Revelation 18

Revelation 18  •  19 min. read  •  grade level: 7
“AND after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory." (Ver. 1.) In this remarkable chapter we have a further description of Babylon the great, viewed as a city, and of her overthrow. In chapter 17. we see the human agents active in her destruction. In chapter 18. it is looked at more from the divine side, and it speaks of the angel instrumentality employed in her judgment. (Verses 20, 21.) The "after these things" of verse 1 does not denote that the contents of this chapter follow chapter 17. chronologically, but the order in which John saw that which was set forth in the vision. He sees another heavenly messenger who has great power, and the earth, the sphere of the judgment about to be executed, was "lightened with his glory.”
“And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies." (Verses 2, 3.) The angel with great authority cries with a strong voice. The announcement of the fall of great Babylon is loud, that many may hear. That which follows shows that it is not a question of the execution of her judgments of which the angel speaks. That is found at the close of the chapter. It is the declaration of her great moral fall, and consequent condition, followed by an exhortation to the Lord's people to come out of her, previous to her judgment, which comes in verses 8 and 21. The voice of the angel cries, "Babylon the great has fallen, has fallen." So terrible had been the moral fall of the false church that it is recorded twice. The true church is the habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)), the blessed sphere of liberty of Him who came upon Christ in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:1616And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: (Matthew 3:16)), the Holy Spirit of God. But, alas, the profession of Christianity in Babylon had fallen to the lowest depths of confusion and corruption. False to Christ, and to herself, the so-called church, the mother of harlots and idolatries, had become the habitation of Satan's emissaries, the demons, the hold, or prison, of every unclean spirit, and of every unclean and hated bird. How many a soul has groaned in the darkness of human systems, sighing for light and life and liberty, but bound with the strong chains of tradition and custom, with no way of escape!, How many have religiously followed the ordinances and ritual of external religion, strangers to the love of God, the Savior in glory, and the peace and joy flowing from the knowledge of Himself through His finished work! How many have been deceived by this masterpiece of Satan! Some maintain that it is the true church and that outside of it is no salvation, whilst others are satisfied with outwardly purifying themselves from the grossest superstitions and errors, and yet, with a name to live, are spiritually dead.
All nations have been more or less intoxicated with the passing joy of intercourse with this wicked harlot. But it is a cup of joy which brings down the fury of God. Kings too of the earth have sought to their hurt the pleasure of her evil embrace. Merchants of the earth have become enriched through the thriving trade which her love of luxury has fostered.
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities." (Verses 4, 5.) Another voice from heaven reaches the ear of John. It utters words of deepest moment for all God's people. No doubt it will apply in fullest force just before the execution of the judgment of God upon her. But the principle surely applies at the present moment. "Come out of her, my people," cries this heavenly voice. It is uttered, not by an angel, but by a voice from heaven, direct to God's people on earth. "Come out of her." Christian reader, have you obeyed? Have you come outside the vast system of the false and evil principles, traditions and corruptions comprising that which God calls "Babylon the great"? Her sins have been heaped on one another up to the heaven. So it reads in the original. It is a remarkable expression. Babylon's sins are piled up, so to speak, from earth to heaven. And God has remembered her unrighteousness’s. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. Nothing escapes His knowledge. Nothing is forgotten by Him. He remembers all. He would have His people separate from all that He is about to judge. Saints are called upon to refuse sin and unrighteousness. Her sins bring plagues. God calls upon us to refuse fellowship with her sins, that we may not receive of her plagues. Shall Christians follow the world and have fellowship with the works of Satan? Shall the bride of Christ, unsullied and pure, contaminate herself by friendship or fellowship with Satan's harlot? My people! Are you one? Come out of her. God means what He says, and says what He means. Dare you disobey? Do you know the love of Christ? Does your heart respond to His love? How then can you tarry another moment in the company of the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth?
“Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow." (Verses 6, 7.) Our English translation seems to address this to the people of God, as though they were to reward her and double to her for her evil treatment. But the true force of the passage is rather, "Recompense her even as she has recompensed; and double to her double, according to her works. In the cup which she has mixed, mix to her double." Her awful recompense for all her oppression and persecution of God's people will surely be meted out to her by Him. "Vengeance is mine," saith the Lord; "I will repay." (Rom. 12:1919Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19).) God knows Babylon's works. He is an all-discriminating and just Judge. What Babylon has sown Babylon will surely reap. The cup that she has mixed! And, oh, the misery, the untold misery that God's true people and others also have suffered at her hands. A bitter cup it has been indeed! And God will mix hers to her double. "Be ye sure of this, your sin will find you out"! (Num. 32:2323But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23).) And so will Babylon's sin find her out.
“How much she hath glorified herself, and lived luxuriously." Babylon has been guilty of these two grave sins before God. She has sought her own glory instead of the glory of God, and has lived luxuriously instead of simply and becomingly in the hour of the absence of Christ. And the word of God says, "So much as she has glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so much torment and grief give to her. Because she says in her heart, I sit a queen, and I am not a widow; and I shall in no wise see grief"! God looketh upon the heart, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. (Jer. 17:99The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9).) Its thoughts are not as the thoughts of God. Where is the lament for the absence of Christ? Where is the mourning for His death at the world's hand? Where is the sense of unfitness for the presence of Him who is infinitely holy? All these things are utterly lacking. Babylon is full of self-satisfaction and self-conceit. The true church realizes her widowhood now, suffers during Christ's absence, and looks to reign with Him at His return. But the false church says in her heart, "I sit a queen," and reigns before the time. "I am no widow." She refuses to mourn for Christ, and says, "I shall in no wise see grief." She is blind to the awful and grievous retribution of God.
“Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and' famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her." (Ver. 8.) Babylon's judgment will be swift and sure. Her plagues on account of her grievous sins shall come in one day. They are threefold. Death, mourning and famine shall prevail on all hands. Where will her glory and luxury be then? "She will be utterly burned with fire." God's searching judgment shall come upon her suddenly, and she shall be utterly destroyed. The judge is the Lord God Himself. His judgment is just, and He is strong who executeth it.
Next we get the grievous lament of three classes who suffer by Babylon's fall. The kings of the earth, the merchants of the earth, and the traffickers on the sea bewail her. Each class in turn cries, "Alas, alas [or woe, woe] that great city 1" Let us pursue the detail.
“And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar of for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come." (Verses 9, 10.) The kings of the earth who have had unholy intercourse with this wicked system and shared in her luxuries, now weep and wail, not on account of their sins, but over Babylon, as they see the Smoke of her judgment, at the moment when God shall vindicate His holiness, and glorify Himself over her who failed to glorify Him. The kings stand afar off. Glad of Babylon's support, and to help support her in the day of her false glory, they would gladly now escape the consequences of her fall. They fear her torment and say, "Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! for in one hour thy judgment is come." Little had they dreamed that that huge and widespread system, apparently so strong, would come down with so great a crash! Satan's religious fortress seemed impregnable, but mighty as is his power, the strong man had met with One already proved to be stronger than he! The almighty power of Almighty God will surely crush the mighty power of His foe at the close. The kings themselves perceive and own that it is Babylon's judgment.
"And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: the merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and' of brass.
and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and odors, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, sand beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves [or bodies], and souls of men."(Verses 11-13.) Next the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her. Why? Because their hopes in regard to eternity are dashed to the ground? Oh, no! There is something far more important apparently in their eyes. Temporal gain to them is of far more value than eternal." For no man buyeth their merchandise any more." European civilization in her mixed commercial and religious aspect, seen in the crowds of wares and luxuries filling her warehouses, shops and homes, had come to grief. God at last had stopped the commerce of men who had forgotten Him, and had lived only to enrich themselves, only too often mixed with trickery and, roguery at their neighbors' expense. Trade and wealth give place to bankruptcy, ruin, misery, famine. Strong is He who judgeth her. The next two verses give details of the commodities in which the merchants deal for their own enrichment. One may divide them under the following heads: jewelry, dress, costly furniture, perfumery, drink, food, equipage, and lastly, bodies and souls of men. Babylon had glorified herself and lived luxuriously in these thinks. The kings had shared them. The merchants were enriched by them. Mark that jewelry heads the list, and men's souls close it. Who can picture the suffering of many, both in body and soul, during hundreds of years for the promotion of this vast system? Slavery and in modern 'times also, the sweating system (as men call it), with underpay, have had their part therein. How many bodies have been worn out and souls lost through the exigencies of 'business, and the restless anxiety to become rich!
Another very interesting and instructive point also comes out here. In the description of the harlot's clothing (chap. 17:4) there is no mention of fine linen. Now fine linen, with which the bride, the Lamb's wife, will be adorned at the time of the espousals, is said to be "the righteousnesses of the saints." (Rev. 19:88And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. (Revelation 19:8).) Of this the woman has none. She is clothed' with human glory which pleases the flesh (but they that are in the flesh cannot please God). But practical righteousness is wanting. When it comes to Babylon's trade, fine linen is mentioned. She has known well how to enrich herself at the expense of the practical righteousness of the true children of God. We apply it morally. It is a lesson of deep, significance. Thousands for conscience' sake have suffered impoverishment through her unrighteous exactions. Moreover, when the merchants bewail the fall of the city in verse 16, they mention "fine linen" first in regard to her clothing. The natural man, engrossed with the affairs of this life, receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. His imagination runs riot, and with outward respect for the system so widely accredited among men, and attracted by the gorgeous colors of her adornment, he concludes that fine linen, practical righteousness, among other things is there. None but true saints made God's righteousness in Christ, can possibly practice righteousness acceptable to God.
“And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all." (Ver. 14.) What a terrible awakening for the great)commercial world! The (ripe) fruits (which is the force of the passage), the lust of the soul, just when they are apparently at their best, have departed. They perish, no more to be, enjoyed. All that is dainty and goodly, fair and splendid, departed. Think of the bitter disappointment! Instead of the lust of the soul being satisfied 'with all that is naturally desirable in this vast system in which the commercial world moves, nothing but an empty void is left. Hence, like the kings, the merchants stand afar off. The source of their wealth is being dried up through the judgment of God, and their hearts are filled with fear, on account of her torment, and they weep and wail, saying, "Alas, alas [or woe, woe] that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches has been made desolate." (Verses 15, 16.) Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Babylon's greatness and glory filled the merchants' minds, and they mourn her desolation and the loss of the great riches which were found in her.
“And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, and cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate." (Verses 17-19.) Lastly, all classes connected with the sea and seaborne trade in ships come into view. Shipmasters (or steersmen), everyone who sailed to any place, sailors, and all who exercise their calling on the sea, like unto the kings and merchants, stand afar off. And gazing upon the smoke of her burning, they say, "What city is like to the great city?" Journeying to many lands, they would see many of the great cities of the earth, but none compares in their eyes with Babylon the great, the source of all their profit and wealth. Their sorrow and anguish are shown by their casting dust upon their heads, and by their weeping and grieving. "Woe, woe," they cry, "the great city, in which all that had ships in the sea were enriched through her costliness! for in one hour she has been made desolate." The fall from her greatness and the loss of her wealth through the costliness of her maintenance are the cause, as in the case of the kings and the merchants, of their bitter lament.
“Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her." (Ver. 20.) God had not forgotten the sorrows of His people. It is the day of His vengeance. (Isa. 34:88For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion. (Isaiah 34:8).) But their sorrow is now to be turned into joy. Heaven is called upon to rejoice at the fall of pretentious Babylon, in which those who had been called on high had suffered. Saints, apostles, and prophets had suffered centuries long at the hands of the great city of confusion, which godless men had built up for their own glory without God. But, now the tables are completely turned. God's saints are seen glorified in heaven, whilst vengeance on His and their enemies is falling on the earth. Rejoice over her, heaven, ye saints, etc., rejoice, "For God has judged your judgment upon her." (New Trans.)
“And a mighty angel took up a. stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all." (Ver. 21.) At the conclusion of his prophecy concerning the literal city of Babylon of old (chap. 51:63, 64), Jeremiah said to the quiet prince Seraiah (ver. 59), "It shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates: and thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her." This is conclusive that the literal city shall not rise again as some have erroneously thought. Here the strong angel takes up also a stone, as a great millstone, and casts it into the sea. It is figurative, as he says, of the violence with which the great moral Babylon is overthrown, the sea probably setting forth a vast mass of men in a state of revolutionary agitation. Probably great human violence will take place in connection with her overthrow, the sea and the waves roaring, and men's hearts failing them for fear. (Luke 21:25, 2625And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. (Luke 21:25‑26).) And she also shall never rise again. She shall be found no more at all.
“And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; and the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth;, for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived." (Verses 22, 23.) This detailed announcement of the complete cessation of all these things in the. Babylonish sphere spews how hateful their abuse, in the self-glorification and luxurious course of this evil system, has been in God's sight. The voice of music shall be hushed forever. No artificer of any art shall remain. The grinding millstone shall cease to be heard. No light of lamp shall shine. The voice of the betrothed shall no more fall on the ear. No more at all, no more at all, is the solemn word of the Spirit of God in relation to all the chief elements which ministered to this corrupt system which God will so sternly judge. For the merchants of Babylon were men that left their mark on her history; they were the great ones of the earth. And all nations have been deceived by her devilish sorcery.
“And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth." (Ver. 24.) Shall not God make inquisition for the blood of His saints? Has He not said that the blood is the life; and is not man's life sacred? With long patience He has forborne. But His solemn day of reckoning must come. As He casts His all-searching gaze upon Babylon, and reads her history from the commencement to the close, including all the horrors of man's inquisition, what is His verdict? His word repeats again that in her was found the blood of His prophets, the blood of His saints, and the blood of all that were slain on the earth. (Jer. 51:4949As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth. (Jeremiah 51:49).) A terrible indictment I Babylon is very guilty. Great and lasting will be her fall.