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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 18


Chapter 18

1.  After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory.
2.  And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
3.  For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”
4. Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues;
5.  for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
6.  Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
7.  As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’
8. For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”

Double retribution: “Fallen, fallen”

In chapter 15, we saw the introduction of the seven angels with the seven bowls of wrath and chapter 16 related the act and result of each one being poured out. Similarly in chapter 17, we received an introductory description of Babylon and in this chapter, its actual destruction is detailed.

This is a future, figurative Babylon and I tried to describe it in the last chapter as basically a religious system, but heavily involved with the financial and political situation in the world. Her destruction is total and everlasting. “She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast” (v.2) I thought of the fall of literal Babylon, as it was depicted in Isaiah 13, and wondered if that record wasn´t left for us to ponder, as a precedent to the fate that John predicts for this final city.

Here are a few observations from eye witnesses, who visited the ruins of historic Babylon a couple centuries ago. Compare their testimonies with verse 2: “There are many dens of wild beasts in various parts. There are quantities of porcupine quills. In most of the cavities are numberless bats and owls. These caverns, over which the chambers of majesty may have been spread, are now the refuge of jackals and other savage animals.”… “The natives believe that the ghost of Nimrod walks amidst them in the darkness, and no one would venture on so hazardous an experiment (that is, to enter the ruins at night)”…  “All the people of the country assert that it is extremely dangerous to approach the mound after nightfall, on account of the multitude of evil spirits by which it is haunted.”

Unclean birds and beasts, along with demons and unclean spirits are mentioned, inhabiting the city. Unclean birds are used symbolically from Genesis to Revelation. Abraham drove the birds away from his sacrifice (Ge.15:11). Joseph interpreted the birds in the baker’s dreams as a sign of the baker’s dismal fate (Ge.40:17). Jesus taught that the birds in the parable of the sower were symbolic of the devil (Mt.13:4). Birds are used in Scripture, to prophecy of evil (see, for example, Jer.5:27; Ezek.31:6, 13; Dan 4:12), therefore I cannot see the great tree that Jesus said would grow from the mustard seed, in which birds built their nests and under which beasts took shelter, as a positive sign (Mt.13:32). It shows an undesirable growth of the mustard plant into a tree, by future attempts to popularize Christianity. In His parables, Jesus often showed the negative aspects that the kingdom of God would manifest, due to outside influences, in this imperfect world… the tares and the wheat, good and bad fish, wise and foolish virgins and, I believe, the leaven in the bread dough.  

Both Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied that literal Babylon will never be rebuilt (Is.13:19-22; Jer.51:24-26, 61-64), therefore the Babylon of Revelation cannot be literal Babylon. The apostle John makes it very clear, however, various times in chapters 14, 17 and 18 that the Babylon he sees is, literally, a city. In chapter 17, the angel told John that he would reveal the mystery concerning the city, and in the very last verse, he says conclusively, “The woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth” (Rv.17:18). The two verbs in the verse, is and has, are in the present tense, referring to the dominant city of his day. To me, the mystery is solved and the case is closed. The city is Rome!

Warren Wiersbe suggests: “One reason John used symbolism was so that his message would encourage believers in any period of church history.” There has always been a false church that promotes itself by money and politics, is careless with doctrinal truth and persecutes those who stand true and faithful to Scripture. In some periods in church history more than one harlot system appeared. These are always a great grief, if not a threat, to true Christians, so the Holy Spirit comforts them by showing the eventual destruction of the “mother”, assuring the defeat of all her “daughters”, as well.

Ultimately, the false religion of figurative Babylon will not support its economy and politics and here we see its overthrow. In chapter 17, we learned that its fall was due to the hatred of the 10 kings and the antichrist: “They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire” (17:16).

The angel, who unveils the destruction of chapter 18, is amazing and he brightens the earth with his glory (v.1). Notice that he twice pronounces her fate: “Fallen, fallen” (v.2). Then notice verse 6: “Repay her double for her deeds.” This is due to the immensity of her evil, cruelty and widespread deception. Earth’s rulers and merchants have grown rich, because of her influence and power, all built upon false premises.

As Israel was held in captivity for 70 years in historic Babylon, there is a people, who belong to God, that are within her walls in Revelation. In mercy, they are commanded to come out (v.4), as Lot was saved out of Sodom in Genesis (chapter 19). We don’t know whether they are native to the city or they have gotten tangled in a web of compromise or disobedience.  If they are caught, when the destruction comes, they will surely share the fate of the heathen. He, who takes part in her sins, will also share her punishment. “They were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all… Remember Lot’s wife” (Lk.17:28, 29, 32). The will of God is to save them, but they must remove themselves from the city. Heavenly compassion instructs God’s people to leave everything behind, flee and not look back (v.4).

No human knows God’s measurements of sin or when His patience will end and His wrath begin, therefore prudence calls to act immediately. Justice will be served, as Jesus taught concerning the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus existed in misery in the presence of the rich man, who lived in luxury and opulence. The tables will be turned under divine justice, which requires double payment for the evil done to others. Present, as well, in the city of Babylon is the characteristic that God hates and will not tolerate… arrogance! Her language betrays her: “I sit as a queen… and mourning I shall never see” (v.7). The holiness of God will be glorified in judgment and His suffering people will be vindicated (v.8).

9.  And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning.
10. They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.” 
11. And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore,
12. cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble,
13. cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle, and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.
14. “The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!”
15. The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,
16. “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls!
17. For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailor and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off
18. and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city!”
19.  And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste.

Political and economic loss and grief

We catch a glimpse of the mentality, the world view, of the earthlings, as they stand afar off, observing the calamity. Babylon’s loss is linked to theirs. The Holy Spirit reveals the state of the politicians and the economists, when the Babylonian system collapses. They have lived to gain their positions, basking in their success. They are the experts, wrapped in worldly wisdom, living for the present, shunning God’s righteousness, and ignoring eternity. Now they stand, exposed and naked, in the error of their ways. All for which they have lived is lost forever and they weep, wail and fear.

Businessmen are aligned with the politicians, weeping and mourning (v.9-11). The trading of the finest metals, wood, spices, crops, livestock, beverages and jewels is gone forever. Oh yes, human souls… slavery still exists, though some of the worst forms may be illegal. Kidnapping and selling of women and children for profit, and many other kinds of manipulation of fellow human beings continues to the end, including the slavery brought on by drug cartels and false religious sects with authoritarian leadership (v.12-16).

Of what use now is the mark of the beast? The reason for their existence has vanished suddenly before their eyes and they fear for their lives. International trade is devastated (v.17-19) and these merchants join the politicians and businessmen in mourning and fear. All that is left for them now is a fanatical obsession to go to war, in favor of the antichrist and against the One, who sits on heaven’s throne, and His Christ (see 17:14).

How they befriended and loved this present world! Hear the prophecy of Apostle James: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded… You have laid up treasure in the last days… You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person” (Jm.5:1-6).

20. Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”
21. Then a mighty 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 be found no more;
22. and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more,
23. and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all 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 earth.”

Heaven’s point of view

James also warned the professing Christian: “You covet and cannot obtain… You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (Jm.4:2-4). The apostle John did the same in his first epistle: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him… the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn.2:15-17).

Those who have the mind of Christ with the new nature, having been born again, will have a completely opposite reaction. The great rift that exists between human beings is not racial, sexual or a caste system. It is between those who have been born once and those, who are born again. Jesus showed the vast gap that exists between the Christian and the children of this world: “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn.16:20). In the Tribulation, the world sorrows and the believer rejoices over the righteous judgments of God: “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her” (v.20). The apostle Paul preached divine vengeance: “Indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you… when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance of those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction…” 2 Th.1:6-9).

For emphasis, a mighty angel took a millstone, and cast it into the sea. There have been precedents and predictions throughout the Word depicting this action, but nothing can compare with the force of the mighty angel, the speed of its trajectory, or the hopeless finality of its descent into the sea of eternal loss (v.21). All Babylon’s ways of rejoicing, musical entertainment, beautiful arts and crafts, technology, projections of light, and motives for human joy will sink with it. Here is the final unveiling, before the eyes of the whole world, of its wicked, demonic sorcery, and its slaughter of God’s people,


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