THE seventeenth chapter of Revelation is a divine history of the power represented by the beast, which John saw arising from the sea, and which is distinguished from all other beasts by its seven heads and ten horns with crowns. The prophet Daniel wrote the history of the world from the standpoint of nations. He mentions religion, and especially the people of God, but he deals primarily with nations. On the other hand, the history presented to John on the isle of Patmos was primarily an ecclesiastical history. In order to understand thoroughly the record of events which have taken place on earth, it is necessary, therefore, to study together the two prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, for one is the complement of the other. However, in the last days of the world's history, there will be such a close union between the church and the state that, in order to comprehend the outpouring of the judgments of God in the plagues, John was given a view of both the church and the state.
The seven last plagues come as the result of a certain course of action. God does not arbitrarily withdraw His mercy from the earth, and torment men because He has the power to do so. Divine law has been revealed to man age after age; and yet, contrary to that law, men and nations have paved the way for their own destruction. In the history of every nation which has arisen and fallen, God has given an object lesson to the world of the ultimate results of continued disobedience to laws which rule in the universe, and in harmony with which, alone, the universe itself continues to exist.
After showing John the destruction which comes when the last cord of mercy binding heaven and earth is broken, one of the angels, holding the vial, in which was one of the plagues, came to the prophet, to give him a reason for the terrors which had just been portrayed. This angel controls certain elements, the proper working of which, preserves life. From the beginning of history, he has watched the growth of nations. He has seen them rise in beauty and strength, prosper for a period, and suddenly disappear, as if the earth had opened and swallowed them; and immediately in the same place another nation would arise, repeat the same deeds, and after a brief space, cease to be, yet man did not learn wisdom, although God sought by these providences, and by His whole system of revelations, to warn him against certain pitfalls. Only a few scattered individuals from each generation have heard the voice of Heaven, and have been saved.
One of the seven angels which had the vials full of the wrath of God, carried John into a secluded spot, where, undisturbed, he could understand the history, viewing it as from a mountain peak, where each object was seen in its relation to every other object.
And he saw a whore, a prostitute woman, arrayed in gorgeous apparel, in purple and scarlet color, decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, carrying a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.
Woman was the crowning work of the Creator, when she came from the Maker's hand, God Himself pronounced her very good. She who was the highest, falls the lowest in sin, and as her power for good is unlimited when God directs, so she drags men to the brink of hell when her heart is possessed by Satan. A pure woman represents the church of Christ; a prostitute represents this church when it turns from its lawful husband, and commits adultery with the kings of the earth. "Fine line, clean and white," is the apparel for the wife of our Lord, but when the character is lost, earth’s eye is attracted by the purple and scarlet colors, the gold and precious stones. Purity of life is what God wants; royal apparel and wealth are what the world seeks. The whore sitteth upon many waters, wielding a wide influence, causing multitudes to worship at her shrine; for, said the angel, "The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." From all the earth come those who pay their money to this base creature, and drink from the golden cup which she holds in her hand. Some have drunk once as an experiment, but having tasted her wine, they are intoxicated.
The picture is that of the orgies of ancient Babylon or the mysteries of Greece. "The kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication."
On the forehead of the woman was a name written, "Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth." This is the mystery of iniquity, which Paul said was at work in the days when he wrote to the Thessalonians.
The apostolic church is represented as a chaste virgin clad in white linen. The history of the seven churches of the second and third chapters of Revelation, describes the decline. The first love was lost, and that made it easy to commit fornication. The church tolerated those who held false doctrines, and certain sects of philosophers who applied the reason of the Greeks to the study of God's Word. The simplicity of early days was changed for worldly habits, teachings, and ways of living. The inward change may be read in the outward manifestations in the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira. Paganism walked bodily into the church, and the leader of Paganism claimed the once pure church as his bride. A false spirit of prophecy, false interpretation of the Scriptures, the exaltation of reason, the love of worldly ways, the desire for money and positions in the government, and finally a demand for the crown itself, -- these are what wrought the change from purity, simplicity, and gentleness, to the condition of the prostitute.
The change was not wrought in a day. For five centuries after Christ sent out His first disciples, the transformation was going on.
Again and again during that time, Christ, like a true husband, sought the return of His church. "Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to Me, saith the Lord. Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou has not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou has polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hast a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed. ... And I said after she hath done all these things, turn thou unto Me." Hearken unto the pleading of Jehovah with His church, and judge whether or not He views the plagues with pleasure. "Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause Mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever." But the church heeded not the call to return. Through the days of Constantine she made greater advances until she took her seat on the beast. "This was Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth." She who had once been a golden cup in the Lord's hand, filled with the wine of His love, which heaven through her had offered to the world, turned from Him, decked herself with worldliness, and held to the lips of her admirers a golden cup full of poison. She had fallen, and those who drank of her wine fell also.
For twelve hundred and sixty years the whore, from her capital at Rome, the seven hilled city, controlled the nations of Europe.
She offered them her wine. Most men drank freely, and partook of her sins without restraint; but when man, or nation refused, he paid the penalty with his lifeblood. "The woman (was) drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." "The woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reignest over the kings of the earth." It was the power which dominated Europe for forty-two months, of which Daniel, the prophet, says, "He shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of times." This is an inspired picture of the church which started out pure, but soon mingled the true religion with paganism. She first asked aid of the nations, then took the reins of government, and ruled both kings and nations. God calls this church a whore, "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots."
Governments are ordained of God, and rulers are His ministers to execute wrath upon evil doers, and to minister good to those who do right. As long as sin exists on earth there will be governments, but their province is to deal with acts, not thoughts and motives. To the evil doer only, they are divinely appointed a terror. In all pagan nations the religion is under the government, and the gods are worshiped because the government so ordains. This was true in all the heathen kingdoms, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, until after the birth of Christ. So in each of these monarchies, the devil sought to destroy the truth, and those who adhered to it. The history of these nations is but the record of this attempt. Each government was an attempt on the part of Satan to rival the government of heaven, and the utter failure of the attempt put the prince of this world to open shame before the rulers of other worlds, when Christ came into His own territory, and built up a spiritual kingdom within the hearts of the subjects of Rome itself. When at the crucifixion of Christ, Satan was cast from the council of the representatives of worlds, knowing that his time was short, he revolutionized his former methods, and made governments subject to the religious organization. This revolution was a slow process. It was begun soon after the death of Christ. The master hand, which had swayed nations since creation, worked in two directions, hoping that when his forces met he would have accomplished what he had failed to accomplish heretofore.
The Roman nation was the recognized mistress of the world in the days of the Saviour. In its development, all the known forms of administration had been tested, and the very essence of the strong features from each of the preceding kingdoms had been combined in the Roman Empire. The changes from the rule of a king to the consuls, the tribunes, the decemvirs, and then to the triumvirs, and finally the revolution which turned it into an empire, had each placed the nation more completely under the control of the principles of that prince who strove to exalt his throne above God. The history of Rome shows this to be true. The complete suppression of individuality, and the exaltation of the state, were as nearly accomplished in Rome as in any earthly government.
Then the mystery of iniquity changed the church from a pure woman to a harlot, and seated her on the beast. The beast had seven heads and ten horns, identifying it with the government of the Western Roman Empire, described in the thirteenth chapter of Revelation and in the seventh chapter of Daniel. Moreover, the angel gave John the interpretation; for, said he, "The seven heads are seven mountains," mountains being a familiar symbol of governments used by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. The seven forms of government have already been mentioned. "The ten horns ... are ten kings which (in the days of John)have received no kingdom as yet." These are the ten divisions of the Roman Empire, prophesied of in the eighth chapter of Revelation, and symbolized by the mixture of iron and clay in the image of Dan. 2:42-44, which helped to prepare the beast to be ridden by the woman, the church, when she was ready to mount it.
The ten divisions were formed before A.D. 476. Between A.D. 533, when Justinian published his decree, recognizing the head of the Roman diocese as head of the government of Rome, and A.D. 538,when the last obstacle in the form of a rival power was taken out of the way in Italy, the woman mounted the beast. Henceforth lordly Rome, which, like Babylon of old, had prided itself upon the fact that it was the master of the world, was guided and controlled by a prostitute woman. This in the eyes of nations would be considered the basest of things. The woman who would so rule, would have gone beyond all bounds of propriety, and the nation so ruled would be pitied for its absolute loss of self-respect. If this is true in the actual relationships of life, how must it have appeared in the eyes of heaven, when the very principles in accordance with which nature was created, were so revolutionized as to make this condition of things possible? But the devil was foiled. This was his masterpiece. Amalgamation of species, a thing contrary to divine law, and self-destruction in the end, was practical in Rome. The woman became the mother of harlots. The ten horns, or kingdoms, have one mind with the beast, and give their strength unto the beast.
The woman was drunk with the blood of saints; this was represented by the scarlet color of the beast upon which she rode. Rome, as a pagan nation, often shed blood; all the universal kingdoms came into power by the shedding of blood; but neither the lion, the bear, nor the leopard were scarlet colored.
The nation was painted red with the blood of martyrs when the government submitted itself to the ecclesiastical power, and the church made war with the saints. During the twelve hundred and sixty years of tyranny, the church claimed that it never took the life of a single individual. The church merely decided who were heretics, -- so they argue, -- and the state executed the judgment. The beast ridden by the woman cannot do otherwise than carry out her will. Thus Rome became a scarlet beast.
That there might be no mistaking the scarlet colored beast, the angel explained still further. He spoke of it to John as "the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven." Throughout the history of the first five heads, paganism was the prevailing element; in the sixth, the empire, it was still the ruling principle; during the papacy, the seventh, it disappeared to all outward appearances, but was nevertheless the controlling power; for the papacy is baptized paganism.
Following the Reformation, when the whore was hated by the horns, the papacy was crushed; but in the last days the principles of paganism as shown in Spiritualism, the supreme manifestation of which will be the personal appearance of the devil, who claims to be the Christ; and of the papacy and of the false prophet, the daughters of Babylon, the mother of harlots, will all stand forth in the earth as persecuting powers to oppress the people of God. These forces will gather at Armageddon, and upon these the plagues fall.
They ascend out of the bottomless pit; for they are foreign to God and have no place in heaven; they go into perdition; for they have defied the God of heaven; they have turned from every principle of life, and they die the death of a harlot, cursed by their own course of action, having contaminated all with whom they came in contact.
The entire existence of these governments has been in open conflict with the Lamb. God has sent unto them prophets and wise men, and even His own Son, and they have slain them all. But at His coming they are slain by the brightness of His countenance. Truth, when allowed to shine forth in its strength, consumes error, and the beast and the image and the false prophet go into the lake of fire, together with the Dragon, that old Serpent, and Satan, who has inspired all against the God of truth and love. This is the history, and this is the end, of the union of Church and State.
Page 289; Rev. 13:4; Dan. 7:17; Rev. 10:8; Rev. 17:3.
Page 290; Lam. 3:33-36; Hos. 8:12; Jer. 32:33; Jer. 51:53; POWER AND WORK OF ANGELS. Heb. 1;14; Rev. 14:18; Rev. 16:5; Rev. 21:12; Dan. 10:16, 20, 21; 11:1; Acts 12:23; Dan. 6:22; Dan. 9:20-23; Num. 20:16; Rev. 14:6, 8, 9; Rev. 15:7; Matt. 24:31; Job 12:23; Prov. 15:5; Isa. 26:10.
Page 291; Rev. 17:1-4; Gen. 1:31; 2Cor. 11:2; Psa. 45:13, 14; Matt. 5:8; Jer. 51:13; Rev. 17:15; Jer. 51:7.
Page 292; Jas. 4:4; Rev. 17:5; Rev. 6:2; Rev. 2:4; Rev. 2:15; Rev. 2:12-29; Acts 20:29, 30; Acts 13:8; 2Tim. 2:17, 18; 3John 9.
Page 293; Hos. 14:1, 2, 4; Jer. 3:2-7; Gen. 3:17; Isa. 24:5; Eze. 33:11; Hos. 2:5; Rev. 17:6-8.
Page 294; Rev. 17:6-10; Dan. 7:25; Dan. 2:38; Rev. 13:8;Rev. 13:6; 2Thess. 2:4; Jer. 10:2, 3; Deut. 12:30.
Page 295; Rom. 13:1-3; Jer. 50:38; Dan. 4:30; John 18:36;John 12:31; Eph. 6:12.
Page 296; Dan. 7:12; Rev. 17:10; Dan. 11:21; Rev. 17:3;Dan. 7:7, 8; Isa. 13:1, 2; Jer. 51:24, 25; Zech. 4:7; Rev.17:12; Dan. 2:41, 42.
Page 297; Dan. 7:24; Luke 2:1; Isa. 3:12; Isa. 9:16; Ex.22:19; Rev. 16:6; Rev. 13:7.
Page 298; Rev. 17:11-18; Rev. 12:16; 2Kings 9:36, 37.
Page 299; Hos. 4:1; Acts 7:52; Rev. 19:20.