THE ANNOUNCEMENT (18:1-3) of the Fall of Babylon the Great is shouted by the angel coming down from heaven, who illuminates the earth with his splendor from being in the presence of God. The Antichrist’s kingdom was plunged into darkness with the fifth bowl (Revelation 16:10). Now the darkness is broken and all eyes are focused on this angel. His message is Good News for God’s people on earth.
The Greek text indicates Babylon the Great is already fallen at this point, but this must be a flash-forward based on the following verses.
THE SECOND VOICE FROM HEAVEN (18:4-8) is God the Father’s or the Lamb’s voice. “Come out of her” could be taken to mean:
1. God calls His people to disentangle themselves from the evil system
2. God raptures the Church
3. God’s warning for His people (surviving Tribulations saints) to leave the city as Christians did when they fled Jerusalem in A.D. 66.
A similar warning was given to Lot and his family by two angels before the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:15). Another warning is given in Jeremiah 51:6-7:
Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins. It is time for the LORD’s vengeance; he will pay her what she deserves. Babylon was a gold cup in the LORD’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad.
The events surrounding the fall of Babylon in the sixth century B.C. do not match the prophecy of Jeremiah 51; hence, that prophecy must refer to this time. The two announcements closely parallel the prediction of Babylon’s fall in Isaiah 13:1-22.
Once more, the appropriateness of God’s judgment is seen in the principle of sowing and reaping in verses 6-7. Retribution is doubled because of the magnitude of sin in the last days. This judgment goes beyond lex talionis, the law of revenge as she drinks from her own cup of iniquity. The cup of blessings overflows for the saints (Psalm 23:5) as does the cup of iniquity for the sinners. In verse 8, God’s judgment on Babylon the Great is fivefold: (1) plagues; (2) death; (3) mourning; (4); famine; and (5) fire. If anyone disputes the might of the Lord God, there is no questioning now! For they will discover He is neither finite nor impotent, but all-powerful.
The demise of Political Babylon will be swift—in one day and in one hour—as though a nuclear explosion took place (verses 8 and 17). “She will be consumed by fire” equals total destruction. Neo-Babylon fell in one night (Daniel 5:30-31), foreshadowing the swiftness of the fall of Babylon the Great.
LAMENTS OVER THE JUDGMENT OF BABYLON (18:9-19). When the political and economic center of the world is destroyed, weeping and mourning by kings (9-10), merchants (11-17a), and seamen (17b-19), who have committed adultery with her and shared her luxury will be heard.
Compare the sins being judged in this chapter with Romans 1:18-32. Lawlessness is manifested by the breaking of the First and Last of the Ten Commandments in 18:2-8:
The First Commandment is broken with the worship of other gods in false religion.
The Last Commandment is broken with the worship of self with covetousness.
The world of the last days, influenced by demons, will be materialistic. Covetousness will reign. Jesus warns in Matthew 6:21-24:
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Those who have placed their faith in money and materialism will see the world stock market crash. There are twenty-eight commodities mentioned in verses 12-13; fifteen of these are mentioned in the lament over Tyre in Ezekiel 27, which parallels the lament here.
Like Babylon of old and the last days, Tyre was the commercial center of its day. Tyre, “the gateway to the sea,” was the leading city of Phoenicia during the first millennium B.C. Ezekiel’s lament against Tyre and prophecy against its king are a foreshadowing of the horrible end of Babylon, the Antichrist and Satan (Ezekiel 27-28). Since the beginning, pride and covetousness have blinded people to God and His judgment.
REJOICING AT THE JUDGMENT OF BABYLON (18:20) takes place in heaven by the saints and apostles and prophets; for God has judged the world for the way it treated His people. Three times heaven is told to rejoice in the Apocalypse:
1. When Satan is cast out (12:12)
2. When Political-Commercial Babylon is destroyed (18:20)
3. When the marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife is ready (19:7)
Comparison of the Two Babylons
Rides the Beast
One is called the Great Prostitute
Names are Written on Forehead
Becomes Rich by Deceiving People
Destroyed by Man Destroyed by God
People Rejoice Over Destruction
God Moves People to Destroy
Not Destroyed in One Hour
No Commodities Mentioned
People are Drunk on Her Adulteries
Sheds Blood of Saints
Cup of Abominable Things
Clothed in Purple and Scarlet
Does not Ride the Beast
The Other is Not So Called
No Names are Mentioned
John Not Astonished
Makes People Rich
People Lament over Destruction
God Does Not Move People to Destroy
Destroyed in One Hour
Twenty-nine Commodities Mentioned
People are Maddened by Her Adulteries
Sheds Blood of Saints
Cup of Torture and Grief
Clothed in Purple and Scarlet
BOULDER THROWN INTO THE SEA (18:21-24) spells the end of world kingdoms. The millstone signifies that the crushing power of the Antichrist’s kingdom is ended. This imagery is similar to Yahweh’s command to His prophet in Jeremiah 51:63-64:
When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring upon her. And her people will fall.’” The words of Jeremiah end here.
Finality of the Antichrist’s kingdom is pictured by the lack of music, workmen, machinery, light, marriage, merchants, and sorcery. Life in the great city ceases! Yet in her, the blood of the prophets and of the saints and all who have been killed on the earth still cries out for vengeance. Jesus told His generation:
And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barakiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar (Matthew 23:35).
The Day of Vengeance will come!
Historicists behold spiritual Babylon (Papal Rome) destroyed in chapter eighteen. That Babylon is the dwelling place for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird is a spiritualized illusion to the fall of literal Babylon in the sixth century B.C. The call to come out of her (Roman Catholic Church) is the Protestant Reformation. The commercial aspect of the European Economic Community, formed under the Treaty of Rome in 1957, is totally intertwined with Roman Catholicism. Therefore, the burning of Babylon the Great is the downfall of Catholicism, not a literal city. The true Church will triumph and the millstone (Catholicism) will be thrown into the sea.
Preterists view the fall of Babylon the Great as either Rome (A.D. 476) or Jerusalem (A.D. 70), which is overrun by every unclean thing and commits fornication with the kings of the earth (Ezekiel 16:14-15, 26, 28-30; 23:12-21). “Come out of her, my people” is addressed to the Christians who fled Jerusalem before her destruction. Destruction in one day and one hour is not to be taken literally, since neither Jerusalem nor Rome fell suddenly; however, that is contrary to the actual fall of Babylon in the sixth century B.C. It fell suddenly and unexpectedly in one night to the Medes and Persians.
Idealists link Babylon the Great with Rome, but others object since this city was not a great commercial center in the Ancient world. Therefore, they see this city as symbolic of the world as a seducer, which is the great millstone cast into the sea.
Futurists have diverse interpretations as to whether Babylon the Great is a rebuilt Babylon or symbol of the godless culture in the last days. Some hold “come out of her, my people” is a Rapture of the surviving Tribulations saints. However, a translation at this point would leave no one to populate the Millennial Kingdom of Christ in natural bodies. Some speculate that a literal city called Babylon will be destroyed by nuclear explosion, while others hold to a supernatural fire from heaven.