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Revelation 18

Revelation 18

After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory. 2 And 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.”

John then saw another angel coming down from heaven, one with great authority and so much glory that he lit up the world.  He cried out loudly that Babylon was fallen.  Whereas it had been a bustling economic powerhouse, now it was a dwelling place fit only for the spirit world.  Demons lived there as well as other unclean spirits and the kinds of birds that enjoyed living on waste and death.  God will punish Babylon because all the nations of the world will have corrupted themselves by participating in her idolatry by worshipping Satan and his antichrist.  People will get rich during the early part of antichrist’s empire because all trade will be routed through Babylon with his mark of approval, but they will have to bow to him first.  Sensuality will be a big business as well as the selling of many goods, including people (v. 13 and Joel 3:3), and it will all be in a context of emperor worship, immorality, and blasphemy of God.

4 I 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; 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.

God wanted any who had ears to hear, particularly of the Jewish nation, to escape Babylon and run for the mountains (Matthew 24:15).  The longer a person stays with bad company, the more their morals are corrupted, the more their conscience is defiled, and the harder it is to leave (just ask Lot- Genesis 19:16).  Those who participated in her iniquities would be punished with the plagues of God, and there would be no special treatment or exemptions.  God had kept a record of Babylon’s iniquities, and they piled up as high as heaven.  His vengeance was imminent, a double-portion of wrath.  She glorified herself in great pride and blasphemy and lived in great immorality and sensuality, and God was to repay her with torment and mourning.  Her temporary rule on the earth as “queen” would quickly come to an end (Isaiah 47:7).  Those who lived by her prosperity thought that the good times would go on forever, but they were wrong.  Mourning and great loss was just around the corner, for God’s judgments would cause destruction to come over the whole earth.  Babylon, the prize of the worldly nations, would not be exempt but targeted with double vengeance from on high.  In one day her plagues will come with disease and famine and fire.  When God moves to launch His campaign of seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments, Babylon will face quick destruction.  This will be to make a point that God is the Lord, that He is the One doing the judging, and that He is strong, much stronger than antichrist and his armies. 

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.’

The kings of the earth aligned themselves out of fear with the antichrist and probably greed as well, for they believed that he was the ultimate power.  They believed in his false miracle, and they wanted to serve him.  They enjoyed his charisma, and they believed that he would bring world peace and economic prosperity of highest degree.  They rejoiced in his vast markets of immorality and sensuality.  When they saw Babylon burning, however, their confidence was shattered, and they mourned.  They realized that all was not well, and God’s judgments will make them want to die (Revelation 9:6).  They will stand at a distance watching the city burn and cry out in great mourning and distress.  Fear will definitely be on their minds because of the severity and rapidity with which the destruction will 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 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 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.

Those who bowed to the antichrist like it was no big deal, having no fear of God in their hearts, will mourn because they will not be able to sell their goods any longer.  The whole world economy will be devastated as the judgments of God rain down.  Their riches and prosperity were but for a few years, but God’s judgment will be forever.  All the world’s goods that they had to buy and sell and get rich from would pass away.  The fruit that they longed for would be unobtainable, for famine and pestilence would be everywhere.  All the things that they had enjoyed that were splendid and luxurious would be gone from them and never to come back again.  Previously, they had enjoyed gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, linen, purple fabric, silk, scarlet, special wood, ivory, and things made of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble.  Vast craftsmanship and ornate wares were prevalent until the day of destruction.  At the marketplace, there were cinnamon, spices, perfume, incense, frankincense, wine, olive oil, flour, wheat, cattle, sheep, horses, chariots, and even slaves and human lives.  As Joel 3:3 says, “They have also cast lots for My people, Traded a boy for a harlot And sold a girl for wine that they may drink.”  The businessmen of the world were making money left and right, and they were even willing to sell people into slavery for money.  People were property to be bought and sold for selfish gain, for business was about money, not the fair treatment of the weak.  Money was their god, and worshiping the beast and his image was part of the bargain.  But it all came to a fiery end in short order, for God’s wrath had come.  Now they would be lucky to stay alive, let alone find food and water or shelter.

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.”

Those who had ships to travel to Babylon and sell their wares got rich quick because of the prosperity that Babylon had and the money which was there to spend.  Of course, their financial prosperity came at the cost of bowing to the beast, but that was no matter for them.  But it became a great concern when in but one day they saw Babylon burn and suffer divine torment and destruction.  They wept and mourned not over their sins and in fear of God but over the fact that they lost their chance to make more money.  The rich city of pagan prosperity had been destroyed.  The wealth of the earth can be taken in a breath, and this is why people need to invest in heaven and in doing God’s will (Matthew 6:33).  His kingdom endures forever, and it is never worth making a compromising deal in order to get ahead on earth because God’s rewards and riches are forever (Psalm 16:11).   But all those who sold their souls for wealth cried out as they saw their livelihoods go up in smoke in an instant.  They thought that Babylon was as good as it could ever get, and they had no conception of what Jesus’ millennial kingdom would be like and the honor it would be to serve Him during it.  But those who loved Jesus could rejoice because God had begun to avenge the blood of the saints and witnesses of the gospel upon Babylon.  His wrath was coming now quickly and in full force, and soon the entire armies of the earth and the antichrist himself would be wiped out just as quickly as their beloved city was. 

21 Then 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; 23 and 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.”

A strong angel took up a stone and cast it into the sea as a visual of the casting down of Babylon.  Its sin was a millstone around its neck, and it would be judged accordingly because God hates any who make others stumble (Luke 17:2).  Babylon was cast down with violence because God repaid its violent ways with divine judgment.  The antichrist’s breaking of the peace treaty and launching into war was the beginning of the end of economic prosperity and the beginning of the judgments of God.  The turning point was abrupt, and God’s judgments were sudden and fierce.  There would be no more musicians playing, craftsmen and artisans creating, people grinding at the mill, people getting married, lamps lit signifying life and human activity, or merchants coming to do business and becoming great in the earth on account of their financial prosperity.  The nations of the world were deceived by the lies of the antichrist (John 8:44, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12) and the satanic trickery of the false prophet.  Their false religion led many to damn their souls, and many of those who came to faith were killed in their city, probably even in consecration to the beast and his image.  God held the antichrist and Babylon accountable for deceiving others.  Their lies caused people to ignore the testimony of the two witnesses and to instead follow the beast (Revelation 11:1-13).  Thus, Babylon’s judgment was extra severe.