1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast. 3 For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; 5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed. 7 As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ 8 For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”
9 And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.”
11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. 14 “The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!”
15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, 16 “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! 17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”
And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?”
19 And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste. 20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”
21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; 22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, 23 and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
Big Idea: Over and again in this book, we have seen Jesus beckoning to His children. While He denounces sin with the harshest of words and threatens evil with the most terrifying of judgments, He stretches out His arms to His children so as to say, “Come out from among those other loves which only wage war against your soul. Come to the one who truly loves you” (4-5). John identifies three reasons—all arising from self-love—that God will destroy the City of Man at the Last Day: the love of money, sorcery, and persecution of the righteous.
According to Revelation 18, the primary evil for which God will judge the world is the love of money. This fierce judgment promised on economic idolatry is startling to most of us in this era because we have become so comfortable with materialism. But it is not a new thought in our study. On numerous occasions, John has alluded to the fact that Roman idolatry had more to do with economic gain than true spiritual devotion. Worshiping the Emperor’s image did not require a sincere heart, but securing federal funds for your city required worshiping the Emperor’s image! Participation in idol feasts did not require you to be a true believer, but it was required participation if you wished to remain a member of your professional guild. Therefore, John says that taking the mark of the Beast often looks like blending in in and hiding your identity as a Christian in order to prosper financially.
- Are there any areas in your life where you are tempted to spiritual compromise for material gain/security? What is something challenging regarding materialism/the love of money for you personally?
The second evil God will finally defeat is sorcery (φαρμακεία), which is descriptive of the devil’s methodology. Here John reminds his readers that modern societies succumbing to sorcery stand no more chance of escaping judgment than did Old Testament Babylon (Is. 47:9; Na. 3:4). Sorcery is any strategy by which the devil advances his agenda, which is to do whatever he can to hinder the gospel’s advance. This includes experimentation with tarot cards, Ouija boards, obsession with burial grounds, research of Satanic spells, drug and alcohol abuse, and pornography (which is most common). There is nothing inherently powerful about any of these practices, but the devil is a spiritual terrorist, and if he can convince you that these things hold power, he will use them to abuse you.
- Have you thought of each of these things as sorcery before? If not, how does seeing them as tools of the devil change your perspective?
The final reason the devil’s forces will be judged is because of the Christians they have persecuted and killed. Our comfort as Christians is that when we suffer for Christ, Jesus suffers with us. When Christ intercepted Saul on his way to Damascus to kill Christians, He asked, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” He comforts us by saying, “Precious in his sight is the death of his saints.” And He assures us with the promise: “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you” (2 Th. 1:6). In our text God promises to repay our persecutors “double” for all their sins (18:6).
- Have you or someone you know experienced persecution for following Christ? What motivation enables you to continue to follow Christ faithfully in the face of persecution?