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. – Revelation 18:1-8 ESV
In this chapter, John records yet more specific information regarding the fall of Babylon. In the previous chapter, he provided us with a description of the false religious system associated with the city and its government. While some commentators choose to see all references to Babylon in these two chapters as symbolic only, it seems clear that the geographic location of the former city of Babylon is in view as well. The Scriptures appear to indicate that the city will yet again become a center of power from which the Antichrist operates during the days of the tribulation. It will become the political, religious and economic focal point of the world during that time, with the Antichrist operating his government from within its borders.
In chapter 17, John was shown the destruction of the false religious system, also referred to as Babylon or the great prostitute. Now, in chapter 18, he is given a vision of the destruction of Babylon’s financial system. If you recall, one of the things the false prophet did, along with establishing the apostate church built around the worship of Antichrist, was to institute the requirement of the mark of the beast. This visible symbol or mark was required to be affixed to the right hand or forehead of every individual on earth.
16 Also it [the false prophet] causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. – Revelation 13:16-17 ESV
The mark was a non-negotiable requirement that became the means by which anyone could participate in the economy set up by the Antichrist and his world-wide government. The monopoly created by this kind of manipulative control would greatly influence the Antichrist’s power and fill the treasuries of his government. And John is given just a glimpse into the outcome of this kind of economic control.
…the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living. – Revelation 18:3 ESV
There appear to be two falls of Babylon described in these two chapters. The first involves the fall of the false religious system that was set up by the false prophet. Chapter 17 describes its fall, which takes place at the midway point of the 7 years of tribulation. But chapter 18 describes the fall of Babylon in its political and commercial form, which will take place at the end of the great tribulation, 3-1/2 years later. John was given a partial view of Babylon’s ultimate destruction back in chapter 16.
17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings,[c] peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. – Revelation 16:17-19 ESV
It seems clear that this is referring to an actual city, the city of Babylon. And the result of this event will be that the city falls, literally and physically, resulting in its location becoming desolate and abandoned by mankind. The angel describes it as becoming, “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” (Revelation 18:2 ESV). This formerly great city will become the abode of the demonic, an apt description of what it had really been all along. This geographic location on the planet has had a long history of immoral and unrighteous behavior associated with it, stretching all the way back to the tower of Babel, when mankind attempted to disobey the will of God.
“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11:4 ESV
In this account, we see that, from day one, the territory known as Babylon, was associated with the sins of self-sufficiency, self-determinism, and self-glorification. Rather than obey God, men attempted to control their own fate and set themselves up as gods. And Babylon would become an ever-lasting symbol of man’s endless pursuit of autonomy and self-idolatry. But John is shown the final outcome God has in store for this great city. It will fall. And its fall will be great. All those nations that “have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality” will fall along with her. And notice what the second angel says about the city:
As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,
so give her a like measure of torment and mourning. – Revelation 18:7 ESV
During the tribulation, Babylon will yet again become a prosperous and highly influential city. It will be restored to its former glory, replicating its glory days under King Nebuchadnezzar. But as great as Babylon will become, it will prove no match for Almighty God. As powerful, wealthy and influential as it will be during the waning days of the tribulation, it will experience a devastating fall – at the hands of God. The city’s pride, self-sufficiency, and love affair with immorality will come to an end. And so, a voice from heaven calls all believers living at that time to remove themselves from the city. They are to flee from her borders, distancing themselves from her immorality and rebellion against God. Like Lot running from Sodom and Gomorrah, the tribulation saints are to vacate the premises of Babylon, in anticipation of God’s judgment against her.
It is payback time. The voice from heaven that John hears describes the sins of Babylon being heaped up as high as heaven, an obvious comparison to the bricks heaped up by the people living in Babel. The sins of Babylon are obvious to God, and He will pay her back double for all that she has done. Like all those who stand opposed to God and who set themselves up as their own gods, Babylon and its inhabitants saw themselves as invulnerable and untouchable.
“I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
and mourning I shall never see.” – Revelation 18:7 ESV
But as the proverb says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV). And in a single day, judgment would come against Babylon. God will bring about the fall of this once-great city, “for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” (Revelation 18:8 ESV)
The ultimate fall of Babylon will be real, but also symbolic. It represents the defeat of any and all who stand against God. Mankind has long opposed the will of God, refusing to accept Him as God and choosing to turn to man-made religions, making gods out of wealth, materialism, politics, government, and prosperity. Babylon will become a real-life representation of all these things, an actual city where godlessness reigns and rebellion against the God of the universe emanates. But Babylon will prove no match for God. The Antichrist will be exposed as a lousy stand-in for the real Savior of the world: Jesus Christ. And it is the one-and-only Christ who will return to the earth and set up the one true kingdom where righteousness will reign. The false kingdom of the Antichrist will be destroyed, to be replaced with the true kingdom of God on earth.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.