{19}   The Fall of Babylon (Rev 18:1-24)


Part 8. The fall of Babylon (17:1—19:5)

8.2.      Babylon destroyed (18:1-24)

        PICTURE: John hears the songs of lamentation describing the fall of Babylon the Great and then witnesses the complete destruction of the city by a supernatural act of God.


18:1     This chapter is a poetic funeral song (dirge) on the fall of the Babylon the Great. It is divided into 3 passages: [1] vv.1-8: 2 angels declares the fall of Babylon and her judgment. [2] vv.9-20: 3 groups of people lament the destruction of Babylon. [3] vv.21-24: an angel demonstrates the actual fall of Babylon. This is the ultimate collapse of an antichristian world order or world system (which is the political, social, economic, and cultural institutions of the entire world).

A major poetic feature in this chapter is the repeated sets of triplets (at least 10). These triplets reinforce the various ideas to an extreme in the poetic form of “bad, worse, worst”.

18:2     Babylon has always been symbolic of opposition to the advance of the kingdom of God. As the actual city fell in the past, so will the world system which it represents be totally destroyed in the future. The aorist tense is used here to denote the certainty of future fulfilment.

In a reinforcing triplet, the angel in splendour declares that Babylon once fallen will never again be inhabited except by demons, evil spirits, and all kinds of unclean creatures.

18:3     The sins of Babylon is involved by 3 groups (triplet): all the nations, kings of the earth, and the merchants. It points to corruption in 3 areas: the society, the politics, and the economy.

Adultery refers to the unclean relationships between Babylon and all nations. The worst apostasy is the worship of the beast. At the same time, the economy is corrupted by excessive luxury.

18:4     God’s people are called to separate themselves from Babylon. God’s message is: have nothing to do with the evil deeds (physical separation) and evil philosophy (ideological separation).

18:5     Babylon’s sins join together until the pile reaches to heaven where God will not forget them.

18:6     In a reinforcing triplet, the voice from heaven issues the order to give back to her what she has given, to pay her back double, and to mix her a double portion. Babylon will be judged according to what she has done. She has shed the blood of prophets and saints (v.24).

18:7     In her pride, she boasts of 3 things (a triplet): her wealth and power as a queen, her promiscuity as a lover of many nations, and her constant victory on battlefields.

18:8     Yet the judgment will come suddenly, just in one day, leaving her no time to prepare. Three plagues (triplet) will chase after her and overtake her. These are death, mourning, and famine. The ultimate judgment is Babylon’s consumption by fire, meaning complete destruction.

18:9     The second passage of this chapter includes vv.9-20. It is the continuation of the declaration from heaven. It describes 3 songs of lamentation sung by 3 groups (again a triplet) of people: the kings (vv.9-10) , the merchants (vv.11-17a), and the seamen (vv.17b-19).

The first lament is that of the kings of the earth. These are the heads of all nations who have shared her luxury, and have abused power. Witnessing the fire burning down the great city, the kings weep (silently) and wail (loudly) because their own sinful pleasures have come to the end.

18:10   They do not rush to the rescue of their ally but only stand at a distance. Being terrified at Babylon’s torment, they don’t want to get close.

The first group describes Babylon’s power. Babylon’s loss of power affects the kings who abuse power in their alliance with Babylon. The second group describes Babylon’s luxury. The end of luxury affects the merchants who provided the luxury items for Babylon. The third group describes Babylon’s wealth. The loss of wealth affects the traders’ source of wealth.

18:11   The second lament is that of the merchants of the earth. They weep and wail because their commodities cannot be sold again in Babylon.

18:12   The 29 commodities fall into 6 groups. The first 3 groups are: [1] 4 items of precious metals and gems, [2] 4 items of fabrics for expensive clothing, [3] 6 items of ornamental pieces.

18:13   The last 3 groups are: [4] 5 items of aromatic substances, [5] 6 items of foodstuffs, [6] 4 items of animals and people; and bodies (meaning slaves) and souls of men (referring to the slaves destined for entertainment in the amphitheatre or for prostitution).

18:14   A reinforcing triplet describes the finality of Babylon’s fall: gone, vanished, never recovered.

18:15   These merchants take their stand at a safe distance from the destruction.

18:16   The city is chacterized by its past luxury in two triplets: dressed in fine linen, purple, scarlet; glittered in gold, precious stones, pearls.

18:17   While the kings see Babylon losing its power, the merchants see Babylon losing its luxury. In the next lamentation, the traders see Babylon losing its wealth. Each group sees her fall in terms of its own interests. This reveals how self-centred and opportunistic their concerns are.

The third lament is that of the seamen or traders. They too stand at a safe distance.

18:19   They weep and wail as the destruction of Babylon’s wealth result in the loss of their wealth.

18:20   The angel’s call to rejoice is for the “heaven” or “you who dwell in the heavens”, in other words, the triumphant and glorified church is already in heaven.

18:21   The finality of Babylon’s fall is reinforced by a double triplet of “never…again”.

A mighty angel throws a large boulder into the sea to demonstrate the sudden and spectacular judgment of God executing on Babylon. Its fall is described in the first description.

18:22   The next 5 descriptions are the consequence of the destruction: there will be no more culture, no more economy, no more livelihood, no more activities, no more social relationships.

18:23   The chapter ends with a summary of  the 3 reasons (triplet) why Babylon is destroyed by God: [1] The merchants have become arrogant and claimed as “great men” of the world. [2] Babylon deceived the nations by her magic spell. It is unlikely that this refers to the actual practice of magic but rather her art of deception bewitching the nations into worshipping the beast.

18:24   [3] Most of all, Babylon shed the blood of Christians as well as all other innocent victims.

With the world system destroyed, the antichrist becomes the supreme dictator in the world. His next act will be to lead a large army to a final confrontation with God’s army at Armageddon.


        Many theologians believe that we are now near the end time because of the fulfilment of many signs of Jesus’ second coming. The similarity of today’s world to Babylon the Great is another such sign. In this chapter, Babylon is described by 3 characteristics: wealth, luxury, and power. Today, people of the world admire and worship those who accumulate large wealth. These people then use their wealth to obtain power and to spend in luxury. We need to ask ourselves: Have we lived in luxury? Have we put all our efforts in accumulating wealth? Have we abuse the power we possess? If we do, we must repent because these will reap God’s judgment, like Babylon.