Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 18:1–5

Revelation 18:1–5
After these things I saw another angel, who possessed great authority, coming down out of heaven, and the earth was lit up by his radiance. 2 He shouted with a powerful voice:
“Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great! She has become a lair for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detested beast. 3 For all the nations have fallen from the wine of her immoral passion, and the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have gotten rich from the power of her sensual behavior.”
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, so you will not take part in her sins and so you will not receive her plagues, 5 because her sins have piled up all the way to heaven and God has remembered her crimes.”
(NET Bible)

Babylon the Great: Destruction

“Turn out the lights; the party’s over” — in Babylon. Where did you say you live?

The tone of chapter 18 is unusual, and Grant Osborne says: “[David] Aune calls this a ‘prophetic taunt song,’ beginning with the angel announcing the ‘death’ but with overtones of joy at the judgment.”[1] Greg Beale adds, “The assurance of worldwide Babylon’s fall in the future is rooted in the fact that the fall of old Babylon was predicted in the same way, and the fulfillment came to pass.”[2]

Revelation 17:3 explains the main mechanism by which Babylon/Rome seduced its client states. Osborne says of this verse: “[It] introduces one of the major themes of the chapter — materialistic luxury. . . . It was often said that Rome conquered the world as much through its merchants as through its armies. Like all tyrannical governments, Rome grew enormously ‘fat’ by exploiting the conquered nations, for most of their goods benefited Rome far more than themselves.”[3]

Tomorrow we will detail the ways in which Roman mercantilism harmed common people by favoring Rome. For the moment it is enough to say that John’s initial audience, Asia, was the wealthiest of all the Roman provinces and thus the one in which the pressures on Christians to compromise would also have been greatest.

But we do not worship a God of compromise! A voice from heaven (18:4) summons believers to flee from the context of compromise so that judgment will not fall on them too. Both ancient Rome and Babylon/Rome to come will operate on the same seductive, self-serving principles. Beale says, “As elsewhere in Revelation, the pride and fall of historical Babylon is taken as a typological pattern of the hubris [pride] and downfall of the worldwide Babylonian system at the end of history.”[4]

In 18:7–8, God declares that end-times Babylon will have the same pride and suffer the same fate as ancient Babylon. Cyrus the Persian captured ancient Babylon in a single night, and Jesus will overthrow Babylon-to-come in a single day (18:8).

But what about all those clients who enjoyed the luxury and reveled in the immorality? They will “weep and wail” (18:9), but “they will stand a long way off because they are afraid of her torment” (18:10). It will be their voices which announce the woes of Babylon and its sudden collapse.

The Great Panic

During the Fall of 2008 the economic system of the United States suddenly lost wealth valued at over 12 trillion dollars. Worldwide losses were even greater. Foreclosures, bankruptcies and stock losses took place at historic levels. Not only were the vast losses unexpected, but the recovery from the debacle may take decades, assuming a complete recovery occurs.

Unfortunately, the result of this financial disaster was not an influx of people into our churches. That is especially surprising since the tragedy revealed stunning greed, selfishness and recklessness — all universally recognized as wrongs but not recognized as sins. America’s love affair with the security and immorality funded by wealth is apparently not over.

Peter’s somber words seem appropriate here:

For the time that has passed was sufficient for you to do what the non-Christians desire. You lived then in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, carousing, drinking bouts, and wanton idolatries. 4 So they are astonished when you do not rush with them into the same flood of wickedness, and they vilify you. 5 They will face a reckoning before Jesus Christ who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:3–5).

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 634, citing Aune (2:976).

[2] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 893.

[3] Osborne, Revelation, 637.

[4] Beale, Revelation, 903.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!