The Voice from Heaven (18:4-20)

The accent on Rome's economic power and material luxury continues in the next section, the longest direct address from heaven to John's readers since the end of chapter 3. With it the time frame shifts back to the present, as John is allowed to contemplate the worldly magnificence that will soon be gone. "Another angel coming down from heaven" (v. 1) gives way to another voice from heaven (v. 4)—a voice just as anonymous and just as mysterious as the angel that preceded it. The terms of address, my people (v. 4), suggest that the voice is God's voice, and yet it refers to God repeatedly in the third person (vv. 5, 8, 20). In this sense the voice is like the oracle of a prophet speaking for God without quite being God. The oracle is framed by twin appeals to the people of God, beginning with, Come out of her, my people [that is, out of Babylon] so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues (v. 4). It ends, "Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you" (v. 20).

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