The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 137

Requiem over Babylon

(Revelation 18)

     Never has a great world city had such a meteoric rise as New Babylon, and never will one experience such a cataclysmic and total fall.  As discussed in the preceding chapter, Babylon-on-the-Euphrates had lain dormant and foreboding for centuries.  There were still reminders of the demonic spirits that once roamed there in the promulgation of its idolatrous pantheism.  As Isaiah had prophesied, “Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.  And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces” (Isaiah 13:21, 22).

     But mighty Babylon is not really dead.  It appeared to John as the beast “that was, and is not, and yet is” (Revelation 17:8).  Suddenly it will arise, as it were, from the grave, and become a “great city” once again.  Under the impact of overwhelming geopolitical needs, it will be authorized and implemented by the unprecedented building program undertaken by the federated ten-kingdom empire of the west, then pushed to dynamic completion by the beast.  Finally it will be inaugurated as the great world capital of the beast, who will have become king of all the kingdoms of the globe. 

Exit from Babylon

     The fall of great Babylon is to be even more sudden than its rise.  In common with all the rest of the world, the citizens of New Babylon soon will begin to experience the plagues of the bowls of wrath (Revelation 16), the sores, the bloody waters, the intense heat, and the battering hail.  John had already witnessed these dreadful scenes on earth before one of the angels of the plagues had taken him back in time to learn the meaning of the age-long Babylonian conspiracy.  He had finally observed the fall of the religious component of Babylon, at a time approximately the midpoint of the tribulation, just prior to the initiation of the seven last plagues.

     Now, however, John is returned to the scene from which the angel had taken him.  The seven plagues have been completed, climaxed by the gigantic earthquake that destroyed all the other cities of the earth and leveled all the mountains and islands of the earth (Revelation 16:18, 20).  And now comes Babylon’s remembrance.

Revelation 18:1.     And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.

     Here is a new angel, not one of the angels with the seven last plagues, and apparently one not yet participating directly in earth’s judgment, an angel reserved explicitly for the final judgment on Babylon.  Perhaps he is the same angel whom John had heard earlier (Revelation 14:8) forecasting the coming fall of Babylon.  In any case, he is one of the highest angels, a being of great power and of such luminous energy as to illumine the whole land (same word as “earth”).

     It will be recalled that Babylon had been shrouded in perpetual darkness under the judgment of the fifth bowl (Revelation 16:10).  Now, suddenly, the land is illumined with great brightness, but any fleeting relief felt by the inhabitants will quickly turn to terror as they see the source of the illumination, an angel of mighty power coming down from heaven.

     Somehow, Babylon had been the only one of earth’s great cities (except Jerusalem) that had not fallen in rubble under the mighty earthquake.  Her unique position on the Babylonian plain between the dried-up Tigris and Euphrates Rivers may have contributed to this, but the real cause was the control by the seventh angel of the directions and intensities of the global tremors.

     Babylon had only been spared for a still greater judgment, however.  Not only must she fall, like the other cities, but she must disappear forever, like the mountains.  And first she must burn, and then must she lie desolate for a while, and then eventually be found no more at all.

Revelation 18:2.     And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

     The angel not only manifests tremendous light energy but also sound energy, crying mightily with a loud voice.  As all can see him, so can all hear him, and the words they hear are terrible and searing words.

     The announcement of great Babylon’s fall is made and repeated, exactly as the angel had done at the midpoint of the tribulation (Revelation 14:8).  At that time it had been a warning and promise for the future, and perhaps also a reference to the fall of religious Babylon.  Now it is an announcement of the final fall of political Babylon – Babylon the Great.

     The result of her destruction will be complete annihilation of the inhabitants, followed by utter desolation, a desolation comparable to that prophesied by Isaiah, as cited earlier in this chapter (Isaiah 13:21, 22).  The “satyrs” mentioned by Isaiah are from the same Hebrew word as the “devils” of Leviticus 17:7 and 2 Chronicles 11:15.  The “dragons” may be dinosaurs, but also may refer to evil spirits, as may the “doleful creatures.”  In any case, the desolation experienced by Babylon in recent historical times is to be briefly repeated near the end of the tribulation, the first being a type of the second.

     One can imagine the triumphant blasphemies as great Babylon is rebuilt.  Its long desolation had been superseded by an even more splendid metropolis than Nebuchadnezzar had built, and God’s judgment on Babylon had seemingly been set aside by the greater power of the beast.  So they will boast, with malicious glee.

     But their triumph will be very short-lived.  In only a few days, perhaps, the desolation will be even greater and will last forever.  None will be left there except a horde of demons and evil spirits.  These, no doubt, had exercised great influence over the men and women of wicked Babylon, but now they are merely disembodied spirits.  The bodies they had possessed had burned to embers and their souls departed to Hades.

     There will also be a swarm of unclean birds fouling the ruins, feasting on the charred flesh of the inhabitants.  These may well be from the great flocks following the armies of the east trooping across the dried-up Euphrates (Revelation 16:12).  God has bidden them to the great supper at Armageddon (Revelation 19:17, 18), just as they had feasted on the armies of Gog in Israel seven years earlier (Ezekiel 39:17-20), but these unclean and hateful birds will gladly postpone their westward flight in order to perch in the ruins of Babylon for a time.

Revelation 18:3.     For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.    

     Here is the same indictment as in Revelation 17:2 “With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”  It is the same as in Revelation 14:8: “She made all nations drink of he wine of the wrath of her fornication.”  It is evident that the “Babylons” of Revelation 14, 17 and 18 must all be the same Babylon.

     Yet, as we have seen, there must also be a difference.  There must be a religious Babylon, the great whore, and a political Babylon, the scarlet beast.  They are like two sides of the same coin; each is part and parcel of the other and each supports the other. Each is the great city Babylon, long dead and now risen from the dead, yet never really dead.  When the woman finally dies, burned in the fiery wrath of the “horns of the beast,” as the ten kings who hate her put the torch to her, she still survives as the great city imbued with the adulterous and covetous spirit of the old harlot.  The false church, the prostitute religion with all her golden trappings, is burned, but the commercial and political harlotry continues more than ever.  The religious worship of the ungodly world is no longer focused on mystic rituals and demonic doctrines, but is frankly fixed on the great god Mammon, and Babylon lives!  The international bankers and the corporation directors and the mercantile barons and the shipping magnates and all their host of money-worshiping, power-seeking underlings, who once traversed their orbits around New York and Geneva, London and Paris, Moscow and Berlin, Johannesburg and Tokyo, now find it gloriously profitable to center it all in great Babylon.  Babylon is the great capital of the world, and all the capital of the world flows in and out of Babylon.  Even in the midst of all the terrible plagues of the tribulation, it is business as usual for the merchants of the world.  Shortages abound, and inflation is rampant, but the money kings know how to turn it all to their advantage, and their riches increase still more.  It will not be for long, however.

     “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.  Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.  Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire.  Ye have heaped treasures together for the last days” (James 5:1-3).    

     This movement of the commercial capital of the world back to Babylon, together with its religious and political capitals, was foreseen long ago by the prophet Zechariah, in his ephah vision (Zechariah 5:5-11).  The ephah was the primary volumetric measure (roughly equivalent to a bushel) and was often used as a symbol of commerce in the ancient world.  In his vision, Zechariah saw a woman in the ephah, sealing its mouth with the lead weight.

     Covetousness is idolatry, and the ancient center of both had been at the great city of Babylon.  Zechariah’s prophecy, however, was written after the Jews’ return from captivity, with the heyday of Babylon’s glory long past.  The Jews had given up their affinity to Babylonian idolatry, but had returned instead with a strong infusion of Babylonian mercantilism and covetousness.  It was this sin, symbolized by the woman in the ephah, that the angel called “the Wickedness” (the definite article is in the original).  The fall of Babylon had caused the world trade and banking center to be shifted to other nations, and Judah herself had been imbued with this spirit.

     But then Zechariah saw a remarkable drama unfold in his vision.  “Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven.  Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah?  And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base” (Zechariah 5:9-11).

     The two winged women were not angels, since angels are always in Scripture denoted as masculine.  Thus the transportation of the ephah to Shinar was not a divine mission but an evil one.  The two women possessed the great wings of an unclean bird, the stork, with wind (or, better, “the spirit”) aiding their wings.  The women must somehow also bear the character of the woman who is wickedness, since they are translating her by means of some unclean spirit back to the land of Shinar whence she had come.  It may be that they represent the twofold character of the great harlot, political and religious Babylon.

     The woman in the ephah, however, along with the entire symbol, obviously depicts the theme of commerce and the spirit of covetousness.  Something similar to this scene – that is, winged women carrying the standard of weights and measures – has often been used around the world as a symbolic emblem of international commerce. The reason why a woman is used to symbolize covetousness, the same as why a woman was used to symbolize Babylon, is undoubtedly because of the need to depict birth.  As the woman in the Apocalypse is “the mother of harlots and abominations,” so the woman in the ephah represents the idolatry of Mammon, the love of which is “the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).

     Zechariah’s vision thus clearly foretells a time when the center of world finance and commerce will be removed from its bases in New York and Geneva and other great cities and transported quickly across the world to a new foundation and headquarters in the land of Shinar.  The land of Shinar, of course, is simply a biblical term for Babylon, and has been ever since Babel was first erected there (Genesis 11:2. Note also Isaiah 11:11; Daniel 1:2).

     Though there is nothing intrinsically wrong with money and commerce, it often and easily becomes the object of inordinate affection, even leading to theft and murder and all kinds of wickedness.  It is easy to understand the scriptural identification of covetousness with idolatry.  Even after religious Babylon is destroyed by the kings of the earth, it lives on as commercial Babylon, whose later destruction is mourned by these same kings.

     As the kings of the earth have engaged themselves illicitly with the harlot through the ages, so the great merchants and financiers of the earth, often more powerful even than kings, have enriched themselves through the “abundance” (or “power”; Greek dunamis) of her “delicacies” (or “luxuries,” literally “strainings”; Greek strenos).  There is great power in wealth, and such men have abounded in it.

Revelation 18:4.     And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

     This voice was not that of an angel, but of the Lord Jesus Himself, calling urgently to “My people.”  It is surprising, at this late stage, that there are believers living in Babylon itself, the very source and center of the worldwide persecutions that will have been unleashed on believers.  The time context is evidently shortly after the midpoint of the tribulation, however, before the intensive program of beast-worship, with the mark of the beast imprinted on the foreheads or right hands of all who buy or sell, had been effectively implemented.

     But the awful plagues of the seven bowls of wrath are about to begin, and some of these will fall most severely on Babylon itself, especially the plague of darkness and then the final utter devastation and eventual complete eradication of the city.  The Lord Jesus, in His grace, provides a special warning to any in Babylon who may yet believe on Him.

     It is evidently about this same time, in fact, that three angels are seen and heard throughout the whole world, warning men to turn back to God (Revelation 14:6-12).  One of these preaches the “everlasting gospel” of God as Creator, the second warns of the coming fall of Babylon, the third warns men not to receive the beast’s mark, on penalty of hell.  In such a context, the special warning to believers in Babylon is pungently appropriate.  It is in the capital city that the deadly decree of the false prophet (Revelation 13:15-17) will undoubtedly be imposed first of all and most severely of all.  Even if believers residing in Babylon should somehow escape the purges of the beast, they would still be affected by the awful plagues that are coming on Babylon.  Thus the Lord’s urgent warning to believers to flee Babylon immediately.

     But, as a matter of fact, why should there be any believers living in Babylon in the first place?  Surely they should have known they were out of place in such an environment, right at the very hub of anti-Christianity.  God had even given believers the key to identifying the Antichrist before he would ascend the throne of the world (Revelation 13:18).

     As a matter of fact, “Mystery” Babylon has also always had a strange attraction for believers.  One of the saddest commentaries on the Christian witness through the ages has been its perennial dilution through compromise with the world system of evolutionary humanism.  The wistful desire of Christian intellectuals, of Christian entertainers, of Christian business and professional people, even of Christian ministers, for recognition and approval by their colleagues in “Babylon” has been the downfall of innumerable Christian individuals and institutions over the years.  God has repeatedly had to deal with this problem of compromise.  “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?  and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial?  or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? . . .  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).

     Apparently the same worldly allure will attract many believers to this final stage of the Babylonian apostasy.  The appeal of salary and prestige will entice many capable Christian business and professional men – architects, engineers, merchants, doctors, accountants, and others – to participate in the planning and activation of this exciting and dynamic new metropolis.  Christian workers in many construction and other trades will follow the enticement of high wages.  No doubt many of these Christians will rationalize their move to Babylon by the opportunity thus afforded to “have a witness” in the world’s most important city, to its most important people.

     What such Christians have always failed to recognize is that an effective witness is never mediated through compromise.  God’s message in circumstances like these is not “Be like her, my people, thereby to appease and attract her,” but rather “Come out of her, my people, that ye not partake of her sins!”  The parallel passage in Jeremiah records the warning from the Lord in these words:  “My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the Lord” (Jeremiah 51:45).

Revelation 18:5.     For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

     Nimord led the first Babel rebels in a great temple building project “unto heaven,” but the only thing that reached heaven was the stench of their rebellion.  God had to “go down” to see this project and punish their sin (Genesis 11:4, 7).  Similarly, the great king of later Babylon dreamed himself to be a great and strong tree “whose height reached unto the heaven” (Daniel 4:20), but the tree was cut down, and proud Nebuchadnezzar had to live like an animal for seven long years (Daniel 4:30-33).  Neither the tower of ancient Babylon nor the tree of later Babylon could really reach heaven.  Therefore, “her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies” (Jeremiah 51:9).

     Although God is long-suffering, He does not forget and He knows her measure of wickedness is full.  Babylon’s rebellion has been long and deep and wide, and the time has come to drink the cup of wrath.

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