What Goes Around… – Revelation 18:21-24 06/20/21

What Goes Around… – Revelation 18:21-24 06/20/21


We’re nearing the end of our study in the Revelation. So far we’ve seen Jesus correct the Church universal, we’ve seen Him exalted as the only worthy One. We’ve carefully examined the three-sevens as God vented His wrath against those who stand in rebellion to Him. We’ve examined the nature of the Beast and the False Prophet, and then we were introduced to the harlot, also called Babylon, the spiritual force behind much of what is wicked in the world, and we’ve seen her overthrown.


Our text today is Revelation 18:21-24, which as usual I will leave for you to look up. We open with a mighty angel tossing around a stone; Revelation 18:21. The kind of millstone referred to here would be similar in size, shape, and weight to the (μύλος ὀνικός) “donkey’s millstone” referred to in Mark 9:42. The wheel would be four to five feet in diameter, a foot thick, and weigh thousands of pounds.[1] It is this kind of mill stone that the angel is pictured as throwing into the sea. This is a picture of sudden action that is irrevocable in nature.


The simple fact is, there are forces at work against us. If we’ve learned nothing else from our study in Revelation, at least, that should have become clear. If we do not actively pursue Christ, if we do not actively seek to grow in the power of the Spirit and learn to recognize His guidance, if we do not consciously set aside who we were in order to be who God intends for us to be, we will, always, every time, grow cold to the things of God.


This is now the third time that an angel has been designated as a “strong angel.”[2] The word translated as “strong” is (ἰσχυρὸς), [3] and means strong or mighty.[4] It pertains to being physically strong and vigorous.[5] The word group this comes from conveys the sense of “ability,” “capacity,” “power,” or “strength.”[6] Any of these could be reasonably applied to the angel and the power he displays as he hurls a ton-heavy millstone into the sea.


But there is a pattern that has been established by these “strong angels. The first such angel, found in Revelation 5:2, deals with a scroll.[7] This scroll addresses Jesus’ suffering as an integral aspect of the plan of salvation.[8] Only “the lamb who was slain” (that’s Jesus Christ, crucified, died, buried, and resurrected, if you have any questions regarding the lamb’s identity) is worthy to open the scroll. So, strong angel number one has a scroll containing the judgments of God, but only Jesus is worthy to open it.


The second time a “strong” angel appears in Revelation 10:1-3.[9] Here we have a little scroll, in contrast to the large scroll.[10] This scroll is addressing the suffering of the Church, you may remember that John is called upon to eat it. It’s sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach.[11]


Now, finally, we have the third strong angel. His act is symbolic of the completion of the judgments against the nations of the world, and the completion of the suffering of the Church.[12] With the third strong angel we have, acted out, the culmination of the decrees given through both of the previous two scrolls.[13]


The ticklish question regarding what this city is remains unanswered.[14] That the language is symbolic seems reasonably clear. Some see all this symbolism as a reference to the literal city of first century Rome.[15] In its historic context this may well be what John had in mind. Others understand this to point to a literal rebuilding of Babylon on the Euphrates River.[16] That is entirely possible. The river would need to be dredged to make ship-bearing on the river possible,[17] but that’s really a small obstacle. Still others site the many times that Jerusalem is called “Babylon” because of her repeated lapses into apostasy.[18] Frankly, I find this unlikely, but there are people much smarter than myself that hold this view.


Frankly, biblical interpreters continue to debate this question.[19] There are some details that I think shed light on the problem. The city is condemned for the execution of God’s people, but in other places this bloodletting is placed at the feet of the “inhabitants of the earth”[20]; Revelation 6:10. And yet, in Revelation 11:7 the martyrdom of the saints is blamed on the Beast.[21] And then, finally in our text today, it is blamed on Babylon; Revelation 18:24.


I think this tends to support my thesis that Babylon is distinct from the Beast or the False Prophet, that it is not limited to any specific city, or any specific time.[22] Ultimately, the spiritual system that rules over this world is what stands in the background.[23] This spiritual system of evil at work in the world started to manifest itself with the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden as Satan subtly suggested that God cannot be trusted; Genesis 3:1. That rebellion is continuing down to today.


So what do we do with this? Note that the possession of wealth is not the reason that God judges Babylon.[24] Instead, it is because of how that wealth is used.[25] Great wealth often produces arrogance, it encourages us to place our confidence in things, in money, in prestige. At the end of the day this is nothing less than idolatry.[26]


So how do we respond? You could focus all of your energy on the progress of this hidden empire as it molds the world for the final confrontation. You could do that, if you’re ready to disobey God. He tells us where to focus our attention; Colossians 3:1-4. We have been raised to life in Jesus Christ, He is the center of our lives.


It’s enough to know these things are coming. They should not be allowed to consume our attention. It is not worthy of our attention. We already know that God is in utter control of our fates, and He asks us to trust Him.


But here’s the really tough question: do you really trust God? Or… is it all lip service? Now you have to decide if you believe Him.

[1] Alan Johnson, Revelation, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12, Hebrews – Revelation, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed. J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript eds., Richard Polcyn and Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1981), 568. [2] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 919. [3]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 18:21. [4] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995). [5] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 699. [6] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 378. [7] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 919. [8] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 919. [9] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 919. [10] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 919. [11] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 919. [12] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 919. [13] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 919. [14] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in <