Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 18:1-8
Chapter 29

Revelation 18 is a continuation of the parenthetic that began in Revelation 17:1, when John was invited to view "the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters."

According to Revelation 17:16-17, a ten nation confederation under control of the Antichrist will destroy the harlot, Babylon. It is this destruction of the apostate religious system that allows the Antichrist to proclaim himself god and demand worship from all people.

We know from Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15-21, and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, that the Antichrist will make his claim to deity at the mid-point of the seven-year peace agreement with Israel. It is this abomination that will mark the beginning of the Great Tribulation.

Therefore, we may conclude the destruction of ecclesiastical Babylon will occur just before the mid-point of the Tribulation or at least 3 1/2 years before the outpouring of the seventh bowl of wrath.

However, another viewpoint is the physical destruction of Babylon will occur following the outpouring of the bowl judgments, at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory. To many who take this view, Babylon is a literal city from which the Antichrist will run his government and Revelation 18, is the account of the destruction of this city.

This viewpoint generally holds that Revelation 17 and 18, foretell the destructions of two different Babylons. The first being a religious system or apostate church, and the second being a political empire or city.

However, close examination of these chapters reveals that while there is an emphasis on the religious system called Babylon in Revelation 17, and an emphasis on the political system called Babylon in Revelation 18, the two chapters are one account of the fall of Babylon. Clearly, John's invitation in Revelation 17:1, is to view the judgment (singular), not judgments (plural), of the great harlot.

This invitation is followed in Revelation 17:2-6, with a description of the harlot riding a scarlet-colored beast. This description causes John to "marvel" or "wonder," apparently because he did not understand the vision. To allay John's wonderment, the angel explained the mystery of the woman and the beast she was riding. This is the topic of most of the remainder of Revelation 17.

It is not until Revelation 17:16, that John witnessed the judgment of Babylon he was invited to see in Revelation 17:1. He recorded the judgment he saw with these words, "And shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire."

This one simple statement is John's entire description of the judgment he was invited to witness and it is clear in Revelation 17:16, this judgment will come at the hands of "the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast."

The return of our Lord Jesus Christ in Glory is not the time for judgment of the harlot, Babylon. God will use the Antichrist and his ten kingdom confederation to judge Babylon, 3 1/2 years before the return of our Lord and the battle of Armageddon.

Therefore, Revelation 18, is not a description of a literal city of Babylon, doomed to destruction when our Lord returns. Rather, it is an account describing the results of the judgment of Babylon, before the return of the Lord. Neither, is Revelation 18, a chronological account. Each effect of the judgment of Babylon is independent and it is not a requirement that one effect end before another begins.

I. The Cause and Effect of Babylon's Fall

"And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of demons, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are grown rich through the abundance of her delicacies" (Revelation 18:1-3).
Revelation 18, begins with John's vision of a powerful angel coming down from heaven, illuminating the earth with his glory. The word "another" used to describe this angel, is in Greek, a word meaning, "Another of the same kind." This angel is the same kind as the other angels John saw in his vision. He is not our Lord in the form of an angel. He, as the other angels, is a messenger sent from God to deliver a message from God. The message is simply that Babylon has fallen.

John recorded the fall of Babylon in Revelation 17:16, just as he was invited to witness, for the Scriptural record. This is God's verbal announcement to the world that the mighty Babylon, the great harlot, is dead.

Isaiah 13:19, long ago prophesied, "And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorroah."

Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, is now overshadowed by the glory of God's messenger as he announces Babylon is fallen. No longer will she deceive the nations with her phony religion for now she has become "the habitation of demons, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."

This harlot that rode the backs of world governments throughout history while claiming to serve God, yet was only interested in amassing great wealth and power, will be destroyed by the very nations she helps align to place the Antichrist in power.

Religious pomp and ceremony will be replaced by demonic possession and worship of the Antichrist who claims to be god. The facade of godliness the apostates hid behind will be stripped away and replaced with Satanic ritual. There will no longer be any pretense of worshipping God.

This will happen according to Revelation 18:3 because:

(1) "All nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."

The nations and people of the earth will become angry with God for what they see as His failure to provide peace on the earth. Their wrath will cause them to drink the fornication of the harlot.

When the harlot or apostate religious system is used by the "Prince that will come"(Daniel 9:26-27) to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel, it will be viewed as "godliness." Israel, will receive this false Christ as their messiah and the rest of the nations will think of him as their savior, because he is able to bring peace into the world.

(2) "The kings of the earth have committed fornication with her."

Apostate religion always has the effect of turning kings or governments away from serving the Lord, to serving false gods. History teaches, when the Lord is no longer acknowledged and worshipped as Sovereign by a kingdom the result is rampant ungodliness. It is not possible for a nation that attempts to separate church and state to survive because without God moral decline is always the result.

Sodom, Samaria, Egypt, Rome are a few of the many nations throughout history that have fallen into immorality and decline while hoards of phony religious leaders busied themselves with the accrual of wealth and power.

The harlot always has and always will try to turn kings from allegiance to the Lord either by dangling the carrot of religious freedom, or by requiring fanatical adherence to apostate or heretical doctrines. Sadly, all the kingdoms of the world will someday fall for the treachery of Babylon.

(3) "The merchants of the earth are grown rich through the abundance of her delicacies."

Economic gain will overshadow all other considerations during the reign of Babylon over the earth's kingdoms. Those who will benefit financially from her insatiable appetite for finery will not care which, if any, god she serves. They will not concern themselves with such trivia as spiritual purity and godliness. As long as the money continues to flow in their direction they will tolerate anything the harlot chooses to do.

It is easy to see the connection between Babylon, the religious system and Babylon, the political system. Political motives brought into the church always result in the decline of spirituality or godliness. Likewise, the decline of spirituality or godliness always affects the quality of life and government.

The fall of Babylon as a religious system will at the same time be the fall of Babylon as a political system.

II. The Call to God's People

"And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues; for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities" (Revelation 18:4-5).
Following the announcement that Babylon has fallen and the general cause and effect, John heard another voice from heaven with a warning for God's people. The warning is simply that God has not forgotten the sins of Babylon, and God's people should come out so they will not participate in her sins and therefore, suffer her punishments.

While this is a warning for believer's on the earth following the rapture of the church, it should also be heeded by God's people today.

Apostasy is rampant in this dispensation. The harlot is working overtime in our own society, which is why 2 John 9-11, says,

"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed; for he that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds."
God's people, in every age, should always resist the apostasies and heresies of corrupt religion. However, when we narrow the focus of this warning to those left on earth following the rapture of the church, Israel immediately comes to mind.

Remember, Babylon will fall at the hands of the ten kings she brings together under the leadership of the Antichrist, who will make a peace agreement with Israel. No doubt, Israel will embrace the harlot or religious system and the Antichrist in her enjoyment of the peace this alignment will bring.

This could be a warning to Israel to avoid the harlot and the plagues that will come because of their sin of trusting the Antichrist, not their God, for peace.

Because the sins of Babylon have reached unto heaven and God has not forgotten them John hears the voice from heaven make,

III. The Announcement of Judgment

First, in this announcement, is the petition for the Lord's retribution to double what Babylon has dished out. "Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works; in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double" (Revelation 18:6).

One of the basic tenets of justice is the punishment must fit the crime. Therefore, the call for Babylon to receive double is evidence of the enormity of her sins. Notice, her reward is to be based in part, "Even as she rewarded you." This probably means Babylon's punishment will be determined by the way she treated God's people.

Religious zealots who ignore the true and living God have been persecutors of God's people throughout history and the same methods organized religion uses to persecute God's true children will be used to judge Babylon, only the intensity will be double what she dealt against the Lord's people. Justice demands Babylon's punishment fit her crimes.

Next, we see, in Revelation 18:7, the true motives and desires of Babylon:"How much she hath glorified herself, and lived luxuriously, so much torment and sorrow give her; for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow."

Babylon, the apostate religious system that has through the centuries claimed to serve and worship God now has her veneer stripped away as the true intents of her heart are revealed by this voice from heaven. To live as a queen in the lap of luxury, apart from sorrow, glorifying herself, rather than the Lord, is the desire of the harlot.

Contrast this with the child of God who is willing to give up everything, even his own life, to endure many hardships and sorrows as a servant to our Lord, for His Glory alone.

Babylon has never lived as a widow. Rather, she has always prostituted herself with the kings of the world to gain the desires of her heart. But those desires will bring her torments and sorrows when the kings of the earth finally turn on her. "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine, and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her" (Revelation 18:8).

Three things are presented concerning the judgment of Babylon in this verse:

(1) The judgment will come at a specific point in time, and be completed in one day. The demise of the apostate system will not be a gradual thing allowing the participants time to run for cover.

(2) The judgment of Babylon will be complete and final. Apostasy or the claim to worship the Lord while in truth serving other gods or self, will be totally wiped from the earth. However, this despised religious system will be replaced with open worship of the Antichrist. While this too, is an abomination to God, the deceit of apostasy will be removed. No longer will people be tricked by phony religious leaders into serving Satan. The Antichrist's claim to deity will be open and a person's choice to worship him will be with full knowledge of the consequences.

(3) Although, He will use the ten kings as his agents of judgment, it is the Lord who will judge Babylon. Ultimately, it is always the Lord God who judges sin because all sin is first and foremost against Him.

IV. Conclusion

The coming day of Babylon's judgment that John was invited to witness in the spirit will not only be the end of Babylon, the apostate religious system, but it will also be the end Babylon, the political system. "For strong is the Lord God who judgeth her."

This Chapter is a discussion of the fall of Babylon, the apostate religious system. Next Chapter, we will discuss the fall of Babylon, the political system.

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999, 2006