In the rebellion of Israel against the authority of Moses, Moses and Aaron were told by God to separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment (Num. Num. 16:21). The congregation of Israel was commanded to separate from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram before the earth opened up to swallow their families (Num. Num. 16:26-34). Like Lot and his family who fled Sodom prior to its destruction (Gen. Gen. 19:12-15), the saints of the Tribulation period are urged to flee the city so as to avoid her physical judgment.
Go forth from Babylon! Flee from the Chaldeans! With a voice of singing, declare, proclaim this, utter it to the end of the earth; say, The LORD has redeemed His servant Jacob! (Isa. Isa. 48:20)
Move from the midst of Babylon, go out of the land of the Chaldeans; and be like the rams before the flocks. (Jer. Jer. 50:8)
Flee from the midst of Babylon, and every one save his life! Do not be cut off in her iniquity, for this is the time of the LORDS vengeance; He shall recompense her. (Jer. Jer. 51:6)
We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed. Forsake her, and let us go everyone to his own country; for her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies. (Jer. Jer. 51:9)
My people, go out of the midst of her! And let everyone deliver himself from the fierce anger of the LORD. (Jer. Jer. 51:45)
You who have escaped the sword, get away! Do not stand still! Remember the LORD afar off, and let Jerusalem come to your mind. (Jer. Jer. 51:50)
Up, up! Flee from the land of the north, says the Lord; for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven, says the Lord. Up, Zion! Escape, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon. (Zec. Zec. 2:6-7)1If the call to Gods people to come out of Babylon immediately precedes the time of destruction under the seventh bowl (Rev. Rev. 16:19+), then the requirement to take the mark of the Beast for commercial participation has already been imposed (cf. Rev. Rev. 16:2+). Since it is impossible to take the mark and be among the elect of God (Rev. Rev. 14:9-11+; Rev. 17:8+), those saints which are in Babylon at this time are underground. They will be unable to obtain support except by the black market and must remain in hiding because they lack the mark (Rev. Rev. 13:15+).2 If the warning occurs before the pouring forth of the first bowl (Rev. Rev. 16:2+), then the mark of the Beast may not have been instituted yet and the saints in the city have probably been drawn there to participate in the citys commercial prosperity. Like Lot at the gates of Sodom, they unwisely linger and dabble in their ungodly surroundings. This should not be interpreted as a general command for believers to physically separate from all who practice sin:
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortionernot even to eat with such a person. (1Cor. 1Cor. 5:9-11)This verse is readily abused in the hands of legalistic shepherds who use it as a tool to manipulate their flock in an attempt to control every aspect of their lives. This illustrates one of the dangers of taking passages out of context and spiritualizing their meaning. This verse concerns the Tribulation period and the physical destruction of the literal city of Babylon. It does not concern a legalistic separation of the believer today from all forms of commercial involvement.
While these words have a real application to the believer to come forth to Jesus outside the spiritual Babylonecclesiasticism, Nicolaitanism and the false promises of mystery Babylon in its various forms; yet the particular interpretation of the words is not to the saints, who will have been raptured before this call goes forth. The call to come forth from this great commercial Sodom of the last daysrebuilt Babylon, is evidently issued to those individuals living in or doing business in that capital of the Antichrist in the last days.3lest you share in her sins
Lest you share is συγκοινωνήσητε [synkoinōnēsēte] , lest you all take part in or take a sympathetic interest in.4 The same term is used when Paul writes to the Ephesian church not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. Eph. 5:11) and when he commends the Philippian church because they shared in his distress (Php. Php. 4:14). It is a compound word combining the concepts of fellowship and together with. The saints are not to isolate themselves from the world (1Cor. 1Cor. 5:9-11). For how else can evangelization take place? Yet, while being in the world, they are not to be of the worldjoining themselves with those who practice lawlessness:
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (2Cor. 2Cor. 6:14-16)The saints who are in Babylon at the time of the end are at great risk of taking part in or having sympathetic interest in her sins.5
lest you receive of her plagues
The plagues she is to receive are primarily her burning and destruction as related in this chapter.
1 They were warned to flee from the land of the north , that is, from Babylon, so called because armies and trading caravans from that land entered Palestine from that direction due to the desert on the east and southeast (Jer. Jer. 1:13-14).Merrill F. Unger, Ungers Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), Zec. 2:6. The context is immediately prior to the Millennial Kingdom: Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. (Zec. Zec. 2:11-12).
2 Morris suggests the call comes earlier, before the mark has been imposed. [Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 18:4] But this seems unlikely given the immediacy of the warning and impending judgment and that the mark is in place by the time of the first bowl (Rev. Rev. 16:2+) whereas the destruction occurs at the seventh bowl (Rev. Rev. 16:19+).
4 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 774.
5 How many believers in our own day deny Biblical teachings out of sympathy with the ungodly culture? Bullinger suggests a figure of speech which puts the sins for judgment: The word sins is put by Metonymy for the judgment brought about by her sins. (Compare Jer. Jer. 51:9.) It is because Gods people will not have fellowship in her sins that this gracious call to Come out from her judgments is given.E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), Rev. 18:4.