Destruction of Babylon

Next, the Book of Revelation presents a detailed description of the destruction of the “Great City,” and the justification for it. Her demise is caused, in part, by the hatred of the “Ten Kings” who are allied with the “Beast from the Sea.” They are driven by God to desolate and “burn her utterly with fire” for her dominance of world commerce, “sorcery,” and especially her persecution of the “saints.”

The description uses language from the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, judicial pronouncements made originally against the ancient cities of Babylon and Tyre, and their dependence on maritime trade. Economic control is the basis of Babylon's power over the "Nations of the Earth"  - (Jeremiah 50-51, Ezekiel 26-27).

City ruins - Photo by Casey Lovegrove on Unsplash
[Photo by Casey Lovegrove on Unsplash]

End-Time “
Babylon” is the city in which Jesus was executed, the city set on “Seven Mountains” that reigns over the “Kings of the Earth” and the “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues,” a political entity involved in global commerce. John’s first-century audience would have identified her with the Roman Empire - (Revelation 18:9-19).

Her allies are the “Kings of the Earth” over whom she presumes to “reign.” They have been seduced by her “fornications.” Elsewhere, they are allied with the “Beast from the Sea” in its war against the “Lamb” - (Revelation 6:15, 16:14, 17:18, 19:19).

The “Kings of the Earth” mourned when they saw the “smoke of her burning” and withdrew from her so as not to be consumed by her punishment. In the preceding chapter, John was informed that the “Ten Kings” would hate the woman, “eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.” God put it into their hearts to fulfill His will despite their alliance with the “Great Whore.”

The “smoke of her burning” is conceptually parallel to the “smoke of the torment” produced by the punishment of the men who rendered homage to the “Beast from the Sea” in Chapter 14 (“The smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever”).

Alas, the Great City, Babylon.” This is the “Great City” that rejoiced over the dead bodies of the “Two Witnesses” slain by the “Beast from the Abyss.” She is the “city” called “Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified,” and she is the “city” where the “winepress of the wrath of God was trodden” without its walls. She is the “Great City that reigns over the Kings of the Earth,” the “Great Whore” who sits on the “Seven Mountains” and slaughters the followers of the “Lamb” - (Revelation 11:7-13, 14:8-20, 17:9, 17:18).

Members of the Seven Assemblies of Asia were the first ones to hear this description. The economy of Rome was dependent on maritime commerce, especially the grain shipments from Egypt.

That does not mean the Roman Empire exhausted the application of this vision, but it certainly was included in it. For John and his congregations, Rome was the latest incarnation of the World Empire, but it would not be the last - (“There are seven kings: five are fallen, and ONE IS, and the other is not yet come”).

As before, language from the judicial pronouncements against ancient Babylon is adapted by Revelation to describe the downfall of End-Time “Babylon”:

  • Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed… We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed. Forsake her and let us go everyone into his own country: for her judgment reaches unto heaven” - (Jeremiah 51:8-9).

The duration of her judgment is “one hour.” This figure is repeated three times in the passage, and it corresponds to the “one day” in verse 8 (“Her plagues will fall on her in ONE DAY”). The same term is applied to the final “hour” when the “Lamb” will arrive in judgment - (Revelation 3:3, 3:10, 9:15, 11:13, 14:7).


The condemnation of the “merchants of the Earth” and the listing of their merchandise borrows heavily from the pronouncement by Ezekiel against the seafaring city-state of Tyre. Because it exploited Judah, God pronounced the destruction of its commercial empire - (“Thus says Yahweh, Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you” - Ezekiel 26:15-19, 27:1-25).

Ancient Babylon and Tyre suffered great loss long before John found himself on Patmos. In its economic critique of “Babylon,” the Book of Revelation adapts the list of trade goods found in Ezekiel to correspond to the commodities transported by ship to Rome from the provinces and subject kingdoms of her empire.

The merchants who were enriched by her stand afar off weeping.” This statement corresponds to Ezekiel 27:31 - The merchants of Tyre “made themselves utterly bald for you, and girded them with sackcloth, and they will weep for you with bitterness of heart and bitter wailing.” Likewise, in Revelation, though they mourned over her and their financial losses, the “merchants” had no desire to partake of her plagues.

For in one hour so great riches are desolated.” The same Greek verb rendered “desolate” in the previous chapter is used here. The agent that desolates the Empire is the group of “Ten Kings” - (“The Ten Horns will hate the harlot and make her DESOLATE” - Revelation 17:16).

What city is like the Great City?” The lamentations of the “merchants” and “sailors” echo the judgment dirge of Ezekiel on Tyre, only now it is applied to End-Time “Babylon” - (Ezekiel 27:32, Revelation 18:20-24).

The collapse of the economic system is not just a punishment for the City’s sins, but also the vindication of the “saints” who were persecuted by the “Great Whore” (“Be glad over her!”). The inclusion of the “apostles and prophets” among the “saints” demonstrates that those who were persecuted by her were followers of Jesus.

An angel cast a great stone into the Sea and proclaimed: “Thus, with main force, will be cast down Babylon the great city, and in no way will she be found anymoreAnd the sound of harp-singers, and musicians, and flute-players, and trumpeters, — in no way be heard in you anymore.” The words of the angel allude both to Jeremiah’s pronouncement against Babylon and to Ezekiel’s lament over Tyre - (Jeremiah 51:63-64, 51:37, Ezekiel 26:13).

Shipwreck - Photo by Milan Seitler on Unsplash
[Shipwreck - Photo by Milan Seitler on Unsplash]

The merchants were “the great ones of the Earth.” This identifies them with the “great ones” who, along with the “Kings of the Earth,” attempted to hide from the “Wrath of the Lamb” when the “
Sixth Seal” was opened, and it is a further echo of the related passage in Ezekiel:

  • (Ezekiel 27:33) – “When thy wares went forth out of the seas, you filled many people; you enriched the KINGS OF THE EARTH with the multitude of your merchandise. In the time when you will be broken by the seas in the depths of the waters your merchandise and all your company in your midst will fall.

Babylon dominated the nations “by her sorcery.” The English term “sorcery” translates the Greek noun pharmakeia. It is related to pharmakon or “sorcery,” the Greek word used elsewhere in Revelation and the New Testament for “sorcery” and “witchcraft” - (Revelation 9:21, Galatians 5:20).

The practice of sorcery included potions used in magical rituals. Closely related is the noun pharmakeus, a “sorcerer” who performed spells and prepared potions - (Revelation 21:8 – “But the fearful and unbelieving… and SORCERERS will have their part in the lake which burns with fire”).

Here, it is not individual sorcerers who are condemned, but the “Great City” since she has used “sorcery” to “deceive the nations.” In the masculine gender, as here, pharmakon refers to human victims sacrificed or expelled from cities as scapegoats during times of societal crisis or war. The “nations” and the “Kings of the Earth” have been deceived through her “sorcery” and thereby they were led to persecute the Church.

The Greek term translated as “slain” was used in the first century for the “slaying” of sacrificial victims in religious rituals, not for killing in general. The same term was applied previously to the “slain” Lamb and the souls who were “SLAIN for the word of God” that John saw under the Altar - (Revelation 5:6-12, 6:9, 13:8).

Thus, the “sorcery” of Babylon includes the offering of sacrificial victims to appease her pagan gods, in this case, the “Dragon,” and thereby she hopes to preserve her power and prosperity. Her sacrificial victims are the saints, apostles, and prophets slain because of their “Testimony of Jesus” (“The dragon waged war against those who have the testimony of Jesus” – Revelation 12:17).

The destruction of “Babylon” is the Divine response to her persecution of the “assemblies” of Jesus Christ, and it began with the downfall of her economic power. Control over commerce is also the key to the power of the “False Prophet” in Chapter 13, and this is not coincidental. Economic power undergirds the World Empire and is the basis of its military might and political control.

So, it has been with past empires and world ruler wannabes, and so it remains till our own day where the dominant world power uses its economic control to dominate the governments, nations, and the peoples of the Earth.

  • Empires Rise and Fall - (Imperial arrogance is the legacy of the Tower of Babel, humanity’s first but certainly not last attempt to establish a World Empire)
  • Land of Shinar - (The arrogant acts of Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel parallel the incident at the Tower of Babel in Genesis)
  • God Grants Sovereignty - (God gave the kingdom of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, but He also equipped Daniel and his companions for service in the court of Babylon)



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