When God destroys the final product of civilization, a great wicked city, its commerce and culture will vanish forever because it enticed people away from true religion and holiness and into false religion and impurity.
Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 325.
- Chapters 17 and 18 go together as a unit. 17 focuses more on what was seen, 18 more on what was heard.
- The chapter can be understood from two different perspectives. A heavenly one in verses 1-8, and and earthly perspective in 9-ff.
18 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a dwelling place for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
3 For all nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”
- John probably continues to view this chapter as he did chapter 17. “…carried away by a spirit into a wilderness”.
- This angel is described somewhat differently than some of the others. Others are mighty or powerful. This one has “great authority”. John maybe highlighting the fact that this angel’s announcement came straight from God.
- “the earth was made bright with his glory” – suggesting that this angel, just as when Moses received the Law of God, shone from being in the Lord’s presence. When the angel announced the birth of Christ, a similar report was made (Luke 2.9).
- The angel’s announcement parallels Isaiah 21.9. “And behold, here come riders, horsemen in pairs!” And he answered, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her gods he has shattered to the ground.” Prophecy often carries a double meaning of sorts, one for the immediate context, another often reveals a deeper understanding of the original which is revealed later. Where Isaiah’s original prophecy concerns the Babylonian Empire, John’s speaks of the destruction of civilization in it’s entirety.
- “a haunt for every unclean spirit…bird…beast” – not that the world becomes a literal haunted mansion, but John is arguing that it will be a complete and permanent destruction.
- The word “For” in verse 3 tells us why this destruction must take place. In short, it has lured humanity in to great immorality. Religion and morality have been corrupted by this city.
- Whereas we generally think of wine used for moments of joy or celebration, this wine actually leads to judgment.
- “kings of the earth” – have used the allurement and promises of Babylon to accomplish their own agendas. The committed immorality, because of, but also “with” her.
- “merchants of the earth” – The hedonism and self-focus of Babylon’s worldview, has caused merchants around the world to become rich as people indulge in themselves.
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,
“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.
6 Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,
and repay her double for her deeds;
mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
7 As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,
so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,
since in her heart she says,
‘I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
and mourning I shall never see.’
8 For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,
death and mourning and famine,
and she will be burned up with fire;
for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”
- “another voice” – another angel, or God, or Christ?
- “Come out of her, my people” – this is an obvious warning to believers not to be insnared in the worldview of the antichrist(s)/world. The danger is moral and spiritual compromise and failure and judgment. Scripture repeats this message over and over. We cannot love both God and mammon.
- The pagan worldview which dominates civilization has, throughout time, built up an enormous sin debt, which God remembers. Sin does not get a pass. It must be judged.
- Verses 6-8 illustrate that Babylon, in her judgment, will now reap what she has sown.
- Babylon’s bullet proof persona, will be crushed under the judgment of God’s holiness. Judgment will be swift and emmense, with little to no time for pleas for mercy, “her plagues will come in a single day”.
From the earthly perspective: v9-ff
Monarchs, merchants, and mariners will lead the mourning at the death of Babylon because of their own losses. – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 330.
9 And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
“Alas! Alas! You great city,
you mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.”
- “luxury with her” – the ruling class has used the ideals of Satan to benefit themselves.
- Thus, when they “see the smoke of her burning” (judgment), they begin to mourn because they see the end of their self-serving system and know their own judgment is near.
- Ironically now, “they will stand far off” from a worldview and system they have bedded down with for years.
- “You great city” – They cannot grasp how something so powerful has been rendered useless under judgment.
- “in a single hour” – once again the quickness of judgment is highlighted.
11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.
14 “The fruit for which your soul longed
has gone from you,
and all your delicacies and your splendors
are lost to you,
never to be found again!”
- “slaves…human souls” – unlike every other item listed here, we cannot reduce individuals who bare the Imago Dei to a mere commodity. People of all age, sex, and race have intrinsic value and are worthy of respect because they are created in God’s image. At the time of this writing it is estimated that circa 60 million were slaves in the Roman Empire. Today that number is around 40 million, of which 25% are children and about 71% are women.
- All that the merchants possessed and sought will be taken away.
15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,
16 “Alas, alas, for the great city
that was clothed in fine linen,
in purple and scarlet,
adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!
17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”
- The merchants join with the kings of the earth and sing a similar song. Everything which made Babylon great will be stripped away.
And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,
“What city was like the great city?”
19 And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out,
“Alas, alas, for the great city
where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!
For in a single hour she has been laid waste.
- Those in shipping join in with the kings and merchants.
- “threw dust on their heads” – a sign of intense mourning.
20 Rejoice over her, O heaven,
and you saints and apostles and prophets,
for God has given judgment for you against her!”
- In contrast to the mourning done by those under the
antichrist’s sway, God’s serving of justice will be a time of celebration in heaven. The whole of God’s people – “saints, apostles, and prophets” will join in.
- God’s judgment, in part, is not only because Satan’s system has been an offense to Him, but also because of what it has done to God’s people.
21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,
“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,
and will be found no more;
22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters,
will be heard in you no more,
and a craftsman of any craft
will be found in you no more,
and the sound of the mill
will be heard in you no more,
23 and the light of a lamp
will shine in you no more,
and the voice of bridegroom and bride
will be heard in you no more,
for your merchants were the great ones of the earth,
and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints,
and of all who have been slain on earth.”
- “a large millstone” would be a boulder which weighed several hundred pounds. The imagery here cannot be missed, Babylon will completely disappear, and just like a rock thrown into the bottom of the sea, it will become insignificant and forgotten. It will also not return, God’s judgment will be permanent.
- APP: What is seen and seemingly so important is in fact, very temporary.
- APP: Guard yourself against the flirtations of the world, in whatever form that may take.