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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

November 12, 2014

Revelations 18:1-24

  1. Recap from last week. As we studied Revelation 17 we saw the fall of Rome. Revelation 17:16 showed the Roman Empire as a great prostitute made desolate and naked. She is stripped of her power and authority and is burned up with fire. God is the one who purposed this fall to occur. Chapters 17 and 18 are connected like a part one and part two of the fall of Rome. In Revelation 18 we will see a description of the impact and meaning of the fall of the Roman Empire that was described in chapter 17. In chapter 18, John depicts the fall of Babylon / Rome, as if it has already happened, basing his description upon the ancient depictions of fallen cities found in the Jewish Bible, especially in Isaiah, Jeremiah (Chap 50, 51) and Ezekiel. In a compact way, he takes up elements from those descriptions, and applies them to the greatest city of his day, the capital city of the Roman Empire, predicting its coming downfall. Chapter 18 presents three speeches, this first one by “another messenger/ angel” (verses 1-3), the second by “another voice” (verses 4-20) and the third one by “a mighty messenger / angel” (verses 21-24).

  2. Verses 1-3. Another angel comes down from heaven, carrying great authority and full of glory. This is the only place where an angel is said to have glory. He calls out the message of judgment. Babylon is fallen because of its great immoralities. The word fallen in this text was a word that often spoke of the violent end to a tribe, nation or a people. Rome has fallen. Once again the angel speaks with prophetic certainty. Though Rome has not fallen yet at the time of the writing of Revelation, the angel declares its fall in the past tense to show how surely Rome and her empire will fall. Rome has become a dwelling place of wickedness and evil. Every evil imaginable was done in Rome and promoted by the Romans to the rest of the world. Rome was a place where demons and any other evil thing were comfortable. Not only has Rome been the heart of wickedness, but the nations “have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” The nations are not innocent. They also have been participants in the immorality of Rome. The merchants of the earth have prospered through the immorality of Rome, but all that prosperity would end when Rome fell. Trade extended well past the border of Rome’s empire, which was millions of square miles. Trade routes also existed to India and China. The merchants were made rich by buying, selling, and trading goods with Rome.

  3. Verses 4-6. Another voice calls out from heaven for God’s people to come out from her. This is a prophetic reference from Jeremiah and Isaiah’s ministries (Isaiah 48:20 and Isaiah 52:11). The call of the voice from heaven is for the people of God to remove themselves from the ways and immoralities of Rome. Do not participate in the sinfulness of that world. Otherwise, you will share in the plagues that are coming upon Rome and her empire. The judgment of the seven bowls showed seven plagues being poured out on the beast and its throne. God gives an important warning. If you act like the world, you will be judged with the world. Come out from the world and separate yourselves from the Roman ways and sins. They have heaped up their sins as high as the heavens and God remembered those sins. God is going to pay her back. God is going to pay her double for her deeds. This is just because its sins were so severe that it not only affect them, but also carried the whole world into sinfulness with its idolatry and paganism. God calls for a double portion to be mixed for her in the cup. Recall that we saw this cup as the cup of God’s anger poured full strength (Revelation 14:10). The voice from heaven says that we need to make it a double. Double up the portion in the cup of God’s anger.

  4. Verses 7-8 continue to explain why God’s wrath is so violent against Rome and her empire. Rome glorified itself and lived in luxury. No one gave glory to God for their prosperity. They elevated themselves and glorified themselves. Further, they think they will never fall. They think that these times will never change. They think this prosperity will never end because they think they did it all. They rule and think that rule will never end. God says in verse 8 that this is the reason that they will be struck down suddenly. Rather than life and prosperity, the empire will crumble into death, mourning, and famine. Revelation is not predicting that Rome fell in one day, just as the scriptures are not predicting other nations falling in one day (cf. Isaiah 47:9). It is a symbol of the suddenness of the loss of power and authority. It would seem that the empire would never end and suddenly the empire will be in trouble. It will lose its power and be destroyed. This is the imagery of the fire. Revelation is not predicting Rome literally burning (cf. Isaiah 47:14). The fire is a symbol of judgment. Its time of glory and rule is over. The empire has fallen. Rome has lost her power.

  5. Verses 9-19. Rome’s fall will be the end of the prosperity of the world. The world will end up wailing at the fall of Rome. History calls the period after the fall of Rome the “Dark Ages.” Without the central government of Rome, nations were unstable and lawlessness ruled the day. People had to live to survive. Things like art and education became non-essential to survival. The text says that three groups mourn the fall of Rome. The kings, merchants, and sea captains that were made rich by Rome. All three mourn because without Roman shipping, armies, and roads, they could not sustain their wealth. The Kings would lose their wealth without the Roman army’s protection. The merchants of the earth will mourn because all of those trade routes will be lost. No one will be buying and selling across the earth any longer. The goods listed in verses 12-13 are a sampling of the many goods that traded through the might of the Roman Empire. Their economy is crushed. All the luxuries and splendors that the people enjoyed are gone. Not only are the merchants and traders devastated by the fall of Rome, but the shipmasters and seafaring men who worked on the sea will also lose their wealth and business. While Rome does not sit on the coast, it had built an amazing trade city called Portus just west of Rome that did sit on the sea ("Portus was the main port of ancient Rome for more than 500 years and provided a conduit for everything from glass, ceramics, marble and slaves to wild animals caught in Africa and shipped to Rome for spectacles in the Colosseum."In 2010, "one of the biggest canals ever built by the Romans" was discovered to have been built in Portus, in an ancient port increasingly being seen as important as Carthage or Alexandria. For some 400 years, from the late second century AD into the fifth and sixth centuries, this 100-yard-wide (90 meter) canal was used to ship goods from all over the Empire to Rome” quoted from the London Telegraph July 2010). All the captains no longer have a business. All the sailors no longer have work. Their cry is an accurate description of the greatness of Rome. “Where is there another city as great as this?” (NLT) The great city where all the ships of the sea grew rich is now gone. The same three groups wail at the fall of Babylon in Ezekiel 27:29-36. It is the end of the empire.

  6. Verses 20-24. The holy people of God, the apostles, and the prophets are called to rejoice over the judgment of Rome. They are called to rejoice because they have been killed by Rome. Chapter 13 showed us that the beast would kill those who did not worship it. Judgment has come and it is time for the people of God who suffered and died to rejoice. God has given judgment for you against her. God has brought his holy judgment for the sake of his people. A great symbolic act is revealed. A mighty angel takes a stone like a great millstone and casts it into the sea. While doing this the angel says that Babylon has been thrown down with violence and will never be found again. The Roman Empire will never rise again and will never be a world power. Those who know the timeline of world history know that the collapse of the Roman Empire led into a time period that would be called the Dark Ages. The world was completely changed with the fall of the Roman Empire. This language is the same as what Jeremiah did concerning the judgment against Babylon (Jeremiah 51:63—64).

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