A Study of Revelation

Chapter 18

Chapter 18 is a continuation of the description of the “Great Harlot” identified in this chapter as “Babylon the great.” In 17:5 we read:

5* and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Babylon was a great enemy of God’s people in the Old Testament taking Israel into captivity several times. The symbolic “great harlot” shows that these people commit spiritual immorality, the “great city” shows the vast number of people who oppose God by worshiping him according to the traditions of men, “Babylon the great” is symbolic of those great multitudes of people who oppose God by refusing to obey His Word, therefore, they are enemies of God and His people.

Chapter 18 is a continuation of the judgment of the “great harlot” described in chapter 17. Events are foretold which will take place on earth concerning this “great harlot,” or “Babylon the great.”

Many interpretations of Chapter 18 assume that the great harlot and Babylon represent the actual city of Rome, and its destruction in 476 A.D. These interpretations ignore the meaning of the great harlot and Babylon as they are used in the bible. The great harlot represents those who commit spiritual fornication. Obviously, there were those in Rom who committed spiritual fornication, but there certainly were not the only people to ever live who committed spiritual fornication. The great harlot refers to all those people, not just the ones who happened to live in Rome between the time of Christ and 476 A.D.

If we interpret Chapter 18 as applying only to the literal city of Rome the meaning for this chapter for Christians who live during other periods of world history is lost.

The knowledge that this great harlot will be destroyed is something in which all Christians of all ages can rejoice and take comfort. To realize that Rome would be destroyed would concern only those Christians who lived during that particular period of time.

If we interpret Chapter 18 as the destruction of Rome in 476 A.D., then we must also interpret Chapter 17 as specifically describing the destruction of the city of Rome. This forces the interpretation to see certain symbols in Chapter 17 as literal rather than symbolic, i.e. the mountains represent the actual mountains on which Rome is built. If we interpret the kings in Chapter 17 as representing the actual emperors of Rome, we have to accept the Nero-resurrection myth.

Notice that to interpret the things in Chapter 18 as relating to the actual city of Rome we have another huge problem. What is destroyed in Chapter 17 and 18 is destroyed forever. They will never exist again. Obviously this is not true of the literal city of Rome. Rome was destroyed, then it was rebuilt and it remains today.

18:1* ¶ After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.
2* And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.
Angels play an important part in many of the visions of Revelation. This angel has great power, he announces that Babylon is fallen. This vision takes us to some time in the future to our day. Babylon is to become a dwelling place of demons and a prison for unclean spirits and unclean and hateful birds. This is a symbolic expression describing the condition of Babylon the great once she has fallen.

Babylon, as she exists today, is a city or multitude of people who do practice certain spiritual activities, though they may not follow the pattern outlined by God. At some point in the future, those people will cease to participate in these spiritual activities. The spiritual nature of this city will be lost. Those who inhabit it will no longer seek to worship God. They will practice unrestrained sin. It will be a hold for everything unclean and hateful.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

3* “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.”

The whole world has indulged the great harlot. The “merchants of the earth” represent false religions that have existed through the centuries that have possessed and controlled people to accomplish their own purposes. There have been times in history when people were not allowed to trade unless they followed the dictates of Roman Catholicism. In order to be in business, or even have a job, it was necessary to prove one’s allegiance to this religious organization.

4* I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;
5* for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
6* “Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.
7* “To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I SIT as A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW, and will never see mourning.’
8* “For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.

“Come out of her, my people….” is an interesting thought. How could this be? How could it be possible for some of God’s people to be in this great city of spiritual immorality? Perhaps the answer is found in the fact that throughout the centuries many have sought to worship God in the correct way but have been forced by persecutions and even death to submit to the dictates of the apostate church. Many were unable to withstand the persecutions and therefore submitted to the apostate church and abandoned their relationship to God. God will not permit his people to remain in a situation like this forever. God’s people must leave apostasy and return to him, they must be obedient to him or they are partakers of the sins of Babylon. These warnings take us back to chapters two and three where the 7 churches of Asia were warned to remain faithful to God rather than fall away.

Remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Verse 5 reminds us that God does not forget sins committed against him. Every man will be judged according to his works whether they are good or bad.

2 Cor. 5:10
10* For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Verse 6 is a message of consolation to the saints. The great harlot may be responsible for the persecution of many saints during the Christian age, but Christians can take comfort in the fact that the punishment of this great harlot will receive will be far greater than any persecutions she has inflicted. No physical persecutions can possibly match the eternal torment which those who are disobedient to God will suffer. Verse 7 tells us that they will be tormented eternally.

She claims to be Queen, a queen is one who is married to the king. This great spiritual harlot claims to be married to the King of kings who is Christ. She claims to be the true church which is married to Jesus Christ (Rom. 7:4), but is actually a spiritual harlot committing adultery with many gods. She claims that she is “no widow.” This again points to the marriage relationship between Christ and the church. Just as the true church of Christ believes that her husband has risen from the grave and sits on his throne in glory today, this great harlot claims the same thing about herself. She claims to be the true church. Therefore, she professes not be be a widow. She also believes that she will “see no sorrow.” She believes that one day she will be in heaven with God. This is a fearful statement because many people today mistakenly believe they are serving God, but, in actuality, they are a part of this great harlot. The great lesson we must learn is that God will not accept man’s designs of worship. We must worship according to the plan of God according to His Word.

Verse 8 seems to indicate that one day, death, mourning and famine will come upon this great figurative city of spiritual Babylon. This must mean that her fall will be sudden and complete. In Chapter 17 the 10 kings are the ones responsible for the destruction of this beast.

There will come a time in the future when the governments of the world will turn on the apostate church and utterly and completely destroy those who have shared their powers with her. We will discuss this in great detail in Chapter 20. This appears to happen shortly before the second coming.

9* ¶ “And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning,

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

At some time in the future, the governments of this world who have profited by their association with the apostate church will finally overcome her and destroy her. When this becomes a reality they will suddenly realize that they have destroyed the goose that laid the golden egg. There are many governments around the world today that are attempting to limit the power of various religious organizations. Many would like to ban any for of Religion. Sometime, near the end of time they accomplish their goal, and when they do they will immediately realize that what they destroyed gave them their power.

10* standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’
11* “And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more–
12* cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble,
13* and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives.
14* “The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them.
15* “The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning,
16* saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls;
17* for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’ And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance,
18* and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’

19* “And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’

Those who profited by their association with the great harlot, the governments of this world that aided false religion, will not want to be associated with her at the time of her judgment. The great harlot has controlled and still controls a great deal of the wealth of this world. When this destruction comes this wealth will be lost. The merchandise are symbolic representations of great wealth. Notice that verse 13 mentions “slaves and human lives.” The apostate church traded in the souls of men spiritually.

They will weep and wail as they watch her burning. This will happen because of their own greed and the knowledge that the source of their wealth has been destroyed. Though it is impossible to determine when this might happen in the future, wheat we do know is this: a day is coming when the world will go through a time of great economic chaos. When the civil governments of this world have succeeded in destroying the great spiritual false religious organizations, the world will find itself in a difficult state of affairs.

Remember that is is not the purpose of this vision to tell when, or even how, such events might occur. It is recorded to assure the saints that this great spiritual harlot will not win the war, but instead, she will finally be destroyed. Christians are the ones who are actually wealthy. We possess forgiveness of our sins and that gives us an inheritance more valuable than anything on this earth.

Near the end of time, when those who assisted the apostate church realize they have lost everything they will mourn with great sorrow. There will no longer be any need for great cathedrals in which to worship. No more golden altars and marble images or priceless paintings and fine stained glass windows which are outward signs used by false religious organizations to show the world that they believe in God. The wealth owned and controlled by this great city will be lost forever.

20* “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.”

In Rev. 6:10 the saints under the altar say, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” This verse is an answer to the question from the martyrs. For those dedicated to the truth this is a time of rejoicing. False religion will not overtake those who believe in and practice the Truth.

21* Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.

The destruction of this spiritual harlot will occur with great violence. When false religion is destroyed on this earth it will not happen quietly or gradually. When the governments of this world finally crush false religion it will be a very violent time. The only thing remaining of a spiritual nature will be those Christians whose faith is strong enough to enable them to remain faithful to God.

In the book of Revelation the “sea” is sometimes used as a symbol to represent the people of the earth. Just as a great stone cast into the sea would cause a violent upheaval of water, the destruction of Babylon will be a catastrophic event for the people of the earth. This is why the people who actually destroy this city of false religion will quickly mourn her extinction.

22* “And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer;

This great city of false religion will cease to function. Nothing pleasant or worthwhile will ever be accomplished by it again. The spiritual nature and organization of false religion will be destroyed.

In verse 21 through 23 the phrase “will not” is used six times. This emphasizes the finality of this destruction. This great city of false religion will never exist again. Its destruction will be eternal. Man’s organized structures of false religion will be destroyed forever.

23* and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.

When the great city of false religion is destroyed the light of a candle will no longer shine in it. Even though the religious teaching of the great city are false, the Bible is still read and used as a guide for moral values. The people of the great city claim to believe and follow the teachings of the Bible, even thought they do not practice everything it teaches. When the great city of false religion is destroyed, this light will cease to shine. It will become a habitation of devils.

When this destruction comes, the voice of the bridegroom and the bride will no longer be heard in this city. This meaning is similar to that just stated above. The bridegroom is used symbolically to represent Christ (Jn 3:29), and the bride represents the church (21:9). Therefore, the voice of the bridegroom and the bride is the Word of God, or the teachings of the Bible. Teachings concerning the bridegroom and the bride can be heard today in false religious organizations. They are made up of those who profess to know God and claim to be a part of his church, yet they commit spiritual immorality by disobeying his commands. When the great city is destroyed, the teachings of the Bib, the voice of the bridegroom and the bride, will no longer be heard. It will become a hold of every foul spirit.

All nations are being deceived by the sorceries of the great city. In 13:13, 14, this same situation is described as governmental powers of the religious beast which arise out of the Babylon. As the apostate church began to organize by the canons of men, it gained great political power and became one horn of the great two-horned beast of the Holy Roman Empire (13:11). It used these political power to require that all men worship according to the ways designed by the apostate church and proclaimed the penalty of death for those who did not submit (13:15). It did great wonders in the sight of all men, causing them to worship this spiritual beast (13:13). It deceived all nations by its sorceries!

This great religious beast, which caused people to commit spiritual immorality, is referred to in chapter 17 as the great harlot. According to 17:2 this great harlot committed fornication with the inhabitants of the earth and made them drunk with the wine of her immorality. She deceives all nations by her sorceries.

Rev. 17:5 says that this great harlot became the mother of harlots. Babylon the great is a figurative way of describing the enemy of God’s people This would include all who commit spiritual fornication against. God. Verse 3 says that the kings of the earth have committed immorality with this great city and the merchants of the earth are made rich by the abundance of her delicacies and all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. All nations are deceived by her sorceries. The great city has deceived the people of this world since its beginning and will continue to do so until the time of its destruction.

24* “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.”

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

The great city has been responsible for the persecution and death of many of God’s people throughout the ages. Those who refused to worship the image of the beast, the religious organizations started by the Holy Roman Empire were proclaimed as heretics, sought out, and punished or put to death.

Verse 24 also tells us “in her was found the blood of…..all who have been slain on the earth.” How could this great harlot be responsible for all who have been slain upon the earth? The Jews on the day of Pentecost were accused of killing the Messiah; yet they had not actually driven the nails in his hands. The Roman government had actually killed him, but because of the Jews rejection of Christ and their false accusations against him, they were responsible for his death. Many wars which have already been fought and are still being fought are religious wars. They are wars which are brought about by the great city of false religion. Many of the governmental decision made in the world today dealing with problems between nations are based on the religious beliefs of those nations.

Babylon the great, the great harlot, is a tremendous religious force which exists as a powerful beast today. It is responsible for many circumstances which occur daily. Revelation teaches that the great harlot is not only responsible for many persecutions against the church, but actually aids the true church in its existence (see 12:6).

All Christians need to have a better understanding of the function of false religion around the world today. With a good understanding of Revelation, it is possible to understand more clearly why there is so much false religion today. It provides an “atmosphere” in this world which is conductive to the existence of the church. If the church were completely surrounded by people who had no religious belief at all, it would be almost impossible for the church to exist. Even though false religious is not acceptable to God, it does serve a purpose.

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