Can Change the World Again.
The Revelation of John - Chapter XIX
Commentaries on the Entire Bible
This chapter is in two principal parts; vs. 1-10 presenting chiefly the exultation in heaven over the judgment of the great harlot city and the consequent success of the gospel in the redemption of souls from sin and the preparation of the bride for the marriage of the Lamb.Vs. 11-21 give us the great moral battle-field of time, seen in a sort of heavenly perspective, on the principle that the great moral events of earth have their prototypes in heaven. A mighty Conqueror on the white horse of victory appears armed for battle and conquest; his faithful warriors follow him, they too arrayed in robes of purity and seated on white horses, in like manner symbolic of victory. Anticipating immense carnage, an angel summons all the fowls of mid-heaven to feast upon the flesh of the slain. The battle seems about to be joined, but the foes of this Conqueror are powerless; there is no conflict; forthwith the beast and his false prophet are violently seized and cast alive into the lake of fire. All their dupes and followers are slain with the great sword of the mighty Conqueror, and his victory is complete.
1. And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God:
2. For true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.
3. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
Slight and not specially important textual corrections in v. 1 insert "as it were" before "great voice;" omit "and honor;" and give us instead of "unto the Lord our God," simply "of our God," so that the verse, improved, would read, "After this I heard as it were a great voice of a vast multitude in heaven, saying, Alleluia! the salvation and the glory and the power of God!" This I take to be an exclamation of adoring wonder, testifying that the salvation and the glory and the power of our God have received sublime and glorious manifestations.For his predicted judgments have been proved true by their fulfillment, and also just in their very nature in view of the horrible guilt of the great harlot who made the earth rotten with moral corruption and herself drunk with the blood of martyred saints, now avenged by the Righteous Judge! Again, they cry, Alleluia! The reader will recognize this as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Hallelujah, which means, Praise ye Jah, i. e., Jehovah, the Lord"And her smoke rose up," witnessing to the judgments of the great and righteous God upon her, and seeming to imply that this testimony to her righteous doom was before the very eyes of the adoring and grateful worshipers. They accepted this judgment of God on the corrupt and bloody harlot as righteous and glorious and as a call for grateful thanksgiving because they felt its justice; they knew its necessity for the progress and triumph of the gospel of salvation and for the honor and stability of the throne of the Almighty.Do not scenes occur in human affairs which testify that murderers ought to die, that rebels and rebellion must go down ere peace and order and law can reign?
4. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshiped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.
Here as in chapters 4 and 5 these representative personages appear, testifying to their intense sympathy in the scenes now transpiring.
5. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.
6. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
It is not said who uttered this voice, only that it seemed to come forth from the very throne of God. It summoned all the servants of God to one united utterance of praise, and every heart responded! The revelator heard what seemed the shout of a countless host, like the deep roar of the great ocean and as the reverberation of mighty thunderingsand their cry was, "Praise Jehovah! for the Lord our God, the Omnipotent, has begun to reign!" The Greek tense used here [the aorist] seems strictly to mean, not the presenthe reigneth now; and not exclusively the pasthe has reigned; but he has entered upon his promised reign and therefore may be expected henceforward to maintain his sway, and go on conquering and to conquer till every foe shall have fallen and his conquest of the world shall be complete. The nature of this reign should be studied in connection with those passages which declare"All power is given to me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28: 18). "There be some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" (Matt. 16: 28). "He shall reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Cor. 15: 25). See notes on Rev. 11: 15, 17, and 2: 10.
7. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
8. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. .
9. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
The reader will not fail to notice the tacit but close relation between the fall of the harlot city, Rome, and the triumphant success of the gospel in bringing forth its fruitsa holy people prepared of God through grace to be the bride of the Lamb. Her moral and spiritual preparation, her purity and her intrinsic moral beauty are more prominent here than the nuptial scene. There is no attempt to describe the marriage itself or the great marriage-supper, farther than to sayBlessed are they whose pure hearts insure their being invited and made welcome! Then let it evermore be our first care and endeavor to be clad in that fine linen, radiant and pure; for to this the strain of our passage would exhort us.Note also that while the first allusion makes prominent the Christian's own moral agency"his wife, hath made herself ready"yet as if to guard against overdoing that thought, it is subjoined, "It was given to her" (through God's free grace) "that she should be arrayed in fine linen"which means the righteousness of saints, and of which Paul has said with equal pertinence, truth and beauty"not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3: 9)."And he said." Who is this "he?" Manifestly the same personage who describes himself in v. 10. practically an angel-interpreter whose mission was to stand by the revelator John in his visions; sometimes to explain, and sometimes as here to suggest what should be written for the edification of the churches.He now directs John to write two things: first, Blessed are those who are called to this marriage-supper; and secondly, that these words of God are true and that events now about to happen, or at least to be revealed, would abundantly attest their truth. I assume, that the statement does not merely affirm in general that all Gods words are true, nor in particular that these are, but more than thisthat their truth will be made gloriously plain and most undeniably evident in the events about to occur. When you come to this great marriage-supper you will see how true it is that the invited guests gathered there are blessed!
10. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
A similar scene is narrated in chap. 22: 6-9, where again John fell down to worship before the feet of the revealing angel. Remarkably the antecedents also were the same there as herethrilling promises: there, the blessedness of him who keeps the prophecies of this book, as here, of those called to the marriage-supper; coupled also with a like averment; there, "These sayings are faithful and true;" as here, "These are the true sayings of God." Deeply we may suppose John felt their truth and most intensely did he appreciate the blessedness promised; and therefore in the warmth and fullness of his soul, perhaps scarcely conscious what he did, and possibly assuming that his own Lord Jesus was concealed beneath the form of this revealing angel, he offered him such worship as was appropriate only to one truly divine. The angel checked him in both cases with the same words:"Take care not;" Beware not to do that thing; "for I am [only] a fellow-servant of thyself and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus." It should be noticed that in Rev. 22: 9 we have language slightly different, yet in sense doubtless the same"A fellow-servant of thyself and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them who keep the sayings of this book; worship God."A question will arise here in some mindsmore curious than usefulviz., whether this revealing angel were not some departed saintMoses, Elijah or perhaps Isaiah,To this I reply briefly:(l.) Nothing is said here at all inconsistent with the assumption that he is simply one of the holy angels of the heavenly world, for they are not only intensely interested but actually employed in diverse ministrations of service for God's people on earth (Heb. 1: 12).(2.) This book of Revelation is full, in every chapter and almost every verse, of these ministrations of the real angelsnot glorified saints from earth, but those elder brethren of ours, evermore sinlessalways ready to minister with glad heart in any way to the work of God and of Jesus Christ in this world. There is therefore the strongest presumption that this one belongs to the same class.(3.) There is nothing else in the Bible which at all favors the idea that departed saints come back to us in positive ministries of service. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus transfigured on the mount and talked with him there; but this was no ordinary ministry of service to the saints, and is the only recorded case to which they appear on earth as having come down from heaven. I conclude therefore that there is no valid ground for this opinion and consequently must regard it as a fancy better served in its rejection than by its indulgence.
The last clause of the verse demands our attention, "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." What does this mean? and why is it said, just here?Our received translation precisely represents the original Greek both in the words themselves and in their consecutive order.The first question isWhich is the subject of the verb, "The testimony of Jesus," or "The spirit of prophecy?" That is, Does the speaker mean that testifying for Jesus involves and includes the spirit of prophecy, or that prophecy in its true spirit testifies of Jesus?Some have preferred the latter construction, referring it to the fact that the Old Testament prophets witnessed abundantly to the then future Messiah, and that the same spirit of prophecy had yet more to say of the future glories of his kingdom. But unless there be some very good reason, the words should be taken in the order in which they stand, the subject of the verb before it, and the predicate after. This consideration bears against the construction last named. The natural order is admissible here and is therefore preferable; and furthermore, it seems to me to have a better logical connection with what precedes; thus, I am a fellow-servant of thyself and also of all the old prophets. Thou, they and myself have this in common, that we are witnesses for Christ, and this witnessing involves the spirit of prophecy. They (the old prophets) testified prophetically about Christ; thou and myself are now witnessing for Christ by predicting his future glories and triumphs. Thus we are all fellow-servants, doing a common work for our common Master. I therefore take this clause to mean, not that all prophecy in the true spirit of it testifies about Christ, but that the witnessing for Christ by all the parties here contemplated had the common element of being prophetic. Hence the parties were brethren. This accounts for the logic indicated by the word "for""for the testimony of Jesus," etc.
11. And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his bead were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
Assuming that chaps. 4-19 of this book present two great persecuting powersJudaism, represented by Jerusalem, and Paganism, seen in old Romeit is noticeable that the prophetic scenes close here as they began in the first seal (6: 2), with like symbols of victory for the heavenly Conqueror:there, a white horse with his crowned rider, marching forth conquering and to conquer; here, the same white horse of victory, his rider the faithful and the true; on his head many crowns, and his name "The word of God"the deep significance of which none save himself could fully comprehend. Comparing the two descriptions, we see that this (as it should be) is far more expanded and mere magnificent. Every feature here signifies that this conquering Hero is the Great Messiah, the Son of God, now thought of as going forth, in symbol at least, to the final and consummating conflict with his enemies. It was pre-eminently impressive that he was clad in raiment "dipped in blood," the foregoing type of which we find in Isa. 63: 1-6: "Why art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments as he that treadeth the wine-press? I have trodden the wine-press alone," etc. The last clause of v. 15 renders it the more sure that the scene pictured in Isa. 63 gives the shading to this representation: "he himself" (i. e., he alone) "treadeth the wine-press;" etc. Hence the vesture dipped in blood does not refer here to his own blood shed for sin, but to the blood of his enemies shed in his retributions of justice in their destruction. They are here in symbol the vintage, and he treads them down in the great wine-vat of God's righteous retribution.
14. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
The armies that followed him in heaven seem clad for an ovation, not for a battle; for a grand triumphal procession rather than for a bloody campaign, or even for one hard-fought field of carnage. Indeed it does not appear that they come into the real fight at all. The sharp sword from the month of the Almighty Chieftain seems to do all the execution. Coupled with this we are told below that some violent force (so the Greek word "taken," v. 20, implies) seized the beast and the false prophet and hurled them headlong into the lake of fire. Thus the fighting is represented; so it is conducted, and so it terminates. But the showing sets forth that "the armies in heaven" are in heart with their conquering King, and are permitted to follow in his train in this prospective triumph over the fallen enemies of God and of the kingdom of his Son."The sword of his mouth," coupled with his significant name, "The word of God," must be understood to imply that his word is powerthat it is his high prerogative to "speak and it is done," his expressed will seeming to execute itself in resistless power upon his foes. No conception of absolute power comes up at all to thisthe sword from his mouth smiting the nationsexecuting his high behests of judgment and destruction with a majesty all worthy of a God, and with a sway that mortals would strive in vain to resist.This "ruling with a rod of iron" imitates Ps. 2, where the drift of thought is essentially the same as here, the Messiah a second David, resistless in arms, subduing the nations of his foes to his scepterAs said above, "treading the wine-press," etc., follows the figures and the thought of Isa. 63: 1-6.The second name is symbolic of victorious power and of his relations as sole Monarch above all the kings of the earth. The first name, "The word of God," looks usually rather to the nature of his mission from heaven to earthhis great function as the Revealer of God to menthough in this connection it may tacitly include that marvelous power which goes with those uttered mandates denouncing judgments upon his foes.
17. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;
18. That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
This is the genius of lofty poetry. It does not prosaically locate the battle-field, map out the movements of the contending armies, and number the fallen dead, but promptly assumes the fact of awful carnage, and summons the fowls of heaven (vultures, buzzards) to gather to one grand festival upon the carcasses of the slain.In the last clause of v. 17 the improved text gives us, not "the supper of the great God," but "the great supper of God," the one great festival which his terrible judgments have provided one above all the rest in vastness. The passage imitates Ezekiel 39 in the point of setting forth the vastness of the slaughter and the terrors of this retribution as measured by the masses of the dead. In poetic conception far more grand than Ezekiel's, John hears all flesh-devouring birds from under the whole heaven summoned to hold high carnival on the flesh of the slain.
19. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
20. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
The beastthe imperial power of old Rome, and the kings i. e., his horns, for they specially represent the kings of the earth (17: 12-14), gather with their armies for this great and final battle against him who sat on the white horse and his army. As remarked already, they gathered for battle, but not one feature of a battle appears in this grand panorama. As usual where weak mortals think to fight against God, they never get beyond marshaling their hosts and manifesting their good will to fight:then all suddenly they are quenched as burnt tow. Nothing appears but mountain masses of their fallen dead, and the gathered fowls of heaven feasting upon their putrid flesh.As said above, the beast and the false prophet are hurled living down into the lake of fire. So the vision represents it.The first, step in the exposition of this symbol is to trace it to its source. I see no reason to doubt that we find this in the doom of the fourth beast of Daniel (7: 11); "I beheld till the beast was slain and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame," i. e., cast into a furnace of firethe foregoing type of which as it stands in Daniel, must be found in that terrible mode of capital punishment practiced in cruel Babylon as may be seen in Dan. 3. The symbol thus traced to its historic source must be held to signify an utter destruction; inflicted under the righteous retributions of the Almighty, and bringing to a final end their power on earth to harm the people and the cause of God.If now the question be raised here, What precisely does this mean? Is this simply an utter destruction of an empire, an organized persecuting power and a vile idolatrous priesthood; or is it the sending down to hell of the incorrigible sinners whose life is here portrayed; or is it both, and the former considered as foreshadowing the latter?For many reasons I must adopt the latter interpretation, this being the current strain of numerous Old Testament passages which must be assumed to be present here to the prophets mind; e. g. "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (Ps. 9: 17). "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness" (Prov. 14: 32). "Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7). When the Assyrian host fell, sinners in Zion were afraid, not merely of such a death, but of that far more fearful one beyond; for they cried"Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with the everlasting burnings?" (Isa. 33: 14.) So also Mal. 4: 1-3.So here the judgments sent on the wicked in this world are precursors of the wrath to come: the former are the prelude and pledge of the latter.In Rev. 20: 10 we see the devil cast into the same lake of fire; but certainly this could not have meant that he was simply to have his worldly power broken as the imperial scepter of old Rome was broken, [his being bound with a great chain (20: 1-3) had accomplished that object]; nor that he was to suffer a violent death after the manner of wicked men; but must have meant that God would send him actually to "his own place"the eternal prison-house of woe whither according to this showing the beast and the false prophet had already gone.In the first clause of v. 20 the most approved reading means more than that the false prophet was taken up with the beast and both cast into the lake together. This reading inserts the Greek words for "with him" between the article and the noun in the phrase "the false prophet"making it "The [with him] false prophet"a construction which the idiom of our tongue will not admit, but the sense of which may be given thus: The beast was seized and the one with him, viz., the false prophet, etc. This shows how intimately associated together the beast and the false prophet were. The latter is forcibly described as the one always with the former, his subordinate, his ever faithful servant, always ministering to his vile purposes, always seducing kings, nations and people to worship the first beast.These were cast, not "into a lake" but into the lakethe well known prison-house of the lost.
21. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his month: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
Remarkably while the beast and the false prophet were represented as cast bodily and violently into the lake of fire; the remnant seem to have stood the battle although they did not fight, and were slain with the sword of the warrior Chiefthe Great Conqueror. See the explanation of this symbol above, in notes on vs. 14-16.Thus closes this scene of the final destruction of the beast and of his false prophet, and also of their armies. What could more impressively show that Jesus Christ is indeed the Glorious Conqueror, "mighty to save;" and that his people, suffering however severely under bloody persecution or in the fear of its impending storm, may yet be most sure of victory for Zion in the result and at no distant day; sure also of a blissful reward if they are called to resist unto blood and to lay their lives down for Him who laid down his life for them? Such are doubtless the great moral lessons which these revelations made to the seer of Patmos sought to impress.
RESUMÉ OF THE ARGUMENT.
The second or Roman division of this book embracing chap. 12-19 closes here. A resume of the argument is therefore appropriate, setting forth briefly why I find Pagan Rome and not Papal in these chapters.The reader will bear in mind that besides the great red dragon-well known as the devil and Satanwhose identity we have no need to discussthere are here three leading personages, all persecuting enemies of God and of his people; viz. (1.) The seven-headed and ten-horned beast from the sea (13: 1-8); (2.) Another beast said to be "from the earth" (13: 11-17), bearing also the name of "the false prophet" (16: 13, and 19: 20, and 20: 10); (3.) Another personage known variously as "Babylon" and "that great city" (14: 8); "great Babylon" (16: 19); "the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters;" "mother of harlots," etc. (17: 1-9, 15, 18) and "Babylon the great" (18: 1-24). Under the construction given above the first personage is the imperial power of Pagan Rome. The second is the pagan priesthood, always ministering to the vital forces of paganism and doing the work, well known to the Jews, of a "false prophet." The third is the city of Ancient Rome.Other conflicting theories find Papal Rome in the beast from the sea (No. 1); or in the beast from the land (No. 2); or in the great harlot city, the mystic Babylon (No. 3); or in the last two combined. Now the reader will bear in mind carefully that these three personages are always kept distinct from each other. The first beast, the one from the sea (13: 1), is never confounded with the second beasthe from the land (13: 11), alias "the false prophet;" nor are either of these confounded with the harlot city, Babylon. Consequently this distinction should be duly honored in our interpretation.Again, let it be noticed that all these personages are contemporary. They are all upon the stage of action at one and the same time, bearing definite, positive and vital relations each to the other. The second beast always ministers to the first and of course must be on hand at the same time. It is therefore simply preposterous to make the first beast Pagan Rome and the second Papal, since all history witnesses that Pagan Rome died long before Papal Rome was born.Again, the harlot is contemporary with them both; for she sits upon and is borne by the first beast; the ten horns of the first beast ultimately "hate the whore and make her desolate" (17: 16). These mutual and chronological relations compel us to interpret all these three personages as contemporary. Therefore if either of them is Papal Rome, they are all Papal Rome, and Pagan Rome is not here at all. We must not mutilate and distort history to help out a favorite theory. Pagan Rome and Papal Rome are chronologically centuries asunder, as every well informed reader will admit when he considers that these personages (the two beasts and the harlot city) are each and all here as great persecuting powers and as nothing else. Papal Rome was not known in history as a great persecuting power until far down into the middle ages, say the eleventh or twelfth century, one thousand years after the age of Nero, and seven or eight hundred years after the last persecutions suffered from Pagan Rome. Therefore we simply outrage both history and prophecy when we make some one or more of these three personages Pagan Rome and the rest Papal Rome.
The great question of interpretation is therefore narrowed down to this one pointPagan Rome versus Papal. Are these three personages of chapters 13-19 all Pagan Rome in some of its aspects, or are they all Papal?Let us bring this chief question to the test of the principles of interpretation which we have found applicable to this book of prophecy.
1. The Pagan Rome system keeps within the limitations of time which God himself has fixed for at least the main events of this book. The Papal Rome system does not, but strides on far beyond them. It is an outrage on the sense of words to say that events seven or eight hundred or one thousand years in the future are "near at hand;" "shortly come to pass." This limitation of time admits the Pagan Rome system with perfect facility. It excludes the Papal system peremptorily.Nor let it be objected that the final destruction of Pagan Rome was remote, for it began soon; even within one year of Nero's death three emperors had successively mounted the throne and successively fallen, and as Taylor in his history testifies, "Rome appeared on the very brink of ruin from the madness of its own citizens" (p. 268).
2. The Pagan Rome system corresponds precisely as we have seen with the interpretations and explanations given by the revealing angel himself in chap. 17, where the seven heads, alias kings, are chronologically located and almost named. It corresponds also with the identification of the number of the beast (13: 18) which is proved beyond all reasonable doubt to refer to Nero.All these divinely given explanations equally preclude the Papal Roman theory.Let it not be lightly esteemed that in this prophecy we have vitally important landmarks of prophetic interpretation in the form of well defined historic dates and characters. Hers are the first seven kings of the Julian dynasty: the prophetic finger drops definitely on the first onethe head which received a deadly wound, but from which the beast himself recovered: the sixth also as the one then reigning is pointed out most precisely by the number of his name (13: 8): and the seventh who was to ''continue but a short space"given in history as a reign of seven months.Yet again, the woman, the great harlot, shown (17: 18) to be "that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth," can not possibly be any other than Pagan Rome. Her location on seven mountains (17: 9) coupled with her world-wide sway (17: 18) describe Rome precisely and describe no other city known to John or to his first readers. Moreover, her relation to the seven kings (17: 7-11) proves this beyond all rational question.This woman [great city] is the Babylon of 14: 8, and of 16: 19, and of chap. 18. These points of identification are complete. They leave no room to doubt that the Rome here set before us is Pagan and not Papal. Such identification in history it were the extreme of unwisdom to ignore, or attempt to overrule.
3. The Pagan Rome system follows the Old Testament usage of the words "abomination," "fornication," "harlot," etc., as applied to the woman of chap. 17, giving them the sense of Pagan idolatry; while the Papal Rome system fails at this important point.I am aware that whole volumes have been written to show that Papal Rome is as truly idolatrous as ever Pagan Rome was. This is one of those points that require adroit management to make it even plausible. For it should be considered that the idol systems of Western Asia and of Chaldea in the age of the old prophets are the standard and modalthe central element of which was, the actual worship of ideal beings, supposed to be represented under visible images, as really Gods, in the place of the One Supreme. Now it is, as I think, simply slander to say that Papal Rome purposely sets up images as Gods in the place of Jehovah. She claims that her Pope is in certain respects the vice-gerent of God; but she does not set him up as God and above God, as an antagonist claimant of divine homage. She has done wicked things enough, for which I have no apology to make; but let us not breach the ninth commandment for the supposed sake of truth and righteousness, to carry a point against her.I claim, therefore, that the harlotry of "the mother of abominations" in this prophecy demands the same sort of idolatry which bears this name in the Old Testament prophecies, and therefore applies precisely to the heathenism of Pagan Rome, and not to the corruptions of Rome Papal.
4. Applying this prophecy to Pagan Rome we are fully in harmony with the obvious moral purpose of the book, viz., a strong moral impression upon its first readersa direct and most pungent application to their very hearts; their personal experiences, their intense interest in the divine judgments upon their own persecutors.But the Papal Rome theory throws the event here referred to far beyond the utmost range of their knowledge, and assumes that the prophecy must have been to them mostly unintelligible, and in so far, without force or moral value.
5. The construction of chap. 18, given above, obeys that law of interpretation which demands that we follow closely the usage of the Old Testament prophecies which are manifestly imitated here, i. e., which were before the prophet's mind and were the source from which his language and figures were borrowed. Following this law, I find a close analogy between old Babylon and old Tyre on the one hand, and this new mystic Babylon on the other. Under the demands of this analogy I must find here Pagan Rome and not Papal. Pagan Rome was like those old cities; Papal Rome is altogether unlike them.
6. Under the system adopted above, the seven vials of chap. 16 represent not a succession of dissimilar and dissociated events, but a grouping of kindred events to make one general impression, all being preliminary steps or premonitory indications of the impending doom of Pagan Rome. In this respect these vials correspond to the seals and trumpets in the former part of the book, and this construction here must stand or fall with that. In this vital feature both are in harmony with their prototypesthe horses of Zech. 1 and the horses and chariots of Zech. 6; and also with the nature of the case.
7. The system which applies these great symbols to Pagan Rome provides amply (as the true system must) for passing over by analogy from one series of events near at hand to other analogous events far on in the future. Thus from the fall of Rome in chap. 18 and from the victory and triumph of the Great Conqueror in chap. 19, we pass over to the final, complete, universal victory of Jesus Messiah over all his foesthe final triumph over Satan and all his armies. In the same manner we applied this law of prophetic analogy in the fall of Jerusalem and Judaism at the close of chap. 11. The principle has perhaps a yet broader sweep here in chap. 19 and onward, since the fall of both Jerusalem and Rome are here before the mindthe basis of a yet more conclusive and overwhelming inference that Jesus will surely triumph over every foe and come forth the supreme, all-glorious Conqueror!
8. Finally, it should be decisive in favor of the system of interpretation above presented that it keeps within the limitations of the book itself; carefully follows the landmarks of time and place; honors every historic allusion which the book itself gives; yields obedience to every legitimate principle of prophetic interpretation; seeks and finds the guiding clews to the true construction within the book itself and within the Old Testament prophecies to which this book refers and from which its symbolism is borrowed, and thus relieves the interpreter of the necessity of throwing himself upon the broad ocean of universal history to find something, somewhere, which seems to correspond with or can be made to resemble the symbols found here. The confirmation of a given prophetic interpretation by fulfilling history is in place only after a faithful use of all the legitimate principles of interpretation has really given us their just results. That is, history should not give us our system of interpretation; it should only confirm it. To ignore these principles and to launch forth in the outset upon fulfilling history to fill out some preconceived system of interpretation, is the fatal vice of interpreters of prophecy. I have sought continually to avoid this method, and to follow only those principles of interpreting prophecy which are legitimate, reasonable, impregnable. If I have succeeded, then this construction will commend itself to the confidence of all judicious critics. I may perhaps with no offence to Christian modesty say that it respectfully solicits their candid consideration.