Another angel from heaven proclaims the fall of mystical Babylon. (1-3) A voice from heaven admonishes the people of God, lest they partake of her plagues. (4-8) The lamentations over her. (9-19) The church called upon to rejoice in her utter ruin. (20-24)
Verses 1-8 The downfal and destruction of the mystical Babylon are determined in the counsels of God. Another angel comes from heaven. This seems to be Christ himself, coming to destroy his enemies, and to shed abroad the light of his gospel through all nations. The wickedness of this Babylon was very great; she had forsaken the true God, and set up idols, and had drawn all sorts of men into spiritual adultery, and by her wealth and luxury kept them in her interest. The spiritual merchandise, by which multitudes have wickedly lived in wealth, by the sins and follies of mankind, seems principally intended. Fair warning is given to all that expect mercy from God, that they should not only come out of this Babylon, but assist in her destruction. God may have a people even in Babylon. But God's people shall be called out of Babylon, and called effectually, while those that partake with wicked men in their sins, must receive of their plagues.
Verses 9-19 The mourners had shared Babylon's sensual pleasures, and gained by her wealth and trade. The kings of the earth, whom she flattered into idolatry, allowing them to be tyrannical over their subjects, while obedient to her; and the merchants, those who trafficked for her indulgences, pardons, and honours; these mourn. Babylon's friends partook her sinful pleasures and profits, but are not willing to share her plagues. The spirit of antichrist is a worldly spirit, and that sorrow is a mere worldly sorrow; they do not lament for the anger of God, but for the loss of outward comforts. The magnificence and riches of the ungodly will avail them nothing, but will render the vengeance harder to be borne. The spiritual merchandise is here alluded to, when not only slaves, but the souls of men, are mentioned as articles of commerce, to the destroying the souls of millions. Nor has this been peculiar to the Roman antichrist, and only her guilt. But let prosperous traders learn, with all their gains, to get the unsearchable riches of Christ; otherwise; even in this life, they may have to mourn that riches make to themselves wings and fly away, and that all the fruits their souls lusted after, are departed from them. Death, at any rate, will soon end their commerce, and all the riches of the ungodly will be exchanged, not only for the coffin and the worm, but for the fire that cannot be quenched.
Verses 20-24 That which is matter of rejoicing to the servants of God on earth, is matter of rejoicing to the angels in heaven. The apostles, who are honoured and daily worshipped at Rome in an idolatrous manner, will rejoice in her fall. The fall of Babylon was an act of God's justice. And because it was a final ruin, this enemy should never molest them any more; of this they were assured by a sign. Let us take warning from the things which brought others to destruction, and let us set our affections on things above, when we consider the changeable nature of earthly things.
Revelation 18:1-24 . BABYLON'S FALL: GOD'S PEOPLE CALLED OUT OF HER: THE KINGS AND MERCHANTS OF THE EARTH MOURN, WHILE THE SAINTS REJOICE AT HER FALL.
1. And--so Vulgate and ANDREAS. But A, B, Syriac, and Coptic omit "And."
with--Greek, "owing to."
2. mightily . . . strong--not supported by manuscripts. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "with (literally, 'in') a mighty voice."
is fallen, is fallen--so A, Vulgate, Syriac, and ANDREAS. But B and Coptic omit the second "is fallen" ( Isaiah 21:9 , Jeremiah 51:8 ). This phrase is here prophetical of her fall, still future, as Revelation 18:4 proves.
the hold--a keep or prison.
3. drunk-- Revelation 14:8 , from which perhaps "the wine" may have been interpolated. They have drunk of her fornication, the consequence of which will be wrath to themselves. But A, B, and C read, "(owing to the wrath of her fornication all nations) have fallen." Vulgate and most versions read as English Version, which may be the right reading though not supported by the oldest manuscripts. Babylon, the whore, is destroyed before the beast slays the two witnesses ( Revelation 11:7 ), and then the beast himself is destroyed.
the wine--so B, Syriac, and Coptic. But A, C, and Vulgate omit.
delicacies--Greek, "luxury." Greek verb "wax wanton" is akin to the noun here. Translate, "wanton luxury." The reference is not to earthly merchandise, but to spiritual wares, indulgences, idolatries, superstitions, worldly compromises, wherewith the harlot, that is, the apostate Church, has made merchandise of men. This applies especially to Rome; but the Greek, and even in a less degree Protestant churches, are not guiltless. However, the principle of evangelical Protestantism is pure, but the principle of Rome and the Greek church is not so.
4. Come out of her, my people--quoted from Jeremiah 50:8 , Jeremiah 51:6 Jeremiah 51:45 . Even in the Romish Church God has a people: but they are in great danger; their only safety is in coming out of her at once. So also in every apostate or world-conforming church there are some of God's invisible and true Church, who, if they would be safe, must come out. Especially at the eve of God's judgment on apostate Christendom: as Lot was warned to come out of Sodom just before its destruction, and Israel to come from about the tents of Dathan and Abiram. So the first Christians came out of Jerusalem when the apostate Jewish Church was judged. "State and Church are precious gifts of God. But the State being desecrated to a different end from what God designed it, namely. to govern for, and as under, God, becomes beast-like; the Church apostatizing becomes the harlot. The true woman is the kernel: beast and harlot are the shell: whenever the kernel is mature, the shell is thrown away" [AUBERLEN]. "The harlot is not Rome alone (though she is pre-eminently so), but every Church that has not Christ's mind and spirit. False Christendom, divided into very many sects, is truly Babylon, that is, confusion. However, in all Christendom the true Jesus-congregation, the woman clothed with the sun, lives and is hidden. Corrupt, lifeless Christendom is the harlot, whose great aim is the pleasure of the flesh, and which is governed by the spirit of nature and the world" [HAHN in AUBERLEN]. The first justification of the woman is in her being called out of Babylon the harlot, as the culminating stage of the latter's sin, when judgment is about to fall: for apostate Christendom, Babylon, is not to be converted, but to be destroyed. Secondly, she has to pass through an ordeal of persecution from the beast, which purifies and prepares her for the transfiguration glory at Christ's coming ( Revelation 20:4 , Luke 21:28 ).
be not partakers--Greek, "have no fellowship with her sins."
that ye receive not of her plagues--as Lot's wife, by lingering too near the polluted and doomed city.
5. her sins--as a great heap.
reached--Greek, "reached so far as to come into close contact with, and to cleave unto."
6. Addressed to the executioners of God's wrath.
she rewarded--English Version reading adds "you" with none of the oldest manuscripts. But A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic omit it. She had not rewarded or repaid the world power for some injury which the world power had inflicted on her; but she had given the world power that which was its due, namely, spiritual delusions, because it did not like to retain God in its knowledge; the unfaithful Church's principle was, "Populus vult decipi, et decipiatur." "The people like to be deceived, and let them be deceived."
double--of sorrow. Contrast with this the double of joy which Jerusalem shall receive for her past suffering ( Isaiah 61:7 , Zechariah 9:12 ); even as she has received double punishment for her sins ( Isaiah 40:2 ).
unto her--So Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS. A, B, and C omit it.
in the cup--( Revelation 18:3 , Revelation 14:8 , 17:4 ).
fill to her double--of the Lord's cup of wrath.
7. How much--that is in proportion as.
lived deliciously--luxuriously: Greek is akin.
sorrow--Greek, "mourning," as for a dead husband.
I sit--so Vulgate. But A, B, and C prefix "that."
I . . . am no widow--for the world power is my husband and my supporter.
shall see no sorrow--Greek, "mourning." "I am seated (this long time) . . . I am no widow . . . I shall see no sorrow," marks her complete unconcerned security as to the past, present, and future [BENGEL]. I shall never have to mourn as one bereft of her husband. As Babylon was queen of the East, so Rome has been queen of the West, and is called on Imperial coins "the eternal city." So Papal Rome is called by AMMIAN MARCELLIN [15.7]. "Babylon is a former Rome, and Rome a latter Babylon. Rome is a daughter of Babylon, and by her, as by her mother, God has been pleased to subdue the world under one sway" [AUGUSTINE]. As the Jew's restoration did not take place till Babylon's fall, so R. KIMCHI on Obadiah, writes, "When Rome (Edom) shall be devastated, there shall be redemption to Israel." Romish idolatries have been the great stumbling-blocks to the Jews' acceptance of Christianity.
8. death--on herself, though she thought herself secure even from the death of her husband.
mourning--instead of her feasting.
famine--instead of her luxurious delicacies ( Revelation 18:3 Revelation 18:7 ). city of Rome, which is situated in the midst of volcanic agencies. As the ground was cursed for Adam's sin, and the earth under Noah was sunk beneath the flood, and Sodom was burnt with fire, so may Rome be. But as the harlot is mystical (the whole faithless Church), the burning may be mainly mystical, symbolizing utter destruction and removal. BENGEL is probably right in thinking Rome will once more rise to power. The carnal, faithless, and worldly elements in all churches, Roman, Greek, and Protestant, tend towards one common center, and prepare the way for the last form of the beast, namely, Antichrist. The Pharisees were in the main sound in creed, yet judgment fell on them as on the unsound Sadducees and half-heathenish Samaritans. So faithless and adulterous, carnal, worldly Protestant churches, will not escape for their soundness of creed.
the Lord--so B, C, Syriac, and ANDREAS. But A and Vulgate omit. "Strong" is the meaning of God's Hebrew name, "EL."
judgeth--But A, B, and C read the past tense (Greek, "krinas"), "who hath judged her": the prophetical past for the future: the charge in Revelation 18:4 to God's people to come out of her implies that the judgment was not yet actually executed.
9. lived deliciously--Greek, "luxuriated." The faithless Church, instead of reproving, connived at the self-indulgent luxury of the great men of this world, and sanctioned it by her own practice. Contrast the world's rejoicing over the dead bodies of the two witnesses ( Revelation 11:10 ) who had tormented it by their faithfulness, with its lamentations over the harlot who had made the way to heaven smooth, and had been found a useful tool in keeping subjects in abject tyranny. Men's carnal mind relishes a religion like that of the apostate Church, which gives an opiate to conscience, while leaving the sinner license to indulge his lusts.
bewail her--A, B, C, Syriac, Coptic, and CYPRIAN omit "her."
10. God's judgments inspire fear even in the worldly, but it is of short duration, for the kings and great men soon attach themselves to the beast in its last and worst shape, as open Antichrist, claiming all that the harlot had claimed in blasphemous pretensions and more, and so making up to them for the loss of the harlot.
mighty--Rome in Greek means strength; though that derivation is doubtful.
11. shall--So. B. But A and C read the present, "weep and mourn." stones . . . pearls
merchandise--Greek, "cargo": wares carried in ships: ship-lading (compare Revelation 18:17 ). Rome was not a commercial city, and is not likely from her position to be so. The merchandise must therefore be spiritual, even as the harlot is not literal, but spiritual. She did not witness against carnal luxury and pleasure-seeking, the source of the merchants' gains, but conformed to them ( Revelation 18:7 ). She cared not for the sheep, but for the wool. Professing Christian merchants in her lived as if this world not heaven, were the reality, and were unscrupulous as to the means of getting gain. Compare Notes, judgment on mystical Babylon's merchants for unjust gain. All the merchandise here mentioned occurs repeatedly in the Roman Ceremonial.
"stone . . . pearl." fine linen
--A, B, and C read Greek,
" for "bussou,
" that is, "fine linen manufacture" [ALFORD]. The manufacture for which Egypt
(the type of the apostate Church, Revelation 11:8
) was famed. Contrast "the fine linen" ( Ezekiel 16:10
) put on Israel, and on the New Testament Church ( Revelation 19:8
), the Bride, by God ( Psalms 132:9
). thyine wood
of the Romans: probably the cypressus thyoyides,
or the thuia articulata.
"Citron wood" [ALFORD]. A sweet-smelling tree of Cyrene in Lybia, used for incense. all manner vessels
"every vessel," or "furniture."
13. cinnamon--designed by God for better purposes: being an ingredient in the holy anointing oil, and a plant in the garden of the Beloved ( Solomon 4:14 ); but desecrated to vile uses by the adulteress ( Proverbs 7:17 ).
odours--of incense. A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac prefix "and amomium" (a precious hair ointment made from an Asiatic shrub). English Version reading is supported by Coptic and ANDREAS, but not oldest manuscripts.
frankincense--Contrast the true "incense" which God loves ( Psalms 141:2 , Malachi 1:11 ).
fine flour--the similago of the Latins [ALFORD].
beasts--of burden: cattle.
souls of men--( Ezekiel 27:13 ). Said of slaves. Appropriate to the spiritual harlot, apostate Christendom, especially Rome, which has so often enslaved both bodies and souls of men. Though the New Testament does not directly forbid slavery, which would, in the then state of the world, have incited a slave revolt, it virtually condemns it, as here. Popery has derived its greatest gains from the sale of masses for the souls of men after death, and of indulgences purchased from the Papal chancery by rich merchants in various countries, to be retailed at a profit [MOSHEIM, III, 95, 96].
14. Direct address to Babylon.
the fruits that thy soul lusted after--Greek, "thy autumn-ripe fruits of the lust (eager desire) of the soul."
dainty--Greek, "fat": "sumptuous" in food.
goodly--"splendid," "bright," in dress and equipage.
departed--supported by none of our manuscripts. But A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "perished."
thou shalt--A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "They (men) shall no more find them at all."
15. of these things--of the things mentioned, Revelation 18:12 Revelation 18:13 .
made rich by--Greek, "derived riches from her."
stand afar off for the fear--(Compare Revelation 18:10 ).
16. And--so Vulgate and ANDREAS. But A, B, and C omit.
stones . . . pearls--Greek, "stone . . . pearl." B and ANDREAS read "pearls." But A and C, "pearl."
17. is come to naught--Greek, "is desolated."
shipmaster--Greek, "steersman," or "pilot."
all the company in ships--A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "Every one who saileth to a place" (B has ". . . to the place"), every voyager. Vessels were freighted with pilgrims to various shrines, so that in one month (A.D. 1300) two hundred thousand pilgrims were counted in Rome [D'AUBIGNE, Histoire de la Reformation]: a source of gain, not only to the Papal see, but to shipmasters, merchants, pilots, &c. These latter, however, are not restricted to those literally "shipmasters," &c., but mainly refer, in the mystical sense, to all who share in the spiritual traffic of apostate Christendom.
18. when they saw--Greek, "horontes." But A, B, C, and ANDREAS read, Greek, "blepontes," "looking at." Greek, "blepo," is to use the eyes, to look: the act of seeing without thought of the object seen. Greek, "horao," refers to the thing seen or presented to the eyes [TITTMANN].
smoke--so B, C. But A reads "place."
What city is like--Compare the similar beast as to the beast, Revelation 13:4 : so closely do the harlot and beast approximate one another. Contrast the attribution of this praise to God, to whom alone it is due, by His servants ( Exodus 15:11 ). MARTIAL says of Rome, "Nothing is equal to her;" and ATHENÆUS, "She is the epitome of the world."
that had ships--A, B, and C read, "that had their ships": literally, "the ships."
costliness--her costly treasures: abstract for concrete.
20. holy apostles--So C reads. But A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS read, "Ye saints and ye apostles."
avenged you on her--Greek, "judged your judgment on (literally, exacting it from) her." "There is more joy in heaven at the harlot's downfall than at that of the two beasts. For the most heinous of all sin is the sin of those who know God's word of grace, and keep it not. The worldliness of the Church is the most worldly of all worldliness. Hence, Babylon, in Revelation, has not only Israel's sins, but also the sins of the heathen; and John dwells longer on the abominations and judgments of the harlot than on those of the beast. The term 'harlot' describes the false Church's essential character. She retains her human shape as the woman, does not become a beast: she has the form of godliness, but denies its power. Her rightful lord and husband, Jehovah-Christ, and the joys and goods of His house, are no longer her all in all, but she runs after the visible and vain things of the world, in its manifold forms. The fullest form of her whoredom is, where the Church wishes to be itself a worldly power, uses politics and diplomacy, makes flesh her arm, uses unholy means for holy ends, spreads her dominion by sword or money, fascinates men by sensual ritualism, becomes 'mistress of ceremonies' to the dignitaries of the world, flatters prince or people, and like Israel, seeks the help of one world power against the danger threatening from another" [AUBERLEN]. Judgment, therefore, begins with the harlot, as in privileges the house of God.
21. a--Greek, "one."
millstone--Compare the judgment on the Egyptian hosts at the Red Sea, Exodus 15:5 Exodus 15:10 , Nehemiah 9:11 , and the foretold doom of Babylon, the world power, Jeremiah 51:63 Jeremiah 51:64 .
with violence--Greek, "with impetus." This verse shows that this prophecy is regarded as still to be fulfilled.
22. pipers--flute players. "Musicians," painters and sculptors, have desecrated their art to lend fascination to the sensuous worship of corrupt Christendom.
23. What a blessed contrast is Revelation 22:5 , respecting the city of God: "They need no candle (just as Babylon shall no more have the light of a candle, but for a widely different reason), for the Lord God giveth them light."
candle--Translate as Greek, "lamp."
bridegroom . . . bride . . . no more . . . in thee--Contrast the heavenly city, with its Bridegroom, Bride, and blessed marriage supper ( Revelation 19:7 Revelation 19:9 , Revelation 21:2 Revelation 21:9 , Isaiah 62:4 Isaiah 62:5 ).
thy merchants were--So most of the best authorities read. But A omits the Greek article before "merchants," and then translates, "The great men of . . . were thy merchants."
24. Applied by Christ ( Matthew 23:35 ) to apostate Jerusalem, which proves that not merely the literal city Rome, and the Church of Rome (though the chief representative of the apostasy), but the WHOLE of the faithless Church of both the Old and New Testament is meant by Babylon the harlot; just as the whole Church (Old and New Testament) is meant by "the woman" ( Revelation 12:1 ). As to literal city, ARINGHUS in BENGEL says, Pagan Rome was the "general shambles" for slaying the sheep of Jesus. FRED. SEYLER in BENGEL calculates that papal Rome, between A.D. 1540 and 1580, slew more than nine hundred thousand Protestants. Three reasons for the harlot's downfall are given: (1) The worldly greatness of her merchants, which was due to unholy traffic in spiritual things. (2) Her sorceries, or juggling tricks, in which the false prophet that ministers to the beast in its last form shall exceed her; compare "sorcerers" ( Revelation 21:8 , 22:15 ), specially mentioned among those doomed to the lake of fire. (3) Her persecution of (Old Testament) "prophets" and (New Testament) "saints."