Babylon (Revelation 17, 18, 19)

posted in: Messages | 0
Start with video about Nimrod…
Some pretty interesting stuff right? Sorry about the chipmunk voice, but it would have been about 10 minutes long otherwise and I need all the time I can get today!
I actually looked up all those words myself to be sure this was accurate, and indeed it is. One thing that we often don’t think about in our western culture is that in those ancient cultures, names all have real meanings. Names of places and people. It would be a good study some day to just study the meaning of names in the Bible.
Anyway, today we will be talking all about Babylon. Where it came from. What it means. How it meets its end. And why is God so mad at it.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s pray and get into it.

The topic of Babylon in Revelation spans four chapters. We saw part of its destruction two weeks ago in the seventh bowl judgment. Then John spends all of chapter 17 and 18, and part of 19 going into more detail about it. And that’s in addition to several of the OT prophets doing the same. Fortunately, we’ve already covered the bulk of chapter 17, so we’ll only be here for two hours today instead of three.
As you saw in the video, the origin of the city of Babylon is the city of Babel built by the infamous Nimrod. It is actually believed that it was built on the same location where the Garden of Eden originally was before the Flood wiped everything out. Its ruins are still located on the east bank of the Euphrates River near modern day Bagdad, Iraq. The Euphrates river was one of the four rivers mentioned in the Genesis account of Eden.
And while Eden is often thought of as the paradise home of Adam and Eve when the world was still good – it is also the site where the recently fallen Satan, in the form of a serpent, caused the original sin and the fall of man with his lies.
Yes, Babylon, as you can see from that video about Nimrod, has a history as old as the earth itself and has come to be the symbol of everything in this world that stands against God. And as we will see in these next few chapters – it’s more than a symbol. It’s a reality.
So, with that introduction – let’s do some reading. I’ll start with chapter 17, which we’ve covered a good deal of already but I’m still going to read the whole thing for context. And remember all of this and the last chapters about the bowls are part of a “great and marvelous sign” – meaning they are full of symbolism.
Revelation 17
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great harlot, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery:
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.
“This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while.11 The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.
12 “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
15 Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. 16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the harlot. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. 18 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”
A rather vivid vision. So, after John sees the vision about the seven angels with seven bowls and the plagues that result – one of those angels comes over to John and carries him away to a wilderness where he sees quite a sight.
Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.
Here’s an artist’s rendition – not sure why they made all the heads like a leopard. I just picked the one that I thought depicted the harlot best and is the most appropriate for showing in church.
The beast I covered two weeks ago, but in short the seven heads represent seven kings/kingdoms that have dominated Israel throughout history with the seventh being the Antichrist’s kingdom of the tribulation. The ten horns are ten other kings that rule parts of the world after the rapture and during the tribulation they come under the rule of the Beast. The seven headed beast as a whole also represents The Beast and His tribulation kingdom based in Babylon. For more on the details of the beast, watch my talk from three weeks ago on The Beast, the False Prophet, and the Mark.
Back to the woman who is riding the beast, she is further described…
The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery:
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
Then John remarks that he was greatly astonished at the sight.
At first reading of this I found it humorous that of all the things John had witnessed up to this point that it is this vision that astonishes him. But after studying, I can see why. It’s probably one of the most debated topics of Revelation – the identity of this woman. Even though the angel tells John who she is at the end of the chapter.
18 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”
Now, that said, this is not as simple as it seems.
Verse 5 is correct. It is indeed a mystery.
I’m including in my notes a link if you want to read the extensive documentation on this subject:
There are multiple views on who or what this woman named Babylon is. Everything from ancient Rome, to the United States or the Roman Catholic Church. Every wannabe end-times crack has tried to pin it on something in our modern context – and usually not the literal city of Babylon as the text clearly indicates.
Part of that is because currently, Babylon the city doesn’t exist. It’s in ruins. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be rebuilt. Before 1948, most Bible commentators were baffled at how Israel would exist as a nation again after it was destroyed by Rome in AD 70. And yet, now it does.
So, I do believe that the woman does represent the literal, rebuilt city of Babylon on the banks of the Euphrates river sometime in our future. But I also think there is more to it than that.
Another prominent view, other than it being some other city besides Babylon, is the view that this woman represents a religious system that is based in or comes from Babylon the city, but is distinct from the physical buildings and streets and such.
The main reason for this line of thinking is two fold.
One – in symbolic visions in biblical prophecy, women usually represent religious systems or groups of people rather than physical cities. The Jewish people were often called the adulterous wife of God in OT prophecy. The church of today is called the bride of Christ. And a couple chapters ago we saw the Jewish People symbolized by a pregnant woman who gave birth to Christ. So, for this woman to represent just a physical city with buildings, streets, and taxes – seems to break from that pattern.
And TWO –  in this chapter, a rather confusing thing happens.
16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the harlot. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled.
We know from a great deal of OT prophecy that the home base of the Beast/Antichrist is Babylon. In fact, he is the king of Babylon at this time. And the ten horn kings are his allies or rather subjects.
Now, it’s not hard to answer the question as to why the ten kings would want to turn on the Beast and destroy his home base while he’s away (remember the sixth bowl dried up the Euphrates and the kings of the east, including the Beast, headed west to gather at Armageddon). Like all men with power, they want more and are probably tired of being under his rule. But why would the Beast attack his own capitol?
Not only that, but there are passages in Jeremiah and Daniel that indicate the Beast learns of Babylon’s destruction while away and is both dismayed and enraged. If he cooperated in destroying her, why would he react that way? Something doesn’t add up here.
Because of this, many have suggested that this means the Babylon in this vision is not the physical city but the world-wide system of idolatry that began with Nimrod and has the whole world worshiping every god but the one true God. The suggestion as to why the Beast would destroy this system is that he does it in order to set up his own religion of Beast worship, and make it the only religion of the last half of tribulation. Which is a hypothesis that makes absolute sense if you ignore the part in verse 18 where the angel clearly says that the woman is “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”
So, how do we reconcile this?
I believe the answer is likely in the fact that there is what is called a “textual variant” in verse 16. What that means, is that of the thousands of manuscript copies of the New Testament in the original Greek – not all copies are exactly the same. Now, don’t start hyperventilating and thinking all your skeptical friends are right that the Bible is full of errors and it can’t be trusted. It just means that the copy machines of old were human beings and they occasionally misspelled words and such. A great deal of detailed study has been made of all of the differences between the ancient copies of the text that we have and it has been confidently determined that a minuscule percentage of them actually change the meaning of the text. Over 70% of them are simply spelling differences and word order (which in the Greek, word order is not important to sentence structure.). And of the very few differences that actually change meaning, none of them change the meaning of core tenets of our faith.
I’ll include a link in my notes to a good article on the topic:
Anyway, in verse 16 there is a textual variant that does change the meaning a bit, which I believe is the cause of the confusion over this harlot.
In the NIV translation I read to you, it says “The beast AND the ten horns you saw will hate the harlot.”
In the KJV and NKJV it says “And the ten horns which you saw ON the beast, these will hate the harlot.”
The NIV says the horns AND the Beast.
The NKJV says the horns ON the Beast.
That’s because they are each based on a different compendium source document – which is effectively the result of an established authority on the subject examining hundreds of ancient manuscripts and compiling them into a single “standard” Greek text.
So, if document A examines these 2,000 manuscripts and document B examines a different 2,000 manuscripts, it’s possible they will have slightly different conclusions about which variants are accurate to the originals –  which again are mostly spelling and word order differences.
I won’t go into more detail than that because that is a very deep rabbit hole that you can explore on your own – Wikipedia has a good deal of impartial information on this topic.
Just know that you CAN trust your Bible, but it’s a good idea to read multiple translations to get the fullest meaning. And if you do happen to come upon something like this, take it as an opportunity to study some more until your question is satisfied or until God tells you that a little mystery is a good thing.
In this case, we cannot know for certain which textual variant is accurate because we don’t have the originals that John himself penned, so we must appeal to the context and other sources until a satisfactory answer is achieved. In my opinion, the KJV of the horns ON the Beast doing the hating and attacking of the harlot makes the most sense.
Because it makes more sense that the Beast’s rather involuntary allies would eventually turn on him at an opportune time, than does the idea that the Beast would destroy his own capital.
And it removes the need to try to work around the verse that clearly calls the Harlot the “great city” and not a religious system.
Not only that, but if you just read verse 16 and 17 together, the grammar alone confirms the KJV ON rather than AND.
Let’s read both together using the ON instead of AND and see if it makes sense.
16 The ten horns on the beast you saw will hate the harlot. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled.
You see, when verse 17 says “God put it into THEIR hearts…to hand THEIR royal authority to the beast” that wouldn’t make sense if “THEY” included the Beast himself.
And this verse also explains why they turned on him. God had put it into their hearts to unite with the Beast for God’s own purposes UNTIL His words are fulfilled. That word UNTIL indicates their (unknowing) job for God would come to an end at some point and then they could do what they wanted, which it turns out they wanted to destroy Babylon who had been ruling over them all this time. But they don’t destroy the physical city. We learn in the OT prophets that they just kill all the people and burn parts of it, probably in hopes they can take it over when the war with Jerusalem is done.
So, that’s the solution that sits right with me. I could be wrong, but I could also be right.

So, now that I’ve shown you how I think this woman indeed represents the physical city of Babylon that the kings of the earth slaughter at an opportune time, let me now explain how she is also more than just a physical city and why God hates her so much. Part of it is in the description we’ve already seen.
First, she is introduced to John before seeing her as
…the great harlot, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
Then John describes what he sees.
The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery:
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
Most modern translations use the word “prostitute” rather than “harlot.” But I like to use Harlot because it sounds less like a victim of sex trafficking, and more like a deliberately evil seductress. Both mean the same thing – technically a woman who exchanges sex for money, but in the NT the concept is generally referring to any promiscuous woman who uses her sexuality for personal gain of any kind. It’s the kind of woman Solomon warns agains in Proverbs.
Proverbs 2
16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,
    from the wayward woman with her seductive words,
17 who has left the partner of her youth
    and ignored the covenant she made before God.
18 Surely her house leads down to death
    and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
19 None who go to her return
    or attain the paths of life.
Solomon actually talks a lot about this in the first few chapters of Proverbs.
So, is this Harlot, Babylon, just a city that has a lot of prostitutes and rampant sexual immorality? Is that why God hates her?
It probably is true that sexual immorality is a large part of what she stands for, but that is just one SYMPTOM of what she truly represents.  The concept of adultery and prostitution here is not primarily about PHYSICAL SEX, but SPIRITUAL IDOLATRY.
Throughout Scripture, the worship of anything other than the one true God is considered by God to be spiritual adultery, spiritual promiscuity, spiritual prostitution. Which is ultimately what this woman, Babylon, represents.
She is the seductress that lures people away from the one true God who demands marital faithfulness, just as a harlot seduces a man away from his wife – or a wife away from her husband.
And she does it primarily through promises of riches and wealth and power – as symbolized by her fine clothing and jewelry.
And promises of untold pleasure in fulfilling your wildest sexual fantasies – as symbolized by her being a Harlot.
She promises to fulfill every desire your sin nature craves, and she can, – but as Solomon warns – her ways lead to death.
This is why the angel told John, “With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
Sinful desires fulfilled have an intoxicating, maddening effect. Ultimately, the Harlot who is Babylon, is a symbol of the fundamental lie that Satan has deceived the whole world into believing – that you are your own god and the only commands you must follow are your animal lusts. To deny them is to deny what makes you human. So, go ahead. Give into her charms. She will give you every pleasure your little black heart desires.
But she stops short of telling you that she will also steal your soul and condemn you to eternal torture in the lake of fire away from God’s presence forever.
That is why God hates Babylon and will destroy her in every way possible. She entices, then steals, and and ultimately kills his beloved – like someone who kidnaps a child by offering them candy only to molest and kill them and leave their body in a ditch.
Just like any parent, that breaks God’s heart and simultaneously burns him up with unquenchable rage against the one who would do such a thing.
And that one, is none other than Satan himself. That is not to say that Babylon is Satan, the fallen angel. Rather, Babylon is the means by which Satan does his work.
She is temptation.
She is deception.
She is the pleasures of this world that intoxicate all who partake of her and eventually overdose and die.
And in a mysterious otherworldly way, the future and historical physical city of Babylon on the banks of the Euphrates river at the site of the ancient tower of Babel and garden of Eden is as linked to the Kingdom of Satan
as the historical and future physical city of Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the City of David, the capital of the Millennial Kingdom is linked to the Kingdom of God.
It’s almost as if these two physical places on the surface of the earth are where the supernatural and the natural intersect. Jerusalem for the Kingdom of God and good, and Babylon for the kingdom of Satan and evil.
Both cities are physical locations that have borders, but the spiritual realities behind both of them are borderless. You could say that both kingdoms throughout time – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan – have spiritually spanned the entire globe, but that their capital cities have always been Jerusalem and Babylon.
And in the end, God is going to show that this has never been a war between equals.
He will narrow down the inhabitable surface of the earth to be centered around these two physical cities, then in dramatic fashion He will completely and utterly destroy both the spiritual and physical aspects of Babylon and everything it represents, such that it even leaves a permanent scar on the earth.
That is how I believe this woman in John’s vision symbolizes Babylon the literal city AND the spiritual kingdom of Satan at the same time. Not two separate things, but two sides of the same coin. The city – and all the abominations that will likely happen in that city during the Beast’s rule – is the physical manifestation of what has always been the center of the black stain of sin on God’s originally perfect world since the fall of Satan, followed shortly by the fall of Man.
And God’s destruction of her is the result of God’s wrath against the very existence of sin and all the harm that it has done the world.
Because not only has it lured the people of the world away from His salvation, but it has caused horrific treatment of those who do not give into her seduction. Hence..
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
Babylon, the city, the people, and the demonic influence behind it all, will pay dearly for all the blood of the martyrs they have spilled.
Jeremiah 51:24
“Before your eyes I will repay Babylon and all who live in Babylonia for all the wrong they have done in Zion,” declares the Lord.
Her destruction will be the justice for everyone of his people slain throughout history, including the souls under the altar that we saw back in chapter 6 and the 5th seal:
Revelation 6
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
And indeed, many more will die for the faith before the end. But now that we are at the end (in Revelation at least), justice is finally being served.

So, now that we know who the Harlot is and what in total she represents, let’s go to the next chapter where we see a few reactions to her destruction, one warning, and another prediction. I’m going to go through them one at a time instead of reading the whole chapter first.
Revelation 18
1 After this (this means what follows is sequentially after and a result of the total vision John just saw of the bowl judgments of chapter 15 & 16, and the Harlot’s demise of chapter 17) I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 2 With a mighty voice he shouted:
“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’
    She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
    a haunt for every unclean bird,
    a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
3 For all the nations have drunk
    the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
    and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
This is a prediction of the end result of her destruction. During the Millennial Kingdom that begins not long after her destruction, the physical location will still exist and will literally be the dwelling place, or rather prison, for the demons and impure spirits as they await their ultimate fate – the Lake of Fire. The Beast and False Prophet will not be among them here because they get thrown into the lake immediately after Christ defeats them. And Satan himself will be bound in the abyss during this time.
It will also have unclean animals roaming the decimated land. In chapter 19 we also learn that it will have smoke rising up from it forever. It will be a place that the inhabitants of the earth will be able to go look, and even see from afar, as a testament to what happens to those who oppose God.
The prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah talk of this:
Jeremiah 50
39 “So desert creatures and hyenas will live there,
    and there the owl will dwell.
It will never again be inhabited
    or lived in from generation to generation.
40 As I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah
    along with their neighboring towns,”
declares the Lord,
“so no one will live there;
    no people will dwell in it.
Isaiah 13
19 Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms,
    the pride and glory of the Babylonians,
will be overthrown by God
    like Sodom and Gomorrah.
20 She will never be inhabited
    or lived in through all generations;
there no nomads will pitch their tents,
    there no shepherds will rest their flocks.
21 But desert creatures will lie there,
    jackals will fill her houses;
there the owls will dwell,
    and there the wild goats will leap about.
22 Hyenas will inhabit her strongholds,
    jackals her luxurious palaces.
Her time is at hand,
    and her days will not be prolonged.
I’ll talk more about that in later weeks.

Next comes a warning to God’s people living in Babylon.
Revelation 18
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say:
“‘Come out of her, my people,’
    so that you will not share in her sins,
    so that you will not receive any of her plagues;
5 for her sins are piled up to heaven,
    and God has remembered her crimes.
6 Give back to her as she has given;
    pay her back double for what she has done.
    Pour her a double portion from her own cup.
7 Give her as much torment and grief
    as the glory and luxury she gave herself.
In her heart she boasts,
    ‘I sit enthroned as queen.
I am not a widow;
    I will never mourn.’
8 Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her:
    death, mourning and famine.
She will be consumed by fire,
    for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
This is not just a call for the residents of Babylon in the days of her destruction, but for all followers of God throughout time who live in Babylon spiritually. God is saying, get away from her and her temptations. You belong to me. Do not commit spiritual adultery with her because then you too will share in her fate.
This is also a literal warning to the residents that belong to God living in babylon at this time to get out while you can.
This too is echoed in OT prophecy.
Jeremiah 51
“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 repay her what she deserves.
The mention of “Her sins are piled up to heaven” is likely a reference to the tower of Babel, the original Babylon. Instead of the tower they attempted to make reaching heaven, their sins have.
Verse 7 of this warning, God references Isaiah 47 when He says,
Revelation 18
7 In her heart she boasts,
    ‘I sit enthroned as queen.
I am not a widow;
    I will never mourn.’
Here’s the full quote – God is talking to Babylon (or rather, the spirit of Babylon).
Isaiah 47
7 You said, ‘I am forever—
    the eternal queen!’
But you did not consider these things
    or reflect on what might happen.
8 “Now then, listen, you lover of pleasure,
    lounging in your security
and saying to yourself,
    ‘I am, and there is none besides me.
I will never be a widow
    or suffer the loss of children.’
9 Both of these will overtake you
    in a moment, on a single day:
    loss of children and widowhood.
They will come upon you in full measure,
    in spite of your many sorceries
    and all your potent spells.
Notice the quote, “I am, and there is none besides me.” That is a direct quote of God himself from two chapters earlier in a different prophecy.
Isaiah 45:5
I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.
What Babylon has done here is a direct blasphemy, and she will pay the price for it.
And so, God warns those who are His who are residing in Babylon the city of the end times, or Babylon the spiritual harlot of all time to get out of her before his wrath comes down full force upon her and all her inhabitants.

Next comes the reaction from the inhabitants of the earth upon her destruction. There are three groups of people. I’ll address each in turn.
Revelation 18
9 “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. 10 Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:
“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    you mighty city of Babylon!
In one hour your doom has come!’
This first group is called the “kings of the earth.” Are these the ten horn kings that just last chapter did the first part of destroying her, or are there other kings not associated with the Beast? Both are possibilities.
The ten horn kings may have wanted the city for themselves, and are not happy that she is totally destroyed. It’s also possible there are other kings around that have submitted to the Beast’s kingdom but retain some kind of local power. We can’t be too sure. The world will be much different at this time than it is now.
Either way, whoever these kings are, they are not only greatly saddened, but terrified. The great and powerful city – the capital of the world at the time – reduced to smoldering rubble in literally one hour – probably the length of time the hailstorm and earthquake of the seventh bowl will last. They are terrified because they know they are next.
Another group…
Revelation 18
11 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore— 12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.
14 “They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ 15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16 and cry out:
“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,
    and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
17 In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’
Babylon will be the center of commercialism and trade in the last half of the tribulation, making everyone who deals with her rich. They will even apparently have open slave trading going on. Perhaps that’s what will happen to some of the Christians instead of martyrdom. Notice these merchants are not sad because of all the people that must have died – but because their CASH COW is gone. They are more sorry for themselves than for the city. And they too are terrified.
And a final group…
Revelation 18
17 “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. 18 When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ 19 They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out:
“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    where all who had ships on the sea
    became rich through her wealth!
In one hour she has been brought to ruin!’
The sailors are upset for the same reason as the merchants. The party port is gone.
These three groups will represent all the people that took part in her abominations for the last 3.5 years. No doubt it was a very pleasurable time for those who took the mark of the Beast and engaged in the unbridled depravity of a world that seemingly finally got rid of God. But this swift series of bowl judgments and the destruction of the mecca of their pleasure provider will now make many of them realize with sadness and great terror that the party is over and it’s time to pay the bill.
Next comes a short statement that at first may seem like the sea captains are saying, but it’s not something you would expect them to say…
Revelation 18
20 “Rejoice over her, you heavens!
    Rejoice, you people of God!
    Rejoice, apostles and prophets!
For God has judged her
    with the judgment she imposed on you.”
If you look at the way the text is laid out, you will see that this is the final statement of the “voice from heaven” that began talking with the “Come out of her, my people…” in verse 4. All of these statements about the kings, merchants, and sea captains are not visions that John is seeing but the continued speaking of the voice. And this verse is the end of said voice’s whole statement – a call to the people of heaven, and of God, and apostles and prophets to rejoice –  for justice has finally been served, just as God promised so long ago.
Next, John sees something else…
Revelation 18
21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:
“With such violence
    the great city of Babylon will be thrown down,
    never to be found again.
22 The music of harpists and musicians, pipers and trumpeters,
    will never be heard in you again.
No worker of any trade
    will ever be found in you again.
The sound of a millstone
    will never be heard in you again.
23 The light of a lamp
    will never shine in you again.
The voice of bridegroom and bride
    will never be heard in you again.
Your merchants were the world’s important people.
    By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.
24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people,
    of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.”
Basically another proclamation of Babylon’s doom along with an illustration.  A millstone is a large round stone used with another stone for grinding wheat into flour.
This picture of the angel throwing the millstone into the water is actually a repeat of something similar in Jeremiah…at the end of receiving his long prophecy about Babylon, it tells what he, Jeremiah, did with it…
Jeremiah 51
59 This is the message Jeremiah the prophet gave to the staff officer Seraiah son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went to Babylon with Zedekiah king of Judah in the fourth year of his reign. 60 Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon—all that had been recorded concerning Babylon. 61 He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud. 62 Then say, ‘Lord, you have said you will destroy this place, so that neither people nor animals will live in it; it will be desolate forever.’ 63 When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. 64 Then say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall.’”
Pretty cool!
Next week we will be looking in more detail at the prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah concerning the War of Armageddon, which the destruction of Babylon is part of.
For now, we are going to finish with one more reaction found at the beginning of the next chapter.

Revelation 19
1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2     for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great harlot
    who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
3 And again they shouted:
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:
“Amen, Hallelujah!”
5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,
you who fear him,
    both great and small!”
The rest of this chapter continues the celebration in heaven with the wedding of the Lamb, and finally the return of King Jesus to earth. We will get to that next week.  For now, just look at the celebration in heaven over the destruction of Babylon. Everyone is shouting “Hallelujah!” The multitude of believers from all generations, the four living creatures, and the 24 elders are all ecstatic!
The great multitude praises God for his salvation – which they are partakers of – and for his true justice. They praise Him that finally their blood has been avenged and the Great Harlot that no doubt claimed the souls of many of their loved ones is finally destroyed, has finally gotten what she deserves and it won’t be a short lived justice because her smoke will be visible throughout the millennial kingdom as a reminder to the people that our God is a just and righteous God.
Then the 24 elders and four living creatures second that thought with an, “Amen, Hallelujah!”
And finally, a voice from the throne urges God’s servants to praise God (which is actually what the word “hallelujah” means.)
So, a whole bunch of praising God now that the many, many promises of vindication of the righteous and judgment of the wicked have finally come true. Probably similar to a courtroom scene when the clearly guilty murderer is handed a guilty verdict and the death penalty.
Which, for us, brings both the feeling of vindication, satisfied justice, but also – at least for the true Christian – a feeling of remorse over a lost soul soon to meet his Maker.
Because, as believers, even though we have a natural desire for justice and vengeance to be served on those who do evil – we also have a spiritual desire from God for all people to be saved – and the keen awareness that none of us are truly innocent and all deserving of God’s justice.
And besides, Jesus even told us we are supposed to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us – not seek vengeance over them. We are not to hate even the most evil of men.
So, how is the destruction of such a great city and the obvious death of who knows how many people whose souls are going straight to hell a cause for celebration in heaven? And how are we supposed to feel about it here and now?
As for heaven, I don’t know this for certain because I’ve never been there, but I believe we will have a rather different perspective there than we do here. As Paul says in
1 Corinthians 13 (NLT)
12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
And there will be no more sin in us, or even the propensity for sin. We will be completely clean and totally righteous in our body/soul and likely in our thinking. And, there will be no more sorrow or tears.
So, I believe that when we are in heaven, out of these bodies, we will understand all of these mysteries so clearly that the destruction of Babylon and even the punishment of the wicked will be seen in it’s proper perspective – the way that God sees it in all of His perfect attributes.
But as for the here and now, I think the main reason we feel any sorrow over the death of the wicked is the fact that we know our own status of being righteous in God’s eyes is only due to God’s sovereign grace – his undeserved favor – and so really there is no inherent difference between me and a mass murderer.
Yes, we make different choices, but we are both guilty and condemned in the eyes of God with our only hope of salvation being our faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ – which itself is not even initiated by us, but by God himself – such that not one of us has a thing to boast about.
And so, we rightly hesitate at celebrating over the death of a fellow sinner who simply hasn’t said yes to the unearned favor of grace yet – no matter how awful they have behaved. Not one of us is beyond redemption while still living (except those who take the mark in the end).
So, don’t worry if you don’t feel right about preemptively celebrating along with the hosts of heaven over the fall of Babylon. Notice that among the groups listed in the reactions, there was no mention of a group of people still on the earth celebrating her fall. Not even those who may have just barely escaped her, or those who had survived the torturous years of distress brought about by the beast. They likely mourned as well, though for a different reason than the kings, merchants, and sailors.
We who are living today should certainly look forward with eager anticipation to God’s pure justice finally being satisfied, because in that, our own God-given sense of justice will also be satisfied. But instead of also preemptively celebrating the destruction of the Harlot, we should be ever more diligent in ensuring fewer people are taken down with her –
Because God did not save you just so YOU could go to heaven, but so that you will be his witness and bring others along with you.
Heaven is a bring-a-friend kind of party, and the Host doesnt take kindly to you showing up alone.
So, how do we do it?
Step 1 to that is to first check yourself and make sure you are not personally in bed with the “mother of all harlots and abominations of the earth.” Assess your motivations and your actions. Are you faithful to Christ by obeying Him in everything? Or do you dabble in the sensualities and seductions of the self-gratifying allure of her adulteries? Or worse, dive in all the way?
John speaks of the distinction in one of his letters before writing Revelation:
1 John 2 (NLT)
15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
You won’t be very useful at step 2 if people can’t distinguish between you and the rest of the world that IS in bed with the harlot… Make no mistake. You are either part of the faithful Bride of Christ, through your salvation and devotion to King Jesus, and headed for heaven – or you are in bed with the Harlot like the rest of the world and headed for destruction.
You can’t be both and you can’t be neither.
This is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said to “store treasures in heaven rather than on earth, because you cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and Mammon (often translated as “money” but effectively synonymous with this Harlot.)”
And choosing not to choose is choosing to lose.
So, check yourself for which master you are serving and choose the right one.
Step 2 is to get out there and start intentionally interacting with the people God has put in your path to point them to Jesus so they will not share the fate of the Harlot they are likely currently slaves to. That doesn’t mean you start thumping people in the head with a Bible or telling them they are going to hell. You should start by praying for them, that God would open their hearts to His truth and draw them to Himself. Then ask Him what part He wants you to play in that effort and obey what He says – and dont expect Him to tell you to do nothing.
At the very least, you could invite them to church, or a church function. I recommend starting now and inviting them to Easter coming up in two weeks.
It’s really quite simple because God actually does all the work if you let Him.