Revelation

18:20-24

The Reign of Christ, 17:1-22:5

1. The ruin of the harlot, Babylon, 17:1-19:10

v] Babylon remembered

Synopsis

The voice from heaven (v4) continues to speak, calling on the people of God to rejoice at the destruction of Babylon. John then sees a "mighty angel" pick up a massive boulder and throw it into the sea. The angel then announces that this act illustrates the destruction that will fall on Babylon. The destruction will be complete: no more musicians, craftsmen, millers, no more light, no more celebrations , no more commerce, nothing but the stains of her evil.

 
Teaching

Rejoice! The kingdom of God is at hand; Babylon is no more.

 
Issues:

i] Context: See 17:1-6a.

 

ii] Background: See 1:1-8.

 

iii] Structure: Babylon remembered:

A heavenly instruction, v20;

"Rejoice, ... for God has judged her."

The destruction of Babylon, v21-24;

The vision of the boulder, v21;

The consequences, v22-23a;

All that she is, is no more.

The cause, v23b-24;

"so came upon you the blood of all the righteous", cf., Jer.51:49, Matt.23:35.

 

iv] Interpretation:

There is some debate as to who utters the words in v20 and whether they are part of the preceding passage, or a step in the narrative. The RSV, NAB, NIV, CEV translate the passage as if it is a word from the sea captains. The NIV11 separates v19 from v20, as does REB, Cassirer. The TEV seems to present the verse as if it's a word from John and the NJB tries to play it both ways. It does seem likely that the words are uttered by the voice from heaven (v4, but possibly the angel found in v1). So, the voice serves to move the reader away from the lament for Babylon, so Smalley, Beale, Koester, Yarbro Collins. Rather than a lament, we have a call to God's people, both in heaven and earth, to rejoice at the destruction of the secular city. In the voice from heaven, God calls on his people to rejoice, rather than lament the fall of the secular city (corrupt human civilization bent on suppressing the divine will and those who dare submit to it;. "the godless world order", Richardson).

In the following verses, John draws on Jeremiah's prophecy against Babylon, cf., Jeremiah chapters 50 to 51. In John's vision he sees an angel throw a large boulder into the sea in much the same way Jeremiah's servant threw a scroll, tied to a rock, into the Euphrates river. The action of the angel, as with Jeremiah's servant, symbolizes the destruction of historic Babylon.

The angel goes on to describe what is destroyed. Instead of depicting the evils of the harlot Babylon, her adulterous liaisons with the Satanic no-gods of this age (secular ideologies - materialism, socialism, ...) and her cajoling of the rest of humanity into her adultery, we are presented with the outward beauty of her vesture; culture, design, light, celebration, ....., the horn of plenty. The glory of the secular city is superficial, and this is particularly evident in the "great ones of the earth" who reside within the city, v23. These "great ones" are the "merchants", the money makers, not the philosophers, educators, health professionals and the like. And beneath the superficial veneer of prosperity there is the blood-stains of the saints and witnesses to Jesus, and so "as the lamps of the city go out, a fearful stillness descends; no more sounds of leisure or industry or human relationships. The stone sinks beneath the surface, and civilization is as though it had never been", Wilcock.

So, the judgment of Babylon brings about "an absence of all that makes life worthwhile", and this because of "the arrogance of the merchants, the deception of sorcery and the slaughter of God's people and others. Everyone who reads and hears this today must ask the all-important question: Whose side am I on?", Osborne. "Babylon's influence on the earth is destructive, and its future is that it will be destroyed. But God is the Creator, whose purposes culminate in a new creation and a New Jerusalem", Koester.

 
Text - 18:20

Babylon remembered, v20-24: i] A heavenly instruction, v20. As indicated above, this instruction is presumably a further divine word from "another voice from heaven", v4, a word to the Christian community. "Those who participated in the sins of Babylon mourn her passing, those who were faithful to God rejoice that the name of God has triumphed and his people have been vindicated", Osborne.

eufrainou (eurfainw) pres. imp. "rejoice" - The singular verb is used with the first nominative in the list, "heaven", singular, irrespective of the others in the list, "saints, apostle and prophets", plural.

ep (epi) + dat. "over [her]" - Here John's favorite spacial preposition is probably indicating basis / cause; "because of what has befallen her." "Be glad heaven, because of her destruction", TEV.

ourane (oV) voc. "you heavens" - heaven [and the saints, and the apostles, and the prophets]. Vocative / nominative of address, "O heaven." The following nominatives serve as vocatives and accordingly take an article.

oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why heaven and earth should rejoice.

uJwn gen. pro. "[the judgment she imposed] on you" - [god made judgment the judgment] of you [from her]. The genitive "of you" is best viewed as adjectival, possessive, "your judgment"; "God judged your judgment from (ek = source / origin) her." John's short-talk in this clause is somewhat problematic and gets reworked in numerous ways by translators. The NIV opts for the idea that Babylon is getting back what she deserves and this is the likely sense, ie., the principle of lex talionis evident throughout the Revelation, cf., 18:6, 19:2, 20:12-13. The judgment God makes against Babylon is equal to / comparable to / because of (Mathewson) the judgment she inflicted on God's people. God justly turns the charge brought against God's people by the accuser Babylon back onto the accuser herself; "God has exacted from Babylon the sentence she passed on the saints", Smalley, so also Sweet, Caird, Mounce. "[God] has imposed on her the sentence she passed on you", REB. Beale notes some of the many possible translations offered: "God has judged her and vindicated you", Lohmeyer; "God has given judgment for / in favor of you (uJmwn, genitive of advantage) against (ek, = opposition) her", cf., RSV, Zerwick; "in the judgment against her he has vindicated your cause", NEB; "God pronounced on her the judgment she passed on you (uJmwn, objective genitive)", cf., BAGD; "God executed severe judgment for you against her"; "God judged the judgment on you (which came) from her", Stuart, Apocalypse II. Oh dear! Anyway, we get the point; "God pronounced judgement on her on your behalf", NET.

 
v21

ii] The destruction of Babylon, v21-24. a) The vision of the boulder, v21. Now, in more detail, John describes the destruction of Babylon, first with the vision of an angel casting a boulder into the sea. This image serves to illustrate the coming day of judgment - she will be thrown down and not be found any longer, cf., Jer.51:63. Beale, so also Sweet, suggest that John's use of a "millstone" to describe the rock alludes to Matthew 18:6. Certainly "millstone" indicates that John's liqoV, "rock", is bigger than Jeremiah's small rock, so therefore the translation "boulder", but is John suggesting that "those (members of the church) who are guilty of such deception should take warning lest they suffer Babylon's fate"? Indeed, we should take the warning, but is John making this point?

kai "then" - and. Used here to indicate a step in the narrative, as de; "then ......."

ei|V adj. "a [mighty angel]" - one [strong angel lifted a stone]. Here used in the place of a personal pronoun such as tiV, "a certain angel", or heading toward an indefinite sense, as NIV.

wJV "the size of [a large millstone]" - like [a great millstone and threw it into the sea]. Comparative; "picked up a stone like a great millstone."

legwn (legw) pres. part. "and said" - saying. The NIV takes the participle as attendant on the verbs "lifted" and "threw", but it could be taken as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the angel's lifting and throwing, "saying", although in Revelation the use of this participle is primarily stylistic, cf., legwn 1:17.

oJrmhmati (a atoV) dat. "with [such] violence" - [thus] in violence [will babylon, the great city, be thrown, put down]. Hapax legomenon - once only use in the NT. The dative is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of her being put down; "with a violent onslaught" will she be thrown down, Zerwick.

ouJtwV adv. "such" - Modal adverb, expressing manner; "in this way will Babylon the great city be thrown down with a violent onslaught."

hJ megalh poliV (iV ewV) "the great city" - Standing in apposition to "Babylon".

ou mh ..... e[ti + subj. "never [to be found] again" - [and] not not = never [would it be found] again. This construction, the subjunctive of emphatic negation + the temporal adverb "again", takes the temporal sense "never anymore; "nevermore", Zerwick.

 
v22

b) The consequences of judgment, v22-23a. The sounds of affluence are ended: The musicians are silenced, cf., Ezk.26:13 with respect to Tyre. Craftsmen involved in the fine arts, pottery, woodworking, sculptors, stonemasons, glassmakers, weavers, ......, all gone; the mill for flour, silenced; the light from lamps, darkened; the sound of celebration, no more.

kiqarw/dwn (oV) gen. "[the music] of harpists" - [and sound] of harpists [and musicians, and flutists, and of trumpeters]. The genitive, as with the other musicians, limiting the head noun "sound", is usually classified as adjectival, verbal, subjective, "the sound produced by harpists", even ablative, source / origin, "from harpists", so Mathewson. "Silent the music of harpists and singers - You'll never hear flutes and trumpets again", Peterson.

ou mh ... e[ti "[will] never [be heard in you] again" - See v21 above. The preposition en, "in [you]", is local, expressing space.

tecnhV (h) gen. "[worker] of [any] trade" - [and every craftsmen, artisan] of [any] craft, skill, art [never would be found in you again]. Mathewson suggests that the genitive is adjectival, verbal, but it could be classified as attributive / idiomatic; "craftsmen who are skilled in every fine art."

mulou (oV) gen. "[the sound] of a millstone" - [and sound] of a mill [never would be heard in you again]. The genitive is again usually taken as adjectival, verbal, subjective, "the sound produced by a mill." "Never again will the sound of the mill-stone's grinding be heard in you!", Phillips.

 
v23a

lucnou (oV) "[the light] of a lamp" - [and light] of a lamp [would never shine in you again]. The genitive, as for "of bridegroom and bride", may be classified as adjectival, subjective, or attributive / idiomatic; see "of harpists", and "of a millstone", v22 above. See v21 for "will never shine in you again" and "will never be heard in you again." "Lamplight was a typical sign of life in a home, so extinguishing it is a metaphor for destruction (Job.18:6, 21:17", Koester. "The light from lamps, never again; never again laughter of bride and groom", Peterson.

 
v23b

c) The cause, v23b-24. In these final verses John provides reasons for the judgment of Babylon.

The first reason has to do with "the merchants" and their megistaneV, "greatness". It seems likely that John is being facetious, given that the trading class was anything but noble, even if wealthy; they were usually vulgar and corrupt. Babylon / the secular city glorifies wealth and profit over integrity; the wealthy are "the great ones" and yet they are the exploiters, anything but noble. It's hard not to observe how in Western society the business elite are fawned over by the media and politicians. They, with their obscene pay packets in the multi-millions, are "the great ones." For this we stand condemned, as does Babylon the Great.

The second cause relates to farmakeia, "sorcery, magic." Again, we should not take the word in a literal sense. "Babylon applied a kind of economic sorcery to delude the nations into believing that social security resided with it alone, cf., Isa.47:9", Boring. The power and glory of the secular city dupes the world into believing that economic and social advancement lies with atheistic humanism. In John's time, Rome well illustrates Babylon, deluding the world (as if by a magic spell) with the belief that submission to the god's of Rome and the imperial cult guarantees economic success.

The third reason relates to the shedding of blood. The secular city has the blood of humanity on it's hands, and in particular, God's own witnesses. Again, for John, Babylon's evil was well illustrated in Rome, both its persecution of Christianity, and its slaughter of all and every opponent to its imperial expansion. In our age, the blood shed by secular societies over the last century is a horror beyond imagination, a horror that God does not ignore.

oJti "-" - because [the merchants of you were the great ones of the earth], because [in/by the sorcery of you were deceived all the nations]. Introducing two causal clauses explaining why silence and darkness has overtaken Babylon; "because .......", see above.

thV ghV (h) gen. "the world's [important people]" - [the great ones] of the earth. The genitive is best viewed as adjectival, possessive, as NIV, or idiomatic / local, "were the great ones who (corruptly) traded throughout the earth." "Her traders robbed the whole earth blind", Peterson, they were "the tycoons of the world", NET; See above.

en + dat. "by [your magic spells]" - in/by [the sorcery of you]. Instrumental, expressing means, as NIV. The genitive personal pronoun sou, "you", may be viewed as verbal, subjective, "the magic performed by you", but adjectival, possessive is also an appropriate classification, expressing a derivative characteristic, as NIV.

 
v24

As Hendriksen points out, Babylon is typical of all secular oppressive societies from John's time up to the present, violently oppressive of humanity in general, and the church in particular.

kai "-" - and [in her blood of prophets and saints]. Smalley suggest that kai here serves for oJti so introducing a third conditional clause explaining why silence and darkness has overcome Babylon, namely, because of her slaughter of innocents, particularly God's witnesses; "Babylon was punished because the blood of prophets and God's people was found in the city", TEV.

en + dat. "in [her]" - [was found] in [her]. Local, expressing space.

profhtwn (hV ou) gen. "[the blood] of prophets" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "the blood of the prophets", REB. The phrase "blood of prophets and saints", cf., 16:6, is not identifying separate groups who have had their blood spilt, but "the body of the church within which are found Christian prophets", Smalley. Persecution primarily falls on Christ's witnesses, both apostles and prophets, v18:20, and for this reason they are singled out from the saints / believers as a whole.

twn esfagmenwn (sfazw) per. mid./pas. part. "[all] who have been slaughtered" - [all] the ones having been slain. If we take the adjective pantwn, "all", as a substantive, "everyone", then the participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone"; "everyone who has been killed on earth." Osborne suggests the sense is "believer and unbeliever alike."

epi + gen. "on [the earth]" - John's favorite spacial preposition, "on, upon."

 

Revelation Introduction

 

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