Author: Ron Graham
Seven Woe Songs to Babylon
—Revelation 18:1-24, 19:1-4
Judgment of the Beasts (Revelation 12-20) >Seven Final Visions >2nd vision >Seven songs of woe to Babylon
Our studies in the book of Revelation now come to chapters 18 and 19, where John hears seven woe songs about the fall of “Babylon”
1 The angel from heaven
Great authority The angel John saw had "great authority and his glory illumined the earth" (Revelation 18:1). He signifies the authority of Christ which is over all the earth and greater than any earthly power.
Babylon The angel cries out the first song; It begins, "Babylon the great, is fallen, fallen!" (Revelation 18:2). “Babylon the Great” was the name written on the forehead of the abominable woman who rode on the dragon (Revelation 17:5).
Babylon was an ancient city, capital of the Chaldean superpower. When Nebuchadnezzar reigned over the kingdom, he destroyed Jerusalem and took captive its people including Daniel (Daniel 1:1-2).
Later Nebuchadnezzar’s son Balshazzar reigned. He dishonoured God, so Babylon fell at the hands of the Medes and the Persians (Jeremiah 50-51, Daniel 5).
During the times of Israel there had been a succession of super powers: Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, Roman. The name “Babylon the Great” symbolizes the antichristian kingdom which, at the time John saw and recorded his visions, was embodied in the Roman empire.
A haunt of every unclean spirit This kingdom is portrayed, in the rest of the angel’s song, as full of demonic influence, immorality and corruption (Revelation 18:2-3).
2 Voice from heaven
Come out of her John hears a second voice from heaven with another song that begins, "Come out of her my people!" (Revelation 18:4).
God doesn't want his people to participate in the piled up sins of this atrocious woman, this wicked kingdom, nor in the plagues and doom his vengeance will bring upon her (Revelation 18:4-8).
She glorified herself Whilst the voice from heaven goes on to condemn this atrocious woman’s immorality and corruption, the thing that angers God most is her arrogance. The song has her boasting, "I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and I will never see mourning" (Revelation 18:7).
There the voice from heaven echoes a line in Isaiah’s oracle against Babylon (Isaiah 47:7). So this woman ironically called “Babylon the Great”, this iniquitous empire, will be brought low, "for the Lord God who judges her is strong" (Revelation 18:8).
3 Kings of earth
Kings of the earth Within the voice from heaven’s song there's a song of earth’s kings: "Woe, woe, the great city Babylon, the strong city! In one hour your judgment has come" (Revelation 18:9-10).
These kings are distressed because they were in league with this atrocious woman, and were minions of antichrist.
In one hour The phrase, "in one hour" occurs three times in this chapter (Revelation 18:10,17,19). It emphasizes the short time, in God’s time frame, before God’s judgment comes upon the wicked.
4 The merchants
Merchants of earth Political power and corruption is not all that concerns the voice from heaven. The voice now speaks of financial power, and describes at length the wealth which the merchants of earth had traded with Babylon before she fell.
Now the merchants and profiteers "weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more" (Revelation 18:11-14). .
Such great wealth Within the voice from heaven’s song there's a song of earth’s merchants:
"Woe, woe, the great city Babylon, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!" (Revelation 18:16)..
5 The sailors
Shipmasters and sailors Next the voice from heaven describes those at sea, in distress as they watch Babylon burning; and they too have a song: "Woe, woe, the great city, by whose wealth all who had ships at sea became rich; for in one hour she has been devastated." (Revelation 18:17-19).
Rejoice over her The voice from heaven’s song, after all its gloom and woe, ends on a high note: "Rejoice over her, O heaven; and you saints; and you apostles and prophets; for God has pronounced judgment for you against her" (Revelation 18:20).
When a court convicts a wrongdoer and pronounces severe punishment, the victims of the crime see justice and rejoice. In God’s justice we have hope and joy.
6 A mighty angel
Great millstone A strong angel lifts a rock like a huge grinding wheel and throws it with violence into the sea. This signifies the fall and destruction of “Babylon”. Now this angel gives John the sixth woe song. It is a summary of the first five songs.
Babylon thrown down The song begins, "Like this, Babylon the great city will be thrown down with violence, and never more found." (Revelation 18:21).
Never more found The strong angel’s song takes up the theme “Never More Found” and joins it to a series of laments. These word pictures impress upon us the sad loss of culture and celebration of life that results from evil (Revelation 18:22-23a).
- "The sound of harpists and musicians, flute-players and trumpeters, will never more be heard in you"
- "No artisan of any trade will ever more be found in you."
- "The sound of a mill will never more be heard in you."
- "The light of a lamp will never more shine in you."
- "The voices of the bridegroom and bride will never more be heard in you."
The next two lines of the song contrast the material glory of the great city typified by its merchants, with its spiritual rotteness typified by its magicians and sorcerers (Revelation 18:23b).
Your merchants "For your merchants were the great men of the earth" (Revelation 18:23b).
An empire is as good as its economy, and the traders who bought and sold merchandise in this city were its backbone. But from a distance they have watched the city burn, and they have gone away.
Your witchcraft "For all the nations were deceived by your witchcraft" (Revelation 18:23b). There was one craft that was the undoing of the great city —the practice of sorcery and black magic.
This was the rotten core of Babylon, and of Rome, and of any city, nation, or empire, who joins herself to demons. No matter how glorious its culture, or sound its economy, or advanced its civilization, if there is witchcraft within, then ruin will come, and the wealth and happiness will be lost.
When Daniel was in Babylon he had to compete with "all the conjurers and magicians of the realm" (Daniel 1:20).
The apostles of Jesus likewise had to compete with sorcerers like Simon "practising magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from the least to the greatest, were following him and saying, 'This man is God’s great power.' They were following him because he had long astounded them with his magical arts" (Acts 8:10).
Blood of the prophets The strong angel’s song ends with a strong condemnation: "And in her was found the blood of the prophets and of holy ones..." (Revelation 18:24).
Trade and industry was not found, music and celebration was not found, not even the light of a lamp was found; but there on the ground the blood of God’s servants was found. These were "slain on earth" but will be glorified in heaven; Babylon was glorious on earth but is condemned by heaven to destruction and desolation. In the end, God wins.
7 The Great Multitude
Multitude in heaven This final trilogy is more a celebrattion of victory than a woe song. John hears a voice like that of a great multitude in heaven, singing Hallelujah (Revelation 19:1-2). After this, three affirmations are made about our God...
Glory and gower The first affirmation is, "Salvation and glory and power belong to our God" (Revelation 19:1).
Judgments true The second affirmation is, "His judgments are true and righteous for he has judged the great harlot" (Revelation 19:1)
Avenged the blood The third affirmation is, "For he has avenged the blood of his bondservants upon her... her smoke rises forever and ever" (Revelation 19:2-3).
Twenty four elders "the twenty four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, 'Amen! Hallelujah!' " (Revelation 19:4). John saw these worshipers in his earlier visions when he was first called up to the throne of God in heaven (Revelation 4:1-11).