REJOICING OVER THE FALL OF BABYLON
Rev 18:20-24 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And 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. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; and the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
After centuries of anti-Christian persecution the despotic rule by the Roman Catholic papacy is symbolically predicted to come to a self-destructive end. From Barnes' Notes we find this commentary on the verses describing the world-wide lamentations over the fall of "Babylon," which symbolized Roman Catholicism and its leaders: "Kings, merchants, and seamen, who had been countenanced and sustained by her in the indulgence of corrupt passions, or who had been enriched by traffic with her, would have occasion to mourn." In the previous lesson these lamentations were discussed in detail.
However, there was also much rejoicing over the fall of Rome. The oppression of true New Testament Christianity is here symbolically predicted to take place. A great exultation was to take place because, the church of Christ, once tyrannically oppressed, would be freed from the suppression of God's Holy Word. The gospel message of eternal salvation through Christ Jesus would now be preached, with little hindrance, throughout the world. Although we learn in previous verses 9 through 19 that most of the world was symbolically predicted to mourn and grieve over the fall of Rome, the lesson text assures us that the small number of Christians that remained steadfastly faithful to God and His Son, Christ Jesus, were to rejoice exceedingly. And, along with these jubilant Christians, all the holy inhabitants of heaven would join in this joyous occasion. Even the blood of the apostles of Christ, and the prophets of old would be avenged (Vs. 24), and would rejoice over the fall of mystical Babylon. God's vengeance would be justly meted out against this great enemy of the church of Christ, and God's children would find it to be a joyful occasion.
Just why God allowed the tyrannical Roman Catholic papacy to rule the known world, and persecute the church of Christ for many centuries, has not been biblically revealed to us. But this we know from the lesson text, that the hour would, and did, come when God's vindictive justice came upon this apostate church, destroyed its religious and temporal power, and restored the soul-saving power of Christianity to a lost and dying world. This was symbolically predicted when John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, wrote: 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. God uses His angel band to deliver many messages, and carry out many deeds, in order to establish His power throughout the world. One angel, noted in verse 1, and another in verse 21, were used to carry out His prophetic will. Similar to the casting of a stone ...into the midst of Euphrates predicted the fall of ancient Babylon (Jer. 51:63-64), so here the casting of a stone like a great millstone ...into the sea prophetically tells of the destruction of that great (symbolic) city Babylon, known here as Rome. The papal power of Rome would be utterly, and completely, overthrown by God's just revenge - symbolically casting it into the sea to rise no more.
Due to its utter destruction, the festive joy-making in Rome would cease. No more harpers, ...musicians, ...pipers, and trumpeters would be heard. The crafting trades, who supported the worldly evils of Rome and became wealthy in doing so, would cease, and the prosperous manufacturing mills would be closed. Candle light will not be found in the city, indicating that joy, once found in the homes of Rome, would be extinguished. The gaiety of marriages would be heard no more. And why was this to take place? It was because of God's just vengeance against an apostate Rome, for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.