Studies In The Book of Revelation
By Jonathan Mitchell
1. After these things I saw another Agent progressively descending out of the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven), continuously having great authority, and the Land (or: ground; or: earth) was lighted (illuminated) by His glory (or: His manifestation which called forth praise; or: the splendor which was Him).
2. Then He uttered (or: suddenly utters) a cry in a strong voice, repeatedly saying, “She falls (She fell)! Babylon the Great falls (fell) and becomes (became; comes to be; is birthed) an abode (dwelling) of demons (or: animistic influences) and a confine (ward, prison, a place of keeping watch over) of every impure (unclean) spirit and a preserve (a keep; a cage; a guard-house) of every unclean and hated bird,
3. “because all the multitudes (nations; ethnic groups) have drunk [other MSS read: fallen] from out of the wine of the strong passion of her prostitution, and the kings of the Land (earth) commit (committed) prostitution (fornication; = idolatry) with her, and the merchants (those who travel by sea for trade) of the Land (earth) are (or: became) rich from out of the power (or: ability) of her headstrong pride and wanton luxury (or: reveling).”
John is now seeing another vision. So what he is seeing is a sign, and we should ask what this sign represents. It is the descending of an Agent that has "great authority" and "glory." Jesus, in Matt. 28:18, said, "All authority (or: Every right and privilege from out of Being) is (or: was at once) given to Me within heaven and upon the earth (or: in sky and atmosphere, as well as on land)!" I suggest that what John saw here was a figure of the coming of the Lord spoken of in Luke 21:27.
"And at that point (or: time), they will be seeing (or: perceiving) ‘the Son of the Man (= Adam's son; the Human Being; the eschatological messianic figure) progressively coming within the midst of a cloud,’ [Dan. 7:13-14] with power and MUCH GLORY (or: with ability and a profound reputation; or: along with power and a manifestation which calls forth praise)."
Recall that Jesus made this statement in the context following vs. 20-23,
20. "Now later, when you folks see Jerusalem being continuously surrounded by encamped armies, at that time realize and know from that experience that her desolation has drawn near and is now present.
21. "At that point, let the people in Judea progressively flee into the hill country and mountains; then let the people within the midst of her [i.e., Jerusalem] proceed departing out of that place, and don't let (or: let not) the folks in the country or the district continue coming (or: going) into her,
22. "because these are days of executing justice – of bringing about what is fair and right and of establishing what accords with the Way pointed out – with a view to have fulfilled all the things having been written (or: for all that is written to be fulfilled)!"
This was the notice by Jesus to "Come out of her, My people" that we will see in 18:4, below. And I further suggest that John is seeing what Paul spoke of in 1 Thes. 4:16,
"because the Lord [= Yahweh or Christ] Himself will descend from [the] atmosphere (or: heaven) within (or: in union with) a shout of command, within the midst of [the] Chief Agent's (or: an original messenger's; or: a chief and ruling agent’s; or: [the] beginning messenger’s) voice, and within (or: in union with) God’s trumpet [note: figure of a message or a directive for action]..."
Vincent, in commenting on vs. 1, above, refers us to Ezk. 43:2, "And behold! the Glory of the Elohim of Israel comes from the way of the east [= the sun's rising]. And His Voice is as the sound of many waters [Rev. 1:15]. And the earth is enlightened by His glory."
Here in ch. 18:1 we have in apocalyptic visionary figure a presentation of the coming of the Lord with judgment upon Jerusalem. He descended in the Chief Agent's (Christ's) Voice with a proclamation of the sentence of Babylon (Jerusalem). The description of her condition after her fall (vs. 2) is in symbolic terms which paint a picture of a ruined and uninhabited city. The unclean and hated birds are the vultures looking for rotting flesh. But this was also a code word for the Roman army, with its eagles on their standards. Their camps were the abodes of "demons," the animistic spirits of Hellenistic culture.
A verse that is often overlooked in regard to the coming of Christ is in the context of Jesus being led to Caiaphas the chief priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled (Matt. 26:57). Note what Jesus says to THEM, 64. Jesus is then saying to him, "You, yourself, are saying [it] (or: are [so] saying)! Moreover, I am now saying to YOU PEOPLE, from now (this present moment) on YOU FOLKS will be seeing ‘the Son of the Man (= Adam's son; the eschatological Messiah figure; the representative human) continuously sitting at the right [hand]’ of the Power, and repeatedly (or: constantly; habitually) ‘coming upon the clouds of the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven).’" [Dan. 7:13; Ps. 110:1]
Because Jesus said this, I believe that it happened when He came as John saw in the prophetic vision described in this chapter.
Harrison (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary) notes that "Most of the chapter is occupied with a description of the wealth of the city, the merchandise which is brought here for sale, and the grief of the merchants, who have been made rich by this traffic, as they look upon the city now being made desolate by fire..."
Of what is this description a figure? Keep in mind that her identity is reaffirmed in vs. 24 as the place where "was found [the] blood of prophets and of set-apart folks – even of all those having been slaughtered upon the Land," and that Jesus spoke this of Jerusalem in Matt. 23:29-38. And could the merchants referred to here be the same ones of whom Jesus said that they had made His Father's house "a house of merchandise"? (John 2:16) Let us return to our text:
4. Next I heard another Voice from out of the atmosphere (sky; heaven), repeatedly saying, “Come out of her (or: go forth from out of her midst) My people, so that you may not jointly participate with (be a partner with; fellowship together with) her sins (failures; occasions of missing the mark), and so that you may not receive from out of her plagues (blows),
5. “because her sins (failures) are glued together (joined; adhered so as to be heaped, built or piled) as far as the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven). And God remembers (called to mind) her unjust effects (injuries done; misdeeds; unjust acts; ill-gotten gains; things contrary to the way pointed out).
6. “Pay (Render; Give away; Give back) to her as she also (even as she) paid (or: pays), and double to her doubles [other MSS: double the doubles] according to her works (acts). In the cup which she mixes blended), mix (blend) double for her.
7. “As much as she glorified (or: glorifies) herself and indulged (lives in proud luxury), so much give to her examination (testing) by the touchstone and mourning (grief; sadness; sorrow), because within her heart she is continually saying, ‘I continually sit as a queen, and I am not a widow; I may by no means see mourning (grief; sadness; sorrow; misery).’
8. “On account of this, in (or: within) one day her plagues (blows) will arrive: death, mourning (grief) and famine. And she will be burned down (consumed) within fire, because the Lord [= Yahweh], the God judging her, [is] strong!
9. “And the kings of the Land (earth) – those committing prostitution (or: acts of fornication) with her and indulging (living in proud and wanton luxury) – will weep and lament (smite or cut themselves in wearisome labor) upon (over) her when they may be observing (or: seeing) the smoke of her burning,
10. “standing away, at a distance, on account of the fear of her examination (testing) by the touchstone, repeatedly saying, ‘Woe, tragic [is] the great city! Babylon, the strong city! Because in one hour your judging came!’
11. “And the merchants (sea traders) of the Land (earth) [are] continually weeping and mourning upon (over) her, because no one continues buying their cargo (merchandise) any longer:
12. “a cargo of gold, and of silver, and of precious stones, and of pearls, and of fine cotton, and of purple, and of silk, and of scarlet (crimson), and every aromatic (thyme or citron) wood, and every ivory utensil (or, vessel), and every utensil (vessel) [made] out of precious wood and of copper (bronze) and of iron and of shining marble,
13. “also cinnamon [grown in Arabia & Syria] and amomum [fragrant white vine from India], and incenses and essential oil [aromatic juices from trees; used for anointing] and frankincense [from Mt. Lebanon and Arabia], and wine and olive oil, and the finest flour, and grain and cattle and sheep and horses and four-wheeled chariots (carriages; coaches), even bodies and souls of people.
14. “And the fruit season (or: autumn; ripe fruits) of your soul’s earnest desire (yearning) went away (passes away) from you, and all the fat (sumptuous) things and the bright, shining things destroyed themselves (became lost; perished) from you, and no longer may you [other MSS: will they] by any means find them.
15. “The merchants of these things – those becoming rich from her – will stand away at a distance, because of the fear of her testing (examination) with the touchstone, continually weeping and mourning,
16. “saying repeatedly, ‘Woe, tragic [is] the great city – the one being clothed in fine cotton and purple and crimson (scarlet), and being overlaid (gilded; adorned) in gold and precious stone and pearls – because in one hour so much wealth (so great riches) is (or: was) laid waste (made desolate; made as a desert).’
17. “And every navigator (helmsman; one who steers), and everyone repeatedly (habitually) sailing upon a place, and sailors (ship men; seamen; mariners), and as many as are continually working the sea, stand (or: stood) away at a distance,
18. “and, continuously observing the smoke of her burning, they were crying out, repeatedly saying, ‘What [exists] like the Great City?’
19. “And they cast dust (loose earth) upon their heads, and were uttering cries, continually weeping and mourning, repeatedly saying, ‘Woe, tragic [is] the Great City in which all those having ships in the sea became rich from out of her valuable merchandise (or: preciousness; estimated worth; imputed value), because in one hour she was laid waste (made like a desert).’
20. “Continually rejoice (be made glad) upon her, O Atmosphere (Sky; Heaven), even the set-apart ones and the envoys and the prophets, because God decided and executed (judges; makes a distinction by separating) your sentence (judgment; law-suit; decision) from out of her.”
Foy Wallace comments, "The voice from heaven introducing vs. 4 was a call to the faithful saints to depart from the doomed city before the calamity struck. It is manifestly parallel with the Lord's exhortation in Matt. 24:15-16 for his faithful disciples to flee Jerusalem when the signs of the impending destruction appeared. The same call was spiritually applied by Paul to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 6:14-18), beseeching them to cut all the ties that would bind them to heathenism or in any way maintain affiliation with the heathen world and its temple of Belial. Its derived or applied meaning was to abandon all that both Judaism and heathenism represented..."
He further says, "The extensive traffic in thirty articles specified by John represented the affiliations of the Jewish capital with all the heathen world.... There was no source of revenue from the heathen world not included in the coalition between Jerusalem and the merchants of the earth, as described in vs. 15-16..."
The fall of Jerusalem was something that was in process for many years, as her moral condition became worse and worse, until "in one day" – the Day of the Lord – "her plagues" arrived (vs. 8). Vs. 4 makes it clear that she had been the residence of God's people, but He calls them out so that they will not participate in her sins, and thus receive from out of her plagues (the coming judgment).
Note in vs. 5 how her failures (sins) adhere so as to be heaped or built "as far as the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven)." This is an echo of Gen. 11:4. We should also note that this chapter focuses on the judgment of the woman, not the little wild animal. It is the City where "their Lord was crucified" (ch. 11:8). Here God calls to mind her acts that are contrary to the way pointed out, and the unjust effects of these acts. Now it is payday – her harvest has come – and she receives double of what she sowed (vs. 6).
Vs. 7 reminds me of the story of the rich man (Israel) and Lazarus. In Lu. 16:25 we see the harvests of the two men explained: "Now Abraham said, 'CHILD [= son of Abraham], be reminded that you got your good things in your life, and Lazarus likewise evil things. Yet now he is being consoled, yet you are in pain" (CLNT, emphasis and addition mine).
Here, with the woman, where she had glorified herself (made a name for herself) and had lived in proud luxury (recall that the rich man [figure of the Pharisees] was "dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day" – Lu. 16:19), she must now experience a reversal, as did the rich man (Lu. 16:25). As we saw in Rev. 14:10-11, the testing by the touchstone is experienced in God's purifying fire. As the rich man's harvest was this fire, so it is hers. Where she positioned herself for leadership, sitting as a queen – as did Jezebel in the days of Elijah, and her counterpart in the church (Thyatira, ch. 2:20), calling herself a prophetess and a teacher – she now encounters death, mourning and famine, and then is burned down in fire (vs. 8).
In vs. 9-11 we see the sorrow of the kings of the Land (historically, the provincial kings such as Herod, Agrippa, Festus, Albinus, Florus, etc.; and today, whoever in the system who watches a profitable enterprise crash) as they lament lost revenues.
Vs. 12-13 list the kinds of merchandise that will no longer be listed in Dow Jones. Note that they are primarily luxury items, not just wheat and barley as in ch. 6:6. And note the last item listed: souls of people. She made money from peoples' lives. We also see merchandising of people's "souls" today. Gary Sigler has mentioned the distinctions between the principles of Babylon and the principles of the Kingdom: in Babylon it is "buying and selling;" in the Kingdom it is "receiving and giving."
Vs. 14 seems inserted to poetically encapsulate this change of state as the passing away of the fruit season (with the normal expected harvest of goods) of their soul's earnest desire. Self will no longer be gratified. It is a loss of all sumptuous things, and of bright, shiny toys. They have lost them, and cannot find them! Is the Lord indicating shallowness here?
Vs. 15-19 focuses on the commercial associates of this city. They distance themselves from her "for fear" of what is happening to her. They mourn their losses. They are amazed at so much wealth being destroyed, leaving her as a desert. The transportation industry is also affected (vs. 17).
Now the focus changes to heaven and the set-apart folks (vs. 20). They, living in the realm of spirit (the heavenlies – Eph. 2:6), are told to continuously rejoice at what has happened (the old is passing away; behold the new has come) to this Great City. It is THEIR judicial process that is going on. Recall 1 Cor. 6:2 – "Or are you not aware that the set-apart folks shall judge the world?"
Vs. 21 changes the scene with the cameo appearance of one strong agent who casts a stone "as great as a millstone" into the sea. The millstone metaphor, as well as showing the great "ripple effect" of the splash from casting down Babylon, also suggests that this system snared some of the little ones of whom Jesus spoke in Matt. 18:6.
21. And one strong agent lifts (took up; carried away) a stone as great as a millstone, and casts (or: cast) [it] into the sea, saying, “Thus, by violence (or: impetuous motion) Babylon the Great City will be cast (thrown) and may by no means any longer be found (or: be yet found).
22. “And a sound (voice) of lyre-players/singers and of musicians and of flutists and of trumpeters may by no means be heard in YOU any more (yet; further), and every technician (craftsman, artist) of every trade (craft; art) may by no means be yet (any longer) found within YOU. And a sound of a millstone may by no means be yet found in YOU,
23. “and a light of a lamp may by no means any longer shine within YOU; and a voice of a bridegroom and of a bride may by no means any longer be heard in YOU, because YOUR merchants were the great ones of the Land (or: earth) because all the multitudes (nations) were (are) deceived (led astray; caused to wander) in YOUR employment of drugs (sorcery; enchantments).”
24. And within her was (or: is) found blood of prophets and of set-apart folks – even of all those having been slaughtered upon the Land (earth). [comment: cf Matt. 23:34-38]
In vs. 22-23 we see a description of a dead city – no life or activity. No more entertainment or professionalism. No grinding of grain – a figure both of food production as well as of the process of teaching the Word and giving "meal offerings." In AD 70 it was literal famine; since then it has been times of a "famine of hearing the Word of the Lord."
The lack of there being the light of a lamp speaks of there being no light in this city any more, and calls to mind His warning to the church in Ephesus: that unless they repent and do the first works, He would come swiftly and remove their lampstand out of its place. His warnings and prophecies of judgment were not just to Jerusalem and Judea, but also to the church.
Do you notice that in these two verses it changes from a narrative to a monologue spoken TO the Woman. To highlight this, I put the YOU's and YOUR in caps. We must keep in mind that this is still a letter sent to the churches in Asia.
In vs. 24, as well as seeing this picture as representing Jerusalem, let us also recall the history of "the church." What occurred before occurred again, and again, and again. And if it was not a physical killing, it was character assignation, being called heretics, or "injurious rumors" (blasphemies) which characterize the organize system, or the self-appointed defenders of "orthodoxy," etc.
As we think about the "then-present" Jerusalem, recall Paul's words in Gal. 4:22-31. In vs. 25 he says that "Hagar stands for Mt. Sinai in Arabia, and she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she and her children are slaves." In vs. 24 he had said "These two women stand for two covenants." The in vs. 30 he says, "But what does scripture say? 'Drive out the slave-girl and her son, for the slave-girl's son will not be allowed to share the inheritance with the free woman's son.'" (Barclay translation).
So as "Hagar represents the covenant which had its beginning on Mt. Sinai, and which bears children destined for slavery" (vs. 24, Barclay), and this corresponds to the pre-AD 70 Jerusalem, we can see that not only was Jerusalem destroyed in AD 70, but also so was the covenant that had its beginning on Mt. Sinai. God was here casting out the slave-girl and her seed (the legalism derived from the Law). But as we consider the end of Jerusalem, the "type," and the apostate church-system, the "anti-type," let us remember the words of Jesus in Matt. 21:31,
"Verily, I am saying to you [religious people] that the tribute collectors and THE PROSTITUTES are preceding YOU into the kingdom of God" (CLNT, my emphasis and addition).
He was speaking then of literal prostitutes, and to literal chief priests and elders of literal Judea. Let us heed His warning to them, lest we become proud of our enlightenment and supposed position. As we consider the anti-type in our day, let us realize that those who have played the spiritual prostitute may also come to Him. As we see that Babylon (Jerusalem) was burned in fire, let us remember that "EVERYONE will be salted with fire" (Mark. 9: 49), and the context of this statement was "the Gehenna of fire" of vs. 43-48. Gehenna was the city dump just outside Jerusalem. What Jesus was speaking of here in Mark 9 actually happened to Jerusalem, as prophesied by the Agent to John here in the Unveiling, as well as recorded in the history written by Josephus. But note that "everyone" will be salted with fire – or "baptized" in fire, as John the Baptist put it.