Yesterday I was greatly refreshed in my mind and soul as I read Revelation chapter 18.
It is a chapter which carries us into the future, to the time of the Saviour’s return in great power and of His judgment of that embodiment of rebellion and anti-God idolatry – Babylonianism!
Babylon, religious, mercantile and political is brought down most unexpectedly, decisively and conclusively.
“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,” Revelation 18:21.
Amidst the growing manifestation of Babylonianism all around us, in churches, parliament and commerce, it is so good to read God’s ‘epitaph’ for this evil system which He will most surely bring to an end!
I trust you benefit from the comments we made some 27 years ago on this chapter.
Sincerely in Christ’s name,
“For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities,” Revelation 18:5.
(The following is an extract from the book ‘Shadow of The Antichrist’ by Rev Ivan Foster, first published in 1996)
GRIEF AND GLADNESS – Exposition of Revelation Chapter 18.
There is a distinction between the Babylon of chapter 17 and the Babylon of chapter 18. In chapter 17 we have the system of Babylon which had been at work amongst the nations of men, virtually since the beginning of time.
That system of wickedness will be centred in the city of Babylon, first in the incorporated union of false religions that is symbolised by the Great Whore and then, when she is destroyed by the Antichrist, residing in him.
The Babylon of chapter 18 is the great city of Babylon, which rebellious man left off to build (Genesis 11:8), but which will be built to become the capital of Antichrist and antichristianity. It is here that the spirit of iniquity, or lawlessness and wickedness, will be given a base. “This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. 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 5:8-11.
In this chapter we have the judgment of God falling on and destroying the base upon which this wickedness has been established. Again, let it be noted that there is an emphasis upon the destruction of this evil city which will appear so glorious in the eyes of wicked men. This same emphasis was seen in the vision of the great Harlot in chapter 17. God would have His people ever to bear in mind the end of these things. He who can see the evil maggot in the core of the apple will not be persuaded to bite the fruit, no matter how red and luscious its skin may appear. So it is with the magnificence that will pervade the world, particularly the Roman or prophetic earth, in the final days of this age. In its heart is an evil that will bring down God’s wrath upon it.
This chapter contains much grief, verses 9-19. But it also contains much gladness, verse 20. How diverse are the ways of unbelievers and believers. That which makes the one lament with bitter grief makes the other to rejoice with great gladness. I might say to all, that you are known by what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Is your rejoicing with that of the saints or with that of wicked men? “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD,” Psalm 122:1. Is the company of the people of God and your accompanying them to the house of God what makes you happy or do you delight in the company of the wicked? “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night,” Psalm 1:1-2.
What a contrast is presented to us in verses 15 and 20! “The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,” verse 15. “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her,” verse 20.
The laughter of sin has turned into the wailing of sorrow for the sinner. For the saints, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” Psalm 30:5. The morning of eternal joy is dawning for the people of God and the destruction of Babylon is one of the first brightening tints lighting up the eastern sky. The Sun of Righteousness is about to rise with healing and blessing in His rays.
I. Babylon’s character and condemnation.
Here we have heaven’s view of Babylon. For a time it may have seemed that her activities were of no interest to heaven. So must it also have appeared to Sodom and Gomorrah. But nothing goes on unnoticed by God. He may, in mercy to sinners, patiently bear with their sinning, but there comes a time when their evil will be taken account of. Just so was it with Babylon for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities, verse 5. The word reached is a translation of a word which is elsewhere translated follow. It is the word that is used of the actions of a disciple following the Lord Jesus. Thus it is translated on the first occasion that it appears in the New Testament. “And they straightway left their nets, and followed him,” Matthew 4:20. Just as the steps of a disciple will always follow behind the Saviour, so sin’s steps will always bring it before God for judgment.
When we are told that God remembered the sins of Babylon, it is not that God had forgotten her sins and then suddenly recalled them. No! It refers to the sins of Babylon coming into the mind of God for the time to judge her had come. As we bring to the front of our minds and act upon an arrangement when the appointed time comes round, so it will be one day with the Lord and the sins of Babylon.
Note what we are told of the sinfulness of this evil city.
1. She is the centre of deception. “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,” verse 23.The spirit of deception will pervade Babylon. The city will be its own chief victim. “How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow,” 18:7. Isaiah refers to this feature of the Babylon of his day and, prophetically, he is indicating that it is an attribute of her character which will still be with her when she re-emerges in the last days. “And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it. Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children,” Isaiah 47:7-8. How deceitful is pride! How destructive is pride! “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall,” Proverbs 16:18. Pride and deception can end only in tears and misery. For this reason we urge upon sinners to repent of their sins and rebellion against God. No matter how secure they feel today, God shall yet bring them into judgment. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” Galatians 6:7.
The means employed by Babylon to deceive the nations was sorceries. As already noted (9:20-21), the word is a translation of the Greek word pharmakeia. It refers to the administering of drugs. This is presently becoming a world-wide scourge. The use of drugs will become the chief means of deceiving the nations during the heyday of Babylon. Those who call, among them some members of parliament, for the legalising of drugs give us a portent of that day.
2. She is a centre of deliciousness. “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,” verse 3. “How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow,” verse 7. The words delicacies and deliciously are closely allied, being from the same root, and refer to an overflowing and wanton luxuriousness. This is the sumptuous opulence of the ancient heathen courts all flowing together in lascivious abandonment and reaching beyond the small favoured circle of courtiers and attendants, who alone were the participants in ancient times, to the broader mass of merchants and traders who operate out of this great commercial metropolis. These merchants have “waxed rich”, verse 3.
The wealth so often promised by other political regimes has become a reality within the commercial empire centred upon this city.
3. She is a centre of depravity. “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 . . . For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. . . . And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: the merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones . . . and slaves, and souls of men. . . . And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth,” verses 3, 5, 11-13, 24.
These quotations from these verses show something of the corruptions found within the city of Babylon. All that the gospel, by its enlightening power, has banished from among those nations, that came under its influence, has returned under Babylon. Even trading in slaves has returned in Babylon. For those who feel that such is impossible, let them just consider the fact that slavery is presently tolerated in all the larger cities of the United Kingdom in the form of prostitution where men solicit and control the selling of women and take the larger portion of the ill-gotten profits. Slavery has never completely been overthrown, even in the most advanced countries. In Babylon, it will become just another enterprise to exploit.
There is only one method of avoiding contamination by Babylonianism. “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,” verse 4.
It is amazing that there should be found in the midst of this sinful city any that are numbered amongst the people of God. Yet God sees them there and calls them out. That is where He would have them. It never has been God’s will that His people be found in the midst of sin. Let this be as a rebuke to those who claim that the Lord would have them remain in a position of influence within the ecumenical apostasy that they might serve Him there. Insiders do nothing to hinder the advance of apostasy or advance the cause of truth. It influences them, rather than the reverse.
To remain in can result only in the partaking of her sins and receiving her plagues. Far from acting as a restraint, believers who remain within the apostasy are being dragged toward judgment.
II. Babylon’s downfall and destruction.
“And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. 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,” verses 1-2.
1. It comes about just before the return of Christ. There is a brief period between the destruction of the city and the return of Christ. It is within this brief interval that the wailing and mourning by the merchants will take place. The prophet Isaiah, among others, spoke of this destruction. “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But 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: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged,” Isaiah 13:19-22.
2. It will be accomplished by armies from the east. We have already noted this in chapter 16, verse 12. The last but one of the vials of wrath is poured out upon the river Euphrates and, by this judgment, a way (the word means a road by which to travel) is made for a number of kingdoms that lie to the east of Babylon to launch an attack upon the city. We note again that the prophecy of Jeremiah provides us with a detailed account of the nations involved. “Set ye up a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz; appoint a captain against her; cause the horses to come up as the rough caterpillers. Prepare against her the nations with the kings of the Medes, the captains thereof, and all the rulers thereof, and all the land of his dominion. And the land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant. The mighty men of Babylon have forborn to fight, they have remained in their holds: their might hath failed; they became as women: they have burned her dwellingplaces; her bars are broken,” Jeremiah 51:27-30.
The Antichrist will not be in his capital. Hence the reference to messengers bringing him the report of the destruction of his city. “One post shall run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to shew the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end,” Jeremiah 51:31. As we have already seen (16:12-16), Daniel 11:44 indicates that he will be in Egypt when the attack upon Babylon takes place.
3. It will be utter and complete. “She shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her,” verse 8.
“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. 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; 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, “verses 21-23. She has fallen in the past only to rise again. This time there will be no resurrection for this city of iniquity.
4. It will be sudden and unexpected. “Therefore shall her plagues come in one day,” verse 8. “Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come,” verse 10. “Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate,” verse 19.
In one day, in one hour, with the swiftness of a millstone sinking into the depths of the sea, so shall Babylon’s destruction come. As it was with Sodom and Gomorrah so shall it be with their end-time counterpart.