Revelation 18:1-5

Further transcripts

I had one remark still to make about verse 17. This would be quite a radical change because these kings had been occupied with a different form of government.

I would like to make a comment on verse 17 too. "For God has given to their hearts to do His mind" until the word of God shall be fulfilled, and I thought that that would be at the end of the great tribulation.

On this point, that God has given to their hearts to do His will, will they realise that they are actually accomplishing God's will? I do not think so. In this verse we have brought before us two truths which we cannot reconcile, but which God does; and that is human responsibility and divine sovereignty. These ten kings and the beast, I think it is important to see that in the preceding verse, verse 16, in the New Translation "Ten horns which thou sawest and the beast..." - have their purpose, but they are actually carrying out God's will. God moves behind the scenes, He moves those scenes which He is behind. When Caesar Augustus made that decree that there should be a sensus, little did he realise that it was in order that prophecy should be fulfilled and that Christ should be born at Bethlehem. When the brothers of Joseph sold him into Egypt, put him in the pit, it was their own wicked doings, and yet Joseph could say that "God meant it for good". The death of the Lord Jesus was the determinate council and foreknowledge of God, and yet it goes on to say that "you have taken by wicked hands and have slain". We have in all human history God's sovereignty, but it in no sense sets aside human responsibility.

Satan in chapter 12 was cast out of heaven, and is now upon earth, and throughout chapter 18 there seems to be a stress on things on earth. In verse 1 "and the kings of the earth...... the merchants of the earth", and this contrasts with chapter 21-22 where heaven is stressed. In chapter 4 John is taken up into heaven, now he is on earth to give us a heavenly perspective on things on the earth. One must have been in touch with heaven to get heaven's perspective on things on the earth.

I have a question with verse 18. "And the woman which thou sawest is the great city which has kingship over the kings of the earth". Now the woman has here become a great city, before it was a great religious system. What is meant by "that great city" here?

When "that city" is spoken of, her earthly power and influence, what we have described as the commercial and cultural power, are before us, and will continue after her religious character has been destroyed.

Rome, at the time of John writing, was the great city in that area of the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding countries. The great city was spoken of when people meant Rome.

The Christian apostasy which we are dealing with in these chapters is centred geographically in Rome. The Jewish apostasy is centred in Jerusalem, "the man of sin sitteth in the temple of God showing that he is God" (2 Thessalonians 2). The Antichrist at Jerusalem is dealt with at the appearing of Christ by Christ personally, whereas religious Babylon is dealt with indirectly by other instruments in the middle of the week. The Lord Jesus Himself deals with the beast and the false prophet and casts them alive into the lake of fire.

It might be helpful to remember that the name Rome means 'great' or 'strong'. In verse 2 this angel with great authority speaks with a strong voice, and in verse 8 we find these powerful words "Strong is the Lord God who has judged her". Divine power is going to deal with this antichurch, and I think this is the reason why the Spirit of God chooses the word "strong" in this context. The great city has kingship over the kings of earth. I think this goes beyond the ten kings. The influence is worldwide.

There is a point here which I think will solve quite a lot of difficulties. There is a difference between the fall of Babylon and the destruction of Babylon. The first mention of her fall is in chapter 14 verse 8 "Great Babylon has fallen, has fallen, which of the wine of the fury of her fornication has made all nations drink." This is her fall, but in chapter 16, verse 19 we find that great Babylon in remembered before God "to give her the cup of the wine of the fury of His wrath". This is her destruction. It is important to see this because in verse 4 there are still some within the bounds of Babylon who can come out. The fall is mentioned in verse 3, perhaps with this awful description of what is to come, and the complete destruction in verse 21 when the strong angel takes up a stone, a great millstone, and casts it into the sea, and it disappears out of sight. I think if we keep those Scriptural facts before us it will help a good deal in our understanding of the chapter. The fall and then the destruction when God deals with great Babylon Himself.

So the fall of Babylon is a moral fall, is it not?


"Fallen, fallen" is repeated twice, which means it is certain. God has put His seal upon it with certainty, as He did when He gave Pharaoh two dreams. This moral fall is now proclaimed as total, whereas it has been a gradual deterioration for nearly two thousand years. The exhortation to come out of her refers to the coming out of this system which is morally fallen. It could apply today, and yesterday, as much as it will apply in the actual time immediately prior to Babylon's destruction.

I think we did say in chapter 14, verse 8, that there was something of a predictive prophecy in regard to her fall - "is fallen, is fallen" is a prediction of what would happen when the ten kings dealt with her. It would seem that the moral fall of which you speak is fully expressed in verse 2 "has become the habitation of demons, a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hated bird". This is the situation after the kings have stripped her of her religious character, and this is what she becomes - a hold of all those ugly features which will merit eventually the total judgment that comes out in verse 21.

It is significant that the human instruments now disappear in the eighteenth chapter. Human instrumentality is incapable of dealing with something which is morally fallen. God has to intervene. It is fallen, not yet destroyed, and we as Christians have to see the fallen and ruined condition of Babylon, even before it is destroyed in judgment. The call in verse 4 is not just for those enmeshed in the system then which is doomed, but for us also - to be separate from anything that is contrary to the mind of the Lord.

Throughout this chapter God is instructing us also by contrast. In Ephesians chapter 2 the true Church, the house of God, is the habitation of God in the Spirit. Here we see what the false Church is. Every unclean spirit is found there. Something similar is found in Matthew 13, verse 31, one of the parables of the kingdom where the mustard becomes this great tree.

Would that the Spirit of God might bring this home to us in power! If we could see the significance of it, it would have great effect upon every one of us. We need to see what is in God's mind, for His pleasure and the heart of Christ. On the other hand to see how utterly objectionable is this vile system which is shortly going to come under the full weight of God's fury and wrath. When the apostle John saw this, verse 6 or 7 of the seventeenth chapter, he wondered with great wonder. The one who had lain in the bosom of Jesus who really appreciated what was for God is given to see what the devil would do in relation to that which names the name of Christ, and yet becomes the habitation of all these evil things. We cannot feel the weight of it unless we carry the contrast in our minds. We need the Spirit of God to really bring home to out hearts how hateful this thing is. In verse 20 "God has judged your judgment upon it". It supposes that we do come to a judgment of it. The judgment that will be executed is that which we, and certainly the saints of that day, will have gained through communion with God - a very serious matter.

How long has great Babylon existed? Can we carry the figure backwards into Church history? I'm thinking about Martin Luther's famous writings "The Babylonian captivity of the Church".

If I may use the language of Michael Taylor when we were looking at this last year, he said 'The root trouble starts in Revelation 2, in Ephesus, "Thou hast left thy first love"'. What comes out in outward manifestation is really an inward departure of heart. This Babylonish principle is very close to every one of us. It is sometimes considered as outside of ourselves, but these very principles are locked up in your heart and mine, so it is very important that we keep our hearts with all diligence, that we "Be not partaker of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues". i.e. the sins of Babylon which present themselves to us at the present time.

When we were reminded of Luther's comparing the state of the Church to Babylonian imprisonment of Israel, this was justified application, but has nothing really prophetically to do with what we have here. However, it is interesting that Babylon, or Babel, was the first anti-divine power in the Old Testament, and it is the last in the New Testament. We find in Genesis 11 words similar to those in verse 5 of our chapter "For her sins have been heaped on one another up to the heaven". It is exactly the same character in chapter 11 of Genesis where the first inhabitants of this Babel said 'Let us build a tower reaching up to heaven'. It is human power in the place of the power of the Spirit, people with a certain direction of thought, always directed against God. This is where I see the greatest parallel between the Babel of the Old Testament and the Babylon here in the New Testament.

What we have here, in verse 2 "and has become the habitation of demons" is very similar to 1 Timothy 4 where "the Spirit speaks expressly that in latter times some shall apostasise from the faith, giving their minds to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, cauterised with their own conscience, forbidding to marry". The celibate priesthood, abstinence from meats, idolatry in the worship of Mary, the worship of the saints, the idea that Mary was bodily assumed to heaven, the elevating of the host to be worshipped, all these things have already been seen in the professing church. It wasn't popes and councils that decreed these things, it was demons. So that what we have here in great Babylon seems to be the culmination of what has preceded it in the history of the professing Church.

The woman Jezebel in Thyatira is a precursor of this great harlot here, but her features are fully developed in Babylon.

When great Babylon in all its awfulness is presented to us, we run away in horror, we recognise it. But the great problem today is to recognise the insipid little bits of Babylon that creep in here, and there. We think of the sin of Achan - just one little thing. He did not want all of Babylon did he? Only a goodly Babylonish garment. Dear brethren, we must be aware of the little insidious things that come in here and there. Let us examine our hearts. If a goodly Babylonish garment is presented to us, what do we do?

I suppose with Babylon, her thought, full blown, is to exalt herself, to wear garments that are attractive to her, to align with the world. The true Church keeps separate from the world. Babylon persecutes the saints, the true Church shepherds the saints.

This is very searching. Where are our hearts? Who are we attracting to? What garments are we wearing? What are our association with the world, are we separate from it? Are we seeking to care for the saints? Only as we keep our eye on what is pleasing to God, will we really see how hateful that which is otherwise is in the sight of heaven. We must watch first love.

I would like to say a word about the influence of Babylon. In chapter 18, verse 3, it says "because all the nations have drunk.....". This influence is exercised on the nations, on the kings of the earth, and on the merchants of the earth, and this reminds us of the influence that the Pharisees and Scribes had in Israel. In Matthew 23:13 it says "But woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you shut up the kingdom of the heavens before men, for you do not enter, nor do you suffer those who are waiting to go in". First of all there was no affection for Christ, but the second step was that they did not suffer others to enter. In verse 15 we find "Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you compass the sea, and the dry land to make one proselyte, and when he has become such you make him twofold more the son of hell than yourselves". They wanted to be influential, but when they found people who submitted to their influence, they drew them away from Christ. I think that is the trouble in Babylon. What the Pharisees desired was glory with men, the first place in the feasts, the salutations in the market places, the first seats in the synagogues, and earthly wealth. What about us? What is my influence? What am I seeking? We must apply these verses to ourselves.

In the first place to whom are these exhortations in verse 4 addressed?

I will not answer this question, but I would like to point out another principle that is contained in verse 4. We have been speaking of the influence of Babylon, but in verse 4 there is a second matter, and that is the fact that associations defile - outward associations defile. This is the teaching of the entire Holy Scriptures, and there are some very important passages in the New Testament which confirm the pictures which we find in the Old Testament and one of them is this verse here. This important principle is very much under attack amongst us today, but we cannot change the word of God. Associations defile. It doesn't say here 'if you do the same things you will partake of her plagues', but it says 'but if you will not go out from her.....', this is the important principle.

After the church is raptured there will be different groups of believers on earth. There will be believers from Judah, from all Israel as well as from the Gentiles. Some will be martyred and those who remain alive to the coming of the Lord will go into the millennial kingdom. Some believers during the tribulation will be connected with this dead body - Babylon. We may ask How can this be?

Even in our day the question may be asked, 'How is it possible that in the Catholic Church, in the Orthodox Church, and even in the Protestant Churches, real true believers are remaining. It is unbelievable, and yet there are thousands of believers in those bodies, and it will be the same at that time. Naturally, the character of Babylon will be even more clear. Today, especially in Germany, in many churches the Bible is no more accepted as the Word of God. Instead of a true Christ, there is a female Christ crucified, and more, but I will spare you other details. It is unbelievable that true believers still go to these churches. We know the main reason - traditionalism. 'My parents have always gone there, and so we go there'. That is the main reason for true believers clinging to these churches which are so far away from God. I believe the same principle will be true at that time. People will go there without realising with what they are in connection, and still they are guilty, just as believers at the present time are guilty.

We may say 'Ah, well they don't know, and they have no knowledge of God'. Do they have the Bible? Do they have these verses? We are always to exercise grace, that is true. But that must never take away the responsibility to know God's will and to follow it. This is the problem with which we are confronted here, it is always sinful in God's eyes to be connected with those who are against Him. We see here how God deals with this situation, and it is in principle the same today. He says in Hebrews 13, verse 12 to believing Jews "Wherefore also Jesus, that He might sanctify the people by His own blood, suffered without the gate, wherefore let us go forth to Him, without the camp, bearing His reproach. For we have not here an abiding city". God says 'Come out'. In their case from Judaism. We have the same in 2 Timothy 2, where Christendom is compared to a great house, "But in a great house, there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also wooden and earthen, and some to honour and some to dishonour, if therefore one shall have purified himself from these', in separating himself from them (that is the reading of the J.N.D. translation), "he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, serviceable to the Master, prepared to every good work". Here, when there will be believers awaiting the appearance of Messiah, and yet still in connection with a religious body which will have nothing to do with God and Christ, they are called to separate. This is a very important principle. At all times God calls those who belong to Him out of relationships which are contrary to their heavenly calling.

With regard to the term "My people" in verse 4, I would like to ask a question. Does God ever address the Assembly anywhere with the term 'My people'? I am aware of 1 Peter 2:10, but this is a quotation from the Old Testament, and it is a matter of believers who come out of Judaism there. So I think that this term 'My people' here refers to believers in the tribulation period, but of course the moral application to us is valid.

What we have here in verse 4, as we have seen, is really a general principle, although in accurate exposition it refers to saints living on the earth at that time. Hebrews 13 and 2 Timothy 2 show the general principle. We could also add the verses 2 Cor.6:17 "Wherefore come out from the midst of them and be separated saith the Lord, and touch not what is unclean, and I will receive you". Abraham was probably the first saint called out of Babel in Genesis 12. In Acts chapter 7 we read that the Lord called him and said 'Come'. It is a principle found throughout Scripture.

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