Revelation 18


The story of Revelation 18 is the story of three grand declarations. The first, from a glorified angel (v. 2-3), celebrates the destruction of Babylon. The second, as a voice from heaven (v. 4-20), prophecies that the merchants who have become wealthy through Babylon will mourn as they witness her utter destruction. The last, another mighty angel (v. 21-24), promises that none will be found in Babylon for the city will be wiped off the face of the earth.
Hugh Nibley
Babylon, like Zion, is a real society-a type, place, and environment of human existence, described in the scriptures with great clarity and precision... Though Babylon is vividly described by the prophets, the best way to define her is as the exact opposite of Zion in all things. Babylon is just as pure in its way as is Zion; it is pure evil-for even good, when it becomes contaminated and perverted, becomes an evil. The main thing is that Babylon and Zion cannot mix in any degree. (Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989], 30.)
Hugh Nibley
Babylon then, like Zion, is a type. If Zion is wherever the celestial order prevails, Babylon is the culmination of the worldly power wherever it happens. Through the ages, that power has actually culminated in just such world centers as ancient Babylon. Rome itself was entirely eligible for the name. The church of Rome called itself "the church that is at Babylon" (1 Peter 5:13). Rome was Babylon the great in every respect. And in the last days we must have a Babylon, too. For the call has gone forth, "Go ye out of Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations" (D&C 133:7). "Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon" (D&C 133:14). (Approaching Zion, 16.)

Rev. 18:1 the earth was lightened with his glory

Nowhere else in scripture is an angel clothed with so much glory that the surface of the earth is lightened by his presence. The glory of those resurrected to a celestial glory is like the sun-very literally like the sun (D&C 76:70). Those who accompany Christ at his Second Coming will also be attended with great glory, for "all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them." (JS-Hist. 1:37) What will burn the wicked? In part, it will be the searing heat from the glorified, resurrected saints returning with the Master.
"This angel is so brilliant that the very earth is illuminated by his presence. In fact, this angel's glory is like that of Christ, who will yet return: 'And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory' (Ezek. 43:2). 'For as the [light[e]ning [of the sun] cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be' (Matt. 24:27)." (Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry, Understanding the Signs of the Times [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 307.)

Rev. 18:2 the habitation of devils, the hold of every foul spirit

Babylon is the kingdom of devils. It is the place where all Satan's host, every fouls spirit, resides. They are like those of Noah's day, of whom the Lord said, "I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them." (Moses 7:38) The wicked will be imprisoned, cast into the bottomless pit with a seal which cannot be broken (Rev. 20:3).

Rev. 18:2 Babylon... a cage of every unclean and hateful bird

Ancient Babylon became a desolation, a desert, without inhabitant. By 141 BC, the great and once glorious city was nothing more than ruins. According to the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, only lizards and birds would inhabit Babylon after its destruction. These unclean animals are a type for the unclean spirits of Satan's domain.
...cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly: let nothing of her be left.
Therefore the wild beasts of the desert... and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. (Jer. 50:26,39)
But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there...
I will also make it a possession for the bittern (a small to medium sized heron that lives in swamps), and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts (Isa. 13:21; 14:23)

Rev. 18:3 the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her

Consider how many kings, emperors, and despots have chosen wickedness to preserve their power, wealth and dominion. Every compromise of principle, every vengeful punishment, every oppressive decree belies the relationship between secular power and Babylon-the ultimate wicked seat of power.
Bruce R. McConkie
To a greater or lesser degree, as the case may be, all of the governments of the earth are in league with the great whore in that, from time to time, they do such things as:
  • Prohibit the worship of God;
  • Enact laws defining religious beliefs and prescribing forms of worship;
  • Maintain state-supported, false systems of religion;
  • Deny freedom of religious belief to all their citizens;
  • Impose the religious beliefs of conquerors upon conquered people;
  • Permit the mingling of religious influence with civil government;
  • Foster one religious society and proscribe another;
  • Deny to men their inherent and inalienable rights;
  • Fail to guarantee the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life;
  • Enact laws which curtail the agency of man;
  • Require the teaching of false principles in their educational systems;
  • Deny the representatives of certain churches the right to teach their doctrines or proselyte among their people; and
Fail to punish crime and protect the rights of their citizens, particularly unpopular minority groups. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 553-554.)

Rev. 18:4 Come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins

James E. Talmage
The Lord gave this command: "Send forth the elders of my church unto the nations which are afar off; unto the islands of the sea; send forth unto foreign lands; call upon all nations, first upon the Gentiles, and then upon the Jews. And behold, and lo, this shall be their cry, and the voice of the Lord unto all people: Go ye forth unto the land of Zion... Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion. And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem, unto the mountain of the Lord's house. Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon." (D&C 188:8-14)
The last sentence of the foregoing quotation expresses the purpose for which this work of gathering the saints from the nations of the earth has been ordained. The Lord would have His people separate themselves from the sins of the world and depart from spiritual Babylon, that they may learn the ways of God and serve Him the more fully. John the Revelator, while in exile on Patmos, saw in vision the fate of the sinful world. An angel came down from heaven, "and he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird... And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities." (Rev. 18:2-5)
The faith of the Latter-day Saints teaches that in the day of the Lord's righteous fury safety will be found in Zion. The importance which they associate with the work of gathering, and the fidelity with which they seek to discharge the duty enjoined upon them by divine authority in the matter of warning the world of the impending dangers, as described in the Revelator's vision, are sufficiently demonstrated by the great extent of the missionary labor as at present prosecuted by this people. (Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 306-307)
Harold B. Lee
As we sit here today, we should be mindful of the fact that we are those of whom these revelations have spoken. We are those who have been gathered from out of spiritual Babylon, or perhaps we represent the second or third or even the fourth or fifth generation of those who heeded the call and felt the spirit of gathering. (Conference Report, April 1948, Afternoon Meeting 56.)
Hugh Nibley
Babylon's time is all but used up, and the only thing for the Saints to do is to get out of her. As we all know, they sought to do this in a very physical as well as a spiritual sense. "I will that my saints should be assembled upon the land of Zion . . . and lift a warning voice . . . by word and by flight" (D&C 63:36-37). How could they stay in the world? "We are trying to be the image of those who live in heaven; we are trying to pattern after them, . . . to walk and talk like them, to deal like them, and build up the kingdom of heaven as they have done." That meant a total renunciation of the world and its ways: "It is useless for us to expect the favor of the world. We have been called out of the world, therefore the world hates us. If we were of the world, then the world would love its own, and we should have no trouble with them." That was what the Lord often told his disciples. You cannot be "in the world but not of the world," "for all that is in the world . . . is not of the Father, but is of the world," and that in the most literal sense (1 John 2:16). (Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989], 31 - 32.)

Rev. 18:8 in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire

Ancient Babylon' destruction can be seen as a type for the destruction of Satan's kingdom at the last day. Therefore, one might expect the destruction of ancient Babylon to have been very quick, perhaps overnight. This is true of Nebuchadnezzar's fall. His pride increased until God could not tolerate it any longer.
The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? (italics added)
While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. (Dan. 4:30-33)
While Nebuchadnezzar's destruction was sudden, the greatness of Babylon the city declined over a long period of time.
King Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom was first sacked by the Persians under Cyrus. The city declined slowly under Persian rule until the conquests of Alexander the Great in 331 BC. After a brief revival at that time, the decline recurred. The Wikipedia encyclopedia records:
Following Alexander's death in 323 BC in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, his empire was divided amongst his generals, and decades of fighting soon began, with Babylon once again caught in the middle.
The constant turmoil virtually emptied the city of Babylon. A tablet dated 275 BC states that the inhabitants of Babylon were transported to Seleucia, where a palace was built, as well as a temple given the ancient name of Esagila. With this deportation, the history of Babylon comes practically to an end, though more than a century later, it was found that sacrifices were still performed in its old sanctuary. By 141 BC, when the Parthian Empire took over the region, Babylon was in complete desolation and obscurity. (
The slow decline of Babylon is contrasted to the rapid destruction of Satan's kingdom at the last day. That destruction comes suddenly, like the destruction of Nebuchadnezzar- "in one day," "for in one hour is thy judgment come," "for in one hour so great riches is come to naught," "for in one hour is she made desolate" (v. 8, 10, 17, 19). Given the extent of Satan's influence, we may conclude that never in history has such a great kingdom been destroyed so rapidly. No mortal power could ever cause such a great destruction in one day. The quickness and abruptness of the destruction is a sign to a wicked world that the judgment on Babylon comes from God.

Rev. 18:9 they shall see the smoke of her burning

Bruce R. McConkie
In this setting we hear a great dirge; mournful sounds fill the air; the kings and merchants and great ones of the earth lament and weep over the fall of all those things in which they trusted. "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, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come." When the religions of men and of devils fail; when the churches of men and of devils are shown forth for what they are; when the ways of men and of devils come to naught-then, oh then, what howling and lamentation shall arise from ten thousand times ten thousand throats! (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 444.)

Rev. 18:11 the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her

At the time of this writing (Jan. 2008), the greatest merchants of the earth are as follows:
Rank Company Country Industry Sales ($bil) Profits ($bil) Assets ($bil) Market Vaue ($bil)
United States
United States
United Kingdom
United States
United States
United States
United States
Oil & Gas Operations
Oil & Gas Operations
Diversified Financials
Imagine the owners and CEOs of these corporations when the wicked are destroyed. What will happen to their money? Can you imagine the effect on their quarterly earnings? What will happen to their profit margin? They will literally watch their market share go up in smoke. The stock market will crash and burn. Those whose daily concern was the production of wealth will have nothing to do but mourn.
"The merchants, symbolizing all those who seek to increase their wealth by association and dealings with a godless culture, will mourn for the loss of that culture, that society, that way of life. Their mourning will be particularly poignant because of their personal loss: they will likely grieve for themselves more than for Babylon." (Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry, Understanding the Signs of the Times [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 313.)

Rev. 18:12-14 The merchandise of gold, and silver...

Hugh Nibley
Babylon's economy is built on deceptions. Babylon is described fully in Revelation 18: She is rich, luxurious, immoral, full of fornications, merchants, riches, delicacies, sins, merchandise, gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linens, purples, silks, scarlets, thyine wood, all manner of vessels, ivory, precious wood, brass, iron, marble, and so on. She is a giant delicatessen, full of wine, oil, fine flour, wheat; a perfume counter with cinnamon, odors, ointments, and frankincense; a market with beasts and sheep. It reads like a savings stamp catalog or a guide to a modern supermarket or department store. Horses and chariots and all manner of services are available; slaves in the souls of men. These are "the fruits thy soul lusted after . . . and all things which were dainty and goodly" (Revelation 18:14). And it is all for sale. "O virgin daughter of Babylon, . . . thou hast labored . . . [with] thy merchants, from thy youth" (Isaiah 47:1, 15). In her power and affluence she is unchallenged. "For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me" (Isaiah 47:10). Babylon is number one. She dominates the world. Her king is equated to Lucifer, who says, "I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:14). And all the nations are weakened at her expense. (Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989], 14 - 16.)

Rev. 18:17-19 they saw the smoke of her burning

"The smoldering ashes of Babylon become the smoke signals of her own destruction. As they ascend upward in tribute to the omnipotence of God, her lovers' lamentations also rise. The kings of the earth (vv. 9-10), the merchants (vv. 11-17), and all those in the maritime trades (vv. 17-19) sing dirges. Each has his special reason for sorrow. The kings lament because they have lost their mistress, she who provided them with such great satisfaction. The merchants weep and mourn because suddenly their overstocked wares are worthless. Finally, the sailors 'cast dust on their heads' (v. 19, KJV) and weep and wail because the appetite of Babylon was what made them wealthy.
"The Seer shows that without the false values of Babylon, the merchants and sea lords cannot foist their goods upon mankind. The whole of their marketing enterprise is built upon a pretense sustained by the creation of artificial needs. They do this by simple tricks of marketing through which warmth becomes mink; shelter becomes marble and brass; food becomes escargot and caviar. And when the bottom falls out of the market, the kings are left without taxes, armies, or treasuries, and the merchants with rotting cargos and glutted stockpiles that no one will buy." (Richard D. Draper, Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 202.)

Rev. 18:21 Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down

Parley P. Pratt
Connected with these predictions, we have the most positive prophetic declarations of Holy Writ concerning the overthrow and entire destruction of this same mystical power which had made war with the Saints.
Its judgments are set forth as far more terrible than those which befell Jerusalem. Plague, pestilence, sword, earthquake, and the flame of devouring fire will cause her to cease to be.
Then will usher in the Kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ. Then will the Saints of the Most High take the Kingdom and the greatness of the Kingdom, under the whole heaven. (Key to the Science of Theology/A Voice of Warning [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1965], 23-25)
Orson Pratt
The description of this fall of Babylon is given in various places in John's revelations. Awful and most terrible judgments will fall upon Mystery Babylon the Great. She is to be punished with plagues of various kinds; a grievous sore will fall upon her people, so much so that they will blaspheme God, but they will not repent of their sins. They are to be punished with having the fountains and rivers turned into blood, and the waters of the great ocean are to become as the blood of a dead man, and every living thing that is therein will die; and one of the last plagues and judgments that will be poured out upon her will be devouring fire, and she will sink as a millstone, and her name will be blotted from under heaven and all that are connected with her.
J958Before these terrible judgments are sent forth upon the nations of the earth, God will save all who receive the everlasting Gospel by gathering them to one place, where they can serve him and keep his commandments. He will not merely give them some idea, by reading the Scriptures, that he desires them to gather, but John says there will be a great voice from heaven proclaiming-"Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." ((Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 18: 61.)

Rev. 18:22-23 the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers... shall be heard no more at all in thee

Again, the destruction of ancient Babylon becomes a fitting type for the destruction of the wicked. We borrow again from the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah:
Because of the wrath of the Lord it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues...
As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the Lord; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein...
Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, a wilderness, a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby. (Jer. 50:13,40; 51:43)
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. (Isa. 13:19-20)
Interestingly, Saddam Hussein began to restore the site of ancient Babylon. Unaware of Jeremiah's prophecies, he imagined to make Babylon a tourism site. Little did he know that God had pronounced its utter destruction, that it was not to be rebuilt-not to be a site for musicians, weddings or celebrations. As a type for Satan's kingdom, the land was to be left desolate. It was not to be a place for historical monuments, theme parks, or nostalgic reminiscing. The Gulf War put an end to his reconstructive plans.
In 1985, Saddam Hussein started rebuilding the city on top of the old ruins (because of this, artifacts and other finds may well be under the city by now), investing in both restoration and new construction. To the dismay of archaeologists, he inscribed his name on many of the bricks in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar. One frequent inscription reads: "This was built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq". This recalls the ziggurat at Ur, where each individual brick was stamped with "Ur-Nammu, king of Ur, who built the temple of Nanna". These bricks became sought after as collectors' items after the downfall of Hussein, and the ruins are no longer being restored to their original state. He also installed a huge portrait of himself and Nebuchadnezzar at the entrance to the ruins, and shored up Processional Way, a large boulevard of ancient stones, and the Lion of Babylon, a black rock sculpture about 2,600 years old.
When the Gulf War ended, Saddam wanted to build a modern palace, also over some old ruins; it was made in the pyramidal style of a Sumerian ziggurat. He named it Saddam Hill. In 2003, he was ready to begin the construction of a cable car line over Babylon when the invasion began and halted the project.
An article published in April 2006 states that UN officials and Iraqi leaders have big plans for restoring Babylon, making it a gem of a new Iraq as a cultural center complete with shopping malls, hotels, and perhaps a theme park: "One day millions of people will visit Babylon." (