“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
“And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, Shall bewail her, and lament for her, When they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, Saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; For no man buyeth their merchandise any more: The merchandise of gold, and silver, And precious stones, and of pearls, And fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, And all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, And all manner vessels of most precious wood, And of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, And ointments, and frankincense, And wine, and oil, And fine flour, and wheat, And beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, And slaves, and souls of men. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, And all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, And thou shalt find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, Shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, Weeping and wailing, And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, That was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, And decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, And sailors, and as many as trade by sea, Stood afar off, And cried When they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! And they cast dust on their heads, And cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, Wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! For in one hour is she made desolate. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, And ye holy apostles and prophets; For God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; And no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; And the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; And the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: For thy merchants were the great men of the earth; For by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, And of all that were slain upon the earth” (Rev. 18:9–24).
This passage from Revelation 18 consists largely of lists or inventories of luxury items, and so we will take a larger section of text all at once. The form of this lament or dirge is taken from Ezekiel 27-28, where the prophet is offering up a lamentation for the great merchant city of Tyre. Jerusalem, labeled here as Babylon, has become essentially pagan in her outlook and is therefore going to receive a fitting response from God.
Jesus, prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem and the surrounding nation, compares what was going to happen to them in the day of judgment to what will happen to Tyre, and Tyre comes out ahead. “But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you” (Matt. 11:22).
The list of items in vv. 12-13 reads like a luxury catalog—cinnamon and slaves, marble and scarlet. The fact that the “souls of men” brings up the tail end shows the dehumanizing effect of all such ostentatious living.
The great image here is that this Babylon will be thrown into the ocean like a millstone, and will disappear suddenly and rapidly. A similar image can be found in Jeremiah.
“And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates: And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah” (Jer. 51:63–64).
And here we should once again remember the prophetic words of Christ about what would happen to Jerusalem within one generation. The withered fig tree, remember, was a type of fruitless Israel, and a sign of pending judgment.
“And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith” (Mark 11:20–23).
The mountain He was talking about was the mountain He was standing on, and that was yet another image of the looming judgment.
Jerusalem was not the greatest trading center in the world, but it was a rich city. What is necessary is for the fall of the city to be a great blow to the merchants and promoters, and that certainly happened.
Two other points can be made that help cement the identification of Jerusalem as Babylon headed for the depths.
“Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; For God hath avenged you on her . . . “And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” (Rev. 18:20, 24).
This was a city that was guilty of the blood of saints, and prophets and apostles. Sounds like Jerusalem. Jesus had mentioned the blood of Abel and the blood of Zacharias, but it now included the blood of Jesus Himself, and the blood of Stephen and James and numerous others.
“That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:35).
And the second thing is that it says in v. 20 that God is rising up to take vengeance for all of it, and this again sounds like Jerusalem.
“For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22).