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Bible Commentaries

William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation
Revelation 18

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-24

Babylon, the City, and Its Final Doom

Revelation 18:1-24

Outline:

1. The second angelic announcement (Revelation 18:1-3).

2. The call to God's people to flee out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4-5).

3. The final character of Babylon's sin-now become full-godless world-commerce (Revelation 18:12-17, Revelation 18:23 b).

4. The mode of Babylon's final overthrow: catastrophic-in "one hour," and direct: from God's hand (Revelation 18:8, Revelation 18:19, Revelation 18:21).

5. The "mourning" of earth's kings and merchants (Revelation 18:9-11, Revelation 18:15-19).

6. The awful perpetual curse of desolation upon Babylon (Revelation 18:2, Revelation 18:22-23).

7. The cumulative guilt of Babylon: the blood of prophets, saints and all earth's murdered (Revelation 18:24).

8. The solemn fact that her judgment was decided by the saints in heaven (Revelation 18:20).

9. The unlimited joy of heaven over this final judgment of Babylon (verse 20 and Revelation 19:1-5 -The four hallelujahs).

10. Babylon's people doomed to eternal flames (Revelation 19:3).

Before we proceed with this great chapter which reveals the sudden ending under divine wrath of the present world system, let us say a few words concerning the real meaning of the spirit of commercialism which has been seizing tighter hold every hour upon so-called civilization and will be the cause of its wreck.

The Character of Commerce

1. It is not of God-especially world-commerce, but is of man and of Satan.

2. God placed His nation, Israel, in a land where commerce with other nations was very nearly impossible. Palestine had no harbors. On the East and South were deserts; at the North, mountains with only a narrow "entering in." Jehovah expressly forbade the multiplying of horses, and also of silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).

3. North of Israel, the city of Tyre on the Mediterranean coast became the great maritime center of the earth and upon it was pronounced the terrible judgment of Ezekiel 26:1-21; Ezekiel 27:1-36; Ezekiel 28:1-26. Chapter 26, too, reveals Tyre's envy of Jerusalem as a place where the peoples of the earth should resort and her desire to turn to herself in a commercial way, that gathering of peoples whom God meant to be instructed at Jerusalem in a spiritual way (as all the ends of the earth came to hear the wisdom of Solomon).

4. Israel's commercial dealings corrupted her both in the days of Solomon and Jehoshaphat. "Judah, and the land of Israel, they were thy traffickers (Tyre's): they traded for thy merchandise wheat of Minnith, and pannag, and honey, and oil, and balm" (Ezekiel 27:17).

Zechariah closes his prophecy concerning the Millennium: "In that day there shall be no more a Canaanite (literally, trafficker) in the house of Jehovah of hosts."

5. International commerce:

a. Enables man to avoid as far as possible God's command to till the earth and to live by the sweat of his brow.

b. Tends to unify the humanity that God has definitely divided into nations, for the very purpose of covering the earth with the spirit of self-confidence and rebellion as before Babel (Genesis 11:1-32).

c. Enables individuals, cities and nations to become unduly swollen with riches. It begets universal covetousness, which is idolatry-in that the man who has money, can be independent of God. Govett well says: "The opposition to the spirit of commerce which this Book of God shows, is very remarkable, especially as running in direct contrast to the avowed plans of rulers and peoples of our day. ‘Cherish COMMERCE,' is one of the great admitted ends of statesmanship. But its effects upon the mind are generally productive of covetousness."

6. The nature of commerce is very simple. You take your products (generally by ships) where you can get the highest price; fill your ship there and again sail where you get the high price, and again load your ship at a low cost with wares desirable in other countries, and so on and on. Now this is not tilling the ground and living quietly. God hates it and will destroy it utterly. What God wants, is that each man live beneath "his own vine and fig-tree," "content with such things" as he has. "Big business" is an abomination. It will be the ruination of the world.

7. "Business" is an excuse most common in the thoughts of men for not serving God (and yet shortly they will stand before God!) Millions of men really think that "business" has a real claim upon them. [The correct reading of Romans 12:11 is found in the Revised Version:-"In diligence not slothful; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; (referring wholly to diligence in the spiritual life, as see context)-rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing steadfastly in prayer"; etc. "Business" is not in that at all.]

8. We see the wickedness of the spirit of commercialism both from the fearful power exercised by the Beast of Revelation 13:1-18, forbidding either selling or buying without "his mark" stamped upon the hand or upon the forehead, and also from chapter 18 of Revelation. It is atheistic; it is self-indulgent; it is self-confident: "I sit a queen."

9. The difficulties experienced by God's dear saints of all days on account of "business" claims is proverbial. The spirit of commercialism, which has seized upon the human race, is fast blotting out real human ties (home, church or country). ["In what, indeed, does the mightiest and farthest reaching power on earth now already center? A power which looms up in all lands, far above all individual or combined powers of church, or state, or caste, or creed? What is it that today monopolizes nearly all legislation, dictates international treaties, governs the conferences of kings for the regulation of the balance of power, builds railways, cuts ship-canals, sends forth steamer lines to the ends of the earth, unwinds electric wires across continents, under the seas, and around the world, employs thousands of engineers, subsidizes the press, tells the state of the markets of the world yesterday that everyone may know how to move today, and has her living organizations in every land and city, interlinked with each other, and coming daily into closer and closer combination, so that no great government under the sun can any longer move or act against her will, or without her concurrence and consent?

"Think for a moment, for there is such a power; a power that is everywhere clamoring for a common code, a common currency, common weights and measures; and which is not likely to be silenced or to stop till it has secured a common center on its own independent basis, whence to dictate to all countries and to exercise its own peculiar rule on all the kings and nations of the earth. That power is COMMERCE; the power of the ephah and the talent-the power borne by the winged women of Zechariah 5:1-11; the one with her hand on the sea and the other with her hand on the land-the power which even in its present dismemberment is mightier than any pope, any throne, any government, or any other one human power on the face of the globe.

"Let it go on as it has been going, and will go, in spite of everything that earth can interpose to hinder, dissolving every tie of nationality, every bond of family or kindred, every principle or right and religion which it cannot bend and render subservient to its own ends and interests; and the time must come when it will settle itself down somewhere on its own independent base, and where Judaism and heathenism, Romanism and Protestantism, Mohammedanism and Buddhism, and every distinction of nationality-English, German, French, Italian, Greek, Turk, Hindoo, Arab, Chinese, Japanese, or what not-shall be sank in one great universal fellowship and kingdom of commerce!"- (From Seiss; "On the Apocalypse" written in 1865.)]

We scarcely know how far we have drifted. Our forefathers were content with their living. They had domestic ties, "family reunions," quiet church affiliations, gladly worshipping in the same old church, generation after generation. They had deep, kind, loving patriotism.

But the forgetting of God is fast falling upon earth under the soul-stifling power of universal greed. Such delusive catch words as "a higher standard of living" have poisoned the streams of the life of the world. "Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have," said Paul. "We brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; but having food and covering we shall be therewith content." "Godliness with contentment is great gain." Everybody wants to be rich-which damns its tens of millions! "Get up in the world." "Get on in the world!" What lies! What will-o'-the-wisps of Satan to be followed by folks whose feet shall shortly stumble into open graves!

10. Commercialism brings spiritual deadness and insensibility as nothing else does. Once consent in your heart that "business" has a claim upon you and your spiritual life begins to shrivel. For a man to do an honest day's work is not to yield to the claims that "business" makes upon humanity. God told us to work, to work with our hands, to do with our might what our hands find to do, to do the humblest tasks, even those of a slave, as unto the Lord. The thing called "business" has to be discerned distinctly by you if you are to understand the hideousness into which the whole world will leap, and alas, how shortly!

"Depression" is, I have no doubt, an answer to prayer, as was the famine in Ahab's idolatrous days an answer to Elijah's prayers. Civilization goes mad to get rich-anything to get rich! Now this simply means anything to gain independence of God. The Lord Jesus said, "Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."

And God in His mercy has let men come to realize the deceitfulness of riches. "Have your hope," said Paul, "set on God, and not on ‘the uncertainty of riches.'" The Lord Jesus said to His saints, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures, upon the earth … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." What He meant by the right use of money, He shows in the parable (Luke 16:1-31) of the unjust steward, whose master commended as wise, the lavishing of that master's funds upon others, when the steward found he must give account. Then He said, "I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when it shall fail (as it will), they (those you have helped) may welcome you into the eternal tabernacles" (R. V.).

After these things I saw another angel coming down out of heaven, having great authority; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried with a mighty voice, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and is become a habitation of demons, and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird. For by the wine of the wrath of her fornication all the nations are fallen; and the kings of the earth committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth waxed rich by the power of her wantonness.

"Another angel"-than that of Revelation 17:7; not Christ, who is not "another" angel: He is the Angel of Jehovah. (See notes on Revelation 10:1.) Christ, the Lamb in heaven, has given this angel "great authority." (Christ Himself has all authority in heaven and on earth.) Nor is this angel to be confused with our Lord's second coming in Revelation 19:11-16. This angel's "glory" marks the greatness of the occasion.

The fact that this angel is additional to the one of chapter 17, is one of the proofs that the Babylon of chapter 18 is Babylon on the Euphrates rather than Rome (which is the mystery Babylon of chapter 17).

"Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great." The double use of "fallen" emphasizes the fact which excellent expositors have found here-that of the double overthrow of chapters 17 and 18.

"A habitation of demons, and a hold," etc. Alford calls "hold" (phulake), "a place of detention, as it were, an appointed prison." This is the evident meaning, so that the city of Babylon on the Euphrates during the Millennium will be a jail of demons. Compare Isaiah 24:21-23; which is millennial also, and the judgment upon Edom, in Isaiah 34:13-15; also millennial. (Of course these conditions give way to the last judgment-when the earth is destroyed, in 20:11-15, and all lost beings are finally sentenced.)

"Kings … and the merchants." It is the last phase of Babylon, which is seen from Genesis 11:1-32 to Revelation; being first the city on the Euphrates which practiced idolatry and opposed God's city Jerusalem; then in "mystery"-the harlot on the seven hills of Rome, continuing Babylon's ancient trinity of father, mother and son, under Christian names; and finally, after the Church is raptured (4:1), the re-established world-capital at Babylon on the Euphrates, whose prophesied destruction like Sodom, has not yet taken place. Thus the human race would combine to set up Babylon, which becomes the center of commercial world-activity. Of Tyre, God wrote in Isaiah 23:1-18 that she was a "bestower of crowns, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honorable of the earth." While the nations rush to rebuild Babylon and it becomes the Beast's capital, then at last will be the full "power of her luxury" as described in Revelation 18:3 (margin).

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come forth, my people, out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues: for her sins have reached even unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Render unto her even as she rendered, and double unto her the double according to her works: in the cup which she mingled, mingle unto her double. How much soever she glorified herself, and waxed wanton, so much give her of torment and mourning: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall in no wise see mourning. Therefore in one day shall her plagues come, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judged her. And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived wantonly with her, shall weep and wail over her, when they look upon the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, for no man buyeth their merchandise any more.

"Come forth, My people, out of her."

While these words have a real application to the believer to come forth to Jesus outside the spiritual Babylon-ecclesiasticism, Nicolaitanism and the false promises of "mystery" Babylon in its various forms; yet the particular interpretation of the words is not to the saints, who will have been raptured before this call goes forth. The call to "come forth" from this great commercial Sodom of the last days-rebuilt Babylon is evidently issued to those individuals living in or doing business in that capital of the Antichrist in the last days. In Isaiah 52:11 and Jeremiah 50:8; Jeremiah 51:6; Jeremiah 51:9; Jeremiah 51:45, we see that it will be especially Jewish saints and those attached to them that are warned; for they are bidden in Jeremiah 51:50 to "Remember Jehovah from afar, and let Jerusalem come into your mind."

Now in Revelation 18:4-20 the "voice from heaven" of Revelation 18:4 is speaking. It is most solemn: the sure word of prophecy declaring to the opened ear a scene yet future with a vividness that makes it live before us!

Merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stone, and pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet; and all thymine wood, and every vessel of ivory, and every vessel made of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble; and cinnamon, and spice, and incense, and ointment, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and cattle and sheep; and merchandise of horses and chariots and slaves; and souls of men. And the fruits which thy soul lusted after … and all things that were dainty and sumptuous … The merchants of these things … were made rich by her … she … was arrayed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stone and pearl! … So great riches … And every shipmaster, and everyone that saileth any whither, and mariners, and as many as gain their living by sea, stood afar off, and cried out as they looked upon the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like the great city? And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and mourning, saying, Woe, woe, the great city, wherein all that had their ships in the sea were made rich by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye saints, and ye apostles, and ye prophets; for God hath judged your judgment on her. And a strong angel took up a stone as it were a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying, thus with a mighty fall shall Babylon, the great city, be cast down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers and minstrels and flute-players and trumpeters shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft, shall be found any more at all in thee; and the voice of a mill shall be heard no more at all in thee; and the light of a lamp shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the princes of the earth; for with thy sorcery were all the nations deceived.

We must remember that the Beast and his ten kings of chapter 17 made desolate the woman that sat on the seven mountains-Romanism (17:9, 16). But the overthrow of chapter 18 is directly from God: "in one day" "in one hour," (Revelation 18:8; Revelation 18:10; Revelation 18:17; Revelation 18:19). This overthrow is lamented by the kings of the earth.

Russia teaches us lessons here. For although she has burned churches and martyred priests and preachers, she is desperately seeking to build up commerce, to "industrialize" a whole nation in five years, to create markets by any means whatever! Russia would be self-sufficient, but for this curse of commerce that is filling the earth. Russia could close her harbors and have abundance to supply all her real needs, if her rulers were content to live in humble quiet. As far as she is able, she has destroyed religion, as the Antichrist will do in Revelation 17:1-18. But,-she desires luxury. And thus is she joined to Babylon in spirit.

If you desire to know the last and final form of iniquity, behold the two women of Zechariah 5:1-11 bearing an ephah, covered with a talent of lead. The woman, called Wickedness, sits in the ephah. "Whither do these bear the ephah?" asks the prophet, and the angel answers: "To build her a house in the land of Shinar: and when it is prepared, she shall be set there in her own place." Now Babylon is in that land of Shinar (Genesis 10:10).

Notice in Revelation 18:3; Revelation 18:11; Revelation 18:15; Revelation 18:23, "the merchants of the earth," also "merchandise," (Greek "cargo"-showing these things will be carried by ships, as see Revelation 18:17). Rome has no market and the Tiber has no harbor, to speak of. Naming the articles of the cargo begins with Revelation 18:12 : "Merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stone," etc. Nearly thirty kinds are enumerated, and it is all a story of luxury upon luxury! It must be pearls; it must be fine linen; it must be silk; it must be vessels of most precious wood; it must be fragrant spices; it must be wine and olive oil; it must be fine flour; it must be slaves; it must be things that are dainty and sumptuous. This city must be "decked" in fine linen, scarlet, gold, and pearls!

Now of course Roman Catholic dignitaries are seen thus decking themselves (at great cost to the poor and even to kings). But only the "clergy" and their retinues do this. The people suffer poverty.

1. Over three years before the Babylon described in Revelation 18:1-24, the Beast and his ten kings have destroyed the harlot, the city on seven hills.

2. For over three years more, the Beast and the Man of Sin who denies all that is called God and is worshipped, will have full power on earth.

3. Rome's motto is "semper idem." She cannot deny the Father and Son, as Antichrist does, and exist.

Therefore, it appears necessary to believe that the Babylon of chapter 18 is not Rome, but the great commercial center, Satan's world-capital, which has always been Babylon on the Euphrates.

It seems clear from Scripture that God will permit one man publicly to "gain the whole world and forfeit his life." And that God will also permit man's love for luxury and pleasure, and the money that secures it, to run full riot, and set up an amazing world center of inconceivable grandeur and riches in the old place-Babylon.

Therefore in one day shall her plagues come, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judged her. And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and mourning, saying, Woe, woe, the great city, wherein all that had their ships in the sea were made rich by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. And a strong angel took up a stone as it were a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with a mighty fall shall Babylon, the great city, be cast down, and shall be found no more at all.

We have noticed this, but it needs to be re-emphasized: "Mystery" Babylon was destroyed by man's hand-by the Beast and his ten kings. Literal Babylon with its minstrels, flute-players, trumpeters, craftsmen, "marrying and giving in marriage" (Revelation 18:22-23), will be overthrown, and in an instant, swallowed up into the bowels of the earth, and with a burning like Sodom and Gomorrah. The earthquake under the seventh seal of Revelation 16:19 was seen destroying Babylon, the great. (Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 18:1-7; Isaiah 19:1-25.) And then the next verse, Isaiah 13:20, has never been fulfilled: for there are inhabitants there. The Arabians do pitch their tents and the shepherds make their flocks to lie down there; but when God destroys it finally, there shall be no such thing.

 


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Bibliography Information
Newell, William. "Commentary on Revelation 18:4". William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wnc/revelation-18.html. 1938.

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