And finally, this leads us to our third observation on the fall of Babylon as such, namely, the time of her destruction. The chapter itself does not indicate any time. It simply tells us of the destruction. But, in the first place, it may be remarked that the very completeness and finality of her destruction already makes us think that this is one of the scenes of the last days, when all that have exalted themselves against Him, shall be destroyed by the appearance of the Mighty One. And from chapter 16, verse 19, we learned that this destruction of Babylon falls within the events that constitute the realization of the seventh vial. Driven by God’s own counsel, the devil shall have bewitched the nations to war against the Lamb. And at the outpouring of the sixth vial, Euphrates shall be dried up and the way of the kings of the east prepared. The thrones of the kings of the beast shall be darkness, indicating that there shall be internal unrest within the kingdom of Antichrist itself before the great day of Armageddon comes. They shall strike at the center of the anti-Christian dominion first of all, and she shall be overcome. All these things constitute the tremendous events that must take place at the end of time. And it is at that very last that also Babylon shall be destroyed, that she shall fall and her sins shall be remembered in the sight of God.
As to the significance of this fall of Babylon for the world in general we may be brief. Her fall simply means the fall of the entire antichristian kingdom. This is already clear from the very nature of the case. Babylon is pictured as the very center of antichristian power. She is pictured as the throne and heart of the kingdom. Without her, as we mentioned, there is no commerce and no industry, no business, no science, no art, no philosophy, no riches, and no pleasure and joy. In a word, the entire structure of the kingdom rested on Babylon as its cornerstone. And therefore, when she falls, the kingdom falls. It is all done with her greatness and her joy, her riches and her abundance, her pleasure and luxury. The power of Antichrist is completely broken through the fall of Babylon.
This is also indicated symbolically by the weeping and wailing of the kings of the earth and the merchants and the shipmasters and sailors. First of all, the kings are mentioned. They are pictured as standing afar off and weeping over the fall of Babylon. These princes of the earth had all their power concentrated in Babylon. The fall of that city is their fall. It is the end of all world power. It is the end of kings and princes Andy of all rulers of the earth. Then the merchants, the great businessmen and corporations of the world, are mentioned. They had all their riches in Babylon—their gold and their silver and precious stones, and all the articles of their merchandise. They also stand weeping for the reason that no one from now on can buy their merchandise any more. It is the end of materialism, the end of the god of this world, the end of all greed and lust and gain, the end of that power that would buy from and sell to only those that had the mark of the beast. And, finally, the people that work for these merchants, the shipmasters and sailors, that depended on Babylon for a job, are also pictured as bewailing the fall of the great city. And therefore, it is very plain that the fall of Babylon implies the downfall of that entire beautiful structure of the dragon which was pictured in chapter 13 as having dominion over all things and over all the nations of the world. With Babylon, so chapter 16, verse 19 tells us, all the cities of the nations fall together. And therefore, whether we take it that Babylon shall be a real center or whether we look upon her as the symbolic center of antichristendom, certain it is that her fall is the last of Antichrist.
Finally, in regard to the relation of the people of God, we must observe, in the first place, that they are admonished to separate from Babylon. No doubt this is first of all meant in the spiritual sense of the word. A voice comes to them, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins.” Literally they shall not be able to separate themselves from Babylon, for she is everywhere. Even if in her final manifestation she shall reveal herself as a literal city, which is not at all impossible, the fact remains that she will be sitting upon many waters and that her sway and influence is felt all over the world, yea, that she is present in every city, in all business and commerce and in every shop and store. If she would literally separate from Babylon, the church would have to go out of the world. And therefore, a spiritual separation is meant, in the first place. And this is plainly indicated by the words “that ye may have no fellowship with her sins.” The people of God must know Babylon. They must see her true character. They must realize that her hope is outside of Christ, that her hope is altogether in this world, that she is antichristian and serves the devil, that she, tramples under foot the blood of Christ. However beautiful and Christian she may appear, they must discern her true nature and refuse to have fellowship with her. And instead, they must with might and main cling to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. They must maintain that. Christ is King and that His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom in glory. But although this is true, nevertheless I do not doubt that also a literal separation is implied in these words. I imagine, as we have had occasion to notice before, that before the last judgment shall be inflicted upon wicked Babylon, the voice mentioned here will go forth with power and the people of God shall be taken away from the world. Not indeed as if a long period would intervene between the removal of the last of God’s children and the end of the world; but they shall be removed. The voice will become powerful, will become irresistible, and will call powerfully the faithful and chosen from the midst of the arena of strife and tribulation to be with Christ in glory forever. How this is to be performed the text does not tell us; but that it is to be done is very clear. And the purpose of this removal of the children of God is plainly indicated in the words “and that ye receive not of her plagues.” They shall not partake of her judgment. Before the final punishment is inflicted on Babylon, the children of God shall be no more in the world.
In the second place, the judgment on Babylon and on the antichristian kingdom in general will be a cause of great joy to all them that love the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the text this is indicated, as also in the next chapter. A voice shouts: “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.” vs. 20. No wonder! It is in Babylon that the blood of all the saints is found: for she is the culmination and highest realization of the power of opposition in the world of all ages. It was in Babylon that these saints were in tribulation, that they were made a laughing-stock because of their antiquated ideas and other-worldly hopes. It was Babylon that laughed at them when they testified of Jesus and of the hope that was in them, when they refused to believe in all the hopes and expectations of the world, refused to help along in the building up of the world. In a word, the apostles and prophets and the saints were always the mockery and laughingstock, looked upon as fools and idiots who knew not how to value things at their right estimation. And therefore, they must be set right; and it must become apparent that they were right and true. Even as for a long time they laughed at Noah and his message and his building of the ark, so also the world for ages laughed at all the people of God and their message and the building of their ark of hope in Christ Jesus. But even as Noah was justified when the world of wickedness was destroyed, so shall the saints and the apostles and prophets be publicly justified when this world and all the glorious harlotries of this world shall be destroyed and its calamity shall come in one day. Rejoice, therefore, ye saints, even in anticipation! Have no fellowship with the sins of Babylon! For the New Jerusalem alone shall stand and have the victory forever! But Babylon and all its abominations shall fall and be desolate forever!