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Revelation 18

Wallace's Commentary on the Book of RevelationWallace on Revelation

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(Chapter 18)

The approaching fall of Jerusalem, under the symbol of Babylon was envisioned in this chapter. It pictured the overthrow of Judaism and the Jewish state as having been actually accomplished when in fact it was an apocalyptic forecast of an event still future, described in the details of past occurrence.

Verse 1

(1) The angel’s announcement--18: l-3.

This is another instance of a proleptic utterance by an angel, as the following verses of the chapter outline the successive stages of the fall and the desolation of the Babylon--Jerusalem.

The proclamation of doom was delivered by an angel having great power, a power commensurate with the magnitude of the proclamation and which signified the authority to pronounce a final doom. As a result of the proclamation the earth (land of Judea) was lightened with glory, as the heavens are aglow with lightenings attending the thunders. This was symbolic of the awe and terror of the appalling events impending.

Verse 2

The dirge of fallen Babylon in verse two, was an extension of the same vision in chapter 14:8, and was substantially the same lamentation over the fall of the ancient Babylon recorded in Isa_21:9 : “Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.” The Babylon of this chapter was symbolic of Jerusalem, and the voice of verse two was crying a threnody--a dirge of lamentation--on the day of doom for the once faithful but apostate city.

The latter part of the verse describes Jerusalem as the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. The severance of all commercial affiliations by the siege of Jerusalem and the devastation of Judea, had reduced the city to a haunt, symbolized by the demoniac habitation of evil spirts, devils and vultures. The visions of the overthrow of Tyre and Babylon in the Old Testament were combined in these same symbols.

Verse 3

The repetition in verse three of the harlot’s winecup, representing her multiplied forms of seduction. The reference to the kings of the earth was used in the sense of the rulers and authorities of Judea and Palestine; and the reference to the nations was a designation for the heathen.

They were all particeps criminus, having drunk of the harlot’s seductive wine-cup of abominations. The language was symbolic of Jerusalem’s heathen affiliations. Thus the proud capital of the Jews, once the dwelling place of God and the depository of the Oracles and the center of Judaism, by apostasy had come to destruction and was reduced to a haunt of the demon-world of heathenism, the habitat of the diabolical agents of the satanic beast.

Verse 4

(2) The call to the faithful--18:4-8.

The voice from heaven introducing verse four was a call to the faithful saints to depart from the doomed city before the calamity struck. It is manifestly parallel with the Lord’s exhortation in Mat_24:15-16 for his faithful disciples to flee Jerusalem when the signs of the impending destruction appeared.

The same call was spiritually applied by Paul to the Corinthians ( 2Co_6:14-18 ), beseeching them to cut all the ties that would bind them to heathenism or in any way maintain affiliation with the heathen world and its temple of Belial. Its derived or applied meaning was to abandon all that both Judaism and heathenism represented.

Verses 5-6

The enormity of Jerusalem’s sins which reached unto heaven are underlined in verses five and six in the exercise of the prerogatives that belongs only to God--“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord”--He remembered her iniquities, and rendered due reward double unto double, according to her works. Again, it was Lord’s answer to the altar cry of martyrs in chapter 6:10, “how long, 0 Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth.”

Verses 7-8

The description of the proud, and presumptuous city of David, which for centuries had enjoyed the admiration expressed in verse seven, to sit as queen, employed symbols of glory. The old city declared that she was no widow and would see no sorrow (of widowhood), for she was the Jerusalem of the Israel which was wedded to the God of the Jews. But verse eight bluntly decreed that destruction would come upon her in one day, as suddenly as the Lord’s statement in Mat_24:16-18 : “Then let them which be in Judea flee . . . let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.” Hence, the expression one day symbolized the suddenness of the impending judgment against Jerusalem and the shortness of time for the faithful to respond to the call to come out of her. The extended application, as in 2Co_6:17 , meant to come out of the evils and the errors of Jerusalem’s apostasies and of heathendom’s idolatries. The last line of verse eight, for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her, meant that God’s word was inexorable, and without change of purpose he would destroy the apostate city.

Verses 9-10

(3) The three-fold threnody over the ruined city-- 18:9-19.

These verses form the threnody of kings, merchants and seamen--their song of lamentation, as a dirge over Jerusalem, the fallen city. They were represented in verses nine and ten as having thrived on her harlotries, but cut off from the lucrative revenues of her commerce they were envisioned as standing afar off, offering no help but bewailing the plight of besieged Jerusalem: Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.

Verse 11

The statement of verse eleven, that the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her was parallel with chapter 1:7: “Behold, he cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” This coming referred to the destruction of Jerusalem, as in Zec_14:1-21 ; and the declaration that every eye shall see him referred to the universal knowledge of what was happening to Jerusalem; and all the kindreds (tribes) of the earth shall wail denoted the mourning of all Jewish families in all parts of the world over the destruction that had befallen their beloved city.

Verses 12-14

The rulers, merchants and mariners of Palestine bewailed the calamity for no man buyeth their merchandise any more. The valuables of the merchandise in which this trade consisted were listed in verses twelve to fourteen. The description of gold, purple and spice were symbols of the flow of commerce which characterized Jerusalem’s prosperity. But with the severance of all trade, deprived of all commerce, the authorities of Judea, the merchants and the shippers, once associated with Jerusalem in all of her luxury and wantonness, then stood aloof as witnesses of the destruction, deploring the devastation; but only to bewail her plight.

Verses 15-16

The extensive traffic in thirty articles specified by John represented the affiliations of the Jewish capital with all the heathen world. Included in this commercial revenue was the traffic in slaves, and souls of men --meaning the lives of men. There was no source of revenue from the heathen world not included in the coalition between Jerusalem and the merchants of the earth, as described in verses fifteen and sixteen.

Verses 17-19

In continuation of this resplendent description verses seventeen through nineteen recorded the lamentations of the merchant--men because the luxuries and revenues in which they had shared had come to nought and were no more at all. In unison they cried: What city is like unto this great city . . . alas, alas, that great city . . . she is made desolate. Thus the traffickers of the heathen world lamented the ignominious end of the once glorious city of Jerusalem.

Verses 20-22

( 4) The anthem of rejoicing over the fall of Apostate Jerusalem--18:20-24.

It seems unnecessary to follow the order of line by line comments on these verses, which would involve so much repetition. This last section of the chapter, verses twenty to twenty-four, represented John’s own rhapsody of rejoicing over the avenging judgment of God on Jerusalem, the once faithful city which had turned harlot. In contrast with the wailing of the associates in the harlotries of the city, John was joined in vision to the witnesses and apostles and saints who had been victims of Jerusalem’s murderous wantonness--a united chorus in celebration of the end of the abominations of Jerusalem and the obstructions of Judaism. The Lord foretold this fulfillment in Mat_23:29-38 : “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

This anticipated fulfillment of the Lord’s predictions received and written by John in the Neronic period and represented the Lord’s words, “fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.” In the symbols of this chapter verse twenty-one, the angel casts a great millstone into the sea as a sign of irretrievable doom for Jerusalem. The same symbolism was adopted in Jer_51:63-64 to signify the end of old Babylon: “And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates: And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.”

Verses 23-24

It is appropriate that the end of the symbolic Babylon, Jerusalem should be signified by the same imagery. The symbols meant the total disappearance of both the literal and the figurative Babylons. Verse twenty-three includes the symbols of the crafts of prosperity, of marriages and of merriment, all of which were to be no more; and verse twenty-four reverted to the sins of Jerusalem in the guiltiness of the blood of prophets, and of saints, and all that were slain upon the earth ( Mat_23:29-39 ). In the avenging judgment on Jerusalem the guilt of the blood of these slain ones found retribution.

It is needless to go out of the Neronic period or away from Jerusalem to find the facts of history that meet all the demands of these apocalypses. They do not fit Rome, nor any other city than Jerusalem; where the prophets, apostles and saints were slain. The usual interpretation to bring the apocalypse down through the ages to stage again the historical pageantry of the Roman empire, in the effort to find a future fulfillment, takes all the force out of the words of Christ in Mat_23:1-39 ; Mat_24:1-51 , and robs the apocalypse of its immediate message. The apostate Jerusalem was the object of the visions of Revelation, and all things else in the book were collateral to the implementation of the symbols.

The readers should not fail to consider that all these visions were recorded before the events occurred, therefore bearing a pre-destruction of Jerusalem date; and Revelation takes its place alongside the Lord’s own forecast of Mat_24:1-51 , Mar_13:1-37 , and Luk_21:1-38 , some thirty-seven years before the siege of Jerusalem, the Revelation itself bearing the date of the early part of the Neronic reign, several years previous to A. D. 70, when Jerusalem was besieged and later desolated.

It is evident that the visions of Revelation belong to the ten days period of Roman emperors from Nero to Diocletian, the period of the persecution of the church resulting from the destruction of Jerusalem. It is not a sane interpretation of the apocalyptic symbols to pass over the corresponding events of history then in process-the current events and the contemporary kings of Rome and Judah--in order to link the fulfillment of these symbols to future events which, if they should come to pass, could not provide a more perfect similitude between the symbol and the event that fulfills it than was present in the events of the history surrounding Jerusalem and Judah; and which followed in immediate rapid succession the fall of Jerusalem, Judaism and the Jewish state.

The theories of futurism would revive kingdoms that have perished, and their kings who have turned to dust; and after several thousands of years in an ultra-special sort of resurrection stage a historical pageant to parade them all before the world again in order to meet the demands of a future fulfillment of Revelation. It is not compatible with the announced purpose of the book nor the character of its symbols, the fulfillment of which was accomplished in the corresponding events of that period, and in the experiences of the churches then living--events long ago committed to the annals of history and to the archives of earth’s treasures.

Jerusalem had filled up the measure of its sin of the slain prophets and servants of God and the rejection of the Son of God, the Saviour of man. It had therefore to expiate the guilt incurred by Israel and officially accepted by the officials of the nation: His blood be upon our heads and upon the heads of our children. With this vision the judgment on Jerusalem was completed and sealed.

Bibliographical Information
Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 18". "Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/foy/revelation-18.html. 1966.
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