[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
18 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
“After these things” introduces a new vision setting. In chapter 17, an angel spoke of the judgment of the harlot, and her relationship with the beast. In this chapter, another angel gives details of her judgment. In chapter 17, she is called a harlot, or the great whore. In this chapter, she is called Babylon the great. Both terms refer to Jerusalem which will reject her commitment to God for an adulterous relationship with the beast.
2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
We saw this proclamation in verse 8 of chapter 14. In the chronology of Revelation, chapter 19 seems to put the destruction of Jerusalem after the second coming of Jesus, and specifically, after the seventh bowl.
At this point, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is the headquarters of the beast. Zion, the “dwelling place of God” (Psalm 132:13) has become a lair of demons. As the headquarters of the Antichrist, Jerusalem is literally swarming with demonic activities. It is important to remember that she chose this relationship and, therefore, will be judged for it.
It is also important to remember that, at that time, Jerusalem will not represent the nation of Israel. There may be godless Jews who align themselves with the beast-kingdom, but for the most part the Jews will be persecuted.
3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
The angel reminds us that, not only did she pervert her relationship with God, but she led the world in worshiping the beast. We are told, in 2 Peter 2:1-3, that because of greed and sensuality, false teachers will lead people down this path.
4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
John hears another voice, but doesn’t say who spoke. We can, however, be sure it is not God, because in verse 6, the voice asks God to judge her. The phrase “my people” refers to Jews, since the Christians would all be raptured before the Wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
This is an advance warning, to come out of Jerusalem, before it has been transformed into the kingdom of the Antichrist. Even if God’s people, living there, were to escape persecution, they would be led away from God and into worship of the beast.
5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.
(See also- Isaiah 40:1-11)
7 How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
As the headquarters of the Antichrist, Jerusalem will be the religious and political center of the world. This will give a false sense of security to its inhabitants. The belief that she “shall see no sorrow” shows their confidence in the Antichrist. In Revelation 13:4, the world said “Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?”
8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
She claimed that she would never see sorrow, but in one day came death, and mourning, and famine. The judgment is from God, but as we saw in 17:16, the agent of death is the ten kings of the beast.
9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
These are not the ten kings, which destroyed Jerusalem in Revelation 17:16-17, suddenly having a change of heart. These are other rulers of the earth. In Revelation 6:8, we learned that the kingdom of the Antichrist (with the 10 kings) was one of four world governments. All four will combine to form the global beast-kingdom.
10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.
The kings echo the phrase “in one hour”. They are amazed at the swiftness of her destruction. They also acknowledge that this is surely judgment for her sins.
11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
This does not mean all the merchants of the earth. Verses 12-15 clearly says that it is the merchants who imported luxury items into Babylon. Some commentators believe that all merchants on earth will benefit from the economy of the beast, but there is no scriptural basis for that.
12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
This is a long list of imported items of luxury, many probably used in temple worship of the beast. Daniel 11:38 says that the Antichrist will honor his god with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. One note is that thyine wood (verse 12) is a type of cedar that was used for making idols, and in construction of temple doors.
During this time, the beast controls the world economy, and no one buys or sells without having the mark of the beast. Verse 23 states the fact that these merchants also have demonic assistance in their trade.
14 And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.
Although many of the imported items will be used for temple worship of the beast, much of it is simply for selfish desires. Satan’s basic agenda has always been self-worship.
15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
The merchants, like the kings of the earth in verses 9-10, will stand afar off for fear of her torment.
16 And saying, Alas, alas that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
Again, they speak of her living in extravagant luxury. Notice that this is the same description given the harlot in Revelation 17:4.
17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
The merchants echo the kings in proclaiming the suddenness of her destruction. The shipmasters, etc. are a second group of merchants, and are the third group who respond to the destruction of the city, while standing at a distance.
18 And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.
The third group also mourns over her, and remarks on the suddenness of her destruction. Like the other two groups, this one also mourns over the city, rather than the inhabitants. As we saw, in verse 11, they mourn over their loss of benefits from her.
20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.
We can’t be certain who is speaking here, but we can be sure it is not a continuing dialog of the sailors. Whether it is a voice from heaven, or John’s own words, it is a call to God’s people to rejoice in the fact that she has finally been judged. We will see this rejoicing, in heaven, in chapter 19:1-3.
This is a partial fulfillment of the implied promise to the fifth-seal martyrs, in Revelation 6:9-11, which asked God to avenge their blood.
21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
This is the third, and final, mighty angel mentioned in Revelation. We learned in Revelation 5:2 that these are probably archangels.
This verse reminds us of Matthew 18:6, where Jesus says that if anyone offends a believer, it would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the sea. In other words, it you cause a believer to stumble, in his faith, it would be better to die a violent death than to face the judgment of God.
That Jerusalem will be destroyed, and found no more, at first appears to be a contradiction, as Revelation 20:9 clearly speaks of Jerusalem at the end of the millennium. Referring to her as Babylon, however, shows that this prophecy is speaking of the destruction of the spiritual position of Jerusalem. It will obviously be physically destroyed, and later rebuilt. Zechariah 14:11 declares that after Jesus begins his earthly reign, Jerusalem will never again be utterly destroyed. A side-note is that Ezekiel 40-48 suggests that the millennial temple will not be in Jerusalem.
22 And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
23 And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.
These verses mention the everyday life, of the city, from several angles. Life, as they know it, will cease to exist in Jerusalem (Isaiah 24:7-9).
“For thy merchants were the great men of the earth” literally means, in the Greek, that they were the world’s very greatest men. Their source of power is explained by the text “for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived”.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
As the headquarters of the Antichrist, Jerusalem will be responsible for leading the world in the persecution of Christians and Jews. Revelation 17:6 says she will be drunk with the blood of the saints.
Even before her control by the Antichrist, Jerusalem has had a long history of persecuting the true followers of God. Jesus explicitly said, in Matthew 23:34-37, that it is Jerusalem that kills the prophets (see also- Luke 13:33-34).