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Revelation 18

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-24


Section Fifteenth

First Special End-Judgment; Judgment upon Babylon. Earth-picture. (Ch. 18)

General.—That essential judgment of Babylon which lies in her very appearance, and has been manifested in the light of Heaven, is here unfolded on earth in a distinct series of evolutions.

The first Act of the judgment, as executed by the Angel from Heaven, consists of the verdict upon Babylon, the sentence of Divine justice.

The second Act is the incipient execution of the judgment in the social sphere of justice. It is divided into two actions: (1) The people of God go out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4; Revelation 18:6), and (2) the world is commissioned to react against Babylon in pursuance of the same law of violence which she herself has exercised (Revelation 18:6; Revelation 18:8). The universality of her judgment is expressed in the despair and lamentation of all her allies, who are too cowardly to take her part, but yet are stricken with her. The third Act is the complete historic repudiation of Babylon, executed by the strong Angel with a millstone, in a symbolic act.

The whole constitutes the greatest tragedy of the world, complete in three or five Acts, according to the greater or less prominence bestowed upon the middle items:

1. The guilt of Babylon towards humanity;
2. The exode of the people of God from her;
3. The reaction of the hostile world against her;
4. The lamentation of her friends—a prelude to the final catastrophe;
5. The final catastrophe.
The Angel who, descending from Heaven, lightens the earth with his radiance, and proclaims the fall of Babylon, is also, without doubt, the actual spiritual author of her judgment. For he has great authority, and transports her judgment from Heaven to earth. That is, that judgment which is already declared in the sphere of the celestial Spirit, with the delineation of the character of Babylon, now, through the heavenly illumination proceeding from the Angel, becomes a subject of the universal consciousness of mankind. We hold that the Angel represents evangelic Christianity in the full development of the beauty of its moral and humane principles. For Babylon has outraged all these principles, from liberty of conscience to the recognition of public law. She has perverted her claim to be the educator of mankind into the exact opposite, having become the seducer and destroyer of humanity.

The cry of this Angel is followed by the voice from Heaven, the sentence of the heavenly Spirit, the law of the Kingdom of God—declaratory, on the one hand, of the right of the Church (come forth out of her) and, on the other hand, of the right of the State (recompense to her), and expressing itself, thirdly, as the spirit of history and poetry, in the portrayal of the great lamentations. The tragic coloring of this entire judgment-scene is distinctly brought out in all this; it is particularly prominent, however, in the symbolic execution of the final catastrophe.

Special.—[Revelation 18:1.] Who is the Angel who comes down from Heaven, and whose glory lightens the earth?—[Revelation 18:2.] The mighty cry over Babylon. Fallen! fallen! or the perfect certainty that Babylon will fall on earth, even as she has already fallen in the sight of God.—Contrast betwixt what Babylon should be and what she has become.—[Revelation 18:3.] Babylon’s transgression against mankind: (1) against the nations, (2) against the kings, (3) against the rich and great.—[Revelation 18:4.] Call to the people of God, to come out from Babylon: 1. Meaning of the call; 2. Motive of the call; 3. Neglect of the call (latitudinarianism); 4. Misinterpretation of the call (separatism).—[Revelation 18:4; Revelation 18:6.] Diverse conduct of the Church and the world toward guilty Babylon.—Retributory right of the world. This remains pure only in so far as it remains an execution of the right and keeps itself free from fanaticism.—[Revelation 18:8.] Recompense of corporeal fiery judgments by a social and spiritual judgment of fire.—[Revelation 18:7-8.] Contrast between the haughty self-blinding of Babylon and her imminent and great day of judgment.—The City of the Seven Mountains: yesterday and today.—[Revelation 18:9-19.] The three lamentations of the world over the fall of Babylon. Common characteristics of them: 1. A view of her fall; 2. A standing afar off and refraining from taking her part; 3. A participation in the stroke that has fallen upon her—but in the sorrow of this world, with no recognition of the justice of the blow, of its nature as a judgment, or of the Judge Who has inflicted it.—Heaven’s judgments, earth’s tragedies.—[Revelation 18:9-10.] Lamentation of the kings (see Exeg. Notes).—[Revelation 18:11; Revelation 18:15-17]. Lamentation of the great, the supporters of the luxury of the earth.—, [Revelation 18:17-19]. Lamentation of the pilots or tradesmen.—Community and division of egoistical interests in the lamentations over the fall of Babylon.—Ironical enumeration of the depreciated goods of Babylon (Revelation 18:12-14).—As the Church in its way, and the State in its way, so science and art in their way are concerned in the judgment upon Babylon.—The unspiritual lamentation of the world over the fall of Babylon contains the germ of that judgment which is later to descend upon the world.—[Revelation 18:21.] The symbolic act of the strong Angel, a representation of the grand final catastrophe itself.—[Revelation 18:22-23.] Babylon’s desolation. Her spiritual desolation shall be followed by an æsthetic desolation, and to this a desolation of business and of home life shall succeed.

Revelation 18:24. The summit of Babylon’s guilt: she is the murderess of the prophets and saints.—This verse is supplemental to Revelation 18:3.

Starke: Revelation 18:2; comp. Isaiah 21:7; Jeremiah 51:8 The repetition of the word [fallen] is indicative of the greatness and certainty of the fall.

Revelation 18:4. This exode is based upon a gracious leading out on the part of God. There are certain grades in the execution of it, and it is performed as follows: 1. With the heart, by a right belief and acknowledgment of the truth, and hatred of false doctrine; 2. With the mouth, by a public confession of the truth, and rejection of errors; 3. With the body, by a going away from those places in which Babylon has its throne and superstition.—God’s people and Church are, partially, still in Babylon, although hidden; otherwise God could not command them to come out.—[Revelation 18:5.] Sins that cry unto Heaven (Genesis 4:10), whose measure is full, and upon which final ruin follows.

Revelation 18:7. These words are taken from Isaiah 47:5-10. The greater the security and pride of the wicked, the more terrible is their punishment.

Revelation 18:8. As Babylon burned innocent martyrs with fire, so shall she herself be burned with fire.

Revelation 18:10. The fear of torment may cause us (outwardly) to remove far from those with whom we have sinned, but love to God alone can make their sin odious to us.

Revelation 18:12. Quesnel: Let us gather treasures that will endure to eternity; nought is eternal save that which is done with a view to eternity. Revelation 18:16. The world does not mourn over the loss of eternal salvation, but over the loss of riches and external magnificence.

Revelation 18:20. It is at the downfall of evil, and at Divine vengeance that the pious rejoice; not out of a carnal mind and self-love, but by the ordinance of God and from the love of righteousness (Psalms 91:8).

Revelation 18:21. The wicked fall into the abyss of perdition as stones fall into the abyss of the sea. That which the world regards as highly exalted finally meets with the deeper fall (Ezekiel 21:26).

Revelation 18:24. The slaughter of true believers under the papacy is like the murder of the saints in the beginning of the world.—Great cities are destroyed on account of the many and enormous sins that are committed in them.—God reckons to the charge of the wicked all the sins of their ancestors, because they tread in their foot-steps (and the guilt of their ancestors attains its consummation and meridian in them).

Schlüssel Offenb. Joh. durch einen Kreuzritter (p. 289): The most terrible thing for a human community is when the salt of the earth, that should preserve it from corruption, is taken out of it by death or emigration, when the props of the rotten building give way, when Lot is led forth from Sodom, because there are not even, ten righteous men therein.

[From M. Henry: Revelation 18:4. Those that are resolved to partake with wicked men in their sins must receive of their plagues.

Revelation 18:5. When the sins of a people reach up to heaven, the wrath of God will reach down to earth.

Revelation 18:7. God will proportion the punishment of sinners to the measure of their wickedness, pride and security.

Revelation 18:9-19. The pleasures of sin are but for a season, and they will end in dismal sorrow.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 18". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/revelation-18.html. 1857-84.
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