Revelation 20:9
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) And they went up on the breadth of the earth.—The hostile multitudes spread like swarms over the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. Jerusalem is the beloved city—in it was the Mount Zion which God loved (Psalm 78:68). It is the figure of the true spiritual Zion and Jerusalem which has been faithful to her king. The beloved city has its camp; it is ready for war. It has waged its spiritual warfare against all forms of evil, Its citizens, like the returned exiles (Nehemiah 4:17-18), could never lay down the sword (comp. Ephesians 6:10; John 2:14; John 5:4); but the hostile demonstration is arrested by divine intervention. There came down fire out of the heaven (the words “from God” are of doubtful authority) and devoured them. The Shechinah light tabernacled over the holy city. Its light was also a flame ready to break forth upon the wicked. (Comp. Revelation 1:14; Revelation 7:15, Note; Hebrews 12:29; 2Thessalonians 1:6-10.) There may be allusion to the overthrow of the cities of the plains (Genesis 19:24), but other incidents may have been in the prophet’s mind: the fire which fell from heaven upon the enemies of an earlier prophet, Elijah (2Kings 1:9-14), and the fire which broke forth from the tabernacle in the wilderness upon those who defied the laws of the God of Israel (Numbers 16:16-17; Numbers 16:35; Leviticus 10:1-2). It must be remembered that, in the passage before us, the prophet is using the incidents and actions of the past as imagery, and that the present vision is figurative, though of course not mere empty figure: for Christ will thoroughly purge His floor (Matthew 3:12).

20:7-10 While this world lasts, Satan's power in it will not be wholly destroyed, though it may be limited and lessened. No sooner is Satan let loose, than he again begins deceiving the nations, and stirring them up to make war with the saints and servants of God. It would be well if the servants and ministers of Christ were as active and persevering in doing good, as his enemies in doing mischief. God will fight this last and decisive battle for his people, that the victory may be complete, and the glory be to himself.And they went up on the breadth of the earth - They spread over the earth in extended columns. The image is that of an invading army that seems, in its march, to spread all over a land. The reference here is to the hosts assembled from the regions of Gog and Magog; that is, to the formidable enemies of the gospel that would be roused up at the close of the period properly called the "millennial" period - the period of the thousand years. It is not necessary to suppose that there would be "literally" armies of enemies of God summoned from lands that would be called lands of "Gog and Magog"; but all that is necessarily implied is, that there will be a state of hostility to the church of Christ which would be well illustrated by such a comparison with an invading host of barbarians. The expression "the breadth of the land" occurs in Habakkuk 1:6, in a description. of the invasion of the Chaldeans, and means there "the whole extent of it"; that is, they would spread over the whole country.

And compassed the camp of the saints about - Besieged the camp of the saints considered as engaged in war, or as attacked by an enemy. The "camp of the saints" here seems to be supposed to be without the walls of the city; that is, the army was drawn out for defense. The fact that the foes were able to "compass this camp about," and to encircle the city at the same time, shows the greatness of the numbers of the invaders.

And the beloved city - Jerusalem - a city represented as beloved by God and by his people. The whole imagery here is derived from a supposed invasion of the land of Palestine - imagery than which nothing could be more natural to John in describing the hostility that would be aroused against the church in the latter day. But no just principle of interpretation requires us to understand this "literally." Compare Hebrews 12:22. Indeed, it would be absolutely "impossible" to give this chapter throughout a "literal" interpretation. What would be the "literal" interpretation of the very first verses? "I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the "key" of the bottomless pit, and "a great chain" in his hand; and he laid hold on the "dragon and bound" him." Can anyone believe that there is to be a literal "key," and a "chain," and an act of seizing a "serpent," and "binding" him? As little is it demanded that the passage before us should be taken "literally"; for if it is maintained that this should be, we may insist that the same principle of interpretation should be applied to every part of the chapter, and every part of the book.

And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them - Consumed them - fire being represented as devouring or eating. See the notes on Revelation 17:16. The meaning is, that they would be destroyed as if fire should come down from heaven, as on Sodom and Gomorrah. But it is not necessary to understand this literally, anymore than it is the portions of the chapter just referred to. What is obviously meant is, that their destruction would be sudden, certain, and entire, and that thus the last enemy of God and the church would be swept away. Nothing can be determined from this about the "means" by which this destruction will be effected; and that must be left for time to disclose. It is sufficient to know that the destruction of these last foes of God and the church will be certain and entire. This "language," as denoting the final destruction of the enemies of God, is often employed in the Scriptures. See Psalm 11:6; Isaiah 29:6; Ezekiel 38:22; Ezekiel 39:6.

9. on the breadth of the earth—so as completely to overspread it. Perhaps we ought to translate, "… of the [holy] land."

the camp of the saints and the beloved city—the camp of the saints encircling the beloved city, Jerusalem (Ecclesiasticus 24:11). Contrast "hateful" in Babylon (Re 18:2; De 32:15, Septuagint). Ezekiel's prophecy of Gog and Magog (Eze 38:1-39:29) refers to the attack made by Antichrist on Israel before the millennium: but this attack is made after the millennium, so that "Gog and Magog" are mystical names representing the final adversaries led by Satan in person. Ezekiel's Gog and Magog come from the north, but those here come "from the four corners of the earth." Gog is by some connected with a Hebrew root, "covered."

from God—so B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas. But A omits the words. Even during the millennium there is a separation between heaven and earth, transfigured humanity and humanity in the flesh. Hence it is possible that an apostasy should take place at its close. In the judgment on this apostasy the world of nature is destroyed and renewed, as the world of history was before the millennial kingdom; it is only then that the new heaven and new earth are realized in final perfection. The millennial new heaven and earth are but a foretaste of this everlasting state when the upper and lower congregations shall be no longer separate, though connected as in the millennium, and when new Jerusalem shall descend from God out of heaven. The inherited sinfulness of our nature shall be the only influence during the millennium to prevent the power of the transfigured Church saving all souls. When this time of grace shall end, no other shall succeed. For what can move him in whom the visible glory of the Church, while the influence of evil is restrained, evokes no longing for communion with the Church's King? As the history of the world of nations ended with the manifestation of the Church in visible glory, so that of mankind in general shall end with the great separation of the just from the wicked (Re 20:12) [Auberlen].

And they went up on the breadth of the earth; that is, in all parts of it where the church of Christ was.

And compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city; the church of God (typified by old Jerusalem, which was God’s beloved city) they encompassed in a military order and manner, designing to destroy it, or make it subject to their lusts.

And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them: thus Ezekiel prophesied of the issue of the Gog and Magog by him mentioned, Ezekiel 38:18-22: Ezekiel 38:22, And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. The meaning is, that God would destroy them with a quick and terrible destruction, such as is that destruction of persons and places which is by fire. And they went up on the breadth of the earth,.... Either the whole earth, in the several parts of which they will be raised; or the land of Israel, where Christ and his people will be; and so the wicked being raised, will come up from the several parts of the world, and spread themselves over the holy land; just as Gog and Magog are said to cover the land of Israel, as a cloud, Ezekiel 38:16 and it may be observed, that the very phrase of , "the breadth of thy land", is used of Immanuel's land, or the land of Israel, in Isaiah 8:8

and compassed the camp of the saints about; these are the blessed and Holy Ones, who have part in the first resurrection, even all the saints; not only the martyrs under the Heathen persecutions, and the confessors of Christ under the Papacy, but all the saints from the beginning of the world; these will be all encamped together, with the tabernacle of God in the midst of them, Revelation 21:3 and Christ their King at the head of them, Micah 2:13 the allusion is to the encampment of the children of Israel in the wilderness, about the tabernacle, which was in the midst of them, Numbers 2:2 &c. afterwards the city of Jerusalem itself was called a camp, and answered in all respects to the camp in the wilderness (f), to which the reference is in Hebrews 13:11 and which serves to illustrate the passage here, since it follows:

and the beloved city: not Constantinople, as some have thought, but the holy city, the new Jerusalem, Revelation 21:2 the general assembly and church of the firstborn, beloved by God and Christ, and by the holy angels, and by one another; and these very probably will be with Christ upon the same spot of ground where the Old Jerusalem stood, a city so highly favoured, and so much distinguished by God; so that where Christ suffered so much reproach and shame, and such an accursed death, he will now be glorified, and live in triumph with his saints:

and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them; not material fire; with this the earth, and the bodies of the wicked then upon it, will be burnt at the beginning of the thousand years; but now their bodies will be raised immortal, and not capable of being consumed with such fire; but the fiery indignation of God, or his wrath, which will be poured out like fire, is here meant, which will destroy both body and soul; this is no other than the lake of fire, or second death, into which they will be cast; and which will not be until the judgment is over, though it is here related to show what will be the event and issue of their attack upon the saints: the allusion is to the fire sent upon Gog and Magog, and to the burning of their weapons, in Ezekiel 38:22 and so the Jews (g) say of their Gog and Magog, that

"they shall be killed with the burning of the soul, with a flame of fire, which shall come from under the throne of glory.''

(f) T. Bab Zebachim, fol. 116. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Beth Habbechirah, c. 7. sect. 11. (g) Targum Jon. in Numb. xi. 26.

And they went up on the {b} breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and {17} fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

(b) As if he said, in so much that the whole face of the earth, however great it is, was filled.

(17) The wrath of God, consuming the adversaries, and overthrowing all their enterprises; He 10:27. This is the second part mentioned see Geneva Re 20:7, in the overthrow of Satan.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
παρεμβολή, either camp (as in O.T., e.g., Deuteronomy 23:14) or army (Hebrews 11:34), the saints being supposed to lie in a circle or leaguer round the headquarters of the messiah in Jerusalem, which—by an association common in the ancient world (e.g., Nineveh, “the beloved city” of her god Ishtar)—istermed his beloved city. The phrase is an implicit answer (cf. on Revelation 3:9) to the claim of contemporary Judaism which held to the title of “God’s beloved” as its monopoly (Apoc. Bar. Revelation 20:1, xxi. 21, cf. Sir. xxiv. 11). In the Hebrew Elias apocalypse of the 3rd century (cf. Buttenwieser, E. J. i. 681–2), where Gog and Magog also appear after the millennium to besiege Jerusalem, their annihilation is followed by the judgment and the descent of Jerusalem from heaven. This tradition of Revelation 20:4-10 therefore belongs to the cycle from which Revelation 11:1-13 (Revelation 14:14-20) was drawn; Jerusalem, freed from her foes and purified within, forms the headquarters of messiah’s temporary reign, tenanted not simply by devout worshippers but by martyrs (cf. Revelation 14:1-5, on mount Zion). Yet only a new and heavenly Jerusalem is finally adequate (21. f.); it descends after the last punishment and judgment (Revelation 11:15 f. = Revelation 20:10 f.). Wetstein cites from the Targ. Jonath. a passage which has suggested elements in this and in the preceding (Revelation 11:17-19) vision: a king rises in the last days from the land of Magog, et omnes populi obedient illi; after their rout by fire their corpses lie a prey to wild beasts and birds. Then “all the dead of Israel shall live … and receive the reward of their works”. In the highest spirit of the O.T., however, John rejects the horrible companion thought (En. lxxxix. 58, xciv. 10, xcvii. 2) that God gloats over the doom of the damned. An onset of foreign nations upon Jerusalem naturally formed a stereotyped feature in all Jewish expectations of latter-day horrors; here, however, as the city is ipso facto tenanted by holy citizens, the siege is ineffective (contrast Revelation 11:1 f.). Neither here nor in Revelation 19:21 are the rebellious victims consigned at death to eternal punishment, as are the beast, the false prophet, and Satan. The human tools of the latter die, but they are raised (Revelation 20:11 f.) for judgment (Revelation 20:15), though the result of their trial is a foregone conclusion (Revelation 13:8, Revelation 14:9-10). In En. vi., from which this passage borrows, Gog and Magog are represented by the Medes and the Parthians from whom (between 100 and 46 B.C.) a hostile league against Palestine might have been expected by contemporaries. But the destruction of the troops is there caused by civil dissensions. In our Apocalypse the means of destruction is supernatural fire, as in 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:4 Esd. 12:33, 13:38–39, Ap. Bar. xxvii. 10, Asc. Isa. iv. 18 (where fire issues from the Beloved to consume all the godless); the Parthians also appear some time before the end, in the penultimate stage when the Roman empire and its Nero-antichrist make their last attack. But the prophet is still left with the orthodox eschatological tradition of Gog and Magog, an episode (consecrated by the Ezekiel-prophecy and later belief) which he feels obliged to work in somehow. Hence his arrangement of Satan’s final recrudescence in juxtaposition with the Gog and Magog outburst (cf. on Revelation 16:16, and Klausner’s messian. Vorstellungen d. jüd. Volkes im Zeit. d. Tannaiten, pp. 61 f.). The latter, an honoured but by this time awkward survival of archaic eschatology, presented a similar difficulty to the Talmudic theology which variously put it before, or after, the messianic reign (Volz, pp. 175 f.). In his combination of messianic beliefs, John follows the tradition, accepted in Sib. Or. iii. 663 f., which postponed the irruption till after messiah s temporary period of power.

Revelation 20:11 to Revelation 22:5. The connexion of thought depends upon the traditional Jewish scheme outlined, e.g., in Apoc. Bar. xxix.–xxx. (cf. 4 Esd. 7:29, 30) where the messiah returns in glory to heaven after his reign on earth; the general resurrection follows, accompanied by the judgment. Developing his oracles along these current lines, the prophet now proceeds to depict his culminating vision of the End in three scenes: (1.) the world and its judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), (2.) the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1-8), centring round (3.) the new Jerusalem as the final seat of bliss (Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5). The last-named phase was associated in eschatology (Sib. Or. ver. 246 f., 414 f.) with the return of Nero redivivus and the downfall of Babylon which preceded the sacred city’s rise. The destruction of hostile forces, followed by the renovation of the universe, is essentially a Persian dogma (Stave, 180 f.), and is paralleled in the Babylonian mythology, where after the defeat and subjugation of Tiâmat in the primeval age creation commences. From this point until Revelation 21:9 f., Jesus is ignored entirely.9. And they went up &c.] The Seer does not pass easily over the immense space of time during which the world is too happy to have a history. He sees the establishment of the earthly kingdom of Christ, and foretells its end: it is only gradually that he comes to see the end also brought before his view as present.

the breadth of the earth] Perhaps rather, of the land; they overspread the whole land of Israel, against which, as we see from the next clause, their attack is directed.

the camp of the saints] God’s people assemble in military array, and stand on their defence against His enemies. They are probably prepared to fight, but as in Revelation 19:21, they have no need.

the beloved city] i.e. Jerusalem, which, it appears from this place only, will be the seat and capital of the millennial kingdom. It appears that in the popular millennial anticipations, which discredited the literal interpretation of this prophecy, this localisation of the kingdom was much insisted on, and it was even thought that the Jewish law and the sacrificial worship would be revived. This of course is utterly incredible to most Christians: but there is no difficulty in supposing that the Kingdom of God may literally have an earthly centre in the Holy City and the Holy Land. Even if the literal view be not taken, the prophecy can hardly imply less than a future purity of the Church far exceeding the present; and it may be that this purified Church will recognise a better Papacy at Jerusalem, one not too proud to learn either from the excellences or from the faults of the Roman.

and fire came down &c.] Cf. 2 Kings 1:10, and ch. Revelation 11:5, and even Revelation 13:13. This does not agree with the description of Gog’s overthrow in Ezekiel 39, where the army lie slain till they are buried, and their weapons are broken up for firewood.

from God] Should probably be omitted.Revelation 20:9. Τὴν πόλιν τὴν ἠγαπημένην) Jerusalem is called πόλις ἠγαπημένη, Sir 24:11. But here it comes under the name both of camp and city, ἓν διὰ δυοῖν. Μεμισημένος, ch. Revelation 18:2, and ἠγαπημένος, are opposed to one another: and yet in this place there seems to be pointed out a security on the part of the city, which is not altogether harmless, as Deuteronomy 32:15. In the Greek it is ἀπελάκτισεν ὁ ἠγαπημένος.Verse 9. - And they went up on the breadth cf the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city; over the breadth. "They went up" as an army to attack the enemy (cf. Judges 1:1). Either we must render the camp... even the beloved city, or else we must understand the camp as a defensive outpost placed around or near the city. In Acts 21:34 the same word is rendered "castle." "The beloved city" is evidently Jerusalem (of Psalm 78:68), that is, the Church of God, of which it is always a type in the Apocalypse (cf. Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2, 10). The description plainly portrays the Church militant here on earth. And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. "From God" is omitted in A, a few cursives, and Primasius, but appears in א, B, P, l, 7, and most cursives and versions; but these authorities vary in the position of the added clause. So in Revelation 11. fire devours the enemies of the two witnesses. This sentence is introduced in connection with the description of Gog and Magog, following the account of Ezekiel, where the same punishment is foretold (see Ezekiel 38:22; Ezekiel 39:6). It is probable, therefore, that nothing more definite is intended than to convey the general idea that God aids and protects his Church even while on earth. He, as it were, gives the enemies of his people a foretaste, while here on earth, of their future punishment of the lake of fire (see also on the seal visions). On the breadth (ἐπὶ τὸ πλάτος)

Lit., over (ἐπί). As distinguished from the "four corners" of Revelation 20:8. They overspread the earth.

The camp (τὴν παρεμβολὴν)

See on castle, Acts 21:34. Encompassing and defending the city. Compare Psalm 78:7.

The beloved city

Compare Psalm 78:68.

From God

Omit.

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