Revelation 18:16
saying: "Woe, woe to the great city, clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls!
The Overthrow of WickednessS. Conway Revelation 18:1-24
The Commercial BabylonS. Conway, B. A.Revelation 18:9-24
The Fall of the Corrupt in Human LifeD. Thomas, D. D.Revelation 18:9-24
The Fall of the Corrupt in Human LifeD. Thomas Revelation 18:9-24

And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, etc. All along through my remarks on the Apocalyptic visions of this book I have not only discarded any attempt at a literal interpretation, but have affirmed that, as a rule, such interpretations of dreams or visions can seldom, if ever, from the nature of the case, be correct; and more especially so with the visions and dreams recorded in this book. The objects seen, the voices heard, the acts performed, are so incongruous with the course of nature and the concurrent experience of mankind, that the attempt at a literal exposition would seem to be the height of absurdity. Anyhow, though it has been tried a thousand times, and is still being tried, all the results are utterly unsatisfactory to the unprejudiced and unsophisticated intellect and conscience of mankind. Common sense repudiates all such interpretations. Using, however, such visions and dreams as the great redeeming Teacher of mankind used the blooming lily, the fruitful vine, the toiling fishermen, the flowing river, the booming sea, and the beaming heavens - viz. to suggest and illustrate the eternal realities of the supersensuous realm - is to use them not only legitimately, but usefully in the highest degree. Still proceeding on this principle, we may perhaps get out of the strange scenes here recorded some things that may quicken our intellect, encourage our conscience, and inspire our hope. The subject here is - The fall of the corrupt in human life. The corrupt thing is here symbolized by Babylon. "Babylon is fallen." If Babylon here be understood to mean the old cry of whose infamous history we have all read, the language used is historically true, for it had fallen to ruins five hundred years before this, and had become "the habitation of devils, and every foul thing." If, as some say, it means pagan Rome, it is not true, for that is as strong and numerically influential - if not more so - now as it ever has been. Take Babylon as standing for wrong everywhere throughout society, and the expression is not true. Moral Babylon in the aggregate still lives and works on this planet. Albeit, regarding it as an event perpetually occurring, it is true enough. Wrong, including all that is morally evil in human thought, feeling, and action, is constantly failing. It has been falling from Adam to Christ, and from Christ to this hour. Such stupendous events were occurring in connection with it in the days of John, that he might well have dreamt that he heard some angel say, "Babylon is fallen." The false and the wrong everywhere are constantly falling, and must continue to do so. Do not, then, understand that the whole of corrupt society on this earth will in some distant day in the mighty aggregate be at once clearly swept from the face of the earth. There is no reason to believe this. The idea is contrary to the analogy of nature, where all things move gradually. Wrong has a very slow death. If we use the word "falling" for "is fallen," it will give us a universal truth - viz, that moral Babylon, the corrupt in society, is falling. I stand upon the brow of some firm and lofty mountain, and I say, "This mountain is falling;" and I say truly, for there is not a moment in its existence when it is not crumbling into the atoms that made it up, for the great physical law of disintegration will never cease operating upon it, until it shall "become a plain." "The mountains falling cometh to nought," etc. Or I stand by the trunk of some huge tree, and I say, "This tree is falling." And I speak truth, for the great law of vegetable decay is working in it, and will one day bring it down into the dust. So with the wrong thing in human life. Though it stand as a huge mountain filling the horizon of humanity, it will, by the eternal law of moral disintegration, be one day brought down. Or though it stand as some huge tree whose branches spread over the race, and under whose shadows mighty populations live, the invincible and unalterable law of moral retribution will rot it clean away. The record here given of this highly symbolic vision suggests its influence upon two classes of mind. It excites -

I. THE LAMENTATION OF THE BAD Who are the men who feel distressed at the fall of the wrong thing - the moral Babylon? We find at least two classes in these verses.

1. The ruling class. "And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously [wantonly] with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her [weep and wail over her], when they shall see [look upon] the smoke of her burning" (ver. 9). Throughout the human race the world over, we find a class of men who are the chiefs, the masters, the kings, who control and determine the destinies of others.

2. The mercantile class. "And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn," etc. (vers. 11-17). The mercantile principle is an instinct Divine and beneficent. Its operations are not limited to shops, storerooms, markets, exchanges, or land; it extends to the ocean. "And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors [every one that saileth anywhither, and mariners]," etc. (ver. 17). The ships of commerce are found ploughing every sea and lying in every port. The principle is found working among savage hordes as well as amongst civilized men. But whilst the principle is right enough, and transcendently beneficent when rightly directed, it has, like all other instincts of our nature, been sadly perverted. It is perverted when it is directed not to the good of the commonwealth, but to the gratification and aggrandizement of self. Hence the enormous private fortunes on the one hand, and the starving destitution of millions on the other. Now, this morally wrong thing, this every man for himself, is a principle that has been so much criticized, not only by political and moral philosophers, but by the thinking men in all conditions of life, that it is getting weak, beginning to fall, and must ultimately be destroyed. When the grand altruistic truth of Christly socialism becomes realized by the masses, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth," then this every-man-for-himself principle will fall, and with its fall what will become of the enormous possessions which they have obtained merely by working for themselves? No wonder they are distressed at the prospect. Every day this wrong thing is gradually falling, and the best men everywhere are becoming altruistic. "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you." How they struggle to arrest this wrong principle in its fall, to buttress it up; but it is the fiat of eternal justice that it should fall and rise no more.

II. THE JUBILATION OF THE GOOD. "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets," etc. (ver. 20). Whilst those who have a vested interest in the maintenance of the wrong thing - whose pomp, and wealth, and luxurious sensualities, and gilded pageantries would have never existed but for the Babylonian spirit that permeates social life - howl in anguish at the fall of wrong, there are others transported with rapture as they see it giving way. Who are these? Unfallen angels, saints, and holy intelligences throughout the empire of God. "Thou heaven, and ye holy apostles [ye saints] and prophets." Heaven knows what is going on on earth, and is thrilled with delight at the sight of even "one sinner that repenteth." The change of governments, the fluctuation of markets, the revolution of empires - such things as these awaken the deepest concern of the ignorant and erring sons of men. But they wake no ripple on the deep translucent river of celestial minds. Whereas every fraction of wrong which they see falling into ruin from this huge Babylon gives them a new thrill of delight. Why should these peers in the spiritual universe thus exult at the fail of wrong?

1. Because the fall is just. Evil has no right to exist; it is an abnormal thing. The father of lies is a usurper in the universe. All the wrong systems, theoretical and practical, in every department of human life, political, commercial, ecclesiastic, he has built up on falsehood and deception; and their destruction is an act of eternal justice. God speed the right! This is the instinctive prayer of all consciences.

2. Because the fall is beneficent. The giving way of the wrong thing in society is as the breaking up of the dense cloud that darkens the whole heavens of man, the bringing down of fertilizing showers on the earth, and brightening the sky into sunny azure. It is the uprooting of those thorns and thistles and noxious weeds that have turned the paradise of our being into a howling wilderness. What benevolent nature could fail to exult in such an event as this? "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets."

3. Because the fall is complete. "And a mighty [strong] angel took up a stone like a [as it were a] great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence [a mighty fall] shall that great city Babylon [Babylon the great city] be thrown [cast] down, and shall be found no more at all," etc. (vers. 21-23). All this imposing symbolical description suggests the enormous curses associated with moral Babylonianism, and the strong reason for jubilation at its final fall. The fall of moral evil, even in part or whole, in the individual soul, in small or large communities, is not a temporary event. Destroyed once, it is destroyed forever. "It shall be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all." It is "cast into the sea." What does the mighty "millstone" suggest? What was the "little stone" in Daniel's vision cut out of the rock without hands, and which became a great mountain? This, I trow - the gospel, which is the "power of God," - this is the only instrument that can hurl Babylon into the depths of the sea. - D.T.

Babylon the great is fallen.
I. A GLORIOUS ANGEL PROCLAIMS THIS (cf. ver. 1 as to this angel). Then such overthrow must be —

1. Righteous.

2. Blessed.

3. Divine. Had it been possible for men to effect this, it would have been done long since.


1. To separate themselves from sin. From which we learn —

(1)That God's people may have to dwell in the midst of sin.

(2)That though where wickedness is, they are not to be partakers of it.

(3)That they shall one day be effectually separated from it.

2. To avenge themselves upon it. Resentment and wrath are passions given us by God. Our peril and propensity is lest we turn them in a wrong direction.


1. Wickedness has friends. Those who find delight in it, who "live deliciously" in it (ver. 9). Those who make profit out of it. The merchants, etc. (ver. 11). And —

2. Their lament is loud and long. They weep, mourn, wail; say, "Alas, alas" cast dust on their heads, etc. (vers. 11, 15, 16, 19).

3. But the lament is utterly selfish. They mourn not because of the wickedness: that does not trouble them. Nor even for Babylon's sufferings. But because the hope of their gain is gone (ver. 19).

4. And they do not go to her help (ver. 15). They stand afar off for the fear of her torment. Look well at these friends, for such are they that sin and sinners call friends.

IV. ALL HEAVEN, ANGELS AND SAINTS, REJOICE. When we read over the subject of their joy, we find that —

1. It is not because in this Babylon there was nothing innocent or good. There was much. Vers. 22, 23 tell of what was lawful and right in any community. In the worst of men there is good. None are utterly bad. But —

2. That the main characteristic of her life was evil. And therefore her destruction was a matter of joy. She deceived all nations. She slew God's saints. Thus —

3. Justice was done. And —

4. It was completely done. See the symbol of the angel with the millstone (ver. 21). Nothing like this has ever been accomplished yet, but this prophecy is a sure promise that it will be. "Who shall live when the Lord doeth this"? Amongst whom shall we be found? Let us now "some out of her, that we be not," etc. (ver. 4).

(S. Conway, B. A.)


1. Its corrupt character. As before the prophets were "false" and the spirits were "unclean," and stood opposed to God; so now harlotry, fornication, drunkenness, blasphemy, abominations, luxury, persecuting, violence, sorcery, submission to the beast, warring against the Lamb, are the terms employed to describe or indicate the excessive foulness and corruption of the faithless city. This is "the woman" having in her hand "a golden cup full of abominations, even the unclean things of her fornication." This the "Babylon the great," which is become "a habitation of devils, a hold of every unclean spirit and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird."

2. Virulent antagonism to the good, even to the loftiest ideals of goodness. "War against the Lamb"; "blasphemed the God of heaven"; "gather together unto the war of the great day of God"; "poured out the blood of saints and prophets"; in such terms is the antipathy to all righteousness declared.

3. Occasion of all evil, seen in the corruption of life, the deceitfulness of iniquity, the loss of the blessings of righteousness, degradation in sin, to which the "peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues" are reduced "where the harlot sitteth"; and the judgments and consequent sufferings in which they are involved.

4. The widespread, universal character of the desolation caused. In every aspect this vision is "great and marvellous." It is "Babylon the great." The harlot "sitteth upon many waters," which waters are "peoples and multitudes, and nations and tongues." "And the woman is the great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth"; "by the wine of the wrath of her fornication all the nations are fallen." "What city is like the great city," with whose "sorcery were all nations deceived"? "In her was found the blood of all that have been slain upon the earth." This is the universal kingdom of evil, whose "sins reached unto heaven." This great kingdom shall come to an end. Such is the ever-recurring promise of this book.

II. ITS DESTRUCTION IS COMPLETE. The "harlot" is made "desolate and naked"; hated by all over whom she sat as a queen; they shall "eat her flesh, and burn her utterly with fire." "Woe, woe!" is pronounced against the great city, Babylon; "for in one hour is thy judgment come." "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great." "In one day shall her plagues come, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God which judgeth her." "The Lamb shall overcome," and thus shall they also overcome that are with Him. "And a strong angel took up a stone as it were a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with a mighty fall shall Babylon, the great city, be east down, and shall be found no more at all." Then shall the kings of the earth that committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth who were made rich by her, and every shipmaster and mariner, and all that were made rich by her, weep and mourn and lament; while to heaven a sweet song of joy and thankfulness shall rise from them who with the Lamb have overcome — who are called, and chosen, and faithful.

(R. Green.)

The fall of corrupt society is —

I. DIVINELY PROCLAIMED. As there is a law of disintegration in the material universe, that so separates the hugest mountains that they ultimately disappear, so there is in the moral a law of retribution, which will ultimately break into pieces the world of corrupt society.

II. MANIFESTLY DESERVED. As in the ruins of old cities, the cormorant, the screech-owl, the vulture, and other hideous creatures are found, so in this moral Babylon are found the most horrible and detestable of all existences. The utter extermination, or rather extinction, of such objects is urgently required.


1. The possibility of good men living in this moral Babylon. The depravities of our contemporaries and neighbours are no justification for our defects.

2. Good men, unless they quit this corrupt society, will be involved in its guilt and fate.

IV. A DEVELOPMENT OF RETRIBUTION. The ruin comes, not as a casual event, nor as a positive infliction, but as the result of the eternal law of retribution: a law silent in its operation, resistless in its force, and inevitable in its issues (Galatians 6:7).

V. AN OVERWHELMING CATASTROPHE. When full judgment comes upon a corrupt community the horrors involved not only transcend description, but even imagination. What is lost? Friendship gives way to fiendish battlings; peace gives way to furious storms; hope gives way to black despair and terrible apprehensions: liberty gives way to a crushing thraldom, to which every faculty of the soul is bound in chains of darkness. All the lights of the soul are quenched, and the whole heavens are mantled in a starless midnight.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

The habitation of devils.
I. EVERY BABEL-LIKE CITY OR SYSTEM, IS DOOMED TO DESTRUCTION, AND WILL FALL INTO AN ABYSS OF FEARFUL DEGRADATION. This is the lesson of all history from the beginning of the world. We see it in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, of the Assyrian and Babylonian kingdoms, and of the Greek and Roman Empires. Wherever we find a nation that is supremely devoted to the things of sense, we have Babel-like adolaters, who are destined to a certain fall and degradation. Such is the appointed end of every political or religious system that ignores God and His truth, and seek after material power and prosperity as the chief objects of life. Let a nation lose her faith in God — let her drive truth, virtue, love, and righteousness from her heart and life, and what will she become? Can she become anything else than a habitation of devils? Can she become anything else but the seat and prey of demon-like passions?

II. OBSERVE HOW DIABOLICAL THE PASSIONS OF MEN MAY BECOME. "The most terrible physical calamity that can be imagined," says one, "has no terror to compare with that of fiends let loose from hell and taking possession of human hearts and hands. A ship sinking in a tempest with its hundreds of helpless passengers; a Lisbon overwhelmed by sudden earthquake; a Pompeii buried alive beneath the lava and ashes of Vesuvius are very terrible to hear of, and to think of, but they are nothing to what Paris has lately seen. Her streets have been flooded with the worst passions of which human nature, satanically inspired, is capable. Men, women, and even children, born in the same streets, neighbours all their life long, who have traded and danced and sung together, pursuing each other to death with the ferocity of tigers, and inflicting all manner of dishonour and indignity on the mangled remains of the dead — and all this in the most polished and beautiful city in the world — what can it all mean, except it be an eruption of demons from the bottomless pit?"

III. WE SEE WHAT SOCIETY HAS TO EXPECT FROM THE APOSTLES OF INFIDELITY AND ATHEISM. When men have destroyed the idea of a God in their own minds, is it not natural to think that they will enter on a career of destruction in reference to other and smaller things? If they hesitate not to destroy the idea of a God — the fountain of right and wrong — will they shrink from destroying human life or property? If the idea of a God be not a sacred idea to such persons, do you think that the idea of the value of human life or property will be a sacred idea to them? No. Society has everything to lose and nothing to gain from such apostles of atheism and infidelity. Not from them, but from other and higher sources, would we look for the salvation of men.

IV. ALL MEN ARE IN DANGER OF FALLING INTO A BABEL-LIKE SPIRIT AND LIFE. For all are only too prone to put faith in the things of sense, and to forget the things that are unseen and eternal. The Babylonian spirit is not dead. Every man to some extent is a little Babel. We have faith in the powers of nature. We have faith in the sun, in the moon, in the star, in the coal, and in the seed that we cast into the ground. Do we believe also in God? Have we a real and lasting faith in Him? Have we such a faith in love, truth, virtue, and righteousness, as in the things that we see with the eye of our body and touch with our hands?

(Wm. M'Kay.)

Come out of her
When the great apostate power named Babylon comes, as hero sot forth, to utter destruction, it is seen how wide and how deep its malign influence had been. The whole fabric of the world's commerce is shattered by its fall; for all human industries and traffic and all the markets of the world had come to be diverted from the service of God, and directed and controlled by the corrupt principles and unhallowed delights of the vast apostasy. Even though the identity of this mystic Babylon be left unfixed, the warning reaches us with no lack of distinctness and urgency. We need not wait until we can precisely define and allocate the form and system of wrong which is here denounced before we determine to hold ourselves clear of all wrong, by doing that only which is right, by acknowledging and serving God alone in all particulars and interests of our daily fife, at home and in the world.

(G. S. Rowe.)

In the cup which she hath filled fill to her double
I. This rule COMMENDS ITSELF TO OUR SENSE OF JUSTICE. That those of the wicked who in this world live in affluence, and have more than heart can wish, possess abundant opportunities for intellectual and moral improvement, and means of doing good, should in future retribution fare alike with those who have none of these blessings or advantages, would be an outrage on our sense of right. Justice requires a balancing of human affairs, a kind of compensation for existing discrepancies, and this mankind will have in the great retributive future.

II. This rule ANSWERS TO BIBLICAL TEACHING. Throughout the whole Scripture record it is taught that sinners, after they have passed through their probationary period, will be dealt with according to the mercies they have abused, the opportunities they have neglected, and the advantages they have wasted. "He that knoweth his Master's will and doeth it not," etc. "It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah," etc. "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime didst receive," etc.

III. This rule AGREES WITH UNIVERSAL EXPERIENCE. Conscious contrast between a propitious past and a distressing present is and must ever be an element in mental suffering.


She hath glorified herself
Called to prepare men for the second coming of the Lord, and to teach them to live, not for the present, but the future, she becomes herself the victim of the present. She forgets that, in the absence of the Bridegroom, her days are days of fasting. She fails to realise the fact that until her Lord comes again her state is one of widowhood. And, instead of mourning, she. sits as a queen, at ease and satisfied, proud of her pomp and jewellery.

(W. Milligan, D D.)

Therefore shall her plagues come
Our scientific friends find yellow bricks still impressed with the name of Nebuchadnezzar, and they go back to the sarcophagus of a monarchy buried more than two thousand years ago. But is it possible that that is all that remains of Babylon? a city once five times larger than London and twelve times larger than New York? Wall three hundred and seventy-three feet high and ninety-three feet thick. Twenty-five burnished gates on each side, with streets running clear through to corresponding gates on the other side. Six hundred and twenty-five squares. More pomp and wealth and splendour and sins than could be found in any five modern cities combined. A city of palaces and temples. Great capital of the ages! But one night, while honest citizens were asleep, but all the saloons of saturnalia were in full blast, and at the king's castle they had filled the tankards for the tenth time, and reeling and guffawing and hiccoughing around the state table were the rulers of the land. General Cyrus ordered his besieging army to take shovels and spades, and they diverted the river from its usual channel into another direction, so that the forsaken bed of the river became the path on which the besieging party entered. When the morning dawned the conquerors were inside the city walls. Babylon had fallen. But do nations die? Oh, yes, there is great mortality among monarchies and republics. They are like individuals in the fact that they are born, they have a middle life, they have a decease, they have a cradle and a grave. Some of them are assassinated, some destroyed by their own hand.

1. One evil threatening the destruction of American institutions is the solidifying of the sections against each other. This country cannot exist unless it exists as one body — the national capital, the heart, sending out through all the arteries of communication warmth and life to the very extremities.

2. Another evil threatening the destruction of our American institutions is the low state of public morals. What killed Babylon of my text? What killed Phoenicia? What killed Rome? Their own depravity; and the fraud and the drunkenness, and the immorality which have destroyed other nations will destroy ours, unless a merciful God prevent.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

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