Notes & Commentary:
In this chapter is a repetition of the fall of Babylon and the mourning of other nations, and their consternation for its sudden destruction, to which may be applied the three mentioned expositions. Among the sorts of merchandise, (ver. 13.) are mentioned slaves, and the souls of men. Some of our Protestant adversaries (see Mr. Theophilus Higgons) tell us, that it is only Popish Rome that deals with this sort of merchandise. But I must needs say, our adversaries have the misfortune to betray a shameful ignorance, whensoever they undertake to bring proofs to shew the popes to be antichrist. Here it is so evident that by the souls of men are meant only bond slaves, which merchants used to bring and sell at Rome, that Dr. Wells instead of slaves and souls of men, in the amendments made to the Protestant translation, has translated hired servants and bond servants, as Dr. Hammond had before put in his paraphrase, and proved it in his notes. It is from the mysterious visions of these revelations, especially in the 17th and 18th chapters, that divers Protestant writers would make the people believe that all the popes for above twelve hundred and sixty years have been the detestable antichrist, the great whore of Babylon, the monstrous beast with seven heads and ten horns. This new invention, and their wild fancies upon it, are full as monstrous as the beast. The obscurity of the visions furnishes them with a more convenient handle for their main design, which is to make the pope and the popery odious to the people, where they can with less hazard advance their groundless and licentious expositions: and where the expressions are mystical and allegorical, it is no hard matter, said Dr. Hammond, to transform any thing into any thing, and thus to lead the people by the nose, said Mr. Thorndike on this very subject. Never was there a fable invented by men, that pretend to be interpreters of the holy Scriptures, so empty, so incoherent in its parts, so contradictory to the Scripture, and to the unexceptionable authority of the primitive fathers, to use the words of Dr. Wells, who therefore is pleased to own that he is not so sanguine as divers others of his communion, to think that the popes are the great, literal, and famous antichrist, emphatically so called, but by another new invention, as groundless and as frivolous as the former, he would have above two hundred popes for the same term of twelve hundred and sixty years, to have been the mystical antichrist: he does not only mean antichrist improperly and metaphorically so called, as are all heretics who teach false doctrine, and so are adversaries to Christ, of which St. John said, (1 John ii. 18.) they are become many antichrists. The doctor’s mystical antichrist or antichrists, he pretends were foretold in this revelation of St. John, who were to reign for twelve hundred and sixty days, that is by a new exposition of his learned divines of the reformation, twelve hundred and sixty years, which no one dreamt of before them. I had designed and prepared an appendix to these annotations on the Apocalypse, with a confutation of their arbitrary expositions and groundless arguments; but by the advice of a learned friend, for whose judgment I have the greatest esteem, I shall only give the reader in short what I hope may be sufficient to shew that the popes can neither be that mystical antichrist, nor antichrist emphatically so called: and that both from the authority of Scriptures and of all the primitive Fathers, both of the Greek and Latin Church, in which we find any thing concerning antichrist. It may be observed that the Fathers, or ancient interpreters, sometimes give us their private conjectures and opinions, as St. Augustine takes notice, in which others do not join with them, as that antichrist is to be of the tribe of Dan, a Jew, and chiefly to be acknowledged by the Jews, who will pretend to be their Messias, who is to sit in the temple rebuilt at Jerusalem, to overcome three kings, and seven others to submit to him, &c. These are the suspicions and opinions of some; though none of them favour their system of the popish antichrist. But whosoever consults the primitive Fathers, as I make bold to say I have done with all possible exactness, will find that the Scripture and Fathers unanimously agree in these three following points, (utterly destructive of their systems of the popish antichrist) to wit: 1. That antichrist must be one single man; 2. that he shall not come till about the end of the world; 3. that he shall but reign a very short time. In the holy Scriptures we only find the word itself, antichrist, five times, that is, in the 1st and 2nd Epistle of St. John. In four of these places, he only speaks of antichrists improperly so called, as being seducers and adversaries of Christ; and of the one proper antichrist he only says, (1 John ii. 18,) as you have heard that antichrist cometh, or is to come. But it is generally agreed, even by Protestants, that St. Paul (2 Thessalonians ii.) speaks of the great antichrist; and there he is called the man of sin, the son of perdition, he who opposeth, and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, &c. St. Paul also there adds, then that wicked one shall be revealed, (i.e. about the time of the day of judgment,) whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: from which it follows, both that antichrist is to be one man, and that his coming and the glorious coming of our Saviour shall concur together. If our adversaries will understand the predictions of the prophet Daniel (Chap. vii, &c.) of antichrist, and not only of Antiochus, he must also be one particular king, who shall overcome other kings, that little horn that sprang up amidst other ten horns. In the Revelation or Apocalypse of St. John, we no where find the name of antichrist. Secondly, I take notice that divers of the ancient Fathers, as St. Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Theodoret, &c. never bring any passages out of the Apocalypse when they speak of antichrist. Thirdly, nor is this to be wondered at, since divers of them by the beast, Babylon, and the scarlet whore, understood the devil, or heathen Rome with its heathen Roman emperors, and taught that all those visions till the 20th chapter are fulfilled already, before the coming of antichrist. Dr. Hammond gives their interpretations in these words, in his first note on the Revelation, chapter xviii: “What is said of the fall of Babylon cannot belong to Christian Rome, neither to the emperor Honorius, who was then a Christian, and at Revenna, nor to Innocentius, the pope or bishop of Rome, by the ordering of God’s providence….rescued like Lot out of Sodom also at Revenna, nor generally to the Christians, who survived to restore and re-edify the city, a more Christian city than before, but to the heathen part of the city: so that the sum of the fall of Babylon is the destruction of the wicked and heathen, and the preserving of the pure and Christian Rome, and so in effect the bringing of that city and empire to Christianity.” Thus Dr. Hammond. Nothing that the Protestants bring, as I think, has even the face or appearance of an objection, unless it be when they tell us, that by Babylon in St. John’s Revelation is meant Rome; therefore, say they, the Church of Rome must be Babylon, and the scarlet whore that sitteth there must be the pope with his cardinals, clothed in scarlet and purple. I answer: All Catholics, and all men of sense, have reason to wonder and ask by what kind of logic they have hooked or drawn into the consequence the Church of Rome. There is not, as the bishop of Meaux[Bossuet] desires the Protestants to take notice, in all these visions and predictions the least hint or insinuation of a fallen corrupted church, but of a heathen city and pagan empire. Many by Babylon understand the multitude of the wicked in general: but we will willingly allow that by Babylon was meant Rome, yet not Christian Rome or the Church of Rome, but heathen Rome and its pagan emperors, with their dress of purple and scarlet. Let me again cite to these our adversaries, the paraphrase of their learned Dr. Hammond, p. 985: “I will shew thee the vengeance that is ready to befall the imperial dignity of Rome, fitly styled the great whore….for their worship of many heathen gods. I saw a woman, that great whore, the imperial power of pagan Rome, seated on an emperor in a scarlet robe, a great blasphemer against God,” &c. — Now as to the ancient Fathers, and what they have witnessed and delivered to us concerning the three above mentioned points. St. Irenæus, on whose testimony the Protestants seem to lay the greatest stress, tells us, (lib. v. c. xxx, p. 361. Ed. Rig.) that antichrist shall be a wicked king….who shall overcome ten other kings. He also makes his conjecture on the number of the name of a single man. As to the time of his coming, he says, (p. 363) that it shall be at the end of the world, and when the end of all things shall come. That he shall reign upon the earth three years and six months: or, as he says again, for forty-two months. Rex impius et injustus….novissimo tempore….quoniam finis fiet….regnans annis tribus et sex mensibus, &c. St. Chrysostom: (tom. 6. Nov. Ed. Ben. p. 238) What is the little horn? I say it is antichrist appearing among some kings, and that he is a man, anthropos esti. See also his 3rd homil. on 2 Thess. Who is antichrist? a certain man, &c. anthropos tis. And hom. iv. Antichrist, says he, will be destroyed by Christ’s coming, &c. Theodoret, on Daniel (Chap. vii. t. 2, p. 631. Ed. Par. 1642) The little horn is antichrist, &c. And Chap. xi. He will glorify the god Maozim in this place: which the Protestants may take notice of, that he expounds thus: Instead of the gods which his forefathers adored, he will set himself up for the strong and powerful god, signified by the word Maozim. See on 2 Thess. tom. 3, p. 386. Antichrist is called the man of sin, because by nature a man, who will call himself the Christ, &c, God hath decreed he shall appear at the end of the world: para ton tes sunteleias kairon. St. Cyril of Jerusalem: (Cat. xv, p. 162. Ed. Par. 1640): The devil will bring a certain man, a magician, falsely calling himself the Christ. And this will come after the time of the Roman empire, and when the end of the world shall approach: tes tou kosmou sunteleias. He shall be destroyed by the glorious coming of Christ. He will act only for three years and six months: epi tria ete mona, kai menas ex. He brings proofs, p. 165 and 166, to shew that antichrist’s reign will last but three years and a half, being also expressed by months. And these things, says he, we draw from the divine Scriptures, ek theion graphon, yet does not bring any place out of the Apocalypse. I do not cite Hippolytus on the Apocalypse, because that book we now have with his name is thought not to be his. Theophylactus, Œcumenius, and Euthymius follow St. Chrysostom. In the BB. Patrum, (tom. 4. Ed. Colon. p. 517) we have a commentary on the Apocalypse of Andreas, bishop of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia, and another (tom. 6. p. 59) of Arethas, bishop of the same city, which is in a manner an abridgment of the former. They both agree that the reign of antichrist will last but three years and a half, for which also they cite Hippolytus. St. John Damascene, in the eighth age[century], (lib. 4. Orthod. fid. chap. xxviii. Ed. Basil. p. 389) says that antichrist is to come at the end of the world. None of these writers dreamt that the bishops of Rome were antichrist. The Latin Fathers, upon antichrist, deliver us the very same truths. Tertullian, to omit other places, lib. de Resur. carnis. chap. xxvii. Those, saith he, in antichrist’s time at the end of the world, &c. St. Cyprian, in the middle of the third age[century], (Ep. 56. Ed. Rig. and in other epistles) was apprehensive that the time of antichrist was then approaching, as divers of the Fathers feared the same in their time, but he always joins with antichrist the end of the world. Scire debetis et occasum sæculi, et antichristi tempus appropinquasse….prænuntiata sunt hæc futura in fine sæculi, deficiente jam mundo et antichristo propinquante. See Ep. 68. ad Clerum in Hispania, p. 115. See Lactantius, lib. 7. div. Institut. chap. xvii: Antichrist, says he, will come; imminente jam temporem conclusione, &c. St. Hilary (on Matt. xxiv. can. or cap. 26) tells us, that antichrist is to come when the day of judgment is at hand. See also can. 33. See St. Ambrose, (t. l. de ben. Prophet. chap. vii. p. 523) where he also thinks that antichrist will be of the tribe of Dan. See t. 2. in Psalm xlv. p. 1028. St. Jerome (on Daniel vii. tom. 3, p. 1101. Nov. Ed.) says, that by the little horn is meant antichrist. “Let us say what all ecclesiastical writers have delivered to us, that at the end of the world, when the kingdom of the Romans is to be destroyed, there will be ten kings, who will divide among them the Roman world, and the eleventh will rise up, a little king, who will overcome three of those ten….and the other seven will submit to the conqueror.” Take notice, that these words, “what all ecclesiastical writers have delivered to us,” quod omnes ecclesiastici scriptores tradiderunt, in consummatione mundi, quando regnum est Romanorum, &c. are not to be extended to every particular in this sentence, but only to what he and other ecclesiastical writers agreed in, to wit, that antichrist was not to come till about the end of the world, and that the heathen Roman empire was first to be destroyed. But it does not follow, that presently after the destruction of the Roman empire, both antichrist and the end of the world (which others also join together) should happen. This was indeed, for some time at least, the particular opinion of St. Jerome and of some other Fathers; but divers others hold that the Roman empire is now long ago destroyed, though antichrist be still to come. St. Jerome also tells us that ten kings shall divide the Roman world; but St. Augustine puts us in mind, that by ten may be signified many. And besides, there are other expositions on these kings and on Babylon, which are very probable, as shewn already. St. Jerome also (on Daniel, p. 1103) says, the reign of antichrist will last but three years and a half. On the 12th chapter, (p. 1133) he takes notice that the same short time is signified by 1260 days. P. 1127, he tells us Antiochus was a figure of antichrist, but that many things in that prophecy agree better to antichrist himself at the end of the world: rectius in fine mundi hœc facturus est antichristus. See also his Ep. to Algasia, tom. 4, part 1, q. 11, p. 200. St. Augustine began his learned work, de Civ. Dei[City of God], soon after the destruction of Rome by Alaric, about the year 410[A.D. 410], as he tells us, lib. 2. retract. chap. xliii, though he did not finish these books about the year 427. He is far from finding any certainty of the approach of antichrist, as I shall have an occasion to shew on chap. xx. of this Apocalypse; and shall only here take notice, that he delivers it as a certain truth, that the reign of Antichrist will last but three years and a half, (lib. 20, chap. xxiii) which he tells us we are the more certain of, the same short time being expressed in the Scriptures by years, by months, and by days: tres annos et semissem, etiam numero dierum aliquando, et mensium numero declaratur. St. Gregory, in his moral books on Job, (tom. 1) makes frequent mention of antichrist, little dreaming that his predecessors for almost two hundred years, that he himself and his successors for so many ages[centuries], were antichrist, foretold in the Apocalypse. Lib. 12, chap. xv, p. 410, he says antichrist will be permitted to be exalted for a little time; parvo tempore. Lib. 13, p. 32, he calls him that damnable man whom the apostate angel will make use of at the end of the world; in fine mundi: and again, (lib. 29, chap. vii, p. 925,) in mundi termino, &c. — Now to conclude from what hath been said. The Scripture, and all both Greek and Latin Fathers, acknowledge no particular antichrist, properly so called, but him who shall be one single man, who is not to come till about the end of the world, who is to reign but a short time. Let our adversaries reconcile this doctrine with their systems of the popish antichrist, whether emphatical or mystical. They tell us that 1260 days, being prophetic days, must be taken for years; and that just so long must reign the popish antichrist. It is true we have two examples in Scripture, and only two, as the bishop of Meaux observes, in which days are put for years, to wit, Numbers xiii. 34. and Ezechiel iv. 5. and in both places we are admonished that days unusually stand for years. And certainly, unless we have particular proofs to the contrary, days even in the writings of the prophets are to be taken for days, months for months, years for years. Now in this place, since the same term of antichrist’s reign both in Daniel (to whom St. John alludes) and in the Apocalypse, is also expressed by as many years and months as come to no more than 1260 days, it is manifest that St. John by days means days, and not years. So[See?] divers other convincing proofs of this matter in the advertisement of the bishop of Meaux, num. 24. This the ancient Fathers saw very well, and so not one of them understood this of a number of so many years. Yet unless we allow this arbitrary and groundless exposition, that by 1260 days are meant years, the whole system of so many popes being antichrist is utterly destroyed. But let us see what pleasant work they can make of it, if we suppose days to be years; with a second supposition, that above two hundred men are one man; and with a third, that the end of the world, at which antichrist is to come, has now been ending for 1260 years. The popish antichrist, say they, is to last 1260 years and no longer: and they are certain that he began some time in the fifth age[century], as soon as the Roman empire was destroyed by ten kings; for the popish antichrist was to begin with those kings that began to reign with the beast, and the pope renewed heathenism and idolatry at that very time. From hence they have made different computations: 1. From the year 410, when Alaric, the Goth, pillaged and almost destroyed Rome; add to this number 1260 years, and the antichristian reign of the popes should have come to a period in 1670, or thereabouts. This by the event being found a mistake, others, as Jurieu and Mr. Whiston, found out a new epoch, and dated the beginning of the popish antichrist from the year 455 or 456, under the great, learned, and virtuous St. Leo, when Genseric, the Vandal, again plundered Rome; adding the aforesaid number, and the reign of the popish antichrist was to end in 1715 or 1716. The author of a late book, entitled Charity and Truth, laughs at Mr. Whiston, that he has outlived his nine whimsical demonstrations, by which in his Essay on the Revelation he had shewn that the papacy was to expire in the year 1716. This term being also expired, and this popish antichrist going prosperously on at this present year, (1730) under Benedict XIII. whom even the Protestants themselves, commonly allow to be a very holy and virtuous pope or antichrist, some have computed that the beginning of this popish antichrist may be dated from the year 475, when both the dignity and name of the Roman empire ceased under Augustulus: and thus they may hope for the destruction of antichrist, and (as I think they hold) of the end of the world, just five years hence, 1735. Luther, at the beginning of the reformation, made some pretence to prophecies, as the particulars are related by the bishop of Meaux in his excellent History of the Variations, and among the rest, that the antichristian reign of the popes should come to an end in two years time. Luther’s preaching was to be looked on as the breath of Christ, by which the man of sin, the popish antichrist, should be destroyed, and that whilst he drank his beer quietly at his fireside with his two friends, Amsdorf and Melancthon. See the Hist. of Variations, lib. i. and num. ix. if you can — Spectatum admissi risum teneatis. (Witham)
Ver. 2. Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen. Idolatrous Rome is fallen. That mighty seat of power and dominion is fallen. The long fixed abode of voluptuousness and luxury, for the merchants of the earth have become rich by the strength of her delicacies, and now the hand of God hath struck her. It is utterly destroyed; not a human being in it. Thus it is become an accursed place, given up for an habitation of devils and a hold of every unclean spirit, or of frightful spectres and ghosts, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird, of owls, ravens, vultures, &c. &c. (Pastorini)
Ver. 4. Go out from her, my people. The people of God, the Christians, are all here told to leave the falling city, lest they be partakers of her sins, and receive of her plagues. At the time of Alaric’s sacking Rome, many fled away to St. Jerome, who was then in Judea; others fled into other parts, as many holy fathers testify. St. Jerome says, (Ep. vii) that St. Paula and several illustrious Christian families had left Rome as if by particular inspiration, and retired into Judea. The holy pope Innocent was drawn by a particular providence out of the city, as Lot out of Sodom, that he might not see the ruin of a guilty people, says Orosius, lib. 7. chap. xxxix. We read likewise that Melania, as if she foresaw the approaching catastrophe, had prevailed upon many Christians to retire with her from a city doomed to destruction. (Histor. Laus. chap. cxviii.) In fine, we all know that when the storm broke out, the Christians took refuge and were saved in the Churches of St. Peter and St. Paul, which Alaric had allowed to be places of safety. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Alas! alas! St. Augustine informs us, that the people of the eastern provinces, and the remotest cities, mourned in a public manner on this occasion. (De Civ. Dei. lib. 1, chap. xxxiii.)
Ver. 13. We see here enumerated the articles of the luxury of the pagan Romans in dress, in ornaments, in furniture, in equipage, in the sumptuousness of their tables, &c. &c. Nothing is more remarkable than the extravagant luxury and profusion of some of the Roman emperors at their tables. Caligula once spent (according to Seneca) for a supper, 150,000 crowns. Suetonius tells us, that the emperor Vitellius would feast himself thrice, and often four times in a day, spending 10,000 crowns at each meal. But now they are all gone; they are now the fuel of fire, and in one hour brought to nought. (Haydock)
Ver. 20. Rejoice….heaven, the holy apostles and prophets, and all the holy ministers of the gospel: and holy men are invited here to rejoice, because the divine justice is accomplished in the ruin of that guilty city. (Pastorini) — By the words prophets, &c. are not meant those of the old law, as pagan Rome had not been the cause of their deaths, but here only includes all the prophets, saints, and martyrs, who had been put to death for Christ throughout the whole Roman empire. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The fall of Babylon: kings and merchants lament over her.
1 And after these things I saw another Angel coming down from heaven, having great power: and the earth was enlightened with his glory.
2 And he cried out with a strong voice, saying: *Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen: and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every unclean spirit, and the hold of every unclean and hateful bird:
3 Because all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication: and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her: and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the strength of her delicacies.
4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying: Go out from her, my people: that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues.
5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and the Lord hath remembered her iniquities.
6 Render to her as she also hath rendered to you: and double ye the double according to her works: in the cup, wherein she hath mingled, mingle unto her double.
7 As much as she hath glorified herself, and hath been in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give unto her: because she saith in her heart: *I sit a queen, and am not a widow: and sorrow I shall not see.
8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine, and she shall be burnt with the fire: because God is strong, who shall judge her.
9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication, and lived in delicacies with her, shall weep, and bewail themselves over her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning:
10 Standing afar off for fear of her torments, saying: Alas! alas! that great city, Babylon, that mighty city: for in one hour is thy judgment come.
11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her: for no man shall buy their merchandise any more:
12 Merchandise of gold, and silver, and of precious stones, and pearls, and of fine linen, and purple, and of silk, and scarlet, (and all thyine wood, and all manner of vessels of ivory, and all manner of vessels of precious stone, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
13 And cinnamon) and odours and ointment, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
14 And the fruits of the desire of thy soul are departed from thee, and all fat, and goodly things are perished from thee, and they shall no more find them.
15 The merchants of these things, who were made rich, shall stand afar off from her, for fear of her torments, weeping and mourning.
16 And saying: Alas! alas! that great city, which was clothed with fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and was gilded with gold, and precious stones, and pearls:
17 For in one hour are so great riches come to nothing: and every ship-master, and every one that sails into the lake, and mariners, and they that work at sea, stood afar off,
18 And cried out, seeing the place of her burning, saying: What city is like to this great city?
19 And they cast dust upon their heads, and cried out, weeping and mourning, saying: Alas! alas! that great city, wherein all were made rich, who had ships at sea, by reason of her prices: for in one hour she is made desolate.
20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles, and prophets: for God hath judged your judgment on her.
21 And a mighty Angel took up a stone, as it were a great mill-stone, and cast it into the sea, saying: With this violence shall Babylon, that great city, be thrown down, and shall now be found no more.
22 And the voice of harpers, and of musicians, and of them that play on the pipe, and on the trumpet, shall no more be heard in thee: and no craftsmen of any art whatsoever shall be found any more in thee: and the sound of the mill shall be heard no more in thee:
23 And the light of the lamp shall shine no more in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride shall be heard no more in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth, for all nations have been deceived by thy sorceries.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints: and of all who were slain upon the earth.
2: Isaias xxi. 9.; Jeremias li. 8.; Apocalypse xiv. 8.
7: Isaias xlvii. 8.