Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.CHAPTER 18
Babylon is now seen under another aspect. In the former chapter we have the religious center of Rome and her wicked idolatries, in the present chapter it includes also the whole system of apostate Christendom in its social and commercial aspect, the so-called “Christian civilization” in its final apostate condition and doom. Papal Rome in her short revival becomes the head of apostate Christendom and controls everything till her appointed doom comes upon her. While we saw in the preceding chapter the desolation of the whore by the ten kings and the beast, here we see how God views her and that He dethrones this system in His judgment. A strong angel comes down to announce her doom and to lay bare her inner and most awful corruption. A strong descending Angel whose glory lightened the earth, shows what the boasting thing, she, who bore the blessed name of Christ, has become. (This angel may represent the Lord Himself. If this is correct we have the third manifestation of our Lord in the garb of an angel: 8:3 in His priestly dignity; 10:1 in His royal dignity and here as the herald and executor of the vengeance of God upon Babylon.) She is seen to be the habitation of demons. Even now behind all the denials of the doctrine of Christ and the false doctrines which mark the onward march of the predicted apostasy, demons are the leaders (1Timothy 4:1).
And the nations drank eagerly her cup and the kings committed fornication with her. These kings are not the ten kings of the Empire for they are used in the judgment of the whore, while the kings mentioned here bewail her destruction (Revelation 18:9). And with the system there was connected great commerce; merchants through her became rich.
God always calls out His true children from that which is evil. His own must be a separate people. Saints in past centuries have heard this call and left behind the Romish abominations and thousands sealed their testimony with their blood. And in these days in which our lot is cast, days of increasing signs, heralding as never before the approaching end and the home call of His people to meet Him in the air, in these days God demands the separation of His true children. Christendom is becoming daily more and more the religious camp of apostasy. And, therefore, He calls: “Let us go forth unto Him without the camp bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:13). He who remains in that which denies His Name, is partaker of her sins (Revelation 18:4; compare with 2John 1:10-11). As all drifts back to Rome and the coming political and religious confederacy, this final Babylon looms up; God’s people must hear that call. To whom is this call addressed? Undoubtedly to the remnant of God’s ancient people, the believing remnant and also to that large number of Gentiles who hear the final message, the gospel of the kingdom.
Like ancient Babylon, the whole apostate system, Rome and all her offspring, was filled with pride. She was lifted up in all her earthly glory and now God breaks her completely. “She shall be utterly burned with fire.” As her smoke is to arise forever and ever (Revelation 19:3) it is possible that the proud city, Rome, the center of the system of apostasy and commerce, will be destroyed by volcanic action, and where the seven-hilled city once stood there may be instead an immense crater, testifying through the millennium of God’s righteous retribution. In view of the volcanic conditions on the Italian peninsula this is more than possible.
And now follows the great and universal lamentation over the destruction of the great world-system. There is weeping and wailing when at last this anti-Christian civilization, all Christendom united with Rome, and for a time controlling the commerce of the world, is wiped out by the hand of God. The kings, the merchants, the ship masters, the company in ships and sailors, all are seen mourning, weeping and wailing. The destruction of the system and of its proud city affects them all. They bewail their great loss. Notice twenty-eight things are mentioned by them. The first is gold and the last is the souls of men. How this describes Rome! She is the trafficker in souls and the destroyer of souls as well. And in studying the articles of the commerce of apostate Christendom we notice that these are nearly all articles of luxury. The greatest panic has then come and there will be no recovery of the market. The rich men will weep and howl for their misery is come upon them (James 5:1). See also Zephaniah 1:11; Zephaniah 1:15.
Heaven is called to rejoice over her, and three classes are mentioned (Revised Version), saints, apostles and prophets. “For God hath judged your judgment of her.” This is the better rendering. The judgment which the saints pronounced on her is now executed. The next chapter shows us more fully the rejoicing heavens.
In Jeremiah 51:60-64 we read that Seraiah was commissioned by Jeremiah to attach a stone to the book containing the prophet’s words and to cast it into the Euphrates. “And thou shalt say, thus shall Babylon sink and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her and they shall be weary.” Here an angel took up a millstone and cast it into the sea, showing by this action the complete and final destruction of the wicked system and the equally wicked city. And what revelation there is in the statement, “for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.” In chapter 20 we read that the old serpent deceives the nations. Sorceries, wicked spirits, demon-powers blinded the eyes of the nations to follow Rome’s seductive lure. And thus it is with a lifeless, spiritless Protestantism and its bloodless gospel. The sorceries of Rome, the demons underneath it all, attract apostate Christendom so that all will be united in the great, final Babylon.
So that we may not question that both chapters refer to Rome, though the entire apostate Christendom is also in view, her blood-guiltiness is mentioned once more.