God Has Given Judgment.

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 18 and 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!”  Revelation 18:9-20 ESV


detail-of-a-lion-found-along-the-processional-way-from-ishtar-gate-into-the-city-of-babylon-the-ishtar-gate-was-constructed-around-575-bc-by-king-nebuchadnezzar-iiKings, businessmen and commercial shippers will all mourn the loss of Babylon. The fall of this great city will have devastating implications on all who live on the earth. But the question remains as to whether John is seeing a vision of the fall of the literal city of Babylon or merely its commercial, political and religious representation. Some commentators turn to passages like Isaiah 13:19-22, which prophesies the destruction of Babylon, indicating that it will become uninhabitable.

19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,
    the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans,
will be like Sodom and Gomorrah
    when God overthrew them.
20 It will never be inhabited
    or lived in for all generations;
no Arab will pitch his tent there;
    no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there. – Isaiah 13:19-21 ESV

This passage, taken out of its context, makes it sound like Babylon was to soon be destroyed and never rebuilt or re-inhabited. But if we look a few verses earlier, we see that the prophecy indicates that its destruction is tied to “the day of the Lord.”

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;
    as destruction from the Almighty it will come! – Isaiah 13:6 ESV

Just a few verses later, Isaiah expands on the nature of that day.

Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
    cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation
    and to destroy its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
    will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising,
    and the moon will not shed its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
    and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,
    and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. – Isaiah 13:9-11 ESV

The use of the phrase, “the day of the Lord”, is almost always tied to the end times or the final days where God intervenes directly into the affairs of mankind, bringing judgment on the earth for its sins. Jeremiah 51 is another Old Testament passage that prophesies the fall of Babylon and it infers that its fall will be sudden and unexpected.

Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken;
    wail for her! Jeremiah 51:8 ESV

And the prophet makes it clear that it will be God who brings about the fall and destruction of this once great city.

12 “Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon;
    make the watch strong;
set up watchmen;
    prepare the ambushes;
for the Lord has both planned and done
    what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.
13 O you who dwell by many waters,
    rich in treasures,
your end has come;
    the thread of your life is cut.
14 The Lord of hosts has sworn by himself:
Surely I will fill you with men, as many as locusts,
    and they shall raise the shout of victory over you.” – Jeremiah 51:12-14 ESV

But this event has yet to take place. The city of Babylon has never experienced the kind of sudden fall and complete devastation outlined in these verses. Babylon was eventually overtaken by the Assyrians, but they did not destroy the city. They simply re-purposed it for their own use. The city of Babylon remained in existence for generations. It was the nation of Babylon that fell. The city itself simply became the property of those nations that ruled long after the fall of the nation of Babylon. This included the Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, Roman, and Sassanid empires.

The sudden and final destruction of Babylon has yet to happen, and that is exactly what John is seeing foretold in this vision. John is seeing the aftermath of the great city’s eventual fall at the hands of God Almighty, and he is told that it will take place suddenly.

For in a single hour your judgment has come. – Revelation 18:10 ESV

It seems evident that the city of Babylon will be rebuilt and repopulated during the days of the tribulation. Located in what is today the nation of Iraq, the rebuilding of Babylon began during the long reign of Saddam Hussein. There is no reason to doubt that the Antichrist might not choose to locate his government in this significant geographic region. And with the vast financial resources at his disposal, he will have more than enough money to complete the rebuilding process.

There will be much mourning over the sudden loss of this prosperous and powerful city. The rulers of the earth will have benefited greatly from their association with the Antichrist’s government. The merchants of the earth will weep over the loss of revenue as a result of the city’s fall. Even those who ship goods, including the sailors on the ships, will mourn her loss, saying:

“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. – Revelation 18:19 ESV

But it will be another matter in heaven, where there will be rejoicing over her demise.

“Rejoice over her, O heaven,
    and you saints and apostles and prophets,
for God has given judgment for you against her!” – Revelation 18:11 ESV

In fact, in the opening verses of the very next chapter, John hears the following words emanating from heaven.

1 “Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” – Revelation 19:1-2 ESV

The prophet Jeremiah foretold of this great day and the rejoicing in heaven that it would bring.

47 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming
    when I will punish the images of Babylon;
her whole land shall be put to shame,
    and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.
48 Then the heavens and the earth,
    and all that is in them,
shall sing for joy over Babylon,
    for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north,
declares the Lord. – Jeremiah 51:47-48 ESV

This passage makes clear that the destruction of Babylon will be sudden and complete. Three separate times, John is told that it will all take place in an hour.

For in a single hour your judgment has come. – Revelation 18:10 ESV

For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste. – Revelation 18:17 ESV

For in a single hour she has been laid waste. – Revelation 18:19 ESV

In just a matter of minutes, God will completely and utterly destroy this great city and remove from it all the trappings of wealth and prosperity for which it was known. He will eliminate its political and military power, transforming it into a smoking wasteland.

In his first letter, John warned his readers to not fall in love with the things this world offers. He described them as “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16 ESV). Each of those are representative of the city of Babylon, which God destroys in the last days. It becomes the icon for worldliness and immorality. But John also warned his readers to remember that “the world is passing away along with its desires” (1 John 2:17 ESV), and that is exactly what we see happening in this 18th chapter of Revelation. The world system, represented by the physical city of Babylon, will be destroyed. All that mankind has placed its faith and hope in will be destroyed in less than 60 minutes of time. The luxury, wealth, power, prestige, and god-like successes of man will be laid waste by the God of the universe – “for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” (Revelation 18:8 ESV).

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

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.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


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