And on her forehead a mysterious name was written: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
(1) Its description;
(2) its destruction.
I. THE DESCRIPTION OF BABYLON.
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.
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.)
TopicsAbominations, Babylon, Brow, Earth's, Evil, Forehead, Harlots, Mystery, Prostitutes, Secret, Symbol, Unclean, Whores, Women, Written
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 17:5
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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