Revelation 16-18 Mystery Babylon Judged

TMS Ephesians 5:3 Holiness or No Inheritance
5:3 “But sexual immorality,
and all uncleanness, or covetousness,
let it not even be mentioned among you,
as becomes saints;
4 nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting,
which are not appropriate; but rather giving of thanks.
5 Know this for sure, that no sexually immoral person, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words. For because of these things, the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience. 7 Therefore don't be partakers with them."

Observations: 5:3 It's inappropriate for immorality or materialism to be associated with followers of Jesus Christ. Believers are warned against both sins by John in Revelation 17 and 18 (below). Paul goes on to say those believers who engage in such practices will not only lose their inheritance/reward, but will experience the wrath of God which will come upon His disobedient children. He doesn't say that they won't do such things, but that they will be punished for such sin. Covetousness is equated with idolatry in 5:5, because a person looks to money rather than God for the provision of his/her needs. Uncleanness is a deed of the flesh (see Galatians 5 post) which is a desire for the temporal. Earlier in Ephesians 4:18-19 Paul gave some insight in uncleanness, saying it came from being ignorant of (as in ignoring) God, and developing a calloused, insensitive spirit. The next step was to give themselves over to the fulfillment of gratifying their desires, resulting in doing all manner of uncleanness, which frequently, but not always has a sexual connotation. Failure to fully follow God opens the door for deadly desires to grow. If we don't kill them, they will destroy us. See comments on Ephesians 5 and the sermon series on Deadly Desires, and the sermon “Sanctification: It Ain't Gonna Reign No More” on for help on destroying these sins at the root.

Application: Holiness isn't a suggestion; it's commanded, and God's commands not only carry blessings, but sanctions.

Prayer: God, help me live in purity and holiness, trusting You for meeting my physical and emotional needs as well; guide me in rooting out the things which will diminish my eternal joy. Thanks. Amen.

Revelation 16-18 The final seven judgments, the Bowl or Vial Judgments are poured out on the earth in preparation for the Messiah's reign. The recipients of judgment curse God rather than repent, but God promises blessings to those who are faithful to Him. Two chapters detail the judgment of Mystery Babylon, the religious and economic world systems that keep people from a relationship with God, as preparation for the Kingdom. In Revelation 19 (next post) Jesus finally comes to earth as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Revelation 16 Seven Bowls of Judgment
16:1 "I heard a loud voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God on the earth!" 2 The first went, and poured out his bowl into the earth, and it became a harmful and evil sore on the people who had the mark of the beast, and who worshiped his image.
3 The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man. Every living thing in the sea died.
4 The third poured out his bowl into the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
5 I heard the angel of the waters saying, "You are righteous, who are and who were, you Holy one, because you have judged these things. 6 For they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. They deserve this." 7 I heard the altar saying, "Yes, Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments."
8 The fourth poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was given to him to scorch men with fire. 9 People were scorched with great heat, and people blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues. They didn’t repent and give him glory.
10 The fifth poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was darkened. They gnawed their tongues because of the pain, 11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores. They didn’t repent of their works.
12 The sixth poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates. Its water was dried up, that the way might be prepared for the kings that come from the sunrise. 13 I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits, something like frogs; 14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs; which go forth to the kings of the whole inhabited earth, to gather them together for the war of that great day of God, the Almighty.
15 "Behold, I come like a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his clothes, so that he doesn’t walk naked, and they see his shame."
16 He gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew, Megiddo.
17 The seventh poured out his bowl into the air. A loud voice came forth out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" 18 There were lightnings, sounds, and thunders; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since there were men on the earth, so great an earthquake, so mighty. 19 The great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 20 Every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 Great hailstones, about the weight of a talent, came down out of the sky on people. People blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, for this plague is exceedingly severe."

Observations: 16:1-2 The seven angels are commanded to pour out the seven bowls/vials of God's wrath. The first four are more general and the last three more specific, just like the seals and trumpets. Some think these occur as the Lord descends. Notice they are called the wrath of God rather than the Lamb, and are somewhat similar to those plagues with which God struck Egypt at the Exodus. These are not just punitive retribution, but are revelatory of the heart of those on the earth who refuse to repent. The first angel pours out a judgment that results in boils or sores on those who received the mark of the Beast and worship his image (similar to the sixth plague on Egypt - Exodus 9:10).
16:3-7 The second turns the sea into blood and everything in it dies. The third turns the rivers and springs into blood so there is no water to drink (like what happened to the Nile, Exodus 7:17). An angel praises God for righteously judging those who poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets. The evil people deserve their judgment, in kind. The altar (voice from it) agrees that the Lord God Almighty is true and righteous in His judgment. If He didn't judge, then He wouldn't be righteous. This means that all sin must be negatively judged, and all righteous behavior positively judged. If otherwise, God would be unjust.
16:8-9 The bowl of the fourth angel causes the sun to scorch men with fire, and their response to a taste of God's fiery judgment isn't to repent. Instead, they curse/blaspheme God for the problems they brought upon themselves. They didn't repent of their works and give Him glory, which would be to recognize His right to rule in their lives.
16:10-11 The fifth angel heads to the throne of the Beast, to pour out the next bowl, and his kingdom (the earth) was darkened (Exodus 10:22). The cumulative effects of the judgments cause a lot of pain, but still no repentance nor praise, but instead, a lot of cursing against God.
16:12-14 The sixth angel's bowl dries up the Euphrates (cf Exodus 14 -Red Sea), preparing the way for the kings of the East to come on the scene for judgment at Armageddon (verse 16 below). The unholy trinity calls for all the kings of the earth to gather for war against God, issuing the invitation through three unclean spirits that somehow resembled frogs (another similarity to Exodus 8:5).
16:15 The voice of Christ is heard in one of the seven “beatitudes” or statement of blessing in Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14), promising blessing/reward to those who watch (stay on guard) and keep their clothes (a metaphor for righteousness) so they don't walk naked (deprived of glory - see comments on 2 Corinthians 4-5), and have their shameful sin exposed. The reminder of Christ's coming “as a thief” (2 Peter 3:10) points to the loss that the unprepared will suffer. The verse would serve as a warning for Tribulation saints to persevere, and saints of all ages to be ready for the judgment at the return of Christ. In 1:3 blessing was promised to those who hear and keep the words of this book. These are words to hear and heed.
16:16 Armageddon (literally the “mountain of the place of slaughter”) could be a reference to the mountain near the town of Megiddo, (Mt. Carmel) where Elijah slaughtered the prophets of Baal in the Valley of Jezreel.
16:17 The seventh angel pours out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice said “It is done/finished: meaning the wrath of God had been poured out. The catastrophic effects that followed were unlike any previously seen in human history (appropriate, since this is just about the end of the world as it has been known). The great city became three parts. There is debate whether this is Jerusalem, or physical Babylon, or spiritual Babylon. Ezekiel indicated major geographical changes in Jerusalem at the return of Christ, but the following chapters consider the fall of Babylon, so it's more likely that this verse introduces Babylon. All the cities of the nations fell, and Babylon is singled out for special judgment (next chapters). Every island fled, and the mountains were gone. Giant hailstones (100 pounds each) pulverized the people on whom they landed, and rather than surrendering and submitting to God, people are still cursing Him.

Application: If you don't like your circumstances, consider if you are the cause of them, and are just reaping negative consequences for your sin; if so, repent and seek God's mercy while you can; if not, seek His grace to endure righteously.

Prayer: God, You are awesomely just, and will always pay back the good and evil according to what I've sown; please guide me in sowing righteousness, so You will remember me for blessing. Amen.

Revelation 17 Religious Babylon Judged
17:1 "One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here. I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed sexual immorality, and those who dwell in the earth were made drunken with the wine of her sexual immorality." 3 He carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet-colored animal, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of the sexual immorality of the earth. 5 and on her forehead a name was written, "Mystery Babylon the great, the mother of the prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth." 6 I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered with great amazement.
7 The angel said to me, "Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not; and is about to come up out of the abyss and to go into destruction. Those who dwell on the earth and whose names have not been written in the book of life from/since the foundation of the world will marvel when they see that the beast was, and is not, and shall be present. 9 Here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits. 10 They are seven kings. Five have fallen, the one is, the other has not yet come. When he comes, he must continue a little while. 11 The beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goes to destruction. 12 The ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority as kings, with the beast, for one hour. 13 These have one mind, and they give their power and authority to the beast.
14 These will war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings. They also will overcome who are with him, called and chosen and faithful." 15 He said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. 16 The ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the prostitute, and will make her desolate, and will make her naked, and will eat her flesh, and will burn her utterly with fire. 17 For God has put in their hearts to do what he has in mind, and to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God should be accomplished. 18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth."

Observations: 17:1-6 Some argue for Babylon being a literal city, and in some passages it may be just that, a revived city in Iraq that achieves prominence in the End Times as it did under Nebuchadnezzar, when all the kingdoms of the know world were given to him as prophesied by God, and then he was destroyed as God also prophesied, to show that God was the One who ruled in the world. Others think Babylon is a code word for Rome, or for the Roman Catholic Church. The judgments in these two chapters relate to both a religious and commercial entity that had world wide influence. Protestants have been fond of equating this with the Papacy (and there are similarities), but the mystery Babylon of the future might be something the world has yet to see. It's most likely that Babylon is representative of the false religious systems from sensual pagan demon worship to “respectable religiosity” of any organized (or disorganized) religion not based upon the Word of God (both apostate Christian and non-Christian). John is shown a “mystery“ Babylon that represents a world religious and commercial system that is hostile toward true believers in the true God, just as it was back in the days of the Tower of Babel. Babylon is personified as a great whore or prostitute who leads or seduces the kings of the earth into idolatry, literally “fornication” or sexual immorality, an imagery used to depict unfaithfulness to God. Her sitting on many waters describes her pervasive influence over many peoples (as verse 15 indicates). John is carried in the Spirit to the wilderness to witness the woman sitting on a beast matching the description of the Anti-Christ (Revelation 13:1). Apparently she operates with his power which supports her. Outwardly she has every worldly appeal, but inside are the abominations depicted as the evil in the cup she sips. She wears an rather unflattering name tag (to most), describing her character and power (as names often do in Scripture). “Mystery” is the word for “hidden” so her evil is not obvious to those who consort with her. She is definitely opposed to Jesus, and responsible for martyring many of His followers, as well as faithful OT saints.
17:7-13 The angel explains the Beast as the one that was, was not, and is again (resurrection from the “fatal” wound 13:3). Those who fall for the phoney miracles and worship him are those whose names have not been written in the book of life. The time when they have not been written is from (apo) the foundation of the world. The preposition apo with the genitive denotes separation as its fundamental meaning. “From” or “since” are appropriate translations indicating the time span from the foundation of the world, to the present in John's day. During that time, those who believe are written in the Lamb's book of life, and their name is not blotted out (forfeit inheritance) if they remain faithful. Remember that the “book of life” is the register of those who participate in the political life or rule of a city state (see comments on 3:5, 13:8 and upcoming references in chapters 20, 21, and 22). John elaborates on the heads as seven mountains upon which the woman sits, which has led many to speculate that Rome with its seven surrounding hills in is view. Yet John is told that they represent kings on the earth, as do the horns, who in unity, give their authority to the Beast. The initial anti-God kingdoms are most likely those mentioned in Daniel (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome), with another yet to come (the Beast's). The ten kings are considered those of a revived Roman Empire. Other have matched them up with historical kings; still others say they are symbolic of all civil authority. If speculating who each king is essential for you to obey Jesus, love others, make disciples, and glorify God, feel free to consult a couple of commentaries for more details to scratch your head over.
17:14 The kings will war against the Lamb and the Lamb (Jesus) will overcome them because He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Those who are in union with Jesus will also overcome, and are the invited (and responsive), chosen (elect, select, choice) and faithful. Note that being invited precedes the state of being choice (or of excellent quality), which precedes the condition of being faithful.
17:15-18 The religious system symbolized by the Great Prostitute will be hated by the ten kings and the Beast (lovers are so fickle), and will abandon her, destroying her with fire. This is probably a reference to the destruction of her city and power. They will turn on her who had ruled over the kings of the earth because God worked in their hearts to rebel against her, just as Satan and his minions work to get people to rebel against God.

Application: Knowing that there is a pervasive, popular and deceptive religious system opposed to the true worship of God should give us pause for reflection and evaluation to be sure that our worship of God is based upon His word, not that of men (or women).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and Lord and Master of my life; may I be loyal to You and faithful, regardless of the cost or attractiveness of the alternatives. Amen.

Revelation 18 Economic Babylon Judged
18:1 "After these things, I saw another angel coming down out of the sky, having great authority. The earth was illuminated with his glory. 2 He cried with a mighty voice, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and she has become a habitation of demons, a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird! 3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her sexual immorality, the kings of the earth committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from the abundance of her luxury."
4 I heard another voice from heaven, saying, "Come out of her, my people, that you have no participation in her sins, and that you don’t receive of her plagues, 5 for her sins have reached to the sky, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Reward her just as she rewarded, and repay her double as she did, and according to her works. In the cup which she mixed, mix to her double. 7 However much she glorified herself, and lived luxuriously, so much give her of torment and mourning. For she says in her heart, ‘I sit a queen, and am no widow, and will in no way see mourning.’ 8 Therefore in one day her plagues will come: death, mourning, and famine; and she will be utterly burned with fire; for the Lord God who has judged her is strong.
9 The kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived luxuriously with her, will weep and wail over her, when they look at the smoke of her burning, 10 standing far away for the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For your judgment has come in one hour.’ 11 The merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise any more; 12 merchandise of gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, purple, silk, scarlet, all expensive wood, every vessel of ivory, every vessel made of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble; 13 and cinnamon, incense, perfume, frankincense, wine, olive oil, fine flour, wheat, sheep, horses, chariots, and people’s bodies and souls. 14 The fruits which your soul lusted after have been lost to you, and all things that were dainty and sumptuous have perished from you, and you will find them no more at all.
15 The merchants of these things, who were made rich by her, will stand far away for the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning; 16 saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was dressed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls! 17 For in an hour such great riches are made desolate.’ Every shipmaster, and everyone who sails anywhere, and mariners, and as many as gain their living by sea, stood far away, 18 and cried out as they looked at the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like the great city?’ 19 They cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had their ships in the sea were made rich by reason of her great wealth!’ For in one hour is she made desolate.
20 "Rejoice over her, O heaven, you saints, apostles, and prophets; for God has judged your judgment on her." 21 A mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying, "Thus with violence will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down, and will be found no more at all. 22 The voice of harpists, minstrels, flute players, and trumpeters will be heard no more at all in you. No craftsman, of whatever craft, will be found any more at all in you. The sound of a mill will be heard no more at all in you. 23 The light of a lamp will shine no more at all in you. The voice of the bridegroom and of the bride will be heard no more at all in you; for your merchants were the princes of the earth; for with your sorcery all the nations were deceived. 24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth."

Observations: 18:1-3 Next, John sees another angel having great power, who illuminated the earth with his glory. This is a great verse to see the identification of power/authority, light, and glory, the energizing force of the universe. This angel focuses on the commerce aspects of Babylon. In Ancient times the temple of the god was the the bank and center of commerce for a city or locale. The fall of the corrupt religious system symbolized by the Great Harlot has repercussions in the world of buying and selling. The angel announces the fall of Babylon the great, and the accompanying desolation. She becomes the desolate habitation of demons and all that is unclean. The reason for this destruction is because of the unfaithfulness she propagated among the nations of the world, and the independence from God spawned by wealth. “Wall Street” comes to mind as an example of John using Babylon, as a geographical place, but also a world-influencing economic center that has often been portrayed as a hot-bed of corruption and vice. (Some would also view it as the center of worship of the almighty buck, in whom they trust.)
18:4-8 John hears another voice that has reverberated though the ages calling the people of God out of the corruption of “Babylon” so that they don't participate in her sins, otherwise they will participate in her judgment. If there was no possibility of believers being entranced and entrapped by materialism, there would be no need for this warning. God will repay “Babylon” and those who sin with her, double for her sinful ways, being corrupt, and corrupting others. To the degree that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, she will be humbled and tormented. She said she was a queen above any possibility of need, yet in one day she will be reduced to ashes, because the God who judges is so much stronger than her wealth and self-sufficiency. Remember that those believers who live for “Babylon's” pleasures and benefits, rather than the pleasure of God, and His benefits, will share in her discipline. They won't get tossed into the lake of fire (for their names were written in the book of life) but their works will be totally burned up in the garbage dump of Gehenna (1 Corinthians 3:15).
18:9-14 The kings of the earth who had profited from their union with Babylon will lament her destruction, which has not yet taken place, but will, in an very short period of time. The merchants too will mourn her loss, because the breakdown of the economic system with her fall will destroy their business. Note that they trade not only in the luxuries and necessities of life, but also in human bodies and souls! Those things for which people's souls lusted will be totally gone.
18:15-19 The merchants will weep and mourn for the loss of what was the source of their riches, as will those who profited in transportation. They will see the smoke of her burning and weep. This seems to indicate that a physical location is destroyed, observable from the sea. The fragile nature of temporal things is underscored by the fact that in an hour, all is lost.
18:20 Meanwhile, in heaven, there is cheering and rejoicing. The saints, apostles, and prophets who were victims of the temporal materialistic system will be avenged by God's judgment.
18:21-24 A mighty angel took a giant stone and cast it into the sea, indicating the violent and overwhelming destruction that will occur. Entertainment and industry, production and merriment will be no more, at all, in Babylon. Because of her deception of the nations (last chapter) and persecution of the prophets (who denounced both apostasy and injustice), and martyrdom of the saints, and the shedding of innocent blood, Babylon is judged, by the Judge of all the earth.

Application: Believer must be careful not to be seduced by false teaching nor unholy living, both the sponsors of and participants in unfaithfulness will be judged, be they believers or not.

Prayer: God, thanks that You judge righteously and will vindicate all those who follow You at the expense of worldly pleasures; may I always fear living independently of You in any manner. Amen.

Digging Deeper:

God in a nutshell: God is the judge of all the earth, and all that is in it, from the depths of the sea to the heights of the mountains. He will destroy the earth, and its religious and economic systems, executing just vengeance for those faithful to Him. He gives rebels opportunities to repent as He judges, but they curse Him instead, reaping the full measure of His wrath.

Build-a-Jesus: Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who will vanquish all pretenders to His throne when He returns, with His faithful ones to set up His Millennial Kingdom.

Us in a nutshell: Believers, whose names are written in the book of life, are still in danger of experiencing judgment if they allow themselves to be swept into false religious practices and materialism.

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