MORE ABOUT BABYLON
(Rev. ch. 17:8 to 18:24)
THEN in verses 8 to 18, the angel tells John some particulars about the city “Babylon” and Antichrist. John is not in a vision now; he is being instructed about the vision he has seen.
If the angel speaks these words of the time when John had these visions (about A.D. 96), then it seems as though the most ancient interpretation might be correct: that is, Antichrist might be Nero. He was the first Roman King to terribly persecute the Christians. He had been dead nearly thirty years; his name is Caesar Nero in Hebrew, number 666. The early Church was so filled with horror and dread of the monster that they constantly expected Satan to raise him from the dead; and why cannot this man, as easily as any other man, rise from the bottomless pit, when the time comes? But, Antichrist will never call himself Nero, when he comes back; he will only be recognized by his conduct and character; and Antichrist will not return as a mere Political ruler, but as a spiritual ruler as well, since he will pretend to be Christ.
If this “Babylon” is, as we think, Jerusalem under Antichrist, then we have an intimation that it is to be extended out over the Kidron Valley: the seven hills would be extended out over the Kedron Valley: the seven hills would be Zion, Akra, Bezetha, Moriah, Olivet, Scopus, or perhaps Ophel, and the Mount of Evil Counsel. These hills have existed ever since Jerusalem came into existence, of course. We are told that they symbolize “seven kings” or kingdoms, and we take it that these kingdoms, like the hills, must belong to the entire history of Jerusalem.
John is told (17:10) that five of these kingdoms had existed before John’s day. “One is” [in existence] can mean nothing but the Roman rule. Before John’s day, and after Jerusalem was taken by David (1 Chronicles 2:4-8), the foreign kings who ruled over Jerusalem were 1st , Babylonian; 2nd, Medo-Persian; 3rd, Greek, Alexander the Great; 4th Ptolemaic or Egyptian; 5th Selucid or Syriac. “The other [of the seven] is not yet come.” But it has since come; 7th the Mohammedan. Then it states: “The beast [Antichrist] that was and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven [not “of the seventh,” as some misread it] and goeth into perdition.” With Antichrist, the “wild beast” rule will end in perdition. The last “wild beast “ will be called Babylon,” as the first (Dan 7:8) was Babylon:; the last will be the final expression of all the seven before it; it will be “of the seven.”
These are very plain particulars, are they not? We know what happened next: The frightful battle of Armageddon, and then the greatest earthquake that this world will ever see (16:18-21). We will speak more about this earthquake later.
We may be sure that such a mighty vision as John saw, when that great battle of Armageddon was shown him, and that terrible symbolic representation of the wickedness of “Babylon,” must have set him thinking, thinking, thinking, until his head would be almost upset by it. We can fancy him saying to himself, over and over, “Will those poor deluded Christians, who will almost to the last imagine Antichrist is the real Christ (those who will not believe that Christ is really coming until after the translation of the saints), will they really at last understand that Christ is coming to the earth as a ‘snare’ to the wicked, and as a ‘thief in the night,’ to those not watching for Christ’s return, and will they at any rate get out of the wicked, doomed ‘Babylon’ Christ talked of as the ‘sign’ of His coming. How will they be awakened at last?”
I think God gave John another vision to teach him about these questions that so perplexed him, and to tell him also how that wicked city which he had seen in symbol would appear to the worldly-minded people; how deceived they would be as to its true character. The Bible says, you know, “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” Chapter 17 told us of “Babylon” as an abomination in the sight of God: chapter 18 shows us the same wicked city as highly esteemed among men.
First as to the deluded Christians, and what would at last open their eyes, and cause them to flee from “Babylon”; Already we have been told, in the 14th chapter (v. 8) that the warning had been raised that “Babylon” was fallen—fallen very low in character, so that it was corrupting the whole world. It is said that “an angel,” or messenger, announced this. We must remember that the word “angel” means simply “messenger,” and it is used of human beings in this book of the Bible. I do not myself think that anyone on earth saw an angel announcing that “Babylon is fallen.” I think this means, as far as men will see and hear on earth, that many good people will begin at that time (stirred by the Spirit of God) to declare the true character of “Babylon,” and to warn God’s people as to it’s true character. Still, some will not heed the warning, but will believe in Antichrist; even after all God’s prepared people are translated.
John now (18:1) describes an Angel who approaches this earth, and He is so resplendent that the ground is lighted up with His glory. This description is so definite that, whatever we think of that ‘angel” who first cried “Babylon is fallen, we must conclude that this is certainly some definite being, and who? This reminds us of that “mighty Angel” of chapter 10:1, with “feet as pillars of fire”; this must again be the Lord Himself, for such language is never used of a human being, in the Bible. He declares, in plainest language, the fallen condition of “Babylon” “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of demons, and the hold of every unclean spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” Then follows a further description of the corruption of the city, in the words of the Lord Jesus Himself. This is the voice of the Judge of the whole earth; He is declaring the wickedness of the city as a human judge might say: “I pronounce you guilty of murder,” or “of arson,” or of some other crime—and then follows the judge’s sentence. So Christ’s sentence follows here, but just before it is pronounced (for punishment will follow on the spot), all God’s people, those deluded Christians remaining in it, are commanded to come away instantly, so that they may escape the same punishment. John says: “I heard another voice [God’s] from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” The Christians now flee from the place, let us hope. Then follows the Judge’s sentence: “Reward her even as she rewarded you and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself and lied deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she hath said in her heart, I sit as a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.”
The ten kings” must feel that they have been cruelly wronged by this city. They execute that sentence (17:16). But either they or other kings (but were there any other?), repent of what they have done, saying, “Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour will thy judgments come.” And merchants all over the world will lament over the destroyed city, for they were making money by trading with its very rich inhabitants; for Jerusalem will be very rich indeed under Antichrist. Listen, while we recount what they will trade in; gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, all kinds of cloth, ivory and all kinds of choice wood like cedar, and of vessels made out of them, and of brass, iron and marble, spices, wine, oil, flour and wheat, cattle of all kinds, choice fruits, horses and carriages, and slaves. This trade in slaves will be a special abomination in the sithe of God, we may be sure. And the ship companies, traders with foreign ports, importeres of foreign goods and wares of all kinds will also lament the destruction of “Babylon,” for it will ruin them in business.
But God calls upon heaven, and all his holy apostles and prophets to rejoice for all the wickedness that has been destroyed from the face of the earth by the burning of the city. “And a mighty angel took up a great stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found not more at all.” And thus it will be suddenly finished, when, to add to all the rest, that terrific earthquake occurs. And there will never be another “Babylon” built on the site of Jerusalem. That city, and the civilization it supported, will be gone for ever, when all this destruction occurs. The very appearance of the country about Jerusalem will be totally changed. The old hills which have surrounded Jerusalem, all elevated plain, as we have seen the Temple or the Thorne of the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, who will come to rule, will, as we have shown, occupy a full mile of space, with an area around it of twenty miles square. So it may well be said that at this time “Babylon” will disappear for ever and nothing take its place, but the habitation of the Most High, and those who are appointed by Him to be close about his person.
And the word tells us why the city will thus disappear for ever: “In her was fond the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.”
This reminds one of what Jesus once said, when on earth, when He was warned not to enter Jerusalem, for fear Herod would kill Him. “It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem" Over and over has that city, in its history, persecuted and killed the very servants of God whom one would think that the city would have accepted even if other cities rejected them. This was so notorious that Christ, who never gave false witness nor exaggerated moral conditions, declared Jerusalem so full of murders of this sort, that upon the rulers of that city would come punishment for “all the righteous blood shed upon this earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matt. 23:35). And that punishment, at the first destruction of Jerusalem, was so terrible that over a million souls perished. But as the crimes will go on, more perishing at “Babylon” under Antichrist because they are prophets and saints, than at any previous time in history—millions must perish at its final destruction, and the city be wiped out once and for ever for its crimes. And the, with the complete purging of the region by fire, and the reformation of its very ground by an earthquake, there will arise on the same spot, an erection so magnificent that our wildest fancies cannot for a moment picture its grandeur and beauty.