Revelation Chapter 18
"And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth 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." (Rev 18:1-2)
"After these things I saw" would mean after seeing the plagues John saw another scene. He is not saying that the events of chapter 18 will follow the plagues. Verse 4 is a warning to not receive the plagues so this must happen before they are poured out.
Here we have yet another angel with yet another message. It is actually a repeat of the message of the second angel of chapter 14 - Babylon is fallen. What is the difference if any? Perhaps the message in chapter 14 was a reference more to a moral fall and - considering the content of chapters 17 and 18 - this is referring to the whole system and structure of Babylon. Revelation 14 is more from the perspective of judgment on Babylon, whereas in chapter 18 it is more from the perspective of giving hope to escape from Babylon, basically at the last minute.
The phrase "lightened with his glory" could be seen as a reference to the brightness attending the second coming when there will be lots of physical, visible glory:
"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:" (2 Thess 2:8)
However, the glory in this first verse of Revelation chapter 18 is from an angel with a message still in probationary time before the Second Coming. Perhaps glory is a reference to His character - that is how scripture often uses glory. Could it be that there will be a manifestation of the character of God in His people for a period before the Second Coming so that people will have at least an opportunity to know the Lord (so that they are without excuse)?
"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they [the ungodly and unrighteous men or anyone] are without excuse:" (Rom 1:17-20)
"That which may be known of God is manifest in them." Who are "them"? Surely it is not the men "who hold the truth in unrighteousness." It must be that the character of God is shown in the lives of the just.
There are Biblical references to the knowledge of God being widespread in the earth:
"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Isa 11:9)
"For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Hab 2:14)
The message is given "with great power" to counteract the great power from the other side:
"Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess 2:9-11)
This points to the intensity of the battle before us. While God permits the strong delusion, what He actually is actively responsible for sending is a revelation of His character through His people.
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:" (1 Pet 2:9)
"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." (Rev 18:3)
Again, wine is symbolic of doctrine. The ten kings of the earth (Rev 17:12) have formed a relationship with Babylon in defiance of the God of heaven. They have partaken (drunk) of the deceptive teachings (wine) of Babylon and formed an alliance (fornication) against the God of heaven. Evidently, because of their cooperation with Babylon they became materially rich.
Normally, the customer who fornicates with a prostitute pays a fee to the prostitute making her rich. In this case, the "merchants" become "rich," because she is giving them of her "delicacies."
There is a relationship and some kind of a transaction between the kings of the earth and Babylon. There must be something in it for her as well. "Fornication" of course is symbolic; symbolic of an illicit, immoral relationship. This fornication must be some kind of an immoral business deal (merchants of the earth) with great profit, not only benefiting the "merchants," but making it possible for the "woman" to become "drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Revelation 17:6).
"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." (Rev 18:4)
The message of verses 2-3 is reinforced by another voice from heaven, again urging people to come out of "her;" that is, the system of Babylon. The message is directed to some called "my people" suggesting two things:
Some will be in Babylon until close to the end. Of course, Babylon is all about deception so there will be people who think, based on what they have been told, that they are in the right path spiritually until it becomes very obvious that they have been lied to.
This message must be given to people at the end; to people who, if they do not heed the message, will receive of the plagues.
"For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities." (Rev 18:5)
There may be an allusion here to tower of Babel the builders of which desired that it's "top may reach unto heaven" (Gen 11:4).
God remembering is not a reference to His suddenly thinking of something that had slipped His mind. To remember is to come to the point of doing something about it as in these examples:
"And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged;" (Gen 8:1)
"And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb." (Gen 30:22)
"And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath." (Rev 16:19)
"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." (Rev 18:6)
This seems to read as if it is still being spoken to those ("my people") who are being called out of Babylon. It is as though God's people are to have a role in "rewarding" Babylon. However, both Proverbs and Romans seem to speak against this:
"Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee." (Pro 20:22)
"Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." (Rom 12:17,19)
There is an interesting verse that describes the Lord's vengeance:
"Shout against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations are fallen, her walls are thrown down: for it is the vengeance of the LORD: take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her." (Jer 50:15)
What is the vengeance of the Lord? The verses before that describe "an assembly of great nations from the north country" and what they will do to Babylon. The vengeance, the destruction does not come directly from God but is actually carried out by earthly powers that God has allowed, in this case, to attack and overthrow Babylon.
"Call together the archers against Babylon: all ye that bend the bow, camp against it round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her: for she hath been proud against the LORD, against the Holy One of Israel." (Jer 50:29)
The "vengeance of the Lord" can be understood much like the "wrath of God." Here are a few more verses related to the Lord's vengeance:
"To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste." (Deut 32:35)
"And I will render unto Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, saith the LORD." (Jer 51:24)
"Prepare against her the nations with the kings of the Medes, the captains thereof, and all the rulers thereof, and all the land of his dominion." (Jer 51:28)
However it is to happen, Babylon will have to drink or partake of the results of her actions (reap what she has sown). It will be a consequence of her course of action.
"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." (Rev 18:7)
"A queen" could be associated with the term "queen of heaven" as used a few places in Jeremiah. (Jer 7:18, 44:17 etc.) She will regard herself as "no widow" because she is in an illicit relationship with the kings of the earth. There seems to be a degree of arrogance and overconfidence in this statement.
"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." (Rev 18:8)
It was because of her pride that her fall came; think of king Nebuchadnezzar and the pride he expressed before his fall.
"The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee." (Dan 4:30-31)
Exactly how this world-wide, false, religious system is going to be "burned with fire" is unclear.
"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 off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come." (Rev 18:9-10)
Verses 9-10 describes the lament of kings of the earth over the fall of Babylon, verses 11-17a gives the lament of the merchants of the earth and verses 17b-19 gives the lament of the shipmasters.
If the "kings of the earth" were in full sympathy with her, why do they stand "afar off for the fear of her torment" instead of coming to her aid?
The word translated as "torment" is used 6 times, always in Revelation (9:5, 14:11, 18:7, 10, 15). The definition (from the On-line Bible) is:
1) to torture, a testing by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal
This may not, in any of its uses, be physical torment or there may be both physical torment and mental anguish.
"Standing afar off" is repeated in verses 15 and 17. Why are they standing afar off? One suggestion is that there is a nuclear explosion involved. People stand far away when there is radiation.
"In one hour is thy judgment come" yet, in v8, "her plagues come in one day." The "one hour" is repeated in verses 15 and 17. These seem to be referring to points in time not durations of time.
In verses 9-10 there is the lament of the kings of the earth. Now we begin the lament of the merchants of the earth (vs 11-17a)
"And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:" (Rev 18:11)
It seems that the whole economic system has collapsed by this point. Considering how much is said in this chapter about merchants and trading and the following list of products it seems that this is referring to literal economic collapse. The references to ships (vs 17 and 19) would seem to indicate intercontinental trade as that is how such goods are primarily moved.
"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 odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men." (Rev 18:12-13)
That is quite a list. There are actually 28 items listed (4 x 7). They are items that might have been traded in John's day. He does not mention, nor would he have words for, many modern items we think of buying and selling – cars, computers, cell phones, televisions etc.
How does one buy the "souls of men"? There is an interesting connection here with the famine in Egypt when Joseph, the son of Jacob, was governor of all the country. The people sold themselves to Pharaoh for bread to stay alive.
"Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate. ... Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, [here is] seed for you, and ye shall sow the land." (Gen 47:19, 23)
Of course, a "soul" must be understood according to its Biblical definition. Soul is translated from the Greek word "psuche" (Strong's 5590) and is translated as "soul" 58 times and as "life" 40 times. It is simply a reference to the person and not to some entity that is separate from or that can leave a person. At creation, God formed man's physical body then added the breath of life and the combination of the two was then a living soul or living person.
"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Gen 2:7)
"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." (Rev 18:14)
This verse is addressed to Babylon. Some versions make this obvious such as:
"Babylon, the things your heart desired have all escaped from you. Every luxury and all your glory will be lost forever. You will never get them back." (Rev 18:14, CEV)
"The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!" (Rev 18:15-16)
The word "alas" is from a Greek word most commonly translated as "woe." There may be a connection to the woes mentioned in connection to the trumpets (Rev 8:13, 9:12, 11:14)
The appearance of the city can be compared with that given in Rev 17:4
"And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:" (Rev 17:4)
"For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. 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." (Rev 18:17-19)
Verse 17b ("And every shipmaster ... ") begins the lament of the shipmasters and others who profited from the international trade. There are four groups mentioned:
shipmasters - owners of the ship
These are also, along with the kings of the earth and the merchants of the earth, described as standing "afar off." Notice the many parallels between the three groups that are lamenting Babylon:
That is quite a bit of detail about the various reactions to Babylon's fall - it must be a very significant event. Thus ends the description of the laments for the fall of Babylon. However, there are others who are happy at the event.
"Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her." (Rev 18:20)
All heaven is glad to see the end of Babylon. Not so much to see Babylon's sad fate as to see the victory of God's people who have been persecuted by her. The words "holy apostles" could be translated "saints and apostles" so that three groups are mentioned - saints, apostles and prophets. The vengeance is really a case of "you reap what you sow." Babylon had decreed the death of God's people (Rev 13:15) and now she has met her end.
"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." (Rev 18:21)
There may be a connection to the second trumpet which certainly affects trade by sea:
"And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed." (Rev 8:8-9)
The verse also brings to mind this one referring to judgment:
"And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea" (Mark 9:42)
And there may be a connection to the next verse which could indicate the absence of a millstone.
"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." (Rev 18:22-23)
The list of musicians is reminiscent of the account of the musical instruments played at King Nebuchadnezzar's command in ancient Babylon (Dan 3:5).
The phrase "no more at all" is used, with a little variation, seven times in verses 14, 21, 22 and 23, indicating the complete end.
"Sorceries" is from the Greek word "pharmakeia" from which we get the words "pharmacy, pharmacist, pharmaceuticals etc. In what sense is this involved in deception? The modern western medical system has managed to monopolize medical services to the extent that a person can be charged with practicing medicine without a license if helping others to overcome disease. There are aspects of the medical system that are not really helping people get or stay well. Notably, the heavy dependence upon drugs rather than the natural remedies God has provided and the fact that lifestyle is largely disregarded.
Especially in the United States, the medical system. supposedly designed to protect patients, seems to put its own financial interests first. I would highly recommend watching the video Sicko produced by documentary film maker Michael Moore - very revealing.
There is a connection between our physical health and our ability to reason and judge wisely and to discern in spiritual matters. This may ultimately be the target in the Babylonian system in regards to health care. I should point out that the problem is not so much with individual doctors and other medical professionals so much as it is with the medical system and their enforced monopoly.
"And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth." (Rev 18:24)Babylon has a high degree of culpability for what she has done to God's people. Of course, Babylon has been responsible for shedding blood for many centuries. "In her was found" suggests an investigation or judgment that brings this truth to light.
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