Posts by rickbarbareblog

I am a retired Clergyman and a retired College instructor. I live in Trenton, SC in Edgefield County.

Revelation 18: Rejoicing over Babylon’s Fall

Revelation 18:20-24

Image above: “Fall of the Tower of Babel,” by Cornelis Anthonisz, 1547 public domain.

Chapter 18 contains rejoicing by various groups over the destruction
which has already occurred in the seventh bowl of wrath.  

  • Inhabitants of Heaven (Angels and the Righteous Dead?)
  • Saints
  • Apostles
  • Prophets

This call to rejoice in Revelation seems to have Jeremiah 51:48 as its background. “Then heaven and earth and all that is in them will shout for joy over Babylon” (see Fee, G. D. p. 259, below).

Revelation 18:20-24 gives believers reasons to rejoice over the destruction of Satan’s empire that rules the earth. 

I. God has answered the prayers of His people for vengeance by judging Babylon. vs. 20

vs. 20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”

Note that the earth-dwellers mourn over the city’s destruction, but those in the heavens are told to rejoice over her destruction. It depends upon one’s attitude toward the Lord and his people whether one rejoices or mourns over the destruction of Babylon.

“Ancient Babylon fell in one night after having been “weighed in the balance and found wanting.” [Daniel 5:30]. Can modern empires fall just as quickly? History and the Bible provide an answer. The nations may “rage” and the rulers “take counsel together” (Psalm 2:1-2), but unless their actions are in accord with the counsel of God, in the end they will pass from the world scene.” (see McNeely, blow.) 

https://rickbarbarebiblestudies.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/159a8-1_eklkkgw222knxjhgkff7q.jpeg

Mystery, Babylon the Great, Part 1 blog post by Colin MacIntyre

II. God will erase Babylon’s dominion once and for all. vs 21.

vs. 21 Then a mighty 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 be found no more;

Jeremiah 51:60-64 seems to be the background to John’s vision in verse 21.

60 Jeremiah wrote in a book all the disaster that should come upon Babylon, all these words that are written concerning Babylon.
61 And Jeremiah said to Seraiah: “When you come to Babylon, see that you read all these words,
62 and say, ‘O Lord, you have said concerning this place that you will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man nor beast, and it shall be desolate forever.’
63 When you finish reading this book, tie a stone to it and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates,
64 and say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disaster that I am bringing upon her, and they shall become exhausted.’”

This verse records a parable. “One quick gesture becomes a parable of the whole judgment on Babylon the Great! Suddenly she is gone forever… .” (See Johnson A. F., p.752 below.)

A millstone is 4 to 5 feet in diameter, one foot thick and hundreds of pounds in weight. The city seemed to be permanent, but at the end it proves to be easy for the Lord to overthrow it. John uses the double negative (ou me literally—”not never,” or more correctly—”by no means”) to demonstrate the finality of Babylon’s ruin.

III. God’s Judgment means there Babylon will no longer have economic incentives to draw people from God.

candle, Burning, Fire, Light, Smoke, HQ Photo

 

vs. 22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more…

John again uses the double negative (ou mē) three times in this verse—”the sound of the harpists … will by no means ever be heard in you again; workmen will by no means ever be found in you again; the sound of a millstone will by no means ever be heard in you again.”

vs. 23 …and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.

Note the use of trade with Babylon as the means of drawing men into her web of deceit. How could we in the 21st Century get further into the morass of Babylon through trade than we are? Alexandr Solzhenitsyn offers a profound insight into our world which is so interwoven into Babylon’s agenda. Whether this is the last manifestation of Babylon, only God knows.

Alexandr Solzenhenitsyn“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child (born 1 December 1918), I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

“Only once in [the 20th century] did the West gather strength — for the battle against Hitler. But the fruits of that victory have long since been lost. Faced with cannibalism, our godless age has discovered the perfect anesthetic — trade! Such is the pathetic pinnacle of contemporary wisdom… .

“To the ill-considered hopes of the last two centuries, which have reduced us to insignificance and brought us to the brink of nuclear and non-nuclear death, we can propose only a determined quest for the warm hand of God, which we have so rashly and self-confidently spurned. Only in this way can our eyes be opened to the errors of this unfortunate 20th century and our hands be directed to setting them right. There is nothing else to cling to in the landslide: the combined vision of all the thinkers of the Enlightenment amounts to nothing.” (see Solzhenitsyn, below).

Fantasy witch wizard woman using enchanting magical elixir potion bottle for love spell, witchcraft and divination. magic illustration and alchemy Premium Photo

Fantasy witch wizard woman using enchanting magical
elixir potion bottle
for love spell, witchcraft
and divination. Freepik photo

“Which is the dragon’s more dangerous weapon as he assaults the church in our time and place: Is it the beast, symbolic of [1] the state’s power to intimidate through violent persecution and even martyrdom? Or the beauty, the harlot, portrait of [2] the culture’s power to seduce through the intoxicating idolatry of prosperity and the alluring invitation to adulterous compromise?” (see Johnson, D. E., below).

John uses the double negative (ou mē) twice in this verse. This is the picture of desolation. “The melancholy recollection of the pulsing life that once filled this great city with the joy of life sounds through these verses ‘like footsteps dying away in the distance in a desolate city which lies in ruins.'” (see Johnson, A. F., below) The word “sorcery” is the Greek word pharmakeia—the use of drugs to cast spells. Empires have always used mind altering substances/thinking to content the masses. It isn’t religion that is the opiate of the people!


Richard Cory
By Edwin Arlington Robinson (1897)

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.


Babylon is an illusion and one who pins his hope on its charms and allurements will be quickly disillusioned.

IV. God remembers righteous blood shed and forgotten by men. vs. 24

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

The life of God’s people is not always stress free. It is always blessed by God, however.

The word “slain” (sphazō) is the word which means “to slaughter or murder.” It fits in with the idea of martyrdom that is implied in this verse.

It’s a question of what works with Babylon’s power—the carrot or the stick?

Next time, we will move into chapter 19!

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Fee, G. D. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock publishers.

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

McNeely, D. (2010). “The Decline and Fall of Nations: A Prophetic Perspective.” accessed 2 April 2020 from https://www.ucg.org/world-news-and-prophecy/the-decline-and-fall-of-nations-a-prophetic-perspective

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Solzhenitsyn, A. (1983). “Men Have Forgotten God.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1983 Templeton Address. Accessed 3 April 2021 from https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/12/aleksandr-solzhenitsyn-men-have-forgotten-god-speech/

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 18 Lamentation Over Babylon’s Fall

Revelation 18:9-19

Image above: The Great Fire of London, depicted by an unknown painter (1675), as it would have appeared from a boat in the vicinity of Tower Wharf on the evening of Tuesday, 4 September 1666; public domain image.

As we saw previously—

Chapter 18 contains lamentation by merchants of trade over the destruction which has already occurred in the seventh bowl of wrath.  

Note that the four groups mourn in verses 9-19, but they mourn over their own personal loss  and not over the city’s destruction.

Group 1: The Kings of the earth Rev. 18:9-10
Group 2: The merchants of the earth 18:11-15
Group 3: Roman merchants Rev. 18:16-17

Group 4: Those involved in the sea trade Rev. 18-19

If we want to see who’s sad over the fall of Babylon, follow the money

I. Rulers of nations of the earth profit through trade with Babylon. vs. 9

vs. 9 And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning.

Psalm 2:1-3 pictures the rebellious attitude of the woman and the kings of the earth.

1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

II. The swiftness of destruction shocks earth-dwellers. vs. 10

vs. 10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.”

Jonn begins his sentence with an adverb (makrothen) “from far away or from a distance.” The rulers of the end time will stand at a distance and view the destruction of Antichrist’s empire. They enjoyed the luxury Babylon provided, but when she is destroyed, they will be helpless to come to her aid. The NIV takes “The Great City” as a vocative—”O Great City.” John uses the dative of time to show the point in time that the judgment occurred—in one hour’s time. In other words, what took centuries to build is destroyed by God in one hour.

Gustave Boulanger, “The Slave Market” (1882)

Gustave Boulanger, “The Slave Market” (1882)
Public Domain Image from WikiPedia.

III. Fortunes built on the back of the slave trade (or human trafficking) is ill-gotten gain and will ultimately be destroyed. vss. 11-13 

vs. 11-13 11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.

As John describes the merchandise, he obviously has Ezekiel 27 in mind and pens the lament in Rev. 18—
Ezek. 27:13 13 “Javan, Tubal, and Meshech traded with you; they exchanged human beings and vessels of bronze for your merchandise.”

Note that part of the trade involves “the bodies and souls of men.” “Bodies” is a Greek idiom for slaves (cf. LXX of Gen. 36:6), while the addition of “souls of men”means “slaves, that is, human beings.” See Johnson, A.F., p. 752, below.)  

Slave Market in Constantinople

Illustration of a slave market in Constantinople (now Istanbul),
the capital of the Ottoman Empire. public domain image.

“Slavery was an ever-present feature of the Roman world. Slaves served in households, agriculture, mines, the military, manufacturing workshops, construction and a wide range of services within the city. As many as 1 in 3 of the population in Italy or 1 in 5 across the empire were slaves and upon this foundation of forced labor was built the entire edifice of the Roman state and society.” (see Cartwright, below.)

“The merchants in Revelation find it profitable to traffic in human beings (18:13), but John identifies the slave trade with commercial practices that fall under the judgment of God… . People found the prospect of wealth alluring, but by making the sale of human beings the climactic element in his list of trade goods, John underscores the seamy side of Roman-era commerce.” (See Koester, p. 767, below.)

Our world is no stranger to the slave trade, thought it might be called “human trafficking.”

human-traffickingThe modern world is also full of the buying and selling of human beings. “Human trafficking is defined as forcing, fooling, or frightening someone into performing labor or sex for personal profit” (see Elkins, below).

It a common practice for bar codes to be tattooed on a sex worker’s or a commercial slave’s body signifying the person belongs to someone who is using him or her for business. This gives the impression that a person is a commodity just like any other personal property one has—chattel. 

The services of women as massage workers is often advertised on Craigslist and Backpage. The ads “promises regularly rotating women” from one massage parlor to another. Police officers in North Carolina watched one “business” for over a month and frequently reported women being picked up or dropped off in cars with New York tags. (see Elkins below). 

A secret and underground trade of human beings is similar to the USSR’s Gulag Archipelago. “The word Gulag is a Russian acronym for the Soviet government agency that supervised the vast network of labor camps. Solzhenitsyn used the word archipelago as a metaphor for the camps, which were scattered through the sea of civil society like a chain of islands extending” from sea to sea.” This is what happens with sex or commercial workers are moved often to keep anonymity of the forced laborers and the system itself off the radar of local police. (see Encyclopaedia Britannica, below). 

“An estimated 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery. Of these, 16 million (64%) were exploited for labor, 4.8 million (19%) were sexually exploited, and 4.1 million (17%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labor.”

Human trafficking earns profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, according to the ILO report from 2014. The following is a breakdown of profits, by sector:

$99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation
$34 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities
$9 billion in agriculture, including forestry and fishing
$8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labor (see Human Rights First, below).


Thomas Jefferson, who was a slave owner, said this about slavery—

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.” (see, Jefferson Quotation, below.)


What bothers me, as one who has had a complete tour of all floors of Monticello, is that Jefferson did nothing to prevent his guests from preying on the slave women on the grounds. (See Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson. Random House. November 19, 2008. I commend the book to you, I read biographies about post-presidencies.) 

vs. 14 “The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!”

In this verse John uses the triple negative—no longer not never (ouketi ou me). In English, negatives cancel each other out. However, in Greek negatives pile up to strengthen each other. 

vs. 15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, 16 “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!

These verses relay virtually the same information as Rev. 18:10.

vss. 17-19 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” And all ship masters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” 19 And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste.

With this verse the last of the groups of mourners are introduced—the seafaring traders. This is John’s description of every despotic empire and Antichrist’s end time empire, as ultimate fulfillment. This is the third time that the time frame of the destruction is mentioned—one hour.

We as God’s people should take courage! 

Angel of the Lords Armies

Image from Pinterest

Next time we will move to the ones rejoicing over the fall of Babylon.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Cartwright, M. (2013, November 01). Slavery in the Roman World. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/629/

Elkins, T. (2017). “Human trafficking: a problem close to home.” Accessed 27 March 2021 from http://campbelllawobserver.com/human-trafficking-a-problem-close-to-home/#prettyPhoto

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2021). “The Gulag Archipelago.” Accessed 27 March 2021 from https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Gulag-Archipelago

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Human Rights First. (2017). “Human Trafficking by the Numbers: Facts Sheet. Accessed 27 March 2021 from https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/sites/default/files/TraffickingbytheNumbers.pdf

Jefferson Quotation. Excerpted from multiple sources: “A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” “Notes on the State of Virginia,” “The Autobiography,” letter to George Wythe (1790), letter to George Washington (1786).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Koester, C. (2008). “Roman Slave Trade and the Critique of Babylon in Revelation 18.” Accessed 22 March 2021 at https://digitalcommons.luthersem.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=faculty_articles

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 18: God’s Call for an “Exodus” from Babylon

Revelation 18:4-8

Image above is by David Roberts, “Israelites Leaving Egypt,” 1828; public domain from Wikipedia.  

Chapter 18 warns believers to stay away as much as is possible from involvement with the world system.

mountain-edge

Free Stock Photo in High Resolution – Mountain Edge
(public-domain-photos.com)

Jesus’s High Priestly prayer, gives the dangerous mountain’s-edge believers must walk—(1) We are in the world on Christ’s mission; (2) We are not of the world, to adopt its thinking and ways. John 17:14-19—

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

“Nobody wants to be out of it; we want to be ‘with it.’ We want to be up-to-date. We want to fit in. And we’re often engulfed by peer pressure that wants us to imitate and participate in all of the structures and the styles of this world. The Bible says we are not to be conformed to the patterns of this world.” — R. C. Sproul 

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discernRomans 12_2 what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [ESV]

I like Phillips translation of Romans 12:2 Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity. (see Bible Gateway below).

In Revelation 18:4-8 God is calling for an exodus of His people from the world system.

I. We must steer clear of the allurements of the “world system” (Babylon) so we will not experience the spillover effects when God judges it. vs. 4.

vs. 4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues…

Baylon ImageThis command can be taken three different ways: (1) it can be taken as a warning to 1st Century Christians to steer clear of Rome’s allurements; (2) it can be taken as a broad warning; in this case it would be a warning for those living in all times; or (3) it can be taken as a command for the future Christians who live will through tribulation at the end of the age and who might be tempted to give into Babylon’s allurements. Regardless of which view is taken, the warning is a real one, and is valid at any time. The warning is directed toward those who are tempted to give into the world system just to get along (e.g. “you gotta go along to get along”). Conformity to the world has dire consequences. The word “share in” is sunkoinoneō. The cognate verb koinoneō is the regular NT word for “fellowship.” The idea is that if we share in the sinful pleasures of this world, we will also share in the effects of the judgment of this world, as well. 

Those who refuse to submit to Babylon’s cultural norms, will stand out from the group who do. This will bring persecution. (See image above picturing the three Hebrew youths who refuse to bow down to ancient Babylonian statue. Image from https://www.slideserve.com/zayit/daniel-chapter-4-toppled-images)

II. We should realize God’s permitting of the world’s sins to go unpunished is only temporary. vs. 5

vs. 5 … for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

The word “piled up” is the Greek word kollaō—”to reach” or “to touch.” In this case the sins have touched heaven. Compare Genesis 18:20-21—20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

dew-on-grass-1369328The phrase “the Lord has remembered” (mnemoneuō) must be taken in its Old Testament connotation. The Lord has not forgotten Babylon’s previous sins in the sense that “they slipped his mind.” That is the way we use the words “forget” and “remember.” In the Old Testament times, God simply postponed his judgment until a fixed time in the future. His forgetting was deliberate and planned from eternity. So also was His remembrance! Compare Romans 3:23-26, which speaks of “in [God’s] divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.” And Acts 17:30-31. Lamentations 3:22-23 is of great comfort to those who suffer unjustly! God’s mercies are renewed like the dew, every morning.

III. We must realize that godless people’s sins have judgment built into their sin. vs. 6

vs. 6 Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.

Note that God sees the heart of Babylon. Our judgment is flawed; we only see the outward actions. God sees the internal heart attitude. The verb streniaō means to “live in the lap of luxury.” The woman says that she will never mourn (ou me, the Greek double negative). The double negative emphasizes her arrogant spirit. She trusted in her luxuries and riches to insulate her against all suffering. God sees to it she experiences grief commensurate with her arrogance.


Man chainedThere was once a tyrant who summoned one of his subjects into his presence, and ordered him to make a chain. The poor blacksmith…had to go to work and forge the chain. When it was done, he brought it into the presence of the tyrant, and was ordered to take it away and make it twice the length. He brought it again to the tyrant, and again he was ordered to double it. Back he came when he had obeyed the order, and the tyrant looked at it, and then commanded the servants to bind the man hand and foot with the chain he had made and cast him into prison.

My friends, that is just what [addicted persons] do — that is just what every sinner is doing. But thank God, we can tell them of a deliverer. The Son of God has power to break every one of their fetters if they will only come to Him. (see Moody, P. 57-58, below.)

Satan and his carefully choreographed this world’s system offer a number of allurements that make can us a captive of our own appetites. If we indulge in the alluring bait, we are not satisfied. Going in for more binds us more tightly to this world system. God saves us from Satan’s traps in the world in which we live if we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and live according to His Word! 


“Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us on a wild-goose chase. Follow some other object, and possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.” (Nathaniel Hawthorne from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/nathaniel_hawthorne_163048)

Midas daughter turns to gold

King Midas (pictured right) got what his heart longed for. How he loved gold! Now everything he touched turned to gold. An oak twig. A rock. He had what his heart treasured, until his little girl comes running into his arms. How fatal the Midas’ touch! (see King Midas, below.) Most nursery rhymes have a moral lesson within them. How many a man who is ruthless in business later decries that all his children care about is his money! Our children and grandchildren may get entrapped along with us if we crave the Midas touch!

 


'The_Destruction_of_a_City'_by_David_Roberts,_1832,_pencil_and_watercolor

‘The Destruction of a City’ by David Roberts, 1832;
Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

IV. What takes mankind centuries to build can come down in one day when God judges. vs. 8

vs. 8 For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”

The wealth that she trusts in will not be able to insulate her against the judgment of the Lord. The time frame involved is “one day’s time” (en mia hmera). The plagues (plēgē) are described as death (thanatos) , grief or mourning (penthos), and famine or hunger (limos) . The city meets its end by being burned with fire (katakaiō “to consume or burn thoroughly”). The preposition kata attached to the verb kaiō is perfective. It means to burn completely. The Lord who is able to do this in such a quick fashion is said to be “mighty” (ischyros).

 

We will move on the next section of Revelation 18 next time.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely sometimes without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Bible Gateway. (1960). Accessed from https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Romans+12:2

Costain, T. B. (1958). The Three Edwards, Vol III from A History of the Plantagenets, accessed 17 March 2001 from http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/l/lust.htm

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

King Midas. (2009). Story application by Gregg Bitter accessed 15 March 2021 from https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/73972/king-midas-got-what-his-heart-longed-for-how-he-by-gregg-bitter

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Moody, D. L. (1878). Anecdotes and Illustrations of D. L. Moody Related by Him in His Revival Work. Washington, DC: Rhodes & McClure, Publishers.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Rockefeller, J. D. (n.d.) “Daily Short Story” blog; accessed 15 March 2021 from https://starwinar.wordpress.com/daily-short-story/just-a-little-bit-more/

Sproul, R. C. (1996). “How should we be in the world but not of it?” Accessed 15 March 2021 from https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/how-should-we-be-in-the-world-but-not-of-it-11577549.html

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 18: Angel announces the Fall of Babylon

Revelation 18:1-3

Image above is “The ancient city of Babylon, Babel Governorate, Iraq.” Image taken by Dr. Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Context: Rev. 16 describes the actual destruction of Babylon, and must not be separated from chapter 17. Chapter 17 describes Babylon in detail, but only predicts her future destruction.

Chapter 18 laments the destruction which has already occurred in the seventh bowl of wrath.  

Rev. 16:17-21—

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”
18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.
19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.
20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found.
21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe. [ESV]

Isaiah's_Vision_of_the_Destruction_of_Babylon

Doré’s English Bible 1866 “Isaiah’s Vision of the Destruction of Babylon”
public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

Outline of Chapter 18

God, through an angel, announces Babylon’s judgment and its severe effects, which will come because of her idolatrous seduction of people (18:1-3). (see Beale, p. 381, below).

I. Large nations, from earth’s viewpoint, have the appearance of indestructible power, but God has ultimate power and authority to destroy all godless nations. vs.1

vs. 1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory.

Notice the difference between power and authority.

Power is the limited ability to exercise one’s will over others. (see Introduction to Sociology, below).

Authority is the absolute ability to bring one’s will to pass, with or without means. Compare Romans 13:1 “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

Proverbs 21:1-3 is good reminder when we see wicked national leaders acting as if they are all-powerful. Their realm is established by God and is dependent on Him for continuance. (Substitute whatever job title a non-royal leader has today.)

1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.
3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

If we ever doubt the truth of God’s sovereignty over human affairs, we should call to mind Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar from the past. Nearer in history to us are Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao Zedong, etc.

“The ultimate authority of the universe is God Himself. But God delegates authority as He reigns and rules over His creation. God raises up human governments. But if somehow we can look through them, look past them, look over them, and see the One whom the Father has invested with ultimate cosmic authority, namely, Christ Himself, we’ll have an easier time…with our struggle to submit when we recognize we’re submitting ultimately to Christ, because we know He’ll never tyrannize or abuse us” (see Sproul, below).

My mother’s favorite verse still speaks to me when I see the seeming triumph of evil—Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. [NASB]

With this background, we will go into the meaning and application of Rev. 18:1.

The first phrase, “after these things” (meta tauta), is used in the Revelation to indicate a new scene, but it does not indicate chronological progression in the fulfillment of the vision. John sees the angel coming down from heaven to the earth. 

The identity of the angel has raised quite a few questions among the commentators. Some have suggested that the angel is actually Christ himself. However, the text says it is “another angel” (allos angellos), which in Greek means “another of the same kind” as we’ve seen in the vision.

roman-empire-smallpox-plague-lessons-covid-19-

The angel of death striking a door during the plague of Rome: an engraving by Levasseur
after Jules-Elie Delaunay. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This is another of the seven angels which poured out the bowls of wrath on the Beast’s kingdom—Babylon. Oftentimes, angels which are sent on a divine mission possess the glory and splendor of the person sending them. This explains the words “and the earth was illumined from his glory (doxa).” The authority (exousia) he possessed was derived from the one who sent him and was not the angel’s by inherent right.

Don and Annabelle RulisonOne of my favorite hymns is “Jesus, the name high over all.” I first heard it quoted by Don Rulison, missionary to Hmong people of southeastern Asia. I met him, his wife and children at EI School of Biblical Training when I was a student and later when I was a teacher. After his wife’s death, he returned to Southeast Asia to live among the Hmong people again until his death. (Pictured above left is Don Rulison and his daughter Annabelle.) Hmong people from all over came to visit him in his closing days.

He often would quote a stanza of a hymn in his sermons. The quotation did not seem related to the sermon, at first. He called this “shooting a random arrow.” His quotation of the first stanza of “Jesus, the Name High over All” was an arrow to my soul which I needed at the time. 

1 Jesus, the name high over all,
In hell, or earth, or sky:
Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.

3 Jesus the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
And bruises Satan’s head;
Pow’r into strengthless souls He speaks,
And life into the dead.

We must keep our courage up even in the face of seemingly powerful nations that persecute believers. Ancient Babylon was such a nation at one time, but it fell in one night! Daniel 5 records Babylon’s fall—22 And you Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. 30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old. [ESV; emphasis mine]


II. God’s destruction of “Babylon” in the end will be final leaving it empty except for demonic beings. vs. 2

vs. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.

The tense or the verb “fallen” is the past tense. We put truths in the present tense normally e.g. 2 + 2 is 4, but the Greeks used the past tense e.g. 2 + 2 became 4. We expect the perfect tense in English, and the NIV translates it this way. It is a simple past tense in the Greek used to state a simple fact accomplished. The word translated “home” (katoiketerion) is “dwelling place.” The amplifying word given later is “prison” or ”haunt” (phylakē).  Alan F. Johnson says “that the demons inhabit the city’s broken down towers watching for those upon whom they prey” ( see Johnson, A. F. below).

bigstock-cinematic-portrayal-of-destroy

Picture of destroyed city. Copyright © 2014 Beth Immanuel. All rights reserved.

Isaiah 13:19-22 is in John’s mind as he writes—

19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.
20 It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there; no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there.
21 But wild animals will lie down there, and their houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will dwell, and there wild goats will dance.
22 Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; its time is close at hand and its days will not be prolonged.

The word for demon (diamonion)  is associated regularly with idolatry, e.g., I Corinthians 10:20-21—

20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

And, I Timothy 4:1—Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons… .

The expression “unclean spirits” (pneuma akathartos) is reminiscent of the Gospels. See Luke 9:42—While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

Demons as Unclean Birds

Image from Antipas Ministries © 

The last part of this verse seems strange—”a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.” However, birds are used in the Gospels as symbols of the works of the devil, e.g., see Mark 4:4, 15

4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.
15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.

All three of the images describing Babylon—(1) the home of demons; (2) the haunt of evil spirits; (3) the haunt of unclean birds—are a way of saying that the Lord will give Babylon over to demonic forces and powers. No leaders among human beings will be left. Chaos will pervade Babylon after the 7th bowl is poured out.


III. God will break every enticing aspect of Babylon, so that she has no appeal with which to attract anyone any more. vs 3

vs. 3 For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

Arthur_Hacker_-_By_the_Waters_of_Babylon_(1888)The usual word for anger or wrath in Greek is thymos. But, here the word most likely means “passion.” The people have been driven crazy through partaking of the woman’s passion. The word translated “adultery” (porneuō) the usual word for sexual immorality of any kind forbidden by Holy Scripture. It does not necessarily imply immorality with a person to whom you are not married. The scarlet woman is a prostitute, not an unfaithful wife. “Immorality’ in Revelation means the worship of the beast instead of the Lamb.”

Etching left is by Arthur Hacker “By the Waters of Babylon” (1888). The woman is dressed in mourning garments.

The word translated “luxuries” (stranos) alludes to the excessive lifestyle that made the merchants rich. Remember in Rev. 6:5-6 that even in times of famine the luxuries were plentiful. The picture seems to be one of extreme riches among the elite contrasted with extreme poverty among the masses. In such conditions the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.


I have read of similar incidents to which I was a firsthand witness one day. I had a round trip journey, of 45 minutes each way, from our home in Trenton to Greenwood to teach for several years. In the winter or early spring I saw a lot of “road-kill” on SC-25 going north. One day I saw a hawk feeding on a deer carcass in the road. I could see its eyes darting back and forth from the carcass to my car. I thought surely it will fly at the last second to escape inevitable collision with my car. I guess the meat was too tasty for the bird to fly away and return later like vultures do. I blew my horn, but the bird still fed away. At the last possible minute it thought it could fly to safety, it tried to. However, it hit my car’s grill and plunged into the ditch becoming itself road kill. 


The allurements of “Babylon” keep people close to her and benefiting from the association. However, when can such a person stop the attachment to Babylon and escape its inevitable judgment? We only have the next breathe promised. As believers we must step away from Babylon and cling to Christ Jesus our King!

Remember, judgment is inevitable and will occur suddenly. Our Lord warned us in Revelation 16:15 “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”

“The world system is committed to at least four major objectives, which I can summarize in four words: fortune, fame, power, pleasure.”

“First and foremost: Fortune, money. The world system is driven by money; it feeds on materialism.
Second: Fame. That is another word for popularity. Fame is the longing to be known, to be somebody in someone else’s eyes.
Third: Power. This is having influence, maintaining control over individuals or groups or companies or whatever. It is the desire to manipulate and maneuver others to do something for one’s own benefit.
Fourth: Pleasure. At its basic level, pleasure has to do with fulfilling one’s sensual desires. It’s the same mindset that’s behind the slogan: “If it feels good, do it.” (see Swindoll, p. 219, below.)

Let us all bear in mind the Babylons of our day are doomed and will be destroyed and along with all of its inhabitants (the earth-dwellers). We should not get so close to the world’s system that we are judged along with it.

Next time we will see the call from God for His people to cut connection with godless, persecuting people.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Answers in Genesis. (2010). Accessed 8 March 2021 from https://answersingenesis.org/answers/biblical-authority-devotional/why-is-god-the-ultimate-authority/

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Introduction to Sociology. (n.d.). Accessed 8 March 2021 from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wm-introductiontosociology/

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Sproul, R. C. (2017). “Living under Authority”. Accessed 8 March 2021 from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/living-under-authority/

Swindoll, C. (1987). Living Above the Level of Mediocrity. Dallas, TX: Word Publishing.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 17: Explaining the Beast

Revelation 17:9-18

Image above of the Hydra monster based on Revelation 17 by Gustave Moreau, 1876; public domain.

D. E. Johnson (see below) says this about first century Christians reading Revelation 17—”First-century Christians might have wondered, “How can Rome be so bad when she looks so good?” or, “How could Rome ever fall when she looks so strong?”

We in the Western World may look around and substitute the name of evil countries for “Rome.” The current trajectory of the West is toward globalism for economic and political purposes.

Babylon is a trans-historical reality that includes idolatrous kingdoms as diverse as Sodom, Gomorrah, Egypt, Babylon, Tyre, Nineveh, and Rome. Babylon is an eschatological symbol of satanic deception and power; it is a divine mystery that can never be wholly reducible to empirical earthly institutions (see Johnson, F. E. below, p. 736).

Seven Mountains in Rev 17Above is a drawing (by me) of Alan Johnson’s view of the mountains as kingdoms of the past. I revised the view to fit to John’s Revelation since John is updating the Old Testament prophesies to his time and ours. Antiochus Epiphanes (in Greek Epiphanes refers to [god] “manifest”; Attiochus’s enemies referred to him as Epimanes (“the Insane One”). (see Antiochus Epiphanes,  below.) He was a Seleucid ruler who persecuted Israelites and tried to force them into conformity to Grecian beliefs and customs—Hellenization. He defiled the Temple in Jerusalem by having a pig sacrificed on the altar of sacrifice. He is an appropriate figure for a type of Antichrist  who will appear in the end as a manifestation of a global power seeking to destroy the church and  to rule humankind.

Antiochus_IV_Epiphanes

Coin front and back of Antiochus Epiphanes IV.
Image from https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org

The theme of Chapter 17 is that enticing evil lies behind all nations of this world. The Beast is a composite of empires some gone and some still are on the scene in today. The application of Revelation 17 is—

God will thoroughly destroy all religious-economic-political alliances
that seek to dominate people’s lives. 

I. We must understand that everything new to us is in reality old from the standpoint of the Ancient of Days whom we serve. vss. 9-10

vss. 9-10 9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. [ESV]

What is this mind with wisdom?—”[Our minds need] true wisdom to behold many incidents of the world’s history and not find stumbling-blocks in them (Psalm 73:2-3; Psalm 119:165).” (See Ellicott, below.) 

Verse 9 has led to the identification of the woman as Rome. It was noted in the ancient world as the City of Seven Hills. Note the translation in the NIV—”hills.” The Greek word is horos—usually translated “mountain.” Note that the woman is said to sit on the mountains. They are said a little later on to be kings. John uses marvel (in Greek thaumazō) to describe the reaction of the “earth-dwellers.” They awestruck over the apparent rising again of the beast after his seeming defeat, that is seeming from their viewpoint. The current infatuation of the world with globalism and commerce is an example of what this verse is talking about. The people who are involved are described as “those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world.” Note the tense of the verb—perfect tense. It describes a past completed act with a present result. These people are not believers. They have deliberately chosen to follow the beast cult instead of Christ’s true religion.

Year of Four Emperors

Image from https://www.knowtheromans.co.uk/images/

Many commentators try to make this verse fit into the Roman emperors of John’s day. The numbers do not fit the text.

The Roman Emperors before and when the Apostle John lived

1. Augustus 27 B.C. to A.D. 14
2. Tiberius A.D. 14 to A.D. 37
3. Caligula A.D. 37 to A.D. 41
4. Claudius A.D. 41 to A.D. 54
5. Nero A.D. 54 to A.D. 68
6. Galba A.D. 68
7. Otho A.D. 69
8. Vittelius A.D. 69
9. Vespasion A.D. 69 TO A.D. 79
10. Titus A.D. 79 TO A.D. 81
11. Domition A.D. 81 TO A.D. 96


II. We must realize that all earthly confederations will fall and other nations will take their place. vss 11-12. 

euro-woman-beast


← Image to the left is of a 2 Euro Greece coin 2002-2006. I do not make the images in Revelation to be fulfilled in our day. I think it strange that the Greece chose an image from Revelation to be on its Greek coin.

vs. 11-12 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.

Evil seeming has endless lives. It is dealt with only to rise again some where else. The woman is said to sit on the mountains who are identified as kings in this verse. The kings are really kingdoms or empires. We see the handwriting on the wall, for all evil empires, just like Daniel saw.

This is the writing that was inscribed: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (v. 25). This is Daniel’s interpretation of the matter: MENE—God has numbered Belshazzar’s kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL—he has been weighed in the scales and found to be lacking; and PERES—his kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians (vv. 26-28). [https://www.ministrysamples.org/excerpts/DANIELS-INTERPRETATION-OF-THE-WRITING-ON-THE-WALL.HTML]

One day all nations will be “numbered” and brought to an end; “rulers weighed and found to be lacking”; and “their country be given to another.” 

Holman_Daniel_Interpreting_the_Writing_on_the_Wall

“Daniel Interpreting the Writing on the Wall” at Belshazzar’s feast;
illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible; from WikiMedia Commons public domain

This verse presents the interpreter with the greatest challenge. The series of 7 days followed by an 8th was familiar in the ancient world. The 8th day was the day of Christ’s resurrection. It was the symbol of the victory of Christ over the forces of evil. The coming up out of the abyss by the beast as an 8th head is an imitation of the resurrection of Christ. Christ defeated the 7 heads at Calvary, yet the 8th will rise again in the end times.

The numbers in this chapter are symbolic. Both 7 and 10 describe completeness and perfection to the ancient mind. Our interpretation should be qualitative in nature instead of quantitative. The 10 kings are simply a way of referring to a complete group of confederates that help the beast to establish his kingdom. They could be physical or spiritual in nature. However, it does not describe the European Common Market confederacy of today. Alan F. Johnson describes the 10 confederates of the beast as “none other than the principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms that Paul describes as the true enemies of Jesus’ followers (Ephesians 6:12). To be sure, they use earthly instruments, but their reality is far greater than any specific historical manifestations.” (see Johnson A. F., p. 161, below) It seems that the 10 confederates are earthly instruments of the spiritual forces operating behind the scenes.


III. We must realize when a government perverts God’s laws and authority, it becomes evil.

vss. 13-14 13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

Foster_Bible_Pictures_0074-1_Offering_to_Molech

 Charles Foster etching “Offering to Molech” 1897. The little children were burned to death in offerings to the god Molech. This man in the picture is just going to put a little child in the idol’s arms. Other men are blowing on trumpets and beating on drums, and making a great noise, so that no one can hear the poor little child cry. WikiMedia Commons public domain image

The members, whether physical or spiritual, will give the beast their resources in order to build the Beast’s kingdom. Molech was  referred to as the “god of child sacrifice” by some. This deity was thought to be very well pleased with offerings that burned living people, notably children, in a fire. People sacrifice their children for promises of a better life.

Just like the beast has cohorts, the Lamb has his followers. They are: “called” (klētos), “chosen” (eklektos) and “faithful” (pistos) The beast has a bloodthirsty crew with him. The Lord has a faithful group of followers who follow him to death and back to life and who share his reign. What a contrast! The Lamb is referred to as kurios kurion—Lord of Lords. Caesar’s title was kurios—Lord. He also was referred to as basileus—king. These titles are the Lord Jesus Christ’s by divine right. He will manifest this fully at his Second Coming.


IV. We must realize that the more the beast seeks to rule over people, the more chaos breaks out. (vss. 15-17).

vs. 15-18 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. 16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.

De_Neuville_-_The_Huns_at_the_Battle_of_Chalons_b

“The Huns at the Battle of Chalons” from page 135 of ”A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times”
Volume I of VI (1836-1885) Project Gutenberg

Here, as pointed out in verse 1, is the explanation of the image of sitting on the waters. Here is an allusion to the fact that there will be chaos in the nations at the end. The Antichrist will weld the competing nations into a unified whole. There will be great persecution of the Lord’s people. After his purpose is accomplished, the alliance will break up and the members will destroy their own confederation (compare Ezekiel 16:36-40.)

The Greek literally says “God placed it in their hearts to do one purpose.. .and to give their kingdom to the beast.” God is always in charge of all events on this earth. He never allows things to get out from his control. It may appear to us that things have gone awry, but they are underneath God’s sovereign control. He permits the alliance to hold until his purposes have been fulfilled. Then, things come apart. Jeremiah 10:25 says, “Pour but your wrath on the nations… . For they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him completely and destroyed his homeland.”

This is not Rome of John’s day only. Babylon is too broad a symbol to only refer to Rome. It is rather a symbol of the world system in opposition to God in all ages that has passed from the scene only to morph and reappear. Caird says, “The ravaging of the whore by the monster and its horns is John’s most vivid symbol for the self-destroying power of evil.”

This we will see fully carried out in Chapter 18 next time!

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Antiochus Epiphanes (2021). Accessed 2 March 2021 from https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/ancient-israel/antiochus-epiphanes-the-bibles-most-notoriously-forgotten-villain/

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Ellicott, C. (1878). Accessed 1 March 2021 from https://biblehub.com/revelation/17-9.htm

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 17: Explaining the Scarlet Woman

Revelation 17:6-14

In previous posts, we saw the theme of Chapter 17—The woman riding the Beast symbolizes enticing evil behind the kingdoms of this world. The application of Revelation 17 is—

God will thoroughly destroy all religious-economic-political alliances
that seek to dominate people’s lives. 

I. We must look to God alone for a true assessment of the society in which we live! 

Light on my pathvs. 6b When I saw her, I marveled greatly.

John is “awestruck” by the woman. The Greek word is thaumazō “to be awestruck at something,” from thauma “a wonder” (see Bible Hub, below).  Note below that the earth-dwellers are awestruck  at the woman riding the beast. John needed explanation from God. God is the Creator, so He alone can explain His world.

“He who marries the spirit of the times will soon find himself a widower (see, Chesterton, below).

Milner gave us a beneficial caution — “Yes, God is at work in the world [today]. That doesn’t mean the church needs to be like the world. The best thing the church can do for the world is to be the church, not regurgitate graduate school seminar room talk…” (see Milner, emphasis mine, below.)

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established,
that,
unless we love the truth, we cannot know it
(see, Pascal, below).

“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks,” states a truth that reinforces our need to look to God in order to understand our world. God’s light on our path is important as we walk in his world. The hymn speaks of heaven, but we have God’s light here as recorded in His Word.

O’er all those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day;
There God the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.

Refrain
I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land;
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.


I met George Beverly Shea when he was over a 100 years old. I thanked him for the music, and it was a passing meeting in the corridor. Later I heard him sing on the radio a version of the above hymn, and it has stuck in mind ever since.


Revelation teaches us we shouldn’t care from which direction we are coming—rich or poor; high born or low born; beautiful or not. We should be very interested in where we are headed!  Earth-dwellers are at home here and are pulled constantly in the direction of the culture. Christians are bound for glory and are pulled toward it!


II. We ever must be on guard against the allurements of this world system, which steals our affections from God.

vs. 7 But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.

The earth-dwellers make up their own explanation of the world in opposition to God. They thus form a false religion around the beast. I have found over the years that alternative explanations for Holy Scripture’s events or teachings are not steps toward God, but are steps away from God. God alone deserves the emotional response of awe from us, and not the Beast. I dislike the ubiquitous “awesome” in our society. God alone should elicit awe from us!

John seeks and is satisfied with the explanation God gives. Rejection of God’s explanation of reality lies at the base of all false religion. Romans 1:21-23 gives us the historical progression of rejecting God’s explanation of reality and its results—

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [ESV; emphasis mine.]

Read further in Romans One to see the depths of descent into depravity. That descent began with a people “knowing God, but not honoring him as God. Idolatry begins with that one step down from giving God His rightful place.


III. We must realize there are no new falsehoods, but they are merely dredged up from the past by the evil one.

vs. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. 

Our modern aversion toward history is not simply wrong, it is dangerous.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
(see Santayana, below.)

Seven Headed Hydra MonsterThis phrase has led to the interpretation of Babylon as a future reviving of the old Roman Empire in the future. (For further explanation of the dying and rising myths see the notes on Revelation 13:3; 13:14.) Many ancient commentators associate this dying and rising again of the beast with the Nero Redivivus Myths of the first century. (One popular myth believed Nero had been reborn in Parthia and would lead armies to conquer Rome. see Nero Redivivus legend, below.) However, this is not the case at all. The identification of Nero with one of the heads is impossible (as the notes on the next verse to be explained in the nest post will point out). The best identification of the symbols behind the beast is with the hydra-monster of the ancient mythology. The theological truth illustrated is that of Christ’s victory over the beast at Calvary. It is a destruction of the beast, but not the vanquishing of the beast from the battle field. That will occur at the Second Coming. We are living in between the defeat of Satan and the vanquishing of him and his cohorts from the battlefield. We are living between D-day and VE-day, so to speak.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Bible Hub. (2021). Thaumazō. Accessed 6 February 2021 from https://biblehub.com/greek/2296.htm

Chesterton, G. K. (2011). Accessed 27 February 2021 from https://bustedhalo.com/tag/contemporary-culture

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Milner, M. J. (n.d.) Retrived 6 February 2021 from https://www.one-eternal-day.com/2011/08/who-marries-spirit-of-age-will-soon.html

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Nero Redivivus legend. (2020). Accessed 28 February 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nero_Redivivus_legend

Pascal, B. (2011). Accessed February 27, 2021 from https://bustedhalo.com/tag/contemporary-culture

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 17: Unveiling The Mysterious Woman Riding the Beast

Revelation 17:3b-7

Image above of “Vanity Fair” by Frederick Rhead, from The Pilgrim’s Progress from this world to that which is to come, by John Bunyan, New York, 1898. Public Domain illustration found at https://scrap.oldbookillustrations.com

I have spent a great deal of time in this Blog trying to discern the message of Revelation to First Century Christians. I believe the book has application to every age, but I see application for us today as derived from the message of the text to the first century believers. For example, John didn’t see planes dropping bombs or helicopters flying in battle. He saw visions of apocalyptic warfare in terms of his own day. Most of the symbols are taken from the Old Testament. John is up-dating the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets for his audience. 

This chapter reminds me of a scene from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. (Sorry for its being animated, but it is not just a cartoon version of the book.)

In the last post, we saw the theme of Chapter 17—The woman riding the Beast symbolizes enticing evil behind the kingdoms of this world. The application of Revelation 17 is—

God will thoroughly destroy all religious-economic-political alliances
that seek to dominate people’s lives. 

I. Believers must resist all attempts by Godless alliances to usurp the place of God in their lives. vs. 3

vs. 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.

The words “and I saw” indicate another vision has occurred. It is true that the wilderness is a place where God places His people for their protection. However, the wilderness is not a physical location, but it illustrates a spiritual truth.

“Whatever person or system—whether political, social, economic, or religious—cooperates with Satan by exalting itself against God’s sovereignty and by setting itself up to destroy the followers of Jesus, or entices them to become followers of Satan through deception, idolatry, blasphemy, and spiritual adultery, embodies the beast of Revelation 13.” (see Johnson, A.F., p. 525, below.)

Desert_-_panoramio

Image of desert by Panoramio licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported from WikiMedia Commons.

Why does the scene take place in a wilderness area? The wilderness is the place where God protects His people while judgments are falling on His and their enemies. John is wafted off to this desolate place to see the woman and beast judged. Why? This act tells us that the wilderness is not only a place of protection, but it is also a place where God’s people understand events happening in the world around them more clearly. (see Johnson, D.E., below.) 

II. Believers can best discern the evil behind the scenes in our world by remaining disconnected from mainstream society. vs. 4

vs. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.

ABOVE-PICTURE-The-harlot-city-Babylon-the-apostate-church-world-Burgkmair-1523-AD-Wikimedia-US-Public-Domain.jpe

The kings’ and the nations’ acquiescence to immorality refers not to literal immorality, but figuratively to acceptance of the religious and idolatrous demands of the ungodly earthly order. (see Beale, p. 354, below.)

The woman was clothed like a queen in regal garments. But, in her hand was a cup filled with wickedness. Jeremiah 51:7 says—Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine; therefore the nations went mad.

The Babylon of old was a mighty force for conquest in the Ancient Near East, but just like Babylon of old, Babylon of John’s and ours will fall. “Abomination” is bdelygma—”detestable thing” such as an idol. In Matt. 24:15, quoted from Daniel, it causes desolation. The word “filth” is akathartēs—uncleanness or impurity, especially that of immorality. It is often associated with demons in the New Testament. The outward scenes of adultery painted in the movies and magazines are those of  pleasure and delight. On the contrary, its true inward character is uncleanness and impurity.

Isaiah 21:1-2 seems to give the background of John’s words here.

1 The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea. As whirlwinds in the Negev sweep on, it comes from the wilderness, from a terrible land. 2 A stern vision is told to me; the traitor betrays, and the destroyer destroys. Go up, O Elam; lay siege, O Media; all the sighing she has caused I bring to an end.

III. Believers must always bear in mind Babylon is a corrupter of human beings made in the image and likeness of God. vs. 5

vs. 5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” 

The writings of Juvenal and Seneca state that it was the custom of Roman prostitutes to wear their names on a piece of lace that encircled their foreheads. Jeremiah 3:3 says—Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a whore; you refuse to be ashamed. (see Johnson, A.F., below.)

Whore of BabylonFalse religion flaunts its sin. What is written on the forehead band is in dispute, however. Is the word “mystery” a part of the title or a part of the introduction to the title? The Greek New Testament punctuates the verse so as to exclude the word from the title. It makes it an adjective modifying the entire title—i.e., “A name was written on her forehead, a mysterious one… .” A mystērion in Scripture is a divine allegory or secret that is revealed. One New Testament scholar defines mystery as “an open secret.” It is that which can only be known by revelation. The verse should be translated—”And she had a name written on her forehead, a mysterious one: Babylon the Great the Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth.” The mystery is that the woman is the mother of all of the filth the earth-dwellers have gotten involved with. (Image above right is from Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.se/emc2csc3559/revelation-17-18-19-fall-of-babylon/.)

IV. Believers must understand that Babylon is intoxicated by martyring believers. vs 6

vs. 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

“The narrator identifies this city as Vanity, home of a great and ancient festival called Vanity Fair, where tawdry products are traded and Beelzebub is worshiped. At Vanity Fair, Faithful and Christian are mocked, smeared with dirt, and thrown in a cage.” (summary from Spark Notes at https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/pilgrims/section3/). 

The image of “being drunk with blood” is a symbol of “the lust for violence.” Two groups are mentioned as being killed at the woman’s instigation—(1) the saints (2) and the martyrs. False religion allied with evil government is the source of the persecution of God’s people since the beginning of history. For instance, read the history of the Scottish Covenantors struggle with the British government allied with the high church party. Thousands were slaughtered because they would not affirm the English Monarch as the head of the church. The Covenantors would only affirm King Jesus as the head of the church. This was not a massacre of Christians by pagans. It was a slaughter of Christians by other professing Christians.

John says, when I saw her. I was greatly astonished. John did not understand the vision at first glance. John is awestruck (Greek word is thaumazō = “astonished out of one’s senses”) by the woman. John was whisked away to the wilderness lest he form an understanding on his own. Note also that the earth-dwellers marvel over the beast. John needed explanation from God. The earth-dwellers make up their own explanation in opposition to God. They thus form a false religion around the beast.

Christian and Faithful Beaten at Vanity Fair

Christian and Faithful beaten at Vanity Fair; image by David and William Bell Scott; 1857 Wood engraving; Illustration for Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Scanned image and text by George P. Landow

We ought not to be awestruck by any government or organization that claims to be a secular savior for mankind. In the end they will martyr all who profess to serve Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Governments can tolerate criminals, but they refuse to tolerate those who will not conform to their dictates and laws. We must stay awake and not be lulled to sleep by the siren-songs of godless society around us!

Sirens-and-Odysseus-1200x588

“Ulysses (Odysseus) and the Sirens,” 1891, by John William Waterhouse,
shows the Greek warrior-king bound to his ship’s mast as the Sirens’ song calls to him. (Public Domain)

Next time we will move on to Rev. 17:7-14.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 17: God’s People Witnessing the Execution of Babylon

Revelation 17:1-3

Image above is “The fall of Babylon”; Cyrus the Great defeating the Chaldean army. By J. Martin, 1831; from Wellcome Images

Whore of Babylon

Image shared under CC SA License from https://villains.fandom.com/wiki/Whore_of_Babylon_(theology)

The interpreter’s approach to the entire book determines the interpretation of the woman in chapter 17. If the interpreter approaches Revelation as prophecy fulfilled in the 1st Century (preterist view), the woman is Rome.  If the interpreter looks upon Revelation as entirely end time prophecy, the woman on the beast as Antichrist’s kingdom of the end time—futurist view. The idealist looks upon the woman as a symbol of the world arrayed against Christ in all ages—(spiritualized view).  

There has been a blending of the different views in the recent approach to the book. The most popular blend is the preterist/futurist position. The woman is both 1st century Rome and the final manifestation of Antichrist’s kingdom at the end. The approach taken by this study is a blend of three positions—preterist/idealist/futurist position.

The woman is evil behind the kingdoms of this world in all ages which
includes the final manifestation of it
under Antichrist’s rule at the end of the age.

“People are not always what they seem to be. Although we know this is true intellectually, we may still be easy prey for the flashy image, the manipulative hype, the convincing come-on that had its origins in the garden, when the serpent persuaded the woman that it, not God, had her best interests at heart” (See Johnson, D. E., below). 

bowl poured outThe Relationship between the sixth and seventh bowls and what followsRev. 17:1–19:10 is a large interpretative snapshot of the sixth and seventh bowls, which have foretold the judgment of Babylon (which was first explicitly prophesied in 14:8). (see Beale, p. 353 below.)

Revelation 17 depicts the truth that —

God will thoroughly destroy the worldwide religious-economic-political-elitist alliance
that seeks to dominate people’s lives. 

I. God will bring to an end all false religion and culture in league with “Babylon.” 

vs. 1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters… .

This verse makes it clear that chapter 17 is connected with chapter 16. It is one of the seven angels holding the seven bowls that steps forward to give John the explanation of the vision unfolding before his eyes. It is interesting that the Greek contains the present tense of echō (“has”) whereas the NIV/ESV have the past tense of echō (“had”). The seven angels still have the bowls in their hands. This indeed makes the vision all the more vivid. This fact also reinforces the idea that the time span the seven bowls judgment is very short.

John uses krima (“judgment’) which literally means “sentence,” “condemnation,” or “punishment .” The -ma ending of the Greek word has the idea of “the result of judgment,” hence, the “sentence passed.” John is not going to a trial. He is, rather, going to an execution. 

The angel describes the person in the vision as a “whore.” The Greek word is pornē (from which the English word “porn” is derived). It can mean either “prostitute’ or “whore.” In this context. it refers to a prostitute. Frequently in the Old Testament, the image of an  unfaithful spouse is used to illustrate spiritual unfaithfulness to the Lord. Remember that God’s people are said to be married to the Lord. Idolatry is unfaithfulness to Him. Anything metal, material, or mental that we substitute for the Lord is an idol. Compare Hosea 1, 2 for an apt illustration of this image.

“The great whore” sits on many waters. The image of “sitting on waters” is explained in Rev. 17:15—And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.”

The waters are a symbol of the nations of the world. The fact that the woman sits on the waters is symbolic of  the “influence that she wields over all the peoples of the world.” The central question facing the interpreter is who is the woman? Several answers have been suggested by different commentators over the years. (1) The most often suggested is that the woman is the Roman Empire. John’s announcement of the impending destruction of Babylon is an announcement of the destruction of the Roman Empire in the future beyond John’s lifetime. (2) Another suggestion is that the woman is Jerusalem. The announcement of the impending destruction of Babylon is an announcement of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in A.D. 70. (3) A better explanation is that the woman as symbolic of “all entrenched worldly resistance to God. Babylon is found wherever there is satanic deception.

“Babylon is a trans-historical reality that includes idolatrous kingdoms as diverse as Sodom, Egypt, Babylon, Tyre, Ninevah, and Rome. Babylon is an eschatological symbol of satanic deception and power; it is a divine mystery that can never be wholly reducible to empirical earthly institutions. It may be said that Babylon represents the total culture of the world apart from God, while the divine system us depicted by the New Jerusalem. Rome is simply one manifestation of the total system.” (see Johnson, A. F., emphasis mine; below.) 

Babylon Burning on the left; New heavens and Earth on the right.

As one commentator said, “Revelation 17-19 is a tale of two cities.” (Gordon Fee) Which city will we choose?

II. God will judge those who have allied themselves and their fortunes with the false religion and culture of “Babylon.”

vs. 2 …with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

The Greek word describing the sexual sin here is porneuō. Compare this with the noun referred to above porē (“whore”). The verb describes the “immoral behavior” of the “immoral woman.” It is the most general  word for immoral behavior in the New Testament. It includes adultery as well as immorality by unmarried persons. The rulers of the earth are said to be those who have engaged in immoral behavior with the woman. The “earth-dwellers” is a symbol of those who are thoroughly at home on the earth and who are not looking for a home with the Lord. The “earth-dwellers” are “drunk on the wine of the woman’s immorality.” This is a reference to idolatry and the intoxicating effects of “false religion.” “Immorality” always goes hand in hand with idolatry. Compare Romans 1:18 ff. Immorality and perversions follow idolatry.

III. God’s Judgment shows that for all pretense of power and glory, Babylon is a mirage.

vs. 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 

Woman inticing

John is in an ecstatic state when he experiences the desert vision. He emphasizes this by adding that he was “taken away in the Spirit” or “by means of the Spirit.” The fact that John is in the desert is in keeping with the geography of ancient Babylon. The literal city and region has become a symbol of satanic deception of the world.

In the desert, John saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names. Previously John was told about the prostitute. Now he is shown. The beast is the same one we were introduced to in the first part of chapter 13. This is clear from the fact that the beast here, like the one there, has seven heads. The color scarlet is descriptive of the blasphemies written on the beast. It is similar to the color of the dragon in chapter 12. The Greek words are different, but they are similar. It is in marked contrast to the white garments of the saints and the Lamb. The blasphemous names describe what activity the beast engages in.

“Whatever person or system—whether political, social, economic, or religious—cooperates with Satan by exalting itself against God’s sovereignty and by setting itself up to destroy the followers of Jesus, or entices them to become followers of Satan through deception, idolatry, blasphemy, and spiritual adultery, embodies the beast of Revelation 13.” (see Johnson, A. F., p. 525, below)

“Beast,” in Greek, is thērion—meaning “wild beast.” This is a designation for evil, demonic forces behind human governments. It is taken from the book of Daniel (7:4-6). In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he envisioned his government as a golden statue. In God’s estimation, human governments under the influence of demonic forces are wild beasts. Government is supposed to support right and punish wrong, but often it does the opposite. It is best to view the number seven as symbolic of fullness of regal power, rather than to identify them with individual nations, kings, emperors, etc. The confusion over which emperor fits which head is proof enough that this method of interpretation is confusing.

The connection between the woman and the beast—If the woman is symbolic of idolatry, it seems that the fact that she rides the beast symbolizes false religion wedded to corrupt government. The end times will witness such an unholy union. Government will come increasingly under a demonic spell. False religion will cause people to worship the corrupt state.

Michael Card sings of Babylon’s fall in his Unveiled Hope album—City of Doom. (It is contemporary music.)

In Revelation, John is removing the screen behind which the deceptive controller of Babylon is hiding and shows it all to be a mirage! 

Next time, on into Revelation 17 further.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely often without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 16: The Final Plagues that will Destroy Godless Civilization, Pt. 2

Revelation 16:10-21

As we saw in the last post, chapter 16 teaches us that God will execute
His final judgment
on the Beast-worshipers by turning nature itself against them.

First Century believers saw this in terms of ancient Babylon’s fall and Rome’s future destruction. John uses these images to describe the final destruction of the world-system at the end. “[Beale] has argued that John’s vision takes the account of the historical fall of Babylon, relates it backward to the defeat of Pharaoh at the Red Sea, and uses it typologically to predict the fall of the latter-day Babylonian world system.” (see Beale, p. 351, below)

I. The final judgment strikes Beast’s throne, so that darkness descends upon the servants of the Beast. vss. 10-11

bowl poured outvs. 10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.

“Thrones” is used by John to symbolize the “stronghold of Satan” at Pergamum in Rev. 2:13 I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

The “beast’s throne” here is symbolic of “the seat of the worldwide dominion of the great satanic system of idolatry.” By this plague, this system is plunged into darkness. This may be: (1) physical darkness; (2) spiritual darkness. It seems that #2 option is the best. This spiritual darkness plunges the world into chaos and confusion. 

5th Bowl on the Beasts Throne

Note carefully, the sores are still on the bodies of the beast-worshipers. This lends credence to the view that the bowls are poured out in rapid succession. Once again, the beast-worshipers “curse God.” The reason for their cursing is their pain (ponōn) and sores (helkōn). They refuse to pray for help. They are autonomous to the last. They also refuse to repent of their works. They persist in their wicked deeds. As Mounce points out, “they take on the character of the false god they serve.”

Compare Hosea 9:10—Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers. But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.

Bowl Poured out 2

II. The final judgment strikes the servants of the Beast to deceive them into thinking they could fight God and annihilate His people. vss. 12-16. 

vs. 12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 

6th_vial_into_the_Euphrates,_Battistero_di_PadovaThe Euphrates River was the location of the ancient kingdom of Babylon. Babylon is “the great anti-God throne.” It is symbolic of satanic opposition to God and his people. The Euphrates River was the location from which the Eastern hordes were to invade Israel—symbol of God’s people in the New Testament. In this passage the reference to the Euphrates dying up points to that time in the end when “the unseen rulers of this world” are preparing to do battle with God. He describes the last, great eschatological battle between Satan and God in terms of Israel’s ancient warfare and enemies. This passage does not describe a future invasion of the nation of Israel. 

vs. 13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.

The Second Coming has already begun at this point, the church has been removed, and the righteous dead raised before the wrath of God falls. The Beast and his servants haven’t had time or the sense to realize their “enemies” have slipped away. 

“The world’s rulers gather for the war only because the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet have deceived them. From those three villains’ mouths spring three demonic spirits in the form of frogs.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.)

Three FrogsThis is the description of a demonic invasion of this world by the spirits that drive Satan’s kingdom on earth. Frogs are unclean animals that were avoided by the Jews, and which symbolize demonic spirits. In this passage, the beast from the land is called “the False Prophet.” Under this Judgment, the evil forces are merely gathered for battle, not actually engaging in battle. This will come under the 7th bowl. “The unclean spirits proceed from the mouths of the unholy triumvirate, suggesting the persuasive and deceptive propaganda which in the last days will lead men to an unconditional commitment to the cause of evil.” (see Mounce, blow.) Compare I Kings 22:19-23—

19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20 and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 23 Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.” (see ESV below; emphasis mine.)

The demons perform signs—sémeion, the standard word in the Gospels and Acts for “miracles.” The “signs” of the demons are “counterfeit miracles.” They entice the world’s leaders to do battle with God and his people. “World” is oikomenē—inhabited earth.” So this plague affects unrepentant men.

vs. 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

This passage connects the Second Coming of Christ with the last Battle of Armageddon. “Nakedness” was a sign of shame in the Old Testament. There is a need for constant vigilance in order to be prepared for the Second Coming.

vs. 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Har-mageddon.

The proper name in Hebrew referred to is Har (“hill of”) Megiddo. Megiddo was a city located in the northern Israel. It was geographically strategic in the ancient world. The problem facing the reader is that there is no literal place known as “the Hill (har) of Megiddo.” Armageddon, like Babylon, is a symbol. Armageddon is symbolic of the last, great eschatological battle. It is not a geographical location.

Tell Megiddo

Picture of Megiddo today above. I have visited it 45 years ago. It is not a mountain, but a “tell”—a mound of dirt that has risen because city after city has been built on top of one another. (Image by Avram Graicer on Wikipedia.) It was a scene of battles and marauding armies since the way of the hills and the way of the sea ran through its valley.

“Har-Mageddon is symbolic of the final overthrow of all forces of evil by the might and power of God. The great conflict between God and Satan, Christ and Antichrist, good and evil, which lies behind the perplexing course of history will in the end issue in a final struggle in which God will emerge victorious and take with him all who placed their faith in him. This is Har-Mageddon.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.) 

III. The final judgment culminates in the total destruction of the world system along with the servants of the beast. Vss. 17-21.

Bowl Poured out 2vs. 17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.

San_Francisco_1906_earthquake_Panoramic_View

Panoramic view of San Francisco after earthquake and fire damage from Stanford Mansion site, April 18–21, 1906. (public domain image from Wikipedia.) 

These cataclysmic events “symbolize the destruction of all the anti-God forces at work in the world.” “Earthquake” is seismos—”shaking.” Compare Hebrews 12:26b-27—26 …“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.

Seventh_vial

“The Seventh Vial: the earthquake and destruction on earth”
Public Domain Image from 13th Century

vs. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.

“It is wrong to separate the great city from the cities of the nations. Nor does the subsequent reference to Babylon imply yet another city. The division of the great city into three parts indicates the completeness of its destruction. That all the cities of the nations fall with [the great city] indicates the dominant role of the great capital in its network of imperial communications.” (see Mounce, below.) This is the description of Babylon being judged for her wicked treatment of God’s people. The specific details will be given in chapters 17 and 18.

vs. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.

“John signals the approach of the “new heavens and new earth” by describing the breakup of the old order. Compare the language here with Rev. 6:12ff

We will move on to chapter 17 next week.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

 

Revelation 16: The Final Plagues that will Destroy Godless Civilization, Pt. 1

Revelation 16:2-7

“Whoever refuses to be warned by the trumpets of judgment (Rev. 8:11) is destroyed by the bowls of wrath.” (see Hendriksen, p. 161, below.)

Note carefully that there is a striking similarity between the seven bowls of God’s wrath in Rev. 16 and the ten plagues upon the Egyptians in Exodus. However, “…the outpouring of each bowl is not a physical action but a symbol of world-devastating judgment that is purposed by God’s sovereign will and executed by His almighty power.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.) The Angels with the bowls come out of the sanctuary of God’s presence. Watch this short film clip (29 secs) summarizing the Exodus plagues. 

Chapter 16 teaches us that God will execute His final judgment on the Beast-worshipers
by turning nature itself against unrepentant people.

I. The final judgment strikes servants of the Beast’s health, so that their own bodies turn against them. vs. 2

bowl poured out2 So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

In a passage parallel to Leviticus 26, Moses rehearsed on the plains of Moab the sanctions that should motivate Israel to covenantal fidelity: blessings for obedience (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) and curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). (I linked the verses rather than printing them in this post to save space.)

First PlagueIt is evident to us that the people trusted the Beast to protect them from any and all harm. The mark of the beast, a sign of their loyalty to and trust in him, did not prevent the sores from breaking out on their bodies.  The mark was on the head and hand of those who serve him. It is an invisible mark, but demonstrating: (1) their thinking is under his control, and (2) their work is also directed by him. Compare I John 2:15-17—

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Notice the world system’s gifts to those loyal to the Beast’s cause: (1) things which appeal to the lusts of the flesh—pleasure; (2) things which appeal to the eyes—possessions; and (3) things which appeal to the status of one’s life—position. This list from John’s first epistle gives us what a life looks like that is lived for the Beast’s agenda. It is clear that the beast’s largess will not prevent their suffering. 

II. The final judgment strikes the sea, so that it turns against the servants of the Beast. vs. 3

Bowl Poured out 23 The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.

This plague will make the sea difficult and distasteful for navigation and trade. The Ancient Romans were so self-centered that they called the Mediterranean Sea simply “Our Sea.” Britain was so Imperial that they have a song children sing at parties—”Rule Britannia.” I heard a group of children singing this at a birthday party when I was in the UK for part of the summer of 1974—

“Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.”

In the final judgment no one will be able to navigate the seas. No one will “rule the waves.” The wildlife in the waters will die and the odor will be oppressive. The phrase “like that of the dead” is added to emphasize the stench. The bloody sea is “corrupt and loathsome.”

III. The final judgment strikes fresh water, so that it turns against the servants of the Beast. vs. 4

bowl poured out4 The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood.

This plague visits the judgment on the fresh waters. Fresh water turned to blood “signals again an escalation in the intensity of the judgment.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.) 

MARTIN_John_Great_Day_of_His_Wrath

John Martin “Great Day of His Wrath” public domain
image from Wikimedia Commons.

IV. The final judgment will be the fulfillment of the saints prayers in Rev. 6:9-11, that was deferred in Chapter Six. Vss. 5-7

5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments.
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”
7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”

“They thirsted after blood and massacred the saints of God; and now they have got blood to drink!” (see Clarke, below.) God’s judgments are just and deserved by the persecuters of God’s people. 

V. The final judgment strikes the sun, so that it turns against the servants of the Beast. vs. 8

Bowl Poured out 28 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9 They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

This plague affects the sun, like the fourth trumpet. However, it has the opposite effect. The fourth trumpet brought darkness to the sun, but the fourth bowl intensifies the heat of the sun. “Given power” reads literally “it was granted to it.” The use of the passive voice indicates an implied divine agency. God granted the sun to harm instead of helping mankind.

sodom-and-gomorrah

“The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah,” John Martin, 1852.

In this verse, the bowl judgments are first called “plagues.” Plēgē is a “wound,” a “blow,” a “stroke,” or a “bruise.” God is the one who has authority (exousia) over these judgments. Since God could stop them, the beast-worshipers curse him (blasphēmeō). Furthermore, they refused to repent (metanoeō) and give God glory (doxa). 

All of nature seems to turn against the servants of the Beast in the Final Judgment! The reason the full wrath of God falls on the people in the end is that they are sin-hardened and blasphemous. Another reminder to us that “today is the day of salvation, now is the time of salvation!” (II Corinthians 6:2).

The next time we will look at the last three bowls. 

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Clarke, A. Accessed 28 January 2021 from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/clarke/revelation/16.htm

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, W. (1939). More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved