LAMENTING OVER THE FALL OF BABYLON
Rev 18:9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning. (Also see Vs. 10)
Rev 18:11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more. (Also see Vss. 12-17a)
Rev 18:17b-18a) And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, and cried when they saw the smoke of her burning. (Also see Vss. 18b-19)
As we begin this lesson it is well to note, as we often did in other studies regarding similar subjects, the term "Babylon" needs to be clarified. At the time of the writing of this book of Revelation, the ancient Persian city of Babylon, located near the convergence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, had been destroyed many centuriesbefore. Therefore, Babylon is used symbolically in the lesson text and refers to "Mystical Babylon.," which has been biblically confirmed to refer to the city of Rome. And specifically, the term refers to Rome under the dominating influence of the ruthless years of civil and religious dominance of the Roman Catholic papacy.
Here the complete fall of Babylon, or Rome, is symbolically prophesied to take place. Those nations, monarchs, and tradesmen who knew her, profited in their alliance, and participated in her sinful ways, now were lamenting over her devastating fall from her dominating world power. Kings throughout the known world were destined to bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning - that is, her destructive fall. Why? It was because they had been attracted to her, seduced by her, willingly given in to her, and actively participated in her sensual, pleasure-driven conduct of life. As was previously written in Revelation 14:8, so it is confirmed in the lesson text: she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Many monarchs of Europe had been selected by, installed into their leadership roles, and financially supported by the Roman Catholic papacy, all of which were arbitrary governments designed to persecute and oppress the true New Testament church of Christ. Fully aware of the powers of Rome being reduced to ruin, these monarchs were content to witness her destruction from afar off, for fear that the same swift judgment would also be their lot.
And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her. Indeed the inhabitants of Rome had thrived under the influence of self-indulgent Roman religious leaders. The city seemingly was entirely given to sensuous luxury, pomp, and pageantry, from which merchants found a tremendous source of wealth by filling their extravagant, lustful desires. Rome was once a great market for their gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble (Vs. 12). These things have always been considered items, not of necessity, but of luxury - splendid items that only the richest of nations and people could afford. There were also merchandise, less luxurious and necessary, but still as costly as cinnamon, and odors, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat. These merchants also dealt profitably in beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, which were needed for food, clothing, domestic, and military purposes (Vs. 13).
Great wealth among the people of Rome created the desire for personal slaves (Vs. 13), which the profit-minded merchants of the world gladly supplied. Slaves were purchased by the richest Romans, not only for their domestic service, but also as a matter of ostentatious show - they became a measure of one's wealth. Not only were the physical bodies of slaves purchased but also their souls were placed under a bondage that restricted their religious practices to paganism or to the apostate Roman Catholic religious doctrine, thus preventing them from seeking God's salvation offered under true New Testament Christianity.
All things these merchants found to be desirable and pleasurable to the people of Rome were also very profitable to them. With the fall of this religious-driven empire, the demand for such temporal merchandise ceased. John sums it up by stating that all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all (Vs 14). Just as the kings that depended on Rome for support and defense lamented the fall of Rome, so did the merchants of these things, which were made rich by her (Vs. 15). The kings feared they would suffer the same fate as the fallen Rome. So for the world to see, they dissociated themselves from the powers of that once-great city by lamenting its demise from afar. This is exactly what the merchants would also do. While grieving over the fall of Rome, they, too, stood afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing (Vs. 15). All the costly, luxurious merchandise that had been supplied by the merchants of the world; all the wealth that the Romans had purchased over centuries; all the fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, was now worthless, for in one hour (symbolically a very short span of time) so great riches is come to nought (V ss. 16-17).
Examples of the prophetic lamenting, that would result from the destruction of the Roman Empire and its papal religious leadership, continue. As noted above it was first that the kings of the earth bewailed and lamented over her downfall. Following this John wrote that the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her. Finally, we find in the lesson text that every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, also lamented over the demise of Rome. The text says that, to demonstrate the actions of these mourning mariners, they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing. No doubt these seamen were the ones that profited by carrying the cargo of merchants from all over the known world to Rome. As they grieved they, too, stood afar off, as if to disassociate themselves from the Romans, lest they also suffer the same deathly demise. The question that could be asked here is, "Were these kings, merchants, and mariners lamenting over the destructive fall of Rome, or over the loss of their personal source of wealth?" The probable answer is the latter - the same reason most of the selfish, greedy, worldly -minded people that inhabited the world during all of society's ages.
Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate (Vs.19). Rome lived deliciously (Vs. 9). She bathed herself sumptuously, and lavishly, in all the luxuries of life, and the world around her profited from her religious, social, and governmental lifestyle. But with her fall all, who had committed fornication with her, and blindly followed her leadership, also fell. Why? Because they were seduced by her, turned away from the righteousness demanded by God, and were led into a false, Satan-inspired apostate religion that had, as its foundation, the covetous desire for worldly power, fame, and wealth. Although long in coming, God was to prevail, and would be swiftly carried out, symbolically,in one hour is she made desolate (Vs. 19).