Revelation Chapters 14 through 19, Part 6
by Karl Kemp
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We will continue this verse-by-verse study of Rev. 14:6-19:21 here in Part 6, starting with Revelation chapter 18, verse 1.
I'll quote part of what F. F. Bruce said at the beginning of his discussion of this chapter ("New Layman's Bible Commentary In One Volume," [Zondervan, 1979], page 1705). "The theme of Babylon's great downfall is continued, but it is now presented in terms of the destruction of a great mercantile city. In John's day Rome was the centre of world commerce...and what is here portrayed is not merely the doom of an ancient city, but the sure collapse of all human organization, commercial and otherwise, that leaves God out of its reckoning.... ... It might seem unnecessary to mention that Babylon of ch. 18 is identical with Babylon of ch. 17, were it not that some commentators have tried to make a distinction between them."
I'll quote part of what Leon Morris said as an introduction to Revelation chapter 18 ("Revelation" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1987], page 208). "...he is thinking not of the fall of one city or empire but of the collapse of civilization. Final judgment means the overthrow of all that opposes itself to God."
I'll also quote part of what Alan F. Johnson ("Expositor's Bible Commentary," Vol. 12 [Zondervan, 1981], pages 565, 566) said as an introduction to chapter 18. "Chapter 18 contains the description of the previously announced 'judgment'...of the prostitute (17:1). It is important not to separate this chapter from the portrayal of the prostitute in chapter 17, for there is no warrant for making the prostitute in chapter 17 different from the city in chapter 18 (cf. 17:18). Under the imagery of the destruction of the great commercial city, John describes the final overthrow of the great prostitute, Babylon. ...he describes God's judgment on the great satanic system of evil that has corrupted the earth's history. Drawing especially from the OT accounts of the destruction of the ancient harlot cities of Babylon (Isa. 13:21; 47:7-9; Jer. 50-51) and Tyre (Ezek. 26-27), John composes a great threnody [song of lamentation, funeral song].... ... John combines the song of triumph and the wailing strains of lamentation into a noble funeral dirge (cf. 2 Sam. 1:17-27; Isa. 14:4-21; Lamen., in its entirety)."
"After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory. (2) And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, 'Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! [These words build on Isa. 21:9; Jer. 51:8; and Rev. 14:8.] And she has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. [[These words build on Isa. 13:19-22; 34:11-17; Jer. 50:39, 40; 51:37; and Zeph. 2:14, 15. In the margin, for both uses of the word "prison" in this verse, the NASB has "or, haunt." The NIV has "haunt." The BAGD Greek Lexicon (under "phulake"), dealing with the two uses of this noun in Rev. 18:2, says, "The fallen city of Babylon becomes a "phulake" "haunt" for all kinds of unclean spirits and birds." I'll quote part of what George E. Ladd ("Commentary on the Revelation of John" [Eerdmans, 1972]) said under 18:2, "When this desolation has befallen the city, she will be no longer the mistress of civilization; no longer will she be inhabited by princes and merchants; she will be so desolated that no human being will set foot in her."]] (3) For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality [see Rev. 14:8; 17:2, 15], and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her [see Rev. 17:2; 18:9], and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth [In the margin the NASB has "literally, power."] of her sensuality.' [[On this last word, also see Rev. 18:7, 9. The Greek noun used here in 18:3 and the Greek verb used in 18:7, 9 are closely related, being derived from the same Greek word. The BAGD Greek Lexicon gives "sensuality, luxury" as the meaning of this Greek noun, which isn't used anywhere else in the New Testament. In the margin the NASB has, "or, luxury." The NIV has, "grew rich from her excessive luxuries." The NKJV has, "have become rich through the abundance of her luxury." On the "merchants," see Rev. 18:11-19, 23; Ezek. 27:1-36.
Revelation chapter 18 shows that the devil uses Babylon the great harlot to seduce people to live for the things of the world (instead of living for God), such things as riches, luxury, the things money can buy, and the fame that comes with worldly success. See, for example, Matt. 6:19-34; Luke 16:13; Rom. 12:2; 13:14; Eph. 2:1-3; 1 Tim. 6:5-10, 17-19; James 1:27; 3:13-4:4; and 1 John 2:15-17. God's judging and total removal of Babylon the harlot during His end-time judgment of the world, will, for one thing, be part of His setting the stage to wake up and save the remnant of the nations (which is a very big deal, especially if they number in the billions, which I believe is quite possible).]] (4) And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, 'Come out of her, my people, that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not receive of her plagues [[Compare Isa. 52:11; Jer. 50:8; 51:6, 9, 45; and 2 Cor. 6:17. Throughout this present age, Christians are called to separate from everything sinful and defiling in the world, as the last reference demonstrates, along with many other verses of the New Testament. Revelation 18:4 (cf. 18:5-8), however, is aimed at the people of God living on the earth in the very last days, when the time for the judgment and removal of Babylon has arrived. Leon Morris (quoted at the beginning of this chapter) said here, "Compromise with worldliness is fatal. God's people must, while playing their full role in the community, hold themselves aloof from what is involved in being worldly-minded."]]; (5) for her sins have piled up as high as heaven [cf. Ezra 9:6], and God has remembered her iniquities [cf. Rev. 16:19]. [[It must be understood that unreconciled sin always ultimately brings judgment. Instructive along this line is the fact that several of the primary Hebrew words for sin also include the idea of penalty for sin. (See the first four chapters of my book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ" on this important topic.)] (6) Pay her back even as she has paid [cf. Psalm 137:8 (NIV); Jer. 50:15, 29], and give back to her double according to her deeds [[Many commentators point out that we tend to get the wrong idea from this word "double" in a context like this, and that of Isa. 40:2. I'll quote from G. K. Beale under this verse ("Book of Revelation" [Eerdmans, 1999], page 901). "...[Meredith] Kline has demonstrated convincingly that the almost unanimous translation 'double' in the English versions is inaccurate. ... Kline especially establishes the meaning 'duplicate/equivalent' in texts to which Rev. 18:6 may allude (Isa. 40:2; Jer. 6:18) and in the two uses of the adjective elsewhere in the NT (Matt. 23:15; 1 Tim. 5:17). Consequently, the clauses in Rev. 18:6 should be translated 'give the very equivalent...according to her work...."]]; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her. (7) To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously [or, luxuriously; cf. Ezek. 27:1-28:19; Luke 16:19-31; and Rev. 18:3 (see under this verse), 9. I'll quote what Robert L. Thomas ("Revelation 8-22" [Moody, 1995]) said under 18:7 on the meaning of this last word, "It denotes a luxurious lifestyle with the accompanying trappings of discourtesy, arrogance, self-indulgence, ruthless exercise of strength, and unruliness."]], to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, "I SIT as A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW, and will never see mourning [cf. Isa. 47:7-15]." (8) For this reason in one day [cf. Isa. 47:9; Jer. 50:29-32; and Rev. 18:10, 17, 19] her plagues [cf. 18:4] will come, pestilence [The margin of the NASB has "or, death"; the NIV, KJV, and NKJV have "death."] and mourning [cf. 18:7] and famine, and she will be burned up with fire [cf. Rev. 17:16; 18:9, 18; and 19:3]; for the Lord God who judges her is strong [cf. Jer. 50:34]. (9) And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously [or, luxuriously] with her [cf. Rev. 17:2; 18:3, 7], will weep and lament over her [cf. Ezek. 26:15-18; 27:35] when they see the smoke of her burning [[Compare Rev. 17:16; 18:18; 19:3; and Ezek. 28:18. The "kings of the earth" here certainly exclude Antichrist and the ten kings/rulers of Rev. 17:12, 16, 17, who (according to the plan of God) destroy Babylon the great. Understanding Babylon the great in the fullest sense, we could say that "the kings of the earth" were part of Babylon (symbolic language can be quite flexible; compare, for example, the varying descriptions of Babylon the great in Revelation chapters 17, 18, including where she is sitting/seated), but the primary viewpoint of Revelation chapters 17, 18 is that these kings were closely related with Babylon in an immoral relationship, not fully part of Babylon. So too for the merchants, those transporting the merchandise, etc.
After Babylon lies in smoking ruins, as pictured in Rev. 18:9-19:3, all that remains to be accomplished before Daniel's 70th week ends is the destruction of Antichrist and those who follow him, which apparently will be accomplished in very little time (cf. Rev. 19:19-21). It seems that at least some of these kings (and the merchants, those involved in the transportation systems, etc.) will be left as a remnant of the nations at the end of Daniel's 70th week to enter the millennial kingdom (not being destroyed as part of Babylon or as part of those who worship and follow Antichrist). See Rev. 15:3, 4; 20:3. It is clear that all the people who will be left by God as a remnant of the nations will have refrained, one way or another, from worshiping Antichrist or taking his mark (Rev. 14:9-11). It seems that (at least most of) the kings, etc. who will have a place in the millennial kingdom will not gather to Har-Magedon (Rev. 16:12-16); any who did gather would have repented later.
On (some of) the kings of the nations having a place in God's kingdom (the millennial kingdom and the subsequent eternal kingdom), cf., e.g., Psalm 72:10, 11; Isa. 49:23; 60:3, 16; and Rev. 21:24. (Psalm 72 and Isaiah chapter 49 are discussed verse-by-verse in my eschatological papers on selected passages from the books of Psalms and Isaiah that are on my internet site. Both of those papers and the paper on the book of Jeremiah deal extensively with God's salvation plans for the remnant of the nations after His end-time judgment of the world. Revelation 21:24 is discussed in my paper on Revelation chapters 20-22.)
We have already discussed the fact that Rev. 15:3, 4 show that the remnant of the nations will repent and submit to God after His righteous acts of saving and judging have been revealed. His righteous acts of saving true Israel and judging and removing the rebels who never will repent (which apparently pretty much equals judging and removing Babylon the great and Antichrist and his followers) will be completed, in a significant sense, at the end of Daniel's 70th week. It will then be time for the millennial kingdom.]], (10) standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment [Compare 18:15, 17. The idea probably is included here that "the kings of the earth" (18:9) fear for themselves, and rightly so. God will apparently use this fear to help motivate at least some of these kings to repent and turn to Him.], saying, "Woe, woe, the great city [cf. 18:16, 19], Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come." [[Revelation 18:17 and 19 both also mention that the judgment of Babylon takes place "in one hour." Revelation 18:8 says, "in one day her plagues will come." Significantly, Rev. 17:12 shows that the super-evil reign of Antichrist will last "for one hour," speaking of the second half of Daniel's 70th week. Also, Rev. 3:10 speaks of "the hour of testing"; Rev. 14:7 speaks of "the hour of His judgment"; and 14:15 speaks of "the hour to reap"; these verses all refer to the second half of Daniel's 70th week. The information from these verses probably gives us the meaning of the "one hour" of Rev. 18:10, 17, and 19.
I assume Babylon the great will be progressively destroyed by Antichrist and the ten horns throughout this three and one-half year period - throughout the one hour - but apparently there will be something of a climactic end to her destruction too. As we discussed under Rev. 16:19, part of Babylon's destruction will apparently also take place during the month just preceding the mid-week return of Christ.]] (11) And the merchants [Apparently none of these merchants have been living for God; they have not become Christians, but apparently at least some of them will have refrained (one way or another) from worshipping Antichrist or taking his mark. Any of these merchants who have worshipped Antichrist and taken his mark will be doomed (Rev. 14:9-11).] of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more [cf. Ezek. 27:1-36; Rev. 18:3, 12-19, 23]; (12) cargoes [cf. Ezek. 27:12-24] 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, (13) 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 slaves and human lives. [[In the margin the NASB has "lit[erally], bodies" for "slaves" and "lit., souls of men" for "human lives." The BAGD Greek Lexicon gives "slaves" as the meaning for the plural of the Greek noun "soma" here in this verse; this Greek noun in normally translated "body." I agree with the common view that the word "slaves" and the following words "human lives" (however these words are translated) both refer to slaves. Instead of the word "and" after the word "slaves," we could translate "even." The NIV and NKJV both have "bodies and souls of men" here in 18:13.
Ezekiel 27:13, which also speaks of trading slaves, may have influenced the wording here; in the Hebrew it has " 'nephesh' [soul/life/person] 'adam' [of man]." I'll give some English translations of Ezek. 27:13: NASB "the lives of men"; NIV "slaves"; KJV "the persons of men"; and NKJV "human lives." In 1 Chron. 5:21 "nephesh adam" is used of people who were taken captive; the NIV translates, "They also took one hundred thousand people captive; the NASB has, "men [lit., souls of men]."
I'll quote from Robert H. Mounce ("Book of Revelation [Eerdmans, 1977], pages 330, 331). "The word translated 'slaves' is literally 'bodies.' This is a vivid commentary on the social conditions of the day. Slave traders regarded their human cargo as so much merchandise to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. It is estimated that there were as many as 60,000,000 slaves in the Roman Empire. ... Most commentators take the expression ['souls of men'] in apposition to slaves and translate 'even.' "]] (14) And the fruit you long for [literally, the fruit of your soul's desire] has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them. [[The fact that "you," which is used three times in this verse, is singular in the Greek demonstrates that Babylon is being spoken to (also note "your judgment," literally "the judgment of you [singular in Greek]" in 18:10), but it's clear that these words also apply to all the people who had been seduced by Babylon the great harlot (whether they are considered part of Babylon the great, or not). These things were part of the things used by Babylon the great harlot (by the devil behind Babylon) to seduce people from God; they lived for these things instead of for God, His kingdom, His righteousness, and His glory.
Those who are left from the nations (not including any true Christians) when Babylon the great lies in total destruction, about the time of the end of Daniel's 70th week and the beginning of the millennial kingdom, at least many of them, will wake up, repent, and turn to God (cf. Rev. 20:3). (As I mentioned, Rev. 14:9-11 make it clear that any people who have worshipped Antichrist and taken his mark are doomed for destruction.) For one thing, it will be obvious that they won't be able to continue to live for all the wrong things that have just been taken away from them (through God's mercy). God's righteous acts of saving His people (true Israel) and His judgment of Babylon the great and of Antichrist and his forces gathered to Armageddon (along with the fact that He has left them alive when the day of judgment is over) will also serve to wake up the (remnant of) the nations. See Rev. 15:3, 4.
I'll quote part of what John F. Walvoord said under Rev. 18:11-19 ("Revelation of Jesus Christ" [Moody, 1966], page 265). "Christ warned against coveting the wealth of this world when He said, 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matt. 6:19-21). In contrast to the transitory wealth and glory of this world, which are here consumed by a great judgment from God, are the true riches of faith, devotion, and service for God laid up in heaven beyond the destructive hands of man and protected by the righteous power of God."]] (15) The merchants of these things, who became rich from her [These riches (cf. 18:3), and the fame of the merchants of Babylon (cf. 18:23), demonstrate part of Babylon's power of seduction over (many of) the merchants of the earth.], will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment [see under 18:10], weeping and mourning [cf. 18:11], (16) saying, "Woe, woe, the great city [cf. 18:10, 19], she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls [Compare 17:4. Every one of these items associated with riches listed here in 18:16 was listed in 18:12, 13.]; (17) for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste [See under Rev. 18:10 on "one hour." On the verb "has been laid waste," see on "make her desolate" under Rev. 17:16. Note that the verb is used again in 18:19.]!" And every shipmaster [The NIV has, "sea captain."] and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea [cf. Ezek. 27:26-32], stood at a distance [[On standing at a distance, see under 18:10. What I said there applies to all people, including "every shipmaster and every passenger [on ships, etc.] and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea," apparently excluding only those who have totally submitted themselves to God and His city/kingdom. I don't know about the situation during the second half of Daniel's 70th week (it will be quite different), but during this present age it is clear that Christians can, in the will of God, be merchants, shipmasters, airline pilots, train engineers, bus and truck drivers, passengers, sailors, etc.; we must, however, make it a top priority to make sure we aren't being drawn away (seduced) by anything from being faithful to God - it can, and does happen. It's not always easy; it can cost us in the world to be set apart for God.]], (18) and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning [cf. 17:16; 18:9; and 19:3], saying, "What city is like the great city?" [Cf. Ezek. 27:32.] (19) And they threw dust on their heads [cf. Ezek. 27:30; Josh. 7:6; 1 Sam. 4:12; 32; 2 Sam. 1:2; 15:32; Job 2:12; and Lam. 2:10] 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 [cf. Rev. 18:3, 15], for in one hour she has been laid waste!" (20) Rejoice over her [Contrast the mourning of the world in Rev. 18:9-19.], O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.' [Cf., e.g., Jer. 51:48; Rev. 6:9-11; 17:6; 18: 24; and 19:1-6.] (21) And a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone [Alan Johnson (quoted at the beginning of this chapter) commented on the size of a "great/giant millstone": "four to five feet in diameter, one foot thick, and weighing thousands of pounds."] and threw it into the sea, saying, 'Thus will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer. [Cf. Jer. 51:63, 64; Ezek. 26:21; and Rev. 18:14.] (22) And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer [[Compare Isa. 24:8 ((Isaiah chapters 24-27, sometimes called "Isaiah's Little Apocalypse," prophesy of God's end-time judgment of the world. God's judgment of the "city of chaos" of Isa. 24:10 [cf. Isa. 25:2; 26:5, 6] is somewhat comparable with His judgment of Babylon in the book of Revelation. And Isaiah 24:13-16a; 25:3-8; 26:9, 10; and 27:5, 6 confirm that God will save the remnant of the nations after His end-time judgment. Isaiah chapters 24-27 are discussed verse-by-verse in my eschatological paper on selected passages of Isaiah on my internet site.)); Ezek. 26:13]]; and no craftsman or any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer; (23) and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer [[Compare Jer. 7:34; 16:9; and 25:10. Since Babylon will be totally destroyed, no one will live there any longer, and these activities, which are not sinful in themselves, will no longer take place there. I'll quote part of what Philip E. Hughes said under Rev. 18:21-24 ("Book of Revelation" [Eerdmans, 1990]). "This is the passing away of the world with all its ungodly lust (1 John 2:17): what was formerly a hive of self-seeking activity has become a place of death and desolation. The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: 'The earth shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled; for the Lord has spoken this word' (Isa. 24:3); and also the prophecy spoken through Jeremiah: 'I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste' (Jer. 25:10...)."
The people who are left alive on the earth after God's end time judgment, the remnant of the nations (cf., e.g., Rev. 20:3), will have no reasonable choice but to repent and turn to God and His kingdom. I assume that at least most of them will repent and begin to worship God. For one thing, God determines who will be left alive. This is quite significant in that this remnant could number in the billions.]]; for your merchants were the great men of the earth [cf. Isa. 23:8, 9 with Isa. 2:10-22; and Rev. 18:3], because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. [[As discussed under Rev. 17:1-6, Babylon the harlot includes all false religion, including the occult, which includes "sorcery" (cf. Isa. 47:8-15; Nah. 3:4; Rev. 9:21; 21:8; and 22:15). Here in Revelation chapter 18, however, the emphasis is on Babylon as the center of commerce, and the primary idea here seems to be the "sorcery" of so deceiving/seducing people that they devote their lives to, and live for, riches and the things money can buy, instead of living for God. I'll quote from Isbon T. Beckwith on the meaning of "sorcery" here ("Apocalypse of John" [Baker, 1979, original copyright 1919], page 720), "used figuratively, with the same meaning as the wine of fornication, cf. Rev. 18:3; 14:8."]] (24) And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain [The NIV has "all who have been killed."] on the earth.' [[Compare Rev. 6:10; 17:6; 18:20; and 19:2. Apparently we can say that all the "innocent" blood ever shed on the earth, starting with righteous Abel (not limited to the blood of the old-covenant saints and the new-covenant saints, but their blood is in the spotlight), is attributable to the great harlot, Babylon. This verse confirms that Babylon is much more than any one city/kingdom. As I have mentioned, in its fullest sense Babylon is a symbol for the world, whose god is the devil. I suppose we can say that the blood shed by Antichrist after he separates from Babylon will not be found in Babylon.]]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of Rev. 14:6-19:21 in Part 7 of this paper, starting with Revelation chapter 19, verse 1.
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