BABYLON IS FALLEN (Rev 18:1-8)
1. After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. 2. And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! And 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.” 4. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying: “Come out of her, my people, that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not receive of her plagues, 5. “for 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. 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.”
It seems that Christ Himself now descends to deal with the great harlot. The description given here parallels that of Revelation 10:1, where Christ the strong angel comes down to earth clothed with various signs of His identity. In this instance, we have two different signs of His identity. He has great authority (Jn 5:27, 17:2) and the earth is illuminated with his glory (Jn 1:4-5, 8:12, 9:5). Both of these speak eloquently of the status of our king. This chapter represents the finality of God’s judgment on Jerusalem, so it is fitting that Christ Himself makes the final announcement.
In Isaiah’s prophecies against ancient Babylon, it was said of the marvelous city that, one day: “Desert creatures will lie down there, and their houses will be full of owls. Ostriches also will live there, and shaggy goats will frolic there, and hyenas will howl in their fortified towers.” (Isa 13:21-22) This scene forms the backdrop to this fresh prophecy against spiritual Babylon, as Christ announces that Jerusalem will soon be a place of desolation. It will become an eerie wilderness (Rev 17:3), inhabited and overrun by animalistic spirits and unclean birds, both signs of the curse of God (Dt 28:26, 49). As Babylon was wiped off the physical map, now Jerusalem would be wiped off both the physical and spiritual map by the invasion of the Romans and the hordes of demons prophesied by Christ (Mt 12:43-45).
The stated reason for this invasion and desolation is the perversion of Israel’s role in history. Instead of acting as their teacher/priest, Israel has been spiritually in bed with the nations, the kings and the merchants of the earth. “We have no king but Caesar” (Jn 19:15) was one of the most damning statements ever made in the ancient world. Not only did they utter these profane words, but the chief priests also defiled God’s temple by turning the court of the Gentiles into a merchant’s bazaar and monopolising all trade (Mt 21:12-13, Mk 11:15-18). Personal wealth, spiritual, legal and political power and prestige were of far more importance to Israel’s leadership than obeying God. Their position was akin to modern Communist governments that gave lip service to ideals, but continually went about consolidating tremendous power by crushing all opposition. For a mouthpiece of God, this was the ultimate act of adultery.
It was not God’s intention to attempt to reform such iniquities. Judgment and a new creation were His plan. Hence, John adds his voice to the New Testament prophetic cry to come out of apostate Judaism (Ac 2:37-40, 3:19-28, 4:8-12, Heb 6:4-8). Justas a chaste virgin would be compromised by living in a house of prostitutes, and a healthy person would do well to avoid the contagious sick, so John warns that separation will save the Church from the same sins as Israel. Just how “polluted was Israel? Enough, it seems, to make a pile that would reach as high as heaven, a veritable tower of Babel of sin (Mt 23:32-35, 1Th 2:15-16).
The escape from plagues is reminiscent of the flight from Egypt, where physical separation was the difference between life and death. Christ had already tuned the Jewish believers into preparing for a future escape from Jerusalem (Mt 24:16-21), and John’s words here must have heightened their sense of expectation.
With restitution being the guiding principle of Biblical justice, we see now the righteous Judge of history demanding a full and complete restitution with the statement: “Pay her back even as she has paid.” Presumably, this command was spoken to either the armies of Rome or the angels of heaven. Double payback was standard for many ancient crimes, and was the fairest way of compensating the victim for his inconvenience (Ex 22:1-9). Thus, the extent of the coming suffering is foretold: “Give back to her double according to her deeds, in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.”
The next sentence, “I sit as queen, I am not a widow and I will see mourning”, is a partial quote from a prophecy given to Babylon by Isaiah (Isa 47:6-11). In that text, Babylon boasts that “I will be queen forever” (verse 7), which is followed in verse 8 by: “I shall not sit as a widow nor shall I know the loss of children.” Just as Babylon was destroyed in a day, so this new Babylon would be destroyed in a day, the DAY OF THE LORD. To be consumed by fire was the punishment for priests’ daughters who turned prostitute (Lev 21:9).
REACTIONS TO BABYLON’S FALL (Rev 18:9-20)
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, 10. standing 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.’ 11. “And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more, 12.“cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and of 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, 13. “and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and sheep and cattle and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives. 14.“And 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, 16. “saying: ‘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, 17. “for 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, 18. “and 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!’ 20. “Rejoice over her O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her!”
Three types of people weep and mourn over the destruction of Jerusalem. The first group is comprised of the kings of the earth. These are nations of the empire who aided the Israelites in their apostasy from God. What they see is the smoke of her burning, a symbol that put Jerusalem in the same league as Sodom (Ge 19:28).
The lament of each type of mourner in these verses ends with the phrase: “Woe, woe, the great city!” According to Josephus (“The Jewish War”, vi.v.iii.), for about seven years and five months leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, a lonely and much-maligned prophet incessantly muttered these very words all through Jerusalem until he was killed during the last siege of the city. He was considered a great nuisance and suffered much harm. His voice almost cries out from the pages of Revelation, as the phrase is twice more repeated in coming verses.
The merchants of the earth who trade with Jerusalem will also mourn, but they will only mourn for their own loss of a trading partner. The general thrust of John’s message in these six verses is twofold. Firstly, He is highlighting the reversal of the blessings outlined in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. God had promised great material blessings for Jerusalem, but the blessings had been abused. Secondly, Jerusalem’s geographic location made it a trading destination for merchants from many countries in the Middle East, and the focal point for a lot of that trade was the temple itself. This section is therefore also a partial indictment of the profiteering of the high priest’s family.
The list of traded goods mentioned here was only the tip of the iceberg as to what was available in the bazaars of the city and temple (Ford, p.305.), however, it does include one of the more chilling items, such as trading in slaves and human lives, a statement representing both commercial and spiritual slave trading. The theme of slavery and freedom was well used in New Testament writings and contrasted the states of believers and non-believers (Mt 23:15, Jn 8:34, Ro 7:14, 1Co 7:21, 12:13, Gal 3:28, 4:3, 4:7, 4:25-26). The Apostle Paul hammered this theme of Jewish slavery and Christian freedom throughout his writings because it was a very potent and easily understood symbol in that First Century world, and because the battle for the souls of men was extremely intense in those first few decades of Christianity.
In Revelation 18:14, the merchants now address Jerusalem herself in Edenic terms to remind the reader of that first woman who was seduced by the serpent and lost access to the fruit she longed for. The earthly glory she longed for was denied her, and so she lost the luxurious and splendid riches of the garden.
The next description these merchants give of Jerusalem is in verse 16, and her fine linen, purple and scarlet, gold, precious stones and pearls take us to another Old Testament covenant image. Now she is seen adorned in the glory of the temple decorations, and as a beautiful bride. She is beautiful on the outside, but as verse 17 shows, she was about to be ruined as surely as her temple was. As we should now expect, the waste that is being brought upon Jerusalem is, in the original language of the text, the promised desolation of the city (Mt 23:38, 24:15). Now the third group of mourners in this grieving funeral procession make their lament. These shipmasters, passengers and sailors are probably an extension of the peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues on which the beast stands (Rev 17:15). Israel was a primary source of wealth because of her covenant blessings (Dt 28:12, 1Ki 10:23-25), so many nations would have profited through their trading links with her in much the same way that East Asian countries are enriching themselves in the wake of today’s Japanese economy.
To end this procession of funeral witnesses, we are introduced to the saints and apostles and prophets, the only group that does not mourn for Jerusalem. Their proper response to the annihilation of the city of Jerusalem and the end of a major era in world history was to celebrate and rejoice over her. Many today would consider this response to the deaths of 1.1 million people inappropriate. What they fail to see is the military nature of the battle we are immersed in today. In this war, there can only be two earthly consequences to the Gospel, surrender through conversion or face eternal destruction in hell. Either way, Christians win. If the modern Church is to finish the job begun 1900 years ago, it must regain its war footing and recover the triumphant perspective of the early Church.
In Revelation 6:9-10, we first saw the saints crying out for justice and vengeance upon those who had killed them. It is a legitimate Christian response in the battle for this planet (Mt 18:18-21). That earlier prayer is now answered in style in Revelation 18:20. A more accurate translation of the verse comes across as: “God has judged the judgment of you upon her.” Clearly we are dealing with a human hand in the divine judgment, the church as the judge of history. This has big ramifications, but it is consistent with the degree of delegated authority already given to the Church by Christ in His teachings (Mt 16:19, 18:18, 28:18-20, Lk 10:18-19).
BABYLON IS THROWN DOWN. (Rev 18:21-24)
21. And a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying: “Thus 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 craftsmen of any craft will be found in you any longer, and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer, 23. “and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer, and the voice of 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.”
This is the third time that we have met this strong angel. In Revelation 5:2, he is heard calling for someone to open the scroll that declared God’s covenant judgment s upon Jerusalem. In Revelation 10:1, he is the holder of the little scroll of judgment that turns bitter in the stomach of John. Now, in final judgment, the angel hurls the rock of Jerusalem into the sea. Jesus encouraged his followers to pray for the throwing of the Old Covenant Mountain into the sea in Matthew 21:21. John used the image again in Revelation 8:8, and now the final curtain falls.
A second layer of the image is brought to us by the use of the term ‘millstone’. Jesus had previously warned the Pharisees that the man who opposed the Gospel would be better off thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than if he caused a little one to stumble (Lk 17:2, Mk 9:42). As the Pharisees remained true to form, so God is showing his early Church that He would be true to his word. Jerusalem as a city would not be physically cast into a physical sea, but Jerusalem’s people, the covenant people, would cease to exist. They would be cast into a covenantal dumping place. There is only one salvation and one church, Jews must now enter it in order to enter the covenant.
The millstone was an ancient symbol of productivity, just as the draught horse or the tractor symbolise productivity today. The hurling of the millstone into the sea is telling us that productivity and prosperity in Jerusalem shall cease, as indeed it did. It was no secret that the temple had been built on the site of an old mill or threshing floor (2Ch 3:1), so the combination of Mt. Zion and a millstone being thrown into the sea was an obvious enough symbol of Jerusalem to John’s readers.
Jeremiah’s messenger Seraiah, who threw a scroll of judgment tied to a millstone into the river Euphrates, declaring: “Just so shall Babylon sink down and not rise again, because of the calamity that I am going to bring upon her.” (Je 51:59-64) This strong angel was the spiritual Seraiah sent to declare judgment on spiritual Babylon.
The mighty angel now pronounces the city’s doom in five parts—the loss of musicians, craftsmen, the mill, the lamp, the bridegroom, and the bride. All of these symbols allude at least in part to the temple, so it is probably the destruction of the Herodian temple that the angel is speaking of here. Music was an integral part of the temple worship (1Ch 9:33, 16:39-42, 25:6-7) and now it is silenced. Secondly, the temple was built by the best craftsmen in the land (1Ki 5&6), and this, the Herodian temple, had only just been completed. Thirdly, the millstone symbolises the foundations of the temple as a mill. No longer will the bread of life come from the temple to the nations. Fourthly, the lamp will go out. This symbolises the pillaging of the lamp from the temple by the Romans and the removal of the Holy Spirit’s presence from the temple, as recorded by Josephus. Lastly and most profoundly, the voice of the bridegroom and bride “will not be heard in you any longer”. The covenant marriage is annulled.
The meaning of this gloom is explained in the final part of verse 23 and in verse 24. Three reasons are given. The first reason is that the merchants of Israel were the great men of the earth. We should already be familiar with the extent of trading at the temple (Jn 2:13-16). The priests had put the age-old sin of trade and money above their priestly ministry. The spiritual role-models for the nation had become the financial giants. The second reason leads on from the first. Israel’s leaders were not only chasing mammon, they were involved in sorcery, which is the occult, and had become the synagogue of Satan, the opposite of their true ministry.
John now provides the third reason for the gloom and provides us with yet another clue as to the city’s identity. “In her was found the blood of the prophets and of the saints and all who have been slain on the earth.” This is a clear reference to Christ’s condemnation of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:34-37 where he says “Therefore, behold I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city. That upon you will fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berakiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the alter. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her.” Only Jerusalem was guilty of the wholesale slaughter of God’s representatives throughout the ages. Jerusalem was indeed a scarlet woman, a whore and adulterer. Guilt had been established and sentencing was complete, by 70AD, the death penalty had been executed.
THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB (Rev 19:1-10)
1. After these things I heard, as it were, a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying:”Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2. BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENT S ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS, for He has judged the great Harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality and HE HAS AVENGES THE BLOOD OF HIS BONDSERVANTS ON HER.” 3. And a second time they said: “Hallelujah! HER SMOKE RISES UP FOREVER AND EVER!” 4. And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God who sits on the Throne saying: “Amen! Hallelujah!” 5. And a voice came from the throne, saying: “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” 6. And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready.” 8. And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9. And he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, “Do not do that, I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus, worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Because of the similarities in sequence between Revelation 11:15-19 and 19:1-7, it is made clear to us that the opening of the temple in heaven earlier is the equivalent to the appearance of the bride at this divine wedding. Further on, in chapter 21, the image of the descending city of God is used to tell the same story yet again, the New Covenant temple is with all men.
John now leaves the theme of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Old Covenant to concentrate on the consummation of the New Covenant and the rest of the book of Revelation rings with an exciting sense of celebration, victory and destiny.
The celebration begins with the saints seated in heavenly places and, in obedience to the angelic command of Revelation 18:20, rejoicing in the true and righteous judgment s of God. In reading this passage, the Christians of the First Century were being told how to react when Jerusalem fell in the near future. They were not to mourn, but to praise God for the execution of His vengeance upon her.
The fivefold song of praise begins with a great shout: “Hallelujah!” This is the first use of this word in the New Testament, and it is only used in this passage. It is a Hebrew expression meaning “Praise ye the Lord!”, and it is first recorded in the Psalms. John’s use of the word is probably meant to take the readers’ thoughts back to the series of “Hallelu Yah” psalms (the first verse of Psalms 111 to 118). They were psalms of victory that celebrated the greatness of God, especially in His deliverance of the Hebrew from Egypt into freedom and true worship. These psalms were sung at the festivals of Passover and Tabernacles, so were familiar to John’s readers. Perhaps John uses the word to align the events of 70AD with the deliverance from Egypt.
Following on from the introductory “Hallelujah”, John hears the heavenly choir singing two paraphrases of David’s worship songs. The first phrase recalls David’s worship when the preparation for the building of the temple had been completed: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor.” (1Ch 29:11, paraphrased by Christ in the Lord’s Prayer, Mt 6:13). The second phrase recalls David’s celebration of the goodness of God’s Law in Psalm 19:9: “The judgment s of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether.”
The proof that his judgments are true and righteous is precisely the fact that He was willing to judge His very own p