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V. The Punishment of Babylon and the Destruction of Pagan Nations

Chapter 17

Babylon the Great. [a]Then one of the seven angels who were holding the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come here. I will show you the judgment on the great harlot[b] who lives near the many waters.(A) [c]The kings of the earth have had intercourse with her,(B) and the inhabitants of the earth became drunk on the wine of her harlotry.” Then he carried me away in spirit to a deserted place where I saw a woman seated on a scarlet beast[d] that was covered with blasphemous names, with seven heads and ten horns.(C) The woman was wearing purple and scarlet and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls.(D) She held in her hand a gold cup that was filled with the abominable and sordid deeds of her harlotry. On her forehead was written a name, which is a mystery, “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.” [e]I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.

Meaning of the Beast and Harlot.[f] When I saw her I was greatly amazed. The angel said to me, “Why are you amazed? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, the beast with the seven heads and the ten horns. [g](E)The beast that you saw existed once but now exists no longer. It will come up from the abyss and is headed for destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world shall be amazed when they see the beast, because it existed once but exists no longer, and yet it will come again. Here is a clue[h] for one who has wisdom. The seven heads represent seven hills upon which the woman sits. They also represent seven kings:(F) 10 five have already fallen, one still lives, and the last has not yet come,[i] and when he comes he must remain only a short while. 11 The beast[j] that existed once but exists no longer is an eighth king, but really belongs to the seven and is headed for destruction. 12 The ten horns that you saw represent ten kings who have not yet been crowned;[k] they will receive royal authority along with the beast for one hour.(G) 13 They are of one mind and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will fight with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and king of kings, and those with him are called, chosen, and faithful.”(H)

15 Then he said to me, “The waters that you saw where the harlot lives represent large numbers of peoples, nations, and tongues. 16 The ten horns[l] that you saw and the beast will hate the harlot; they will leave her desolate and naked; they will eat her flesh and consume her with fire.(I) 17 For God has put it into their minds to carry out his purpose and to make them come to an agreement to give their kingdom to the beast until the words of God are accomplished. 18 The woman whom you saw represents the great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth.”

Chapter 18

The Fall of Babylon.[m] After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth became illumined by his splendor.(J) [n]He cried out in a mighty voice:

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.(K)
    She has become a haunt for demons.
She is a cage for every unclean spirit,
    a cage for every unclean bird,
    [a cage for every unclean] and disgusting [beast].
For all the nations have drunk[o]
    the wine of her licentious passion.
The kings of the earth had intercourse with her,
    and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her drive for luxury.”(L)

Then I heard another voice from heaven say:

“Depart from her,[p] my people,
    so as not to take part in her sins
    and receive a share in her plagues,(M)
for her sins are piled up to the sky,
    and God remembers her crimes.(N)
Pay her back as she has paid others.
    Pay her back double for her deeds.
    Into her cup pour double what she poured.(O)
To the measure of her boasting and wantonness
    repay her in torment and grief;
for she said to herself,
    ‘I sit enthroned as queen;
    I am no widow,
    and I will never know grief.’(P)
Therefore, her plagues will come in one day,
    pestilence, grief, and famine;
    she will be consumed by fire.
For mighty is the Lord God who judges her.”

The kings of the earth who had intercourse with her in their wantonness will weep and mourn over her when they see the smoke of her pyre. 10 They will keep their distance for fear of the torment inflicted on her, and they will say:

“Alas, alas, great city,
    Babylon, mighty city.
    In one hour your judgment has come.”

11 The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn for her, because there will be no more markets[q] for their cargo: 12 their cargo of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls; fine linen, purple silk, and scarlet cloth; fragrant wood of every kind, all articles of ivory and all articles of the most expensive wood, bronze, iron, and marble; 13 cinnamon, spice,[r] incense, myrrh, and frankincense; wine, olive oil, fine flour, and wheat; cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human beings.

14 “The fruit you craved
    has left you.
All your luxury and splendor are gone,
    never again will one find them.”(Q)

15 The merchants who deal in these goods, who grew rich from her, will keep their distance for fear of the torment inflicted on her. Weeping and mourning, 16 they cry out:

“Alas, alas, great city,
    wearing fine linen, purple and scarlet,
    adorned [in] gold, precious stones, and pearls.(R)
17 In one hour this great wealth has been ruined.”

Every captain of a ship, every traveler at sea, sailors, and seafaring merchants stood at a distance 18 and cried out when they saw the smoke of her pyre, “What city could compare with the great city?” 19 (S)They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and mourning:

“Alas, alas, great city,
    in which all who had ships at sea
    grew rich from her wealth.
In one hour she has been ruined.
20 Rejoice over her, heaven,
    you holy ones, apostles, and prophets.
For God has judged your case against her.”(T)

21 A mighty angel picked up a stone like a huge millstone and threw it into the sea and said:

“With such force will Babylon the great city be thrown down,
    and will never be found again.(U)
22 No melodies of harpists and musicians,
    flutists and trumpeters,
    will ever be heard in you again.
No craftsmen in any trade
    will ever be found in you again.
No sound of the millstone
    will ever be heard in you again.(V)
23 No light from a lamp
    will ever be seen in you again.
No voices of bride and groom
    will ever be heard in you again.
Because your merchants were the great ones of the world,
    all nations were led astray by your magic potion.(W)
24 In her was found the blood of prophets and holy ones
    and all who have been slain on the earth.”(X)

Chapter 19

After this I heard what sounded like the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying:

Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God,
    for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great harlot
    who corrupted the earth with her harlotry.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”(Y)

They said a second time:

“Alleluia! Smoke will rise from her forever and ever.”(Z)

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen. Alleluia.”

The Victory Song.[t] A voice coming from the throne said:

“Praise our God, all you his servants,
    [and] you who revere him, small and great.”(AA)

Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder, as they said:

The Lord has established his reign,
    [our] God, the almighty.
Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory.
For the wedding day of the Lamb[u] has come,
    his bride has made herself ready.(AB)
She was allowed to wear
    a bright, clean linen garment.”(AC)

(The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.)[v]

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed[w] are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These words are true; they come from God.”(AD) 10 I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t! I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brothers who bear witness to Jesus. Worship God.(AE) Witness to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”[x]

The King of Kings. 11 [y]Then I saw the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was [called] “Faithful and True.” He judges and wages war in righteousness.(AF) 12 His eyes were [like] a fiery flame, and on his head were many diadems. He had a name[z] inscribed that no one knows except himself.(AG) 13 He wore a cloak that had been dipped in[aa] blood, and his name was called the Word of God.(AH) 14 The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen.(AI) 15 Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the wine press[ab] the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty.(AJ) 16 He has a name written on his cloak and on his thigh, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”(AK)

17 [ac]Then I saw an angel standing on the sun. He cried out [in] a loud voice to all the birds flying high overhead, “Come here. Gather for God’s great feast, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of military officers, and the flesh of warriors, the flesh of horses and of their riders, and the flesh of all, free and slave, small and great.”(AL) 19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered to fight against the one riding the horse and against his army. 20 The beast was caught and with it the false prophet[ad] who had performed in its sight the signs by which he led astray those who had accepted the mark of the beast and those who had worshiped its image. The two were thrown alive into the fiery pool burning with sulfur.(AM) 21 The rest were killed by the sword that came out of the mouth of the one riding the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

Chapter 20

The Thousand-year Reign. [ae]Then I saw an angel come down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss[af] and a heavy chain.(AN) He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the Devil or Satan,[ag] and tied it up for a thousand years(AO) and threw it into the abyss, which he locked over it and sealed, so that it could no longer lead the nations astray until the thousand years are completed. After this, it is to be released for a short time.

Then I saw thrones; those who sat on them were entrusted with judgment. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image nor had accepted its mark[ah] on their foreheads or hands. They came to life and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.(AP) The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over. This is the first resurrection. Blessed[ai] and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over these; they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for [the] thousand years.

[aj]When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog,[ak] to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.(AQ) They invaded the breadth of the earth[al] and surrounded the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them.(AR) 10 The Devil who had led them astray was thrown into the pool of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The Large White Throne.[am] 11 Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them.(AS) 12 I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life.[an] The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls.(AT) 13 The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades[ao] gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. 14 (AU)Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death.[ap]) 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire.


  1. 17:1–19:10 The punishment of Babylon is now described as a past event and, metaphorically, under the image of the great harlot who leads people astray into idolatry.
  2. 17:1–6 Babylon, the symbolic name (Rev 17:5) of Rome, is graphically described as “the great harlot.”
  3. 17:2 Intercourse…harlotry: see note on Rev 14:4. The pagan kings subject to Rome adopted the cult of the emperor.
  4. 17:3 Scarlet beast: see note on Rev 13:1–10. Blasphemous names: divine titles assumed by the Roman emperors; see note on Rev 13:5–6.
  5. 17:6 Reference to the great wealth and idolatrous cults of Rome.
  6. 17:6b–18 An interpretation of the vision is here given.
  7. 17:8 Allusion to the belief that the dead Nero would return to power (Rev 17:11); see note on Rev 13:3.
  8. 17:9 Here is a clue: literally, “Here a mind that has wisdom.” Seven hills: of Rome.
  9. 17:10 There is little agreement as to the identity of the Roman emperors alluded to here. The number seven (Rev 17:9) suggests that all the emperors are meant; see note on Rev 1:4.
  10. 17:11 The beast: Nero; see note on Rev 17:8.
  11. 17:12–13 Ten kings who have not yet been crowned: perhaps Parthian satraps who are to accompany the revived Nero (the beast) in his march on Rome to regain power; see note on Rev 13:3. In Rev 19:11–21, the Lamb and his companions will conquer them.
  12. 17:16–18 The ten horns: the ten pagan kings (Rev 17:12) who unwittingly fulfill God’s will against harlot Rome, the great city; cf. Ez 16:37.
  13. 18:1–19:4 A stirring dirge over the fall of Babylon-Rome. The perspective is prophetic, as if the fall of Rome had already taken place. The imagery here, as elsewhere in this book, is not to be taken literally. The vindictiveness of some of the language, borrowed from the scathing Old Testament prophecies against Babylon, Tyre, and Nineveh (Is 23; 24; 27; Jer 50–51; Ez 26–27), is meant to portray symbolically the inexorable demands of God’s holiness and justice; cf. Introduction. The section concludes with a joyous canticle on the future glory of heaven.
  14. 18:2 Many Greek manuscripts and versions omit a cage for every unclean…beast.
  15. 18:3–24 Rome is condemned for her immorality, symbol of idolatry (see note on Rev 14:4), and for persecuting the church; cf. Rev 19:2.
  16. 18:4 Depart from her: not evacuation of the city but separation from sinners, as always in apocalyptic literature.
  17. 18:11 Ironically, the merchants weep not so much for Babylon-Rome, but for their lost markets; cf. Ez 27:36.
  18. 18:13 Spice: an unidentified spice plant called in Greek amōmon.
  19. 19:1, 3, 4, 6 Alleluia: found only here in the New Testament, this frequent exclamation of praise in the Hebrew psalms was important in Jewish liturgy.
  20. 19:5–10 A victory song follows, sung by the entire church, celebrating the marriage of the Lamb, the union of the Messiah with the community of the elect.
  21. 19:7 The wedding day of the Lamb: symbol of God’s reign about to begin (Rev 21:1–22:5); see note on Rev 10:7. His bride: the church; cf. 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:22–27. Marriage is one of the biblical metaphors used to describe the covenant relationship between God and his people; cf. Hos 2:16–22; Is 54:5–6; 62:5; Ez 16:6–14. Hence, idolatry and apostasy are viewed as adultery and harlotry (Hos 2:4–15; Ez 16:15–63); see note on Rev 14:4.
  22. 19:8 See note on Rev 14:12.
  23. 19:9 Blessed: see note on Rev 1:3.
  24. 19:10 The spirit of prophecy: as the prophets were inspired to proclaim God’s word, so the Christian is called to give witness to the Word of God (Rev 19:13) made flesh; cf. Rev 1:2; 6:9; 12:17.
  25. 19:11–16 Symbolic description of the exalted Christ (cf. Rev 1:13–16) who together with the armies of heaven overcomes the beast and its followers; cf. Rev 17:14.
  26. 19:12 A name: in Semitic thought, the name conveyed the reality of the person; cf. Mt 11:27; Lk 10:22.
  27. 19:13 Had been dipped in: other Greek manuscripts and versions read “had been sprinkled with”; cf. Rev 19:15. The Word of God: Christ is the revelation of the Father; cf. Jn 1:1, 14; 1 Jn 2:14.
  28. 19:15 The treading of the wine press is a prophetic symbol used to describe the destruction of God’s enemies; cf. Is 63:1–6; Jl 4:13.
  29. 19:17–21 The certainty of Christ’s victory is proclaimed by an angel, followed by a reference to the mustering of enemy forces and a fearsome description of their annihilation. The gruesome imagery is borrowed from Ez 39:4, 17–20.
  30. 19:20 Beast…false prophet: see notes on Rev 13. The fiery pool…sulfur: symbol of God’s punishment (Rev 14:10; 20:10, 14–15), different from the abyss; see note on Rev 9:1.
  31. 20:1–6 Like the other numerical values in this book, the thousand years are not to be taken literally; they symbolize the long period of time between the chaining up of Satan (a symbol for Christ’s resurrection-victory over death and the forces of evil) and the end of the world. During this time God’s people share in the glorious reign of God that is present to them by virtue of their baptismal victory over death and sin; cf. Rom 6:1–8; Jn 5:24–25; 16:33; 1 Jn 3:14; Eph 2:1.
  32. 20:1 Abyss: see note on Rev 9:1.
  33. 20:2 Dragon…serpent…Satan: see notes on Rev 12:3, 9, 10, 15.
  34. 20:4 Beast…mark: see Rev 13 and its notes.
  35. 20:6 Blessed: see note on Rev 1:3. Second death: see note on Rev 2:11. Priests: as in Rev 1:6; 5:10; cf. 1 Pt 2:9.
  36. 20:7–10 A description of the symbolic battle to take place when Satan is released at the end of time, when the thousand years are over; see note on Rev 20:1–6.
  37. 20:8 Gog and Magog: symbols of all pagan nations; the names are taken from Ez 38:1–39:20.
  38. 20:9 The breadth of the earth: Palestine. The beloved city: Jerusalem; see note on Rev 14:1.
  39. 20:11–15 A description of the final judgment. After the intermediate reign of Christ, all the dead are raised and judged, thus inaugurating the new age.
  40. 20:12 The book of life: see note on Rev 3:5. Judged…scrolls: see note on Rev 14:12.
  41. 20:13 Hades: the netherworld; see note on Rev 1:18.
  42. 20:14 Second death: see note on Rev 2:11.