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 140

Joy in Heaven

     The Lord Jesus had said long before: “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10).  When a lost man or woman turns in repentance and faith to the Savior, heaven indeed rejoices with great joy, because a sinner has thereby been delivered from hell and assigned eternally to heaven.

     But if such sinners become instead irrevocably hardened and unbelieving, leading many others to perdition with them, then there is also another kind of joy in heaven when such as these are finally brought to judgment.  Neither saints nor heavenly angels of course, delight when men are consigned to hell, but they must rejoice when such people are thereby constrained from causing still others to turn away from God.  “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11).  Yet the Scripture also says: “When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting” (Proverbs 11:10).

     There is thus a remarkable change in tone at this point.  From the mournful dirge of the earth-dwellers over Babylon’s sudden demise, the mood shifts instantly to one of joy and thanksgiving in heaven because of that demise.  The last five verses of Revelation 18, in contrast to the elegy of verses 9-19, constitute a paean of triumph and answered prayer.

Revelation 18:20.     Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.

     This exhortation presumably comes from the same heavenly voice heard earlier by John (vv. 4, 8).  Or, possibly, it is John himself who utters it, caught up in the excitement of mighty Babylon’s demise.

     In any case, the cry is one of exultation, addressed to all the saints assembled at the throne of heaven.  The specific salutation is simply to “heaven,” used here in a generic sense including all who are in heaven, both angels and resurrected men and women from all the ages.  Men on earth lament the fall of Babylon, but those in heaven rejoice.

     Though all in heaven are included in the exhortation, there are two classes who will experience special joy, the “holy apostles and prophets.”  These have borne a special ministry for God on earth, and have suffered special privations and persecutions.  Their heavy burdens are lifted now, and their testimony vindicated, for Babylon is fallen.

     The word “holy” (Greek hagios) is the same as “saint,” with the basic meaning that of being “set apart,” or “consecrated.”  Many manuscripts include an extra conjunction here, so the phrase is frequently translated “ye saints and ye apostles and ye prophets.”  However, this might seem redundant, since the “apostles” and “prophets” are also “saints.”  Roman Catholic ecclesiology may distinguish “saints” as a particular category of unusual Christians, but the Scriptures make no such distinction.  In the Bible all true believers are “saints.”  Also, as noted above, the term “heaven” itself surely includes the saints.

     Thus it is probable that the King James Version has the best rendition, “ye holy apostles and prophets,” just as it stands.  In fact, this same phrase, “his holy apostles and prophets,” had been used by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:5, in reference to the new revelations given by the Lord in the Church Age to His holy apostles and prophets, in that they had both been “set apart” for this special ministry of receiving God’s new revelation in the establishment of Christ’s Church in the New Testament dispensation.

     All of the apostles had suffered great persecutions and finally (except in John’s case) martyrdom; the same was undoubtedly true of the New Testament prophets (Stephen, for example, was a “prophet,” receiving a marvelous revelation from God as well as a divinely inspired message, in the great sermon of Acts 7, before he was stoned to death).  They had all preached faithfully and forcefully against “Babylon,” that is, the humanistic idolatry and covetous materialism of the world system, when they were on earth, and yet had seen it apparently triumph over them as it hounded them all to a martyr’s death.  Thus their joy was great as they could now observe from the vantage point of heaven the final and complete and permanent destruction of Babylon, both the capital city and the system it stood for through the ages.  The great prophets of the Old Testament must likewise have shared their triumphant rejoicing, and for the same reason.

     “Vengeance is mine,” the Lord had said (Romans 12:19).  As the Lord had promised concerning the false religionists even among His own people back at the beginning of their history: “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste” (Deuteronomy 32:35).

Revelation 18:21.     And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.

     Here yet another angel comes upon the scene, with another testimony concerning Babylon.  The second of the six angels in Revelation 14 had conveyed a prophetic warning to the earth concerning the imminent fall of Babylon (Revelation 14:8), so perhaps this is the same angel.

     The action described here is evidently some days, or even weeks, after the burning of Babylon.  Enough time has elapsed for Babylon’s ruins to become the habitation of wild animals and demons, as described in the prophecies of Isaiah 13:20-22 and Jeremiah 50:39, as well as in Revelation 18:2.  But then even the very remembrance of Babylon is finally to be cut off so that not even her ruins can be found.  As a heavy stone thrust into the sea will sink to the bottom never to be seen again, so Babylon also will be thrown down to everlasting oblivion.  This is pictured by the casting of a great stone by the angel into the sea, possibly the Persian Gulf, into which Babylon’s Euphrates empties.

     John particularly noted that the appearance of the stone was like that of a millstone.  The casting of a millstone into the sea is such an unlikely figure of speech that it suggests a special reason why John would use it.  Possibly he was reminded of the day many years before when the Lord Jesus had used a similar figure of speech in instructing His assembled disciples: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).  Babylon, the greatest offender of all, though once arrayed in scarlet and decked with gold, now has nothing but a great millstone for her apparel, hanging around her neck and carrying her headlong deep beneath the sea.

     A similar fate is described at the end of Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning Babylon: “And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates: And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary.  Thus far are the words of Jeremiah” (Jeremiah 51:63. 64).

     Probably this will be brought about by an aftershock of the global earthquake that had occurred just a few days or possibly weeks before.  Suddenly the whole Mesopotamian plain will drop down, as a great chasm opens in the deep crust.  The entire Euphrates valley will be inundated as the waters of the Persian Gulf roar up into the gaping hole.  Babylon will thus sink into both the Euphrates and the encroaching sea, and all her proud buildings will lie unseen far below the waves as long as the world endures.

     “How is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations! The sea is come up upon Babylon: she is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof” (Jeremiah 51:41, 42).  Darkness and demons, fire and flood, then everlasting death.  Not only has Babylon been slain in the sea; very soon now “he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea” (Isaiah 27:1).

Revelation 18:22.     And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee.   

     The angel’s message of judgment continues.  As verses 12 and 13 had given a remarkable insight into the former commerce of Babylon, so verses 22 and 23 give a picture of the former daily life of Babylon.  It had been a place of much music, probably loud and sensual music, of the type that had become so influential in the latter days.  The specific categories listed – harpers, pipers, trumpeters – are undoubtedly meant to be typical rather than exhaustive.  The harp represents stringed instruments, of which there are many.  Pipers, probably synonymous with “flutists,” and trumpeters represent the even more numerous wind instruments.  The “musicians” probably refer especially to singers.

     Babylon was also a city of skilled artisans, as indicated by the terms “craft” and “craftsman.”  This reflects the desire of its inhabitants for luxurious living.  The reference to millstones suggests the manufacture of “fine flour” (v.13) and perhaps other costly products.

     There is another striking passage in Isaiah which seems to refer to this unique and climactic event.  “The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merry-hearted do sigh.  The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.  They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.  The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in” (Isaiah 24:7-10; see entire chapter, in fact).

     Although Babylon is not mentioned by name in this chapter, the entire context seems to fit perfectly, and the reference to “the city of confusion” seems to confirm it.  There also are parallel references to the mirth and music.  In addition to the stringed and wind instruments noted in the chapter of Revelation, here in Isaiah percussion instruments (“tabrets”) are also mentioned.  The abundance of wine and drunkenness is emphasized as well.

     But all of Babylon’s activities – whether lucrative commerce or opulent living or raucous pleasure – are still and silent.  None will ever be heard or seen any more. 

Revelation 18:23.     And the light of a candle 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 great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.

     The terminal refrain continues: “No more!”  No more sales of profitable merchandise (v. 11), no more dainty and goodly things (v. 14), no more Babylon (v. 21), no more music or fine crafts or sound of industry (v. 22) and now (v. 23) no more light and no more social affairs.  The phrase “no more” or its equivalent occurs eight times in this sonorous passage.

     For some time prior to this final judgment, Babylon had been in darkness.  Under the judgment of the fifth bowl of wrath (Revelation 16:10), the throne of the beast and his kingdom had been plunged into unrelieved darkness.  No doubt the city will have been designed with ultramodern illumination facilities, but the probability is that the power stations serving the city will malfunction under the impact of the plagues.  Any hydroelectric plants will be helpless as the water supplies are exhausted, climaxed by the complete drying up of the river Euphrates.  Solar-energy plants will be useless with the city in perpetual darkness.  Nuclear and oil-driven plants will be unable to function without a copious supply of cooling water.  Transmission lines from other regions will probably be rendered inoperative by the intense heat of the fourth plague and then will completely collapse under the shocks of the global earthquake.  Thus the city of Babylon, for some period of time at least, will finally have to rely strictly on candlelight or kerosene lamps for its illumination.  It will be a miserable and desperate place during its final days.

     But now, not even the light of a candle shines in Babylon.  To Babylon and its doomed inhabitants “is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 13).

     When Babylon had been first restored in all its gaudy glory, it had been the pride of the nations.  Its citizenry soon boasted the elite from every nation, men and women of wealth and intellect and power.  Marriages uniting prominent world families would be common, and Babylon would naturally become a real meltingpot of nations.  Wedding customs of a wide variety of cultures and religions would be freely integrated under the aegis of the world humanistic religious system (Mystery Babylon) which now had its headquarters in the great capital of the beast and the false prophet.  At last the world had achieved a truly “United Nations” and a truly humanistic culture, with all nations, tribes, races, and creeds fully integrated, Babylon itself being the prototype showplace of this greatest achievement of mankind.  Probably the wedding ceremonies of its citizens would provide the finest opportunities for ostentatious display of its wealth and revelry.  Marriage vows would mean little in terms of fidelity, since sexual license was common everywhere (Revelation 9:21; 14:8), but they would mean much in political and economic and cultural terms.

     But now all weddings and other social and cultural events have ceased forever in Babylon.  The “beautiful people” are dead, the powerful families are broken, the palatial homes are burned, and the city itself has disappeared under the onrushing sea.  Her citizens had been earth’s elite, the greatest merchants and financiers and intellectuals and rulers that an ungodly culture could produce, but now their greatness is past.

     Long ago God had used Babylon to execute a similar judgment against His own people, who had gone after other gods, calling Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, “my servant” (Jeremiah 25:9), and saying: “Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle” (Jeremiah 25:10).  Eventually, however, after the full judgment on His own people, God would give the same cup of fury to Babylon and all the nations (Jeremiah 25:15).  “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.  And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth” (Jeremiah 25:32, 33).

     Finally the twofold reason for Babylon’s awful judgment is repeated.  First, it was by her sorceries that all nations had been deceived.  The harlot of Babylon, with her false religion of satanic evolutionary humanism, had corrupted literally every nation in the history of the world since Nimrod.  It was through her that Satan had deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9).  All earth’s inhabitants had, to one degree or another, been intoxicated with her corrupting wine (Revelation 17:2)

     Furthermore, as noted before (see Revelation 9:21) the “sorceries” actually involve inducement of religious visions and states of altered consciousness by use of drugs.  The Greek word translated “sorcery” and “witchcraft” is pharmakeia, meaning “drug” or “potion” or “medication.”  Thus this verse states in effect that all nations have been drugged by Babylon, deceived into believing a lie.  Whether using actual hallucinatory drugs in the modern revival of occultic superhumanism, or the intellectual soporific of evolutionary humanistic scientism, the Babylonian harlot had deceived all nations into worshiping another God.

Revelation 18:24.     And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.

     The harlot’s golden cup was outwardly beautiful, but the contents were a filthy mixture of blood and abominations, and Babylon herself was drunk with blood (Revelation 17:4, 6).  This is the second reason for Babylon’s fearful destruction.  Not only was she the mother of harlots, spawning every false religion and philosophy in mankind’s history of apostasy from the Creator, but she was also the mother of persecutions.  Whom she could not deceive and corrupt, she would pursue and slay.

     In every generation, the people of God have been persecuted by the enemies of God.  Sometimes this has been done in the name of a pagan pantheistic polytheism, such as in the kingdoms of ancient Egypt, Assyria, Persia, and Rome.  Modern pagan nations have done the same (as Japan, China, Tibet, and Mongolia).  Even more severe have been the persecutions of the pseudomonotheism of the Islamic nations.  Not infrequently some form of corrupt Christianity, compromising with paganism, has been the instrument of persecution (such as the Romanism of the medieval period and the Anglicanism of later British history).  Most vicious of all have been the mass executions instigated in the name of humanistic socialism, whether the system of a totalitarian fascism (as Hitler’s Germany) or of revolutionary communism.  It is estimated that, since Marx, more than one hundred million people have died in communist purges.  This monstrous fruit of the bitter root of evolutionary atheism has, of course, destroyed multitudes of people who were not Christians at all, but it is God’s true witnesses who have been the objects of its special hatred.

     All of these systems and many others have their roots in Babylon.  The terrible indictment has been written: the source of human murder and warfare and all other “slayings” in the long, sad saga of earth history, and particularly the killing of God’s own saints and prophets, is Babylon.  The Babylonish system, and now its mighty capital, have been judged, condemned, and finally consigned to everlasting destruction and oblivion.  “All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:36).

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