CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - THE GREAT CITY
(1) After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, (2) having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.
1. After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven = introduces a new vision unit. Chapter 17 declared the "judgment of the great harlot/city." However, the author found it necessary to explain the objects of God’s judgment and the reason God will judge the great harlot/city. She led the world in worship and commitment to the composite dragon-beast. Revelation 18 details the actual judgment of the harlot/city and Revelation 19 details the judgment of the composite dragon/beast.
2. Having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory = defines the character of the descending angel. How John knew that the descending angel had "great authority" is not clear. Perhaps, the angel is dressed or puts off an aura that signals his position. We are told that "the earth was illuminated by his glory." Glory (dosa) is a term usually descriptive of the Godhead. Rarely are angelic beings assigned this characteristic (Ezek 9:3 and Heb 9:5). In both cases, a cherub is described. This suggests that the descending angel is high in rank. His very person lights up the earth. The descent of this angel is important.
(1) And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! (2) She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.
1. And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great = begins the angelic commentary on the destruction of the harlot/city. Reminiscent of every announcement from heaven, this proclamation is done "with a mighty voice." Like Revelation 14:8, the angel announces, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great." The imminent destruction promised of Babylon, the harlot/city in Revelation 14:8 is now detailed.
2. She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit = indicates another reason for the destruction of the harlot/city. Dwelling place (phulaka in the Greek) is defined by Louw-Nida, as "a place for wild animals and evil spirits to dwell — ‘haunt, lair, dwelling place (§ 85.85).’" The NASB’s translation does not reflect the sense that John intends at this point. The harlot/city is not a prison in the traditional sense. The Harlot City is the home or lair of the demons. The author adds that "unclean and hateful birds" also make their abode in the harlot/city. These are issues, which contribute to the wickedness of this harlot/city. Everything that the city stood for has been perverted. Evil in its worst form makes its home in God’s holy city. She is a harlot destined to destruction.
For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and (1) the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality."
1. The merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth (power) of her sensuality = introduces another component that forms the basis for the harlot/city’s destruction. After restating the reason for the destruction of the harlot/city, the author adds a point of clarification. The harlot/city led the world in worship and commitment to the composite dragon-beast. The harlot/city seduced the kings of the earth and through them caused the people of the world to follow the beast. The merchants (buying and selling) are made rich by "the power of her sensuality." The term sensuality normally refers to living "sensually by gratifying the senses with sexual immorality," (Louw-Nida, § 88.254). However, here it is used figuratively. It does not refer to physical acts.
The harlot/city aggressively convinces the world to put their trust in the dragon-beast. She does it with a commitment unparalleled. These are her acts of immorality. "The power of her sensuality" is her zeal to convince the world to commit to the beast. She is most persuasive.
(1) I heard another voice from heaven, saying, (2) "Come out of her, my people, (3) so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; (4) for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and (5) God has remembered her iniquities.
1. I heard another voice from heaven = is not specially identified, but since the people belong to the voice, it must be Christ who speaks. This conclusion is also supported by the fact that the voice refers to God (the Father) in verse 5.
2. Come out of her, my people = signals the subject of the command. The summons to flee from the harlot/city must be taken in a literal sense because it is the imminent destruction of the harlot/city that they will escape. My people indicate followers of Jesus Christ. At this point in the chronology of the Revelation, we posit that the battle of Armageddon is imminent. The call has gone out to the kings of the earth to gather for the battle. It is between the call to come and the actual arrival of the nations that God will fulfill Zechariah 14:5. His people will flee from Jerusalem to a special hiding place until God’s Day of the Lord wrath is finished. The reason God removes His remnant from Jerusalem is its imminent destruction in the seventh and final bowl.
3. So that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues = is the explicitly stated reason for God’s people to evacuate the harlot/city. Two issues are involved. First, to remain in the harlot/city exposes God’s people to the temptation to engage in the sinful conduct of the city’s citizens. If the people of God have not engaged in evil conduct prior to this point, this suggests that the level of temptation must increase in the days just prior to Armageddon. The second reason God’s people must evacuate the harlot/city is that to fail to do so will result in their experiencing God’s judgment. At this point in the narrative, we have not, as yet, been told all that God intends to do to the harlot/city.
4. For her sins have piled up as high as heaven = gives the ultimate reason for God’s judgment of the harlot/city. As high as heaven is a figure of speech that emphasizes the amount or gravity of something (Gen 11:4; Deut 9:1; and 2 Chr 28:9). Here the amount of sins that the harlot/city has committed is substantial. It should not escape the reader’s attention that this figure of speech also suggests that God has great patience. It would take some time for sins to stack up to heaven.
5. God has remembered her iniquities = is a figure of speech applied to God. Since knowledge is constant with God, He does not need to remember. This is the only example of God remembering something in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, God is often asked to remember a person (Judg 16:28; 2 Kigs 20:3) or the wicked acts of someone (Pss 25:7, 137:7). Ascribing this human characteristic to God suggests the idea that the reason God has not acted is that He has forgotten. The point here is that God will now deal with the unrighteous acts of the harlot/city.
(1) Pay her back even as she has paid, and (2) give back to her double according to her deeds; (3) in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.
1. Pay her back even as she has paid = begins a section of this chapter, which is difficult to understand. Pay her back is a second person plural aorist imperative. A second person plural means more than one person is addressed. Who is the subject of this imperative is at the center of the debate. In other words, who is being told to act? Logically, one would think that Christ is exhorting God to judge the harlot/city. One could object that Christ exhorting the Father is unparalleled in Scripture and this does not answer the question about the plural nature of the subject. Yet, Revelation 18:8 states, "for the Lord God who judges her is strong." There is no explicit statement that God will employ agents in the destruction of the harlot/city. This imperative is an example of the command of request. That is, God is not told what to do, but is asked to do it. Throughout the Revelation, God’s wrath is executed by angelic beings. Perhaps this is the reason a second person plural is used. The voice requests that God repay the harlot/city in kind.
2. Give back to her double according to her deeds = is the second request made to God. The deeds of the harlot/city deserve twice as much punishment for her sins.
3. In the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her = continues the call for appropriate judgment.
(1) To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, (2) to the same degree give her torment and mourning; (3) for she says in her heart, (4) "I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.’
1. To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously = continues the heavenly request to punish the harlot/city. The harlot/city glorified herself. Glory (dosa) is normal ascribed to another. Self-exaltation is condemned in Scripture (Luke 14:11). Her route to self-exaltation is explained later in this verse.
2. To the same degree give her torment and mourning = is the comparative outcome of the angelic request. The height of the harlot/city’s pride is to be the depth of her punishment.
3. For she says in her heart = suggests the mode of the woman’s pride.
4. I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning = indicates the mental attitude of the harlot/city. The verbal parallels between Revelation 18:7 and Isaiah 48:7-8 has led some to conclude that the literal ancient city of Babylon is the referent here. However, it is the thinking of the harlot/city that is consonant with the thinking of Babylon. The conduct of the harlot/city far exceeds those of ancient Babylon. Her prideful attitude comes because of her position—seated on seven kings/kingdoms. As the chief city of the composite dragon-beast’s empire, she is queen of the earth. Her claim to never see widowhood or suffer is based on her conviction that neither God nor man will ever defeat the Beast Empire.
Isaiah 28:14-15 declares that the leaders of Jerusalem will make "a covenant with death." This covenant will not protect them from the wrath of God.
(1) For this reason in one day her plagues will come, (2) pestilence and mourning and famine, and (3) she will be burned up with fire; (4) for the Lord God who judges her is strong.
1. For this reason in one day her plagues will come = gives the outcome of the harlot/city’s pride. The pride of the harlot/city brings swift judgment from God. In one day is the amount of time necessary for her destruction. The shortness of time necessary for God’s final punishment stands in stark contrast to the boast of this city. This suggests that the woman’s boast was ill founded. Plagues are God’s weapons of choice for the harlot/city’s destruction.
2. Pestilence and mourning and famine = are the specific plagues God will uses against the harlot/city.
This suggests that Jerusalem starts out in a position of favor with the composite dragon-beast. She, however, loses favor and is attacked by the composite beast. Her inhabitants experience a time of great persecution by the composite dragon-beast, which is superintended by God.
3. She will be burned up with fire = is the final or last plague of God against the harlot/city. She will be burned up.
4. For the Lord God who judges her is strong = explains how the judgment of God can be so successful against the boast of the harlot/city. She thought she was invincible because of her protection and position with the composite dragon-beast. God is stronger!
(1) "And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, (2) will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, (3) standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, (4) ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! (5) For in one hour your judgment has come.’
1. And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her = introduces the response of the kings to the woman’s demise. Interestingly, the kings of the earth move from favor, to hate, to weeping and lament concerning the harlot/city. At first glance, there seems to be a contradiction.
However, Zechariah 12:3 states, "It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured." At first, Jerusalem was a trophy for the composite dragon-beast, but she soon became a burdensome stone. The favor of the Beast Empire turns to hate. Ultimately, the kings of the Beast Empire will mourn her destruction. The reason the kings weep and lament is "because of the fear of her torment." What happened to her will soon happen to them.
2. Will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning = describes the reaction of the kings of the earth to the harlot/city’s demise. They weep and lament.
3. Standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment = states the attitude of the kings. God’s punishment of the harlot/city will soon come to the kings.
4. Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city = continues the statement of the kings’ attitude toward the harlot/city. The great city refers explicitly to Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8, and implicitly in Revelation 16:19. An important question at this point is this: why is Jerusalem called Babylon? We were told in Revelation 17:5 that the name "Babylon" is part of the mystery of the harlot. Thus, it should be clear that "Babylon" is not literal. Most scholars agree that "Babylon" is a code word in the Revelation. However, what it is a code for does not enjoy a majority consensus. There is historical evidence that "Babylon" is a code name for Rome. All sources that support this conclusion lay outside the biblical record.
There is one example of the "Babylon" as a code name in the New Testament. I Peter 5:13 states, "She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark." "Babylon" either refers to Rome, Jerusalem or the ancient city that bears that name. Most scholars see Rome as the referent.
5. For in one hour your judgment has come = caps the kings amazement. In one hour appears four times in the Revelation (17:10 and 18:10, 17, 19). In each location, one could easily insert the phrase "a short time." This seems to be the basic meaning intended. The power of this statement is seen in light of the boast of the harlot/city that she would endure forever.
(1) And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, (2) because no one buys their cargoes any more; (3) cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and (4) slaves and human lives.
1. And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her = constitutes the second group who are not pleased with the destruction of harlot/city. Since buying and selling is done with the beast’s permission, it is clear that the merchants are beast-marked earth-dwellers. Therefore, the harlot/city must play a central role in the composite dragon-beast’s empire.
2. Because no one buys their cargoes any more = states the reason the merchants are sad. The destruction of the harlot/city means a loss of commercial opportunity. Given that the composite dragon-beast controls earth’s commerce, the loss of the harlot/city means that all commercial activity is coordinated from it.
3. Gold and silver and precious stones … chariots = is a long list of products sold to the harlot/city. "Gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls" are the first four items on the list and involve expensive metals and stones. The next four items (fine linen, purple, silk, and scarlet) are expensive fabrics. "Wood and ivory" constitute the list of items. "Expensive wood, bronze, iron and marble" make up the next list of items sold. "Cinnamon, spice, incense, perfume and frankincense" are unto themselves a group. "Wine, olive oil, fine flour, and wheat" naturally are grouped together. "Cattle, sheep, horses and chariots" have a natural relationship. "Slaves and human lives" is the last mentioned list of items sold.
Now the most obvious question is this: what are the merchants getting in return for all these goods? It does not appear that the merchants bring gold and buy wheat or that they bring slaves and buy precious stones. If one has gold, why would he sell it? What would be more valuable than gold?
(1) The fruit you long for has gone from you, and (2) all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and (3) men will no longer find them.
1. The fruit you long for has gone from you =
2. All things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you = indicates that the things of the harlot/city are gone. Things have lost their value in the face of God’s judgment.
3. Men will no longer find them =
(1) The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, saying, (2) ‘Woe, woe, the great city, (3) she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; (4) for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’
1. The merchants…mourning = echoes the situation of the kings above. Their reaction is the same as the kings.
2. Woe, woe, the great city = indicates that the lament of the merchants is the same as the kings.
3. She who was clothed in fine linen and purpose and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls = is the same description given of the harlot in Revelation 17:4a. This indicates that the woman of Revelation 17 is Babylon, the great city of Revelation 18.
4. For in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste = is similar to the expression of the kings. This suggests that "the judgment" of the harlot/city is the laying waste of her wealth.
(1) And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, (2) stood at a distance, and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, (3) "What city is like the great city?’
1. And every shipmaster…passenger…sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea = is the third category of respondents to the destruction of the harlot/city.
2. Stood at a distance = occurs three times in this chapter. Given the quick nature of the destruction of the harlot/city, those who were dependent on her must have been given warning of her destruction. "The kings," "the merchants," and the sailors all "stood at a distance." That they will not receive of her destruction at the same time as the harlot/city suggests a warning was given and they departed.
3. What city is like the great city = similarly focuses on the destruction of the harlot/city. Like the "kings" and "merchants," the sailors mourn the destruction of their harlot/city.
(1) And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’
1. And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning = is an Old Testament custom. It accompanied mourning or sorrow (Josh 7:6, Lam 2:10) and repentance (Job 42:6). Here it expresses the deep sorrow of the sailors.
(1) Rejoice over her, (2) O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, (3) because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.
1. Rejoice over her = begins a very abrupt interjection in the dialogue of the sailors. This has led some to conclude that verse 20 was added by an editor. However, like the voice from heaven, mentioned in verse 4, this statement is characteristic of angelic attitude toward the harlot/city. The call to rejoice is reminiscent of Michael’s call to the earth at Satan’s restriction to the earth in Revelation 12:12. The rejoicing of the righteous is a proper response to God’s punishment of the wicked.
2. O heaven…saints…apostles…prophets = are the four groups called up to rejoice in God’s judgment of the harlot/city. O heaven is a figure of speech. Heaven is treated like a person in that it is called upon to rejoice. Three separate groups of individuals are recognized: (1) saints, (2) apostles, and (3) prophets. Saints is used throughout the Revelation to refer to the people of God. Since "apostles" and "prophets" are specifically identified, saints must refer to believers in general.
"Apostles" is used throughout the New Testament as a technical term for the Twelve (Luke 11:49, Eph 2:20, 2 Peter 3:2). This identification is explicitly made in Revelation 21:14. Therefore, we are on good ground to suggest that the Twelve (minus Judas, plus Paul) be intended here. "Prophets" is a bit more difficult to identify. Old Testament versus New Testament prophets is a possibility. However, it is best to see both Old and New Testament prophets here as with "the saints."
3. Because God has pronounced judgment for you against her = gives the reason for the call to rejoice. The sense is that God judged the harlot/city because she judged the saints, apostles and prophets. This clearly connects the harlot/city with Jerusalem. Matthew 23:37 records the Lord’s condemnation of Jerusalem because she "kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her."
(1) Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, (2) "So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and (3) will not be found any longer.
1. Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea = contains a reference to "a strong angel," which is the third and final reference to a "strong angel" in the book of Revelation. These are revelatory beings. The strong angel picks up a huge stone and throws it into the sea. This is reminiscent of Matthew 18:6 where Jesus indicates that the punishment for those who cause believers to stumble is worse than one "to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. This figure of speech suggests a violent death. This is echoed in Revelation 18:21.
2. So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence = mirrors God’s punishment of ancient Babylon. The harlot/city will suffer a violent destruction.
3. (It) will not be found any longer = may at first appear to present a problem for the interpretation that the harlot/city is Jerusalem, the capital of the composite dragon/beast Empire during the great persecution of God’s people. Revelation 20:9 states that after the millennium, Satan and his forces will "surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city." The assumption is that the "beloved city" is Jerusalem. However, Revelation 21:10 declares that Jerusalem will descend from heaven as the eternal home of the saints. Ezekiel 48:35 indicates that the millennial city on earth will be called, "The Lord is there, (YHWH shammah)." Therefore, the city that the dragon/beast inhabits will be destroyed. It will not be found again. However, the land will remain.
(1) And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and (2) no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and (3) the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer; (4) the light of a lamp will not shine in you an longer; and (5) the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; (6) for your merchants were the great men of the earth, (7) because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.
1. And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer = is the first of five groups delineated in vv. 22-23. The cessation or absence of different aspects of city life will evidence the judgment of God upon the harlot/city. This first of these groups concern music produced by instruments. The absence of music indicates desolation.
2. No craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer = is the second group listed. Industrial production ceased.
3. The sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer = is the third item absent because the harlot/city ceases to be. Milling was necessary to produce flour and meal, which was a main staple of ancient-city life. The absence of milling means the absence of people.
4. The light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer = is the fourth item render absent by the destruction of the harlot/city. Lamplight was necessity for home life in the evenings.
5. The voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer = is the fifth and final evidence of God’s judgment against the harlot/city. The absence of marriage means the city has ceased to be.
6. For your merchants were the great men of the earth = begins a final explanation concerning why God’s judgment has fallen upon the harlot/city. The harlot/city employed the very best merchants the world could afford. The proof of this claim is seen in their success.
7. Because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery = explains why the merchants of the harlot/city are correctly described as "the great men of the earth." The secret of the harlot/city’s success is exposed. Sorcery (pharmakeia) is the ancient art of casting magic spells. The success of the harlot/city’s merchants and indeed the harlot/city is sorcery/magic. This ultimately can be traced to the dragon who empowers the beast.
(1) And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and (2) of all who have been slain on the earth.
1. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints = is exclusively spoken of by the Lord and attributed to Jerusalem in Matthew 23:35.
2. Of all who have been slain on the earth = is probably another way of saying the same thing mentioned in the first half of this verse. This is a restatement of why God’s judgment falls upon the harlot/city. The harlot/city is condemned because she deceived the nations by sorcery and murdered the prophets and saints.