God's Judgment of Great Babylon
In Revelation 17:1-18 we have seen that the destruction of Great Babylon is by the hand of the Beast and his ten horns. Now, in Revelation 18:1-24, the judgment is seen to be from the Lord God (vv. 5, 8, 20)-as Lord being in absolute authority, as God being supreme in majestic glory. An angel from heaven having great authority announces Babylon's fall (v. 1). The earth was lightened by his glory. Such light is God's exposure of the sordid works of the great harlot which have prospered under cover of spiritual darkness. What has been said and done in the dark is to be proclaimed in the light (Luke 12:2-3). Mightily he cries, for the whole earth to hear, that Babylon is fallen and has become the habitation of demons (v. 2). Demon activity has been rampant within her bosom before this announcement is made, but she has cunningly concealed it by fair outward appearances and by professing the name of Christ. How glaring and humiliating the exposure will be when it comes! Every foul spirit and every unclean and hateful bird are additional expressions descriptive of demons.
The nations that will not accept the truth of Christianity will accept the woman's adulterous corruption of it and thus drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication (v. 3). The acceptance of her hypocrisy deadens the conscience and allows the indulgence of every lust. Merchants of the earth have grown rich by trading with her, for it means nothing to them that she gains her wealth by oppression of the poor. By collusion and flattery they can multiply their gains so that both share in the spoil. But God has set the limit.
An urgent voice from heaven says, "Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her plagues" (v. 4). This message surely is intended for God's people to hear before the actual judgment falls. If one remains in that false religious system named the woman Babylon, the person is partaker of her sins and can only expect the judgment she receives. Some may protest that an evil association does not defile unless one is actually doing the same evil things, but this is not God's view: He commands to come out from the very association!
God had borne with this corrupt woman until her cup of iniquity becomes full and her sins cry out for heaven's judgment. God remembers her past and will judge in perfect righteousness (v. 5). She has meted out cruel, unrighteous judgment to others: now she will be rewarded in double measure. She has filled her cup with iniquity, so she receives a righteous double recompense (v. 6).
She has exalted herself and lived in luxury at the expense of the poor. Now her torment and sorrow is to be commensurate with the measure of her self-indulgence (v. 7). She has boasted of being "a queen," in fact "the queen of heaven," reigning as the professed bride of Christ before Christ Himself has taken His throne with His true bride, the Church (Revelation 3:21). She thus has no heart for the rejected Lord. The true Church mourns His absence and wants no part in being recognized and patronized by a world that despises her Lord.
Great Babylon has glorified herself and will be utterly abased. This abasement will come swiftly, "in one day death and mourning and famine" (v. 8). This strong world-wide system has been building itself virtually high into the heavens, considering itself so secure as to give Rome the proud misnomer, "the eternal city." Man will not bring her down: it is God who is stronger than she, and the swiftness of her judgment will amaze all who observe this complete desolation. The destroying fire will be both literal as to the city of Rome itself and symbolical of the total destruction of the entire false church. The patient grace of God has borne long with her, but judgment when it falls will be all the more dreadful.
Great Lamentation for Babylon
The kings of the earth who have indulged themselves in luxurious evil with the woman Babylon will be shocked and will mourn the loss of this source of illicit gain and pleasure (v. 9). They themselves will not as yet have fallen under the approaching judgment of God. Though the angel has said that Babylon's plagues come in one day, the nations speak of her judgment coming in one hour (v. 10). Little do they realize that Babylon's torment is a forewarning of what awaits them. They speak of Babylon as "the great city" and "the strong city." Such is man's estimation, but she has been built in independence of God and He reduces her greatness to nothing, her strength to weakness. Just as the first city Babylon was left a ruin after men's boast of making themselves a name (Genesis 11:1-9), so will the second Babylon suffer a similar humiliating end.
Merchants of the earth weep because their trade has been devastated (v. 11). Trade in religious artifacts and ornaments of gold and silver, vestments of expensive finery and jewels, ornamented buildings, wine and oil, food and travel equipment and many other industries owned or controlled by Rome will be tremendously affected.
However, these things speak more solemnly of the illicit traffic in spiritual things by which there is great temporal gain. Babylon may boast of its gold-that which claims to be for the glory of God-though this is merely trading for its own profit. It can speak of silver, typical of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, but use this also to prompt its adherents to give money to the church. All of the other things mentioned in verses 12 and 13 also speak of various precious aspects of the truth of God used by this great system as a means of present gain, thereby making the professed house of God "a house of merchandise."
Verse 13 ends with the significant expression "and bodies and souls of men." The common people have been made her virtual slaves, not only physically, but psychologically as well. God takes full account of all this.
Verse 14 shows that selfish lust always eventually loses what it seems to gain or what it expects to gain. All is lost for which the woman has lived. The merchants who profited by her lust now weep as they consider her great wealth and luxury as being reduced to nothing in one hour (v. 15). Shipping companies and their employees mourn the tremendous loss of trade because of her demise. Traffic in and out of Rome has been notoriously heavy through the centuries. What city has been like this great city? What other city has been so suddenly and totally destroyed?-specially a city boasting of a world-wide religious organization that has seemed immovable! Sea traders then repeat what has been said by kings (v. 10) and by merchants (v. 17): "in one hour she is made desolate" (v. 19).
The mourning is not shared by heaven where the call is rather to rejoice together with apostles and prophets (v. 20), for this is God's answer to the cries of His people who have been oppressed. In righteousness He avenges His beloved saints by His unsparing destruction of this destructive harlot.
In token of the awesome finality of the judgment, a mighty angel takes a stone like a great millstone and casts it into the sea (v. 21). He announces that Babylon likewise will be violently thrown down with no semblance of a remaining existence. She is no longer to sit on the waters (the nations), but will be utterly swallowed up by them. This entire graphic description of her ruin is intended to strike home to the consciences of all who would dare to make merchandise of the truth of the Word of God.
What will become of the great emphasis on music such as is prominent in mere human religion, and which the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar knew well to have great influence on the feelings of the people (Daniel 3:4-6)? Nothing of this mere sensual attraction will remain. There will be no employment left for the unsaved promoters of so-called Christian music (v. 22), for real Christian musicians will have been taken away at the Rapture. This is just another area that will receive a staggering shock. Further, craftsmen of whatever description-artists, sculptors, cabinet makers, stone masons, tile setters, etc. will share this total desolation. Even the flour mills will be silent.
Millions of candles will no longer burn for solemn religious services. Countless processions of marriage ceremonies will come to a stunning, sudden end (v. 23). All of these things have provided employment for millions of people. The merchants of these things were the great men of the earth, and they, together with the common people, will be devastated. By the harlot's sorceries (her cunning satanic manipulation of the truth) all nations have been deceived, and all will be awakened with sudden shock. How greatly will people everywhere be shaken! Verse 24 uses words of solemn exposure and indictment. Babylon is found guilty of the blood of prophets, saints and great numbers of others who have been murdered. Prophets have been killed for proclaiming the truth of God, saints have been killed for acting on the truth, while others have been killed simply because the harlot considered she could profit by their death. How great a mercy for earth itself when she is removed!