Babylon and Her Destruction (17.1-20.6)

"Come, Lord Jesus" (CFP), white covers only, by Watchman Nee

Revelation 17 | Revelation 18 | Revelation 19 | Revelation 20


18.1 The person mentioned here must be Christ himself. Besides Him, who ever can have such great authority and who else can lighten the earth with his glory?

18.2 God has destroyed religious Rome through the beast and ten horns (17.16). Now He himself will come to destroy the city of Rome. Hence, this mighty proclamation. This event is also foretold in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 13.21 we read this: “And wild goats shall dance there” (the Septuagint renders it as: “and demons shall dance there”). Though the scene in Isaiah 34.13-15 refers directly to Edom, it is nevertheless quite similar to what is announced here in 18.2.

18.3 This verse speaks of three things:

(1) the nations (“By the wine of the wrath of her fornication all the nations are fallen”). See also 17.2, which, because of what we have said earlier, indicates that religious Rome is in view.

(2) The kings of the earth (they “committed fornication with her”). See 17.2 and 18.9, which in view of what has been said previously, show that both religious and political Rome are involved.

(3) The merchants of the earth (they “waxed rich by the power of her wantonness”). See 18.15, which points specifically to the commercial aspect of Rome.

By reading and considering the last clause of 18.3 we may see God’s view on commerce. There will not be any trading in the new heaven and the new earth. Trade prospers here because of luxury. Here commerce is a catering to personal gain as well as to men’s luxury. It apparently is not a commendable activity in the sight of God.

18.4 “Her” means the city of Rome as well as religious Rome. According to prophetic history, after the seven bowls have been poured out there follow lightnings and voices and thunders and an earthquake (16.17,18). Then, God remembers the great city of Babylon and He also then sends great hail to the earth (16.19,21). Chapter 17 tells us that Babylon is that great harlot, for upon her forehead is written Mystery, Babylon the Great. It also shows us her past history, the appearing of Antichrist, and her end (vv. 1-8). Chapter 18 again informs us how Babylon will fall.

“Come forth, my people, out of her”—This is a command. Although it is given at this juncture, it certainly is applicable to those in view in chapter 17 as well, because there are true believers in the Lord even in religious Rome.

18.5 This verse agrees with 16.19. Both passages speak of how the entire great Babylon is destroyed by God. As soon as God remembers a sin, He immediately punishes. When He remembers, He remembers clearly; and when He forgets, He also forgets clearly.

18.6 This fulfills the words in Romans 2.6-9. “Render unto her even as she rendered, and double unto her the double according to her works”—Will not the “double” conflict with “according to her works”? Possibly this is due to the dual aspects of Babylon.

“The cup which she mingled”—When in the future God shall arise to judge the city of Rome, He will also judge it for the sins of religious Rome.

18.7 The church does not glorify herself, instead she glorifies Christ. But Rome acts oppositely. She not only glorifies herself but indulges herself luxuriously.

18.8 Mourning comes after sorrow. God judges “the great city” (18.10) with sorrows, and causes her to mourn. “Lord God” is God’s name in the Old Testament, thus indicating that He has returned to His Old Testament position.

18.9 The kings of the earth have no strength to help the woman. For this judgment upon her is an act done by God; therefore, it is beyond their capability. The harlot mentioned in 17.16 is burned, and so too is this city burned.

18.10 “Woe, woe,” lament the kings of the earth. In this chapter, this exclamation is recorded as occurring three times—in verses 10, 16 and 19.

18.11 Many maintain that according to its geographical location, Rome cannot become a center of trade. But please notice that 18.11 does not say that this city is the center of import and export. For besides what Rome has bought, there is nothing else in it to sell. Rome buys profusely because Antichrist lives there in great luxury.

18.12-13 There are seven different kinds of commodities mentioned: (1) jewelry, (2) fabrics, (3) vessels, (4) perfumes, (5) delicacies, (6) herds, flocks, horses and chariots, and (7) slaves and souls of men. The last commodity, “slaves and souls”, may also be translated bodies and souls. A popular saying of the period goes like this: “What Babylon keeps is first gold and last of all souls.”

18.14 This verse speaks of Rome’s past.

18.15,16 This time it is the merchants who cry “Woe, woe” (v.16). Compare 18.16 with 17.4 and it can be seen that they fit each other exactly.

18.17 “For in one hour . . . is made desolate”—This sentence is connected with the preceding verse.

18.17-19 This time it is the shipmasters and the mariners who cry “Woe, woe” (v.19).

“In one hour” are words spoken three times in this book of Revelation: (1) by the kings of the earth (18.10), (2) by the merchants (18.17), and (3) by the shipmasters, the mariners, and the passengers (18.19).

18.20 The saints and the prophets probably include both the Old and the New Testament saints and prophets.

18.21 We do not know how God will destroy Babylon. We only know that God remembers the Great Babylon just at the time of the great earthquake (16.19). So perhaps Babylon is destroyed by an earthquake. Usually there is fire after an earthquake. This is why the kings of the earth, the merchants, and others look upon the smoke of her burning but are hindered from going in to rescue her (18.9,10).

18.22,23 Altogether, the words “no more at all” appear six times in verses 21-23.

18.22-24 These verses disclose three reasons (they are actually sins) to explain why God judges Babylon:

(1) “Thy merchants were the princes of the earth”;

(2) “With thy sorcery were all the nations deceived”; and

(3) “In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth.”

The fault with modern commerce is not in balancing needs with supplies but in ensnaring people; therefore, it is apparently sinful. Sorcery is a holding intercourse with demons. It could be that Rome will become the center of sorcery in the future. Rome, of course, has shed—and will yet shed—lots of human blood.