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Revelation 18:1–8

“I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities’ ” (vv. 4–5).

Due to the fluid nature of the symbolic language in the book of Revelation, it will be helpful for us to step back for a moment at this point in our study and review what some of the key symbols represent. Going back to Revelation 13, we see that one of the chief strategies of the devil in his war against God and His people is to make use of a beast who deceives nations into worshiping him. Ancient Rome and its demand for emperor worship is one manifestation of this beast, but in a broader sense it can also stand for any empire opposed to the Lord. By the time we get to Revelation 17, however, the beast is no longer ancient Rome but comes to signify an ultimate evil that Rome, represented by the prostitute Babylon riding the beast, thinks is under her control. The ten horns on the beast are ten kings, probably representing various nations Rome has subjugated. Rome believes that she has tamed this beast and these nations, having brought them under her dominion. However, this rule will not last long, for the beast and other kingdoms will turn on her when God brings Rome to an end (vv. 15–18).

Revelation 18 declares the surety of Rome’s fall, echoing language from prophets about the end of pagan powers. Isaiah 34, for example, prophesies the fall of Edom, declaring that the destruction would be so vast that only unclean animals would reside there. Such destruction will finally fall on the Roman Empire, says Revelation 18:1–3, and only detestable beasts will reside there. When the city of Rome fell a few centuries after John wrote Revelation, the population drastically shrank. Some estimate that in the first century, about one million people lived in Rome, but when the city fell to the barbarians in the fifth century, fewer than thirty thousand people remained.

Revelation 18:4–8 takes the announcement of Rome’s coming fall as a warning to believers. In language reminiscent of texts such as Isaiah 48:20 and Jeremiah 50:8, believers are exhorted to flee Rome lest they share in her destruction. Recall that earlier in Revelation, congregations such as those at Thyatira and Laodicea were condemned for the willingness of many of their members to profit by engaging in the pagan rituals associated with trading guilds (Rev. 2:18–29; 3:14–21). The coming fall of Rome would be a disaster for anyone dependent on Rome, and they would be destroyed as well. All who engage in practices of empires that God forbids will fall just like those empires.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

The call to separate ourselves from evil that we read in Revelation 18:4–5 reminds us of our responsibility not to be conformed to this world. While we must live in this world, we must take care not to adopt the sinful values and evil practices of this world. This requires continual vigilance, for often we adopt the world’s way of thinking without ever noticing it happen.

For Further Study
  • Jeremiah 51:41–46
  • Romans 12:1–2
  • 2 Corinthians 6:14–18
  • 1 Peter 1:14–16

    The Reign of Babylon

    The Fall of Babylon

    Keep Reading The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

    From the December 2020 Issue
    Dec 2020 Issue