Revelation 17
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
We read her name, "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." Now, the whole idea of the sinful opposition to God is gathered together in a unit. It is a city; it is a woman. We must forsake all guides, and declare our conviction that Babylon means neither Christian nor heathen Rome, nor any other city, kingdom, or state in particular; but the one kingdom of evil manifesting itself in many kingdoms and systems, both political and ecclesiastical, and equally independent of either, The essential idea is the Babylon of evil as it stands in antithesis to the holy Jerusalem - the pure, the bride, the Lamb's wife. Two chief divisions will comprehend the teaching concerning "Babylon:"

(1) Its description;

(2) its destruction.


1. Its corrupt character. As before the prophets were "false" and the spirits were "unclean," and stood opposed to God; so now harlotry, fornication, drunkenness, blasphemy, abominations, luxury, persecuting violence, sorcery, submission to the beast, warring against the Lamb, are the terms employed to describe or indicate the excessive foulness and corruption of the faithless city. This is "the woman," having in her hand "a golden cup full of abominations, even the unclean things of her fornication." This the "Babylon the great," which is become "a habitation of devils, a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird."

2. Virulent antagonism to the good, even to the loftiest ideals of goodness. "War against the Lamb;" blasphemed the God of heaven;" "gather together unto the war of the great day of God;" "poured out the blood of saints and prophets;" - in such terms is the antipathy to all righteousness declared.

3. Occasion of all evil, seen in the corruption of life, the deceitfulness of iniquity, the loss of the blessings of righteousness, degradation in sin, to which the "peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues" are reduced "where the harlot sitteth;" and the judgments and consequent sufferings in which they are involved.

4. The widespread, universal character of the desolation caused. In every aspect this vision is "great and marvellous." It is "Babylon the great." The harlot "sitteth upon many waters," which waters are "peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." "And the woman is the great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth;" "by the wine of the wrath of her fornication all the nations are fallen." "What city is like the great city," with whose "sorcery were all the nations deceived"? "In her was found the blood of all that have been slain upon the earth." This is the universal kingdom of evil, whose "sins reached unto heaven." Again and again has it seemed as though these words of widespread import found their fulfilment; but no complete idea can be formed that shuts out any part of the one all pervasive kingdom of wickedness. This great kingdom shall come to an end. Such is the ever recurring promise of this book.

II. ITS DESTRUCTION IS COMPLETE. The "harlot" is made "desolate and naked;" hated by all over whom she sat as a queen; they shall "eat her flesh, and burn her utterly with fire." "Woe, woe!" is pronounced against the great city, Babylon; "for in one hour is thy judgment come." "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great." "In one day shall her plagues come, death, and mourning, and famine: and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God which judgeth her." "The Lamb shall overcome," and thus shall they also overcome that are with him. "And a strong angel took up a stone as it were a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with a mighty fall shall Babylon, the great city, be cast down, and shall be found no more at all." Then shall the kings of the earth that committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth who were made rich by her, and every shipmaster and mariner, and all that were made rich by her, weep and mourn and lament; while to heaven a sweet song of joy and thankfulness shall rise from them who with the Lamb have overcome - who are "called, and chosen, and faithful." - R.G.

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters, etc. What a strange woman loomed in John's vision here! He calls her "the great whore [harlot]." He saw her seated upon a "scarlet-coloured beast,... decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup full of abominations:... and upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth. And she was drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (vers. 3-6). A strange creation this, truly, but scarcely stranger or more grotesque than many of the objects that have entered and still do enter into human dreams. We must ask Protestant interpreters to say who this woman is, for they know all about her. They, forsooth, are certain that she is pagan or papal Rome. I cannot say who she is; nor does it matter. I shall make use of her to illustrate corrupt Christianity; and this includes Protestantism as well as popery. Conventional Christianity is as truly corrupt as papal, and, in some respects, it is even worse. The description here given of this harlot suggests and illustrates three great evils ever conspicuous in corrupt Christianity Here is -

I. POLITICAL SUBSERVIENCY. "Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore [harlot] that sitteth upon many waters [or, 'many nations']" (ver. 1). This woman, clothed in "purple and scarlet," and gorgeously adorned, yielded herself up to the desires and lusts of worldly authorities; empty voluptuaries "drest in a little brief authority." "With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication" (ver. 2). The essence of genuine Christianity is spiritual supremacy and invincible sovereignty over the princelets, kinglets, and emperors of the world, in all the little, as well as great, temporalities of life. Essentially Christianity is the absolute queen of life. Although her kingdom is "not of this world," her demand is that the world should bow to her. In yielding to worldly influence she lost her pristine purity and primitive power; she got corrupted, and became more and more the servant of rulers and the instrument of states. This she has been from before the days of Constantine down to this hour. What is conventional Christianity, not only throughout England but throughout Christendom, today? Verily, she is rather a serf than a sovereign. Worldly rulers employ her to consecrate their coronations and to give the aspect of sanctity to their tawdry pageantries, their sensual indulgences, their unrighteous exactions, and their bloody wars. Truly, the purest virgin from heaven has become a harlot, the mere creature of worldly power. I am wearied of the cant of making this harlot the symbol of papal or pagan Rome; she is as truly a symbol of Protestant Christendom as of papal Rome. The Reformation, in which Wickliffe, Melancthon, and Luther so heartily engaged, is, for many reasons, more urgently required now in the realm of conventional Christianity. And the reiterated cry of Voltaire against popery in his day, "Crush the monster! crush the monster!" all thoughtful men should raise now in relation to conventional Christianity. Until conventional Christianity is banished from the land, and the Christianity of the sermon on the mount is restored, the moral condition of the human race will sink lower and lower into devildom and corruption.

II. WORLDLY PROCLIVITY. "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" (ver. 4). Here is worldliness, worldly vanity, and worldly greed. Genuine Christianity is essentially unworldly. Its Founder was born in a stable and cradled in a manger; he had nowhere to lay his head. At night the green sod was his pillow, and the sable heavens his covering. His disciples he despatched on their mission without "purse or scrip," and none of his apostles preached the gospel as a means of livelihood. "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel," says Paul. "Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities." But what of conventional Christianity? It is an instrument for worldly gain and aggrandizement. Everywhere men trade in the gospel, and the trade is carried on with all the passionate avarice, foul fallacies, and flatulent puffings that characterize the market. Pulpits are regarded as means of livelihood, chapels and churches are become shops, ecclesiastics are the grandees of the world, robed in costly attire and rolling in chariots of opulence. Institutions abound and multiply, baptized with the name of Christian, where men of feeble talent but crawling craftiness creep into offices of salary and show. I protest that conventional Christianity is not the Christianity of Christ - a Divine entity that "seeketh not her own." The Christ exhibited in the creeds and institutions is as unlike the Christ of the Gospels, as the mechanical force of the manufacturing machine, throwing off commodities for trade, is unlike that vital energy in nature that clothes the landscape with verdure and fills the earth and the water with countless tribes of life.

III. RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE. "And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (ver. 6). "The phraseology," says Moses Stuart, "is derived from the barbarous custom, still extant among many pagan nations, of drinking the blood of enemies slain in the way of revenge. Here, then, the fury of the persecutors is depicted in a most graphic manner." Genuine Christianity is essentially tolerant. "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; charity believeth all things," etc. But Christianity corrupted has always been cruelly intolerant, and this, whether it is called Protestant or papal! True, it does not shed blood as much as of yore, but if it does not take away life it may inflict life annoyances and disabilities in many respects more painful than bloodshedding. This harlot is a "mother;" her progeny is numerous and ever multiplying. "The mother of harlots." The religious sects which crowd Christendom are all her daughters, and each sect has the intolerant spirit of its mother, each according to its measure is a persecutor, and, as a rule, the smaller the more virulent the spirit. Curs snarl and bark more as a rule than mastiffs. Large and affluent congregations can afford to overlook denominational circumstances, that irritate the smaller and the poorer to wroth and rage.

CONCLUSION. Such is corrupt Christianity, which is, alas! the current Christianity. It is very like the "harlot" on account of its political subserviency, worldly proclivity, and religious intolerance. What are we to do with this abomination? Flee from this Sodom; come out of this Babylon. "Crash the monster!" - D.T.

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.

This chapter and the next are mainly occupied with the description of the combatants - the city, the court, and the provinces of Rome - who waged war against the Church of Christ, and therefore are said to "make war with the Lamb;" and with (Revelation 18.) the fall of the city, which was the centre and head of the whole war against Christ. We hold to the belief that St. John was telling, not of something in the far future, which could be but of little avail to the persecuted Church of his day, but of events which were near at hand, imminent, and should "shortly come to pass." Therefore, concerning the interpretation which makes Daniel explain St. John, and understands the seven kings as the seven world empires from Egypt to Rome, and the ten horns as the future dismemberment of the Roman empire - how, we ask, could the knowledge of this then far future event help the suffering saints, to cheer and strengthen whom was the one chief purpose of this book? To say nothing of the incongruity of speaking of Rome in St. John's day as a power that "was, and is not" (ver. 11); or that in his day it had received a "deadly wound" (Revelation 13:3); or that the dismembered Roman empire, of which we and most of modern Europe have for nigh a thousand years formed parts, should continue only "a short space." We should feel pressed with the difficulties of this interpretation were there none other which avoided them. But as there is such other, we feel compelled to adopt it. We do not say that this one has no difficulties, but they are small in comparison with those belonging to the one we have refused. And now let us consider -

I. "THESE" WHO MAKE WAR WITH THE LAMB. Who are they? We believe St. John to refer:

1. To the court of Rome, especially to the monster Nero, the emperor.

(1) He is described:

(a) As "the beast." Sometimes this name stands for the God and Christ opposing world power in general, the secular antichrist of the several ages; and sometimes for the embodiment of that power in one person, as in Nero. How he deserved the name by reason of his ferocity, cruelty, and bestiality, let Tacitus tell, and many others who knew (cf. Renan's 'L'Antichrist').

(b) As soon to be no more. So soon, so certain, was his removal, that he is spoken of in ver. 8 as "the beast that was, and is not, and yet is;" and again (ver. 10, as "was, and is not;" though, from ver. 10 and many other sources, we know that when St. John wrote Nero was yet living, and furiously persecuting the Church of God. This is an inspired prediction of what was soon to come, and is clothed, after the frequent manner of prophecy, in the language of an event already past, though indeed it was future.

(c) As one day to reappear (ver. 8, "He shall ascend out," etc.). The belief that Nero should return was notorious (cf. Stuart and Farrar, in loc.).

(2) He is identified:

(a) By the city over which he rules (ver. 9). Seven-hilled Rome, "the city of the seven hills," was as frequent and well understood a name for Rome as would be "the city on the banks of the Thames" for London.

(b) By his place in the succession of kings. He stands sixth in the list of the Roman emperors. "Five" had passed away of the twelve Caesars. He was the sixth - the "one is" (ver. 10).

(c) His successor's short reign. Galba reigned but three months: "He must continue a short space."

(d) By the universal belief that he would return (cf. supra).

(3) He is doomed to go "into perdition" (ver. 11). Such was the man or monster - beast, rather - who led the war against the Church of Christ in his day.

2. To the city of Rome. She is branded with the name of "Babylon... mother of harlots" (ver. 5), and is described as an utterly abandoned woman, revelling in wealth and splendour, exercising her deadly seductive influences over all the empire, flaunting forth her shame with unblushing effrontery, and cruel with a ferocity that the beast she sat upon, and who sustained her, could hardly rival or satisfy. "Drunk with the blood of the saints." Such was the seven-hilled Rome when St. John knew it. Even a monster like Nero would hardly have dared to rage as he did had he not been encouraged by the brutal populace that swarmed in Rome.

3. To the consuls and proconsuls. The ten provincial governors who aided and abetted "the beast" in his war against Christ. There were ten of these: Italy, Achaia, Asia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain, Germany (Farrar). And in all these the will of Nero was law. His persecution was by no means confined to Rome - this entire book shows that, though it began there. It was, as ver. 13 says, they gave "their power... unto the beast."


1. Then, when St. John wrote, it was by cruel, horrible, widespread, and bloody persecution. So that Rome is represented as "drunk with blood," and the description is confirmed by historic fact. But:

2. Now, in our day, the secular, antichristian spirit manifests itself in quite another form. The beast spirit "yet is," though clothed in other garb. The world is the world yet, and still makes "war with the Lamb." It aims now not so much to hurt the body as the soul. The former it may not touch, but the latter it can and does. It kills holy habits, wounds conscience, defiles the thoughts, stuns religious sensibilities, mocks at religious earnestness, exiles her language, her literature, and her laws. All this the world spirit does by its customs, maxims, and its administration of its rewards and punishments. It has corrupted public opinion, poisoned the atmosphere which daily the believer has to breathe; its influence is often, generally, unseen, intangible, indescribable, but nevertheless as real and deadly to the souls of men as were the bloody laws of Rome to the bodies of the believers in the Church of the first century. But consider -

III. THE LAMB AGAINST WHOM "THESE" WAR. 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. It is this great fact that he keeps prominently through his chosen name - "the Lamb." In heaven he is thus seen as "a Lamb who had been slain" (Revelation 4.; cf. Philippians 3., "Therefore hath God also 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." And what was it that they did see? A babe, "wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger." But in that utter humiliation and self abnegation of the Son of God lay the might that should make him, as it has made him, "King of kings, and Lord of lords." Meekness is might, sacrifice is sovereignty, losing life is gaining it; the cross creates the crown. It is no arbitrary arrangement; it lies in the constitution of our nature, to which his meekness and love appeal with such resistless force. "O Galilaean, thou has; conquered!" said the Emperor Julian. And Constantine confessed the same, and Rome bowed to Christ.

4. By the consent of conscience. Blessed be God, there is a better self in the worst of men, and the appeal to that better self in men, though drowned by many a vile clamour for a long time, will yet be heard and obeyed. And Christ by his gospel made such appeal.

5. By the grace he imparted to his people. "Their patient continuance in well doing put to silence" all their foes. Rome looked on at these Christians and wondered, and, after a while, gave way and worshipped with them. For not alone in and by himself does the Lamb overcome, but:

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. That, though the Authorized Version seems to lend countenance to such idea, is very far from the truth. But what is meant is that, like their Lord, "they that are with him" overcome. "The noble army of martyrs praise thee." In them he repeats and reproduces his victory. It is, therefore, of great interest and importance to know who they are that are "with him." For the conditions of victory are the same today as they were of old. The enemy has not changed in reality, though he has in form. And would we overcome, we must be as they of old who overcame. Well, then, see how they are described. They are:

(1) Called. We answer to that description. So far so good. We, the avowed Christian people of our day, have been called by God's providence, by his Spirit, through his Word, his ministers, and by his manifold means of grace, and we are in his Church because of it.

(2) Chosen. Are we this? It does not at all follow that we are so because we are called. All the chosen are called, but not all the called are chosen. "Many are called, and few," etc. How, then, may we know if we are elect, chosen? Not by frames and feelings, fitful emotions of the mind, which come and go like the clouds. Not by position and efface. We may be recognized communicants and pastors, teachers, or aught else of the kind. God forbid that we should say all this counts for nothing as evidence of our Christian standing! It does count for something, but in itself is by no means sufficient evidence as to whether we be God's chosen or not. And not by Church or creed. We may prefer our own and feel persuaded that we are in the right. But Churches and. creeds other than our own have furnished many of Christ's elect, and not all ours are certainly 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. If faithful, then we are of the chosen too; and this, and this only, is the proof. They of old through the Lamb overcame. It is they who today through him alone overcome. May we not, then, hear the apostolic word addressed to us, "My brethren, give all diligence to make your calling and election sure"? - S.C.

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, etc. To our mind these verses seem to adumbrate the greatest of all the campaigns this world has ever witnessed or ever will. In every department of sentient being there seems to be an arena of conflict, and physical wars in human life have been rife in every part of the world, from the first periods to the present hour. But the great moral campaign is the most universal, unremitting, and momentous. The words serve to bring to our notice two subjects in relation to this campaign -

I. THE CONTENDING FORCES. "These shall make war," etc. (ver. 14). What are these? Truth and falsehood, selfishness and benevolence, right and wrong, - these are the battling powers. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Each of these contending forces has its own leader or general.

1. The one is represented as a "beast." The beast is the emblem of the mighty aggregate of wrong in all its elements and operations; wrong in theories and in institutions; wrong in sentiments, ideas, and habits; wrong as imposing as seven mountains, as majestic as kings and empires; wrong sitting as empress over all "nations, and peoples, and tongues." Wrong is the greatest thing in this world at present; it is the mighty Colossus with the "head of gold, breast and arms of silver, his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay."

2. The other is represented as a "Lamb." "These shall make war with [shall war against] the Lamb" (ver. 14). The Lamb is the emblem of innocence, mildness, and purity. In Daniel's vision wrong was a colossal figure, and right a little stone. Here wrong is a terrible "beast," and right a tender "Lamb." Here are the two great generals in this mighty campaign.


1. The Conqueror. "The Lamb shall overcome them" (ver. 14). The Lamb, not the beast, is the Conqueror. Power is not to be estimated by size or form. The little stone shivered the image; the Lamb strikes the beast into the dust. The Lamb, though not a bellicose existence, is:

(1) Invested with the highest authority. "He is Lord of lords, and King of kings" (ver. 14). The greatest sovereignty that man wields over his fellows is lamb like rather than leonine. It is not that of physical force and gorgeous form, but of lowliness and silence.

(2) Followed by a noble army. "They that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (ver. 14). Who are his followers? Whom does he lead into the battle? "The called, and chosen, and faithful." Soldiers in the physical battles of nations are men who have embarked in the campaign, not from disinterested love of their country or admiration for their generals, but from motives sordid and sinister; they have sold themselves to the execrable work. Not so with the armies under the command of the Lamb, who is "Lord of lords, and King of kings." They are "called, and chosen, and faithful." Love to him and his grand cause fills and fires their souls.

2. The conquered. "These shall hate the whore," etc. (vers. 16-18).

(1) The conquered turn with indignation on themselves. The "beast" with the "ten horns," all his mighty armies, "hate the whore," the harlot whom they fondled and adored, strip her of her grandeur, devour her, and "burn her with fire" (ver. 16). Thus it has ever been. Those whom Christ conquers in his love and truth turn in devouring indignation against their old comrades. Thus Paul turned against the Hebrews, in whom at one time he gloried as a Hebrew of the Hebrews.

(2) This wonderful change in them is the result of the spiritual influences of God. "He hath [did] put in their hearts to fulfil his will [to do his mind], and to agree [to come to one mind]" (ver. 17). The moral conquest of wrong is ever ascribable to him who is the Fountain of truth and right. "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph," etc - D.T.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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