Chapter 18

Introduction

In chapter 18, we continue with the bowl interlude that began in chapter 17. Chapter 17 introduced the figurative harlot named “Babylon” and promised to show us her punishment (Rev 17:1). That promised punishment is seen here in chapter 18, as we see several prophecies of judgment against her.

However, it is important to realize that practically all of the judgments prophesied against this future “Babylon” are made by borrowing (or alluding to) language from the Old Testament, and that language comes from prophecies that were originally made against the Old Testament kingdom of Babylon that took Israel into captivity.

This is significant because it demonstrates the strong parallelism between the Old Testament kingdom of Babylon that attacked Israel, and the future kingdom of Antichrist that will attack the Church. In other words, Old Testament Babylon is being used as a metaphor to reveal many things about the end times. This parallelism is discussed in The Great Harlot and Babylon.

Chapter 18 may be divided into three parts:

  1. The judgment pronounced (verses 1-8).
  2. The judgment lamented from the world’s perspective (verses 9-19).
  3. The judgment celebrated from heaven’s perspective (verses 20-24).

Thus, it may be seen that chapter 18, as part of the bowl interlude, is presenting another summary of the bowls, from start to finish. However, rather than describing the events of the bowls, it describes the reactions of people to those events.

Commentary

The Punishment of the Harlot

1After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.

v1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven – John sees another angel, evidently different from the ones holding the bowls. Possibly, this is the same angel introduced in chapter 10, because they are described similarly. Both are depicted as having glory, power, illumination, and a loud voice with which to make a major announcement on God’s behalf.

The punishment pronounced

2And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.
3“For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.”

Prophecy borrowed from Old Testament Babylon:

(v2) Isa 21:9 – “Now behold, here comes a troop of riders, horsemen in pairs. And one said, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon
(v3) Jer 51:7,37 – “7Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the LORD, Intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; Therefore the nation; 37“Babylon will become a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, An object of horror and hissing, without inhabitants.”

Relevance to the future “Babylon”:

The future kingdom of Antichrist, symbolically called “Babylon” because of its many parallels with the Old Testament kingdom, shall be thoroughly destroyed. It shall similarly fall from the great heights of power and wealth to utter ruin.

Note that this is the second time Revelation has quoted the Isa 21:9 phrase “Fallen, fallen is Babylon“, which was first quoted in Rev 14:8. Of course, the future Babylon will only fall once. The repetition of this quote informs us that these two parts of Revelation are describing the same destruction of Babylon, which takes place during the bowl events.

The call for God’s people to leave

4I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;
5for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
6“Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.

Prophecy borrowed from Old Testament Babylon:

(v4) Jer 51:45 – “Come forth from her midst, My people, And each of you save yourselves From the fierce anger of the LORD.
(v4) Jer 51:6 – “Flee from the midst of Babylon, And each of you save his life! Do not be destroyed in her punishment, For this is the LORD’S time of vengeance; He is going to render recompense to her.
(v5) Jer 51:9 – “…For her judgment has reached to heaven And towers up to the very skies.
(v6) Jer 16:18 – “I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land…

Relevance to the future “Babylon”:

Just as God called His people Israel out of Babylon following their captivity, God shall also call his people — those who hold to the testimony of Jesus (Rev 12:17, Rev 17:6) — out of the earthly kingdom after their period of great tribulation (Rev 7:14). If there is any reference to the rapture in Revelation, this may be it. If so, it’s presence here in the bowl interlude could correspond well to a rapture event occurring at the commencement of the bowl events.

The description of Babylon’s character

7“To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I SIT as A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW, and will never see mourning.’
8“For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.

Prophecy borrowed from Old Testament Babylon:

(v7-8) Isa 47:7-9 – “7Yet you said, ‘I will be a queen forever.’ These things you did not consider Nor remember the outcome of them. 8“Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, Who dwells securely, Who says in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me. I will not sit as a widow, Nor know loss of children.’ 9“But these two things will come on you suddenly in one day: Loss of children and widowhood. They will come on you in full measure In spite of your many sorceries, In spite of the great power of your spells.”

Relevance to the future “Babylon”:

Just as the leaders of Babylon thought themselves invincible and yet fell suddenly to the Persians (Isa 47:9, Dan 5:30), so shall the future kingdom of Antichrist also be puffed up with confidence and yet fall with great and sudden force.

Worldly Lamentation over Fallen Babylon

Next we shall see the judgment from the worldly perspective, where the fall of Babylon is lamented:

9“And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning,
10standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’

Prophecy borrowed from Old Testament Babylon:

(v9) Jer 51:57-58 – “57“I will make her princes and her wise men drunk, Her governors, her prefects and her mighty men, That they may sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake up,” Declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts. 58Thus says the LORD of hosts, “The broad wall of Babylon will be completely razed And her high gates will be set on fire

(v10) Jer 51:8 – Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken. Wail over her! Get balm for her pain; perhaps she can be healed.

Relevance to the future “Babylon”:

In the Old Testament (Dan 5), the king of Babylon was having a drunken feast and mocking the God of Israel, but he was slain that very night, and the city set ablaze. Revelation is saying that the future kingdom shall likewise be drunk with immorality, and be scorched with fire (Rev 16:8). This will come to the shock and horror of the worldly kings. In particular, the city which serves at the center of idolatry shall burn (Rev 17:16,18).

Grieving over the loss of earthly wealth

11“And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more—
12cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble,
13and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives.
14“The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them.

15“The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning,
16saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls;
17for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’ And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance,
18and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’
19“And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’

Prophecy borrowed from Old Testament Babylon:

(v12-13) Ezek 27:12-15 – “12“‘Tarshish did business with you because of your great wealth of goods; they exchanged silver, iron, tin and lead for your merchandise. 13“‘Greece, Tubal and Meshech traded with you; they exchanged slaves and articles of bronze for your wares. 14“‘Men of Beth Togarmah exchanged work horses, war horses and mules for your merchandise. 15“‘The men of Rhodes traded with you, and many coastlands were your customers; they paid you with ivory tusks and ebony. ”
(v17-19) Ezek 27:28-32 – “28The shorelands will quake when your seamen cry out. 29All who handle the oars will abandon their ships; the mariners and all the seamen will stand on the shore. 30They will raise their voice and cry bitterly over you; they will sprinkle dust on their heads and roll in ashes. 31They will shave their heads because of you and will put on sackcloth. They will weep over you with anguish of soul and with bitter mourning. 32As they wail and mourn over you, they will take up a lament concerning you: “Who was ever silenced like Tyre, surrounded by the sea?”

Interestingly, although these verses in Ezekiel involve Babylon, they are not directed at Babylon. Rather, they are directed at the kingdom of Tyre, because Tyre gloated over Israel after Babylon destroyed Jerusalem (Ezek 26:2). God used Babylon to punish Tyre just as He had used them to punish Israel (Ezek 26:7). Later, Greece and other nations also came against Tyre, until all the prophecies against Tyre (Ezekiel chapters 26-28) were fulfilled.

Relevance to the future “Babylon”:

The words of the prophecies originally spoken against Tyre are now being used in Revelation against Antichrist’s kingdom, symbolically represented by Babylon. This goes hand in hand with verse 6 above, where it says Babylon will be “paid back” for what she has done. In the Old Testament, Babylon was paid back for her afflictions against Israel and Tyre.  In the future, the afflictions that Antichrist’s kingdom lays upon Israel and the Church shall likewise be paid back.

Heavenly Rejoicing over Fallen Babylon

Finally, we come to the judgment celebrated from heaven’s perspective:

20“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.”

v20 you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her – The judgment against Babylon (the anti-church) described here serves as the promised vengeance on behalf of the saints who had been martyred (Rev 6:11, Rev 17:6, Rev 18:24).

The violent end of Babylon

21Then a strong 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 not be found any longer.
22“And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer;
23and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the 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 the earth.”

Prophecy borrowed from Old Testament Babylon:

(v21) Ezek 26:21 – “I will bring terrors on you and you will be no more; though you will be sought, you will never be found again,” declares the Lord GOD.
(v22) Ezek 26:13 – “So I will silence the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps will be heard no more.
(v23) Jer 25:10 – “Moreover, I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.
(v24) Jer 51:49 – “Indeed Babylon is to fall for the slain of Israel, As also for Babylon the slain of all the earth have fallen.

Relevance to the future “Babylon”:

The kingdom of Antichrist, responsible for the murder of saints upon the earth, shall face repayment from God. They shall be made painfully aware that all the things they value (music, love, light, wealth, beauty) have always been blessings from the same God they rejected. These things shall be taken away, never to be seen by them again. This summarizes the punishment of the symbolic harlot promised in Rev 17:1.

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