The Revelation of John


Division 2. (Rev. 4 — 22.)

Things that come to pass after these. The salvation of Israel and the earth.

Subdivision 6. (Rev. 17 — 20:3.)

The final victory.

We are now to look at the final victory, which is, of course, the divine victory over the fully developed evil; as seen on the one hand in Babylon the great, the woman; and on the other hand in the beast and the false prophet, who at last are in opposition to her. Babylon the great has been hitherto only the subject of brief reference. Nevertheless, its place cannot but be a great one in the prophecy of the book of Revelation, a book which joins together the testimony of the old prophets — the prophetic history of Israel with the close of Christendom; what we call the Christian dispensation having indeed closed before, when the Lord gathered away His people, as we have seen already in the fourth chapter. But it cannot but be a matter of intense interest and profit to know what is the final end of that which is left upon earth with the profession as yet of the Christian name, a profession which is now, of course, worse than hollow. Apostasy is the inevitable result; and accordingly Babylon, as we meet her now, becomes fully apostate. This involves of necessity the history of her connection with the beast and false prophet, who are the instruments of her final overthrow. This, then, is what is before us in detail now; while we have on the other hand the celebration of the triumph over her in heaven, and the marriage of the Lamb thereupon announced as come. Babylon being thus overthrown, we have next to see the overthrow of the beast and false prophet; but this is by the coming of the Lord Himself from heaven, the judgment, as Isaiah puts it, of "the host of the high ones that are on high and the kings of the earth upon the earth" (Isa. 24:21).

Section 1. (Rev. 17.)

The rule of the harlot

Babylon is already announced as fallen in the fourteenth chapter, and as judged of God under the seventh bowl; 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 here viewed rather in its relation to her.

It is one of the angels of the bowls 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 harlot 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 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 manifestly represents Israel.

But the woman here is a harlot in guilty relation with the kings of the earth. Here, also, 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 yet set upon earthly things. 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 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 afterwards — 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 — what 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 as such 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 was, and 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 eighteenth century, the wild-beast fangs and teeth at once display themselves.

But we are now called to 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. These external signs are not to be thought unsuitable because external. They are intended surely to invite our attention to what is underneath them. She is decked, too, with gold and precious stones and pearls, figures of really divine and spiritual truths, which, however, she only uses to adorn herself outwardly with, and indeed 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 on 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 in such a manner 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, therefore, 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, without which it could not exist. With it, a little oil and water and spittle become of marvelous efficacy, her capital stock indeed, out of which, at the smallest cost, the church can create 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.)

This, for those who are deceived by it, lifts her at once into a place of supreme power that nothing can resist. If she has power to create God, she may well have power over all the creatures that He has created.

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, to 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 paradoxical 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! 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 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, necessarily leads us to believe that there is 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.

The previous revival under the seventh head would thus be passed over; this being in fact merely temporary and transitional; the prophecy, which is not a history of the beast, but of its relation to the woman, hastens on to what is most important; the beast pictured here being identified, in fact, in the prophecy itself, with its own eighth head (ver. 11). 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 whatever is of 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."One would think there need not be much doubt about the application of this, and in general there has not been. That Rome was the seven-hilled city is familiar to every schoolboy, and its being a "geographical" mark need not make it unsuited to be one, as Lange believes. God would point out in this way, in a manner plain even to unspiritual souls, if possible, what it is of which He is speaking here; and He has even, if one may so say, gone out of the way to give a needed plain mark of identification, that His saints may know, whose blood it would shed, and who would need the comfort of knowing, that He was against this "mother and mistress of the churches," with all her effrontery, and the crowd that follow her.

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. Imperial Rome was evidently what existed in the apostle's day. "One is" we must take, as it seems, as applying to the apostle's day, for at the time of the vision the beast itself "is not." 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 200 years, which Barnes considers comparatively but a short time, and the papacy he considers to be 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 really be an anticipative fulfilment 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 in the prophecy it is really effected by the beast and the horns together, and is the complete end of the 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, must be reserved for an after-time, to consider more closely. When the papacy in fact 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 seems to be constituted that 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 a 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 then throws off the last remnant of the rule of the woman. This is the beast as Revelation contemplates him generally, identified with the eighth head, but which is of the seven; in fact, is 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 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 are 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 may 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 together in it. She has trampled upon men, and according to the law of divine retribution this is done to her. This has been partially seen many times in the history of Rome, and the end of the eighteenth 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 the purpose of gain and power over men will, no doubt, by the same retributive law, become at last the millstone around her neck; 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 shall 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 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.

There is yet a question which we should consider before passing on, and which affects the whole interpretation already given with regard to Babylon the great. It is being urged with more and more confidence, and by a growing number of prophetic students also, that Babylon here is, after all, not Rome, but the ancient city upon the Euphrates, which is to revive in the last days and manifest the old spirit which it had from the beginning. It is plain that the name itself is what has suggested this. Otherwise one would say it would never have found the acceptance which it has. The introduction, to so large an extent, of literalism into the interpretation of Revelation naturally provides for this view a great support. Those who can believe that the new Jerusalem itself is only a great city — literally 12,000 furlongs in measure, a cube or a pyramid, as it is variously considered, its foundations literal jewels, and all else accordant, — will contend most earnestly that Babylon the great is no other than that so constantly before us in the Old Testament Scriptures. Those, on the other hand, who believe that Revelation is essentially a book of symbols will find in the very name itself a suggestion really the other way. We need rather special proof that the name is literal here, where the beast, the horns, and other surroundings are so manifestly figurative. Then the word "mystery" comes before the name, as if to assure us that there is something deeper than the letter in it. Afterwards, also, we have the warning that, "here is the mind that hath wisdom;" which, again, suggests the care we need in looking at all this. Harlotry is the uniform figure for the departure from God of one in professed spiritual relation to Him. There are two exceptions to this — in the case of Tyre (Isa. 23) and Nineveh (Nahum 3). These are the only ones to be found in all Scripture, while abundance of quotations could be given from the prophets in which Israel's relation to God is the very ground of such charges against a people departed from Him, and violating the relation in which He has brought them to Himself. The woman herself suggests such a thought as this. The woman of the twelfth chapter is not, however, as many take it, the figure of the Christian Church, but rather of Israel, as we have seen. That Babylon here is in contrast with her we need not deny or doubt, and the contrast comes out plainly in the fourteenth chapter where the 144,000 stand upon mount Zion with the Lamb. Of them it is said, "These are they that were not defiled with women, for they are virgins." Against Babylon of old no such charge as what is here is ever made. Babylon the great is not only a harlot, but the "mother of harlots," — a term which the lateness of Rome in the world's history, according to some, makes it impossible to apply to her. And this connects itself with the objection derived from the universality of Babylon's rule here, as also with the charge against her of "the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth." The answer to this should be plain, that the Lord charges Jerusalem in His day in a similar manner; declaring that upon her inhabitants shall come "all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar." "All these things," He declares, "shall come upon this generation" (Matt. 23:35-36). Certainly, nothing is said of Babylon here that can be stronger than this; and in fact upon any generation that takes up openly the sins of its ancestors, and makes them its own, such things may be said. That is how the Lord speaks of Jerusalem, and that is how the prophet speaks here.

There is no doubt that Babylon the great here is identified in spirit with the Babylon of old, and this accounts for the name given to her. There is a real unity in Satan's work from the beginning, while at the same time it develops from age to age, to keep pace with the developing revelation of God. It is this development which is so important here, and which seems to be so much forgotten by those who see here Babylon on the Euphrates. Idolatry is thus connected all through the world's history; and it is sadly interesting to trace in Romanism at the present time the adoption of certain old forms of idolatry, as indeed history assures us it has always, in every land, shown itself ready to ally itself with such things, covering them only with a new and Christian name. Indeed, the account of Babel at the beginning certainly looks forward to that which we find here, but not in the way in which it is represented by many: modern research and fragmentary traditions being woven together to make a history of the Biblical account for which the Bible itself is not responsible. Thus we are told that "the Bible says that it was arranged for the people to make for themselves a 'name' — a sem, token, sign, banner, ensign, or mark of confederation, fellowship, and organized unity," and that "that sem, or sema, was, in the language of the time, a Sema-Rama. Thus we have the name of the mythic Semiramis, the dove-goddess, which was the ensign of all the Assyrian princes. … The symbol of such a name or confederation would naturally, and almost necessarily, take the place of a god, and become the holy mother, the great heavenly protectress," etc., etc. All this is inventing for the Bible, to bring it up to what the Bible is here supposed to say. The thought of the Babel-multitudes, as Scripture in fact gives it, "to make themselves a name" is as simple as possible, and does not permit such things to be read into it.

Scripture is sufficient of itself in all matters of this kind, and its own account of Babylon is surely not lacking. Its typical character has been already remarked upon in its place. All this history in Genesis belongs to a great system of types in which Israel's own history is included, according to the apostle's words, "All these things happened unto them for types, and are written for our instruction upon whom the ends of the ages are come." Thus the history of Israel is repeated in the Church, and the Babylonian captivity of Israel has had sorrowful repetition in that other Babylonian captivity which has left its mark everywhere upon Christendom today. These types in history are a result of the fundamental unity of man everywhere, in his weakness, his folly, and his sin, over which there has been always God's controlling hand, acting according to His unity also with His own hand. Scripture gives us the history in such a manner as to bring out the types, and show us God's knowledge of everything and control of everything from the beginning. But if we go outside of Scripture, it is quite possible in such things to follow a false clue, and lose the meaning. In fact, by reverting here to Babylon, as at the beginning, the meaning is lost, the end of Christendom as here set before us is obscured. It is not permitted to be apostate Christendom, but a new thing which replaces it, and which is but a revival of what was at the beginning. In the last phase of things here, it is Babylon herself that is to be set aside in the open revolt against God which follows it. The woman here presents to us what we must not be allowed to miss, the end of the false pretension of the day, after the true Church is removed to heaven. When this is done, Satan is met upon his own ground as manifestly Satan. Only the battle of the great day of the Lord God Almighty remains. The anti-Church is gone, but in its place there is an anti-Christ and anti-God; and man shows what has been in his heart all through, by taking his side against God, under Satan's banner. Thus we have gone back of Babylon itself to where man placed himself at the fall; only now this is done deliberately and after the long, patient trial of centuries. The devil's word, "Ye shall be as God," is now, if possible, to be carried out; and with this open defiance the end comes, of course.

The connection of the woman with the beast is of the greatest importance to consider in all this. The beast is plainly Daniel's fourth beast, however much it may unite in itself at last the characters of those preceding. But Daniel's fourth beast, it is evident, has no successor. It is Rome, therefore, that is to be found in power at the end, as Babylon was at the beginning. It is not imperial Babylon that is to be revived, nor is it possible to make room in the prophecy for this. It may be true that the seven heads of the beast, successive as they are plainly, may, as already has been said, begin before Rome, and the Roman beast be seen in this, like the Roman woman, to be but the development of that which began in earliest human history. The beast, though the Roman beast, is only the continuance of the lawless Gentile powers that were from the beginning ever against God. The six heads culminate, as already said, in Rome, before the collapse of the empire. The seventh head is a new imperial head, as seen with its ten horns and as carrying the woman. It is a different form of power, transitional, and thus anomalous, but with the germ in it of the last, so that the whole number of horns is, in another view, only nine. When Christianized, Rome already lost in a sense its beast-character, though still in fact existing. Morally, it was never Christian, and its profession to be this was but a weight upon it, provoking judgment for its profession of the holy name. Thus it went down, as the historical view of Revelation shows, under the war-trumpets. The trumpets begin the history of the Church, when Church and world have become thus one. Thus at last the beast was not, though the "holy Roman empire" remained, as it were, as the ghost of what was departed. When it rises again, it rises in this anomalous condition; but even as it could not continue in this way before, so now its continuance is but "for a short time." The seventh head is wounded to death, and only revived by the power of Satan when now it becomes, as the eighth head, openly apostate, destroying the woman herself, and thus making an end of the corrupt profession upon earth. There now remains only the open war with God and the Lamb.

The connection of Rome, the city, with the Babylonian harlot is easily seen; and it is not, as Auberlen says, "totally at variance with the spirit of this thoroughly symbolical book." He would, with others, even deny the note of identification presented by the seven mountains upon which the woman sitteth. We have been told by another that these could not be even called "mountains;" they were but very small hills; but the Romans, who may be supposed to know their own language best, call them, nevertheless, montes — "mountains;" and it is quite the order of things, as shown in history, that a system of this kind should have a local representation and a name. The city of Rome has long been the centre and head of a corrupted Christianity, and cannot be released from the responsibility of this. Thus, in the Lord's day, as all through her history, Jerusalem, on the other hand, has been identified with Israel, and is the sign of their condition at the present time. In the judgment of Babylon which follows here, Rome will assuredly be found to have her part, and to remain, in her utter desolation, such a witness for God as Babylon upon the Euphrates has long been.

Section 2. (Rev. 18.)

Her judgment.

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 — and all this in the name of religion!

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, 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 unrighteousness."

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 will 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 judgeth 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 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." 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 for ever 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 for ever 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 for ever and ever" be said of any earthly judgment? The words used are such as strictly imply 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. 22:37), 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; cp. Mark 9:43-50).

Besides this, Edom remains desolate, and, to come near to what is before us, Babylon also (Isa. 13:20; 34:9-10). How suitable that Rome, the seat of a power far worse, and of far greater significance, 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!

Section 3. (Rev. 19:1-10.)

The Marriage of the Lamb.

The harlot is now judged. The judgment of the whole earth is at hand. Before it comes, we are permitted a brief vision of heavenly things, and to see the heirs of the kingdom now ready to be established in their place with Him who is about to be revealed. A voice sounds from the throne: Give praise to our God, all ye His servants — ye that fear Him, small and great." It is not, of course, a simple exhortation to what in heaven can need no prompting, but a preparation of hearts for that which shall furnish fresh material for it. The response of the multitude shows what it is: "Halleluiah! for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth." The power that was always His, He is now going to put forth. Judgment is to return to righteousness. Man's day is at an end, with all the confusion that his will has wrought. The day of the Lord is come, to abase that which is high and exalt that which is low, and restore the foundations of truth and righteousness.

The false church, that would have antedated the day of power, and reigned without her Lord, has been already dealt with; and now the way is clear to display the true Bride. "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." But the Church has been some time since caught up to meet the Lord: how is it that only now she is "ready"? In the application of the blood of Christ, and the reception of the best robe, fit for the Father's house assuredly, if any could be, she was then quite ready. Likeness to her Lord was completed when the glorified bodies of the saints were assumed, and they were caught up to meet Him in the air. The eyes from which nothing could be hid have already looked upon her, and pronounced her faultless: "Thou art all fair, My love: there is no spot in thee." What, then, can be wanting to hinder the marriage? A matter of divine government, not of divine acceptance; and this is the book of divine government. Earth's history has to be rehearsed, the account given, the verdict rendered, as to all "deeds done in the body." Every question that could be raised must find its settlement: the light must penetrate through and through, and leave no part dark. We must enter eternity with lessons all learnt, and God fully glorified about the whole course of our history.

What follows explains fully this matter of readiness: "And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." We see by the language that it is grace that is manifest in this award. We learn by a verse in the last chapter how grace has manifested itself: "Blessed are they that have washed their robes (R.V.), that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the city." But what could wash deeds already done? Plainly no reformation, no "water-washing by the Word" (Eph. 5:26). The deed done cannot be undone; and no well-doing for the future can blot out the record of it. What, then, can wash such garments? Revelation itself, though speaking of another company, has already given us the knowledge of this: "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:14). Thus the value of that precious blood is found with us to the end of time, and in how many ways of various blessing!

It is not, then, the best robe for the Father's house: that robe never needs washing. It is for the kingdom, for the world, in the governmental ways of God with men, that this fine linen is granted to the saints. Yet they take their place in it at the marriage supper of the Lamb; for Christ's love it is that satisfies itself with the recognition and reward of all that has been done for love of Him. This is what finds reward; and thus the hireling principle is set aside.

"And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb!" Blessed indeed are they that are bidden now! Alas, they may despise the invitation. But how blessed are they who, when that day comes, are found among the bidden ones! I leave for the present the question of who exactly make up the company of those that form the Bride; but the Bride assuredly sits at the marriage supper, and the plural here is what one could alone expect in such an exclamation as this. There seems, therefore, no ground in such an expression for distinguishing separate companies as the Bride and the "friends of the Bridegroom." The latter expression is used by the Baptist in a very different application, as assuredly he had no thought of any bride save Israel.

"And he said unto me, These are the true words of God." Of such blessedness, it would seem, even the heart of the apostle needed confirmation. Then, as if overcome by the rapture of the vision, "I fell down at his feet," says John, "to worship him. And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

All prophecy owns thus and honors Jesus as its subject. All that own Him the highest only, the most earnestly refuse other honor than that of being servants together of His will and grace. How our hearts need to be enlarged to take in His supreme glory! and how ready are we in some way, if not in this, to share the glory which is His alone with some creature merely! Rome's coarse forms of worship to saints and angels is only a grosser form of what we are often doing, and for which rebuke will in some way come; for God is jealous of any impairment of His rights, and we of necessity put ourselves in opposition to the whole course of nature as we derogate from these. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

Section 4. (Rev. 19:11 — 20:3.)

The prostration, of the world-powers.

We are now carried back to the earth, to see what in fact is mercy to the earth, in the complete humiliation of the power which has been so long holding it back from God, and therefore from blessing. For thus not only the "kings of the earth upon the earth" must be humbled, but he also who has assumed so long, and usurped with such apparent success, the title of "prince of this world." Isaiah sees along with him all his rebellious following, and thus speaks of "the host of the high ones that are on high;" but in Revelation, according to its manner, Satan himself stands for the whole of this. They are summed up in him whose will they have implicitly obeyed and been molded by. For those that have manifested most their independence of God only thus show, not their liberty, but their complete subservience to another, whose service has in it no freedom at all, but most degrading slavery. The "stronger than he" has now come, and he is cast down, although this does not even yet end his history. The full tale of creature mutability has not even yet been told, and therefore the full end is not yet reached. But Christ has come, and His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom: through all, the reins of His power are not yet relaxed.

1. The prophecy pauses not further now to dilate upon the blessing. There is needed work to be done before we can enter upon this; and the work is the "strange work" of judgment. The vision that follows is as simple as can be to understand, if there are no thoughts of our own previously in the mind to obscure and make it difficult. And this is the way in which constantly Scripture is obscured.

Revelation, as the closing book of the inspired Word, supposes indeed acquaintance with what has preceded it, and the links with other prophecy are here especially abundant. The kingdom of Christ is the final theme of the Old Testament, upon which all prophetic lines converge; and the judgment which introduces it is over and over again set before us. The appearing of the Lord, and His personal presence to execute this, are also so insisted on that nothing but the infatuation of other hopes could prevail to hide it from men's eyes. In the New Testament the same thing faces us continually. As we are not considering it for the first time here, it will be sufficient to examine what is in the passage before us, with whatever connection it may have with other scriptures, needful to bring out fully the meaning of it.

Heaven is seen opened, the prophet's standpoint being therefore now on earth, and a white horse appears, the familiar figure of war and victory. It is upon the Rider that our eyes are fixed. He is called "Faithful and True," — known manifestly to be that, — and in righteousness He judges and wars; His warring is but itself a judgment. For this His eyes penetrate as a flame of fire; nothing escapes them. Many diadems — the sign of absolute authority — are on His head. And worthily, for His name in its full reality — name expressing (as always in Scripture) nature — is an incommunicable one, beyond the knowledge of finite creatures. But His vesture is dipped in blood, for already many enemies have fallen before Him. And His name is called — has been and is, as the language implies — "The Word of God." The Gospel of John shows us that in creation already He was acting as that; and now in judgment He is no less so.

Is this revealed name anything else than His incommunicable one? It would seem not. The thought would appear to be in direct refutation of the skeptical denial of the knowledge of the Infinite One as possible to man. We cannot know infinity, but we can know the One who is infinite — yea, know Him to be infinite: know His name, and not know His name. The infinite One, moreover, Christ is declared here to be — no inferior God, but the Highest.

In the power of this, He now comes forth; the armies that are in heaven following their white-horsed Leader, themselves also upon white horses, sharers with Him in the conflict and the victory, clothed in fine linen, white and pure. It is this fine linen which we have just seen as granted to the Bride, and which needed the blood of the Lamb to make it white. It is therefore undoubtedly the same company here as there; only here seen in a new aspect, even as the Lord Himself is seen in a new one. It is communion with Himself that is implied in this change of character. What He is occupied with, they are occupied with; what is His mind, is their mind: so, blessed be God, it will be entirely then. None then will be ignorant of His will; none indifferent or half-hearted as to it. Alas, now to how much of it are even the many willingly strangers! and it is the "willing ignorance" that is so invincible: for all else there is a perfect remedy in the word of God; but what for a back turned upon that Word?

The Lord comes, then, and all the saints with Him. How impossible to think of a providential coming merely here! "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear," says the apostle, "then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:4). "Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?" he asks elsewhere. Judgment is now impending: "out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He may smite the nations." So Isaiah: "He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked" (Isa. 11:4). It needs but a word from Him to cause their destruction; while it is judgment no less according to His word: it is that long and oft-threatened, slow to come, but at last coming in the full measure of the denunciation. Patience is not repentance.

"And He shall rule them with an iron rod" — "shepherd" them, to use a scarcely English expression. This is, of course, the fulfilment of the prophecy of the second psalm, and decides against the still retained "break them" of the Revised Version. It is the shepherd's rod — this rod of iron, used in behalf of the flock: as He says in Isaiah again, "The day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed is come; and I looked, and there was none to help, and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me; and My fury, it upheld Me" (Isa. 63:4-5). This is distinctly in answer to the question, "Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat?" and to which He answers, I have trodden the wine-press alone." Here, also, "He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

Would it be believed that commentators have referred this to the cross, and the Lord's own sufferings there?* And yet it is so; though the iron rod, with which the treading of the wine-press is associated in this place, is something that is promised to the overcomer in Thyatira (Rev. 2:27) — "To him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, even as I received of My Father." We have but, with an honest mind, to put a few texts together after this manner, and all difficulty disappears.

{*Where He was trodden down could not be the place where He treads down His adversaries, though their rejection of Him there is what calls for this judgment. The blood of Christ now speaks of better things than that of Abel but when the day of grace is past, it will call for vengeance on those who despise it. — S.R.}

"And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written — King of kings, and Lord of lords."

2. Now, in terrible contrast to the invitation lately given to the marriage-supper of the Lamb, an angel standing in the sun bids the birds of the heaven to the "great supper of God," to feast upon earth's proudest, and all their following. Immediately after this, the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, are seen gathered together to make war against Him who sits upon the horse, and against His army. We are no doubt to interpret this according to the Lord's words to Saul of Tarsus — "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" But we have seen the idol thrust into Jehovah's temple, and know well that Israel's persecutors rage openly against Israel's God. They are taken thus banded in rebellion, and judgment sweeps them down; the beast and the false prophet that wrought miracles before him (the antichristian second beast of the thirteenth chapter) being exempted from the common death, only to be cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone, where at the end of the thousand years of the saints' reign with Christ we find them still.

The vision is so clear in meaning that it really has no need of an interpreter; and we should remember this as to a vision, that it is not necessarily even symbolic, though symbols may have their place in it, as here with the white horses of that before us, while the horses whose flesh the birds eat are not at all so. The "beast and the kings of the earth" furnish us with the same juxtaposition of figure and fact, the figure not at all hindering the general literality of fact. In these prophecies of coming judgment, the mercy of God would not permit too thick a veil over the solemn truth. This is the end to which the world is hastening now, and God is proportionally taking off the veil from the eyes upon which it has been lying, that there may be a more urgent note of warning given as it draws nigh. "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."

3. The judgment upon living men is followed by that upon Satan their prince, though not yet is it final judgment. This partial dealing with the great deceiver means that the end of man's trial is not even yet reached. He is shut up in the abyss, or bottomless pit, of which we have read before, but not in hell (the lake of fire). As restraint, it is complete; and with the devil, the host of fallen angels following him share his sentence. This is not merely an inference, however legitimate. Isaiah has long before anticipated what is here, as we have seen (Isa. 24:21-23) "And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days they shall be visited. Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously."

Here the contemporaneous judgment of men and angels at the beginning of the Millennium is clearly revealed, and just as clearly that it is not yet final. The vision in Revelation is also clear. The descent of the angel with the key and chain certainly need not obscure the meaning. Nor could the shutting up of Satan mean anything less than the stoppage of all temptation for the time indicated. The "dragon," too, is the symbol for the explanation of which we are (as in the twelfth chapter) referred to Eden, "the ancient serpent," and then are told plainly, "who is the devil and Satan." It is simply inexcusable to make the interpretation of the symbol still symbolic, and to make the greater stand for the less — Satan the symbol of an earthly empire, or anything of the sort. What plainer words could be used? which Isaiah's witness also abundantly confirms. God has been pleased to remove all veil from His words here, and it does look as if only wilful perversity could misunderstand His speech.

That after all this he is to be let out to deceive the nations is no doubt, at first sight, hard to understand. It is all right to inquire reverently why it should be; and Scripture, if we have learnt Peter's way of putting it together, — no prophecy to be interpreted as apart from the general body of prophecy, — will give us satisfactory, if solemn, answer. The fact is revealed, if we could give no reason for it. Who are we, to judge God's ways? and with which of us must He take counsel? It should be plain that for a thousand years Satan's temptations cease upon the earth; and then they are renewed and successful — the nations are once more deceived.

What makes it so difficult to understand is that many have a false idea of the millennial age, as if it were "righteousness dwelling" on the earth, instead of "righteousness reigning" over it. It is said indeed of Israel, after they are brought to God nationally, "My people shall be all righteous" (Isa. 60:21); but that is not the general condition. The eighteenth psalm, speaking prophetically of that time, declares, "The strangers shall submit themselves unto Me," which in the margin is given as "lie," or "yield feigned obedience." They submit to superior power, not in heart, and so it is added, "The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places." (Comp. Ps. 66:3; Ps. 81:15.) And Isaiah, speaking of the long length of years, says, The child shall die a hundred years old," but adds, and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed" (Isa. 65:20). So Zechariah pronounces the punishment of those who do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the glorious King (Zech. 14:17).

The Millennium is not eternal blessedness; it is not the Sabbath, to which so many would compare it. It answers rather to the sixth day than the seventh — to the day when the man and woman (types of Christ and the Church) are set over the other creatures. The seventh is the type of the rest of God, which is the only true rest of the people of God (Heb. 4:9). The Millennium is the last period of man's trial, and that is not rest: trial in circumstances the best that could be imagined — righteousness reigning, the course of the world changed, heaven open overhead, the earth filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, the history of past judgment to admonish for the future: the question will then be fully answered whether sin is the mere fruit of ignorance, bad government, or any of the accidents of life to which it is so constantly imputed. Alas, the issue, after a thousand years of blessing, when Satan is loosed out of his prison, will make all plain; the last lesson as to man will only then be fully learned!