These kings have one purpose: to yield their power and authority to the beast.
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.
The Judgment of the great whore.
I. POLITICAL SUBSERVIENCY. "With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication." 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.
II. WORLDLY PROCLIVITY. "And the woman was arrayed in purple anal scarlet colour, and decked with gold," etc. Genuine Christianity is essentially unworldly.
III. RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE. "And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints," etc.
(David Thomas, D. D.)
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).
The martyrs of JesusI. WHAT DO THE "MARTYRS OF JESUS" TEACH US ABOUT THEMSELVES?
1. Their heroic faith. They had unswerving reliance in Christ, and knew they were not following cunningly devised fables. These martyrs had not simply an opinion or impression, but a deep belief; they were resting upon evidence which they felt to be sufficient and immovable. They believed in living, risen, and reigning Lord.
2. Their sublime hope. All they could see seemed to be against them, all their surroundings were calculated to depress them; but they looked not at things seen and temporal, but for aa inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.
3. Their ardent love. They loved their country, home, and friends; but they loved their Master more, and they were prepared to relinquish all for the love they bore to Him.
4. Their complete obedience. They had their marching orders, and they marched on under the Great Captain of their salvation, to do and dare and die. They reciprocated His love.
5. Their transparent sincerity.
6. Their restful satisfaction. They felt they had not only sufficient, but satisfactory evidence of the truth as it is in Jesus. They found in Him all they needed to satisfy the wishes and wants of their spirits, so nothing could move them or shake their steadfastness.
II. WHAT DO "THE MARTYRS OF JESUS" TEACH US RESPECTING HIM?
1. He could have been no myth. These martyrs were — as the word literally means — witnesses, not inventors, or historians merely, they had the evidence of their senses as well as the experience of their hearts. From what we know of human nature, we feel it would have been impossible for the early Christians to have died for a myth or phantom: they were in a position to test most fully the historic claims of Christ, and to prove His personality and identity at the various points of His mission and ministry.
2. He could not have been a deceiver. Men may submit to be deluded when they have much to gain and nothing to lose; but when it is the reverse they will exercise the utmost vigilance and practise the strictest caution.
3. How faithful Christ was to His promise never to leave nor forsake them, and they witness to the victorious power of His religion to sustain the soul in the most trying circumstances, in torturing pain, and the dying hour.
4. The impotence of error and the omnipotence of truth. Truth is mighty, and must prevail; more is for it than all that can be against it. Error, in its rage and cowardice, has drawn the sword and gone forth to win its way, and strike terror into the hearts of the true. But the prospect of massacre and martyrdom could not deter the true followers of the Lamb: they have gone forth feeling that the Lord of hosts was with them, and that the mighty God of Jacob was their refuge. The King Immortal, Invisible, steers and guards His own ark, and all shall ultimately and utterly fail and fall who lay their unholy alien hands upon it. The noble army of martyrs praise God, and they preach to us.
(F. W. Brown.)
TopicsAuthority, Beast, Common, Mind, Policy, Power, Purpose, Strength, Wild
Outline1. A woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, with a golden cup in her hand sits upon the beast;
5. which is great Babylon, the mother of all abominations.
9. The interpretation of the seven heads;
12. and the ten horns.
14. The victory of the Lamb.
16. The punishment of the harlot.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesRevelation 17:1-18
4609 beast, the
LibraryThe Present Distress of Nations.
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them with fear, and for looking after those things which are coming to pass on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken" (Luke 21:25, 26). As we have already remarked more than once, prophecy invariably has a double fulfillment at least, and so we believe it is with the one just quoted. Directly, it has reference …
Arthur W. Pink—The Redeemer's Return
The vineyard Labourers.
Meditations to Stir us up to Morning Prayer.
Epistle iv. To Cyriacus, Bishop.
A vision of the King.
Covenanting a Duty.
The First Great Group of Parables.
Third Sunday after Trinity Humility, Trust, Watchfulness, Suffering
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