The Book of REVELATION
James J. Barker
THE FALL OF BABYLON Part 1
- Referring to
the fall of Babylon, A.T. Pierson wrote these words about 100 years ago, "In the
description of Babylon in Revelation 17 and 18, all the leading features of this
boasted civilization of the twentieth century are delineated -- luxury,
monopoly, wealth, pleasure, treasure seeking, human glory...the bond of self
interest. And what becomes of
Babylon? It perishes, not by
outward assault, but by its own inward rottenness. And that is exactly what is going to
destroy our boasted modern civilization -- its inward rottenness; and yet even
Christian people are often blind to the fact that this civilization is
essentially selfish, Godless, Satanic" (The Bible and Spiritual
- Revelation 17
and 18 both deal with God's judgment upon Babylon. Chapter 17 is usually described as
ecclesiastical or religious Babylon, and chapter 18 as political
- However, the
harlot church in Revelation 17 is very political as well as religious. The emphasis on Revelation 18 is
commercial Babylon (cf. 18:11-13).
- We have here in
Revelation 18 the fall of Babylon. The opening
phrase here in chapter 18, “after these things,” indicates a later revelation
than that given in chapter 17.
- Therefore, we
can deduce that the destruction of religious Babylon (17:16, 17) will be
different from the destruction of commercial Babylon (cf. 18:9, 10).
- According to
Revelation 18:9-11 the kings of the earth and the merchants of the earth will
weep and mourn over the passing of Babylon. Babylon helped make them
- But we do not
read about any weeping or mourning connected with the destruction of the harlot
church in chapter 17.
Babylon will be destroyed by "the ten horns," representing ten kings (17:12a,
God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will..."
- Commercial Babylon will destroyed by the direct hand of
- The harlot destroyed in chapter 17 is made desolate,
naked, and burned with fire by the beast with the ten horns. From this it may be
concluded that the destruction of the harlot is the fall of religious Babylon,
and that it will occur when the antichrist demands that people worship him as
- Chapter 18 describes the fall of commercial Babylon.
Here in chapter 18, Babylon is viewed in its political and economic character
rather than in its religious aspect.
- John Walvoord says, "The term 'Babylon' in Scripture is
more than a reference to the false religious system which stemmed from the false
religion of ancient Babylon. Out of ancient Babylon also came the political
power represented in Nebuchadnezzar and fulfilled in the first world empire. In
some sense this is continued in the commercial system which came from both the
religious and the political Babylons. It seems that chapter 17 deals with the
religious aspect and chapter 18 with the political and economic aspects of
Babylon" (The Revelation of Jesus
THE FALL OF BABYLON ANNOUNCED
- John declares
in verse 1, “I saw another angel come down from heaven.” The phrase “another angel” tells us that
the angel of chapter 18 is a different angel from that of
- This angel has
great power and the earth is lighted with his glory (18:1). This indicates that
the angel will be sent to do a great work on behalf of
- The important
announcement given in verses 2 and 3 declares that Babylon the great is fallen.
The repetition of the verb “is fallen” indicates the judgment as completed,
though it is still a future event.
- The destruction
of Babylon here in chapter 18 should be compared with the preceding announcement
in 16:19 where the great city is divided and the cities of the Gentiles fall.
- This event will
come toward the end of the tribulation period, just prior to the second coming
- The downfall of
the city of Babylon in 18:2 is followed by its becoming the habitation of
devils, the “hold” (or “prison”) of every foul spirit, and the “cage” (the same
word in the Greek as “hold”) of every unclean and hateful
- This is a
reference to fallen angels in their various characteristics as devils (demons)
and evil spirits, symbolized by the unclean and hateful birds (cf. Daniel
4:10-14; Matt. 13:4, 19, 31, 32).
- Babylon in her
political character has had evil relationships with “all nations” described as
“fornication” (18:3; cf. 17:2).
- This evil
association has made the merchants of the earth rich. Just as apostate churches
have grown rich in proportion to their wickedness, so the nations have likewise
prospered, as they have abandoned God and sought to accumulate the wealth of
COME OUT OF BABYLON (18:4,
- In verse 4,
John hears another voice from heaven addressed to the people of God instructing
them to come out of Babylon.
- The message of
the Bible is always, "Come out" (cf. II Cor. 6:14--7:1). It is never, "stay
- The people of
God were urged to leave Babylon back in the days of Jeremiah the
- Jeremiah 50:8
says, "Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of
the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he goats before the
- Jeremiah 51:6 says, "Flee out of the midst of Babylon,
and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the
time of the LORD's vengeance; he will render unto her a
- Jeremiah 51:45
says, "My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye
every man his soul from the fierce anger of the LORD."
- The purpose of
leaving Babylon will be so that they will not partake of her sin, and secondly,
so they will not have her plagues inflicted on them
- The reference
to plagues refers to the vials of chapter 16, especially the seventh vial which
will fall upon Babylon itself (16:17-21).
- In verse 5 the
sins of Babylon are said to reach unto heaven, and God will remembers all her
- This reminds us of Jeremiah 51:9, which says
Babylon's "judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even
to the skies."
fact that her sins have reached unto heaven is an allusion to the tower of Babel
built back in the early days of ancient Babylon (Gen. 11:5-9).
- Walvoord says, "Though God permits the increment of sin,
its ultimate divine judgment is inescapable" (The Revelation of Jesus
GOD'S INDICTMENT OF BABYLON
- In verse 6, the
voice from heaven calls on God to reward Babylon even as she rewarded the people
of God. The verb means literally “to pay a debt” or “to give back that which is
- It is the law of retribution, taught all throughout
Scripture. Our Lord said in Matthew 26:52,
"All they that take the sword shall perish with the
- Divine justice
exacts the “eye for an eye” and the “tooth for a
- Here the law of
retribution is doubled because of the enormity of the sin of Babylon
- Therefore, the
cup of iniquity which Babylon filled will be filled "to her double" with the
measure of her judgment.
- Walvoord says,
"There is no mercy for the utter apostasy found in Babylon in all her phases of
operation...The same verb (translated "fill") is used in 14:10 in connection
with the wine of the wrath of God" (The Revelation of Jesus
- The same law of
retribution is seen in verses 7 and 8, where the standard of Babylon's judgment
is compared to her luxurious living in which she was given to
- The expression
“lived deliciously” (18:7, 9) means "lived luxuriously" (Scofield margin). It means, “to be wanton” (Strong's
- Verse 7 says,
much torment and sorrow give her."
Her willful sin against God will certainly be rewarded,
with great torment and sorrow.
- Her “torment” will result in mental anguish and
grief. Her wishful thinking in which she said
in her heart, “I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow” (18:7)
is going to be rewarded by sudden destruction from the
- Verse 8 says God's judgment will come in one day in the
form of plagues, death, mourning, and famine, resulting in her utter destruction
- Walvoord says, "Like the church at Laodicea, her wealth
has brought a sense of false security (3:17). Her claim to not being a widow has
only the faulty foundation of her illicit love affairs with the kings of the
earth (17:2). The fact that her judgment comes in one day, emphasized in the
Greek by being placed first in the sentence, is reminiscent of the fall of
Babylon in Daniel 5, which fell in the same hour that the finger traced its
condemning words upon the wall. Before morning, the ancient power of Babylon has
been destroyed. In a similar way, the rich fool of Luke 12:16-20 lost his barns
and his soul in one night. When it is time for God’s judgment, it descends with
unwavering directness" (The Revelation of Jesus
- There are many
similarities between Revelation 17 and 18, but there are also a few notable
- One of the
differences is that in Revelation 18, God judges commercial Babylon for living
"deliciously" (luxuriously) (18:7, 9).
- This is alluded
to in Revelation 17:4, but it is emphasized in Revelation
- Back in 1935,
William Newell wrote this in his commentary on the book of
"The spirit of commercialism, which has seized upon the
human race, is fast blotting out real human ties (home, church or country). We scarcely know how far we have
drifted. Our forefathers were
content with their living...But the forgetting of God is fast falling upon earth
under the soul-stifling power of universal greed...Commercialism brings
spiritual deadness and insensibility as nothing else does"