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Bible: What Does Revelation 18 Teach Us About Mystery "Babylon"?

Updated on September 15, 2016

An Economic Earthquake


Mystery Babylon

Which city do you think Mystery Babylon will be?

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Revelation 18: The Destruction of "Babylon"

The Fall of "Economic" Babylon

From his vantage point in the wilderness, John sees another angel, an authoritative one, descending from heaven, his glorious presence brightening the somber scene (v. 1).

This messenger twice proclaims the fall of Babylon, suggesting either that its economic collapse is vast or that the demise of this city resembles the destruction of the ancient capital (v. 2a).

Predictably, it had become a demonic stronghold; yet, it had strangely turned into a prison for “foul” spirits and a cage for unclean birds (v. 2b).

[Why would evil spirits and “unclean birds” find this place a prison?]

Three partners consort with Babylon in her spiritual unfaithfulness:

(1) “all the nations”;

(2) “the kings of the earth”; and

(3) “the merchants of the earth” (v. 3).

["Babylon" has become the world’s center of commercial enterprises, enriching multinational corporations through her trade.]

God to His People: "Leave the City"

Still another heavenly voice calls upon God’s people dwelling in the city to leave her in order to avoid experiencing sudden destruction (v. 4).

The inhabitants have sinned so greatly that God will finally take action (“remembered her iniquities”) [v. 5].

The voice requests that God punish the city twice as much as what her evil deeds call for, but then modifies its call, asking that He “give her torment and sorrow” to the same degree she has enjoyed a life of luxury and self-glorification.

Like ancient Babylon, the rebuilt city thinks herself a queen exempt from unhappiness (vv. 6-7; cf. Is. 47:7-8).

[Why should the voice ask God to punish Babylon twice as much as what she deserved? Cf. Isa. 40:2]


"Babylon": Literal or Figurative?

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Plague, Disaster, and Destruction

The Plague

A twenty-four hour plague followed by a fiery judgment from the Lord will decimate the remaining inhabitants (v. 8).

[The voice defines the plagues as “death and mourning and famine.”

How does famine come in one day?

If this judgment occurs at the end of the tribulation, when did this famine begin?]

This same voice rehearses the separate reactions of “the kings of the earth” (vv. 9-10) and “the merchants of the earth” (vv. 11-19) to Babylon’s sudden destruction.

Fearing what they see, the first group of spiritually unfaithful world leaders stands at a distance and laments the city’s fiery judgment.

[Where would they stand to see this event occur? The desert?]

Likewise, the second band of business partners mourns loudly, because they have just lost a lucrative source of income; apparently, they have no comparable revenue replacement (v. 11).

Economic Disaster

The narrator lists twenty-nine products and services—from precious metals and stones, to luxurious fabrics, to furniture made of expensive materials, to spices and oils, meat and other foodstuffs, to transportation, to slaves—that will go unpurchased (vv. 12-13).

A total dearth of “fruit” and “rich and splendid” things will result from Babylon’s demise (v. 14).

The rich merchants will also keep their distance from the city out of fear, and they will cry about the great loss that happened “in one hour” (vv. 15-17a).

Other traders will join these merchants and the kings of the earth in their sorrow over the destruction of such an incomparable city (vv. 17b-18; cf. Ezek. 27).

This group also cries out “Alas, alas, that great city” and “in one hour” (v. 19; cf. v. 10, 16-17).

Finally, the voice inserts a call for heaven and its inhabitants (“holy prophets and prophets”) to rejoice, because God has wreaked His vengeance on the city for killing His saints (v. 20).

Babylon's Complete Destruction

The apostle next witnesses an angel tossing a gigantic stone into the sea, signifying the violence with which God will destroy Babylon (v. 21; cf. Jer. 51:63-64).

No music will be heard; no one will carry on everyday work; no light will shine anymore; no one will marry in this city again (vv. 22-23a).

Babylon’s great merchants deceived the whole world, and its leaders have been responsible for innumerable martyrdoms and murders (vv. 23b-24).

© 2013 glynch1


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