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Revelation 18 Commentary

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Chapter 18

The Judgment of Babylon

📷In this chapter, another angel of great authority tells of the complete and utter destruction God brings upon the “Babylon the great”, the great world city that rises up during the Tribulation as the full embodiment of a “commercial world system” in defiance of God.

v.1-3 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”

It is another angel of great authority that recites the destruction of “Babylon the great” with a loud declaration. Listen how closely reminiscent it is to what the ancient prophets predicted.
“Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground” (Isa.21:9). “‘For I will rise up against them,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And cut off from Babylon the name and remnant, and offspring and posterity,’ says the Lord. ‘I will also make it a possession for the porcupine, and marshes of muddy water; I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Isa.14:22-23) “Because of the wrath of the Lord she shall not be inhabited, but she shall be wholly desolate. Everyone who goes by Babylon shall be horrified and hiss at all her plagues; ‘They shall not take from you a stone for a corner nor a stone for a foundation, but you shall be desolate for ever,’ says the Lord” (Jer.50:13; 51:26)
Okay, but for us to have clarity about what the events in this chapter signify, there must be (1) an understanding that the utter destruction announced by the ancient prophets against Babylon didn’t occur during the fall of the ancient city and is yet unfulfilled, and (2) that the literal city of Babylon will exist during the Tribulation.
According to Jeremiah, God’s judgment of Babylon stated that nothing would remain of her, not even a stone to build a foundation (Jer.50:26; 51:26). And it’s true that she was overthrown and destroyed by the Medes and Persians in 539 BC but there is evidence to suggest that the prophecy has yet to be completely fulfilled. For stones from Babylon were found in a rock quarry in the 1800’s.
Moreover, beginning in 1970 Saddam Hussein spent millions rebuilding Babylon, therefore Babylon does literally exist.
In other words, dear ones, the stage is set for God to fulfill His judgment and to absolutely and utterly destroy her just as this chapter foretells (probably when the seventh bowl judgment is poured out; Rev.16:17-21).
“…the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.” In the same way Babylon was shown for her apostasy in the previous chapter, here she is also indicted for luring man away from God through “commercialism”. “You cannot serve God and mammon,” Jesus said. “For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other” (Matt.6:24).
The enticements of luxury spawned by Babylon have long caused man to pursue money more than God. During the second half of the Tribulation, however, it will reach its apex when Antichrist makes Babylon his capital city and global economic center. Merchants will be lured to it for the sake of wealth in defiance of God and thus have an ungodly relationship with her.

v.4-7 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mixed for her double. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived sensually, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as a queen, and am no widow and will not see sorrow’.”

Babylon will thrive with international bankers and corporate executives, mercantile barons and shipping magnates. Even in the midst of the terrible plagues, all the money-worshiping, power-seeking money kings are there increasing their riches, nonetheless. Jews will likely be part of that mix—a probable reason why Jesus (seemingly the One who speaks from heaven) warns them (“my people”) to leave Babylon.
“For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” It has been said, “Babylon has a long history of accumulated sins, and God has the record.” The evil Babylon has long rendered to God He will repay her “double” the evil in vengeance. In the same measure she has glorified herself and lived sensually God will measure unto her torment and sorrow.
“For she says in her heart, ‘I sit as a queen, and am no widow and will not see sorrow.’” This was first said of Babylon after the ancient Empire conquered and mistreated Israel (check–Isa.47:5-8). It intends to show the prideful indignation of those in Babylon (now the seat of Antichrist) carrying the notion that they consider themselves above the children of Israel by their defeat of the Nation and above even the One true God.

v.8-10 “Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her. And the kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come’.”

Babylon’s destruction by “fire” will come unexpectedly, suddenly, and with utter destruction. The intensity of which is described by the prophets.
“Behold, they shall burn as stubble, the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; it shall not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before!” (Isa.47:14) “The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire. The people will labor in vain, and the nations, because of the fire; and they shall be weary” (Jer.51:58)
As a result people around the globe will dread the fire and stand at a distance “for fear of her torment”. Moreover, corporate leaders, investors, and financiers who “committed fornication and lived luxuriously” with Babylon will stand back and wail—or more literally—they will sob convulsively and beat their breasts in anguish because of her destruction.
The source of such a devastating fire is unknown. But it is certainly not ordinary because the entire city is incinerated. My own opinion is that it is supernatural, and that it is in fact what causes the Antichrist to know that Christ is about to return and why he gathers his armies at Armageddon to “make war against Him” (Rev.19:19-20).

v.11-14 “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men. And the fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all.”

There is not a single necessity in this list, for all mentioned is either for luxury, self-indulgence, or pleasure. The insight that the merchandise also includes the “bodies and souls of men” perhaps indicates prostitution, pornography, or slave trade.
“And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore.” This destruction will result in a total global financial collapse.
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days” (Jas 5:1)
“And the fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you…” Jesus said, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). When a person’s wealth becomes the “fruit” they most long to possess, it suggests a denial of God by neglecting the fruit of His Spirit.

v.15-20 “The merchants of these things, who become rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ And every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade by the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’ And they threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’ Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

God’s judgment of Babylon causes heaven to rejoice. For at long last the great city founded by man in rebellion against God (Gen.11:4), the world system it produced at enmity with God (Jas.4:4), and the global economic center of Antichrist and all the death, persecution, and hardship it incites during the Tribulation will be made desolate.

v.21-24 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore. The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. And no craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore. And the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore. And the light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore. And the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all nations were deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.”

This action by the mighty angel is so similar to one recorded in the book of Jeremiah that we would be remiss not to consider it with a probable explanation.
Prior to ancient Babylon’s fall to the Medes the prophet Jeremiah wrote upon a scroll all the words of God concerning her fall. Then he ordered a man named Seraiah to read the scroll aloud at Babylon and afterwards to tie that scroll to a millstone and throw it into the Euphrates as a Divine confirmation of judgment.
“Now it shall be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then you shall say, ‘Thus Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary’ “(Jer.51:63-64)
In my opinion, this chapter repeats the action taken by Seraiah. First, the angel recites the calamity of Babylon and then he tosses a rock into the sea to confirm it. In other words, Babylon has yet to endure the full wrath of God’s judgment, and at the end of the Tribulation, just before our Lord’s return, it will. It has been confirmed.
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