Bible Study Series: Revealing Jesus in Revelation
Revelation 18 Commercial Babylon: The City the Falls in a Day
by I Gordon
In the last message we saw the rise and fall of the last days apostate religion. This was pictured as a woman, a harlot, riding a beast... Well, until she was thrown off! So with her downfall we can say good riddance to mystery Babylon can we not? Um, no, we can not. Well not yet. For even after her demise Babylon still exists in one final form. This message from Revelation 18 will concentrate on the final mystery form of Babylon that will be destroyed with the coming of Jesus Christ. It is commercial and political Babylon. So today we will explore:
- Why this chapter gives a different aspect of Babylon from chapter 17
- Who is this Babylon? Is it Rome? A rebuilt Babylon? The US? The worldly system in general?
- The need for God's people to come out of her - and what that means for us today
- The speed of her downfall - 'in one hour' and the application from this for our own lives
- The reaction of the world vs the reaction of heaven - which reaction do you side with?
A new impressive angel
Rev 18:1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.
There are two points in this verse which indicate that the fall of Babylon in chapter 18 is different from that described previously in chapter 17.
- 'After this I saw' - this is a separate vision John had which he was given after the one in chapter 17
- 'Another angel coming down' - there is a different angel that comes down from heaven to give John revelation on this part of Babylon's fall.
There are other differences as well. While chapter 17 focused on a false religious system, chapter 18 focuses on the commercial aspect of Babylon. We saw in chapter 17 that the 10 kings who have power with the beast hated the woman and eventually destroyed her. Where as in chapter 18 the kings of the earth will weep and mourn over Babylon's fall. Clearly, a different aspect of Babylon is being presented here.
Now this new angel who comes is more than a little impressive. We should not underestimate these angels - especially those close to the presence of God! This angel illuminates the earth in his reflected glory from God. This will be one powerful angel. It reminds us of course of the glorious coming of the Lord Jesus. The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of Christ's coming and wrote '...and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory.' (Eze 43:2). These are the days all believer's look forward to. Until then, believers are stranded in Babylon, waiting for it's demise!
Fallen, Fallen is Babylon the Great
Rev 18:2 With a mighty voice he shouted: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. (3) For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries."
We saw in the last chapter that Babylon was both a religious system and a city. We will see in this chapter that it is also prominent as a financial / commercial system and capital. There are many ideas about what this 'Babylon' is and where it will be located.
Some common ideas about the Babylon portrayed in Revelation 18 are:
- Rome - as the capital of the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church, it has held the most power over both religious and financial systems during the Church age.
- Rebuilt Babylon - Many believe that the city of Babylon will be rebuilt to fulfill both Old and New Testament prophecies and will become the Antichrist's capital. As we saw in the previous study, 'wickedness', symbolically shown in the form of a woman, will be taken back to Shinar, Babylon, and a temple will be rebuilt for her there (Zech 5:5-11).
- USA / New York - Because of its status as the current financial capital of the world, some see the United States or, more specifically, New York city with its ties to Wall Street and the two largest stock exchanges on the planet (NYSE and NASDAQ), as representing Babylon today.
- Worldly system - Others see the Babylon in Revelation 18 as symbolically pointing to the fallen world system and not any one specific city.
While I don't want to sit on the fence, the reality is that 'Babylon' does have multiple aspects and a 'midrashic' interpretation of scripture will see that it can have more than one fulfillment. It seems that Peter used 'Babylon' as a code name for Rome in his day (1Pe 5:13). And while I don't believe that the United States or New York city is the Babylon of Revelation 18, there is no doubt that were she to be destroyed swiftly, it would lead to the same shock around the world as is portrayed in Revelation 18. It can also be said that the worldly political and financial system in general displays the Babylonian spirit. But in the last days this will be centralized to a particular city where the Antichrist will rule from. As I indicated in the study on Revelation 17, this is likely to be back in its original location in ancient Babylon on the Euphrates River1 (Zech 5:5-11). But time will tell on all of this and as the Believers Bible Commentary states concerning Babylon 'Before the Second Advent of Christ, all the prophecies concerning the destruction of Babylon will be fulfilled to a "T." What is unclear to us today will be crystal clear to those living at that time."2
Spiritual and material seduction
Now if the religious Babylon of chapter 17 seduced the people with a form of spiritual drunkenness, the commercial Babylon seduces them with materialism and financial power and prosperity. As they say 'money makes the world go round'. And for that matter, it also causes conflict. Most of the wars in our world are based around power and financial control. And you can imagine how this will only intensify once the current plans of the world's elite come to pass with a global CBDC (central bank digital currency) platform. They will then control the buying and selling of everyone in the world. Everything will revolve around their financial system of control. But it will come to an end. Thank God! This financial system of Babylon will come to an end. And so we hear the angel's voice saying 'Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit.'
Come out of her my people
Rev 18:4-6 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; (5) for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. (6) Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup.
Against the backdrop of this spiritual and material seduction, the command of God is clear - "Come out of her my people!" The Old Testament background to this is Isaiah's and Jeremiah's warning for their people to leave the literal Babylon (Isa 48:20, Jer 50:8, 51:6-9, 51:45) and so it is with her seduction today. God's people in the last days are told to come out of her and not share in her sins. This obviously has an application for all ages including today.
Application: Come out of her
This has a direct application to those that are in a false church or religious system. We saw that Babylon was portrayed as a harlot in Revelation 17 that seduced the whole world. The warning and plea of God is to come out and not be part of it. For those that find themselves in a work based religion like the Catholic church or the cults like Jehovah Witness or Mormonism, the command is to 'come out - do not share in her sins.'
For those thinking of entering into a serious partnership or relationship with unbelievers, the command of God to the church is "COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. (2Co 6:17) Simply put, we are to put the Lord first in the decisions and partnerships that we enter into.
Now you will see that God has remembered Babylon's sins. He has not forgotten them. Thankfully, for a believer, the promise of God in the New Covenant is "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." (Heb 10:17) For the believer, they are not only forgotten but are totally paid for by another. But not so Babylon and all who follow her. She will be paid back double for her sins. For those without salvation, God has a long memory. Back in the days of Genesis, the Lord said to Abraham that his descendants wouldn't return to the Promised Land for 400 years because the sins of the Amorites had not yet reached its full measure (Gen 15:16 , Acts 7:6). That is a remarkable passage and gives great insight into God's ways in terms of judgment. And yes, He plays the long game! So if God watched and waited 400 years for the sin of the Amorites to be at a level that required and justified judgment, imagine how long God was been watching and waiting for Babylon! Here, God's memory goes all the way back to the plains of Shinar and the Tower of Babel over 4000 years ago. He has seen her sins, in their many forms, through the ages and is now ready to fully repay - in double measure! Verse 7 gives us another reason for this judgment.
Rev 18:7-8 Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, 'I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.' (8) Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. (9) When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.
This quote of 'I sit as a queen... I will never mourn' is straight from the book of Isaiah. I told you God has a good memory! Here it is:
Isa 47:5,7-11 Sit in silence, go into darkness, Daughter of the Babylonians; no more will you be called queen of kingdoms... You said, 'I will continue forever-- the eternal queen!' But you did not consider these things or reflect on what might happen. (8) Now then, listen, you wanton creature, lounging in your security and saying to yourself, 'I am, and there is none besides me. I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children.' (9) Both of these will overtake you in a moment, on a single day: loss of children and widowhood. They will come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and all your potent spells. (10) You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, 'No one sees me.' Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, 'I am, and there is none besides me.' (11) Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away. A calamity will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom; a catastrophe you cannot foresee will suddenly come upon you.
You will see, amongst other sins, that it speaks of self-security, suffer-free living, sorcery and spells. She is also said to be a 'wanton creature. lounging in your security.'
Application: The message for the self-secure
Think for a moment of the elite in this world that pull the strings on the world's economy and policies. They have this same Babylonian attitude. They think that they are above disaster and can get away with whatever they like. They love this world and embody the spirit of Babylon. Yet disaster will come and no amount of money, wealth, influence, or sorcery will be able to change a single thing.
This same attitude was exhibited by the king Belshazzar of Babylon in that famous scene in Daniel 5. Do you remember it? As he drank wine and partied, praising the gods of gold, silver and bronze (Dan 5:1-6) when suddenly a hand appeared and wrote on the wall. The message turned his face a deathly shade of grey and gave his knees the worst case of knocking this world has ever seen! The hand wrote on the wall 'MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN' meaning 'numbered, numbered, weighted, divided'. In other words, despite his self-security and luxury living, he had been weighed and found wanting! It was now all over and his kingdom was gone. And so it was that very night! And that is how it will be for all that follow Babylon. It doesn't have to be the kings and elite of this world. Those that portray this same spirit, being proud and secure in themselves without God, will find in their own time that the writing on the wall is still giving the same message!
The reaction of the world
Rev 18:9-19 When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. (10) Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: " 'Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!' (11) The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more-- (12) cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; (13) cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men. (14) They will say, 'The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.' (15) The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn (16) and cry out: " 'Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! (17) In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!' "Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. (18) When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, 'Was there ever a city like this great city?' (19) They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: " 'Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!
Now in this section there is a bit of repetition as three different sectors of society weep and mourn her loss. They are:
- The kings of the world: Rev 18:9 When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.
- The merchants of the earth: Rev 18:11 The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more
- The sea captains: Rev 18:17 Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off.
All three see their own wealth and livelihood suffering from the downfall of Babylon. In both Rev 17:16 and 18:8 we see that fire will destroy the city. And so we see all three here speak of the swiftness of her downfall using the same phrase 'in one hour'.
- The kings of the world: Rev 18:10 NKJV 'Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.'
- The merchants of the earth: Rev 18:17 NKJV For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.
- The sea captains: Rev_18:19 NKJV 'Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.'
Application: In One Hour
Look at these three phrases. In one hour... 'your judgment has come', 'such great riches came to nothing', 'she is made desolate'. At 6 o'clock it is business as normal. By 7 o'clock she has been destroyed and the whole political and commercial system of the Antichrist lies in ruin. God is incredibly patient but when God judges, He judges swiftly. There is a key point that we should take from this for our lives today. It should remind us of a parable Jesus taught about greed and the swiftness of judgment:
Luk 12:15-21 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (16) And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. (17) He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' (18) Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. (19) And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' (20) But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' (21) This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.
Like Babylon, in one hour this man's judgement came. He was made desolate and his riches came to nothing. None of us know when we will enter eternity and if you think about it, most people in this world try to live like this man. They try to accumulate as much wealth as possible so that life will be easy. Even within the church wealth can be a mistaken focus as seen in the letter to Laodicea. So the man in this parable thought he had reached that perfect place where he could now take life easy with many good things laid up for many years. He was pleased with himself and the others around him patted him on the back saying 'well done, you are so successful! God however wasn't saying that. God thought he was a fool! You see, this man had planned and thought of everything... except the most important thing of all - being rich towards God! May we not be foolish but wise. May we use our time, gifts and resources wisely for the Lord. And this is where wisdom comes from:
Pro 9:10 AMP The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning (the chief and choice part) of Wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight and understanding.
The reality is that for all those living on this planet, life is fragile and short. We do not know if we have tomorrow. Last weekend I got a call to say that a friend who I went to Bible College with had died from a heart attack while sitting on his couch at home. Just unbelievable. Not yet 50 years old. He was on life support but didn't make it to the next day. Incredibly sad and sobering. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow so all I can say is be rich towards God and live with eternity in mind.
So we see that the kings of the world, the merchants of the earth and the captains of the sea will all weep and mourn at Babylon's fall. You have probably all seen or heard of people throwing themselves out of buildings at the time of a bad stock market or banking collapse. With a large financial collapse comes the loss of all hope for those that rely solely on this world. For the man who only has what this world has to offer, the fall of this world will be a burden to great to bear. But for the believer, none of this comes as any surprise. We realize that 'the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.' (1Jn 2:17). And so a different reaction is now seen in heaven to Babylon's fall. There are no tears in heaven over Babylon's fall. Well, if there are, they will actually be tears of joy!
The reaction of the Heaven
Rev 18:20-24 Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.' " (21) Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: "With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. (22) The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. (23) The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world's great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. (24) In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth."
The contrast in how heaven and earth see Babylon could not be greater. There is no funeral or dirge songs being sung over Babylon up there!
- Man's view of Babylon was of wealth and sensuality, luxurious and splendid, powerful and pleasurable, gloriously adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls.
- Heaven's view of Babylon was of a dwelling place of demons, a spreader of immorality, a place where sins have piled up as high as heaven, a deceiver of the nations through sorcery, and the blood of prophets and of saints.
When you look at this world's system, which do you see? Do you see it through the eyes of heaven or earth? There is no doubting that we live in a corrupted world system. According to Oxfam, since 2020 the richest 1 percent grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth worth. That is twice as much money as the bottom 99 percent of the world's population. It seems Covid19 was very good for business for the world's elite with a huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to the super rich!3
But their day will come and so it is no wonder heaven is told to rejoice. And along with her, all the saints, apostles and prophets whether on heaven or earth, will rejoice. All the oppression and corruption, in all the forms that it takes, will finally come to an end. And so we see that all the normal things that occurred in this city will cease. No more music, workmen, lights or weddings will be seen in Babylon again. In fact the imagery given in Babylon's fall is of a great stone being hurled into the sea, where it plummets to the depths of the ocean, never to be seen again. This describes the suddenness and permeance of Babylon's fall. It also reminds us of an Old Testament prophecy that spoke of Babylon's fall being like 'Sodom and Gomorrah':
Isa 13:19-20 And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans' pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. (20) It will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation...
This sudden and complete destruction, where Babylon is no longer inhabited, was not been fulfilled in history but will be at the end of the tribulation.
As we come to a close, it is worth thinking about why cities, nations and ultimately this world's system fall. I have quoted from 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' by Edward Gibbon in a previous study on Daniel 54. But it is very relevant this this chapter as well. Here is a summary of the 5 reasons Gibbons gave for the fall of the Roman Empire. Read these and think about whether you see them today:
1. The rapid increase in divorce and the undermining of the sanctity of the home
2. The spiraling rise of taxes and extravagant spending
3. The mounting craze for pleasure and the brutalization of sports
4. The building of gigantic armaments and the failure to realize that the real enemy lay within the walls with the moral decay of the people.
5. The decay of religion and the fading of faith into a mere form leaving the people without a guide.
In connection to this, consider the following quote from Abraham Lincoln concerning the USA - 'If this nation is to be destroyed it will be from within and not from without.' What do you think? If you live in a Western country, have you seen these points and the impact they have on your country? The reality is that:
1Pe 1:24-25 "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, (25) but the word of the Lord stands forever."
So... don't get too wrapped up in this world. Babylon will fall. Isaiah spoke about it, Jeremiah spoke about, John spoke about it. Both the spiritual and financial seduction of this world will fall and come to and end bringing great rejoicing to heaven and that saints of God. And what a glimpse we have of that which shall replace it. We read of the life to come on this planet in His everlasting Kingdom, where the prophet Isaiah spoke of the corruption-free conditions stating:
Isa 65:21-25 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. (22) No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. (23) They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. (24) Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. (25) The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the LORD.
I love that and so look forward to it. This world's system is corrupt but a new world is coming!
CS Lewis once wrote “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”
This is a true word and will be proven all the more true for both believer and unbeliever in the days to come. And just how this world's system is overturned will be the subject of the next chapter in Revelation.