Section 2 — "Things that shall be."

An Exposition of Revelation 4 — 22.

Part 6. (Rev. 17 – 19:4.)

Babylon and Her Overthrow

Babylon is already announced as fallen in the fourteenth chapter, and as judged of God under the seventh vial; but we have not yet seen what Babylon is, and we are not to be left to any uncertainty: she has figured too largely in human history, and is too significant a lesson every way, to be passed over in so brief a manner. We are therefore now to be taught the "mystery of the woman."

For she is a mystery; not like the Babylon of old, the plain and straightforward enemy of the people of God: she is an enigma, a riddle, so hard to read that numbers of God's people in every age have taken her, harlot as she is, for the chaste spouse of the Lamb. Yet here for all ages the riddle has been solved for those who are close enough to God to understand it. And the figure is gaudy enough to attract all eyes to her — seeking even to do so. Let us look with care into what is before us in these chapters, in which the woman is evidently the central object, the beast on which she is sitting being only viewed in its relation to her.

It is one of the angels of the vials who exhibits her to the apostle, and his words naturally show us what she is characteristically as the object of divine judgment. As described by him, she is "the great whore that sitteth upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication."

As brought into sharp contrast with the beast that carries her, we see that she is a woman, has the human form, as the beast has not. A beast knows not God; and in Daniel we have found the Gentile power losing the human appearance which it has in the king's dream to take the bestial, as in the vision of the prophet. In Nebuchadnezzar personally we see what causes the change; — that it is pride of heart which forgets dependence upon God. The woman, on the other hand, professedly owns God, and moreover, as a woman, takes the place of subjection to the man, — in the symbol here, to Christ. When she is removed by judgment, the true bride is seen, to whom she is in contrast, and not (as so many think) to the woman of the twelfth chapter, who is mother, not bride, of Christ, and represents Israel.

But the woman here is a harlot, in guilty relation with the kings of the earth. Her lure is manifestly ambition, the desire of power on earth, the refusal of the cross of Christ, — the place of rejection; and the wine — the intoxication — of her fornication makes drunk the "dwellers upon earth." These we have already seen to be a class of persons who with a higher profession have their hearts on earthly things. (Phil. 3:19; Rev. 3:10; Rev. 11:10; Rev. 13:8.) These naturally drink in the poison of her doctrine.

To see her, John is carried away, however, into the wilderness; for the earth is that, and all the efforts of those who fain would do so cannot redeem it from this. There he sees the woman sitting on a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy; easily identified as the beast of previous visions by its seven heads and ten horns.

The beast is in a subjection to the woman which we should not expect. It is the imperial power, but in a position contrary to its nature as imperial, in this harmonizing with the interpretation of the angel afterward, — the "beast that was, and is not." In some sort it is; in some sort it is not; and this we have to remember, as we think of its heads and horns. If the beast "is not," necessarily its heads and horns are not. These are for identification, not as if they were existing while the woman is being carried by it. In fact, she is now its head, and reigns over its body, over the mass that was and that will be again the empire, but now "is not."

What are we to say of the scarlet color and the names of blasphemy? Are they prospective, like the horns? The latter seems so, evidently, and therefore it is more consistent to suppose the former also. The difficulty of which may be relieved somewhat by the evident fact, that of these seven heads, only one exists at a time, as we see by the angel's words: the seven seen at once are again for identification, not as existing simultaneously. The scarlet color is that which typifies earthly glory which is simply that: the beast's reign has no link with heaven. That it is full of names, not merely words, of blasphemy, speaks of the assumption of titles which are divine, and therefore blasphemous to assume. Altogether we see that it is the beast of the future that is presented here, but which could not really exist while carrying the woman. She could not exist in this relation to him, he being the beast that he is, and thus the expression is fully justified, — really alone explains the matter — the "beast that is not, and will be."

There is clearly an identification of a certain kind all through. While the woman reigns, that over which she reigns is still in nature but the beast that was, and that after her reign will again be. There is no fundamental change all through. The Romanized nations controlled by Rome are curbed, not changed. And breaking from the curb, as did revolutionary France at the close of the last century, the wild beast fangs and teeth at once display themselves.

But we are now called to the consideration of the woman, who, as reigning as the professed spouse of Christ over what was once the Roman empire, is clearly seen to be what, as a system, we still call Rome: "that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth;" which did so even in John's time, although to him appearing in a garb so strange that when he sees her he wonders with a great wonder.

She is appareled in purple and scarlet, for she claims spiritual as well as earthly authority, and these are colors which Rome, as we know, affects, God thus allowing her even to the outward eye to assume the livery of her picture in Revelation. She is decked too with gold and precious stones and pearls, figures of really divine and spiritual truths, which, however, she only outwardly adorns herself with, and indeed uses to make more enticing the cup of her intoxication "having a golden cup in her hand," says the apostle, "full of abominations and filthiness of her fornications." Now we have her name: "And upon her forehead was a name written, 'Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.'"

Her name is Mystery, yet it is written in her forehead. Her character is plain if only you can read it. If you are pure, you may soon know that she is not. If you are true, you may quite easily detect her falsehood. In lands where she bears sway, as represented in this picture, she has managed to divorce morality from religion, that all the world knows the width of the breach. Her priests are used to convey the sacraments, and one need not look at the hands too closely that do so needful a work. In truth it is an affair of the hands, with the magic of a little breath, by means of which the most sinful of His creatures can create the God that made him, and easily new create another mortal like himself. This is a great mystery, which she herself conceives as "sacrament," and you may see this clearly on her forehead then. It is the trick of her trade, which without it could not exist. With it, a little oil and water and spittle become of marvelous efficacy, a capital stock at least out of which at the smallest cost the church creates riches and power, and much that has unquestionable value in her eyes.

"Babylon the great" means "confusion the great." Greater confusion there cannot be than that which confounds matter and spirit, creature and Creator, makes water to wash the soul, and brings the flesh of the Lord in heaven to feed literally with it men on earth. Yet to this is the larger part of Christendom captive, feeding on ashes, turned aside by a deceived heart, and they cannot deliver their souls, nor say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" (Isa. 44:20.)

Nay, this frightful system has scattered wide the seed of its false doctrine, and the harlot mother has daughters like herself: she is the "mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." Solemn words from the Spirit of truth, which may well search many hearts in systems that seem severed far from Rome, as well as those that more openly approach her. Who dare, with these awful scriptures before them, speak smooth things as to the enormities of Rome? To be protestant is indeed in itself no sign of acceptance with God, but not to be protestant is certainly not to be with God in a most important matter. This Roman Babylon is not, moreover, some future form that is to be, though it may develop into worse yet than we have seen. It is that which has been (in the paradox-al language which yet is so lively a representation of the truth) seated upon the beast while the beast "is not." It is Popery as we know it and have to do with it; and woe to kings and rulers who truckle to it, or (again in the bold Scripture words) commit fornication with it! "Come out from her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues!"

"And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her," says the apostle, "I wondered with a great wonder."

Romish apologists have been forced by the evidence to admit that it is Rome that is pictured here: but they say, and some Protestant interpreters have joined them in it. that it is pagan Rome. But how little cause of wonder to John in his Patmos banishment, that the heathen world should persecute the saints! That this same Rome, professing Christianity, should do it, this would be indeed a marvel. With us it is simple matter of history, and we have ceased to wonder; while, alas! it is true that many today no longer remember, and many more think we have no business to remember, the persecutor of old. It was the temper of those cruel times of old, many urge: nineteenth century civilization has tamed the tiger, and Rome now loves her enemies, as the Christian should. But abundant testimony shows how false is this assertion. Here, just before her judgment, the apostle pronounces her condemnation for the murder of God's saints still unrepented of.

The angel now explains the mystery, and begins with the beast. "The beast that was and is not" is clearly from the point of view of the vision,* as has been said. The rule of the woman necessarily destroys beast-character, while it lasts. But the beast will awake from its long sleep: it is "about to come up out of the abyss, and to go into perdition." This coming up out of the abyss, however, as has been elsewhere said, does not seem to be merely the revival of the empire: the key of the abyss in the hands of the fallen star under the fifth trumpet, and the angel of the abyss being the person who by the two languages of his name is the "destroyer" of both Jew and Gentile, would lead us to believe that there was in it the working of satanic power. This is strengthened by the connection of this ascent with the "going into perdition" of that which comes up.

{*This is contrary, however, to the view taken of it when considering the thirteenth chapter. But the difficulty of the "beast that is not" and the "one is," spoken of the heads of the beast, seems in this way to find a better solution. The paragraph as to this in the former place may therefore be considered canceled.}

The previous revival under the seventh head would thus be passed over; and the prophecy hastens on to what is most important, the beast pictured here being identified in fact, in the prophecy itself, with its own eighth head. (v. 2.) That it has only seven, as seen in the vision, is not against this if the seventh and eighth heads are the same person.

The unhappy "dwellers upon the earth" wonder at this revival, whose names have not from the foundation of the world been written in the book of the Lamb slain. Divine grace is that alone which makes any to differ; and of this we are reminded here. The power that works in the revival of the beast is plainly beyond that of man; and how many in the present day seem to take for granted that what is more than human power must be divine. This is the essence of the "strong delusion" which God sends upon those who have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved. Powers and signs and lying wonders confirm the imperial last head in his pretension; and that they are "lying" means, not that they are mere juggling and imposition, but that they are made to foster lies. They shall wonder, "seeing how that the beast was and is not and shall be present [again]."

And "here is the mind that hath wisdom," — the divine secret for an understanding heart. First, as to the woman: "The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth." Surely there need not be much doubt about the application of this; although some would apply it to a new Babylon yet to be built on the Euphrates, and others would make the interpreting word "mountains" to be still a figure of something else. They might indeed easily build Babylon again, that is merely looking at things from a human stand-point; but how could it be said of this new city that "in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all the slain upon the earth"?

That Rome was the seven-hilled city is familiar to every school-boy; and its being a "geographical" mark need not make it unsuited to be one, as Lange believes. It makes it plain, as God would have it surely for His saints whose blood it would shed, and who would need the comfort of knowing that He was against this "Mother and Mistress of churches," with all her effrontery and the crowd that followed her.

God has even, if one might say so, gone out of the way to give a needed plain mark of identification. For it is not easy as a symbol to understand how the heads of the beast should be the seat of the woman. But this does not make it harder for identification, while it seems to illustrate the more the tender thought of God for His people, of which the tokens can never be too many, and in a place like this, of what special value!

But the heads are also seven kings, — consecutive, not contemporaneous rulers; for five had already fallen, one was, and another was yet to come, only to exist for a short time, the beast himself being the final one. Five forms of government have been given by the historians as preceding the imperial in Rome, this last being evidently the existing one in the apostle's day. "One is" we must take as applying to the apostle's day; for at the time of the vision the beast itself "is not," as we have seen. The only other time present would be the time in which the apostle lived himself.

The imperial head came to an end necessarily when the empire as a whole broke up under the attacks of the barbarians; and to make, as Barnes and others do, the exarch of Ravenna the seventh head of the world-empire is either to overlook the plain terms of the prophecy, or else to pervert the simple facts of history. The exarchate lasted about two hundred years, which Barnes considers (comparatively) but a "short time;" and the papacy he considers the eighth head. This falls with the exarchate; for the papacy would then be but the seventh, and nothing would correspond.

The seventh head began, according to Elliott, when Diocletian, already emperor, assumed the diadem, — the symbol of despotic sovereignty after the eastern fashion; and he quotes Gibbon's words, that, "like Augustus, Diocletian may be considered the founder of a new empire." But if this were the seventh head, there was a gap between it and the papacy; and this must have been the time when the beast "was not." This is better in some respects than Barnes, and may be really an anticipative fulfillment, such as we find in the "historical" interpretation generally. But it fails when we come to apply it consistently all through, as where Elliott has to make the burning of the woman with fire by the ten horns to be merely the devastation of the city and the Campagna prior to their giving power to the beast, whereas it is really effected by the beast and the horns together, and is the complete end of the ecclesiastical system which the woman represents. It would be manifestly incongruous to suppose the papacy to hate and consume the Roman Catholic church.

The scheme of prophecy involved in all this, if taken as a whole, would destroy entirely the interpretation of Revelation which has been given in these papers, and is negatived by all the considerations that substantiate this. I do not propose, therefore, to go more fully into it. When the papacy ruled the empire, it had ceased to be in a proper sense, the empire, and then it was that according to the chapter before us, the beast "was not." The true bestial character could not co-exist with even the profession of Christianity.

The beast is necessarily, therefore, secular, not ecclesiastical. When the secular empire fell, the beast was not; though in that contradictory condition the woman might ride it. Since that fall there has been no revival, and therefore as yet no seventh head. The seventh head is constituted that, as I believe, by the union of ten portions of the divided territory to give him power; and the preponderance of Russia in Europe might easily bring about a coalition of this kind. The new imperial head lasts but a short time, is smitten with the sword, possibly degraded to the condition of a "little horn," is revived by the dreadful power of Satan acting through the antichristian second beast of the thirteenth chapter, assumes the blasphemous character in which we have already seen him, and thus goes into perdition at the appearing of the Lord.

This is the beast, as Revelation contemplates him generally, identified with the eighth head, but who is of the seventh, in fact, the seventh, which had the wound by the sword, yet lived. Thus seen, all the passages seem to harmonize, — a harmony which is the main argument for the truth of such an interpretation of them.

"And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings which have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and give their power and authority unto the beast." Alas! they are united against God and against His Christ: "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, called, and chosen, and faithful."

Here we have anticipated the conflict of the nineteenth chapter. These that are with Christ are His redeemed people, as is plain. Angels might be "chosen and faithful," but only men are "called" and when He comes forth as a warrior out of heaven, they, as "the armies that were in heaven, follow Him." The rod of iron which He has Himself is given to His people, and the closing scene in the conflict with evil sees them in active and earnest sympathy with Him.

The waters where the harlot sat are next interpreted as "peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues." With another meaning and intent than where it is spoken of Israel, "her seed is in many waters." Her influence is wide-reaching and powerful; but it is brought to an end: "and the ten horns which thou sawest and the beast;" — so, and not "upon the beast," all authorities give it now" these shall hate the harlot, and make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her up with fire." That surely is not a temporary infliction, but a full end; and beast and horns unite in it. She has trampled upon men, and, according to the law of divine retribution, it is done to her. This has been partially seen many times in the history of Rome, and the end of the last century was a dreadful warning of what is soon to come more terribly still upon her. The very profession of Christianity which she in time past used for purposes of gain and power over men will no doubt, by the same retributive law, become at last the mill-stone round her neck forever. And no eye will pity her. For it is God who has "put into their hearts to do His will, and to come to one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God should be accomplished."

How good to know amid all that day of terror that God is supreme above all, in all, the devices of His enemies! Still "He maketh the wrath of man to praise Him, and the remainder of it He restraineth." And this is the time which will most fully demonstrate this. It is the day of the Lord upon all the pride of man to bring it low. It is the day when every refuge of lies shall be swept away, and all the vanity of his thoughts shall be exposed. "The idols He shall utterly abolish." Yea, those who have been their slaves shall fling them to the moles and to the bats. "And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day." Then the way is prepared for blessing, wide in proportion to the judgment which has introduced it.

The eighteenth chapter gives the judgment from the divine side. The question has been naturally raised, Is it another judgment? There is nothing here about beast or horns, — nothing of man's intervention at all, — and there are signs apparently of another and deeper woe than human hands could inflict. It is this last which is most conclusive in the way of argument, and we shall examine it in its place.

Another angel descends out of heaven, having great authority: and the earth is lighted with his glory. Earth is indeed now to be lighted, and with a glory which is not of earth. Babylon is denounced as fallen, — not destroyed, as is plain by what follows, but given up to a condition which is a spiritual desolation, worse than the physical one of Babylon of old under which she has long lain, and from which the terms seem derived. She has become the dwelling-place of demons — "knowing ones;" Satan's underlings, with the knowledge of many centuries of acquaintance with fallen men, and serpent-craft to use their knowledge; a "hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird." The parable of the mustard-seed comes necessarily to mind; and without confining the words here to that, it is amazing to see how deliberately filthy and impure Rome's system is. She binds her clergy to celibacy, forces them to pollute their minds with the study of every kind of wickedness, and then by her confessional system teaches them to pour this out into the minds of those to whom she at once gives them access and power over them in the name of religion itself!

What has brought a professing Christian body into so terrible a condition as this bespeaks? We are answered here by reference once more to her spiritual fornication with the nations and with the kings of the earth, and to the profit which those make, who engage in her religious traffic. As worldly power is before all things her aim, and she has heaven to barter in return for it, the nations easily fall under her sway, and are intoxicated with the "wine of the fury" — the madness — "of her fornication." First of all, it is the masses at which she aims, and only as an expedient to secure these the better, with the kings of the earth. Thus she can pose as democratic among democrats, and as the protector of popular rights as against princes. In feudal times, the church alone could fuse into herself all conditions of men, turning the true and free equality of Christians into that which linked all together into vassalage to herself; and so the power grew which was power to debase herself to continually greater depths of evil. Simoniac to the finger-ends, with her it is a settled thing that the "gift of God can be purchased with money." And with her multiplicity of merchandise, which is put here in catalogue, there will naturally be an abundant harvest for brokers. With these, who live by her, she increases her ranks of zealous followers.

Another voice now sounds from heaven, — "Come forth from her, my people, that ye partake not of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues; for her sins have heaped themselves to heaven, and God hath remembered her unrighteousnesses."

Even in Babylon, and thus late, therefore, there are those in her who are the people of God. But they are called to separation. Rome is a false system which yet retains what is saving truth. Souls may be saved in it, but the truth it holds cannot save the false system in which it is found. Truth cannot save the error men would ally with it, nor error destroy the truth. There are children of God, alas! that "suffer Jezebel," but Jezebel's true children are another matter: "I will kill them with death" is God's emphatic word. The testing-time comes when the roads that seemed to lie together are found to separate, and then the necessity of separation comes. Truth and error cannot lead to the same place, and he that pursues the road to the end will find what is at the end.

"Recompense to her as she recompensed; according to her works, double to her double: as she hath glorified herself, and lived luxuriously, so much torment and sorrow give her. For she said in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore in one day shall her plagues come on her, death and sorrow and famine; and she shall be burned up with fire: for strong is the Lord God who hath judged her."

The government of God is equal-handed, and for it the day of retribution cannot be lacking. "God hath remembered" Babylon at last. In truth, He never lost sight of her for a moment. But the wheels of His chariot seem often slow in turning, and there is purpose in it "I gave her space to repent," He says pitifully: but pity is not weakness, — nay, it is the consciousness of strength that may make one slow. There is no possibility of escape. No height or depth can hide from Him the object of His search: — no greatness, no littleness. The day of reckoning comes at last, and not an item will be dropped from the account.

Then follows the wail of the kings of the earth for her, while they stand off in fear for the calamity that is come upon her, more sentimental than the selfish cry of the merchants, whose business with regard to her has slipped out of their hands. And then comes the detail of it, article by article, — all the luxuries of life, each of which has its price, and ending with "slaves, and souls of men." If one had skill to run through the catalogue here, he would doubtless find that each had its meaning; but we cannot attempt this now. The end of the traffic is at hand, and the Canaanite is to be cast out of the house of the Lord.

The lament of so many classes shows by how many links Rome has attached men to herself. Her vaunted unity is large enough to include the most various adaptations to the character of men. From the smoothest and most luxurious life to the hardest and most ascetic, she can provide for all grades, and leave room for large diversities of doctrine also. The suppleness of Jesuitism is only that of her trained athletes, and the elasticity of its ethics is only that of the subtlest ethereal distillation of her spirit. But though she may have allurements even for the people of God, she has yet no link with heaven; and while men are lamenting upon earth, heaven is bidden to rejoice above, because God is judging her with the judgment that saints and apostles and prophets have pronounced upon her.

Finally, and reminding us of the prophetic action as to her prototype, "a strong angel took up a great mill-stone, 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.'" And then comes the extreme announcement of her desolation. Not merely shall her merchandise be no more, there shall be no sign of life at all, — no pleasant sound, no mechanic's craft, no menial work, no light of lamp, no voice of bridegroom or of bride; and then the reason of her doom is again given: "For thy merchants were the princes of the earth; for with thy sorcery were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth."

Interpretation is hardly needed in all this. The detail of judgment seems intended rather to fix the attention and give us serious consideration of what God judges at last in this unsparing way. Surely it is needed now, when Christian men are being taken with the wiles of one who in a day of conflict and uncertainty can hold out to them a rest which is not Christ's rest; who in the midst of defection from the faith can be the champion of orthodoxy while shutting up the word of life from men; who can be all things to all men, not to save, but to destroy them: at such a time, how great a need is there for pondering her doom as the word of prophecy declares it, and the joy of heaven over the downfall of the sorceress at last.

Heaven indeed is full of joy and gratulation and worship: "After these things, I heard as it were a great voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, Hallelujah! salvation and honor and glory and power belong to our God; for true and righteous are his judgments; for He hath judged the great harlot which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.' And a second time they say, 'Hallelujah!' And her smoke goeth up forever and ever. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped God, saying, 'Amen: hallelujah!'"

We may now briefly discuss the question of how far there is indication here of a divine judgment, apart from what is inflicted by the wild beast and its horns. These, we have read, "shall hate the harlot, and shall make her desolate and naked, and eat her flesh, and burn her up with fire." In the present chapter, we have again, "And she shall be burned up with fire; for strong is the Lord God who hath judged her." The kings of the earth "wail over her when they look upon the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment." And so with the merchants and the mariners. And finally we read, "Her smoke goeth up forever and ever." Nothing in all this forces us to think of a special divine judgment outside of what is inflicted by human instruments, except the last. The last statement, I judge, does. It cannot but recall to our minds what is said of the worshipers of the beast and false prophet in the fourteenth chapter, where the same words are used; but this is not a judgment on earth at all: could indeed "her smoke goeth up forever and ever" be said of any earthly judgment? '[he words used are such as imply strict eternity: no earthly judgment can endure in this way; and the language does not permit the idea that the persistency is only that of the effects. No, it is eternity ratifying the judgment of time, as it surely will do; and it is only when we have taken our place, as it were, amid the throng in heaven, that this is seen.

But thus, then, we seem to have here no positive declaration of any judgment of Babylon on earth, save by the hands of the last head of western empire and his kings. Yet the eighteenth chapter, we have still to remember, says nothing of these kings: all is from God absolutely, and at least they are not considered. It has been also suggested that it is the "city" rather than the woman (the ecclesiastical system) that is before us in this chapter; but much cannot be insisted on as to this, seeing that the identification of the woman with the city is plainly stated in the last verse of the previous one, and also that the terms even here suppose their identity.

On the other side, there is in fact no absolute identity; nor is it difficult to think of the destruction of the religious system without its involving at all that of the city; nor, again, would one even suppose that the imperial head, with his subordinates, would utterly destroy the ancient seat of his own empire. Here a divine judgment, strictly and only that, taking up and enforcing the human one as of God, becomes at least a natural thought, and worthy of consideration.

Outside of the book of Revelation, Scripture is in full harmony with this. The millennial earth, as we may have occasion to see again, when we come to speak more of it, is certainly to have witnesses of this kind to the righteous judgment of God upon the objects of it. In it, as it were, heaven and hell are both to be represented before the eyes of men, that they may be fully warned of the wrath to come. During the present time, it is objected, there is not sufficient witness; in the millennium, therefore, there shall be no room left for doubt. Therefore while the cloud and fire rest as of old, but with wider stretch, as of sheltering wings, over Jerusalem (Isa. 4:5-6; comp. Matt. 23:37), we have, on the other side, the open witness of the judgment upon transgressors which the Lord Himself renders as a type of the deeper judgment beyond. (Isa. 66:23-24, comp. Mark 9.)

Beside this, Edom remains desolate, and, to come near to what is before us, Babylon also. (Isa. 13:20; Isa. 34:9-10.) How suitable that Rome, the seat of a power far worse and of far longer continuance should be so visited! Such a judgment would fill out the prophecy most fully and exactly. What a picture of eternal judgment is that of Idumea, in that "year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion"! "And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up forever." Rome is the great Edom as it is the great Babylon, and it would be really strange if there were not to be in her case a similar recompense. Barnes quotes from a traveler in Italy in 1850 what is only a striking confirmation of the story told by all who with eyes open have visited the country: "I behold everywhere, in Rome, near Rome, and through the whole region from Rome to Naples, the most astounding proofs, not merely of the possibility, but the probability, that the whole region of central Italy will one day be destroyed by such a catastrophe. The soil of Rome is tufa, with a volcanic subterranean action going on. At Naples, the boiling sulphur is to be seen bubbling near the surface of the earth. When I drew a stick along the ground, the sulphurous smoke followed the indentation. … The entire country and district is volcanic. It is saturated with beds of sulphur and the substrata of destruction. It seems as certainly prepared for the flames as the wood and coal on the hearth are prepared for the taper which shall kindle the fire to consume them. The divine hand alone seems to me to hold the fire in check by a miracle as great as that which protected the cities of the plain till the righteous Lot had made his escape to the mountains."

That Rome's doom will be as thus indicated, we may well believe. And it is in awful suitability that she that has kindled so often the fire for God's saints should thus be herself a monumental fire of His vengeance in the day in which He visits for these things!