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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 18



Babylon is fallen. The people of God are commanded to depart out of her. The kings of the earth, with the merchants and mariners, lament over her. The saints rejoice for the judgments of God upon her.

Anno Domini 96.

Verse 1

Revelation 18:1.— In the former chapter, the angel interpreter has given us a key to the meaning of the prophesy, which describes this third and most lasting period, wherein the saints were to suffer for their faith and constancy; that they might expect a time of temptation and suffering; that they might be more careful through grace to confirm their faith and patience, and encourage each other to perseverance. This chapter represents another angel sent from heaven, to reveal the sure judgments of God on these enemies of the pure Christian religion; to foretel their sure destruction, and that in as eminent a manner as God ever appeared to punish Babylon and Tyre, the ancient enemies of true religion. This part of the prophesyis very fit and proper for the general design of it; to caution good Christians against the corruption of the times in which they live; and to give them consolation in all their sufferings through confidence in the protection of God, and through hope of deliverance in a proper time, and of a glorious reward in the end.

Verses 1-8

Revelation 18:1-8. I saw another angel, &c.— After the account of the state and condition of spiritual Babylon, here follows a description of her fall and destruction, in the same sublime and figurative style as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel have foretold the fall of Babylon and Tyre, the types and emblems of this spiritual Babylon. A mighty and glorious angel descends from heaven, and proclaims (as in chap. Revelation 14:8.) the fall of Babylon,and,togetherwithherpunishment,thecrimeswhichdeservedit; her idolatry and wickedness. It is farther added, that after her fall she shall be made a scene of desolation, and become the habitation of hateful birds and beasts of prey; as the prophet also predicted concerning ancient Babylon, Isa 13:21 . Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there,—and satyrs shall dance there: where the word which we render satyrs, the Septuagint translate demons, or devils. But if this fall of Babylon was effected by Totilas king of the Ostrogoths, as Grotius affirms; or by Alaric king of the Visigoths, as the bishop of Meaux contends; how can Rome be said ever since to have been the habitation of devils, &c. unless they will allow the popes and cardinals to merit these appellations? The word rendered delicacies, Revelation 18:3. (στρηνους,) seems to signify such luxury of diet as cherishes wantonness, and disposes to acts of unchastity; and may well represent the manner in which the Roman clergy have pampered themselves, and the effects it has produced; as well as the idolatries which have been established and maintained to support that luxury. Another voice is also heard from heaven, (Revelation 18:4.) exhorting all Christians to forsake the communion of so corrupt a church, lest they should be partakers of her sins, and of her plagues; and at the same time denouncing that her punishment should be great and extraordinary, in proportion to her crimes. But was there any such necessity for forsaking the church of Rome in the days of Alaric, or Totilas, before she had yet degenerated again into idolatry? Or what were then her notorious crimes, deserving of such exemplary punishment, unless Rome Christian was to suffer for the sins of Rome Pagan? She saith in her heart, (Revelation 18:7.) like ancient Babylon, Isa 47:7-8 . I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow; but notwithstanding, she shall be utterly burned with fire, &c. Revelation 18:8. These expressions can imply no less than a total destruction by fire; but Rome has never yet been totally destroyed by fire: the most that Alaric and Totilas did, was burning some parts of the city; but if only some parts of the city were burnt, it was not an event important enough to be ascribed to the Lord God particularly, and to be considered as a strong exertion of his judgment.

Verses 9-20

Revelation 18:9-20. And the kings of the earth, &c.— In the very solemn manner described in the verses before us, by an angel, and by a voice from heaven, is declared the fall of Rome, and her destruction by fire; and then are set forth the consequences of her fall, the lamentations of some, and the rejoicings of others. The kings of her communion, who have committed fornication, and lived deliciously with her, bewail and lament her fall, (Revelation 18:9-10.) But what kings were they, who lived deliciously with old Rome, and had reason to lament her fall? The merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, (Revelation 18:11-17.) for there is an end of all traffic and commerce with her, whether spiritual or temporal; for it is intimated, Rev 18:13 that they make merchandise of the souls as well as of the bodies of men. The ship-masters &c. weep and wail, (Revelation 18:17-19.) for they can no longer import or export commodities for her, or convey strangers to and fro; for there is an end of all her costliness. These lamentations are similar to the lamentations over Tyre in Ezekiel 26:0; Ezekiel 27:0 and are equal to the most mournful strains of the Greek poets over Thebes or Troy. In all, they stand afar off (Revelation 18:10; Revelation 18:15; Revelation 18:17.) as if they were unable or afraid to help and assist her. In all, they cry, alas! alas! (Revelation 18:10; Revelation 18:16; Revelation 18:19.) which is the third woe, or alas, mentioned, ch. Rev 8:13 Revelation 11:14.; for as the fall of the Othman empire is the end of the second woe, so the fall of Rome is the completion of the third woe. In all, they lament the suddenness of her fall, (Revelation 18:10; Revelation 18:17; Revelation 18:19.) for in one hour is her destruction come. At the same time her destruction is matter of joy and triumph, Rev 18:20 to the holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged them on her: but what reason had the Christians to rejoice over the calamities brought on Rome by Alaric or Totilas, in which theythemselves were the principal sufferers? And how were these calamities any vindication of their cause, or of the cause of true religion?

Verses 21-24

Revelation 18:21-24. A mighty angel took up a stone, &c.— Farther to confirm the sudden fall and irrecoverable destruction of Rome, an emblem is given, similar to that in Jeremiah 51:63-64. A mighty angel casteth a milstone into the sea, Rev 18:21 declaring, that with the same violence this great city shall be cast down, and shall never rise again. Her utter desolation is farther described, Rev 18:22-23 in phrases similar to those of the ancient prophets (Isaiah 24:8. Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9; Jeremiah 25:10. Ezekiel 26:13.). There shall be no more musicians for the entertainment of the rich and great; no more tradesmen or artificers, to furnish the conveniences of life; no more servants or slaves, to grind the mill, or to supply the necessaries of life: nay, there shall be no more lights, no more bridal songs; the city shall never be peopled again by new marriages, but shall remain depopulated for ever. For which utter desolation, there are assigned these reasons, (Revelation 18:23-24.)—her pride and luxury; her superstition and idolatry; her tyranny and cruelty. Her punishment shall be as severe and exemplary as if she had been guilty of all the persecutions that ever were upon the account of religion; for by her conduct she had approved, imitated, and surpassed them all. But Rome has never yet been depopulated and desolated in this manner: she was taken indeed and plundered by Alaric king of the Visigoths in the year 410, by Genseric king of the Vandals in the year 455, by Totilas king of the Ostrogoths in the year 546, and by others since: but yet she is still standing and flourishing, and is honoured by many nations as the metropolis of the Christian world; she still resounds with singers and musicians; she still excels in arts which serve to pomp and luxury; she still abounds with candles and lamps, and torches, burning even by day as well as night; and consequently this prophesy has not yet been, but remains yet to be fulfilled. Before we conclude our comment on this chapter, we cannot but take notice of the remarkable force and beauty of the words rendered, Thus with violence shall, &c. be thrown down, Revelation 18:21. The original signifies literally, shall be hurled away with violence; intimating, that if it fell by its own weight, its fall would not be rapid enough.

Inferences and REFLECTIONS.—From the particular detail which is here given us, of the various commodities in which Babylon traded with its merchants, we may surely take an incidental occasion to reflect upon the rich bounty of divine Providence to the children of men, in giving them such a variety of good things, which tend not only to their necessary support, but their ornament and delight. To whatever pernicious purposes vanity and luxury may abuse the silver and the gold, the gems and the pearls, the fine linen, and silk, the purple and scarlet, the ivory and marble, the cinnamon and the myrrh, as well as the more important blessings of wheat and oil, of kine, and sheep, and horses, all are the gifts of God; and, if wisely and properly used, may justly excite our thankfulness to him; and it is on ourselves, and not on him, that we are to charge it, if what should have been for our welfare, becomes a trap, and our treasures be turned into idols. Nor is the wise disposition of Providence to be disregarded, in causing many of these things to be the peculiar producers of different countries, denying to some what he has given to the rest, that so traffic and commerce may be encouraged, and, by its society and intercourse extended among different nations, and provision made for that spread of divine knowledge, which had, in many instances, been almost impossible, if human industry, quickened by necessity, and the prospect of gain, had not invented those arts of navigation, to which Great Britain, above all other nations, is so much indebted, and without which, indeed, our beautiful and fruitful island had been a desert, inaccessible to men.

But, though this oblique reflection may profitably be made, the great object to which we are directed by this chapter, is the certain and final ruin of Babylon, which, how highly soever exalted, how superbly soever adorned, how luxuriously soever regaled, shall fall, shall fall as a milstone cast into the sea. Strong is the Lord God who judgeth her; and it is impossible she can withstand the force of his omnipotent arm. Long has she, in a metaphorical sense, been the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird; and God will make her so in another, even in a literal sense, when he shall appear to remember and punish those iniquities, which have reached unto heaven; among which, various and detestable as they have been, shedding the blood of the prophets and the saints must be reckoned as most enormous. Let no triumph of the antichristian powers, for the present, shake our faith in these most certain and indubitable prophesies; and let that charge never be forgotten, "Come forth from her, O my people, and be separate." Blessed be God, that a separation has been begun, that it has been so long supported, and that so many attempts to bring back God's Israel into captivity have been defeated. May the boundaries of the Reformation be extended! may the purity of the reformed churches be more and more advanced, and all remainders of superstition, persecution, and imposition, be taken away. And, to conclude all, let those who are now living deliciously, and glorifying themselves in the forgetfulness of God, abusing the various gifts of his bounty to his dishonour, and saying in their hearts, that they shall see no sorrow, remember how suddenly their state may be changed; how quickly they may sink into the depths of misery, proportionable to the height of their abused prosperity; and experience a torment and sorrow, which will be doubly bitter in the remembrance of their former condition. Let such, therefore, in whatever rank of life they are, according to the words of Daniel to the most illustrious king of Babylon, (Daniel 4:27.) Break off their sins by righteousness, and their iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor, if it may be a lengthening out of their tranquillity; and give glory to God, before all their cheerful light be exchanged for darkness, and all the harmony of their music for weeping and wailing, groaning and lamentation for ever.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 18". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.