The Fall of Babylon

Revelation 18

Read Revelation, chapter 18. In chapter 17, we were given a description of Babylon in terms of the great harlot. Here, in chapter 18, Babylon is described more in terms of the great city, ,although both ideas are found in both chapters.

Earlier, we introduced the idea of Babylon and the significance of it. As we study the eighteenth chapter, which describes the fall of Babylon, we want to add to what we have already introduced in terms of the meaning of Babylon.

What does Babylon represent in Revelation? I must say again after more study, that I do not believe that Babylon represents the Roman Catholic Church. I do not believe that it even represents false religion in the most general way. The reasons I believe that include the following:

1. The idea of false religion has already been given a symbol and has been discussed previously in the book of Revelation. The beast coming up out of the earth in Revelation 13:11 is said to have done signs in the sight of the beast that came out of the sea, according to Revelation 13:14. And the earth beast that did that is identified in Revelation 19:20 as the false prophet. The same identification is seen in Revelation 16:13 and 20:10. Babylon is not discussed in association with the earth beast, which represents false religion or counterfeit Christianity in whatever form it might take.

2. Babylon is associate with the sea beast, which represents governments that persecute God's people.

3. Babylon is spoken of as the great harlot, which suggests seduction. And, the allure of this harlot is the luxury, the vice and the glamour of this world which will always be supported by governments opposing God's way of life, and persecuting His people who live His way of life.

4. Babylon could not be a symbol of apostate religion, for Babylon in the Old Testament, from which the imagery of Revelation is drawn, was never presented as apostate Judaism. Babylon was not a corruption of Judaism.


5. Babylon represented a completely alien style of life caught up in the pleasures, the luxuries, the vices and the glamour that the world can offer. Let us look at two examples of this. In Isaiah 47:8, Isaiah describes Babylon and makes this statement: “Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures, who dwell securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me: I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall I know the loss of children.’ ”

6. Babylon is portrayed as a place given to pleasures. There is another description of Babylon found in the prophecy of the Old Testament in Jeremiah 51:13. Notice how Babylon is characterized: “O you who dwell by many waters, abundant in treasures, your end has come, the measure of your covetousness.” Here is a city that is identified as a covetous city, one that craves things. So, Jeremiah speaks of the abundance of the treasures of Babylon and Isaiah speaks of her pleasures. In the Old Testament, Babylon, rather than representing a corruption of God's religion, is portrayed as a place of treasures and pleasures. Babylon, then, represents a pleasure–oriented world.

Now, that is the very aspect of Babylon that Revelation calls to our attention in Revelation 17 and 18. For example, the first description of Babylon in Revelation 17:4 says, “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations, and the filthiness of her fornication.”

The picture here is of luxury, of depravity, of a glamorous life style. Here is a woman arrayed in beautiful scarlet and purple holding a golden cup of abominations, a woman who is engaged in the unclean things of her fornication, decked out with gold and precious stones. Here is a picture of a woman of luxury and ease and seduction, one who represents the glamour, the allure, the temptation of the world and holds out the enticements of the things of the world.

Then, in Revelation 18, the first description of Babylon in verse 4 says, “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive her plagues.’ ” Now, notice verses 11–13: “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore; merchandise of gold


and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple.” And on and on it goes, naming the luxurious things of life that appeal to those who have their hearts centered in this life.

Babylon, apparently, represents more than a single city of that name, also. Revelation 18:24 says: “And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” Babylon is said to be the place where all who have lived on the earth have been slain. Babylon is, then, representing something more than one city in this world at one particular time in this world. What was Babylon, anyway? Babylon was the great city that controlled the world. Babylon was the heart of the great empire whose influence spread to the ends of the earth. Babylon had worldwide influence. Babylon is, then, representative of the entire corrupting power of the world. Babylon had ruled the world and its influence was worldwide.

When John wrote, Rome was the equivalent of Babylon, and John, in the Revelation, identified Rome with Babylon in Chapter 17:9 and 18. Babylon sits on seven mountains, or hills, according to verse 9. And, verse 18 says: “And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” The present manifestation of that was Rome. Rome was the city that ruled over the kings of the earth when John was writing.

Rome, at that time, was a perfect expression of the same thing Babylon was, a mighty city whose influence reached to the ends of the earth with corruptive power. Babylon, it seems to me, is not a single city, and, certainly, not a religion. That does not seem to be the picture we are getting. We are getting a picture of the enticement of the world, pure and simple worldliness, the corruptive influences of the world, the allure of luxury, the world's vices and its glamour. And that, it seems to me, is what we have seen in Revelation 17 and 18. Rome was, at that time, a perfect expression of the worldwide corrupting influence of luxury and glamour and vice.

I believe, then, in Revelation we see the three great agents of Satan: the beast that comes out of the sea, representing governments that would affect the people of God; the beast that comes up out of the earth, which is spoken of elsewhere as the false prophet deceiving the minds of men, and Babylon, which is


seducing men. So, Satan uses persecution, deception and seduction to destroy God's people. The fleeting satisfaction, but powerful attraction of the things of this world are suggested in Revelation 18:2–3; “And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.’ ” The angel spoke of the power of her luxury. Babylon represents luxury well.

The things of this world hold such a fascination and attraction. I doubt if there is any more powerful influence that Satan uses than the power and allure of the pleasures and treasures of this earth and this, I am confident, is a major consideration we are seeing here in Revelation. Those who are drunk on the wine of the fornication of the world, as represented and presented in the figure of Babylon, will finally drink of the wine of the wrath of God. Consequently, there is the appeal in verses 4 and 5: “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people.’ ” Then, the voice explains how you do that: “... lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” This has been the appeal of God to His people throughout the ages, to come out from among the corruptive influences of the world and be a separate, holy, distinctive people who are committed to God and to His way.

In John 17:14–16, Jesus expresses the same idea: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

That is the same thing Revelation 18:4–5 is saying. “Come ye out from among them.” How do you do this? Not by getting in a space ship and going to the moon. You come out by having no fellowship with the sins of the world. That is what Jesus is saying here. “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”


I believe that John gives the perfect elaboration on the point and makes it practical. It brings it down to earth. In I John 2:15–17, John said, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. ...” That is what Revelation 17 and 18, I am sure, is saying to us. John said, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

Remember the great harlot with whom the kings of the earth commit fornication? They mistakenly think that in this they will find satisfaction of their yearnings and cravings. But, John warned of the fleeting satisfaction of fleshly lusts of the world. Then, he warned of the lust of the eyes, and you can just see men looking at the golden cup filled with abomination and thinking of that glamorous creature decked out in her scarlet and purple holding that gleaming golden cup.

John warns of the vainglory, the pride of life. Babylon was saying, “I am and I shall always be and I have everything to satisfy you.” Here is the appeal of the pride of life, thinking that this world, this life, contains all that is necessary to provide me with all that I need, my happiness and my joy. It does not. “... the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Next comes the verse that I believe is the single verse that best summarizes the entire seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of Revelation: “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” It looks to me like Revelation 17 and 18 is simply a graphic, wildly symbolic picture of the very thing simply stated here. The world, the enticement, the allure of the things of this life that has ensnared hundreds of millions of people is going to pass away, but the only thing that finally endures is the one who does the will of the Father.

In Psalm 17:14, the Psalmist speaks of “... from men of the world who have their position in this life. ...” That describes, unfortunately, a great part of our world that has been captured by Satan. Remember, Jesus said we are not to be of the world,


but there are men who are of the world, who have their portion in this life, and that is all. Some live a cradle–to–grave existence, trying to grab all the gusto they can right here, thinking that this earthly life is everything.

But, Paul said in I Corinthians 15:19 that if Christians have nothing to look for other than the things of this life, then we are more to be pitied than all other men.

Paul explained in II Corinthians 5:2–4 that, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven ... that mortality may be swallowed up by life.”

In every man there is a yearning of immortality. There is the intimation of immortality in life and everyone knows it and feels it and senses it. There is the craving for that which is yet to come and eternity is, somehow, buried within the heart of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and we can never rest until we have found the way to satisfy that yearning for it.

And, the problem is that the world is filled with men who have simply extinguished, as best they can, that craving and have sought to find fulfillment of that yearning in the things of this life and have been unable to find it.

In Revelation 18:6–8, judgment is pronounced on Babylon. And, again, I believe that Babylon simply represents all of the seductions of the world. It represents the things of the world that attract us and turn our eyes away from God. It represents all that causes us to lose sight of eternity, of immortality, of the judgment to come, of the reality of heaven, of the reality of the coming again of Christ. It represents that which would simply focus our attention and cause us to occupy our lives in the things of this world. That is what Babylon represents.

It is the allure, the seduction of this life. In verses 6 through 8, judgment is pronounced on Babylon. But, those that are enamored with this world refuse to consider such a possibility. Look at Revelation 18:7: “In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ ”


No sir! I do not need to worry about the future. I am not the one who is going to experience mourning. I am going to live it up. I am going to enjoy all that the world can give me and it is just going to go on and on. The materially prosperous in every age have lived under the illusion that their happy state will continue without interruption, but the deep down realization that this really cannot be is the source of relentless unrest.

I think we see a tremendous restlessness in our age. Many just cannot seem to find peace. They cannot seem to find real joy and they are seeking it in a bottle or they are seeking it in a succession of marriages or affairs. They are simply looking at every direction to try to find where the restlessness finally ceases. When what they need is genuine peace found in a fulfilling relationship with the God who created us and with whom we shall someday have fellowship if we live faithfully to Him.

In verses 9 through 19, we see the lamentation over the fall of Babylon, but I want you to notice the people who are sorry to see Babylon pass. They are the ones who are sorry only because they cannot get any more out of it. None is depicted as loving the city for herself, but only for what he could get out of her. She might seduce and enrich men, but there was nothing lovely in her. She had brought profit and pleasure to many, but affection to none.

It distresses me to see so many in our time who are unable to establish really satisfying relationships with other people. The cannot get along with their wives and they cannot get along with the people at work. The cannot get along because they are looking to other people to fulfill their cravings and their desires, and they are not able to look outward and to be giving to others. And, if you at the people who are mourning over Babylon in verses 9 through 19, you find that these were people who had gotten all kinds of goodies, all kinds of pleasures and treasures, but now it was all cut off. And, now, they were sorry, but not because they had found that Babylon was really good.


There is no goodness to be found, ultimately, in the thrills and the things of this life. The pleasures and the joys that are everlasting are those that are found in relationships with people and with God. In loving God and loving others as we love ourselves, there is peace. This is that for which men are yearning and which God is providing if we will follow His procedures and His rules and not try to think that we can do it a better way. God does have the answer to our needs.

I think that most of us probably do not realize the degree of the luxury of the Roman world of that time. When you read in verses 11 through 13 of all the merchandise that was described by John, you are reading no exaggeration of the condition that existed in the Roman world. We have confirmation of this in contemporary Roman historians.

Here is a description by Aristides, the Roman orator, on the way in which things flowed into the city of Rome back in the first century. “Merchandise is brought from every land and sea, everything that every season begets, and every country produces, the products of rivers and lakes, the arts of the Greeks and the barbarians, so that, if anyone were to wish to see all these things, he would either have to visit the whole inhabited world to see them—or to visit Rome; so many great ships arrive from all over the world every hour, at every season, that Rome is like some common factory in the world, for you may see such great cargoes from the Indies, or, if you wish, from the blessed Arabias that you might well conjecture that the trees there have been stripped naked; clothing from Babylon, ornaments from the barbarian lands, everything flows to Rome; merchandise, cargoes, the products of the land, the emptying of the mines, the product of every art that is and has been, everything that is begotten and everything that grows. If there is anything you cannot see at Rome, then it is a thing which does not exist and which never existed.”

Rome was the center of commerce and luxury. The luxury of Rome is simply beyond description. Let us look for a moment at Roman emperors and some of the wealthier people of Rome. A man named Epicius squandered a fortune of about three million dollars in refined debauchery and committed suicide when he had only three hundred thousand dollars left, because he thought he could not live on such a pittance as that.


Nero once gave a banquet at which the Egyptian roses alone had cost something like a hundred thousand dollars.

Vitellius, who was emperor for less that a year, succeeded in that period of time in spending something like twenty million dollars, mainly on food. Suetonius tells of his favorite dish, and here is what that Roman writer in the first century said, “In this he mingled the livers of pike, the brains of pheasants and peacocks, the tongues of flamingos, and the milk of lampreys, brought by his captains from the whole empire from Parthis to the Spanish strait.” That was just his favorite dish.

The super-rich lived in almost unimaginable luxury in Rome, but even the common people were caught up in this kind of thing. The historian Pliny tells us that women would only bathe in silver baths, that even soldiers had swords with silver hilts, and scabbards with silver chains, that even poor women had silver anklets, and the very slaves had silver mirrors. I mean this is a materialistic age.

You say we also live in a materialistic age. We are just like Rome, that is all. We are just like what John is trying to call our attention to, what God is trying to say to us in Revelation.

Here were people caught up in a luxurious manner of life, a life of ease, a life in which they were just looking for the trinkets and the amusements of this world and were blinded to any realities beyond the immediate present and the immediate thing that would titillate their imaginations and cause them to have a few thrills along the way.

Read again the things being imported in Rome that are described in Revelation 28:11–13, and you will see things such as silk. Silk was so costly that it took one pound of gold to pay for one pound of silk. There is described in this passage a thing called thyine wood. You will not even find it unless you look in an unabridged dictionary, because it was a very rare and aromatic sweet-smelling wood that came from North Africa. It was beautifully grained and the best graining could be like a peacock's tail or like the skin of a tiger or a panther. It was used especially for the tabletops. Tables made of thyine wood could cost anything from about twelve thousand dollars to about forty–five thousand dollars.


Seneca, who was Nero's prime minister, was said to have three hundred such tables with marble legs. All I am saying is it was an age of luxury, a materialistic age, an age caught up in trade and commerce and money and finance, and an age that simply was obsessed with material things. This was one of the great instruments and tools of Satan to turn people from God and to turn their minds away from the building of character to simply adorning their bodies with more trinkets. It was an age which turned the minds of people away from establishing helpful human relationships to simply the acquisition of more and more things. And what God is revealing to us in Revelation 17 and 18 is simply this: “the world passes away and the lusts thereof.”

The last five verses describe the destruction of Babylon and the statement is made again and again: no more at all, no more at all, no more at all, no more at all. No more music to fill the spirit. No more craftsmen to make our pretty things. No more lamps to give us light. No longer the voice of the bridegroom. No love has been generated to last. There is no real compassion. There is no tenderness. There are only bodies and lust. Babylon has fallen. It provides nothing at all for the satisfaction of the human spirit.

But notice verse 20: “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” Rejoice saints because you have seen reality. You have known that Babylon will fall. You have known that the allure of this world holds nothing of permanent value. You rightly sing, “Earth holds no treasures but perish with using. Heaven holds all to me.” We look forward to a city that has a foundation whose builder and maker is God. Now we walk through this life holding our heads up and looking to the future and living triumphantly today with the assurance that God is with us.

And, as we live with Him and enjoy the people about us, we are walking hand–in–hand with Jesus toward the eternal home with God. Babylon is fallen. “Come forth, My people, out of her,” and give your allegiance to Jesus Christ. Will you not let your joy and peace be found in him? Believe in Jesus and trust and obey him.