Understanding the Book of Revelation.
After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily[a] with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.
'And look, here comes a chariot of men [ with ] a pair of horsemen!” Then he answered and said, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground.”' ( Isaiah 21:9 )
'Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me,[a] “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”' ( Revelation 17:1 )
'Your dwelling place [ is ] in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know Me, says the LORD.' ( Jeremiah 9:6 )
'But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, and their houses will be full of owls; ostriches will dwell there, and wild goats will caper there. The hyenas will howl in their citadels, and jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time [ is ] near to come, and her days will not be prolonged.' ( Isaiah 13:21 & 22 )
'For [ it is ] the day of the LORD’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion. Its streams shall be turned into pitch, and its dust into brimstone; its land shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night or day; its smoke shall ascend forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever. But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it, also the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. And He shall stretch out over it the line of confusion and the stones of emptiness. They shall call its nobles to the kingdom, but none [ shall be ] there, and all its princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in its palaces, nettles and brambles in its fortresses; it shall be a habitation of jackals, a courtyard for ostriches. The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the jackals, and the wild goat shall bleat to its companion; also the night creature shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There the arrow snake shall make her nest and lay [ eggs ] and hatch, and gather [ them ] under her shadow; there also shall the hawks be gathered, every one with her mate.' ( Isaiah 34:8-15 )
'Therefore the wild desert beasts shall dwell [ there ] with the jackals, and the ostriches shall dwell in it. It shall be inhabited no more forever, nor shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.' ( Jeremiah 50:39 )
'Even the jackals present their breasts to nurse their young; [ but ] the daughter of my people [ is ] cruel, like ostriches in the wilderness.' ( Lamentations 4:3 )
'All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, and all her pay as a harlot shall be burned with the fire; all her idols I will lay desolate, for she gathered [ it ] from the pay of a harlot, and they shall return to the pay of a harlot.' ( Micah 1:7 )
'In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate, so that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, your idols may be broken and made to cease, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be abolished.' ( Ezekiel 6:6 )
A 'simple' messenger brought word to the prophet Isaiah, in a vision, that 'Babylon is fallen, is fallen!', but when John saw a similar vision, not only was the 'messenger' ( angel ) obviously a bit different ( 'the earth was illuminated with his glory' ), but His message was somewhat different; He told John 'Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen'. The historical fall of Babylon, recorded in the earlier parts of Isaiah's prophecy and toward the latter part of Jeremiah's, clearly was great, but when spiritual Babylon, symbolic and significant of the level of idolatry, harlotry, and spiritual depredation and apostasy that the physical 'children' of Israel had fallen to, was destroyed, both in reality and actuality; God sent His own Son to relay the news to John that 'her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned' ( Isaiah 40:2 ( Daniel 9:24 ), for 'she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins'.
Our last study revealed the identity of this 'harlot' who 'straddled' the 'scarlet beast': here, the angel uses near identical language to identify this 'Babylon the great', revealing that she is to be understood as referring to the same symbolic entity.
I have noted before that Israel had apostatized to the point that she was indistinguishable from, and even worse, in many cases ( Ezekiel 16:34 ) than the nations around her, most notably, Babylon ( going back to the days of 'the tower of Babel', in Genesis 11 ), and because of her apostasy, had been removed from the land of promise ( God's Presence ) and her 'land' had reverted to a barren wasteland, inhabitable only by unclean animals.
And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.
'Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’[c] spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.' ( Matthew 24:15 & 16 )
'Because of the wrath of the LORD she shall not be inhabited, but she shall be wholly desolate. Everyone who goes by Babylon shall be horrified and hiss at all her plagues.' ( Jeremiah 50:13 )
'I will make this city desolate and a hissing; everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss because of all its plagues.' ( Jeremiah 19:8 )
'Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.' ( Leviticus 26:21 )
'And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you[b] are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.[c][ Therefore ] Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.[d]' ( II Corinthians 6:16 & 17 )
History will tell you, I believe, that many Jewish Christians heeded Jesus' warning and instruction to 'flee to the mountains' ( Luke 21:21, Mark 13:14 ), and those who escaped Jerusalem did not share in the 'hell' that the city must have been ( just read Josephus' account ), but were spared the horrific 'plagues' that God visited on the Old Covenant 'children' of Israel ( after the flesh ). Those 'children' who had not taken a lesson from their history, for instance, the plagues of Egypt, and the fact that those who obeyed God's covenant, were spared from those plagues, suffered through a literal 'hell on earth' a physical manifestation of the Lake of Fire, which engulfed Jerusalem and the Temple.
For her sins have reached[b] to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you,[c] and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.
'Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.' ( Exodus 2:23 )
'Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear the day before Saul came, saying, Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me.' ( I Samuel 9:15 & 16 )
'Nevertheless He regarded their affliction, when He heard their cry; and for their sake He remembered His covenant, and relented according to the multitude of His mercies.' ( Psalm 106:44 & 45 )
'Let a cry be heard from their houses, when You bring a troop suddenly upon them.' ( Jeremiah 18:22a )
'O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than [ our ] heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.' ( Ezra 9:6 )
'But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden [ His ] face from you, so that He will not hear.' ( Isaiah 59:2 )
'O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people [ are ] a reproach to all [ those ] around us.' ( Daniel 9:16 )
'For in the hand of the LORD [ there is ] a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain [ and ] drink down.' ( Psalm 75:8 )
'Your silver has become dross, your wine mixed with water.' ( Isaiah 1:22 )
'Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine.' ( Proverbs 23:29 & 30 )
Throughout Israel's history; God always had His messenger, or messengers, to warn His 'children' of their follies and to mediate for them, like Moses, in Exodus 34:9, prayed, go among us, even though we [ are ] a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance',and when they did humble themselves and repent ( at least in deed ), God sent a deliverer among them, after which they followed God's covenant again for a while ( read the book of Judges, for more on this ), but then began to fill their 'cup of wrath' ( Deuteronomy 9: 7 & 8 )again, and God brought more adverse judgment upon them, until finally He revealed the 'new', and 'better' Covenant, His Son ( Isaiah 49:8 )!
Israel was to receive 'double according to her works', I believe, because she enjoyed the lofty position of 'firstborn among many brethren' ( Romans 8:29 ( Hosea 11:1 ), and according to tradition; the firstborn was to receive the double-portion, in this case though, a doubly adverse judgment!
In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit [ as ] queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges[d] her.
'You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as[b] in a day of slaughter.' ( James 5:5 )
'Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with outstretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing [ as ] they go, making a jingling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will uncover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the finery: the jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the veils; the headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; the perfume boxes, the charms, and the rings; the nose jewels, the festal apparel, and the mantles; the outer garments, the purses, and the mirrors; the fine linen, the turbans, and the robes.' ( Isaiah 3:16-23 )
'Therefore hear this now, [ you who are ] given to pleasures, who dwell securely, who say in your heart, ‘I [ am ], and [ there is ] no one else besides me; I shall not sit [ as ] a widow, nor shall I know the loss of children.' ( Isaiah 47:8 )
'Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their [ blood ] by the force of the sword; let their wives [ become ] widows and bereaved of their children. Let their men be put to death, their young men [ be ] slain by the sword in battle.' ( Jeremiah 18:21 )
'And I will make [ you ] cross over with[a] your enemies into a land [ which ] you do not know; for a fire is kindled in My anger, [ which ] shall burn upon you.' ( Jeremiah 15:14 )
'His winnowing fan [ is ] in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.' ( Matthew 3:12 )
The quotation above, from Isaiah 47, is, true enough, in reference to Babylon, but, if for no other reason than I have outlined previously, that Jerusalem had become like other cities and nations around her, but it is also very clear, from Isaiah 3, that she had become 'haughty', and overly prideful, not only of her status as the so-called 'favored one' ( Psalm 44:3, Zechariah 2:8 ), and as the wife of God, having borne Him many children ( Genesis 29:31 & 32 ( 17:4-6 ), but of her 'place' among the nations.
Prophesying of the judgment of Assyria; God spoke through Isaiah, 'the Light of Israel will be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame; it will burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day.' ( Isaiah 10:17 ) Though this prophecy was spoken concerning another nation; I believe that it is applicable as well, to covenant-breaking Israel, those who had apostatized to the point of finally denying and killing their Messiah. 'Behold, I will command,’ says the LORD, ‘and cause them to return to this city. They will fight against it and take it and burn it with fire; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without inhabitant.' ( Jeremiah 34:22 ) Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures; God had made it very clear, that, as He had been the 'pillar of fire' during the Exodus, leading them out of Egypt ( Exodus 13:21, 14:24, Numbers 14:14, Deuteronomy 1:33, Nehemiah 9:12, Psalm 78:14, 105:39 ( Exodus 40:38, Numbers 9:15 & 16 ( Isaiah 4:5, Ezekiel 1:4, Joel 2:30 ) so He would be a 'refiner’s fire' ( Malachi 3:2 ( Zechariah 13:9 ), not only to 'cleanse the land' ( Ezekiel 39:12 ), but also to 'purify the sons of Levi' ( Malachi 3:3, Titus 2:11-14 ), His 'chosen' ones ( Deuteronomy 21:5, I Chronicles 15:2 ( Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:12, Psalm 105:43, Isaiah 43:20 ( I Peter 2:4-9 ).
The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come'.
'Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and [ your ] joy to gloom.' ( James 4:9 )
'The Lord was like an enemy. He has swallowed up Israel, He has swallowed up all her palaces; He has destroyed her strongholds, and has increased mourning and lamentation in the daughter of Judah.' ( Lamentations 2:5 )
'[There shall be ] wailing in all streets, and they shall say in all the highways, ‘ Alas! Alas!’ They shall call the farmer to mourning, and skillful lamenters to wailing.' ( Amos 5:16 )
'This [ is ] the lamentation with which they shall lament her; the daughters of the nations shall lament her; they shall lament for her, for Egypt, and for all her multitude,’ says the Lord GOD.' ( Ezekiel 32:16 )
'Cut off your hair and cast [ it ] away, and take up a lamentation on the desolate heights; for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath.' ( Jeremiah 7:29 )
'And it shall be, at the end of seventy years, that the LORD will deal with Tyre. She will return to her hire, and commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. Her gain and her pay will be set apart for the LORD; it will not be treasured nor laid up, for her gain will be for those who dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for fine clothing.' ( Isaiah 23:17 & 18 )
'Alas! For that day [ is ] great, so that none [ is ] like it; and it [ is ] the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.' ( Jeremiah 30:7 )
'Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD [ is ] at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty.' ( Joel 1:15 )
'Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past.' ( Isaiah 26:20 )
Jeremiah prophesied ( Jeremiah 51 ), at the word of the LORD, that Babylon, like national physical Israel, and Jerusalem much later, would meet it's final end at the hand of the Medes and Persians. As we know from history, even biblically, it was not the actual city that is in view here, although, like Jerusalem, it was burned with fire and destroyed ( verse 58 ), but later, rebuilt and inhabited once again, but it was a symbolic judgment, as in the case of Jerusalem, against the adversaries, even though sent by God ( verse 7 ), of His people 'Israel'. ( see also Isaiah 14:3-27 )
'But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,[e] but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. ( Matthew 24:36-39 )
While some were partakers in the plundering and destruction of the city with which they had shared their idolatrous practices, most of these 'kings' were content to receive the news from afar, and mourning the loss of such a great city ( more likely, the revenues that they made off her ),and showed the 'love' that they shared for this city, helplessly watching her burning, and wringing their hands, but doing nothing to help.
Jesus warned His people earlier in Matthew 24, in verses 15 & 16, 'Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’[c] spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.' Those who heeded this warning escaped the destruction of the city but the destruction, when it came, although I daresay it was forecast by many, and was not much of a surprise when it did come; came at the exact 'hour' that the Father had decided, and no sooner and no later.
And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.
'Thus says the LORD my God, “Feed the flock for slaughter, whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the LORD, for I am rich’; and their shepherds do not pity them.' ( Zechariah 11:4 & 5 )
'If a man is found kidnapping any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and mistreats him or sells him, then that kidnapper shall die; and you shall put away the evil from among you.' ( Deuteronomy 24:7 )
'Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem.' ( II Chronicles 9:25 )
'Some [ trust ] in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.' ( Psalm 20:7 )
'Their land is also full of silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is also full of horses, and there is no end to their chariots.' ( Isaiah 2:7 )
'When anyone offers a grain offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it.' ( Leviticus 2:1 )
'For what purpose to Me comes frankincense from Sheba, and sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet to Me.' ( Jeremiah 6:20 )
'Also, the servants of Hiram and the servants of Solomon, who brought gold from Ophir, brought algum[a] wood and precious stones.' ( II Chronicles 9:11 )
'All King Solomon’s drinking vessels [ were ] gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon [ were ] pure gold. Not [ one was ] silver, for this was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon. For the king had merchant ships[b] at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the merchant ships came bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and monkeys.[c] So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.' ( I Kings 10:21-23 )
'The men of Dedan were your traders; many isles were the market of your hand. They brought you ivory tusks and ebony as payment. Syria was your merchant because of the abundance of goods you made. They gave you for your wares emeralds, purple, embroidery, fine linen, corals, and rubies.' ( Ezekiel 27:15 & 16 )
'Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!' ( John 2:16 )
Because God had covenanted with 'house' of Israel ( Deuteronomy 29:14 ( Isaiah 51:2 ), and they had spurned His law ( Deuteronomy 17:16 ), and acted acording to their own desires, doing exactly what God had told them not to ( Genesis 2:17 ( 3:6 ); He had given them over ( Romans 1:18-32 ) to the very things in which they had trusted, so much so in fact, that they would drown in the 'flood' ( Daniel 9:26 ( Genesis 6:17 ) Nahum 1:8 ) 'of dissipation' ( I Peter 4:4 ) and 'ungodliness' ( Psalm 18:4 ), which they had unleashed upon themselves.
Isaiah wrote 'They [ are ] soothsayers like the Philistines, and they are pleased with the children of foreigners' ( Isaiah 2:6b ). Although Israel was to covenantally and typically separate themselves from the nations around them; as we have noted before, they had adopted the ungodly policies and practices of the nations around them, that they had become indistinct from them, and were actually found worthy of a more adverse judgment than those nations with who they had committed their spiritual harlotry!
As was the case with Cain's offering, in Genesis 4; I believe that it was not so much what was offered, as the attitude of those who offered. While we see in Leviticus 2, and other such passages, that God did require those kinds of sacrifices, we see in Jeremiah 20 that God was incensed with the 'children' of Israel, not because they were offering what He had prescribed, but because
'they have not heeded My words nor My law, but rejected it' ( Jeremiah 6:19 ). As in Hebrews 8:8, where God had promised a 'new covenant' ( Jeremiah 31:31-34 ) 'Because finding fault with them' ( the 'children' ), and in Luke 11:42; Jesus told the leaders of these 'children', 'But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.' They were tithing ( offering ) as prescribed, according to the letter of the law, but they had neglected the principle, the whole point of it!
The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you,[e] and you shall find them no more at all.
'O vine of Sibmah! I will weep for you with the weeping of Jazer. Your plants have gone over the sea, they reach to the sea of Jazer. The plunderer has fallen on your summer fruit and your vintage.' ( Jeremiah 48:32 )
'Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously.' ( I Chronicles 17:9 )
'They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from [ being ] a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.' ( Psalm 83:4 )
'Then behold, at eventide, trouble! [ And ] before the morning, he [ is ] no more. This [ is ] the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who rob us.' ( Isaiah 17:14 )
'Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, My people Israel; they shall take possession of you, and you shall be their inheritance; no more shall you bereave them [ of children ].' ( Ezekiel 36:12 )
'Awake, O north [ wind ], and come, O south! Blow upon my garden, [ that ] its spices may flow out. Let my beloved come to his garden and eat its pleasant fruits.' ( Song of Solomon 4:16 )
'I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it.' ( Isaiah 1:6 )
God promised many blessings to His people, Israel ( Deuteronomy 28:1-14, et al ), and physical, national Israel ( after the flesh-Galatians 4:29 ) had been blessed ( Genesis 16:10, 17:6, 27:38 ( Deuteronomy 7:13 ) mightily, when they followed His laws, but when they failed to follow Him, seeking instead their own righteousness, they felt the effects of His curses ( Deuteronomy 28:15-68 ). The blessings they should have received, were instead felt as curses.
The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’ They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.
'After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted very wickedly. And he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion Geber. But Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the LORD has destroyed your works.” Then the ships were wrecked, so that they were not able to go to Tarshish.' ( I Chronicles 20:35-37 )
'Then Solomon went to Ezion Geber and Elath[c] on the seacoast, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent him ships by the hand of his servants, and servants who knew the sea. They went with the servants of Solomon to Ophir, and acquired four hundred and fifty talents of gold from there, and brought it to King Solomon.' ( II Chronicles 8:17 & 18 )
'For the day of the LORD of hosts [ shall come ] upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up— and it shall be brought low—upon all the cedars of Lebanon [ that are ] high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan; upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills [ that are ] lifted up; upon every high tower, and upon every fortified wall; upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all the beautiful sloops.' ( Isaiah 2:12-16 )
'The ships of Tarshish were carriers of your merchandise. You were filled and very glorious in the midst of the seas. Your oarsmen brought you into many waters, but the east wind broke you in the midst of the seas. Your riches, wares, and merchandise, your mariners and pilots, your caulkers and merchandisers, all your men of war who [ are ] in you, and the entire company which [ is ] in your midst, will fall into the midst of the seas on the day of your ruin.' ( Ezekiel 27:25-27 )
'Hezekiah had very great riches and honor. And he made himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of desirable items; storehouses for the harvest of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of livestock, and folds for flocks.' ( II Chronicles 32:27 & 28 )
We saw earlier in this chapter ( 18 ), that because of 'Babylon's' downfall, all the nations, both far and near, mourned and wept, not because they were truly saddened by her demise, but because they had been enriched by their relationship with her. This 'Babylon' is clearly significant of 'the great harlot' ( verse 9 ) of the previous chapter, with whom 'the kings of the earth committed fornication', and Jesus revealed these things to John, I believe, using a form of parallelism, something that we see much of, not only in John's record here, but throughout Scripture, particularly in the 'poetic' books, for instance, the Psalms. In other words, the 'kings of the earth' that we read about earlier, both in this 'vision, and in the previous one, are the same as 'the merchants of the earth', because both had benefited greatly from their 'knowledge' of her, and neither had a real love for her, except as they gained from her 'acquaintance'.
Rejoice over her, O heaven, and [ you ] holy apostles[f] and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!
'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under [ her ] wings, but you were not willing!' ( Matthew 23:37 )
'For this [ is ] the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that He may avenge Himself on His adversaries. The sword shall devour; it shall be satiated and made drunk with their blood; for the Lord GOD of hosts has a sacrifice in the north country by the River Euphrates.' ( Jeremiah 46:10 )
'But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.' ( Luke 21:20-22 )
'And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?' ( Luke 18:7 )
'Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and all its fullness.' ( Psalm 96:11 )
It has been shown that 'the heavens', particularly in the prophetic Scripture, often refers to the people of God, although this may not be as clear to some as it is to others. David wrote, in Psalm 19:1a, 'The heavens declare the glory of God', and, while this could 'simply' refer to God's natural creation revealing His 'handiwork' ( Romans 1:20 ( ? ), another prophet wrote, 'Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!', in revealing God's complaint against His covenant 'children' ( Isaiah 1:2a ). Later ( 44:23 ( 49:13 ), God calls for 'the heavens' to sing, at the promise of the restoration, or redemption ( Romans 8:23, Ephesians 1:3-14, 4:30 ) of His true people, the Israel of God. Speaking of the formation, and foundation, of His special people, God declared 'That I may plant the heavens', as His reason for covenanting with them, or 'taking them under His wing' ( Isaiah 51:16 ). In language reminiscent of the creation account in Genesis 1; God, through the prophet Jeremiah, lamented that 'I beheld the earth, and indeed [ it was ] without form, and void; and the heavens, they [ had ] no light' ( Jeremiah 4:23 ). Speaking again, of the mercy that He would show His people; God spoke through the prophet Hosea 'I will answer the heavens', revealing that He would then answer the earth through them. Although many of the references to 'the heavens' indicate the sky, the abode of God, or even 'the powers that be', many of these can also be shown to point to the people of God.
Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw [ it ] into the sea, saying, Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.
'You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.' ( Daniel 2:34 & 35 )
'Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.' ( Jeremiah 25:10 )
'Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.' ( Matthew 18:6 )
'Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!' ( Exodus 15:1 )
'They shall throw you down into the Pit, and you shall die the death of the slain in the midst of the seas.' ( Ezekiel 28:8 )
'And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter’s vessel, which is broken in pieces; He shall not spare. So there shall not be found among its fragments
a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to take water from the cistern.' ( Isaiah 30:14 )
'And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.' ( Matthew 21:19 )
In prophetic usage, the term 'sea', or 'seas', as we have seen, often symbolizes 'the nations'. We can know, from histories such as Josephus' 'Wars', that several different 'nations' were actually involved in the destruction of Jerusalem, and in fact, Jerusalem had become so much like the nations around her, in many respects, through her 'harlotry', that, as we have noted before, she had become almost indistinguishable from 'the nations', or the 'sea'.
The 'stone like a great millstone' that this 'mighty' angel threw, symbolically, into the 'sea' was not the same ''stone' that Nebuchadnezzar observed destroying, or crumbling ( conquering ) all other kingdoms before it, but it was typical of this stone, and as we read about the withered fig tree in Matthew 21, this stone, which should have born fruit, rather than assimilating with the nations around her, was to conquer, to bring these nations under her Lord's 'banner', and, failing in her prescribed mission, was thrown into the midst of the sea, or 'nations'.
The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore.
'Then a herald cried aloud: 'To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, [ that ] at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, [ and ] psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.' ( Daniel 3:4-6 )
'Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service [ some ] of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who [ should ] prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals.' ( I Chronicles 25:1 )
'His brother’s name [ was ] Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute.' ( Genesis 4:21 )
'The harp and the strings, the tambourine and flute, and wine are in their feasts; but they do not regard the work of the LORD, nor consider the operation of His hands.' ( Isaiah 5:12 )
'And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house, and he cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. Also he carried into captivity all Jerusalem: all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land. And he carried Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officers, and the mighty of the land he carried into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. All the valiant men, seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths, one thousand, all [ who were ] strong [ and ] fit for war, these the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.' ( II Kings 24:13-16 )
'Now they sin more and more, and have made for themselves molded images, idols of their silver, according to their skill; all of it is the work of craftsmen. They say of them, 'Let the men who sacrifice[a] kiss the calves!' ( Hosea 13:2 )
'The people went about and gathered [ it ], ground [ it ] on millstones or beat [ it ] in the mortar, cooked [ it ] in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil.' ( Numbers 11:8 )
The blessings of 'heaven' had been showered upon God's covenant 'children', and although there were those who received those blessings with joy, and rejoicing, made good use of them, correctly employing them in the praise of God, many made wrong use ( abuse ) of those gifts, the 'craftsmen' using their skills to produce wooden or metal idols, and 'musicians' employing their instruments in praise of their own works, rather than God's.
Many have looked at judgment, even an adverse one, such as this, as a bad thing, not realizing, or recognizing, that much of this is done to purify, to cleanse, to rid 'the land' of evil influences, something that Israel ( 'after the flesh' ) had failed to do, in disobeying God's command to 'utterly overthrow them' ( Exodus 23:24 ( Deuteronomy 7:1-5 ( Leviticus 26:6 ). God had commanded them to do this, in order that they might prove themselves His special people, separating themselves from the idolatry surrounding them.
The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.
'For the commandment [ is ] a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction [ are ] the way of life.' ( Proverbs 6:23 )
'You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.' ( Matthew 5:14 )
'For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will cause to cease from this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.' ( Jeremiah 16:9 )
'And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.' ( Matthew 9:15 )
Marriage is a part of life. 'For as in the days before the flood', Jesus said, in Matthew 24:38, 'they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage': the time was upon them, as in the days of Noah, that they would no longer be blessed by the occurrence of marriage. Because they had squandered, even spurned, the gifts which God had blessed them with, even the simple pleasures that life held for them would be taken away ( Matthew 25:29 ).
'Stand now with your enchantments and the multitude of your sorceries, in which you have labored from your youth—perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you will prevail.' ( Isaiah 47:12 )
'Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear. [ There is ] a multitude of slain, a great number of bodies, countless corpses—they stumble over the corpses—because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations through her harlotries, and families through her sorceries.' ( Nahum 3:3 & 4 )
'And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.' ( II Kings 17:17 )
'Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.' ( II Chronicles 33:6 )
We have noted numerous times throughout this study that national, physical Israel had apostatized, especially their leaders, so far, that it was hard to distinguish, sometimes, between them and the nations around them; indeed, they had committed a worse offense, because, even though they had covenanted with Almighty God, they, in many cases, went further in their harlotry and idolatry than did those around them. Instead of being a 'light' to the nations, fulfilling God's promise to Abraham that he would be 'the father of many nations' ( Genesis 17:3-5 ); they had become 'darkness' ( Isaiah 5:20, 9:2 ( Matthew 4:16 ) Isaiah 42:16, 50:10, 58:10, 59:9, Luke 11:34, John 1:5, Acts 26:18, Romans 13:12, Ephesians 5:8, I Peter 2:9, I John2:8 ), blinding the eyes of the Gentiles, not revealing truth to them, and even worse, deceiving them through their sorceries, harlotries and idolatries.
And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.
'Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and [ some ] of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.' ( Luke 11:49-51 )
'You shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel.' ( II Kings 9:7 )
'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ [ guilt ].' ( Matthew 23:29-32 )
'I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.' ( Revelation 17:6 )
'And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.' ( Matthew 21:35 )
Later, in His lamenting condemnation of Jerusalem, in Matthew 23 ( 35 ); Jesus said, 'that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth'. Note the similarity to 'in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth'. As we've already noted, the word translated 'earth' here, is the Greek 'γῆ', perhaps better translated 'land' ( in the covenantal context, national physical Israel ): remeber also, that we read, back in Revelation 11:8 that 'their dead bodies [ will lie ] in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our[c] Lord was crucified.'
We know, as I've said before, having 20/20 hindsight, that this was all God's plan for His People. Some have rebelled against this idea, that God would covenant with this people, knowing, as He must have, beforehand that some or most, would fall in the 'wilderness' ( Hebrews 3:16-19 ); 'God isn't that cruel', some might say; 'He doesn't act like that'. True enough; God is not cruel, but He is just! He is also merciful and gracious, but His covenant with Israel ( notice I didn't say 'national physical Israel' ), though misunderstood by many, and this was the cause of their final downfall, did require certain things of His people. Many, or most, with the 'bounds' of national physical ( racial ) admittedly did follow God's law ( the Law of Moses, anyway ), but paid more attention to the 'letter' rather than the 'spirit', or principle, of it, as witnessed by Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees, also in Matthew 23 (23 ), 'you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith'. We can take a lesson from this today realizing that it is not in a wooden-literal understanding ( and doing ) of God's Law that we find fulfillment, but in realizing the deeper spiritual truth ( principle ) of His Law.
Charles Haddon Shank