Rejoice over her - Over her ruin. There is a strong contrast between this language and what precedes. Kings, merchants, and seamen, who had been countenanced and sustained by her in the indulgence of corrupt passions, or who had been enriched by traffic with her, would have occasion to mourn. But not so they who had been persecuted by her. Not so the church of the redeemed. Not so heaven itself. The great oppressor of the church, and the corrupter of the world, was now destroyed; the grand hindrance to the spread of the gospel was now removed, and all the holy in heaven and on earth would have occasion to rejoice. This is not the language of vengeance, but it is the language of exultation and rejoicing in view of the fact, that the cause of truth might now spread, without hindrance, through the earth.
Thou heaven - The inhabitants of heaven. Compare the notes on Isaiah 1:2. The meaning here is, that the dwellers in heaven - the holy angels and the redeemed - had occasion to rejoice over the downfall of the great enemy of the church.
And ye holy apostles - Prof. Stuart renders this, "Ye saints, and apostles, and prophets." In the common Greek text, it is, as in our version, "holy apostles and prophets." In the text of Griesbach, Hahn, and Tittmann, the word ̀ kai (and) is interposed between the word "holy" and "apostle." This is, doubtless, the true reading. The meaning, then, is that the "saints" in heaven are called on to rejoice over the fall of the mystical Babylon.
Apostles - The twelve who were chosen by the Saviour to be his witnesses on earth. See the notes on I Corinthians 9:1. The word is commonly limited to the twelve, but, in a larger sense, it is applied to other distinguished teachers and preachers of the gospel. See the notes on Acts 14:14. There is no impropriety, however, in supposing that the apostles are referred to here as such, since they would have occasion to rejoice that the great obstacle to the reign of the Redeemer was now taken away, and that that cause in which they had suffered and died was now to he triumphant.
And prophets - Prophets of the Old Testament and distinguished teachers of the New. See the notes on Romans 12:6. All these would have occasion to rejoice in the prospect of the final triumph of the true religion.
For God hath avenged you on her - Has taken vengeance on her for her treatment of you. That is, as she had persecuted the church as such, they all might be regarded as interested in it and affected by it. All the redeemed, therefore, in earth and in heaven, are interested in whatever tends to retard or to promote the cause of truth. All have occasion to mourn when the enemies of the truth triumph; to rejoice when they fall.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Revelation 18:20:
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