NT Prophecy – Revelation 17-18

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery:
                        Babylon the Great
                  the mother of prostitutes
           and of the abominations of the earth.
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.
“This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.
“The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”

  • Revelation 17:1-18

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted:
“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’
    She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
    a haunt for every unclean bird,
    a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
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.”
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;
for her sins are piled up to heaven,
    and God has remembered her crimes.
Give back to her as she has given;
    pay her back double for what she has done.
    Pour her a double portion from her own cup.
Give her as much torment and grief
    as the glory and luxury she gave herself.
In her heart she boasts,
    ‘I sit enthroned as queen.
I am not a widow;
    I will never mourn.’
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.
“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. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:
“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    you mighty city of Babylon!
In one hour your doom has come!’
“The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore—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; 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 human beings sold as slaves.
“They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ 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 and cry out:
“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,
    and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
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. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out:
“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    where all who had ships on the sea
    became rich through her wealth!
In one hour she has been brought to ruin!’
“Rejoice over her, you heavens!
    Rejoice, you people of God!
    Rejoice, apostles and prophets!
For God has judged her
    with the judgment she imposed on you.”
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.
The music of harpists and musicians, pipers and trumpeters,
    will never be heard in you again.
No worker of any trade
    will ever be found in you again.
The sound of a millstone
    will never be heard in you again.
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 important people.
    By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.
In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people,
    of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.”

  • Revelation 18:1-24

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Revelation 17-18 ‘Mystery Babylon the Great’: ”In the latter part of chapter 16 and continuing through chapters 17 and 18, we find the judgment of the great religious harlot called ‘MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT.’ Babylon was the source of ancient idolatry, and is used as a symbol of what we might call ‘religious godlessness’—something that looks godly and spiritual but is essentially godless. It is a religion that exercises political power through religious authority.
“If you read this passage carefully, you will see that ‘Mystery Babylon’ is not any one system, institution, or denomination but rather an attitude that permeates the entire church. Wherever you find anyone acting religiously, trying to gain political power or authority, you have mystery Babylon, and it is found in all churches. As Jesus said, referring to the weeds planted among the good wheat, ‘Let both grow together until the harvest’ (Matt. 13:30). And the scene in Revelation 19 is that harvest. John also has a vision of the harvest of the earth in chapter 14:”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

Revelation 17 ‘Babylon: The Great Harlot’: “Some scholars believe chapters 17 and 18 talk about two different aspects of Babylon. Chapter 17 has to do with spiritual Babylon, and chapter I8 describes the fall of economic Babylon. Others say there is no relation between the two. Though interpreting these chapters is difficult, it appears best to say that there is but one Babylon, with the ecclesiastical or spiritual entity featured in chapter 17 and a political and economic entity described in chapter 18.
“The rapid rise of Babylon is seen in chapter 17 and could well have occurred at the beginning of the Tribulation. Chapter 18 tells of the downfall of Babylon, who is the ‘great harlot [Greek
porne] who sits on many waters’ (17:1). In Scripture, ‘waters’ often describe the vastness of the nations of the earth (cf. verse I5). Babylon is then ruling or spiritually influencing the nations by her evil nature, causing ‘those who dwell on the earth [to be] made drunk with the wine of her immorality’ (verse 2). The religious harlotry of Israel is well documented in Ezekiel 16 and 23, and in similar manner, the world will wallow in spiritual and moral darkness under Babylon’s influence.
“John the apostle is then carried away by the Holy Spirit into ‘a wilderness’ to see the evil workings of the harlot (Revelation 17:3). He sees her riding the beast introduced in 13:1. The beast’s scarlet color represents the bloodthirsty nature of his royalty, and the woman is clothed in a similar fashion (17:4). The ‘seven heads and ten horns’ are also mentioned in 13:1. Daniel 7:24 explains that the ten horns represent a confederation of ten Gentile powers who form a revived Roman Empire. The seven heads represent the committee of leaders and rulers who govern this conglomerate of nations now acting as one under the sway of the beast.
“The harlot is clothed in the most ostentatious of finery (Revelation 17:4), yet the gold cup in her hand is full of filth, abominations, and ‘unclean things of her immorality.’ The picture painted here is one of a seductive prostitute who looks regal but is disease-ridden and able to infect her suitors. Babylon will seduce and charm the world with her evil, but only for a while. Prominent on her forehead is a name that is a ‘mystery’ (Greek,
musterion), ‘Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth’ (verse 5). There is something about her name that will not be known until then. Possibly it is the fact that no one could imagine that Babylon would be the source of all false religion and that this falsehood would spread so rapidly and take root in all the nations of the world. Or it could be the fact people would not have expected religion to play such a major role in the end times.
“Corporate human rebellion first began at Babel (Genesis 10:9-10), where the city of Babylon was built. It was here that false religion and polytheism originated (11:1-9). While there is a historical connection between false religion and Babylon, the expression ‘mystery’ in Revelation 17:5 suggests that what is about to take place is not literal but deeply figurative in nature. Many prophecy scholars are expecting a literal revival of geographical and political Babylon, which is centered in present-day Iraq. Others believe the ‘Babylon’ described in Revelation 17-18 is a code name for Rome (and thus, the revived Roman Empire of the future).
“The charge against Babylon is that through the corridors of history, she has been sated with the ‘blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus’ (Revelation 17:6). She is described as being drunk with the murder of the saints. As John looks at her, he wonders greatly at this ‘mystery’ Babylon, who is far more evil than he could have imagined!”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Revelation 17:1 ‘seven angels’: “The reference to these angels links chapters 17 and 18 with the bowl judgments (ch. 16), which extend to the Second Coming of Christ (see note on 16:17). Chapters 17 and 18 focus on one aspect of those bowl judgments, the judgment of Babylon. The judgments already described are identified as targeting the final world system. great harlot … Prostitution frequently symbolizes idolatry or religious apostasy (cf. Jer. 3:6-9; Ezek. 16:30ff.; 20:30; Hos. 4:15; 5:3; 6:10; 9:1). Nineveh (Nah. 3:1, 4), Tyre (Is. 23:17), and even Jerusalem (Is. 1:21) are also depicted as harlot cities. sits on many waters. This picture emphasizes the sovereign power of the harlot. The picture is of a ruler seated on a throne, ruling the waters, which symbolize the nations of the world (see v. 15).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 17:2 ‘kings … committed fornication’: “The harlot will ally herself with the world’s political leaders. Fornication here does not refer to sexual sin, but to idolatry. …  All the world rulers will be absorbed into the empire of Satan’s false christ. Wine of her fornication. The harlot’s influence will extend beyond the world’s rulers to the rest of mankind (cf. v. 15; 13:8, 14). The imagery does not describe actual wine and sexual sin, but pictures the world’s people being swept up into the intoxication and sin of a false system of religion.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 17:3 ‘in the Spirit’: “Cf. 1:10; 4:2; 21:10. The Holy Spirit transports John into the wilderness (a deserted, lonely, desolate wasteland), perhaps to give him a better understanding of the vision. a woman. The harlot of verse 1, Babylon. scarlet beast. The Antichrist (cf. 13:1, 4; 14:9; 16:10), who for a time will support and use the false religious system to effect world unity. Then he will assume political control (cf. v. 16). Scarlet is the color of luxury, splendor, and royalty. full of names of blasphemy. Because of his self-deification (cf. 13:1; Dan. 7:25; 11:36; 2 Thess. 2:4). Having seven heads and ten horns. This pictures the extent of Antichrist’s political alliances (see notes on vv. 9-12; 13:1).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 17:4 ‘purple and scarlet’: “The colors of royalty, nobility, and wealth. The woman is portrayed as a prostitute who has plied her trade successfully and become extremely wealthy. adorned. Prostitutes often dress in fine clothes and precious jewels to allure their victims (cf. Prov. 7:10). The religious harlot Babylon is no different, adorning herself to lure the nations into her grasp. a golden cup. Still another evidence of the harlot’s great wealth (cf Jer. 51:7); but the pure gold is defiled by the filthiness of her immorality. Just as a prostitute might first get her victim drunk, so the harlot system deceives the nations into committing spiritual fornication with her.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 17:5 ‘forehead’: “It was customary for Roman prostitutes to wear a headband with their name on it (cf. Jer. 3:3), parading their wretchedness for all to see. The harlot’s forehead is emblazoned with a threefold title descriptive of the world’s final false religious system. Mystery. A NT mystery is truth once hidden, but in the NT revealed. … (Matthew 13:11; Ephesians 3:4, 5). Spiritual Babylon’s true identity is yet to be revealed. Thus, the precise details of how it will be manifested in the world are not yet known. Babylon the Great. This Babylon is distinct from the historical, geographical city of Babylon (which still existed in John’s day). The details of John’s vision cannot be applied to any historical city … Mother of Harlots. All false religion stems ultimately from Babel, or Babylon (cf. Gen. 11 …).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 17:6 ‘the blood of the saints … martyrs of Jesus’: “Some see the first group as OT saints, and the second as NT saints—an unimportant distinction since this pictures the martyrs of the Tribulation. John’s point is that the harlot is a murderer. False religion has killed millions of believers over the centuries, and the final false system will be far more deadly than any that preceded it.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 17:7 ‘An angel must explain’: “John does not understand what the extraordinary vision meant and has it explained to him (Rev. 17:7). The angel’s explanation draws on the earlier vision of John, which in part was derived from the Book of Daniel. The beast is from the abyss and goes to destruction. The abyss is the dwelling-place of every evil thing (Luke 8:31) and from it ascends the destructive plague of Revelation 9:2-11, whose leader was called ‘the destroyer’ (9:11), as well as the beast who persecutes God’s prophetic servants (11:7) and carries the sin-laden prostitute. It is the same beast as the beast from the sea (13:1-10). It ‘once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss’ (17:8). Revelation 17:11 tells us this is an eighth king, part of an earlier group of seven kings, who will not prevail but is destined for destruction. According to 17:8 he ‘yet will come.’ The angel thought he was explaining the mystery, but most commentators agree that he only compounded the mystery by making it even more opaque. It is possible that the images here derive from a rumor current at that time that Nero (who was dead) had not really died, but was only apparently dead. Somehow he was being kept alive by the forces of evil and would return someday as an evil world ruler. This would make him one of the seven earlier kings, but also an eighth, that is, a new ruler in his own right and different from the seven. The precise meaning of all this is no longer clear to us, but two fundamental points stand out sharply: (1) Evil will organize itself against God and his saints, and from seeming defeat it will rise to do evil again; (2) the beast will go to his destruction—evil will not win. The Lamb will overcome the beast and his allies because he is Lord of lords and King of kings (17:14; 19:16-21). Those whose names are not written in the book of life (i.e., the unbelievers) will believe the lying wonders done by the beast (2 Thess. 2:7—10). When one refuses to believe the truth, just about any convincing or startling lie will do.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 17:8 ‘the beast’: “Both a king and kingdom are referred to by this term. was, and is not, and will ascend. A reference to the Antichrist’s false resurrection (13:3, 4, 12-14; … 13:3). out of the bottomless pit. After his ‘resurrection,’ the Antichrist will become possessed by a great demon from the abyss. perdition. Eternal destruction (cf. v. 11; Matt. 7:13; John 17:12; Phil. 1:28; 3:19; 2 Thess. 2:3; Heb. 10:39; 2 Pet. 2:3; 3:7, 16). This is the lake of fire, the place of Antichrist’s destruction (19:20). Book of Life. The roll of the elect, written in eternity past by God (3:5). Only the elect will escape the Antichrist’s deception (Matt. 24:24). from the foundation of the world. … 13:8; cf. 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2 (‘before time began’). A frequent phrase (Matt. 13:35; 25:34; Luke 11:50; John 17:24; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 4:3; 9:26; l Pet. 1:20) referring to God’s precreation plan.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 17:9 ‘The angel continues’: “The angel continues his explanation in 17:9. The seven heads of the beast from the sea (13:1), the dragon in the heavens (12:3), and the beast that carries the woman are the seven hills of Rome. They represent the place where evil reigns. They also represent the rulers in that place of evil—’They are also seven kings’ (17:9). Any attempt to identify exactly which emperors are intended is doomed to failure, because we do not have the necessary information. Some have suggested that because the Nero rumor lies behind this we ought to start there. Thus figured the five who are fallen would be Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellum, and Vespasian. The ‘one [who] is’ would be Titus and the one who ‘has not yet come’ would be Domitian (17:10). Nero would then be the one ‘who once was, and now is not, [and] is an eighth king’ (17:11). Other commentators are inclined to see kingdoms, rather than kings, and suggest that Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and Greece are the five that are fallen, Rome is the ‘sixth,’ extant in John’s day, and the seventh will come after the fall of Rome. One cannot speak with any certainty on these things, however.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 17:10 ‘seven kings’: “Representatives of the seven great world empires (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and that of the Antichrist). Cf. Daniel’s image in Daniel 2:37-45. Five have fallen, one is, and the other. When John wrote, the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Greek empires had gone out of existence; Rome still existed; and the Antichrist’s empire had not yet come. When it does, it will be brief (12:12; 13:5) and he will end in perdition (v. 11).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 17:11 ‘and is not — the eighth’: “The Antichrist’s kingdom is said to be both the seventh and eighth kingdoms because of his supposed demise and resurrection. He is the seventh king before and the eighth king after his ‘resurrection’ when he destroys the harlot’s religious empire and demands exclusive worship of himself (v. 16).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 17:12 ‘the ten horns representing ten kings’: “Equally unclear is who these kings are (17:12). They are yet to come, will rule for only a short time (‘one hour’), will have authority, will make common cause with the beast, and will make war against the Lamb (17:12-14). Whether they are in some way to be identified with the seven kings (or kingdoms) just mentioned or are separate is not clear. Nevertheless, all of their activities will be futile because the Lamb will overcome them as King of kings and Lord of lords. This identification of the Lamb with God is the clearest possible statement of the early church’s belief in the full deity of Christ (see also 1 Tim. 6:15; Titus 2:13; Rev. 19:16). The New Testament often describes Christ’s servants as called (Rom. 1:6; 8:28, 30; 1 Cor. 1:24; Jude 1), the elect or chosen (Matt. 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20, 22, 27; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:33; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1), and faithful (Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2; Rev. 2:10, 13).”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 17:14 ‘male war’: “A reference to the battle of Armageddon (16:14-16), where the Lamb will utterly destroy the kings (19:17-21). Lord of lords and King of kings. A title for God (19:16; 1 Tim. 6:15; cf. Deut. 10:17; Ps. 136:3) that emphasizes His sovereignty over all other rulers to whom He has delegated authority.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 17:15 ‘waters’: “The use of ‘waters’ in Revelation 17:15 to symbolize peoples is also found in the Old Testament (Jer. 47:1-3). Here it refers to the initial description of the woman on the beast as it was found in 17:1. In 17:16-18 the images both blend together and split apart. The woman is the city (v. 18) but so is the beast (v. 9), making the beast and the prostitute one. However, the beast, seen as the people ruled by the prostitute, can act independently, making the beast and the prostitute separate ideas. In these verses the beast (as peoples ruled) turn on the prostitute (the ruler) and tear her to pieces, smash her to ruin, devour her flesh, and burn her to ashes. There are two important points here. First, notice how evil turns upon itself and becomes self-destructive in the end. Being destructive by nature, it will destroy anything, even itself, when there is nothing else to destroy. Second, notice how evil can be used to accomplish God’s purposes (17:17). God’s rule stands supreme over all the acts of men and angels. Even if we intend things to be evil, God can produce good from them (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28). This should be a comfort to us all. ‘Behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face,’ as William Cowper said. God is good, his intentions are good, his will and plans are good, and his actions are good. Evil can never stop God’s good from being done, and in its own peculiar way evil only cooperates in the accomplishing of God’s good will.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 17:16 ‘these will hate the harlot’: “After using the false religious system to unify the world kingdoms and gain control of all, the Antichrist-with the help of his ten sub-rulers—will turn against the system, plunder and destroy it, and seize all power and worship for himself. They will be carrying out God’s will (v. 17). Cf. Genesis 50:20.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 18:1-19 ‘Babylon Destroyed’: “There are three main observations about Babylon in this chapter: 1) It is spiritually evil; 2) it is described as a city; and 3) the nations of the world will trade sumptuously with her. ‘Another’ angel now takes over the narrative and announces Babylon’s impending destruction (verse 1). This angel is one of the most powerful in the heavenly court. He comes down from heaven ‘having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory’ (verse 1), and he cries out, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!’ (verse 2). The most perverse of demonic personalities will inhabit Babylon, which is said to be ‘a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird; (verse 2). From Babylon these demonic creatures will influence the world spiritually and tempt humans to give their loyalty to the beast. The demons are ‘spirit’ (Greek, pneuma) beings, described as ‘unclean’ (Greek, akathartos) or ‘dirty, filthy, impure.’ This is a reference to their moral state and the fact they tempt people to engage in the most evil of practices.
“All the nations of the earth will have partaken of Babylon’s immorality, and the merchants will ‘have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality’ (verse 3). ‘immorality’ (Greek,
pomeia) can be translated ‘fornication’ or ‘lasciviousness’ and refers to various forms of sexual sins. In some way not explained, the nations relish in Babylon’s ‘sensuality,’ which may indicate the fleshly luxury and self-indulgence she promotes. ‘Babylon traded in both sin and ‘all things that were luxurious and splendid’ (verse 14), including numerous kinds of expensive goods (verses 12-16), and even the trade of ‘slaves and human lives’ (verse 13)’ (Couch, Revelation, p. 284).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Revelation 18:1 ‘earth was illuminated with his glory’: “The fifth bowl (16:10) will have plunged the world into darkness. Against that backdrop, the sudden, blazing appearance of another angel (not the same as in 17:1, 7, 15) will certainly rivet the world’s attention on him and his message of judgment on Babylon (cf. 14:8).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 18:2 ‘Fall of Babylon the great’: “If Ezekiel 43:1-5 forms the background of this angelic appearance, then what we have is a theophany, an appearance of God (or Christ) himself. That was the case for Ezekiel. If John does not have this in mind then an exceptional angel of extraordinary splendor and power has appeared in order to pronounce judgment on Rome. The words in Revelation 18:2 echo those of the second angel in 14:8 as it flew through the heavens. Isaiah received a vision of Babylon’s fall in the Old Testament (Isa. 13:1—22) and John’s words here closely parallel some of the ideas found there (see esp. Rev. 18:19-21). Jeremiah also predicted the fall of Babylon using words much like Isaiah’s and John’s (Jer. 50:39; 51:37). In words already spoken the sins of Rome are reiterated (Rev. 18:3; see 14:8; 17:2). John makes it clear that judgment has fallen because of the sins committed. An additional reason is given for Rome’s fall-greed (18:3). The exploitation of the world’s peoples to satisfy Rome’s own insatiable desires, with merchants growing rich through the misery of the poor, cried out to God for judgment (see also Amos 3:13-15).”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 18:3 ‘wine … of her fornication’: “Religious Babylon (ch. 17) lures the nations into spiritual drunkenness and fornication with false gods (17:2, 4); commercial Babylon (ch. 18) seduces the unbelieving world into a materialistic stupor, so that the people of the world will become drunk with passion because of their relationship with Babylon. kings. . . merchants. Political rulers and corporate leaders alike are swept up in this worldwide system of commerce (14:8; 17:2).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 18:4 ‘another voice from heaven’: “Another voice from heaven warns the believers to depart from the city in order to avoid its judgment (Rev. 18:4). Similar admonitions were given to the people in Babylon of old before its fall (Isa. 48:20; Jer. 51:6-9, 45, 50). ‘Her sins are piled up to heaven’ (Rev. 18:5) is a metaphor used in the Old Testament of something done in excess (Jer. 51:9). The justice of God gives back to Rome what she gave to others (Rev. 18:6), and more, as was the case with Babylon of old (Jer. 50:15, 29). Rome’s boast that it would rule forever and never be forsaken is shown to be as hollow as the boasts of ancient Babylon. John uses words in 18:7 taken from Isaiah 47:5-9 to emphasize this. Rome’s utter ruin is described as a vast conflagration (Rev. 18:8; see also 17:6). Fire is a common metaphor for total destruction (Matt. 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; 2 Thess. 1:7; 2 Pet. 3:7-12; Jude 7; Rev. 20:9-10, 14-15), and is reserved for the enemies of God (Isa. 26:11). The kingdoms of this world have power and Rome ruled over them all (Rev. 17:18; 18:10), yet God is mightier still. John wants us to remember this when we are tempted to give in to the threats and intimidations of the world. In the end God will judge his enemies in the world ‘with everlasting destruction’ (2 Thess. 1:9).”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 18:6-7 ‘repay’: “The angel calls for God to recompense wrath to Babylon in her own cup to repay her according to her deeds (see note on 17:4). This is an echo of the OT law of retaliation (Ex. 21:24) which will be implemented by God (Rom. 12:17-21).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 18:6 ‘double’: “Has the sense of ‘full,’ or ‘overflowing.’ The punishment will fit the crime (cf. Jer. 16:18). cup. The cup of wickedness from which so many people have drunk (14:8; 17:2, 4, 6) will call for the cup of wrath (14:10; 16:19).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 18:10 ‘witnesses are appalled, in terror’: “Those who shared Rome’s power and wealth are appalled at her ruin, not out of sympathy but terror. Rome was their protector; if the mighty are fallen, what might happen to them? The picture painted by John is drawn from Old Testament prophecy (Ezek. 26:15-18). Rome’s fall will be sudden, unexpected, and catastrophic (Rev. 18:10). No one could have predicted that such magnificence and might could collapse so utterly, but it was destined to be.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 18:11-15 ‘the great marketplace is destroyed’: “A careful study of the list of the worldwide commodities traded by Rome shows that they came from places as far away as India, China, Egypt, Arabia, and Africa (Rev. 18:11-15). No extravagances were missing. Slavery was a terrible and degrading thing in antiquity (18:13), as in any age. God alone is the creator and owner of all that is, especially human beings. That traffic should be made in human beings is unconscionable in his sight. In this regard Rome reached the limits of degradation. Such arrogance cried out for judgment and the wrath of God was poured out in double measure (18:6). The lamentation continues with an elaboration of Rome’s great wealth and luxury and a second observation that she was dashed from the heights of power to the rubble of destruction in the blink of an eye (18: 16-17). The dirge continues as the sea captains add their lamentations to those of the merchants (18:19). In typical ancient Near Eastern fashion they are pictured as throwing dust on their heads (Josh. 7:6; Lam. 2:10; Ezek. 27:30). It might seem inappropriate for the people of God to rejoice over Rome’s fall (Rev. 18:20) but this must be seen as part of the larger picture. It is not the agony of Rome’s fall that is extolled, but God who judges righteously. God is being vindicated, as are his saints. Similar rejoicing attended the fall of Babylon in the Old Testament (Jer. 51:48).
“Next a mighty angel picks up a boulder and throws it into the sea to signify destruction of the city of Rome. After a long message on the fall of Babylon in his day, Jeremiah was told to take his message, tie a stone around it, and cast it into the Euphrates River (Jer. 51:63). Then he was to say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring upon her. And her people will fall’ (51:64). Thus ended the Babylon of old; thus will end the Roman Babylon of John’s day.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 18:12 ‘purple’: “This refers to garments laboriously dyed with purple dye extracted from shellfish. Lydia (Acts 16:14) was a seller of such expensive garments. A distinctive mark of the Caesars was their purple robes. citron wood. Wood from North African citrus trees, highly valued because of its color, which was used to make extremely expensive pieces of furniture. marble. Marble, imported from Africa, Egypt, and Greece, was widely used in Roman buildings.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 18:13 ‘fragrant oil’: “A very costly perfume (cf. Matt. 26:7, 12; John 12:3). frankincense. A fragrant gum or resin imported from Arabia and used in incense and perfume (Song 3:6; Matt. 2:11). bodies and souls of men. The slave trade, long banned by the civilized nations of the world, will reappear in Antichrist’s debauched commercial system.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 18:20-24 ‘Heavenly Rejoicing’: “The destruction of the evil city of Babylon will cause all of heaven, the ‘saints and apostles and prophets,’ to rejoice (verse 20). Some scholars have surmised that the ‘saints’ represent the saints of all dispensations in both the Old and the New Testaments. This would make sense because Babylon’s evil history goes back far in biblical history. But a good argument could also be made that these are the Tribulation saints who had suffered terribly during this time. LaHaye writes that these ‘could be tribulation saints, people who were not Christians at the time of the Rapture of the Church but who, during the Tribulation, received Christ as Savior and Lord’ (Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, p. 244).
“The ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’ mentioned in verse 20 could be the spiritual leaders of the early church, though some see the prophets as those of the Old Testament. Thomas (Revelation 8—22, p. 342) believes John the apostle had in mind his fellow apostles who were martyred, including his brother James, in early church history (Acts 12:1-2).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Coffee and Revelation – Introduction
In going to the website of the Wee Flea, you can search for any episodes of “Coffee and Revelation” that may have been uploaded pertaining to these chapters.   At the time this post was published, Rev. Robertson had not finished his video series.

My Thoughts

Before writing about these two chapters, I want to address a word used in the Baker commentaries above.  The Apostle John did NOT derive his prophecy from Daniel, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel.  John saw what he saw.  The fact that the descriptions of things are quite similar to the prophecies of Daniel, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel means that God did not change His mind.  The similarities in the prophecies confirm one another as being from almighty God.  The slight changes in the details also confirm that these are eyewitness accounts.  Besides seeing things from different angles and not seeing the exact same image, they would also have a different vocabulary in which to try to express the inexpressible.

Also, the Baker Commentary ties itself into knots with the insistence that the final king is a Roman empire.  That may have been the first century interpretation, but the king that “is” at the time of John’s prophesying, does not have to be the interpretation of the seven hills that the harlot sits on.  I like what another scholar wrote in a previous quote of a “Roman-like” empire.

I am not making a firm statement here, but to explain something that was, is no more, and then comes from the “Abyss”, we might think of present-day Russia.  The USSR was the big bad wolf of my youth, the Red Menace, that was going to start World War III with nuclear annihilation.  Or so everyone said when I was growing up.  Then after the Berlin Wall fell, no one talked about Russia, due to the financial disaster that the Soviet collapse had left.  Now, Russia is seemingly emerging from the ashes with a strong political and military might.  Before we go any further, might I reiterate that I am not calling this as an interpretation of this Scripture.  I am just saying that it fits most of the details (maybe not emerging from the Abyss) and might make more sense than talking about Rome while the scriptural text is saying “Babylon.”  The dialogue of saying “Rome, but called Babylon, as Babylon was in its day” became tiresome.

Let us not try to interpret the images as we focus on what is meant.  The people will need some sort of spiritual direction in the End Times.  They will seek this through the false god worship of the harlot.  Yet, the beast will wish to destroy the harlot so that everyone will worship him, the beast (Antichrist).  Without worrying about kings and nations, this could be the One World Order initiative of the United Nations to solve the Climate Change crisis, which has a distinct worship element involved in the rhetoric, in some cases a blatant worship element.

But rather than focus on what these elements are, the harlot, representing the spiritual Babylon, will entice all nations, but the political/economic side will only use those spiritual enticements for their own corrupt ends.

Times will be bleak leading up to the end, but to jump ahead, that’s when Jesus returns.

With the harlot devoured by the political / economic power of the beast (Antichrist), the fall of Babylon will destroy the economic structure of the world.  To throw another concept out there, there are very few cities, once destroyed, that would have a lasting economic impact on the world.  New York City has been called a modern-day Babylon.  The economic power is there and the United Nations that is pushing for a One World Order is there as well, but again, let us think metaphorically instead of physically.

As I talked through my ideas with my wife, I mentioned the sea captains lament, which ties into world commerce, but if the seas have been destroyed by the pouring out of God’s wrath by this point, could airline pilots be a good sea captain substitute?  Again the concept is that with the economic headquarters destroyed – in one hour – worldwide transportation is out of business.  And what better way to start a war between good and evil by shutting down the ability to make a quick bit of money?

And thinking of the one-hour duration of the city’s collapse, a nuclear strike does not take that long.  A tsunami from the aftershocks of the seven bowl’s earthquake might be a good thought.  It would be by God’s hand, and it could easily take a few minutes, but less than an hour.  And it ties into what has already taken place.  But with “one hour” mentioned four times in the Scriptures above, the duration is significant.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

Revelation 17: “1. In this passage how does Babylon symbolize what is wrong in society today? For example, what institutions have been overthrown by revolution, only to be replaced by new regimes which surrender to the same godless ideology?
“2. Of society’s wrongs, which ones have entrapped you from time to time? How has God enabled you to avoid the snares of ‘the great prostitute’?
“3. Surely by now you are ‘calling for a mind with wisdom’ (v.9). What wisdom do you want in the next few weeks? What wisdom do you need in understanding the message of Revelation?
“4. If you have not grasped the full meaning of the various beasts, have you at least been frightened by the power of evil? How will you translate that fear into action or hope?
Revelation 18: 1. If you were going to describe your life in terms of a city, what would you say? What kinds of cargoes are coming into it? What activities occur within its walls? How does it compare with Babylon? What would be a fitting name for your city? Why that name? What do you do to keep the evils listed in this passage out of your city or life?
“2. When has an important part of your life collapsed? What did other individuals say about this demise? What perspective did God bring to your fallen situation?
“3. What is the most important lesson you have learned from this passage? What actions will you take today based on this insight?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is one set of questions for each chapter.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

In writing a series of fictional stories about a city named “Tracy,” referred to as the big city of Tracy, the Deviled Yeggs mysteries, I had to take a step back when looking at the first question for chapter 18.  If any of you read those short stories, Tracy is in some aspects similar to my life, but I try to depict a city that has its problems and also is a place where people still bring up their families in relative safety.  I would want the hero of the stories, Detective Staff Sgt. Deviled Yeggs of homicide, to not have a job, a city free of crime.  So, in answering that first question, you could look at it two different ways, the way your life is versus how you would want your life to be.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: