- Table of Contents
- About the Author
- Preface to the Book
- The Last Words in Old Testament Prophecy
- PART I. - The Parousia in the Gospels
- Parousia in the Synoptical Gospels
- Prophetic Intimations of the approaching Consummation of the Kingdom of God:
- The Prophecy on the Mount examined:
- Our Lord's declaration before the High Priest
- Prediction of the Woes coming on Jerusalem
- Prayer of the Penitent Thief
- Apostolic Commission, the
- The Parousia in the Gospel of St.John.
- Appendix to Part I
- PART II. The Parousia in the Acts and the Epistles.
- In the Acts of the Apostles.
- In the First Epistle to the Thessalonians
- In the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
- In the First Epistle to the Corinthians
- In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians
- In the Epistle to the Galatians
- In the Epistle to the Romans
- In the Epistle to the Colossians
- In the First Epistle to Timothy
- In the Second Epistle of Timothy
- In the Epistle to Titus
- In the Epistle to the Hebrews
- In the Epistle of St. James
- In the First Epistle of St. Peter
- In the Second Epistle of St. Peter
- In the First Epistle of St. John
- In the Epistle of St. Jude
- Appendix to Part II
- Part III. The Parousia in the Apocalypse.
- Summary and Conclusion
- Appendix to Part III.
- Afterword by Russell
- All the Comparative Scripture Charts Combined
by James Stuart Russell
The Sixth Vision
THE HARLOT CITY
Rev. 17—Rev. 18—Rev. 19—Rev. 20
We now approach a part of our investigation in which we are about to make great demands upon the candour and impartiality of the reader, and must ask for a patient and unbiased weighing of the evidence that shall be brought before him. Possibly we may run counter to many prepossessions, but if the seat of judgment be occupied by an impartial love of truth, we do not fear an adverse decision.
It may be convenient at the outset to take a general view of this vision as a whole, occupying as it does a larger space than any in the book, and thus indicating the pre-eminent importance of its contents.
It is introduced by a short preface or prologue. (Rev. 17:1, 2) One of the vial-angels invites the Seer to come and behold the judgment of ‘the great harlot that sitteth on many waters.’ The vision is seen in ‘the wilderness.’ The prophet sees a woman sitting upon a scarlet-coloured wild beast, full of names of blasphemy, and having seven heads and ten horns. The woman is gorgeously arrayed in a robe of purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones, and holds in her hand a golden cup ‘full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.’ On the forehead of this visionary figure is an inscription, ‘Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.’ She is, moreover, said to be ‘drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.’ The angel-interpreter then proceeds to disclose to the wondering prophet the meaning of the apparition. He identifies the wild beast in this vision with the first beast described in Rev. 13, whose number is six hundred and sixty-six, adding additional particulars to the description, some of them of a very obscure character. The woman, or harlot, he declares to be ‘that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth.’ In the next chapter (Rev. 18) the fall of Babylon the great, or the harlot city, is described in language of great power and beauty. This is followed in Rev. 19 by the celebration in heaven of the triumph over Babylon, which gives occasion to introduce by anticipation the approaching nuptials of the Lamb; after which there is a description of the victory of the divine Champion, whose name is the Word of God, over ‘the beast, the false prophet, and the kings of the earth.’ In Rev. 20 the dragon, the head of the great confederacy against the cause of truth and of God, is bound and shut up in the abyss for a period of a thousand years. The vision then closes in a grand catastrophe, a solemn act of judgment, in which the dead, small and great, stand before God, and are judged according to their works. Such is a rapid sketch of the outlines of this magnificent vision.
The question of greatest importance and difficulty which we have here to deal with is, What city is signified by the woman sitting on the scarlet beast, and designated ‘Babylon the great’?
By the great majority of interpreters it has been, and is, received as an undoubted and almost self-evident proposition that the Babylon of the Apocalypse is, and can be, no other than Rome, the empress of the world in the days of St. John, and since his time the seat and centre of the most corrupt form of Christianity and the most overshadowing spiritual despotism that the world has ever seen. That there is much to favour this opinion may be inferred from the fact of its general acceptance. It may even be thought to be placed beyond question by the apparent identification of the harlot in the vision, as the ‘city of the seven hills,’ and ‘the great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth.’
It will seem presumptuous as well as hazardous to challenge a decision which has been pronounced by such high authority, and which has ruled so long among Protestant theologians and commentators, and he who ventures to do so enters the lists at a great disadvantage. Nevertheless, in the interests of truth, and with all reverence and loyalty to the teaching of the divine Word, it may not only be permitted, but may even be imperative, to show cause why the popular interpretation of this symbol should be rejected as untenable and untrue.
1. There is an a priori presumption of the strongest kind against Rome being the Babylon of the Apocalypse. The improbability is great with regard even to Rome pagan, but far greater with regard to Rome papal. The very design of the book excludes the possibility of Rome being represented as one of its dramatis personae. The fundamental idea of the Apocalypse, as we have endeavoured to prove, is the approaching Parousia and the accompanying judgment of the guilty nation. Rome, Heathen or Christian, lies altogether outside the apocalyptic field of view, which is restricted to ‘things which must shortly come to pass.’ To wander into all ages and countries in the interpretation of these visions is absolutely forbidden by the express and fundamental limitations laid down in the book itself.
2. On the other hand, it is to be expected a priori that great prominence should be given in the Apocalypse to Jerusalem. This is fact, if our view of the design and subject of the book be correct, ought to be the central figure in the picture. If the Apocalypse is only the reproduction and expansion of our Lord’s prophecy on the Mount of Olives, which is mainly occupied with the approaching judgment of Israel and of Jerusalem, we may expect to find the same thing in the Apocalypse; and it is as unreasonable to look for Rome in the Apocalypse as it would be to look for it in our Lord’s prophecy on the Mount.
3. It deserves particular attention that in the Apocalypse there are two cities, and only two, that are brought prominently and by name into view by symbolic representation. Each is the antithesis of the other. The one is the embodiment of all that is good and holy, the other the embodiment of all that is evil and accursed. To know either, is to know the other. These two contrasted cities are the new Jerusalem and Babylon the great.
There can be no room for doubt as to what is signified by the new Jerusalem: it is the city of God, the heavenly habitation, the inheritance of the saints of light. But what, then, is the proper antithesis to the new Jerusalem? Surely, it can be no other than the old Jerusalem. In fact, this antithesis between the old Jerusalem and the new is drawn out for us so distinctly by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians, that he puts into our hand a key to the interpretation of this symbol in the Apocalypse. The apostle contrasts the Jerusalem ‘which now is’ with the Jerusalem which was to be: the Jerusalem which is in bondage with the Jerusalem which is free: the Jerusalem which is beneath with the Jerusalem which is above. (Gal. 4:25, 26) We have a similar antithesis in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where ‘the city which hath foundations’ is contrasted with the ‘not-continuing city; the city ‘whose builder is God’ with the city of human creation; ‘the city of the living God,’ or the ‘heavenly Jerusalem,’ with the earthly Jerusalem. (Heb. 11:10, 16, 12:22) In like manner we have the antithesis between these two cities distinctly and broadly presented to us in the Apocalypse the one being the harlot, the other the bride, the Lamb’s wife.
These parallels or contrasts have only to be presented to the eye to speak for themselves:—
The real and proper antithesis, therefore, to the new Jerusalem is the old Jerusalem: and since the city contrasted with the new Jerusalem is also designated Babylon, we conclude that Babylon is the symbolic name of the wicked and doomed city, the old Jerusalem, whose judgment is here predicted.
If it be objected that other symbolic names have already been appropriated by the old Jerusalem,—that she is designated ‘Sodom and Egypt,’—that is no reason why she may not be also styled Babylon. If she passes under one pseudonym, why not under another, provided it be descriptive of her character? All these names, Sodom, Egypt, Babylon, are alike suggestive of evil and of ungodliness, and proper designations of the wicked city whose doom was to be like theirs.
It deserves notice that there is a title which, in the Apocalypse, is applied to one particular city par excellence. It is the title ‘the great city’ [h poliv h megalh]. It is clear that it is always the same city which is so designated, unless another be expressly specified. Now, the city in which the witnesses are slain is expressly called by this title, ‘that great city;’ and the names Sodom and Egypt are applied to it; and it is furthermore particularly identified as the city ‘where also our Lord was crucified’. (Rev. 11:8) There can be no reasonable doubt that this refers to ancient Jerusalem. If, then, ‘the great city’ of Rev. 11:8 means ancient Jerusalem, it follows that ‘the great city’ of Rev. 14:8, styled also Babylon, and ‘the great city’ of Rev. 16:19, must equally signify Jerusalem. By parity of reasoning, ‘that great city’ [h poliv h megalh] in Rev. 17:18, and elsewhere, must refer also to Jerusalem. It is a mere assumption to say, as Dean Alford does, that Jerusalem is never called by this name. There is no unfitness, but the contrary, in such a distinctive title being applied to Jerusalem, It was to an Israelite the royal city, by far the greatest in the land, the only city which could properly be so designated; and it ought never to be forgotten that the visions of the Apocalypse are to be regarded from a Jewish point of view.
In the catastrophe of the fourth vision (that of the seven mystic figures) the judgment of Israel is symbolised by the treading of the wine-press. We are told also that ‘the wine-press was trodden without the city’. (Rev. 14:20) Since the vine of the land represents Israel, as it undoubtedly does, it follows that ‘the city’ outside which the grapes are trodden must be Jerusalem. The only city mentioned in the same chapter is Babylon the great, (Rev. 14:8) which must therefore represent Jerusalem. It is inconceivable that the vine of Judea should be trodden outside the city of Rome.
In Rev. 16:19 it is stated that ‘the great city’ was divided into three parts by the unprecedented earthquake mentioned in Rev. 16:18. What great city? Evidently great Babylon, which is said to come in remembrance before God. Possibly the division of the city may have no special significance beyond the illustration of the disastrous effect of the earthquake; but more probably it is an allusion to the figure employed by the prophet Ezekiel in describing the siege of Jerusalem. (Ezek. 5:1-5) The prophet is commanded to take the hairs of his head and beard, and, dividing them into three parts, to burn one part with fire, to cut another with a knife, and to scatter the third to the four winds, drawing out a sword after them; while only a few hairs were to be preserved, and bound in the skirt of his garment. Then follows the emphatic declaration, —‘Thus saith the Lord God, This is Jerusalem.’ It is fitting that in a prophecy so full of symbols as that of Ezekiel we should look for light on the symbols of the Apocalypse. How vividly this tripartite division of the city represents the fate of Jerusalem in the siege of Titus it is needless to say. It is scarcely possible to imagine a more truthful description of the actual historical fact than that which is summed up in the twelfth verse of the same chapter:—‘A third part of thee shall die by the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee; and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them.’
But whether this be the allusion in the vision or not, the language is wholly unintelligible if applied to any other city than Jerusalem. In what reasonable sense could Rome be said to be divided into three parts? Is it Rome that comes into remembrance before God? Is it to Rome that the cup of the wine of the fierceness of the wrath of God is given? This last figure ought to have suggested to commentators the true interpretation. It is a symbol appropriated to Jerusalem. ‘Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out’. (Isa. 51:17)
8. But a weightier argument, and one that may be considered decisive against Rome being the Babylon of the Apocalypse, and at the time proving the identity between Jerusalem and Babylon, is that which is derived from the name and character of the woman in the vision. We have seen that the woman represents a city; a city styled ‘the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified’. (Rev. 11:8) This woman or city is also styled a harlot, ‘that great harlot,’ ‘the mother of harlots and abominations of the land.’ Now, this is an appellation familiar and well known in the Old Testament, and one that is utterly inappropriate and inapplicable to Rome. Rome was a heathen city, and consequently incapable of that great and damning sin which was possible, and, alas, actual, for Jerusalem. Rome was not capable of violating the covenant of her God, of being false to her divine Husband, for she never was the married wife of Jehovah. This was the crowning guilt of Jerusalem alone among all the nations of the earth, and it is the sin for which all through her history she is arraigned and condemned. It is impossible to read the graphic description of the great harlot in the Apocalypse without instantly being reminded of the original in the Old Testament prophets. All through their testimony this is the sin, and this is the name, which they hurl against Jerusalem. We hear Isaiah exclaiming, ‘How is the faithful city become an harlot!’ (Isa. 1:21) ‘Thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them’. (Isa. 57:8) Still more emphatically does the prophet Jeremiah stigmatise Jerusalem with this reproachful epithet, ‘Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord: I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals;’—but, ‘upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot’. (Jer. 2:2, 20) ‘Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers;’ ‘thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness;’ ‘thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.’ ‘She is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.’ ‘Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you.’ ‘Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord’. (Jer. 3:1, 2, 3, 6, 14, 20) ‘Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thyself with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life’. (Jer. 4:30) ‘What hath my beloved to do in mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many?’ (Jer. 11:15) ‘I have seen thy adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem, wilt thou not be made clean? When shall it once be? (Jer. 13:27)
Passing by the other prophets, it is in Ezekiel that we find the figure elaborated to the fullest extent. In the sixteenth chapter the whole history of Israel, personified by Jerusalem, is related in an allegorical and poetical style, and it will be sufficient here to quote the table of contents of that chapter in the words prefixed by our translators.
Ezek. 16 —Contents
v.1 Under the similitude of a wretched infant is shewed the natural state of Jerusalem. v.6 God’s extraordinary love towards her. v.15 Her monstrous whoredom. v.35 Her grievous judgment. v.44 Her sin, matching her mother, and exceeding her sisters, Sodom and Samaria, calleth for judgments. v.60 Mercy is promised her in the end.
We think it is scarcely possible for any candid and intelligent mind to compare the allegories of Ezekiel in the sixteenth, twenty-second, and twenty-third chapters, with the description of the harlot in the Apocalypse, without being convinced that we find in the prophecy the original and prototype of the vision, and that both portray the same individual, viz. Jerusalem.
We have thus decisive evidence that the characteristic guilt of Jerusalem was that sin which is known in Scripture as spiritual adultery; an offence which could not be imputed to Rome, because it did not hold the same relation to God as Jerusalem did. It is to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem alone, that the disgraceful epithet is, with melancholy uniformity, applied, as peculiarly and pre-eminently ‘the harlot city’.
9. It will of course be urged as an objection to this identification of Jerusalem as the apocalyptic Babylon, that the topographical description of ‘the great city’ is so exactly applicable to Rome that it is impossible that any other city should be meant. For example, the ninth verse states, ‘Here is the mind that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.’ This must be Rome, and can be no other; for she is notoriously the ‘urbs septicollis,’ the seven-hilled city.
Yet the objector might have surmised that if the identity of the city were so self-evident, it would scarcely have been proper to preface the explanation with the significant words, ‘Here is the mind that hath wisdom;’ that is to say, it requires wisdom to understand the interpretation of the vision. This explanation is too superficial to be correct.
In the interpretation of a symbolic book an excessive literality may be a source of error. Especially the symbolic number seven is least of all to be taken in a strictly arithmetical sense. There are many examples in the Apocalypse of the use of this symbolic number, in which no interpreter with common sense would dream of counting the units. We have seven heads, seven eyes, seven lamps, seven stars, seven thunders, seven spirits. It would be a manifest absurdity to insist upon the full numerical tale of such objects, why, then, should seven be understood arithmetically when predicated of mountains? Is it not much more congruous with the nature of such a symbol that it should have a moral, or political, rather than a topographical sense, indicating the pre-eminence of the city in power or in privilege? Like Capernaum, Jerusalem was ‘exalted to heaven,’ and like her was to be ‘brought down to hell.’
But granting that the expression, ‘sitting on seven mountains,’ has a topographical significance, this feature is adequately represented in the situation of Jerusalem. It was really far more a mountain-city than Rome herself. ‘His foundation is in the holy mountains’; (Ps. 87:1) ‘God is greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountains of his holiness’. (Ps. 48:1, 2) Jerusalem was ‘a city set upon a hill.’ To this day the traveller is struck with this peculiarity of its site.—
‘The city itself is superbly placed, like a queen upon the mountains, with the deep valleys and mountains around to guard her.’1
Should, however, the literalist still require that the mystical Babylon shall have the full tale of hills, Jerusalem has as good a claim as Rome to sit upon seven mountains. In addition to the well-known hills Zion, Moriah, Acra, Bezetha, and Ophel, the castle of Antonia stood upon another height, and there was another rocky eminence or ridge on which the towers of Hippicus, Phasaelus, and Mariamne were built by Herod the Great.2 (See Zuellig on The Revelation, Stud. und Krit. for 1842.) It is possible, therefore, to find seven hills in Jerusalem; though it must be admitted that Josephus speaks only of four, or at most five.3 We consider, however, that the symbol refers to the elevated situation of the city, or to its political pre-eminence. Another objection, still more formidable, will be alleged in the declaration of Rev. 17:18, ‘The woman which thou sawest is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth.’ This, it will be said, cannot apply to Jerusalem, and can apply only to Rome. Jerusalem never was an imperial city, with vassal nations and tributary kings subject to her authority; whereas Rome was the mistress and monarch of the world.
So far as the title ‘the great city’ [h poliv h megalh] is concerned we have shown that it is actually applied to Jerusalem in several passages in the Apocalypse. (Rev. 11:8, 13, 14:8, 20, 16:19) To the Jew it was a great city, and with good reason. There is a remarkable passage in Josephus, where he gives a report of the speech of Eleazar, the brave defender of the fortress of Masada, inciting his men to destroy themselves with their wives and children rather than surrender to the Romans:—
‘Where now,’ said he, ‘is that great city, the metropolis of the whole nation of Jews, protected by so many encircling walls, secured by so many forts, and by the vastness of its towers, which could with difficulty contain its munitions of war, and which was garrisoned by so many myriads of defenders? What has become of that city of ours in which it was believed God Himself was a dweller? Uprooted from its foundation, it has been swept away, one memorial of it alone remaining, —the camp of its destroyers still planted upon its ruins.’4
Such a passage disposes at once of the objection that the title of ‘that great city’ is not applicable to Jerusalem.
With regard to the phrase, ‘which reigneth over the kings of the earth,’—the fallacy which has misled many is the mistranslation ‘kings of the earth’ [basileiv thv ghv]. A very fruitful source of confusion and error in the interpretation of the New Testament is the capricious and uncertain way in which gh is rendered in our Authorised Version. Sometimes, though rarely, it has its proper meaning, the land; but more frequently it is translated the earth, and our translators never seem to have given themselves any trouble to inquire whether the word should be taken in its widest or in a more restricted sense. With incredible carelessness they render pasai ai fulai thv ghv, ‘all the kindreds of the earth,’ instead of ‘all the tribes of the land;’ and h ampelov thv ghv, ‘the vine of the earth,’ instead of ‘the vine of the land.’ so in the passage before us, (Rev. 17:18) the ‘kings of the earth’ should be ‘kings of the land,’ i.e. Judea or Palestine. This very phrase is used in the New Testament in the restricted sense of ‘the rulers of the land,’ by St. Peter in Acts 4:26, 27, ‘Of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together in this city,’ etc. and he recognises this fact as the fulfilment of the prediction in the second Psalm, ‘Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the land [oi basileiv thv ghv] stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his anointed.’ The ‘kings of the land,’ therefore, are identified by the apostle Peter as the confederate rulers who put the Son of God to death in the city of Jerusalem. So also in Rev. 6:15, where ‘the kings of the land’ [oi basileiv thv ghv] are represented as hiding themselves from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, in the great day of His wrath. The phrase, therefore, is equivalent to ‘the ruling authorities in the land of Judea,’ or of Palestine.
We have already pointed out the correspondence between the passage just referred to (Rev. 6:15, 16) and the original draught of the scene as described in the prophecy of Isaiah. (Isa. 2:10-22, 3:1-3) It is, therefore, unnecessary here to do more than call attention to the obvious correspondence between ‘the kings of the land’ in the vision, and ‘the mighty men, and the men of war,’ etc., in the prophecy. We are, therefore, not merely warranted, but compelled to regard the phrase ‘kings of the earth’ as equivalent to ‘rulers of the land.’
Thus interpreted, the description of Babylon the great as ‘reigning over the rulers of the land’ becomes perfectly appropriate to Jerusalem. This appears from the language in which both the Scriptures and other Hebrew writings speak of the authority and pre-eminence enjoyed by that city. For example, the prophet Jeremiah describes Jerusalem as ‘she that was great among the nations, and princess of the provinces’, (Lam. 1:1) language fully equivalent to ‘that great city which beareth rule over the rulers of the land.’ Again, if so small a city as Bethlehem might be styled ‘not the least amount the princes of Judah’, (Matt. 2:6) surely the metropolitan city might without impropriety be said to ‘reign over the princes, or rulers, of the land.’ But the language which Josephus employs on this subject is a full justification of the apocalyptic description of Jerusalem.—
‘Judea,’ he tells us, ‘reaches in breadth from the river Jordan to Joppa. In its very centre lies the city of Jerusalem; for which reason some, not inaptly, have styled that city ‘the navel’ of the country. It [Judea] is divided into eleven allotments (toparchies), whereof Jerusalem, as the seat of royalty, is supreme, exalted over all the adjacent region, as the head over the body.’5
This is language which is tantamount to the expression, ‘that great city which reigneth over the kings, or rulers, of the land.’
It may possibly be felt to be a difficulty that the Jerusalem of the apostolic age could not with propriety be styled ‘the harlot city,’ since that name implies idolatry, i.e. spiritual adultery; whereas the Jews of that period were intensely monotheistic, and actually threatened to rise in rebellion rather than permit the temple to be desecrated by the introduction of the statue of the emperor. This is undoubtedly true in the letter; yet, as St. Paul intimates, (Rom. 2:22) the Jews of his time, while abhorring idols, were guilty of sacrilege. It has been well said by Dr. Hodge:—
‘The essence of idolatry was profanation of God: of this the Jews were in a high degree guilty. They had made His house a den of thieves.’6
They had as truly apostatised from God as if they had set up the worship of Baal or of Jupiter. In rejecting the Messiah they had definitively broken the covenant of their God. Our Lord expressly declared that that generation summed up in itself the crimes and guilt of all its predecessors. It was the child and heir of all the evil generations that had gone before, and filled up the measure of its ancestors:—
‘That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the land,’ etc. ‘Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation’. (Matt. 23:35, 36)
One more argument for the identity of Jerusalem with the apocalyptic Babylon, and one which we consider conclusive, is to be found in the character ascribed to the city as the persecutor and murderer of the prophets and saints: ‘I beheld the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus’; (Rev. 17:6) ‘And in her was found the blood of the prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain in the land’; (Rev. 18:24) ‘Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets, for God hath avenged you on her’. (Rev. 18:20) Who can fail to recognise in this description the distinctive characteristics of the Jerusalem of ‘that generation’? Who is it that kills the prophets and stones them that are sent unto her? Jerusalem. What is the city out of which it cannot be that a prophet should perish—that enjoys an infamous monopoly of murdering the messengers of God? Jerusalem. The blood of the saints and of prophets is the immemorial stain upon Jerusalem; the brand of the murderer stamped upon her brow; and the generation that crucified Christ is described by Him as ‘the children of them that killed the prophets,’ and so ‘filled up the measure of their fathers’. (Matt. 23:30-32)
It is impossible to mistake the bearer of this conspicuous and distinctive indictment inscribed upon the front of Jerusalem, long before stigmatised by the prophet Ezekiel as ‘the bloody city’. (Ezek. 22:2, 24:6-9)
It is not without cause, therefore, that the apostles and prophets are invited to rejoice over the fall of their relentless persecutor and murderer. The souls under the altar had long cried, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell in the land?’ They had been comforted with the message ‘that they should rest for a little season, until their fellow-servants and brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled,’ then ‘God would speedily avenge his own elect.’ And now the day of vengeance, the year of His redeemed, is come.
Can any proof be more conclusive that it is Jerusalem, the murderess of the prophets, which is here described—that Jerusalem is the Babylon of the Apocalypse?7 How exact is the correspondence between our Lord’s prediction in Luke 11:49-51 and its fulfilment in Rev. 18:24: —
‘Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute; that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation.’
‘And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that were slain in the land.’
Having thus endeavoured to identify the women in the vision, we proceed next to investigate the mystery of the beast upon which she is seated.
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1. Home in the Holy Land, p. 124.
2. Hippicus, Phasaelus, and Mariamne were erected on an eminence represented by Josephus to be 45 feet high. These three towers stood upon an isolated eminence which rose above the general elevation of this part of the hill. (Lewin, Siege of Jerusalem, pp. 348, 350.) Antonia was built upon a rock 75 feet in height, which was precipitous all round. (Ibid. p. 437.)
3. The city was built on four hills. Of these the western, or ancient Zion, was the highest, rising about 200 feet above Moriah. To the north and the east, opposite Zion, and divided from it by the Tyropaean valley, was the crescent shaped Acra, and Moriah, the latter with Ophel, the suburb of the priests, as its southern outrunner. Finally, the fourth hill, Bezetha, the new town, rose north of the temple-mount and of Acra, and was separated from them by an artificial valley.... Detached forts guarded the various hills on which tile city rose, such as Millo, Ophel, and others. Of these the highest and the strongest was the tower of Antonia, which rose to a height of 105 feet, being itself reared on a rock 75 feet high.—Edersheim, The Temple, pp. 11, 13. Here we have seven hills enumerated, while only four are claimed as such, viz. Zion, Moriah, Acra, Ophel, Bezetha, Millo, and the rock of the tower of Antonia.
4. Traill’s Josephus, bk. vii. chap. rift. sect. 7.
5. Traill’s Josephus, Jewish Wars, bk. iii. c. 3, sect. 5.
6. Hodge, Commentary on Rom. 2:22
7. It is remarkable that Dean Alford, who is far from recognising Jerusalem in the apocalyptic harlot, when speaking of the ancient Jewish church, describes it in the very language of Rev. 17:2, 6: ‘It was that very church herself which afterwards, when seated at Jerusalem, forsook her Lord and Husband, and committed adultery with the kings of the earth, and became drunk with the blood of the saints.’—Greek Testament, Notes on Rev. 12:16. This is probably an unwitting, but all the more striking, testimony to the truth of the apocalyptic description.