouds, and looks calmly down upon the ocean in fury and the earth in a tempest.

5. Certain. The sun is never out of time; it is ever in its place at the right hour. In all this it is the emblem of the good.

III. ITS SUPPORTS ARE UNSTABLE. "And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the [is himself also an] eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition" (ver. 11). This "mother of harlots" (the emblem of corrupt Christianity) is here represented as sitting "on the beast with seven heads and ten horns." The seven heads are "seven mountains" (vers. 9, 10). What mountains? The seven hills on which Rome was built, is the answer of popular expositors. There are "seven kings." Who are these kings, five of whom are gone, one remaining and waiting for another - who are they? One expositor suggests that "the reference is rather to seven great monarchies, five of which, viz. Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Macedon, had fallen before the time of St. John. The pagan empire of the Roman Caesars then existing would be the sixth, the papal power might be the seventh, and the last form of antichrist the eighth." I confess my utter inability to give any verbal interpretation agreeable to the dictates of common sense or the conditions of spiritual culture. The one idea which it suggests to me and serves to illustrate is that the supports of moral evil are unstable. Moral evil in our world has its supports. Many seem strong as "seven mountains," mighty as "seven kings," and more, but all are shifting and transitory. Many have been and are not, some have risen and have passed away, others in their course have come and will disappear. This has been the history of moral evil in our world. Many of the arguments that have sustained it from time to time have appeared as settled and imposing as mountains, as gorgeous and majestic as kings; but "mountains have fallen and come to nought," and even imperial bulwarks have disappeared as visions of the night. So it has been, so it is, and so it must be to the end. Moral error has no lasting foundation. Its superstructures are not houses on the rocks, but on shifting sands. Whether it appears in the form of thrones, governments, churches, colleges, markets, it stands nowhere but on volcanic hills. They may be clad in loveliest verdure and enriched with the choicest fruit, but fires lie beneath them which will rive them to pieces and engulf in ruin all that have stood and flourished above. - D.T.

I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her.

1. On account of the darkness that enfolds its introduction.

2. On account of the mask under which it works.

3. On account of the wonderful issues that will result from it.


1. It rises from the "bottomless pit" — the fathomless abysses of impure lusts, ravenous greed, burning ambition, sensual yearnings, impious irreverences, blasphemous assumptions, etc.

2. It leads to "perdition" — ruin.

III. ITS SUPPORTS ARE UNSTABLE. Many of the arguments that have sustained it from time to time have appeared as settled and imposing as mountains, as gorgeous and majestic as kings; but "mountains have fallen and come to nought," and even imperial bulwarks have disappeared as visions of the night. So it has been, so it is, and so it must be to the end.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them. —
I. THE OPPOSING FORCES. Look abroad upon the earth. What a pandemonium of vice and crime, injustice and cruelty, heathenism and superstition it is. Oh, how mighty and multiplied the antagonist hosts! They are mustered and marshalled; they are eager for the strife of the battle, they confront us at every step; and the great question is this, Can they be overcome? Must we lay down our arms in despair! Is the world to become no better?

II. THE OPPOSING FORCES VANQUISHED. The Lamb will overcome them.

1. By the interpositions and changes of Providence. God has a purpose, the world is to be converted, and all things are working to accomplish that end; but God's way is in the sea, and His path in the mighty waters; He is the real, though invisible, ruler, both of matter and of mind. The laws of providence are just as Divine in their appointments and results as the laws of nature. All things work to usher in the day predicted by the angel's song, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."

2. By the preaching of His own truth and the outpouring of His Holy Spirit. Preaching is the appointment of heaven.

3. By the indomitable zeal and energy of His own followers. As the conflict advances, one shall chase a thousand and two shall put ten thousand to flight. In all ages God has carried on His work by the zeal, energy, and courage of His faithful servants. He did it even in the ages of miracles, He will do it till the world is saved; and why shrink from the task His benevolence appoints? Have we had no success? Did not Wesley and Whitfield arouse all England and North America to the worth of the gospel and the importance of eternal things? Are we faithful to the cause of the Lamb? Might He not reproach us for our doubts and fears? Where is the faith which wrought those moral wonders in the apostolic age?

(W. S. Edwards.)

A Lamb, and yet "Lord of lords, and King of kings." The ideas seem incongruous. How, then, is "the Lamb" this?

1. By rightful authority. Though Son of Man, He is also Son of God (cf. Psalm 2.)

2. By virtue of His sacrifice (chap. Revelation 4.; cf. Philippians 3.), "Therefore hath God highly exalted Him, and," etc.

3. By the might of meekness. See how at His nativity the shepherds were told they should see the "Saviour, Christ the Lord." Meekness is might, sacrifice is sovereignty, losing life is gaining it; the cross creates the crown.

4. By the consent of conscience.

5. By the grace he imparted to His people. "Their patient continuance in well-doing put to silence" all their foes.

6. In His people. "They that are with Him." The Revised Version rightly renders St. John's words, "They also shall overcome that are with Him, called, chosen, faithful." St. John does not teach that the Lamb was indebted to them for this victory as a general is indebted to his army. They are —


(2)Chosen. But thus we may know if we be chosen:

(3)If we be of those who are faithful. Called we are; chosen we may be.

II. faithful, then we are of the chosen too; and this, and this only, is the proof.

(C. Conway, B. A.)


1. The one is represented as a "beast." Emblem of the mighty aggregate of wrong in all its elements and operations: wrong in theories and in institutions, wrong in sentiments and habits, wrong as imposing as seven mountains and as majestic as kings or empires, wrong sitting as empress over all nations and peoples and tongues.

2. The other is represented as a "Lamb" — emblem of innocence, mildness, and purity.


1. The conqueror. The Lamb, though not a bellicose existence, is

(1)Invested with the highest authority.

(2)Followed by a noble army.

2. The conquered.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. THE PERSON MENTIONED. He is not a lamb, but the Lamb. He is the great universal Lamb, causing the blood which He shed to spread itself, as it were, all over the world, so that every sinner might touch it and be saved from his sins.

II. WHAT HE SHALL OVERCOME. All opposers, both nations and individuals.

III. HOW HE SHALL OVERCOME HIS OPPOSERS. There are two general methods —

1. That of using certain means to persuade rebellious hearts to become reconciled to God. His greatest effort has always been to overcome by the passion of His love.

2. That of final banishment from His presence. Oh, what can feeble man do against such an all-powerful being as Christ is? How utterly vain have been the threats of infidels, that they would banish Him from the world.

(C. H. Wetherbe.)

And they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful
This is a description of the best appointed army that was ever brought into the field — the army of Christ Jesus. It has been the presumptuous boast of many earthly generals that their soldiers were invincible — such as no enemy could overthrow. This may, however, be with truth affirmed of this army. They carry, as it were, this inscription on their banners, "Conquering and to conquer!"

I. THE CAPTAIN OF THIS HOST OF THE LORD. The success of every ordinary army depends mainly, under God, upon the skill and valour of its general. But of this spiritual army it may with truth be said that every hope of victory they have arises altogether from Him who leads them to the battle. They have an Almighty leader at their head, One whose presence insures victory to all His followers. In the former part of the verse this "Captain of the Lord's host" is called by two different titles, which seem, at first sight, scarcely reconcilable.

1. One of these titles is, "the Lamb" — a name which might seem, at first, little suited to the leader of an army. But what does the term signify in the case of Him to whom it is applied? Not that He is weak and feeble as the tender animal which bears this name. But He is a "Lamb" in reference to the death He died for His people, when He was "led as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is dumb before its shearers so He opened not His mouth." It is a title, too, of endearment. The Lamb is not more meek and gentle than He is to His faithful followers.

2. But if the epithet "Lamb" represents His gentleness and tenderness towards His people and the death which He has died for them, He has another name which describes, as strikingly, His majesty and power — "Lord of lords and King of kings."

II. HIS SOLDIERS. "They that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful."

1. They are "called" — just as the soldiers of an earthly army are enlisted for the service. The soldiers of an earthly warfare were called into the ranks they fill from very different occupations: some from the shop, some from the plough. Christ's soldiers, too, were very differently occupied when the call of grace was given them. They were then mere children of the world, "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind" — each busily occupied in his own favourite and cherished sins. Various, too, were the circumstances under which the call was given to them, and various the means employed by the great Captain of salvation to make them hear that call. But in every case it was the Saviour's "Follow Me!" which brought His soldiers to His side.

2. They are not "called" only, but "chosen." There is a difference, even in earthly armies, between being called and being chosen, between being merely enlisted and being what is called "picked men," men in whom the general can place his confidence. Look at Gideon's army (Judges 7:1-7). Two-and-thirty thousand then were called; three hundred only chosen. It is just thus in the camp of Jesus. What multitudes flock into it! But how many of all these become in after life true soldiers of the Cross? Alas! but a small remnant; for "many are called, but few are chosen." But they that are really with the Saviour, and who constitute His "Church militant here on earth," are, all of them, "picked men." Whatever exploits Christ's soldiers may perform when they have entered on the fight of faith, "by the grace of God they are what they are."

3. They are faithful. The word may be taken in two senses, in each of which it is equally applicable to the armies of the Living God.(1) They are "faithful" inasmuch as they are full of faith and confidence in the Captain of their salvation. The soldiers of the Lamb of God place their entire confidence in the Commander whom they follow.(2) A man is said to be faithful who lives up to his engagements, and who adheres with constancy and perseverance to the person whose service he has undertaken. Faithfulness, in this understanding of the word, is most essential to the character of a good soldier. One part of his faithfulness consists in his remaining true to his commander until he be disbanded or dismissed. To run from his colours, or desert the service of his king and country, is amongst the soldier's greatest crimes. In this point, too, the soldiers of the Lord are faithful. "They follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth," and nothing shall ever separate them from His love and from His service.

(A. Roberts, M. A.).

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