This passage actually starts the destruction of Babylon the Great. The entire passage encompasses 18:1-19:4. We will break it up into 4 passages: 1-8, 9-20, 21-24, and 19:1-4.
1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven having great authority, and the earth was illumined from his glory1. 2 And he cried out in a mighty2 voice saying,
“Fallen, Fallen is Babylon the Great!3
She has become a dwelling place for demons
and a haunt4 for every unclean spirit
and a haunt for every unclean and hateful bird.5
3 For all the nations have drunk
from the wine of wrath of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth committed
sexual immorality6 with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich
from the power of her luxury7.”
4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying,
“Come out from her, my people
so that you won’t share in her sins,
and so that you won’t receive any of her plagues8,
5 because her sins have piled up9 as far as heaven
and God has remembered her unrighteous acts.
6 Give back to her as she even has given10
and duplicate the duplicates according to her deeds,
mix her a duplicate portion in the cup that she mixed11.
7 As many as have glorified her and lived in luxury,
give her as much torment and sorrow12.
Because in her heart she says,
‘I sit as a Queen
and I’m not a widow13,
and I never14 see sorrow.’15
8 For this reason, her plagues will come in one day16,
death, sorrow, and famine.
She will be burned up in fire,
because mighty is the Lord God who judges her.”
1 This is the only time in Revelation that angel is portrayed as having “glory”. Osborne*** suggests that the reason for the angel’s glory is because he represents God’s divine glory and has just come from the presence of God (Pgs. 634-635). The passage is also an echo of Ezekiel 43:2.
The illumination might be enhanced by the contrast with the shame and darkness of embodied by this woman. Light gives definition to the shadows, just as we came to understand sin by receiving the law. A great light shown on the world when Jesus came, and through Him we come to understand life.
2 ἰσχυρᾷ (mighty)
3 An allusion to Isaiah 21:9b. Perhaps the entire passage of Isaiah 21:9b is what is in John’s mind since the majority of the Apocalypse deals with idolatry.
We might view the entire Bible as the story of idolatry, from inception to resolution. The hand that reached out for the forbidden fruit returned with the first idol in its grasp. The hand of God was relinquished for the appeal of self, only to find self diminished and condemned. That same temptation is as real and present as depicted in the Garden. God offers His hand to lift us up again after our fall. We just say yes, and He does the rest.
Isaiah 21:9b ...Πέπτωκεν Βαβυλών, καὶ πάντα τὰ ἀγάλματα αὐτῆς καὶ τὰ χειροποίητα αὐτῆς συνετρίβησαν εἰς τὴν γῆν.
Isaiah 21:9b ...Babylon has fallen, and all of her idols and her hand- made things were crushed into the earth.
4 φυλακὴ (a haunt)
φυλακὴ can mean “a watch”, “a guard”, or “a prison”. Beale* explains that he OT use of φυλακὴ normally means “a place of watching” or “haunt”. (Pgs. 894-895). In other words, it is a dwelling place as described in the previous line.
5 Allusions to Isa. 13:21-22; 34:11-14; Jer. 50:39; 51:37; and Zeph. 2:14-15. Beale* states that the bird-like creatures were considered as demonic in Jewish thinking. (Pg. 894).
6 ἐπόρνευσαν (committed sexual immorality)
or “engaged in prostitution” as in engage in an act with a prostitute. The very image of committing idolatry.
7 τοῦ στρήνους αὐτῆς (of her luxury)
or “of her sensuality”. The trade of the Roman Empire had made merchants very rich. The Roman economy was based on forced taxes and the extraction of good from the entire empire and the movement of goods out of the provinces to support the elite. Osborne*** (Pgs. 637-638). It should also be noted that the “power” derives for the “luxury” (A genitive of source).
8 God commands his people, the believers, to come out of the city. It is most likely a final warning to believers to not compromise with the evil city or you will suffer the same fate as she will. Mounce** (Pgs. 324-325).
We might harken back to Revelation 3:10, in the letter to the church in Philadelphia.
“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” ESV
We avoid judgment if we endure in His word.
9 ἐκολλήθησαν (have piled up)
The verb normally means “to stick to” or “to cling to”. Here, it means “to touch”. The visual image depicts Babylon’s/Rome’s sins as being so many that they touch heaven itself! Thus, the vivid rendering “have piled up”.
The goal of the Tower of Babel was to reach into heaven. Though that effort would fail, they still have the attention of God. Their bricks were scattered, but their sins are heaped together and not forgotten. It would seem unlikely this allusion would be lost on those reading this letter for the first time.
10 The TR adds ὑμῖν (to you). ὑμῖν is in the plural. The rendering would be: “Give back to her as she even has given to you”.
11 διπλώσατε τὰ διπλᾶ (duplicate the duplicates)
or “double the doubles”. At first glance, the passage may seem to be a contradiction as to what is said at the beginning of the verse, but it does not mean to “double” the payback. Mounce** says the interpretation merely means “to pay her back in full” (Pg.325). Beale* states that διπλώσατε τὰ διπλᾶ (duplicate the duplicates) means to “product a duplicate, twin, or matching equivalent. (Pg. 901).
This might be considered a restatement and confirmation of the command, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
12 In other words, as much glory and luxury that she received should be equal with the amount of torments and sorrows. This basically restates verse 6: “pay her back what she has paid”.
13 A widow in the ancient world was a hard life. A pagan widow was not allowed to remarry and was sometimes force to live with her husband’s family. A jewish widow could inherit land only if she had no sons. Osborne*** (Pg. 642).
14 οὐ μὴ (never)
Greek: “not not”. The double “nots” makes the expression empathetic.
15 An allusion to Isaiah 47:7-8. Beale* sees this as “self-idolatry” and reminds us that this attitude was what was getting the church in Laodicea in trouble (Pg. 903).
16 The idea of one day probably means that the destruction will come suddenly. A parallel to 17:16.
Adam and Eve were warned about eating the forbidden fruit, for on that day they would die. They did, but it took a little while before they stopped moving around. Like cutting off the head of a snake and the body still moves. It’s dead, but the body is in motion, oblivious to this fact. Soon it will be obvious that death has taken place. Though the head was chopped off some time ago, the realization of what happened may not come until the last twitch. To the perishing it may appear sudden.
NT = New Testament
OT = Old Testament
ESV = English Standard Version
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NIV = New International Version
KJV = King James Version
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV)
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)
The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)
(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger
(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)
*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale
**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce
***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne
+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace
++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule
+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick
A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)