The Doomed City.
SUMMARY.--The Fall of Babylon Decreed. The People of God Commanded to Come out of Her. The Kings of the Earth Lament Over Her Fall. The Merchants and Traffickers Also Lament. The Millstone Cast into the Sea.
The fall of the great city, Babylon, otherwise represented as the woman who sat upon the beast, has been symbolized in the pouring out of the seven vials. The seventeenth chapter describes her, shows her general character, points out the sources of her support, and how these shall finally become her destroyers. The eighteenth chapter borrows language and imagery from the destruction of the ancient Babylon, the oppressor of Israel, especially from the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, in order to describe the overthrow of the spiritual Babylon. Since in 17:16-18 it is shown that the horns of the beast upon which the woman sat have been turned upon her, the present chapter refers to a period of desolation which shall precede her final overthrow. The Papacy is to exist for a period after the support of the secular power is withdrawn. How strikingly the state portrayed in chapter 18 is fulfilled in the lamentations over evil times that are found in all the encyclical letters of Pope Pius IX. and Leo XIII!
1-3. After these things. Those described in chapter 17 . Another angel. Some have urged that this is Christ. There is no proof of their correctness. Having great power. There was assigned to him great authority. And the earth was lightened with his glory. This was a proof of power proceeding from God. 2. And he cried . . . Babylon the great is fallen. Compare this description with Isaiah 21:9 Isaiah 14:23 Isaiah 13:21 . The fall of Babylon has been already declared ( Revelation 16:19 Revelation 17:16 ) but now it is developed. This picture is intended to portray her utter desolation. 3. For all the nations have drunk. Partaken with her in her sins. Fornication. See note on 17:5. Merchants of the earth are waxed rich. Her luxurious living had made great markets.
4-8. Come out of her, my people. This invitation is given to the people of God yet in captivity, lest by remaining they should be involved in her destruction. As God once had a captive people in the old Mesopotamian Babylon, so he has a people in the spiritual Babylon. Ever since the Reformation began his voice has called on them to come out of her. Nor can it be doubted that he has many true and earnest worshipers still who have found enough of Christ in the mazes of the Papacy to have given him their hearts. The condemnation of the great spiritual despotism is not a declaration that all whom she has enslaved are the children of the devil. 5. Her sins have reached unto heaven. They call therefore for God's remembrance of her iniquities in judgments. 6. Reward her even as she has rewarded you. This is addressed to those who have meted out her judgments. The divine principle of judgments is that every one shall be rewarded according to his works. What they sow, that shall they reap. This power shall have returned upon it in double portion what it has meted out to others. 7. I sit as a queen. This verse describes her former pride. Compare Isaiah 47:8 Isaiah 47:9 . 8. Therefore shall her plagues come. Notwithstanding her pride and exultation. Burned with fire. See 17:16 . When an ancient city was taken and destroyed it was burned with fire.
9-14. The kings . . . shall bewail her. There will be mourners. Those who have sinned with her, or profited by her will bewail her fall. 10. Standing afar off. The picture represents these mourners looking from a great distance, afraid to approach nearer. For in one hour is thy judgment come. It has come suddenly. 11. And the merchants of the earth shall weep. All who had made gain in any way from the sins or the luxury of Babylon shall mourn. There follows, then, an enumeration of the articles in which there was traffic. 13. Slaves and souls of men. The Greek reads, "the bodies and souls of men." The first seems to refer to the traffic in slaves, a common traffic until modern times and sanctioned by the Papacy. The latter expression seems to me to refer to a spiritual traffic. What is the whole system of masses for the dead, paid for out of the money drawn from mourning relatives, but a traffic in the souls of men? 14. The fruits. These things for which Babylon so lusted are all gone from her forever.
15-19. The merchants of these things . . . shall stand afar off. The lamentation of the kings over the fall of the city has been given in verses 9-14 . The lamentation of the merchants is now given. They are also represented as standing afar off. With them join the shipmasters and mariners who have been engaged in her trade. These all mourn because their profits from her are brought to an end.
20. Rejoice over her, thou heaven. While there are mourners, another company is called upon to rejoice. She had exalted herself against God. All who have been for God, and who have suffered from her, are called to rejoice.
21-24. And a strong angel took up a millstone. See Jeremiah 51:61-64 . This symbolical act implies an utter destruction. In Jeremiah the stone is cast into the Euphrates. Now it is cast into the sea, because another Babylon is designed. 22. And the voice of harpers. It is this third angel who declares the silence and desolation of the city now. And the sound of the millstone. In the mills grinding food for the people. The mills were hand-mills, usually worked by women as a domestic duty. 23. For with thy sorcery were all the nations deceived. This accounts for the fact that all nations poured their treasures into her lap. 24. And in her was found the blood of the prophets. It is because she has slain the saints of the Most High that these judgments come upon her. As Jerusalem in the time of Christ filled up the measure of the sins of Israel (see Matthew 23:29 Matthew 23:35 Matthew 23:36 Luke 11:51 Luke 13:33 ), so the spiritual Babylon, the great persecutor, fills up the measure of the sins of the beast and false prophet, and is required to account for the blood of slaughtered prophets and saints of all ages.