Revelation 18:4-20 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 9 secs

The Destruction of Economic Babylon Part II. Revelation 18:4-20


Revelation chapter eighteen focuses on the final fulfillment of the judgments on Babylon. Chapter seventeen focuses more on Babylon in terms of the religious network of ideas that come out from it as the final form of the kingdom of man and chapter eighteen focuses more on the economic system. We need to keep in mind that there is this connection between the economics, which has to do with all manner of economics—not just economic theory in terms of socialism or Marxism, capitalism or various other shades of theory, but economic activity in terms of man's basic orientation to labor and the planet. The root of economics is the production that comes from labor and how that production is used in various ways within the social structure of the human race. What this points out as we think about the connection between chapters 17 & 18 is that it shows once again that we can't distinguish different areas of human activity from religious orientation—from how a person or a society or a culture views God. That relationship to God affects their views on law, politics, economics, labor, on the value and use of money, all of these factors. So we see that the judgment from God first falls on the religious orientation which is the center, the root of everything else, and then upon the economics because once the economics are judged everything else just collapses. The world is going to go into truly the greatest depression, the greatest economic collapse, and nothing will be left.


One of the key elements in developing a biblical view of labor and of economics is that the ultimate owner of the earth is God. Under His sovereignty God is the one who owns all of the land and all of the production and the human race is viewed as a steward who is to faithfully utilize that land. In the original creation mandate in Genesis 1:26, 27 man is to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and the beasts of the field as God's representative. Under sin what happens is that man, because of his arrogance and self-absorbed nature, wants to utilize everything God has created for his own pleasure, aggrandizement and power until this is taken to its fullest extent, as seen in the kingdom of Babylon at the end time. This sets up the basic indictment relating to the nations, kings of the earth, and the merchants of the earth. There is only one group that is left out of this and which comes up later in the chapter: the seamen, those who are involved in commerce related to the seas.

Then we see a shift to more of what are specifics. Revelation 18:4 NASB "I heard another voice from heaven, saying, 'Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues…'" This other voice from heaven could most likely the Father's voice because we have seen this in the past. God at this time is in the temple and in the preparation for the bowl judgments everyone evacuates the temple, and when we look at chapter 16 dealing with those bowl judgments there was a voice that came from heaven, the voice of God. This verse has some interesting implications here because God is addressing Babylon. This is the woman that has been represented as the great harlot in chapter 17 and is represented as this terrible wanton system of extravagant materialism and rebelliousness toward God; yet even in the midst of that city there are a number of believers. They are called "My people." This really shows something about the grace of God and the depravity of man in that you can't get caught up in the kind of a trap that we often find with many of us, many believers, when we think of certain people working in a certain kind of job or profession or living a certain lifestyle. We ask how in the world they can be a Christian and do that, live like that or act like that. It is because as individuals, even though we may be saved, we are not necessarily mature enough in our knowledge of the Word to make wise choices. In many case there are believers who are so attracted to the world's system, so tempted and enticed by the world's system, that they are never able to really remove themselves from it. This is true even in the Tribulation. With all of the things that are going on there is still a group that has been saved, redeemed, and living in the midst of sin city, Babylon, at the end of the Tribulation. God calls upon them in warning. The command emphasizes urgency, it is not an invitation, but a warning to evacuate now lest they be caught up in the judgment. There is a call to separation—"so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues"—so that they don't become influenced and tempted by all of the enticements of the cosmic system. The term "plagues" is one that John often uses to refer to the judgments that God is pouring out on the earth.         

This idea of coming out and fleeing and leaving has a parallel in two key passages that we have looked at in the past related to unfulfilled prophecy and Babylon. Jeremiah 50:8 NASB "Wander away from the midst of Babylon And go forth from the land of the Chaldeans; Be also like male goats at the head of the flock." This has to do with leading out of an area. Jeremiah 51:6-9 echoes this same command to flee from the midst of Babylon NASB "Flee from the midst of Babylon, And each of you save his life! Do not be destroyed in her punishment, For this is the LORD'S time of vengeance; He is going to render recompense to her. Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the LORD, Intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; Therefore the nations are going mad. Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken; Wail over her! Bring balm for her pain; Perhaps she may be healed. We applied healing to Babylon, but she was not healed; Forsake her and let us each go to his own country, For her judgment has reached to heaven And towers up to the very skies." Notice the prophecy pictures an immediate and sudden collapse, something that was not expected, a surprise.

Revelation 18:5 "for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities." This is a further explanation, indicated in the Greek by the initial word that is translated "for," which is translated a little differently in the English. It is the word hoti [o(ti] which usually indicates cause. We get a greater sense of this when we read it, "because her sins…" This is what now has, it seems, moved God in His justice to bring judgment upon Babylon. There a couple of idioms in this verse; neither one of these statements are understood in a literal sense. We use idioms all the time but the idioms have a literal meaning. The first idiomatic phrase is, "her sins have piled up as high as heaven." The idea is that her sins have now become so egregious and extreme that God must act. So we get an idea even in the English of the increase of the sinfulness of Babylon so that now finally something has to be done. The Greek word, kallao [kallaw], means to join, to cleave to, to stick to something. It is used in Luke 10:11 to refer to the dust that clings to the inside of a cup. It has the idea of joining something together, so we could translate with this sense of meaning: "[Babylon's] sins cling to her unto heaven." But the word was also used in an idiomatic sense to convey the idea of things being brought together and piled up on top of each other—sins would cling to each other, attach themselves to each other in the same way as bricks being laid in a building, and it brings to mind the building of the tower of Babel, the idea of building one brick upon another in order to reach heaven. That is the idea here and why it is stated in this particular way. Now her sins have piled up so much that they have been brought to the attention of God (figure of speech). 

What this is doing is saying that God now after a lengthy pause in His direct involvement with Babylon when He has allowed those in Babylon to have unrestrained rebellion against Him is going to execute His punishment. We see this in other verses of Scripture, e.g. Revelation 16:19 NASB "The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered [passive voice] before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath." In 18:5 the word "iniquities" is the Greek word adikemata [a)dikhmata], from dike [dikh] which means righteousness, and the negative prefix it means without righteousness. It was a word that was often used to refer to indictable offenses, crimes. So once again we see the heavy emphasis on the legal structure here of the judicial system of God; that they are going to be judged because of their indictable offenses against God.

In the next section from vv. 6-8 there is an address to do something. Who is being addressed here? Revelation 18:6 NASB "Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back {to her} double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her. [7] To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, 'I SIT {as} A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW, and will never see mourning.'" Obviously the theme of divine judgment and justice continues. But who is being commanded to "render to her just as she rendered to you"? There are a couple of options. One would be the Antichrist and his army. Remember the context here is the very end of the Tribulation as the nations are being gathered together at Armageddon. Another option would be the enemies that are coming against the Antichrist. Someone is going to be wiping out Babylon. The best option seems to be that it is the Antichrist and his allies, the ten kings, who bring this destruction upon Babylon. This is based on an understanding of Revelation 17:16, 17 NASB "And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled." So here we see how God uses human agents to bring about His judgments on mankind. Verse 6 begins with the word "render" or "pay back," the Greek word apodidomi [a)podidomi]. It means to give away, give up, to give back, to sell, in some cases to give back that which is due, or to make recompense for something. The idea here is to give payment back on what is due, to repay. "… even as she has paid" is a key principle that comes out of the Mosaic Law and is embedded in divine justice, i.e. the penalty fits the crime. Why is this judgment double here? Because it is punishment, repayment.

If this punishment is this massive destruction of Babylon just think how horrible the act of sin and idolatry and rebellion must truly be. When we think about the end game punishment for all believers as eternity in the lake of fire we have to understand that if God is truly just, and is truly a God of love as well, and is consistent with His revelation that the penalty must fit the crime, then that must tell us that the act, the crime, the sin of rebellion against God must indeed be so horrible and destructive and terrible in its consequences that we perhaps need to rethink our whole concept of sin. Adam's sin didn't seem to be very much, just eating a piece of fruit, was so bad that the fabric of the universe and reality reverberated through everything; it changed the physical structure of the universe. It brought violence, war and famine, and all of these things came into the experience of mankind all because of that one little decision. Notice in verse 7, "in the measure." According to the degree that she did something. The punishment fits the crime. At the very core of her motivation is the idea that she is trying to avoid pain, suffering and punishment. We live in an era of excessive mandates for safety, even though as kids we all managed to grow up. We might have knocked out a tooth or two or broken an arm and we managed to survive. It is good to take precautions and to be reasonable safe and secure, but there is something going on behind all of this and what it reflects is that we live in a culture where people are scared to death of death; they are fearful of dying. And they don't have a biblical orientation to suffering or a biblical understanding of death, so they are at the very core of their being very much afraid and try to protect themselves in every way from letting anything possibly happen that could cause death—because they really don't know what is on the other side. We are going to see this in an extreme way based on this verse in the Tribulation period where this whole culture is wrapped up in trying to avoid seeing sorrow and really coming to grips with suffering and grief in life.

This depicts an extremely arrogant, self-absorbed attitude that the culture depicted in Babylon is one that seeks to psychologically wipe out the facts of the fall, which is what brings sorrow. There is only one thing that is going to wipe out sorrow and that is when we are face to face with the Lord in eternity, in the Millennial kingdom, where there is no more sorrow, no more pain, etc. Only God, because of the redemption of the cross can produce a life and culture where there is no sorrow, grief or pain. This shows again that the orientation of the Babylonian culture is an orientation towards self-sufficiency apart from God and solving all of man's problems completely apart from Him.         

Revelation 18:8 NASB "For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong." The resulting judgments are announced, because of this self-absorbed arrogance and self-deification. She is going to get death, mourning and sorrow. The words "in one day her plagues will come" is not to be taken in an extremely literal sense that this is all going to happen within a 24-hour period, the phrase "one day" indicates that it is a short time. It will be shorter than a 24-hour period; it is going to all take place within a very short time. In verse 10 it is "one hour" and in verses 17 and 19 also "one hour," so it is talking about the immediacy, the suddenness; it is completely unexpected. She is destroyed by fire as Isaiah 34:8-10 states; and this has never happened before, so it will be a fulfillment of those prophecies. Then there is a lament that is going to take place because of her death. Three groups are brought into focus. The first is the kings of the earth, the second is going to be the merchants, and the third is the seafarers who are the merchant marines. 

Revelation 18:9 NASB "And the kings of the earth, who committed {acts of} immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning." Who are these kings of the earth? Are these the same as the ten kings who are allied with the Antichrist? According to chapter 17:16, 17 it is those ten kings that are going to destroy the city, so these kings would not be the same as those kings. These would be those kings who are hostile to the Antichrist and his alliance, so this represents another group of political and national leaders who were completely allied with Babylon and in bed with the same philosophy. This is not the Antichrist's allies because they participate in her destruction; this is another group, the enemies of the Antichrist who lament for her because she is destroyed. Time-wise this will take place at the beginning of the campaign of Armageddon.   

Revelation 18:10 NASB "standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.'" They are just stunned and in grief and mourning, and everything they have worked hard to build and everything they looked at for stability is destroyed and wiped out. [11]  "And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more—" The markets are wiped out at this point. Nothing is left; there is no buying or selling or trading because this event wipes out all commerce. [12] "cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every {kind of} citron wood and every article of ivory and every article {made} from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, [13] and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and {cargoes} of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives." Human trafficking, buying and selling of men.

Revelation 18:14 NASB "The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and {men} will no longer find them." They wanted peace, security, a stable economic system where there would be no fear of market collapse, no fear of poverty or war. All of that has collapsed because man cannot achieve real peace apart from God. This is an extremely strong statement in the Greek emphasizing the impossibility of ever covering those things again. [15] "The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, [16] saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls;" indicating her wealth, her luxury, that she has everything known to man to provide for comfort. [17] "for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!' And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance." And then it impacts on the sea. We have already seen that the salt seas have been completely wiped out in the bowl judgments. That is the picture. Everyone around the world just stands in shock, stunned at the destruction of this economic system. [18] "and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, 'What {city} is like the great city?' [19] "And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!' [20] "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her." This is a direct allusion back to what happens in the fifth seal where the focus was on those who were martyrs.

Revelation 6:10 NASB "and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' [11] And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until {the number of} their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also." That justice they prayed for is what is brought to a conclusion here in this destruction of Babylon, and this is what brings to an end to the kingdom of man.