Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Revelation 18


Questions For Revelation Chapter Eighteen

1.After this what did John see?

2.How was the earth affected by him?

3.State the announcement he made.

4.Tell what all nations had done.

5.What had the great city become?

6.What had the kings of earth done?

7.How had the merchants fared through her?

8.From where did John hear another voice?

9.What call did it make?

10.That they might not receive what?

11.What had reached unto heaven?

12.Tell what God remembered.

13.How must she be rewarded?

14.In what proportion must it be done?

15.Of what cup must she drink?

16.On whom had she bestowed glory?

17.Tell how she had lived.

18.What boasts had she made?

19.What were to come to her?

20.Over what space of time would they come?

21.How will she be destroyed?

22.By whom will she be judged?

23.Who shall bewail her burning?

24.Tell what they had enjoyed with her.

25.State the comment of these kings.

26.Why will the merchants of the earth mourn?

27.Of what had the merchandise consisted?

28.Did it include any living beings?

29.What fruits had departed from her?

30. When were they to be returned1

31. Where will these patrons stand looking on1

32. Why stand thus1

33. What had happened in one hour1

34.Who else stood afar off?

35.For what comparison did they inquire?

36.What did they place upon their heads?

37.What were they doing at the same time?

38.Who is bid to rejoice over her?

39.Because of what could they rejoice1

40.What personage then appeared?

41.Ten what he took up.

42.What did he do with it1

43. This was to represent what city1

44. For how long will she be down?

45.What will not be heard any more?

46.Ten what trades will be discontinued.

47.What provisions will be cut short?

48.Ten what will no longer shine.

49.How will thebride and groom be affected?

50.Who were hermerchants?

51.By what weremany deceived?

52.What blood was found in her?

Verse 1

The angel had great power which is from EXOUSIA, the leading meaning of which is "authority." The possession of that qualification is explained by the fact that he came down from heaven which is the seat of all authority. It is understandable also why his glory would light up the earth, for everything that pertains to that celestial region is glorious.

Verse 2

The preceding chapter pictures conditions just prior to the revolution of the Reformation. The present chapter will extend the vision on through that period, showing the effects it will have among the nations of the world, and will predict the permanent end of the union of church and state. We should keep clearly in mind the truth that we are studying a book of symbols, and therefore we will not try to make a literal application of the symbols. However, even political and religious advantages may sometimes bring material gains to men of selfish character, hence we should not be surprised to see indications of that in some instances. The angel cried with a strong voice, which signified that his announcement was of interest to many. Babylon here means the institution formed by the union of church and state. That body had been in control since the time of Constantine, but now it is destined to be dissolved by the work of the Reformation. Babylon is fallen, is fallen; the repetition is for emphasis. The fall refers to the disolving of church and state through the influence of the Bible that had been given to the people by Luther and his fellow workers. Is become the habitation, etc. This is symbolic and the language is formed from what literally happened to the ancient city of Babylon after it was destroyed by it.s conqueror. The description of that destruction from which our verse gets its symbols may be seen in Isaiah 13:19-22 and Jeremiah 50:35-40.

Verse 3

Wine of the wrath of her fornication. This combines several symbolical thoughts. Wine suggests drunkenness and that is used figuratively sometimes to mean being beside oneself through the influence of false doctrine, which certainly was an outstanding characteristic of Rome. It also stands for the wrath of God upon evildoers, and fornication refers to intimacy with unlawful organizations.Kings and merchants all reaped personal advantages from their subjects and customers, because they were duped into thinking they should submit to the wishes of their superiors.

Verse 4

Come out of her my people. Even after the work of the reformers was well under way, and the institution of Babylon as a body had fallen, there were still some individuals connected with the church part of the former institution who were honest and at heart were desirous of serving God. They are the ones who are called my people because the Lord considered them true to the testimony of Christ as far as they had been permitted to learn it. Now if they will heed the call to come out and line up with the workers of the Reformation they will be received by Him. If they refuse to heed this call they will have to receive of her plagues. will come out and then use their influence to expose the harlot (which many people did as shown in various histories of the Reformation), they will bring about a chastisement of her that is figuratively described as making her drink a double measure of her own wine.

Verse 5

Sins have reached unto heaven means the corruptions of Rome were an offense to heaven, and also had become notoriously public so that God remembered (took unfavorable notice of) her iniquities.

Verse 6

The pronoun you refers to "my people" in the preceding verse. Human beings cannot bring judgment upon a universal body of corruption by mere human strength. But if they

Verse 7

The leaders in Rome or Babylon had been living a selfish life at the expense of their helpless dupes. Now that they have been undeceived by the workers in the Reformation, they are urged to make their condemnation all the more severe upon her. A queen would be in good circumstances in that she would have one on whom to depend for support and would have no sorrow or anxiety.

Verse 8

One day cannot be restricted to a period of24hours, but the things predicted of her will come on the same day or by the same cause. That will be the effects of opening the eyes of the nations that have been oppressed by her. The mourni-ng will be literal and it will be over the loss of her former power. Utterly burned with fire denotes that the fire of God"s jealousy will bring utter (complete) destruction to the combination of church and state—-not to each separately, but the combination will be dissolved for ever.

Verse 9

Kings of the earth had been protected in their defrauding of the uninformed people. Committed fornication. Rome has been called a harlot hence those who have been intimate with her are guilty of fornication. It is natural for them to lament seeing her burning (under the fiery judgments of God.)

Verse 10

The symbols are changed from a woman to a city. But it means the same thing for the mother of harlots had her seat where she carried on her adulterous practices in the city of Babylon. Of course to see her "red light district" going up in smoke means the end of her trade. One hour is used here to mean the same period as one day in verse8.

Verse 11

The merchants were the prominent leaders in Rome who had been reaping much gain (both political and material) by imposing their false doctrines on them. There will now be no demand for such "wares" for the customers will have learned that they had been defrauded. .

Verse 12-13

All of the articles named in this paragraph are literal products, and doubtless the leaders in the corrupt institution dealt in such property for their own selfish enjoyment, but the literal articles are used as symbols of the selfish enjoyments they had by being able to extract the services of the dupes under them.

Verse 14

This virtually continues the same prediction that is made in the preceding verses, but I will call attention to the words about these gains that thou shalt find them no more at all. That means the advantages once enjoyed by Babylon (church and state) were never again to be enjoyed by her as before because she will never exist again to enjoy them.

Verse 15

This is virtually the same lament that is described in verse9, 10, because of their loss of unlawful privileges at the expense of the people. For the fear of her torment denotes that the sight of such a burning will give them a feeling of horror. Lest the reader gets lost in all this array of figurative judgments, I shall again state that it is a symbolical picture of the political and religious revolution that came upon the old wicked institution of Rome, after the work of the Reformation broke up the great conspiracy.

Verse 16

The items mentioned are used symbolically, but there is some special appropriateness in the materials named. The formalities of the old Pagan Roman ceremonies were copied by the clergy of Papal Rome. Linen was used for the official robes in the services, and purple and scarlet were the royal colors. The garments were decked literally with gold and precious stones. The city is said to have all these decorations because the scarlet woman was located in the city for her corrupt practices.

Verse 17

One hour calls for the same comments that are offered at verse10. The chapter as a whole is a vision in symbolic form, yet the institution of Babylon or Rome was so widespread, that it was logical to include many of the activities of the members of it. Hence the people interested in the traflic of the see. are brought into the picture, among those whose selfish practices were to be cut off by the downfall of the city.

Verse 18

What city is like means a general statement of her greatness as of the past, for now she is very low and worthless since she is belng destroyed by fire.

Verse 19

There is not much change in the significance of the symbols of this verse. Casting dust on their heads as an ancient custom to give expression to feelings of mourning and dismay ( Joshua 7:6; Job 2:12; Lamentations 2:10). One hour is the same figurative phrase that is in verse10. .Made desolate means that Babylon the Great as the union of church-and state was to be deserted and cease to be.

Verse 20

The speaker is still the voice from heaven (verse4) which is bidding the apostles and prophets to rejoice over the downfall of Babylon (union of church and state). It was especially-appropriate to congratulate these great servants of God, because they had been foremost in defending the lawful church of the Lord against the encroachments of the apostate church. Now that the conspiracy formed by the union of church and state was thrust down, they had great and just reason to rejoice.

Verse 21

Mighty angel is said to indicate the size or weight of the stone that was to be handled. The stone was like great millstones which were heavy, and their weight was such that if they were thrown into the water they would most assuredly sink; nor would such an object float back up to the surface. That is doubtless why Jesus used it in his comparison of the irreparable fate of certain sinners ( Matthew 18:6). After this mighty angel had cast the stone into the sea he made his explanation of the symbol; it represented the casting down of Babylon. We know it does not mean literal Babylon for that city had not been in existence for centuries ( Isaiah 13:19-22). We know also it does not apply to the religious part of the corrupt institution (though it also was known as Babylon), for that apostate church is not to be destroyed until Jesus comes ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8). Hence this can apply only to the Babylon that was composed of church and state. When the stone that represented it was cast into the sea, the angel said that it shall be found no more at all. From the foregoing evidences we are given the divine assurance that there will never be another world-wide union of church and state.

Verse 22-23

The enterprises and activities of human interest that are mentioned in these verses have all been considered in this chapter and under stood to have a symbolical meaning. In this paragraph they may be used in both symbolical and literal senses. In either sense the announce ment is made that they will never be done again. However, this is not true until we apply it in the light of a proviso that is stated as follows. The phrase in thee is used five times in these two verses, and that is the key to the subject, There is not an interest mentioned that will not continue to be practiced as long as the world stands. But they will not be done "in thee" (Babylon as the union of church and state), for that institution will have gone down never to rise again.

Verse 24

This short verse is merely a summing up of the crimes that have been committed by Babylon, on account of which she was doomed to complete overthrow.

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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 18". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.