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Bible Study: The Book of the Revelation – LESSON 16

Calvary Bible Church Bible Study

The Book of the Revelation


LESSON 16:  JUDGMENT ON BABYLON. 17:1–18:24 (part 2, chapter 18)

This chapter carries on the subject of God’s judgment on Babylon.  Since the church is the Bride of Christ and a city, the New Jerusalem (see 21:9–10), there is no valid reason to deny that the harlot Babylon is a city (cf. 18:10). It is proper to think of Babylon in chapter 17 as a vast religious (ecclesiastical) system (vrs. 2, 4, 6), and also in chapter 18 as a huge interlocking commercial system (vrs. 3, 11–17). The present chapter pictures the doom of so-called civilization in its social and commercial aspects. Civilization ever since the time of Cain has followed a path apart from God. 


Vrs     1                  Although this angel is introduced by the general word another, he is not one connected with the bowls of wrath mentioned in 17:1. Two features indicate his importance: (1) great power (there are degrees of authority among the angels), and (2) the ability to illuminate the earth with his glory. The strong probability is that Christ is meant here as in 8:3 and 10:1.  In the first reference He is the Angel-Priest; in the second He is the Angel-Redeemer; here He is the Angel-Avenger of His own.


Vrs     2                  Babylon the great is fallen. In 14:8 the announcement of the fall of Babylon was prophetic; similarly, in 16:19 the statement was brief and anticipatory. But here God’s purpose concerning her is realized. True, in chapter 17 Babylon’s doom is brought about by the ten kingdoms and the Roman Beast (the political power); here, her downfall is seen as issuing directly from Christ.  There is no discrepancy here; for 17:17 clearly states God’s sovereign, righteous employment of the human factors in accomplishing His purpose.  Just as idolatry came into the human sphere in Genesis 11 with Babylon of old (there is no record of idolatry before the flood of Noah), so it will have its hideous, unclean, hateful consummation in the Babylon system of the future. “The hold of every foul spirit, and a cage.”  All Satan’s evil agencies will congregate in her.  It is a veritable cesspool of corruption.


Vrs     3                  All nations. Again, the universality of her influence is emphasized as in 17:1, 2, 15, 18.  All the nations are pointed out here as the subjects of her deceptions and seductions. Godless religion knows how to capture the attention of the unwary world by display, ritual, easy means of redemption, and vast amounts of wealth. The kings of the earth referred to now are probably not those included in the ten kingdom confederation; these kings seem to be outside that group. An additional element is introduced by the merchants (Greek “emporoi”, which the English “emporium” is related to) of the earth, and their riches and wealth are set forth (along with sensuality). There is a commercial side to Mystery, Babylon.


Vrs     4-5               The voice now is directed to God’s people. Before judgment falls on the wicked (Noah and his family, Genesis 6:13–22; Lot and his daughters, Genesis 19:12–22), God mercifully warns His own people in order to deliver them from the coming catastrophe. Thus, as far as the apostate system is concerned, the call is applicable at all times (Hebrews 13:13).  It will be all the more applicable in the time under consideration in this chapter. In short, both believers will heed the warning and will escape the burning destruction.    Ancient, literal Babylon wanted to build a “tower” (ziggurat for their gods), as stated in Genesis 11:4. Here her mystical counterpart piled up her sins unto heaven, an insult to the holy God of heaven and earth. While it is indicated that God hath remembered her iniquities, it is not that He had forgotten them previously. It is the biblical way of stating that the hour of reckoning and judgment had arrived.


Vrs     6-8               Double unto her double according to her works. Because Babylon’s sins have accumulated over so long a period of time, and she has been impervious over the centuries to God’s loving entreaties to repent, the Mosaic law of recompense in kind is doubled (Exodus 21:23–25).   The root of Babylon’s degeneration was her pride, self-security, godlessness, and glorification of wealth and luxury, all directed toward self-exaltation. The Lord God in His omnipotence will be her Judge (Isaiah 47:9–11). The visitation is detailed in five particulars: plagues, death and mourning, famine and  fire. All this will come upon her in one day.


Vrs     9–10             In these verses, weeping and mourning are repeated like a musical theme.   First, the kings of the earth, who have the most to lose in any economic or commercial collapse, shall wail and lament inconsolably over the torment and demise of the wicked system, which has interlocking interests throughout the civilized world. They cry out woe upon the great and strong city, whose judgment has overtaken her. The one day of verse 8 is now one hour, showing the rapidity of her judgment.    It will be in a very short time. Fair-weather friends that they are, the kings bewail Babylon’s calamity, but stand at a distance lest they become involved in her misery and agony.


Vrs     11–19           The merchants, who are directly involved in day-by-day transactions with her, mourn over the economic collapse of that vast system with its many commercial ramifications. The cargoes include some twenty-eight distinct items. Here there is a combination of the religious with the commercial, for it begins with gold and ends with human lives (vrs. 14). The list includes costly ornaments, costly raiment, costly furniture, costly perfumes, costly food, costly equipment, and men’s souls and bodies. The wealth of the world will be thrown into confusion and hopeless collapse.

Moreover, the fall of commercial Babylon has serious consequences for maritime projects, involving shipmasters, sailors, and passengers. All will be crippled in one hour.  The losses will be irretrievable.


Vrs     20                “Rejoice over her, thou heaven.”  What a change is now seen.  The scene is shifted to heaven and God’s perspective. The dwellers there—“saints and apostles and prophets”, believers of every station—are summoned to rejoicing.  Earth mourns, but heaven rejoices.   This reveals how out of tune with heaven earth dwellers can be. When on their pilgrimage on earth, the saints suffered grievously at the hands of the apostate system; but now, in their hour of vindication, they rejoice in God’s justice.


Vrs     21–23           Her ruin is final, complete, and irreversible. The statement verse 21 is related to Jeremiah 51:63–64, which bears out the impossibility of recovery from this judgment. Along with the passing of the city, there will be an end of music, crafts, housekeeping (sound of a millstone), illumination, and the joys of marriage. The cause of it all is her deception of all the nations with her religious sorcery, an activity promoted by demons and Satan. Included is the entire system of ungodliness.


Vrs     24                Any pity or compassion on her is misspent and misdirected, for she is worthy of all the misery and judgment God pours out on her. She is guilty of the blood of martyred prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth. This inclusive statement shows that more than one single apostate organization is meant; it involves all of them, in unison.