The Reign of Christ, 17:1-22:5
1. The ruin of the harlot, Babylon, 17:1-19:10
iii] The judgment of BabylonSynopsis
In a new vision, an angel comes down from heaven and announces the fall of Babylon the Great - "she has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit." John then hears a voice from heaven calling out to the people of God telling them to "come out" of Babylon so as to escape the horror about to fall on the city. She thinks that peace and luxury are her possession, but her portion is "death, mourning and famine."
The kingdom of God is at hand; the secular city is set to self-destruct, so now is the time to escape.
i] Context: See 17:1-6a.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8.
iii] Structure: The judgment of Babylon:
The fall of Babylon is announced, v1-3;
A heavenly announcement to the citizens, v4-8:
Believers are told to escape while there is still time, v4;
The ground for judgment, v5;
"her sins are piled up to heaven."
A divine pronouncement of judgment, v6-8;
an eye for an eye.
In this new vision, John sees an angel with exousian megalhn, "great authority", an authority presumably in accord with the importance of his announcement. The angel's announcement that Babylon the Great is epesen, "fallen" provides the reason for her fall, namely, her excessive wealth - "the maddening wine of her adulteries", v3.
John then hears a voice from heaven, v4. John seems to use this terminology for a word from the Lord himself. This word begins with an instruction to the people of God; "come out of her, my people." It is interesting how the paradigm of "the abomination of desolation", as it was played out in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, realized Jesus' instruction to "flee", Matt.24:16. According to tradition, the Christian community left Jerusalem and settled in Pella prior to the city's destruction. From the perspective of realized eschatology (the now of judgment), there is a strong belief that believers will be aware of the final tribulation and be able to extract themselves from the worst of its troubles prior to the final judgment. Of course, we are well aware of those, over the years, who have misread the signs and this because "you know neither the day nor the hour", Matt.25:13. From the perspective of inaugurated eschatology (the not yet of judgment), commentators are inclined to interpret the instruction to "come out" in ethical terms, ie., have nothing to do with Babylon's sins.
The voice from heaven that calls for the judgment of Babylon (the secular city), establishes the basis for that call ("her sins are piled up to heaven"), and then explains something of the coming judgment - for her it is diploun, "doubled". "Doubled" may not mean double the trouble, but simply an equality of trouble - the trouble she causes = the trouble that comes upon her, ie., an eye for an eye, lex talionis, "the law of retribution." This way of understanding what John means is supported by v7a - "give her as much torment and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself." The actual sin of Babylon is probably to be found in v7b. Richardson calls it "overweening pride ....... the assumption that she will never be judged." For thinking that she survives independent of "the Lord God who judges", she will face inevitable "death, mourning and famine", v8.
Many commentators take Babylon to mean Rome in this passage, cf., Boring, Osborne, ... There is no question that Babylon serves as a paradigm for Rome, but also for every other godless secular city, state, society, even Jerusalem in 70AD. Callahan, in Apocalypse as Critique of Political Economy, HBT, 1999, makes the point that chapter 18 serves as "a critique in apocalyptic idiom of the political economy of Rome", but not just Rome!
Note the OT allusions in this passage, drawing on the words of the prophets with respect to God's judgment on historic Babylon, Isaiah 13, 14, 47, Jeremiah 50, 51, and Habakkuk 2. Also Ezekiel 27 and 28 focused on Tyre, another example of a city state draped in the harlot's finery, the secular city, "humanist society", Wilcock.
Text - 18:1
The judgment of Babylon, v1-8: i] The fall of Babylon is announced, v1-3. In John's next vision he sees "another" angel announce the "fall" of Babylon, now a haunt for demons. The angelic speech has timing difficulties, with a mingling of the past, present and future. Ressiguie untangles the time issue by suggesting that v1-3 is spoken immediately after the fall of Babylon, v4-8 before the fall of Babylon, and v9-20 after the fall of Babylon. Mathewson suggests that v2-3 is a summary of the fall of Babylon (past time), v4-8 is hortatory (present time), and v9-20 describes the effects of the fall (future time). So, the aorist epesen, "it is fallen", which primarily expresses perfective aspect (punctiliar action), is probably past referencing (note Smalley who argues that it is future referencing). Of course, when dealing with divine beings who function outside the normal constraints of time (like Dr. Who!!), past, present and future are one in the same.
meta + acc. "After [this]" - after [this I saw another angel]. Temporal use of the preposition. With eidon, "I saw", it serves to introduce a step in the narrative. Presumably the angel is not one of those who poured out the seven plagues; he is "another" angel. He radiates the divine light, although that doesn't mean he is Christ, contra Beale.
katabainonta (katabainw) pres. part. "coming down" - The participle serves as the complement of the direct object "angel" in a double accusative construction.
ek + gen. "from [heaven]" - Expressing source / origin.
econta (ecw) pres. part. "he had" - having. This accusative participle stands in concord / agreement with "angel" and so may be treated as adjectival, attributive; "another angel ...... who had great authority." The NIV has opted to treat it as a finite verb; cf., 1:16.
ek + gen. "[illuminated] by [his splendor]" - [and the earth was illuminated] from [the glory of him]. Here expressing means, "by"; a means consisting of a source.
en + dat. "with [a mighty voice]" - [and he called out] in [a strong voice]. Instrumental, expressing means, as NIV.
legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to call out"; redundant.
epesen (piptw) aor. "Fallen" - [babylon the great] fell, fell. Cf., Isaiah 21:9. As Koester notes, traits of Babylon can be seen in imperial Rome, but so also every other godless city state, "but even the most powerful city is doomed to fall." See above.
daimoniwn (on) gen. "[a dwelling] for [demons]" - [and become a habitation] of [demons]. The genitive is probably best viewed as adjectival, idiomatic / local; "a house ("resort", Phillips; "haunt", Barclay) where demons dwell." Again John draws on the prophets' description of ruined Babylon, cf., Isaiah 13:21-22. This is what will happen to the faithless secular society.
pantoV pneumatoV akaqartou gen. "[a haunt] of every impure spirit" - [a prison] of every unclean spirit [and a prison of every unclean bird, and a prison of every unclean beast]. This genitive construction, as with the series that follows, may again be treated as adjectival, idiomatic / local, "a prison (space = ruined place, although Osborne prefers "prison house") where every impure spirit habitats, and ......", although Mathewson suggests that they are verbal, objective, as NIV. The word "prison" basically means "enclosed space", so a space inhabited by impure spirits, unclean birds and detestable beasts; a devastated desolate place (at the time it was believed that evil spirits inhabited such places). "The haunt of every unclean spirit, the haunt of every unclean and loathsome bird", Barclay - note that Barclay omits "a prison of every unclean beast", words not found in some manuscripts, but a threefold repetition would be expected.
memishmenou (misew) gen. perf. mid./pas. part. "detestable [animal]" - [a prison of every unclean and] having become hated [beast]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "beast", as NIV.
oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Babylon has become a haunt for evil spirits.
ek + gen. "-" - [all the nations have drunk] from [the wine]. Here expressing source / origin, "from"; "all the nations have drunk from the heady wine of her fornication", Cassirer.
tou qumou (oV) gen. "[the] maddening [wine of her adulteries]" - of the anger / intense desire [of the sexual immorality / fornication of her]. As with "of the sexual immorality / fornication", the genitive is adjectival, epexegetic, specifying "the wine", so Smalley, but note how the NIV (as Cassirer above) has taken it as attributive, with the second as epexegetic. Aune translates the three genitives together as "the wine that is her immoral passion", ie., the first, "of the intense desire / passion", is epexegetic, with the second, "of the fornication / immorality", attributive, limiting the first, with the third, "of her", probably possessive (Mathewson opts for verbal, subjective). It is always difficult unravelling a series of genitives, but as Mathewson notes, together they serve to give prominence to the reason for Babylon's fall, and this is where their importance lies. Here the point is that Babylon has infected others with her evil. The secular city chases after the gods of humanism, drawing others into her quest, while casting aside the one God who creates and sustains the universe.
thV ghV (h) gen. "[the kings] of the earth" - [and the kings] of the earth. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination; "the kings who rule over the earth."
meta + gen. "with [her]" - [committed adultery] with [her]. Expressing accompaniment / association. As already noted in the Revelation, the image of fornication is more a symbol of religious apostasy than "unrestrained debauchery", Smith, or for-profit commercialism, so Beale. None-the-less, unrestrained sex and greed are commonly evident in a society which has chosen to ignore the revealed will of God.
thV ghV (h) gen. "[the merchants] of the earth" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive / idiomatic; "the merchants who trade around the globe."
ek + gen. "from" - [become rich] from [the power]. Expressing source / origin, but possibly a means consisting of a source, so instrumental, "by", or possibly even cause, "because of."
tou strhnouV (oV) gen. "[her] excessive [luxuries]" - of sensuality [of her]. The sense here is that Babylon grew rich from thV dunamewV, "the power (Heb. "wealth / resources")" generated by lucrative trade. Again the genitive authV, "her", is probably possessive, but the genitive tou strhnouV is unclear. Meanings such as "luxury, insolence, sensuality, arrogance, self-indulgence, ...." are offered. The NIV, also Aune, opts for "excessive luxury", ie., the genitive is adjectival, attributed. Yet, it is probably adjectival, attributive, limiting the power exercised by the merchants in their trading, a trade which has made them rich and left others poor; "the merchants grew rich from the corrupt power of her." "The entrepreneurs enriched themselves by the wonton misuse of her (Babylon, the secular city) power and authority."
ii] A heavenly announcement to the citizens, v4-8. a) Escape while there is still time. The divine announcement begins with an instruction to come out from the whore of Babylon, the secular city. Two reasons are provided in support of the call, namely, the danger of syncretism and the inevitability of judgment. As already discussed in the Interpretation, the application of this instruction is somewhat fraught. It comes with a long history of God's dealings with Israel - "go out from Babylon", Isa.48:20, "flee from Babylon", Jer.50:8, cf., Jer.51:6, 45. Commentators reject a literal interpretation, although whose to say in the tribulation, when the secular city implodes, an escape to the mountains may not be a wise choice, cf., Mk.13. Smalley thinks that the call to "come out" "provides a warning for wavering believers, that they should not participate in systemic and idolatrous compromise. The call can also act as an encouragement to the saints who have avoided such behavior, that they continue in their faith and faithfulness", so also Beale. So, the usual approach to "come out" is ethical; "Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of it, purify yourselves", Isa.52:11.
kai "then" - and. Indicating a step in the narrative; used instead of de.
legousan (legw) pres. part. "say" - [i heard another voice from heaven] saying. The participle may be classified as attendant circumstance; adverbial, modal; or as an object complement. John will often use the participle "saying" to introduce speech; see legwn 1:17.
ex (ek) + gen. "[come out] of [her]" - [come out of] from [her, my people]. Expressing separation, "away from." A typical stylistic use of the preposition following a verb with the same prepositional prefix; exelqate .... ex. "Come out from her, O my people", Phillips.
iJna mh + subj. "so that [you will] not [share]" - that not = lest [you may participate in the sins of her]. Introducing a negated purpose clause; "so as not to be led to make common cause with her in her sins", Cassirer.
iJna mh + subj. "so that [you will] not [receive]" - [and] that not = lest [you may receive]. Again introducing a negated purpose clause.
ek + gen. "any of [her plagues]" - from = some of [the plagues of her]. The preposition is usually taken here to serve as a partitive genitive, although it is unusual for a prepositional construction like "from her plagues" to be placed before the hina clause. Smalley, Osborne, Aune, Mathewson, ... argue that it is probably down to John trying to create a chiastic structure:
so that you do not share
in her sins
and from her plagues
that you may not endure
So, the intended purpose of God's instruction that the people separate from Babylon is that they will not find themselves sucked into her sins, "partake in her sins", and second, so that they will escape the coming judgment, "in order that you may not receive her plagues", cf., Jer.51:45b.
b) The ground for judgment, v5. Babylon's exceeding transgressions. "When God remembers injustice, he acts in judgment", Koester, cf., Jer.14:10.
oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why believers should "come out of" Babylon; "come out in order that ... you may not participate in her sins, because her sins are piled as high as heaven."
authV gen. pro. "her [sins]" - [the sins] of her [were stuck together]. The genitive is possessive, emphatic by position, ie., placed before the noun "sins".
acri + gen. "up to [heaven]" - Spacial use of the preposition; "up to, as far as." The rhetorical hyperbole expresses the exceeding nature of Babylon's transgressions; they pile up to the gates of heaven
authV gen. pro. "her [crimes]" - [and god remembered the unrighteousness] of her. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, indicating the sin / unrighteousness which she personally must answer for, although it may also be classified as verbal, subjective, where the focus in on her doing sin / unrighteousness.
c) A divine pronouncement of judgment, v6-8. The angel continues his address and now calls for divine judgment on Babylon / the secular city. The problem we face in these verses is the use of the second person; "you give back / render to her even as she rendered." The most likely sense is that we have here a divine instruction to God's avenging angels, so Smalley, cf., Rev.16. There are, of course, other possibilities: Blount argues that John is reflecting on Jeremiah 51:9 - God has remembered Babylon's transgressions, "and now, so will the rest of creation", cf., 16:19; Thomas argues that it is a word to the ten kings who will destroy Babylon, cf., 17:16; Beale thinks it is a call on God to act in judgment; Koester argues that the "you" are the readers, believers, who bring down Babylon "by pronouncing divine judgment" on her; Aune argues that it is a general call on believers to become divine agents of the righteous judgment of the wicked.
I am old enough to remember the church acting as the women's police in society, and now I watch as we ourselves are condemned by that same society for our failure to protect children under our care, or even in more practical terms, to preserve for posterity church buildings given into our charge by the local community - these days we sell up our branch churches and grab the money! The least impressive of the list of possibilities above is the idea that the established church should busy itself with speck removal.
auth/ dat. pro. "[give back] to her" - [give, give back, pay, render as also she rendered] to her. Dative of indirect object.
wJV "as [she has given]" - The comparative here is probably used to introduce a concrete example, technically a Heb. predicate accusative; "render to her what she rendered to others", Moffatt; "in her own coin", REB.
kai "-" - and. The first kai is probably adjunctive, "also". This one may be ascensive, "even double", but it may well be epexegetic, introducing an explanation of "to give back ....", "that is ....."
kata + acc. "[pay her back double] for [what she has done]" - [double the double = repay equal] according to [the works of her]. Expressing a standard; "in accordance with, corresponding to." See Interpretation above for "double" taking the sense "equivalent, duplicate, repeat", so reinforcing the Biblical idea of an eye for an eye; "repay Babylon the equivalent of what she has done", Smalley.
en + dat. "-" - [mix a double = equal draught] in [the cup which she mixed]. Local, expressing space; metaphorical. Note that the dative relative pronoun w|/, "which", has attracted to its dative antecedent, "cup
auth/ dat. "-" - to her. Dative of interest, disadvantage; "in the cup she mixed, mix an equal portion for her." On the basis of lex talionis, the law of retribution, since Babylon has piled up her sin to the gates of heaven, God will pay her back in kind.
oJsa ..... tosouton "[give her] as much [.........] as [..... she gave herself]" - to the degree that [she glorified herself and lived in luxury] to the same degree [give torment and grief to her]. Correlative construction of degree, cf., BAGD 586 / BDAG 729.3 Note that the personal pronoun authn, "her", serves as a reflective, "herself", while the dative personal pronoun auth/, "to her", serves as a dative of direct object for the verb "to give." The implication of Babylon's luxurious living is that "she has brought grief to others" and as a consequence "she receives the same measure of pain and grief", Koester. "To the extent that she has taken pride in herself, that she has played the wonton, she is to have torment and wretchedness inflicted upon her", Cassirer.
oJti "-" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why "you" should "give her torment and grief", namely, "because" "she has glorified herself rather than God", Osborne. Those with such hubris in the face of God will come to naught, Dan.5:20, Lk.14:11.
en + dat. "in [her heart]" - in [the heat of her she says]. Local, expressing space; metaphorical.
oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what she says in her heart.
ou mh + subj. "[I will] never [mourn]" - [i sit a queen and a widow I am not, and grief] not not = never [may = will i see]. Subjunctive of emphatic negation. John seems to allude to Isaiah 47:8 where the harlot city suffers what she thinks she cannot suffer. "I am a queen on a throne! I am no widow forlorn! Sorrow will never touch me", Barclay.
dia touto "therefore" - because of this. This causal construction is inferential, as NIV; "therefore on a single day her plagues will be upon her", Berkeley. Given the presumptuous claims made by the hoar of Babylon / the secular city, v7, therefore what she claims will never happen, happens.
en + dat. "in [one day]" - in [one day will come the plagues]. Temporal use of the preposition. Describing destruction that is swift and sudden.
authV gen. pro. "her" - of her. The genitive is adjectival, attributive / idiomatic; "therefore the plagues which she has brought on herself will come in a single day."
en + dat. "[she will be consumed] by [fire]" - [death and grief and famine, and] in [fire she will be burned up]. The preposition is instrumental, expressing means, "by / with fire", as NIV. The description well describes what happens to a city set upon by an enemy. In a prolonged siege, famine, plague, disease, death and mourning are all part of the package, and then in the final assault, the city is burned to the ground. All this will occur in a single day.
oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why in one day Babylon will be destroyed, namely, "because" the Lord God is mighty.
iscuroV kurioV oJ qeoV "mighty is the Lord God" - mighty is lord the god. If we take the order as in the Gk., as NIV, then "mighty" is the nominative subject of an assumed verb to be, "Lord" is the predicate nominative, and "God" stands in apposition to "Lord". Other arrangements are possible; "the Lord God who has condemned her is mighty indeed", Cassirer.
oJ krinaV (krinw) aor. part. "who judges [her]" - the one having judged [her]. As in the NIV, the participle is best treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting "God".