Revelation 17-19

John’s portrayal of judgement in Revelation narrowed and slowed in reference to Babylon in chs. 17-19. The Babylonian Empire cast a shadow into Jewish and Roman relations in John’s day. Many Jews felt as though they were yet in captivity, having been overtaken first by the Babylonians and then, later on, by the Romans. John’s description of the judgement of Babylon in Revelation 17-19 encapsulated not just Old Testament references specific to that ancient empire but also general prophetic images of judgement. In the judgement of Babylon, God judged all nations that opposed His people.

(1) In Rev 17:5, John saw the name of the harlot, Babylon, whom the Lord was going to judge, recalling Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s pronouncements against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was the Babylonian king whom the Lord raised up to destroy Jerusalem and the temple because of the idolatry of His people (2 Kgs 25:1-21). Isaiah announced that the Lord would come against Babylon just as He had used Babylon to come against Israel. Babylon would become like Sodom and Gomorrah, inhabited by wild animals, void of the culture and life it once knew (Isaiah 13). Isaiah’s prophetic word against Babylon was intended to encourage his audience in the justice of God (Isa 21:1-10). Jeremiah likewise proclaimed that the Lord would execute justice against Babylon and make her desolate just as she had laid waste nations in the days when Nebuchadnezzar ruled (Jeremiah 50-51). One of the seven angels emptying the bowls of God’s wrath told John that God was going to judge Babylon. The angel told John that Babylon was a prostitute, the dominion of everything vile (Rev 17:1-4). Isaiah and Jeremiah announced the Lord’s judgement upon Babylon because Babylon was filled with the blood of Israel; John heard of the Lord’s judgement upon the great prostitute Babylon because she was filled with the blood of the saints (Rev 17:6).

(2) In Rev 18:11, 18-19, John described the merchants’ mourning at the sudden downfall of Babylon, using language that Ezekiel used to describe the merchants’ mourning at the downfall of Tyre. In Ezekiel 27, the prophet confronted Tyre for arrogantly admiring her own beauty and location at the gateway of the sea. She had access to all the goods of the earth; Tyre was adorned and adored by the nations. “But the east wind has shattered you,” Ezekiel declared (Ezek 27:26). Those once enthralled with Tyre lamented the downfall, wailing over Tyre, shaving their heads and covering themselves in sackcloth (Ezek 27:28-31). Ezekiel wrote, “Those who trade among the peoples hiss at you; you have become an object of horror and will never exist again” (Ezek 27:36). John heard the kings of the earth and all who exchanged with Babylon cry out, “Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in a single hour your judgment has come” (Rev 18:10). John said that those who profited from Babylon would never do so again. The seafarers and sailors stood watch and mourned Babylon’s destruction, saying, “Woe, woe, the great city, where all those who have ships on the sea became rich from her wealth; because in a single hour she was destroyed” (Rev 18:19).

(3) In Rev 19:13, John saw that the garment of the rider on the white horse was stained with blood, echoing the blood-stained clothes of the victor Isaiah prophesied. Isaiah declared God’s vengeance, noting that the blood staining the Lord’s garment was the blood of those crushed in the winepress of His anger as he trampled His opponents (Isa 63:1-3). John saw heaven opened and the One called Faithful and True coming forth riding a white horse to do battle, having the armies of heaven in tow (Rev 19:11). The One proceeding on the white horse had a robe stained with blood (Rev 19:13), His own, by which He conquered (Rev 1:5; 5:5, 9).

(4) In Rev 19:18, John heard an angel call the birds to gather and feast on the flesh of the kings of the earth destroyed by the rider on the white horse, recalling Ezekiel’s prophecy that birds would gather to eat the flesh of horse and rider on the day the Lord executed His vengeance against His enemies. Ezekiel prophesied that the Lord would gather the nations as a large army to come against Israel and on the day of battle, He would conquer them and execute His vengeance (Ezekiel 38). The Lord told Ezekiel to proclaim to the birds of heaven that they should gather to the mountains of Israel because He was going to set before them a sacrificial feast consisting of the flesh of horse and rider that He gathered against Israel (Ezek 39:17-20). John saw an angel standing in the sun as it called out to the birds to gather for the supper of God: the flesh of kings and horses, the flesh of both slave and free (Rev 19:18). They were destroyed by the sword that proceeded from the mouth of the rider, Faithful and True, and the beast and the false prophet were thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 19:19-21).