The Judgment of God Upon Babylon
February 24th, 1963 @ 8:15 AM
THE JUDGMENT OF GOD UPON BABYLON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-24-63 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us on the radio the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Fall of Babylon, The Judgment of God upon Babylon, The Call to Come out of Babylon. In our preaching through the Bible after these many years, we have come to the Revelation; in our preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 18. We are rapidly approaching the climactic consummation of this age.
In chapter 19, the Lord Christ comes from heaven [Revelation 19:11-16]. In chapter 20, Satan is bound with a chain, and the millennium is introduced to this war weary earth [Revelation 20:1-7]. And in chapters 21 and 22 is the great final new heaven and new earth [Revelation 21:1-22:21]. Chapter 18 is a part of chapter 17 [Revelation 17:17-18:24]. Ordinarily, at the end of chapter 16, we would have expected the return, the appearance of our Lord, for the last and the seventh bowl of the judgment of the wrath of God has been poured out upon the earth [Revelation 16:17-21].
But before chapter 19 and the return of the Lord in power, and victory, and glory from heaven [Revelation 19:11-16] which would ordinarily have followed immediately after chapter 16 [Revelation 16:17-21], there is a parenthesis, an interval; and one of the angels of the seven vials, of the seven bowls of the wrath and judgment of God, takes John and shows him the judgment of mystery Babylon, called "the great whore" [Revelation 17:1], and the judgment of God upon the city of Babylon, which is described in the next chapter, our chapter today, chapter  [Revelation 18:2-10]. Then after this intermission, when the angel reveals to the seer the judgment of God and the destiny of mystery Babylon and the city Babylon, then comes the denouement of the age, and the intervention of God in human history, the appearance of our glorious God and Savior, Jesus Christ [Revelation 19:11-21].
Now, in these two chapters, chapters 17 and 18, there is revealed to the apostle the judgment of God upon mystery Babylon, which is chapter 17. Mystery Babylon is an ecclesiastical system. It is called "the scarlet woman" [Revelation 17:4], or "the great whore" [Revelation 17:1]. And her destruction is encompassed by the political leader of the earth and the kingdoms who have willingly yielded their sovereignty unto him [Revelation 17:12]. She is destroyed, ecclesiastical Babylon, mystery Babylon, religious Babylon is destroyed by the political governments of this world [Revelation 17:12].
The city Babylon is an altogether different kind of an institution. City Babylon is described for us here in chapter 18 [Revelation 18:1-24]. There is no mention in chapter 18 of the beast of the political Antichrist, the final ultimate tyrannical ruler of the earth. There is no mention of the ten kings, the kingdoms of the earth, who turned in hate and destruction, destroyed the scarlet woman. But the city Babylon is destroyed by the Lord God Himself [Revelation 18:8, 20].
Twice we have had the announcement of the destruction of the city Babylon. In the fourteenth chapter of the book and the eighth verse there is announced the destruction of Babylon: Epesen! Epesen! "Babylon is fallen, is fallen!" that great city [Revelation14:8]. Then, in the sixteenth chapter and the nineteenth verse, there is again that same great announcement of the fall of Babylon, whose sins have come to remembrance before God. Then in our chapter, the second verse, "He cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, "Epesen! Epesen!" [Revelation 18:2]. Same word; it’s an aorist verb, it doesn’t continue over a long period of time. But the destruction of Babylon is sudden. It is complete. It is one great, mighty event; the intervention and the judgment of Almighty God [Revelation 18:8, 20].
That city Babylon is mentioned more than two hundred sixty times in the Scriptures. For example, in chapters fifty and fifty-one of Jeremiah, Babylon is named thirty-seven times in those two chapters alone [Jeremiah 50-51]. There is more reference to the city of Babylon than to any other city in the Holy Bible except Jerusalem itself. Babylon was the city of Nebuchadnezzar, who wasted Judah and Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon’s temple [2 chronicles 36:17-21]. Babylon was the great city to which Judea was carried in captivity [2 chronicles 36:20]. "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion" [Psalm 137:1].
Babylon was established by Nimrod, who was the grandson of Ham [Genesis 10:6-8]; and he named the city Babel [Genesis 10:9-10], the tower by which a man sought in his own works to reach up to God in heaven, Babel, Babylon [Genesis 11:4]. It is the great city on the plain of Shinar [Genesis 11:2], built on the Euphrates River at the head of the Persian Gulf. Babylon in prophecy represents so much that is unfulfilled.
For example, in the prophecy of Zechariah, chapter 5, beginning at verse 5 and reading to the end of the chapter; now Zechariah is a prophet beyond the captivity; and he sees in this vision in the fifth chapter of his book, he sees an ephah. An ephah was the largest dry measure used by the Jewish people. It held about a bushel. He saw an ephah. And an angel lifted up a talent of lead that covered the ephah; and the prophet saw on the inside of the ephah a woman sitting. And the angel explains that this woman is wickedness [Zechariah 5:5-8].
Then the prophet sees two women with the wind in their wings, with the wings of storks; and they lift up the ephah between the earth and the sky, and that woman called Wickedness, seated in it, and the prophet says, "Whither do these bear the ephah?" And the angel replies, "To build it a house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base" [Zechariah 5:9-11], in Babylon, this great ephah, which of course is a symbol of commerce, and on the inside of it the ungodliness of a depraved, God-scorning, contemptuous generation.
So when we turn to the eighteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, there is this prophecy concerning Babylon, filled with the violence and wickedness of the world. What does it represent, Babylon?
After these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lighted with his glory.
And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great city epesen, is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of demons, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
What is this city Babylon and what does it represent? There are three suggestions.
One: there are many of our fine scholars who believe that the city of Babylon will be rebuilt on the plain of Shinar, on the Euphrates River, at the head of the Persian Gulf, and will again be the center of the great commercial activity of this earth. These scholars say that the last great vast irrigation possibility in the earth lies in the Mesopotamian Valley, damming up the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers. And they point out that the great city located there would be where the continents meet. When Asia develops, when India, and China, and Indonesia, and Malaysia come to their own, and when Africa develops, then with Europe to the north, with Asia to the east, with Africa to the west, and with Australia to the south, and with the Americas beyond, the great city Babylon will then be the center of the political and cultural and commercial world. So there are those who say this refers to the rebuilding of that great final city in the Mesopotamian Valley.
Then there are those who say that Babylon represents the commercial, cultural, political life of this world, which is here depicted in a symbolical great city.
Then there are those who say that Babylon represents the political and commercial life of this wicked world in that final and ultimate day, which is here embodied in one great city called Babylon.
Now as I study and as I read, all three of those explanations are possible. It can mean one of them. It can mean two of them. It can mean all three of them. But whether it is a rebuilt vast city at the heart and the center of the commerce and culture and political life of this world, or whether it represents the vast worldliness embodied in a commercial city like a great modern city that we’d name today, or whether it represents that ultimate and final type of civilization at the end time, which in wickedness cries unto God and is destroyed in symbol in the great city Babylon [Revelation 18:8, 18-19], whether it’s one or the other, the principle of God and the judgment of God is just the same.
Now I want you to notice, as we look in these two chapters, the difference between the judgment of Babylon city [Revelation 18: 8, 18-19] and the judgment of Babylon mystery, called "the great whore" [Revelation 17:1, 16]. In the destruction of the ecclesiastical system, there was hatred and contempt for the system on the part of the governments of the world. They were weary of her ignorant superstitions. They were weary of her financial support. They were weary of her political meddling. She rides the beast [Revelation 17:3]. They are tired of everything about her.
And the Bible says, "And the nations hated the whore, and they smote her and destroyed her, and burned her with fire, and confiscated all of her riches and her great wealth" [Revelation 17:16]. And there was gladness in the earth at the destruction of that ecclesiastical system; all of it done by the hands of man. When you turn to the eighteenth chapter and read of the destruction of the great city, there is no such thing. It is exactly opposite. In the destruction of this city, which is done by the intervention of God [Revelation 18:5], there is wailing among the kingdoms of the world, there is lament among the merchant men of the earth, there is crying and lamentation on the part of the seamen of the earth [Revelation 18:15-19], there is only rejoicing in the destruction of this vast and wicked city by the saints of God in heaven and by the angelic hosts in glory [Revelation 18:20].
Could I parenthesize to say here, I don’t know of a truer reflection of the spirit of the world than you find right in the depiction of the destruction of the city of Babylon. For example, if the announcement were made from this pulpit now, "Within thirty minutes, within thirty minutes, Christ will appear as the lightning splits the bosom of the sky, and the livid, flaming, glorious presence of our Lord will be seen in thirty minutes," you’d find that same division: God’s sainted children would rejoice, "O glory, O God, O heaven, O ye saints":
O joy! O delight! should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread, and no crying.
Caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory,
When Jesus receives "His own."
["Christ Returneth"; H. L. Turner]
That would be the reaction of the people of God. But who would in terror, and in lamentation, and in weeping and wailing hear that glorious announcement? Those whose lives are enmeshed in this world. "What about my bonds? What about my stocks? What about my bank deposits? What about my accumulations? What about my mortgages and my deeds?" And O God, what about the sins unforgiven of my life? Just as it is here; just as it is here, Babylon, the enmeshing of the spirit of man in this world; well, that was a parenthesis, let’s go on.
Why is it God is judging Babylon? All right, look at it. Turn to the eighteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation and let us read. Number one why: in verse 5, "For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities" [Revelation 18:5]. That’s the first reason. Just as in the tower of Babel, they started at the base and heaped up those brick up, and up, and up, and up [Genesis 11:3-4], God uses that same symbolism: "And the sins of Babylon heaped up, and up, and up, and up, and up until they reached the sky" [Revelation 18:5]; one reason.
All right, second reason: in the seventh verse, "How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously . . . for she saith, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. How much she glorifies herself" [Revelation 18:7]. She is arrogant. She is falsely sophisticated. She lives deliciously, and she says, "I sit a queen, and I shall never know sorrow; I shall never be a widow" [Revelation 18:7].
And in her arrogance she looks contemptuously on the idea of religion and the name of God; and she makes fun of [the] sacred Holy Book, and she scorns Christ, and she despises the things of heaven. And in her arrogance, and in her pride, she says, "We shall bury all of the religions, and all of the apostles, and all of the evangelists, and all of the missionaries of the earth." And she lifts herself up in atheism, and in godlessness, and in depravity, and in blasphemy. You know anything like that going on right now? Just exactly as God describes here in the Book.
All right, a third thing about her: ah, this Babylon! There are twenty-eight different articles named here in her merchandising, in verses 12 through 13, and it starts with the merchandise of gold, and it ends with the souls of men [Revelation 18:12-13]. What does that mean? A very plain and a simple thing that we are introduced to today, and that grows apace in this earth; there is a philosophy in this world – and it is bitter – there is a philosophy in this world that a man is nothing. There’s not any God. There’s not any immortality. There’s not any soul. There’s not any judgment of the Almighty. There’s not any Holy Bible. There’s not any Christ. There’s not any Holy Spirit.
And they take men, and they take nations, and they use them like a man would use freight, like a man would use stuff, like a man would use rock, like a man would use gravel. They torture people. They starve people. They ship them off into exile. They use every means of lying, of depravity. They use every instrument of negation and unholy warfare to accomplish their secular and godless purposes. And you and I have lived to see the day when most of the populations of this earth have come under that godless philosophy; just like you see it here in the Bible.
Why, you’d say, "It couldn’t be possible. This is an enlightened age. This is a day when men are taught. This is a day of scientific advance." Just like God’s Book says, there is no such a thing as godliness apart from God. There’s no such a thing as being of worth apart from the teaching of religion and the faith of Jesus Christ. And this system here destroys men’s souls and traffics in the lives of humanity, just like you would traffic in the freight of the world.
Now I want to pause again, here. I’m not going to get through this sermon, so we just forget about finishing. I’m going to pause again and give you an illustration of that. Practically all of you are old enough here to remember the Korean War. You children, the thing was fought in the last decade, you can’t remember World War 1, certainly, and you don’t remember World War II, but you remember the Korean War.
Do you remember how that Korean War was fought? That war was fought by hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of thousands of Chinese men, soldiers. They call them "volunteers," who were fed into the maw of our cannon, fed, fed, fed, until the cannon refused to shoot any longer. It was so hot it had burned up. But the wave, upon wave, upon wave, upon wave of those endless Chinese soldiers who were fed into the muzzle of those machine guns, of those blazing cannons, of those bombs dropped from the air, until finally the embankments, and the trenches, and the placements, and the bulwarks of our soldiers were overrun by the hordes of humanity that they fed into that attack. Now let’s take the other side of it.
Suppose that just one of those American airmen, just one, suppose just one of those American airmen on his way over was lost in the vast expanse of the Pacific. You know what’d happen? All of the resources of the Army, all of the resources of the Navy, all of the resources of the Air Force, all the resources of the Marine Corps, all of the resources at the hand of the government of the United States of America would be combing and sweeping the vast illimitable wastes to see if they could find that one lost airman.
Where’d you learn that? That a man was worth something? Where were you taught that? That one somebody amounted to something? My brother, you learned that in the religion of the one lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7], and the one lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], and the one lost boy [Luke 15:11-32]. That’s where you got that. That a man is worth something, that he’s of value, just one man, you learned that because you were taught that Jesus died for that soul [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:5-14].
See the opposite? Slay them by the thousands; let them starve by the millions. As one of their leaders said, as Lenin said, "What would it matter if two-thirds of this world were destroyed, if the one-third that survived was communist?" That’s it, trafficking in the souls of men [Revelation 18:13]. That’s Babylon.
Now, why is God judging her? "Her sins have come up to heaven" [Revelation 18:5]; second, because of her blasphemous arrogance [Revelation 18:7]; third, because of her trafficking in the souls of men [Revelation 18:13]; and fourth, "And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth" [Revelation 18:24], when a prophet of God stood up to denounce the ungodliness, cut off, cut down, blood poured out, tortured and tormented, God’s people.
Now what is this judgment of God upon Babylon? First: as this angel came from heaven, the earth was lightened with his glory, and in the light of that glorious presence of God, Babylon looked so cheap and so tawdry. It was a city filled with demons. It was a prison, called here a "hold" of every foul spirit, and a cage, a prison, of every unclean and hateful bird. Under the searching light of the glorious presence of God, the city was filled with every foul, and dirty, and spiteful, and lying spirit; the judgment of God [Revelation 18:1-2].
Second: how does God judge her? "For in one hour is thy judgment come, in mia hōra [Revelation 18:10], and that’s repeated throughout this chapter, in mia hōra. Now I want you to notice here, you couldn’t destroy the scarlet whore in one hour. It would take time to root out that system. But the judgment of God upon Babylon comes in one hour [Revelation 18:10]; that sounds like an atomic bomb, doesn’t it? Just like that; epesen! epesen! in one great intervention from God.
All right, I want you to look again: "And a mighty angel took up a stone like a millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down" [Revelation 18:21]. Now that is a summation of Jeremiah 51:60-64; and I meant to go into that, and we don’t have time. And then this last one: the judgment of God upon Babylon, "And there shall be found in it no more, "ou me"; no, no, no more at all," and then there are six things listed there [Revelation 18:21-23]. These "no more’s," one right after another, sound like a funeral dirge, like a funeral knell. Then the call of God to come out, "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues [Revelation 18:4]. Come out of her, My people, come out,"Be not ye unequally yoked together" [2 Corinthians 6:14] . . . "Come out of them, and I will be to you a Father, you will be to Me a son" [2 Corinthians 6:17-18]. "Let us go outside the city, bearing His reproach" [Hebrews 13:13]. Now I conclude."
Satan’s going to be destroyed [Revelation 20:10]. And when a fellow links his life with Satan, it means destruction and damnation. Sin’s going to be destroyed; death’s going to be destroyed [Revelation 20:14]; Babylon’s going to be destroyed [Revelation 18:21]. The worldliness and ungodliness of this generation is going to be destroyed, the judgment is God upon it [Revelation 20:11-15]. And if we link ourselves with it, when it falls, we fall too.
So the appeal of God: "Come out of her, My people, come out; come out. Come out of the world. Come out of the darkness. Come out of the sin of arrogance and blasphemy and rejection; come out of her, my people" [Revelation 18:4]. O Lord that we might turn our faces from the city of destruction, to the heavenly city of God, and do it now; do it now.
We’re going to sing our song, and while we do, somebody this morning to give his heart to Jesus; somebody to put his life in the fellowship of the church, while we sing the song, and while we make appeal, would you come and stand by me? "Here I am, preacher, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God." Or, "This is my wife, and these are our children." Or, a couple of us, "We’re both coming." As the Spirit of Jesus shall lead in the way, make it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE JUDGMENT OF GOD UPON BABYLON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Two Babylons in chapters 17, 18
1. Mystery Babylon, an ecclesiastical system called "the great whore", the scarlet woman, and the judgment of God upon her
2. The city Babylon, epitomizes culture, social, and commerce of a godless and Christ-rejecting world, and the Lord’s judgment upon it
B. Introduced twice to destruction of Babylon(Revelation 14:8, 16:19, 18:1-2, 10)
C. Babylon named more times in Bible than any other city, except Jerusalem
1. In Jeremiah 50-51 named thirty-seven times
2. The city of Nebuchadnezzar
3. City of Babylonian captivity(Psalm 137:1-2)
4. Founded by Nimrod; site of Babel (Genesis 11:4)
5. Has a great part in prophecy (Zechariah 5:5-11)
II. Vast difference between the judgments
A. It is the hands of man that destroy the whore (Revelation 17:15-16)
1. The earth is glad to be rid of her
B. The city Babylon is destroyed by God(Revelation 18:8)
1. There is lamentation over the earth (Revelation 18:9-11, 15-19)
2. God’s children would rejoice at the Lord’s coming (Revelation 18:20)
a. Poem, "Christ Returneth"
III. What does she represent?
A. Many scholars believe Babylon to be an actual rebuilt city
B. Others believe she represents a system of life and culture whose basic principle is alienation from God, symbolized by this great world city
C. Some believe she represents the social, cultural, political and commercial life of the end time, symbolized in one great world city
D. I have concluded all three could be true
IV. Why the judgment of God upon Babylon?
A. Her sins have reached unto heaven (Revelation 18:5)
1. Like the tower of Babel(Genesis 11:4, Revelation 16:19)
B. In arrogance, conceit and self-glorification she boasts of her atheism, infidelity and Christ-rejection (Revelation 18:7)
C. Twenty-eight articles of merchandise include trafficking in souls of men(Revelation 18:12-13)
1. As we increase in our culture, scientific achievements, it becomes more merciless, cruel – human life is nothing but merchandise
2. Lenin – "What would it matter if two-thirds were destroyedâ€¦"
3. We learn from God the value of a man’s soul (Luke 15:3-32, Genesis 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:19)
D. The blood of the prophets who witnessed against her(Revelation 18:24)
1. All required of Jerusalem, so of Babylon (Matthew 23:34-36)
2. God judges the tendency, spirit of sin(James 2:10)
V. The judgment of destruction
A. In the light of the glory of God from heaven, Babylon’s glory was nothing but the depths of iniquity, every vile and unclean thing (Revelation 18:1-2)
B. Destroyed en miahora, in one hour (Revelation 18:9-10)
C. With violence thrown down (Revelation 18:21, Jeremiah 51:60-64)
VI. The call to separation
A. If you put your life in this world, when it is destroyed, you are destroyed(Revelation 18:4)
B. Not merely a warning in a coming day, but for all – God calls us to come out from among them(2 Corinthians 6:17-18)