Revelation 18:1-24 Part 1

REVELATION 18:1-24 Part 1



1)    After those I saw another messenger, one having great authority, come down from the heaven; and the land was emblazoned by His glory.

2)    And He did cry out in a mighty sound, saying “she has fallen!  Babylon the Great has fallen!  She has become a dwelling place of demons and a haunt of every unclean spirit and a gathering of every unclean and detestable bird.

3)    All the nations drank from the wine of the passion of her fornication; for the kings did fornicate with her, and the merchants of the earth became rich from the power of her wantonness.”

4)    Then I heard another sound from the heaven, saying “come out of her My people that you not participate in her sins and receive her plagues;

5)    for her sins are heaped up unto the heaven and God remembered her iniquities.

6)    Repay her just as she meted out; and double double according to her works!  Mingle her double in the cup that she mingled!

7)    As much as she appeared glorious but waxed wanton, give her that much torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I am the sitting queen, I am not a widow, and I will never see mourning’.

8)    Because of this, in one day her plagues will come: death and mourning and famine, and she will be utterly burned in fire; for mighty is the Lord God Who judged her.

9)    When they look upon the smoke of her burning, the kings of the earth who fornicated and reveled with her will weep and lament over her,

10) having stood at a distance in awe of her torment, saying ‘woe, woe the great city’, Babylon the mighty city, for your judgment came in one hour.

11) And the merchants of the earth weep and sorrow over her because there is no longer anyone buying their cargo -

12) cargoes of gold and silver and precious stone and pearl and fine linen and purple and silk and crimson; and all kinds of scented wood, and every kind of ivory vessel, and every kind of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble articles;

13) cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense; wine, oil, fine flour, wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and chariots; and slaves…… human souls!

14) And the fruit of your soul’s lusts has gone away from you; all – the dainty and the bright – have gone away from you; and you will never find them again;

15) These merchants who had been enriched from her shall stand at a distance weeping and mourning at the awesomeness of her torment,

16) saying ‘woe, woe the great city’, arrayed with fine linen and purple and scarlet, adorned with gold and precious stone and pearls, for in one hour so much wealth is made desolate.

17) And every shipmaster and all sailing to the place and mariners and all who trade by sea did stand at a distance

18) and cry out when seeing the smoke of her burning, saying ‘any likeness of the great city?’

19) Weeping and mourning they cast dust upon their heads, saying ‘woe, woe the great city’ by which all that had ships in the sea did abound from her great worth, for in one hour she was made desolate.

20) Be gladdened over her heaven and holy ones and apostles and prophets! for from your lawsuit God did pass judgment on her.”

21) Then the one mighty messenger raised a stone as a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying “so with violence Babylon the great city shall be cast and shall never again be found.

22) The sound of harpers and musicians and pipers and trumpeters shall never be heard in you again; and no craftsman of any craft shall ever be found in you again; and the sound of a millstone shall never be heard in you again;

23) and the light of a candle shall never shine in you again; and the voice of the bridegroom and the bride shall never be heard in you again; for your merchants were the princes of the earth, and by your enchantment all the nations of the earth were seduced.

24) And the blood of the prophets was found in her, and that of every one of the holy ones ever slain upon the land.”


Our intent and purpose here is to be so familiar with God’s purpose that we think His thoughts while reading and hearing the Revelation (that’s what “glorifies” God, you see).  And when we reach that state of mind, we would immediately be dismissive of the popular (and imaginative) “interpretations”.  (We don’t do “interpretations” by the way; God has already interpreted His Own history, and it’s written for us.)

But the way we do that is to expend whatever effort necessary doing what is called “exegesis”.  That simply means so familiarizing ourselves with what the text says that we can then follow God’s thought throughout His entire Revelation.  His Word, from beginning to end (as we’ve said many times) is infused with an infallible continuity!

So, since that’s the case, we can be assured that what we read in The Revelation of Jesus Christ is the “fullness” of what has been previously revealed.

And all of that takes a lot of preaching time, during which we do a prodigious amount of reading – and re-reading; and then lots of review to “remind” us what we’ve read.  That’s why we go back so often and read the older Scripture… in order to “hear” what God has said before to Moses and the prophets, and by Jesus and His apostles.

As far as the text of the Revelation is concerned, there are no dilemmas or paradoxes… nothing of the sort!  Anybody who says that there are, just doesn’t know yet that there aren’t any! 

But there are complications and frustrations.  It’s woefully inadequate to say that God’s sovereign purpose and infinite mind is “complex”.  That’s way too simple.  The human mind can only be humiliated.  And our limitations are disturbing and frustrating.


Exegetical work in the text often involves making a number of decisions about those frustrations… one of which has to do with whether to break the chapters down into smaller portions.  The thought process is that maybe preaching through smaller portions might make it easier for you to retain more of what is written.

But on the other hand, smaller portions may interrupt the continuity and make it harder for you to understand and retain “the whole” of what is written!  It’s frustratingly hard enough as it is!  And we certainly don’t want to make it any harder.  One of the “keys” here is remembering what has been revealed previously.

This is a very big chapter.  Not nearly as big as some of the Matthew chapters are (some of those are sixty or seventy verses); but it’s big in comparison to others in the Revelation.  And, as verse twenty says, it is the iteration of the lawsuit against Jerusalem and Israel.  And there’s really no way to break it up into parts and preach smaller portions of it. 

And as the first two words of verse one imply, it is connected in sequence to chapter seventeen, which is connected to chapter sixteen (and so on)!  This is a letter, you see – it isn’t a “book” that has chapters.

So, we always do a lot of review in order to retain continuity; and we read sizeable portions of the older Scripture so we can “hear” what has been spoken and written previously.  It doesn’t do nearly as much - for me to just “tell” you what God has said; “hearing” God’s language provides us with assurance and certainty of His sovereign purpose throughout His history.


When we began The Revelation of Jesus Christ, I made the decision to preach a few verses at a time; and I handed out copies of just those few.  There were five sermons in verses one through three of chapter one; eight sermons in verses four through eight; six sermons in nine through twelve… and so on (all of which were very important there at the beginning of the letter).  And I continued doing that for some time.

Except for the Lord’s messages to the seven churches in chapters two and three, I probably wouldn’t do it that way if I were to preach through it again.  And that’s why, for the last several chapters (since about chapter twelve), I haven’t broken it down into smaller portions for you.  The continuity is just too severely broken by that.

It’s already broken to a great extent by the chapters and verses; that’s pretty evident.  There just comes a point at which retaining the continuity becomes a huge task!  It’s a complication that confronts me every week.

There’s no way to preach through the letter without some point of reference.  Although I wonder about it sometimes, I can’t stand up here on Sunday morning and begin preaching the Revelation of Jesus Christ – part one hundred and seventy one!  You have to have some point of reference.


At some point I have to do what works the best and include a lot of review… go over and over things; read Moses and the prophets again – read the words of our Lord again, and then again… make it all familiar.


Other decisions to be made in the exegesis have to do (just for another example here) with punctuation.  Because of the perfections of God’s Word from the beginning to the end, there is continuity of language.  So there is some clarity as to how the Greek words and phrases of the Revelation are to be translated.

However, the punctuation is an entirely different issue!  And that’s frustrating as well!  When John received all of this (by sight and by hearing the spoken word), what was being revealed (i.e. what he saw – what he heard) of course wasn’t punctuated!  And when he wrote it down in this letter, he didn’t use any periods and commas and semi-colons and question marks; and there are no capital letters to indicate the beginning of a new sentence!

And there are no quotation marks, either!

So, for example, as John hears words directly from the tabernacle, or from the one-and-only Archangel – Michael (as he does here in verses two and three), he writes them down without quotation marks.  And, making it even more difficult, sometimes what is said is, itself, a quote from another, or it’s that which has been written in God’s Word previously… so there are quotations within quotations!

That’s the case here in chapter eighteen… in verses sixteen, eighteen and nineteen.  The common translations, along with their “dynamic equivalence” approaches to the text, are all-over-the-place with these quotations marks, and you can’t tell who’s saying what when you’re reading them!  And a few of those translations have no quotation marks at all; and it’s pretty hard to make good sense out of them.  (It’s probably better, though, than having quotation marks in the wrong places, as is found in some of them.)

Decisions that are made with regard to punctuation have to be made by knowing the context, and by reading what God said through the prophets and by Jesus and the apostles.  Where does a quotation begin and end?  Who is speaking; and who are they quoting when they’re speaking?

And then, where does a thought end and a period is to be supplied?  Surely John heard “pauses” and “emphases” in the mighty words proceeding from the heaven! 

In a series (such as is found here in verses twelve and thirteen), are there to be commas or semi-colons or a combination of both?  (Thankfully, that one was fairly easy.)  All said and done, we have to have a “readable” text… as close as possible to what John saw and heard.


Adding to the problems and frustrations of translation is the fact that there’s no rhyme or reason, most of the time, to the numerical breakdown of the verses - or the chapters; so they aren’t very helpful….in fact, just the opposite!  If I didn’t have to point you to a specific place in the text, it might be better if I would just leave them out entirely!  The Churches that received this letter didn’t have numbered chapters and verses!  But then we’re back to part one hundred and seventy one!

The Churches didn’t have those commas and periods and question marks either!  When they received this letter and heard it read, and listened to the preaching and teaching; they heard the references to Moses and the prophets; they learned the direct references to the words of Jesus in the Gospels; and they had all learned from the preaching of the apostles and their letters to the Churches.

And that’s what we have to do. 

Just like they had to do, we have to hear the words of Moses and the prophets; and we have to hear the words of Jesus and His apostles, because they all appear here in the Revelation!  It is, indeed, the “capstone” of the entire Revelation of God.  The written Word of God is “filled up” right here – all for us to hear!

The remnant of Israel scattered into the nations had been taught by the apostles and disciples of Jesus as they were found; and they all knew what to expect – what was “about to be” (even though there were some “doubters” and unbelievers among them).  So when they heard the text of John’s letter, they would have rejoiced that it was all near (coming to pass quickly); and, having been previously taught by the apostles, they would have been comfortable with what they were hearing… and expectant of what was to occur.  They had heard much the same things before, you see.

That’s not the case with the modern Church though, is it?  The modern Church has been raised in dispensationalism for the most part; and so the Revelation is all a very mysterious “future” thing!  This was all in the immediate future for the original Churches; but not for today’s Church!  For us, it’s all past (except for the fullness of our Lord’s Kingdom!

And the fact that modern Churches don’t spend a lot of time in the older Scripture means that they haven’t heard God’s language through Moses and the prophets!  So, therefore John’s text sounds a bit “weird” to them.  Of course, that just adds to the mystery!

And, aside from the dispies, most of the remainder of the Church thinks that there’s a kingdom only in heaven; “our Lord’s Kingdom is up there”, they say!  “That’s where our ultimate ‘home’ is!  It’s a spiritual kingdom”.  So, as a result of that thinking, there’s this “separation” between the Kingdom of our Lord and this creation!  So they end up saying “well, this is all about a spiritual kingdom, and if there’s something important in Revelation, then I’m for it.”

So, we’ve all been “acclimated” to one or the other of these two “attitudes” toward The Revelation.  It’s all the Church has heard for many years!

But we’ve been introduced once again to the perfect continuity in Scripture… that The Revelation of Jesus Christ is the fullness of God’s Word, and that God’s language is the same as that of the older Scripture, and that John’s text can be “recognized” as having been prophesied previously by God through Moses and the prophets, and by Jesus and His apostles.  And therefore, although fraught with the difficulty of retention, it can be understood.  (And it can even be properly punctuated!)

The first Christian Churches in the nations would have recognized these things when they received this letter; but we have to review, review, review!  We have to be reminded!

What’s happened to the Church lately is similar to having been indoctrinated to things like evolution.  Six or seven generations of public schooling has catechized the public into this more enlightened and “sophisticated” humanism.  (They think it’s sophisticated, anyway.)  Darwinism has made it such that now we have to exert “effort” to re-examine everything that’s said about this creation, and do so from God’s point of view!

So, too, the Revelation.

Review.  Examine.  Review some more.  Read some more.

As we go along, I’m becoming more and more aware of the “conditioning” that has taken place during these later generations of the Church.  We see what we’re prepared to see!

But we have to get to the place where, when reading John’s text, we are prepared to recognize it for what it is… as a whole and in all its parts.  It ought to be “second-nature” to us to read any part of The Revelation and immediately understand what’s being said, and why.

The previous milenialists indoctrinations have to go!  The “conditioning” and “programming” that we’ve all received through the last several generations has to go.  It has to be so exposed that we’re appalled at the way The Revelation has been treated!  John’s words have to become so clear that we’re distressed at the imaginative treatment given to them.

Along with our first Churches in the nations, we must rejoice in the continuity of God’s Word and the revelation of His sovereign purpose, and glory in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and anticipate the further fullness of His work!

We see what we’re prepared to see.  We have to get to the place where nothing in this letter is obscure and mysterious.  And we have to get to the place where all of that previous conditioning becomes obscure!  We need to be able to say “how could I have ever thought that?  How could anybody think that?  This is so clear – how could anybody preach that?”

So we have to review.  And we have to go back to the words of God through the prophets again and again (which we will do here in this chapter eighteen).  It has to become “natural” that we think with the mind of God.  After all, we belong to Him, and we are to think His thoughts after Him.

Having been re-born in Him and having a new heritage in Him, it would be subversive now to think independently.  It should be a “matter of course” – a pre-disposition, a penchant – it should be instinctive and spontaneous for us to look at God’s creation and His history and His written Word as He sees them and as He has revealed them… all in light of His divine purpose.

In order to transcend all of that programming that the Church has received, we have to become so familiar with God’s Word through Moses and the prophets and the Christ and His apostles, that the reading and preaching and hearing of the Revelation of Jesus Christ becomes a delight rather than a chore!  Rather than struggling with the vagueries of dramatic future fiction, we need to be confirmed and “made alive” with what God has done – and His purpose!

When we finish here, we must be so “settled” in, and assured of, what is written that we shouldn’t even need a premeditated, point-by-point, rebuttal of all the more recent “ramblings”.  They should be so absurd to us that they don’t deserve any consideration from us at all!

That’s our objective here… our purpose.  Chapter eighteen is the covenantal lawsuit against Jerusalem and all Israel.  All the creatures in the heaven, and the shed blood of all the righteous in history, and Moses and the prophets, and Jesus and His apostles – all brought the lawsuit against the harlot; and God, having pronounced her guilty, now pronounces the sentence in the lawsuit.  And never again will she enjoy any of His benefits.


There had been a betrothal; and many gifts had been given to the family and the bride to be.  But all through the betrothal period, she had played the harlot; and therefore she wasn’t prepared when it was time for the wedding feast of the King’s Son.  So the King’s Son sent out His servants (diaconas) to gather up the sick and the broken and the destitute and the blind and the deaf and the demon-possessed… and the prostitutes and tax collectors.  And they all came to recline with Him fully arrayed in wedding garments… (all except one).

And the king had all who didn’t prepare for all the festivities destroyed and their city burned.

And now we are prepared to enter chapter eighteen and hear the sentencing phase of the lawsuit against the covenanted (betrothed) people that were not prepared for the arrival of the King’s Son.

As chapter seventeen revealed, during the entire period before the arrival of the King’s Son, she had rejected the great wealth that was given to her at her betrothal.  She didn’t want those gifts.  She didn’t want anything that was freely given to her.  In God’s perspective she wanted all the fine things of life by being paid for her favors!

In other words, she was a harlot during the betrothal to the Son of God!

She had been chosen from among many, freed from slavery in Egypt, betrothed (covenanted) at Sinai, given a paradise land of her own with incredible wealth; and she had been promised the arrival of her Messiah/King at the appointed time!

What was required of her during the covenant/betrothal was chastity, and all of the expectancy and anticipation and excitement of His arrival, and the consummation!

But what God literally saw, and what John was shown (in chapter seventeen) was the betrothed sitting atop the beast, having been paid for her favors in gold and precious stones and pearls and fine purples and crimson linens!  And she had done the same with all three of the previous beasts!

However, this fourth beast arose from the sea of humanity at the appointed time of the arrival of the Son!  And as the parable in Matthew twenty two says, there was no preparation for His arrival; there was no joyous anticipation of the consummation; nobody made wedding garments for the festivities… there was no expectation of His arrival at all, so there were no preparations.

And when He did arrive, some just went about their business as if it was just a non-event; but with most there was only murderous hostility, for the betrothed was busy using her enchanting power over the kings and merchants of the world by prostituting herself.  Her betrothed had unexpectedly arrived while she was playing the harlot, and she hated Him!!

And the King (the Father of the Groom) was “wroth”.  After all, He had invested a huge “dowry” for this bride.

Chapter eighteen is the sentencing of the betrothed (but continually unfaithful) people.


Verse one begins with the words “After those….”

After having been shown the Lamb of God standing on the new Mount Zion with all of the hundred and forty-four thousands of the elect remnant of Israel (the “daughter of Zion) in chapter fourteen, John is then shown messengers sent from the tabernacle in the heaven.

At the direction of the newly crowned King of Kings, three messengers came forth with sickles for the harvest.

In chapters fifteen and sixteen, one of God’s cherubim gave seven bowls full of the wrath of God to seven messengers to pour out upon the land.

And in chapter seventeen (which I’m going to read again for you), one of those seven messengers was sent to show John the harlot sitting atop the beast with the seven heads and ten horns.  Listen to it one more time:


1)    Then one of the seven messengers having the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying ‘here, I show you the judgment of the great harlot that sits by many waters

2)    with whom the kings of the earth did fornicate and those indwelling the land were made drunk from the wine of her fornications.

3)    And it bore me away in spirit into isolation.  Then I saw a woman sitting upon a crimson beast full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns;

4)    and the woman was purple and crimson clothed, adorned in gold and precious stone and pearls, and having in her hand a gold cup full of abominable things and the unclean things of her fornications;

5)    and a name, a mystery, having been written on her forehead: BABYLON THE GREAT, the mother of the harlots and the land’s abominations;

6)    and I saw the woman drunkened from the blood of the saints and from the blood of Jesus’ martyrs.  And when I saw her I wondered with great wonder!

7)    And the messenger said to me, “for what did you wonder?  I will speak to you the mystery of the woman and the beast bearing her that has the seven heads and the ten horns.

8)    The beast that you saw was, but isn’t; and it is about to go up from the abyss and to go forth into destruction.  Then those dwelling in the land whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world will be astonished when they behold the beast that was and is not and though is!

9)    Here, the mind that has wisdom!  The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, for there are seven kings.

10) The five did fall in ruin; the one is; the other did not yet come.  But when he comes it is necessary for him to remain briefly.

11) Then the beast that was and is not and is eighth and of the seven goes forth into destruction.

12) And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings whose kingdoms had not yet been taken but receive authority as kings for one hour with the beast.

13) These have one mind; and they give their power and authority to the beast.

14) These will make war with the Lamb.  But the Lamb will overcome them; for He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  And the ones called and chosen and faithful are those with Him!”

15) Then (the messenger) says to me, “the waters that you saw where the harlot sits are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.

16) And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot and make her a desolation and naked and eat her flesh and burn her in fire;

17) for God did put into their hearts to do His purpose and be of one mind to give their power to the beast until the words of God are completed.

18) And the woman that you saw is the great city having power over the kings of the earth.


“After those…”, after those messengers (verse one of our new chapter), “I saw another messenger, one having great authority, come down from the heaven; and the land was emblazoned by His glory.”


After those (messengers) that were sent out from the tabernacle, all being of the same “kind”, and all having been given authority, there now comes another One of a different “kind”.  And this Messenger isn’t “given” authority; and He isn’t “sent” from the tabernacle!

This One has great authority (John is very specific in his language here)!  And of His Own accord He “comes down” from the heaven… He isn’t “sent”!

And as He comes down from the heaven, His glory – glory that belongs to Him – emblazoned the land!  This isn’t the “reflected” glory of God in His creatures.  It is the personal glory of God the Son as He appears, as before, as “Michael” – Archangel, Arch-Messenger – the One, the only One, Who has been given all authority over all the creatures in the heaven, and on the earth and in the abyss.

The Hebrew name: Micha–el, means “As God”.  The prophet Daniel, you remember, was visited by Michael (called the Prince of His people); and Daniel described His glory (as John does here). 

Back in chapter twelve of John’s letter, the apostle is shown Satanos – the dragon – being cast from the glory cloud down to the earth by Michael.

So, this is the third occasion in all of Scripture in which God the Son (The Word of God) appears as Michael.  The first being to cast Satan from the heaven; the second to inform Daniel of that which would take place in “the last days”; and the third being the pronouncement here to John – which we find written in verses two and three (which we’ll come to next Lord’s Day).

But great authority was His.  And His glory was such that the land was emblazoned, illumined, made manifest. He “shone” in all His glory… as He had prophesied!

And I take you back to the prophetic words of Jesus to His apostles in Matthew chapter twenty-four.  Listen carefully to the words….


15) When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, the thing spoken through Daniel the prophet, stand in a holy place (let the one reading understand),

16) then let those in Judea escape into the mountains;

17) the one on the housetop, let him not come down to remove things from his house;

18) and the one in the field, let him not turn back to remove his garment.

19) But woe to those having in womb [with child] and those giving suck in those days.

20) But pray that your escape shall come neither during winter nor in Sabbath,

21) for then there will be great tribulation such as has not happened from origin of cosmos until the present, nor shall there ever be.

22) And lest those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but because of the elect those days will be cut short.

23) Then should anyone say to you, “lo! Here the Christ!”  Or “there,” you shall not believe;

24) for pseudochrists and pseudoprophets will be raised up, and they will present great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

25) Lo, I told you beforehand.

26) Therefore should they say to you, “lo, he is in the desert,” you shall not go forth; “lo, in the chambers,” you shall not believe.

27) For just as the brightness comes out from dawnings and shines until settings, so will be the Coming (Parousia) of the Son of Man.

28) Wherever be the fall, there the eagles shall be gathered.


And as we see here in our text, the whole land was emblazoned by His glory; and now, in the light, it can be clearly seen for what it is.


We’ll have much more to hear from Matthew and from the prophets of old next Lord’s Day as we look deeply into the words here in verses two and three… and beyond.