Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
“IV. Final Judgment at the Arrival of the Eschaton (17:1-20:15)” pp. 603-725.
“A. Destruction of Babylon the Great (17:1-19:5)” pp. 605-668.
“2. Fall of Babylon the Great (18:1-24)” pp. 631-661.
The fall of “Babylon” has been predicted and discussed at several points earlier in Revelation, but in chapter 18 the actual fall is described in detail. Revelation 18:1-3 begins the process with an angelic announcement, as another angel with great authority descends from heaven. Osborne observes that “the members of the false trinity do not possess ‘glory’ in the Apocalypse” (Osborne 2002, 634). This angel is apparently reflecting God’s glory, descending from his presence. While some scholars take this as a reference to Christ, Osborne finds that Revelation does not elsewhere use angelic language to speak of Christ, so he thinks it unlikely here (Osborne 2002, 635). The message of the angel is that Babylon is fallen, an allusion to Isaiah 21:9, where Babylon and its idols are shattered. The announcement is described in groups of three parallel lines, which is uncommon and therefore noticeable (Osborne 2002, 635). In its fall, Babylon, once a home for demons, becomes a prison for demons (Osborne 2002, 636). The judgment is not arbitrary but because of the sins of its inhabitants. The parallel second and third lines speak of the leadership of Babylon’s kings and of the economic excesses which contributed to a departure from God’s Word (Osborne 2002, 637). Osborne observes that Rome, as an economic powerhouse, easily could lose restraint. This would create hardship for the lower classes.
In Revelation 18:4-8 a heavenly voice calls the people of God to come out of “Babylon.” Osborne finds a double meaning in the call, as not only should God’s people avoid the place of destruction, but they should also be spiritually separate from the sins of Babylon (Osborne 2002, 638). This is necessary, according to verse five, because Babylon’s sins have risen to heaven and require judgment (Osborne 2002, 639). Osborne finds the judgment to be according to a law of retribution (lex talionis), in which “God will pay [the sins] back in kind” (Osborne 2002, 640). The sentence is pronounced in terms common in a Roman court of law. The defendant, Babylon, is to be paid back what she has done. Specifically, she will drink “the cup of God’s wrath” that was involved in the “cup of sin” she persuaded others to drink (Osborne 2002, 641). The sin may be encapsulated, as Osborne does, in the ideas of seeking her own glory and pursuing her own pleasure (Osborne 2002, 642). The plagues that will come upon Babylon are familiar by now, as we have seen them - death, sorrow, hunger, pestilence, etc. Again Osborne notes that God uses the very things Babylon already has for her destruction (Osborne 2002, 643).
Revelation 18:9-19 consists of three funeral dirges which are sung by those who gained great profit from her (Osborne 2002, 644). First, the kings of the earth lament because they will miss the licentious relationship with Babylon. Osborne sees this as primarily financial license to plunder and profit (Osborne 2002, 645). They fear the judgment falling on them as well.
Merchants also lament, with language of mourning (Osborne 2002, 646). Again, they are not so much disturbed at the destruction of Babylon as at the loss of their trade. Osborne notes the substantial list of types of wealth that could be lost (Osborne 2002, 647). He then walks through items on the list, describing the way they were obtained and their luxury (Osborne 2002, 648-650). The merchants, like the kings, “‘stand far off’ to distance themselves from the fate of the unholy Roman empire” (Osborne 2002, 651). This is a very pragmatic move, signifying no change of heart, but only a change of location. The merchants are like the kings, in that they are troubled because of their earthly losses, not because of their sin.
The third lament is that of sea captains and sailors, a group of whom four classes of people are listed, all who draw profit from any nautical pursuits (Osborne 2002, 652). Seeing the destruction of Babylon they also mourn because of the loss of their livelihood, rather than because of the terrible fate of the people and city (Osborne 2002, 653).
Revelation 18 shifts abruptly as God’s people are called to “rejoice that the name of God has triumphed and his people have been vindicated” (Osborne 2002, 653). Osborne freely admits the discomfort involved in rejoicing over destruction but recognizes the central theme in Revelation “is to defend the justice of God and vindicate the suffering saints” (Osborne 2002, 654). As this is accomplished it is a matter of praise. Again, we are reminded that the judgment upon Babylon is the same as the judgment Babylon inflicted on God’s people (Osborne 2002, 655).
In Revelation 18:21-24, the judgment is described in more detail, with Babylon being cast down never to be found again, like a millstone thrown into the sea (Osborne 2002, 656). Osborne notes in its destruction there will be five things no more to be found. In the carefully arranged list, the odd numbers are things which will not be heard, and the evens are things no more to be seen. Music will be gone, also craftsmen and thus the economy (Osborne 2002, 657). The millstone will not be heard, indicating lasting famine. The city will be dark, without lamps and barren, without the voice of a bridegroom or bride (Osborne 2002, 657). The charges leading to this penalty are read, as would be expected in a Roman court: “economic tyrrany, sorcery, and murder” (Osborne 2002, 658). These charges are not really unique to one culture, but certainly would fit the Roman culture of the time of composition. Osborne does specify that the word “sorcery” can easily refer to deceit of the type used to lead the nations away from God. The trouble Babylon has brought will come to her.