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In this chapter we have a very particular account of the fall of Babylon, or the antiChristian church, and of the vengeance of God executed upon her. Here it is proclaimed that Babylon the great is fallen, and become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird; that her sins had reached unto heaven, and that God had remembered her iniquity; that God gave commandment to reward her, as she had rewarded others, to double unto her double according to her works; in the cup she had filled, to fill to her double, and how much she had glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow to give her. And it is declared, that these plagues are come upon her in one day, death, mourning, and famine; and that she should be utterly burnt with fire; because strong is the Lord who judgeth her.
These things have respect partly to the overthrow of the antiChristian church in this world, and partly to the vengeance of God upon her in the world to come. There is no necessity to suppose, that such extreme torments as are here mentioned will ever be executed upon papists, or upon the antichristian church, in this world. There will indeed be a dreadful and visible overthrow of that idolatrous church in this world. But we are not to understand the plagues here mentioned as exclusive of the vengeance which God will execute on the wicked upholders and promoters of antiChristianism, and on the cruel antichristian persecutors, in another world.
This is evident by ver. 3. of the next chapter, where, with reference to the same destruction of antichrist which is spoken of in this chapter, it is said, “Her smoke rose up for ever and ever;” in which words the eternal punishment of antichrist is evidently spoken of. Antichrist is here represented as being cast into hell, and there remaining for ever after; he hath no place any where else but in hell. This is evident by ver. 20. of the next chapter, where, concerning the destruction of antichrist, it is said, “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”
Not but that the wicked antiChristians have in all ages gone to hell as they died, and not merely at the fall of antichrist; but then the wrath of God against antichrist, of which damnation is the fruit, will be made eminently visible here on earth, by many remarkable tokens. Then antichrist will be confined to hell, and will have no more place here on earth; much after the same manner as the devil is said at the beginning of Christ’s thousand years’ reign on earth, to be cast into the bottomless pit, as you may see in the beginning of the twentieth chapter. Not but that he had his place in the bottomless pit before; he was cast down to hell when he fell at first: 2 Pet. ii. 4. “Cast them down to hell, and deliver them into chains of darkness.” But now, when he shall be suffered to deceive the nations no more, his kingdom will be confined to hell. In this text is contained part of what John heard uttered upon this occasion; and in these words we may observe,
1. To whom this voice is directed, viz. to the holy prophets and apostles, and the rest of the inhabitants of the heavenly world. When God shall pour out his wrath upon the antiChristian church, it will be seen, and taken notice of, by all the inhabitants of heaven, even by holy prophets and apostles. Neither will they see as unconcerned spectators.
2. What they are called upon by the voice to do, viz. to rejoice over Babylon now destroyed, and lying under the wrath of God. They are not directed to rejoice over her in prosperity, but in flames, and beholding the smoke of her burning ascending up for ever and ever.
3. A reason given: for God hath avenged you on her; i. e. God hath executed just vengeance upon her, for shedding your blood, and cruelly persecuting you. For thus the matter is represented, that antichrist had been guilty of shedding the blood of the holy prophets and apostles, as in chap. xvi. 6. “For they have shed the blood of saints and of prophets.” And in chap. xviii. 24. of this context, “In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all them that were slain on the earth.” Not that antichrist had literally shed the blood of the prophets and apostles; but he had shed the blood of those who were their followers, who were of the same spirit, and of the same church, and same mystical body. The prophets and apostles in heaven are nearly related and united to the saints on earth; they live, as it were, in true Christians in all ages. So that by slaying these, persecutors show that they would slay the prophets and apostles, if they could; and they indeed do it as much as in them lies.
On the same account, Christ says of the Jews in his time, Luke xi. 50. “That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation.” So Christ himself is said to have been crucified in the antiChristian church, chap. xi. 8. “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” So all the inhabitants of heaven, all the saints from the beginning of the world, and the angels also, are called upon to rejoice over Babylon, because of God’s vengeance upon her, wherein he avenges them: they all of them had in effect been injured and persecuted by antichrist. Indeed they are not called upon to rejoice in having their revenge glutted, but in seeing justice executed, and in seeing the love and tenderness of God towards them, manifested in his severity towards their enemies.
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