This chapter begins with the words "after these things." What things? The things recorded in the previous chapter, the destruction of "Mystical Babylon."
If "Mystical Babylon" was destroyed in the previous chapter then she cannot appear in this chapter, and the "City" here described must be a literal city called Babylon, and as there is no city of that name on the earth today, nor has been since the ancient city of Babylon was destroyed, it must refer to some future city of Babylon. That the two chapters refer to different things is further verified by the fact that they are announced by different angels. The events of chapter seventeen are announced by one of the "Vial" Angels, while those of the eighteenth are announced by "another" angel; probably the "Second Angel Messenger," who by way of anticipation, announced in chapter 14:8, the "Fall of Babylon," that is there called--"That Great City."
The ancient city of Babylon from the days of Nimrod (Gen. 10:10), grew in size and importance century after century until it reached its greatest glory in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar B. C. 604-562. As described by Herodotus it was an exact square of 15 miles on a side, or 60 miles around, and was surrounded by a brick wall 87 feet thick, and 350 feet high, though probably that is a mistake, 100 feet being nearer the height. On the wall were 250 towers, and the top of the wall was wide enough to allow 6 chariots to drive abreast. Outside this wall was a vast ditch surrounding the city, kept filled with water from the river Euphrates; and inside the wall, and not far from it, was another wall, not much inferior, but narrower, extending around the city.
Twenty-five magnificent avenues, 150 feet wide, ran across the city from North to South, and the same number crossed them at right angles from East to West, making 676 great squares, each nearly three-fifths of a mile on a side, and the city was divided into two equal parts by the river Euphrates, that flowed diagonally through it, and whose banks, within the city, were walled up, and pierced with brazen gates, with steps leading down to the river. At the ends of the main avenues, on each side of the city, were gates, whose leaves were of brass, and that shone as they were opened or closed in the rising or setting sun, like "leaves of flame."
The Euphrates within the city was spanned by a bridge, at each end of which was a palace, and these palaces were connected by a subterranean passageway, or tube, underneath the bed of the river, in which at different points were located sumptuous banqueting rooms constructed entirely of brass.
Near one of these palaces stood the
"Tower of Bel,"
or Babel, consisting of 8 towers, each 75 feet high, rising one upon the other, with an outside winding stairway to its summit, which towers, with the Chapel on the top, made a height of 660 feet. This Chapel contained the most expensive furniture of any place of worship in the world. One golden image alone, 45 feet high, was valued at $17,500,000, and the whole of the sacred utensils were reckoned to be worth $200,000,000.
Babylon also contained one of the "Seven Wonders" of the world, the famous Hanging Gardens.
These Gardens were 400 feet square, and were raised in terraces one above the other to the height of 350 feet, and were reached by stairways 10 feet wide. The top of each terrace was covered with large stones, on which was laid a bed of rushes, then a thick layer of asphalt, next two courses of brick, cemented together, and finally plates of lead to prevent leakage; the whole was then covered with earth and planted with shrubbery and large trees. The whole had the appearance from a distance of a forest-covered mountain, which would be a remarkable sight in the level plain of the Euphrates. These Gardens were built by Nebuchadnezzar simply to please his wife, who came from the mountainous country of Media, and who was thus made contented with her surroundings. The rest of the city was, in its glory and magnificence, in keeping with these palaces, towers, and "Hanging Gardens." The character of its inhabitants and of its official life is seen in the description of "Belshazzar's Feast" in Dan. 5:1-31.
Babylon was probably the most magnificent city the world has ever seen and its fall reveals what a city may become when it forsakes God and He sends His judgment upon it. It is so intimately connected with the history of God's people that the Scriptures have much to say about it. A large part of the Book of Daniel and of the prophecy of Jeremiah relate to it, and it is mentioned in 11 other books of the Old Testament, and in 4 of the New Testament. And that the Book of Revelation is a continuation of the Book of Daniel is further proven by the fact that the city of Babylon is again spoken of in it, and its prominence in the affairs of the world at the "End Time" disclosed, and its final destruction foretold.
That the ancient city of Babylon was destroyed there can be no question, but when we affirm that it is to be rebuilt and again destroyed we are met with two objections.
1. That all the Old Testament prophecies in reference to its destruction have been literally fulfilled, and that it cannot be rebuilt.
2. As there is no city of Babylon now in existence the references in the Book of Revelation to the destruction of such a city must be symbolical and not refer to a literal city.
Let us take up the first objection. For a description of Babylon and her destruction we must turn to Isaiah, chapters 13 and 14.
and Jeremiah, chapters 50 and 51. In these two prophecies we find much that has not as yet been fulfilled in regard to the city of Babylon.
The city of Babylon was captured in B. C. 541 by Cyrus, who was mentioned "by name" in prophecy 125 years before he was born. Isa. 44:28; 45:4, B. C. 712. So quietly and quickly was the city taken on the night of Belshazzar's Feast by draining the river that flowed through the city, and entering by the river bed, and the gates that surmounted its banks, that the Babylonian guards had forgotten to lock that night, that some of the inhabitants did not know until the "third" day that the king had been slain and the city taken. There was no destruction of the city at that time.
Some years after it revolted against Darius Hystaspis, and after a fruitless siege of nearly 20 months was taken by strategy. This was in B. C. 516. About B. C. 478 Xerxes, on his return from Greece plundered and injured, if he did not destroy, the great "Temple of Bel."
In B. C. 331 Alexander the Great approached the city which was then so powerful and flourishing that he made preparation for bringing all his forces into action in case it should offer resistance, but the citizens threw open the gates and received him with acclamations. After sacrificing to "Bel," he gave out that he would rebuild the vast Temple of that god, and for weeks he kept 10,000 men employed in clearing away the ruins from the foundations, doubtless intending to revive the glory of Babylon and make it his capital, when his purpose was defeated by his sudden death of marsh-fever and intemperance in his thirty-third year.
During the subsequent wars of his generals Babylon suffered much and finally came under the power of Seleucus, who, prompted by ambition to build a Capital for himself, founded Seleucia in its neighborhood about B. C. 293. This rival city gradually drew off the inhabitants of Babylon, so that Strabo, who died in A. D. 25, speaks of the latter as being to a great extent deserted. Nevertheless the Jews left from the Captivity still resided there in large numbers, and in A. D. 60 we find the Apostle Peter working among them, for it was from Babylon that Peter wrote his Epistle (1. Pet. 5:13), addressed "to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia."
About the middle of the 5th century Theodoret speaks of Babylon as being inhabited only by Jews, who had still three Jewish Universities, and in the last year of the same century the "Babylonian Talmud" was issued, and recognized as authoritative by the Jews of the whole world.
In A. D. 917 Ibu Hankel mentions Babylon as an insignificant village, but still in existence. About A. D. 1100 it seems to have again grown into a town of some importance, for it was then known as the "Two Mosques." Shortly afterwards it was enlarged and fortified and received the name of Hillah, or "Rest." In A. D. 1898 Hillah contained about 10,000 inhabitants, and was surrounded by fertile lands, and abundant date groves stretched along the banks of the Euphrates. Certainly it has never been true that "neither shall
the Arabian pitch tent there, neither shall the shepherds make their fold there." Isa. 13:20. Nor can it be said of Babylon--"Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness, a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby." Jer. 51:43. Nor can it be said--"And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations, but thou shalt be desolate forever, saith the Lord" (Jer. 51:26), for many towns and cities have been built from the ruins of Babylon, among them Four Capital Cities, Seleucia, built by the Greeks; Ctesiphon, by the Parthians; Al Maiden, by the Persians; and Kufa, by the Caliphs. Hillah was entirely constructed from the debris, and even in the houses of Bag-dad, Babylonian stamped bricks may be frequently noticed.
But Isaiah is still more specific for he locates the Time when his prophecy will be fulfilled. He calls it the "Day of the Lord." Isa. 13:9. That is the Millennium. And he locates it at the beginning of the Millennium, or during the events that usher in the Millennium, for he says--
Surely nothing like this happened when Babylon was taken by Cyrus.
In the description of the destruction of the city of Babylon given in Rev. 18, we read that her judgment will come in one hour (vs. 10), and that in one hour she shall be made desolate (vs. 19), and as an illustration of the suddenness and completeness of her destruction, 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." Rev. 18:21.
We are also told in the same chapter that she is to be destroyed by FIRE (Rev. 18:8, 9, 18), and this is in exact harmony with the words of Isa. 13:19.
Sodom and Gomorrah;"
and the Prophet Jeremiah makes the same statement. Jer. 50:40.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was not protracted through many centuries, their glory disappeared in a few hours (Gen. 19:24-28), and as ancient Babylon was not thus destroyed, the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah cannot be fulfilled unless there is to be a future Babylon that shall be thus destroyed.
In Rev. 16:17-19, we are told that Babylon shall be destroyed by an Earthquake, attended with most vivid and incessant lightning and awful thunder. It would appear then, that as Sodom and Gomorrah were first set on fire and then swallowed up by an earthquake, that the rebuilt city of Babylon will be set on fire, and as the site of ancient Babylon is underlaid with Bitumen (Asphalt), that an earthquake will break up the crust of the earth, and precipitate the burning city into a "Lake of Fire," and the city like a "Millstone" (Rev. 18:21) sink below the surface of the earth as into the sea, and be swallowed up so that it will be impossible to ever take of her stones for building
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Map of the Old Roman Empire with Modern Applications
purposes, and the land shall become a Wilderness where no man shall ever dwell.
The fact that in her will be found the blood of the Prophets, and Holy Apostles and Saints (verses 20, 24), shows that the Papal Church is not in view in this eighteenth chapter, for there was no Papal Church in Old Testament times, or in the days of the Apostles. It is the ancient as well as the revived City of Babylon that is meant. For in Old Testament days the blood of the Prophets was shed by the "Babylonish System" of false religions as visualized in the City of Babylon. So that it can truthfully be said that the blood of Prophets and Apostles of all ages has been shed by her.
There is a remarkable Prophetic Vision recorded by the Prophet Zechariah, that has mystified the Commentators. "Then the Angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an EPHAH that goeth forth. He said moreover: This is their resemblance through all the earth. And, behold, there was lifted up a 'Talent of Lead': and this is a WOMAN that sitteth in the midst of the EPHAH. And he said, This is WICKEDNESS. And he cast it (her down R. V.) into the midst of the EPHAH: and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out TWO WOMEN, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a Stork: and they lifted up the EPHAH between the earth, and the heaven. Then said I to the Angel that talketh with me, Whither do these bear the EPHAH? And he said unto me, To build it (her R. V.) an house in the LAND OF SHINAR: and (when it is prepared, she shall be set there in her own place R. V.)." Zech. 5:5-11.
The "EPHAH" which the Prophet saw go forth, is the largest of Hebrew dry measures, and is often used as a symbol of Commerce, and its "resemblance," or going forth through all the earth, doubtless refers to UNIVERSAL COMMERCIALISM. In this "Ephah" sat a "WOMAN" who was called "WICKEDNESS." This "WOMAN" attempted to rise but the Angel thrust her back, and replaced the lid made of a "Talent of Lead." Then "Two Women," with the wings of a Stork, came, and lifted the "Ephah" high in the air and carried it with the swiftness of the wind to the "LAND OF SHINAR" to build it (her R. V.) a HOUSE. Now the "LAND OF SHINAR" was the place where they built the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9), on whose site ancient BABYLON was located. As this vision of the Prophet occurred many years after the Fall of ancient Babylon, the HOUSE that is to be built for this "Ephah," or the "WOMAN" who was transported in it, must be built in some future City of Babylon.
As we have seen the "Ephah" stands for COMMERCE, and as the occupant of the "Ephah" is called "WICKEDNESS," it reveals the fact that the "Commercialism" of the time of the Vision's fulfilment will be characterized by all manner of dishonest schemes and methods. And the fact that the "WOMAN" is thrust back into
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Babylon, the Metropolis of the World
the "Ephah" and covered with a "Talent of Lead," indicates that those dishonest schemes and methods are to be kept out of sight. The further fact that the "Ephah" is borne to the "LAND OF SHINAR" by two "Stork Winged Women" is not without significance. The Stork, according to the Mosaic Law, is an unclean bird. The name "Chasid" by which it was known, signified the "PIOUS BIRD," and may well stand for the pursuit of wealth under the guise of religion. That will doubtless be a characteristic of those Babylonian days.
This vision of the "Ephah" by the Prophet Zechariah is still further confirmatory proof that the ancient City of Babylon is to be rebuilt and become the COMMERCIAL CENTRE OF THE WORLD. Every influence political and commercial will favor this, and as the "Stork Winged Women" will be favored by the "wings of the wind," the tendency of Commercialism to that part of the world, when the time comes to carry the "Ephah" to the "Land of Shinar," we can readily see that it will not take long, with the wealth of the world at the command of the Capitalists of that day, to re-build Babylon and make it the great Commercial Centre of the world. Once however Commerce is firmly established in Babylon, the occupant of the "Ephah"--"WICKEDNESS," will lift the lid and reveal herself, and no one will be able to buy or sell but he who has the "MARK OF THE BEAST."
As to the probability of the ancient city of Babylon being rebuilt we have only to consider the events that in recent years have been happening in that part of the world looking to just such a thing.
In the Department of War of France, at Paris, there is to be seen the records of valuable surveys and maps made by order of Napoleon I, in Babylonia, and among them is a plan for a New City of Babylon, thus showing that the vast schemes of Napoleon comprehended the Rebuilding of the Ancient City of Babylon, and the making it his Capital, as his ambition was to conquer the whole of Europe and Asia, and he recognized to that end the strategical position of ancient Babylon as a governmental and commercial centre.
It is a fact that the whole country of Mesopotamia, Assyria and Babylonia, only needs a system of irrigation to make it again the most fertile country in the world, and steps have already been taken in that direction. In 1850 the British Government sent out a military officer with his command to survey and explore the river Euphrates at a cost of $150,000, and when the European war broke out, the great English Engineer who built the Assouam dam in Egypt, was engaged in making surveys in the Euphratean valley for the purpose of constructing a series of irrigation canals that would re-store the country and make it again the great grain producing country it once was. As a result towns and cities would spring up and railroads would be built. What is needed in that part of the world is a "Trans-European-Asiatic-Indian Air Line" that will connect Europe with India, and China. Such a line was the dream of ex-Emperor William of Germany. It was that desire that made him and Abdul Hamid, of Turkey, the closest of political friends, and he secured from Abdul Hamid a concession to build a railway from the
[paragraph continues] Asiatic side of the Bosphorus, by way of Aleppo, to the Tigris river, and from there to Bagdad, and from Bagdad via Babylon (via Babylon, mark that) to Koweit on the Persian Gulf, and most of the road has been built to Bagdad.
With these facts in mind it can readily be seen that it is the purpose of European capitalists to revive the country of Babylonia and rebuild its cities, and when once the time comes the city of Babylon will be rebuilt almost in a night and on a scale of magnificence such as the world has never seen.
The rapid growth of modern cities is one of the remarkable phenomena of the times. Since 1880 more than 500 cities have been built in America. Less than 100 years ago the site of the City of Chicago was but a swampy expanse at the mouth of the Chicago river. Now it has been transformed into a beautiful Metropolis, stretching 25 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan, with 5000 miles of streets, many of them beautiful boulevards 120 feet wide. In 1840 Chicago had only 4470 inhabitants, today the population is over 3,000,000. Once the Capitalists of the world are ready the revived City of Babylon will spring up in a few years.
But I hear a protest. How you say can we be expecting Jesus to come at "any moment," if the city of Babylon must be rebuilt before He can come? There is not a word in Scripture that says that Jesus cannot come and take away His Church until Babylon is rebuilt. The Church may be taken out of the world 25 or even 50 years before that.
Babylon the Great will be an immense city, the greatest in every respect the world has ever seen. It will be a typical city, the London, the Paris, the Berlin, the Petrograd, the New York, the Chicago of its day. It will be the greatest commercial city of the world. Its merchandise will be of gold and silver, and precious stones and pearls, of purple, and silk, and scarlet and costly wools. Its fashionable society will be clothed in the most costly raiment and decked with the most costly jewels. Their homes will be filled with the most costly furniture of precious woods, brass, iron and marble, with the richest of draperies, mats and rugs. They will use the most costly of perfumes, cinnamon, fragrant odors, ointments and frankincense. Their banquets will be supplied with the sweetest of wines, the richest of pastry, and the most delicious of meats. They will have horses and chariots and the swiftest of fast moving vehicles on earth and in the air. They will have their slaves, and they will traffic in the "souls of men." That is women will sell their bodies, and men their souls, to gratify their lusts.
The markets will be crowded with cattle, sheep and horses. The wharves will be piled with goods from all climes. The manufactories will turn out the richest of fabrics, and all that genius can invent for the comfort and convenience of men will be found on the market. It will be a city given over to pleasure and business. Business men and promoters will give their days and nights to scheming how to make money fast, and the pleasure loving will be constantly planning new pleasures. There will be riotous joy and ceaseless feasting. As it was in the days of Noah and of Lot,
they will be marrying and giving in marriage, buying and selling, building and planting.
The blood will run hot in their veins. Money will be their god, pleasure their high-priest, and unbridled passion the ritual of their worship.
It will be a city of music. Amid the noise and bustle of its commercial life will be heard the music of its pleasure resorts and theatres. There will be the sound of "harpers and musicians, of pipers and trumpeters" (vs. 22). The world's best singers and players will be there. Its theatres and places of music will be going day and night. In fact there will be no night, for the electric illumination of the city by night will make the night as bright and shadowless as the day, and its stores and places of business will never close, night or day, or Sunday, for the mad whirl of pleasure and the absorbing de-sire for riches will keep the wheels of business constantly moving. And all this will be easy because the "God of this World"--Satan, will possess the minds and bodies of men, for we read in verse 2, that Babylon at that time will be "the Habitation of Devils, and the Hold of Every Foul Spirit, and the Cage of Every Unclean and Hateful Bird." The city will be the seat of the most imposing "OCCULTISM," and mediums, and those desiring to communicate with the other world, will then go to Babylon, as men and women now go to Paris for fashions and sensuous pleasures. In that day demons, disembodied souls, and unclean spirits will find at Babylon the opportunity of their lives to materialize themselves in human bodies, and from the atmospheric heavens above, and from the Abyss below they will come in countless legions until Babylon shall be full of demon possessed men and women, and at the height of its glory, and just before its fall, Babylon will be ruled by SATAN HIMSELF, incarnate in the "Beast"--ANTICHRIST.
But before its destruction God will mercifully deliver His own people, for a voice from heaven will cry--
"Come Out of Her, My People, That Ye be Not Partakers of Her Sins, and that Ye Receive Not of Her Plagues."
As Sodom and Gomorrah could not be destroyed until righteous Lot had escaped, so Babylon cannot be destroyed until all the righteous people in it have fled.
The destruction of the city will be sudden and without warning. A fearful storm will sweep over the city. The lightning and thunder will be incessant. The city will be set on fire and a great Earthquake will shake it from centre to circumference. The tall office buildings, the "Hanging Gardens" and the great towers will totter and fall, the crust of the earth will crack and open, and the whole city with its inhabitants will sink like a "Millstone" (vs. 21), into a lake of burning bitumen, and the smoke will ascend as of a burning fiery furnace, and the horror of the scene will be intensified by vast clouds of steam, generated by the waters of the Euphrates pouring into that lake of fiery asphalt, and when night comes on those clouds of steam will reflect the light of the burning city so it can be seen for miles in all directions in that level country. And the kings of the earth, and the merchants, and the shipmasters, and sailors, and all
who have profited by her merchandise, will stand afar off and cry and wail because of her destruction, but the heavens will rejoice for God will have rewarded her Double according to her works, and BABYLON WILL BE NO MORE.