The Destruction of Babylon

Revelation 18:1-19:6

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
August 2012

We have been studying the future Tribulation Period and the three judgments which will take place during that time (the seal judgments, the trumpet judgments and the bowl judgments). One thing that happened when the seventh bowl was poured out on the earth is that Babylon was destroyed (16:17-21).

Revelation 17 & 18 go into a little more detail about the destruction of Babylon. Revelation 17 focuses on religious and moral Babylon which will be destroyed in the middle of the Tribulation as the Antichrist demands the worship of himself. Revelation 18 focuses on economic and political Babylon. It does not describe Babylon in religious terms but in commercial terms primarily. It mentions twenty-eight different items which were bought and in Babylon (18:12-13). Babylon was both a city and a system.

Babylon – A City and a System

How can Babylon possibly be both a city and a system?  We have many examples today.

  • Madison Avenue is a real place in New York City.  It also stands for something.  It is home to some of the most extravagant shops in the entire world.
  • Wall Street is another real street in New York City but it also stands for something, the financial center of the country.  It is the home of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), one of the largest facilities in the world for trading stocks.
  • Las Vegas is a real city in Nevada but it also stands for something.  Because of the prostitution and gambling it has a reputation as “Sin City”.  It has a reputation (rightly or wrongly) as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Hollywood is a real city in California but it also stands for the movie industry.  When you think of Hollywood, you think of movie stars.
  • Washington, D.C. is a real city.  People live there.  It is also where our government is located – all three branches of government.  It stands for a city.  It also stands for a political system.
  • Detroit is a real city but the Detroit area is also one of the most violent cities in America. It is near Flint, Michigan which last year had the highest per capita murder rate in the US.

What will the City be Like? Revelation describes the destruction of a literal physical city. What city will it be? We don’t know but we know several things about this city.

What Will the City be Like?

1. It will be a wealthy city (18:3b, 7, 14, 16)

We do not know what city it will be but we know it will be an extremely wealthy city. The merchants said, “What city is like the great city?” (18:18). Many believe it will be in the US.  The wealthiest city in the world is not in the US. In a report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers , Tokyo is placed as the richest city for the period 2005-2020.

According to other reports, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is the richest city in the world. It is the richest city on earth. The emirate’s 420,000 citizens, who sit on one-tenth of the planet’s oil and have almost $1 trillion invested abroad, are worth about $17 million each. It will lead to an economic collapse, which will affect the world economy. This is what many have called the final economic crash.

2. It will be a powerful city (18:10; 17:18)

It is called “Babylon THE GREAT”. The kings say, “Woe! Woe to you, GREAT city, you MIGHTY city of Babylon!”

3. It will be a popular city (18:9, 11, 17, 18)

And the monarchs, mariners and merchants will be weeping and wailing for this city, all from a distance because they do not want to get too close to the judgment. The monarchs or kings of the earth mourn her destruction (18:9-10). The merchants mourn her destruction (18:11-17) and the mariners or sailors mourn her destruction (18:17-19).

4. It will be a wicked city (18:2, 5, 24)

“She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal” (18:2).  “Her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes” (18:5).  “In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the earth” (18:24).

What Will Happen to this City?

1. It will be destroyed by God (18:8, 20)

It is taken out by God. Why does He destroy it? Does God not like cities? It is destroyed because it is wicked. God judges nations, as well as individuals. We saw in Revelation 2 & 3 that he also judges churches.

2. It will be destroyed quickly (18:10, 17, 19)

“Therefore IN ONE DAY her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine (18:10). IN ONE HOUR such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ (18:17).  “‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth!
IN ONE HOUR she has been brought to ruin!’ (18:19)

3. It will be destroyed violently (18:21).

The city responsible for the deaths of many of God’s people (18:20) will to a violent end. The punishment will fit the crime.

4. It will be destroyed permanently (18:21-23).

At the end of WWI many great cities were destroyed (Berlin, Tokyo, Leipzig) but they were rebuilt. This one will never be rebuilt, like ancient Babylon.

Three Illustrations of This City

While we do not know what city this will be, we do know that it will have some connection to the Antichrist. We do know it will be like three cities. It will be like Rome. It was the city that had seven hills. It was called Babylon.

Rome was the one which persecuted the saints. It ruled over the kings of the earth. It was known as the center of all kinds of abominations but Rome does not fit this city perfectly because this city will fall suddenly. Rome fell gradually over a long period of time. This city was also a seaport city. Rome was not.

The second city that is a type of this future city is the ancient Phoenician city Tyre. Today it is located in Lebanon. Tyre was an island, like Singapore. It was known in the ancient world for its commerce and wealth. The third city that is a type of this future city is the ancient city of Babylon. In fact, it is called Babylon. Morally and spiritually, it will be like ancient Babylon.

I want to spend time today looking at four powerful applications from this chapter. There are four that come right out of this chapter.

Applications from Revelation 18

Lesson on Wealth

It is not a sin to be rich but there is a great danger in becoming rich. Matthew 19:23 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”. It is not impossible to be rich and go to heaven but Jesus said that it is hard. It is difficult. Why? Wealth leads to pride and self-sufficiency. The richer you are, the less you think you need God (cf. Deuteronomy 8:11-14).

That is what happened to the city of Babylon. It became wealthy and then it became proud (18:7b-8). Wealth can lead to pride. Ezekiel 28:5 says, “By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud.”

People who get wealthy sometimes look down on poorer people and call them names (like “white trash” or “trailer trash”). We tend to think that we are better than them just because we have more money or we think that there must be something wrong with other people who are poor.

Lesson on Greed

The Bible does not teach that it is a sin to be rich but it does teach that it is a sin to be greedy. Jesus said in Luke 12:15: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

Greed is the same thing as covetousness. It means wanting more than you need or deserve. It describes someone who wants more and is never satisfied. Some of you have seen the television show “American Greed”.

The Bible teaches that greed is a form of idolatry. There is nothing wrong with money. There is nothing wrong with working or a living or engaging in legitimate business but some people live for money. Some people put their job first. Some people will do anything for a buck. Some people worship money.

Jesus said that you cannot serve both God and Money (cf. Matthew 6:19-20, 24). The chapter mentions three groups that profited from the city. Alan Carr describes these three groups as monarchs, merchants and mariners. Suddenly she is gone.

What was the problem of the monarchs, merchants and mariners? They laid up treasure on earth. Their god was money and wealth. Their whole life was tied up in the city of Babylon and, when it was gone, they were devastated. Their fortune was lost.

Lesson on Separation

This chapter also contains a call to separation from in 18:4-5 (Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven and God has remembered her crimes).

The Teaching of Revelation 18:4

1. It is a command.

It is not just a suggestion or some good advice. It is not optional.  In Greek, this is a command.

2. It is a command is addressed to believers.

It is not addressed to unbelievers. It is addressed to believers (“My People”). It implies that God’s people will be alive on earth until Jesus returns. People argue whether this group is called the church but the point is that there will be believers on earth during the Tribulation Period, people that God calls “My People” and apparently some of those believers will be in Babylon.

3. It is a command to come out, not to stay in.

It is a command to be separate from Babylon, not to be united with her. This is taken right out of the OT. In the OT, the Jews were told to leave Babylon before it fell to invaders and was destroyed. Jeremiah 51:6 says, “Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins. It is time for the LORD’s vengeance” Jeremiah 51:50 says, “You who have escaped the sword, leave and do not linger!”

Apparently, there will be a temptation to stay in Babylon. Many believers who live in Babylon may not want to leave Babylon. Babylon will be a wealthy city. It will be luxurious. There will be great appeal to living in Babylon. There will be many advantages to living there. It will be a pagan city but that may be all the more reason to stay there, so you can be a witness, share Christ and reach out to those in the city but God does not tell His people to stay in Babylon. He tells them to come out of Babylon.

4. God gives two reasons for this command.

God gives us commands for a reason. He gives us commands because they are better for us. God gives two reasons for this command. What are they? They were commanded to leave Babylon so that they will not share in Babylon’s sins and so that they will not receive any of Babylon’s plagues.

The first reason is that they do not share in Babylon’s sins. That is a little strange. We not only have to avoid our own sins, we have to avoid the sins of others. This is something that people do today. How could we participate in the sins of others? Believers who lived in Babylon will be surrounded with and immersed with all kinds of evil influences all around them and it would be very difficult for them not to share in the sins of Babylon.

We saw this in the Church of Corinth. The sins of the city became the sins of the church. We are affected by the environment in which we live. Noah lived before the Flood in an extremely wicked world and he was righteous.

Babylon will be so wicked that its sins will be piled all the way up to heaven (18:4). It will be the home of demons (18:2). It would not be impossible to live in the city of Babylon and not be contaminated by it but it would be very difficult.

The second reason is to not share any of Babylon’s plagues. God was getting ready to judge Babylon and unless they left the city, they would be judged. The Bible teaches that nations as well as individuals can sin. It teaches that God judges nations as well as individuals. Believers in that nation share the judgment of the entire nation.

That is why God sent some angels into Sodom to remove Lot and his family because if they stayed in the city, they would have been killed with the rest of the city. God told Noah that he was going to destroy everyone on earth by a flood. If he didn’t build an ark, he would have died along with everyone else.

Jeremiah 51:45 says, “Run from the fierce anger of the LORD”. It was a time of judgment on Babylon. God said, “For the time will surely come when I will punish the idols of Babylon; her whole land will be disgraced and her slain will all lie fallen within her (Jeremiah 51:47).

Modern Application from Revelation 18:4

You say that is nice but it doesn’t apply to me. I do not live in the Tribulation Period. There is no city that I have to flee from. That is true but there are two lessons from this verse which apply today just as much as they apply in the Tribulation Period.

1) Lesson on Shared Sin

We can still share in someone else’s sin today.  We can still be affected by evil all around us.  It is not just limited to the evil of the city of Babylon.  If you are immersed in a completely wicked environment, you may need to leave it to avoid sinning.  The Bible says, “Evil company corrupts good character”.  

There are other ways that people can share in the sins of others today.   If you support or encourage those who sin, you share in their sin. II Chronicles 19:2 talks about those who help the wicked. If you help a fugitive or a criminal, you become an accessory to the crime.

If you give money to terrorists, you share in their sin. If you financially support a false teacher, you share in his sin (cf. II John 11). I Timothy 5:22 says that if you lay hands on and ordain the wrong type of person in the ministry, you share in his sins. If you bring the wrong type of person into the church and they go off the deep end, you share in their sins.

Another way that people share in the sins of others is by doing nothing to stop them. Family members who enable and loved one and allow them to continue with his or her destructive behavior share in that sin. Eli did that. Eli was not just the high priest (a descendant of Aaron). He was a judge for forty years.

He had two sons served as priests in the tabernacle. They had a position of authority. They were in the ministry and they were extremely wicked. They were living in open sin. They were sleeping with women at the tabernacle and they were married men. Eli did not remove his sons as priests. In fact, he did not do anything.

All he did was say, “It is not a good report about you that I hear” (cf. I Samuel 2:22-24a; 3:13). When a member of a church lives in open sin and the church does absolutely nothing about it, the leaders of the church share in that sin (I Corinthians 5:1-3).

2) Lesson on Separation

We know that this command applies today because it is repeated in II Corinthians 6:14-18. That is an identical command to separate and, like Revelation 18:4, it is addressed to believers. One says, “‘Come out of her, my people”. The other says, “Come out from them and be separate”. It is a command to separation, a command to holiness.

Both of these passages have been misinterpreted in some circles. Some have used these verses to justify separating from other Christians. There are times when it is necessary to leave a church but some try to justify their actions based on these verses.

However, these passages have absolutely NOTHING to do with separating from other Christians over minor doctrines or issues (which is the reason that most people leave churches). II Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be yoked together with UNBELIEVERS”.

It would apply to completely apostate churches, mainline denominations that are completely liberal. These are churches that do not believe the Bible is the Word of God. They do not believe in the Virgin Birth. Some of them do not even believe that Jesus really rose from the dead.

They ordain homosexuals and they are full of unbelievers. They claim to be Christians but are complete unbelievers. It would also apply in many other areas (fellowship, friends, marriage, ministry, morality).

Lesson on Perspectives

In Revelation 18, we see two different perspectives on the same event. We see what man thinks of the fall of Babylon. People on earth are seen mourning the fall of Babylon. That would be the monarchs (18:9-10), the merchants (18:11-17a), and the mariners (18:17b-19). Notice the three times we see the word “woe” (18:10, 15, 17). We also see what God thinks of the fall of Babylon (18:20).

The reactions are completely opposite. One group mourns the fall of Babylon and the other group rejoices over the fall of Babylon. Heaven and earth have completely different reactions. Heaven does not just rejoice over their fall, they are COMMANDED to rejoice over the fall of Babylon (18:20).

Revelation 19:1-6 describes the fulfillment of that command by the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders and great multitudes of saints praising God. Three groups in heaven rejoice over the fall of Babylon, just as three groups on earth mourned its destruction.

We also see a fourfold hallelujah of praise in heaven. It is used many times in the OT. It is a Hebrew word (like “amen” and “hosanna”). The word hallelujah is found in only two books of the Bible (Psalms, Revelation). This is the only time in the NT that the word is used and it is used four times in this one chapter. Why are they praising God?

They are praising Him for three reasons (19:2). One, His judgments are true and just. Two, He has judged wicked Babylon. Three, He has avenged the saints. The saints under the altar, who prayed for God to avenge them, finally got their prayer answered. What lessons can we learn from this?

• God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). What God think about Babylon’s destruction is not what man thinks about Babylon’s destruction.

• It is not wrong to celebrate the justice of God. Many think that it is wrong to do this. Some think that it is unchristian. Does Ezekiel 33:11 contradict Revelation 18:20?

Ezekiel 33:11 and Revelation 18:20

Many believe that the whole concept of rejoicing in the death of the wicked completely contradicts what God told the Prophet Ezekiel.  Ezekiel 33:11 says, As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked”.  Four things are clear from the context of Ezekiel 33.

1. The context is dealing with the nation of Israel.

The “wicked” in the context refer to Israelites.  It refers to God’s people in the context.  “Son of man, say TO THE ISRAELITES, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live? ”’Say TO THEM, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (33:10-11a).  However, this is not limited to Israel.  Ezekiel 18:32 says, “For I have NO PLEASURE in the death of ANYONE who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”

2. The death in the context is physical death.

A simple reading of the chapter confirms this fact.  The chapter does not deal with spiritual death.  It is not talking about suffering in Hell.  It is talking about people who die physically.

3. The wicked are defined as those who do NOT repent.

God specifically says “And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will NOT bring condemnation” (33:12).

Ezekiel 18:21-22 says, “But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall NOT die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live”. 

Again, “When a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life” (18:27).  No matter how bad people are, there is always hope if they turn to God and repent of their sins. 

4. The passage is dealing with the living, not the dead.

The very point of the passage is for Israel to turn from her evil ways and repents of her sins.  Most usually quote only part of Ezekiel 33:11.  The whole verse says, “‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, BUT RATHER THAT THEY TURN FROM THEIR WAYS AND LIVE. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! WHY WILL YOU DIE, people of Israel?”  The end of the verse shows that God is not talking about the dead but about the living.

We see the same thing in Ezekiel 18:23.  It says, “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “RATHER THAN HE SHOULD TURN FROM HIS WAYS AND LIVE?”  The statement that “God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (18:32; 33:11) is the OT equivalent to II Peter 3:9 which says that “God is not willing that any should perish”.

It simply says that God does not want people to die.  He does not delight when people choose death.  He delights when people choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19).  He delights when people repent.  There is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10).

It does NOT say that he takes no pleasure in the execution of his justice or righteousnessOther passages clearly teach this concept.   “And it shall be, that just as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess”  (Deuteronomy 28:63).

Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”  (Revelation 18:20).  If this was a sinful desire, God would not be doing it Himself and He would not command other people to do it.  Not only is it not wrong to do this, it is actually commanded by God.

2 Responses to The Destruction of Babylon

  1. Joey says:

    The city is Las Vegas Nevada. God commands His 144000 to come out before He destroys the city. God sent the 144000 to the city and they were harassed and tortured. Now God is going to destroy the city. This is some of the song that. We sing in Rev.14:2-3. The song is also found in pi 3.14.

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