BABYLON’S JUDGMENT & THE IDENTITY OF THE HARLOT – Revelation 18


The relationship of this chapter to the preceding one is generally admitted, although there are several views with regard to the exact nature of that relationship.

That the judgment of the great whore is still under consideration seems certain.

Revelation 18 deals with the particular judgment of God himself upon Babylon, as sharply distinguished from the judgment of Revelation 17, in which the nations of earth, not by the intervention of heaven, but by something that mankind does, grow weary of her and destroy her.

As we see it, this is a distinction without a difference. “God puts into their hearts to do his mind” (Revelation 17:17); therefore, it is still God’s judgment in both instances.

The judgment of Jerusalem was nonetheless God’s, because it was executed by Roman armies (Matthew 22:7); nor is the destruction of the harlot any less the judgment of God himself because it was effected by multiple kingdoms of the earth who finally had enough of her.

In the great judgment scene of Revelation 16:20, the final overthrow of “Babylon the great” was briefly mentioned; and both Revelation 17 and Revelation 18 are a double recapitulation of that same event.

Revelation 17 is being given over to the revelation of “Babylon’s” identity, as indicated by the brief tie-in by another reference to her destruction in Revelation 17:17.

Next, comes Revelation 18 with a particular close-up of conditions in Babylon on the eve of the final overthrow in the last judgment.

One of the big expressions in this chapter is “one hour,” that being the period of the ten kings (Revelation 17:12) who “burnt” the whore and ate her, not realizing in doing so that they also destroyed themselves.

Daniel and Babylon

These are the mysteries cleared up in Revelation 18

Thus it will be seen that the principal events here are what takes place against Apostate Christianity during the period of the ten kings and the eighth beast with whom they are surely identified and to whom they gave their mind and authority.

After foretelling the destruction of Babylon by the beast (the ten kings) and his vassal kings, a long section on the same theme depicts in greater detail the destruction of the once proud city.

Thus, both Revelation 17 and Revelation 18 are successive “close-ups” of the great judgment of Revelation 16:20.

At the end of these (Revelation 18:21), the final judgment is again symbolized by the hurling of the mighty boulder into the sea, making both of these chapters another recapitulation ending in exactly the same place as the previous sections have ended; namely, in the final judgment of the last day.

In our interpretation, the events of chapter 18 are future from our own times, because they belong to the period of the ten kings and the eighth beast which apparently have not yet been fully manifested upon earth.

Still, there have been enough “partial” fulfillments to leave an element of uncertainty.


Here is an outline of the chapter:

A CLOSE-UP OF BABYLON’S JUDGMENT

  1. The announcement of her fall (Revelation 18:1-8).
  2. Consequences of her fall for the world (Revelation 18:9-20).
  3. The finality of her doom (Revelation 18:21-24).

THE IDENTITY OF THE HARLOT

Once more, it is incumbent upon us to explain our persistent identification of the harlot with Apostate Christianity, the great Roman Catholic Church itself being a conspicuous element of that apostasy, but by no means all of it.

The extensive details in this chapter regarding business, commerce, merchandise, and trade have led some to make confident assertions limiting these references to pagan Rome, overlooking the fact that, The difficulty of doing so is unsolved.

Whatever may be intended by these elaborate commercial symbols:

One thing cannot be denied: the muddy Tiber flowing through Rome could never carry the enormous maritime traffic portrayed here.

Pagan Rome was never famous as a center of selling and exchanging merchandise.

Despite all the insoluble problems of doing so, some scholars insist that the harlot is pagan Rome.

Babylon is a figure of the city of Rome.

The great harlot symbolizes the city of Rome.

The destruction of the harlot is used here to picture the destruction of the Babylon of the New Testament, Rome, etc.

Nevertheless, we are certain that this view is incorrect and that the elaborate commercial symbols which in no sense can properly symbolize pagan Rome have a far more appropriate meaning.

There are some who cannot see anything here except Papal Rome as the harlot; and, There is much here to support their view, but, as frequently noted in this commentary, we simply cannot thus limit it.

Much more is involved than the Papacy, despite the undeniable truth that the Papacy must certainly be included in the meaning.

Some have rejected the inadequacy of applying this chapter merely to pagan Rome, thus:

John is thinking not of the fall of one city or empire but of the collapse of civilization.

Final judgment means the overthrow of all that opposes itself to God.

This is correct as far as it goes, but it falls short of including the religious situation as it must be related to all this.

In short, it leaves out the Papacy (as so many do); and without that nothing is explained.

The fall here presented is that of the Apostate Christianity, the world religion that has betrayed Christ, and is interlocked with pagan, godless governments.

This too is correct as far as it goes, but it leaves unexplained the inconceivable grief in which the very people who destroyed the Apostate Christianity greeted the actual accomplishment of it.

To understand this is to understand the passage. True, the destruction of the harlot was the destruction of Apostate Christianity; but that is not all it was.

Merely getting rid of all religion would have been greeted with howls of glee all over the world if that had been all that the destruction of the harlot meant.

We shall attempt to show the larger picture of what actually is prophesied as happening.

The limited views already noted, that “the great world-city,” “cities everywhere,” “urban civilization,” etc., are what is meant by the harlot, is absolutely contradicted by one thing, the hatred of the ten kings (Revelation 17:17) who are the symbols of great world governments.

We cannot imagine, nor can anyone else, that there can ever come a time when the great governments of the earth will “hate” urban civilization, the great world city, or cities everywhere, which have always been, are now, and shall ever continue to be the very essence and foundation of world governments.

Could any government hate and willfully destroy its tax base?

We cannot believe that Revelation prophesies any such thing. Is it not clear that it is the religious thing which will at last incur the wrath and hatred of the kings?

This is the undeniable fact that absolutely requires that the Papacy and related phenomena be included in the understanding of who the whore is, and all that was involved in her destruction.

The ten kings, who are the executioners of God’s wrath upon the whore, will hate her, not the great populous cities of the world, either singly or collectively; but what they will overlook in their terminal assault upon the whore is that the whore herself is the principal element of stability in the whole civilized world, and that her fall will have fatal repercussions for themselves.

“Christendom”, in a remarkable degree, is an edifice constructed by the harlot; and this is as good a place as any to take a look at the harlot’s contribution to the world structure in which she is yet the principal glue that holds the whole thing together.


and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.”
Revelation 17:5 RSV

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