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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

Revelation 17

 

 

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Verses 1-24

THE SEVEN DOOMS

The seven dooms are those of Babylon, the beast, the false prophet, the kings, the dragon, gog, and the dead. This lesson will be limited to chapters 17-18, both of which speak of Babylon but in different ways, and to understand which, it is necessary to keep in mind that every city may be conceived of from two points of view, material and moral. The streets and parks, the buildings, the docks and market places, these are Chicago; but her politics and government, her commerce and industry, her educational and religious systems, these things which have made her what she is, constitute Chicagoism. The one is the city materially, and the other the city morally considered. This distinction is seen in Babylon and Babylonianism; Revelation 15:3 revealing the doom of the city material, and chapter 17 that of the city moral.

INTRODUCTION: THE HARLOT AND THE BEAST (Revelation 17)

The Harlot is Babylon from the moral side, i.e., Babylonianism, or in other words, the summing up in that figure of the prevailing worldly systems that enter into the final federation of the Gentile nations. The waters represent those nations (see Revelation 17:1 and Revelation 17:18). The beast we have already identified as the federated Roman Empire, though sometimes the personal head of that empire himself, Revelation 17:3 and Revelation 17:8. The mystery is interpreted in the sense that the nations contribute to the supremacy of the harlot, i.e., to Babylonianism, and benefit by it, and yet do not recognize it. “Drunken” is explained by the circumstance that the latitudinarianism, the breadth, the laxness of Babylonianism tolerates all schools and theories of religion inimical to God and the Bible like Romanism, Mohammedanism, Hinduism, and so on, which have shed the blood of the saints in all the centuries. The seven mountains are related to the woman as the seven heads are to the beast, i.e., the systems of authority or power, the politics, government, commerce, industry, education, religion, etc., making the one totality. The seven kings is explained by the remark that God has allowed “executive power” in the prophetic earth to be exhibited in seven different forms, although there will be yet an eighth form before the end comes. By the “prophetic earth” is meant the nations clustering around the Mediterranean which, with their allies and dependencies, constitute the Roman Empire of the Caesars, and will constitute the federation at the end under the beast. The history of this “executive power” commenced with Nimrod and concludes with the beast, both of whom stand connected with Babel or Babylon. The whole of these seven forms of “executive power” include, “the native Monarchy of Nimrod, the theocracy of Israel, the despotism of Nebuchadnezzar; the aristocracy of Persia, the military monarchy of Alexander, the empire of the Caesars, and the constitutional monarchies of modern Europe. The sixth, that of the Caesars, was existent when this revelation was given (“one is,” Revelation 17:10), the seventh is now in vogue, and the eighth (Revelation 17:11) will be that of the beast. The teaching of Revelation 17:16-17 seems to be that the kings reigning over the ten kingdoms that will form the federation at the end, will find Babylonianism, i.e., the systems which control in their several kingdoms, to be a hard yoke upon them, especially so as these systems increase in influence with the increase of democracy which is always hateful to kings. It is to be rid of Babylonianism that they temporarily unite to “give their power and strength unto the beast.” Gladly will they take refuge under the arm of one whom Satan strengthens for dominion, and join in destroying a system which has really made them its slaves. The system of Babylon will be destroyed (chap. 17), but the city itself with all its wealth of greatness will for a time continue (chap. 18), the beast reigning over it until the hour of its dooms and his doom shall come together.

PROGRESSION: THE DOOM OF THE MATERIAL CITY (Revelation 18)

But a pause should be made here to prove the application to a literal city of Babylon rebuilt on the plain of Shinar. This is necessary when so respected an authority as the Scofield Bible says, “The notion of a literal Babylon to be rebuilt on the site of ancient Babylon is in conflict with Isaiah 13:19-22.” Those who have studied that chapter in this commentary will have seen reasons for the opposite view. The language of Isaiah 13-14 seems to demand the rebuilding of Babylon for their fulfillment. But the reason the Scofield Bible holds this view, is partly explained by its interpretation of the preceding chapter. “Two Babylons are to be distinguished in the Revelation,” it says, “ecclesiastical Babylon which is apostate Christendom, headed up under the papacy; and political Babylon, which is the beast’s confederated empire, the last form of Gentiles world dominion. Ecclesiastical Babylon is ‘the greatest harlot’ and is destroyed by political Babylon.” This commentary agrees that two Babylons are to be distinguished, and that the Babylon of chapter 17 is “apostate Christendom.” But it holds that “apostate Christendom” includes Protestantism as well as the papacy, and is in fact, the sum of the seven systems already indicated, one of which is ecclesiastical. It may be that ere the “beast” comes into power, Protestantism will become effaced and the papacy be the only ecclesiastical system to be reckoned with, but as to this we have no light. “The language of Revelation 18,” the Scofield Bible goes on to say, “seems beyond question to identify ‘Babylon’ the ‘city’ with ‘Babylon’ the ecclesiastical center, viz: Rome”; but we do not see it that way, and are inclined to believe that there will be a certain logical conclusion of the history of the times of the Gentiles. The civilization and culture of the world will again become atheistic and man centered, and having described a circle, its cradle (Babylon) will become its grave.

In the study of chapter 18 one is impressed with the large place commerce is to hold in the greatness of that city. The merchants and ship masters are her chief mourners (compare Zechariah 5:5-11).

QUESTIONS

1. Name the seven dooms.

2. In what two ways is Babylon to be conceived of?

3. Define the terms “Babylonianism,” “mystery,” “drunken,” “seven mountains,’’ and “seven kings.”

4. What is meant by the “prophetic earth”?

5. Name the seven forms of executive power.

6. Why is Babylonianism destroyed by the Beast?

7. Have you reviewed the lesson on Isaiah 13-14?

8. Have you reviewed the lesson on Zachariah 5?

 


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Bibliography Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Revelation 17:4". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jgc/revelation-17.html. 1897-1910.

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