As the head of gold, Babylon's alluring qualities are manifest in the world, and we must avoid these to keep from being ensnared. These traits are clearly delineated in Revelation 17 and 18, and they are these broad areas of possible temptation or trial for us: idolatry, prostitution, self-sufficiency, self-glorification, pride, complacency, reliance on luxury and wealth, avoidance of suffering, and violence against life.
Especially emphasized in these chapters is pride ("she glorified herself"), and the second is satiety, to seek the fullness of everything. It is especially used in regard to seeking food—to become full and then go beyond that. It is to become over-full in everything. However, satiety can apply to other things as well. Some people lose themselves in entertainment: A little bit of entertainment is not enough—their whole lives must consist of entertainment, practically from morning to night. Revelation 18:7 says that the great harlot lived luxuriously. Then there is the avoidance of suffering, seen where she says in the same verse, "I shall see no sorrow."
These three are interrelated, and when combined with the other attitudinal factors, they become the perfect matrix for producing Laodiceanism in the careless Christian. The world is already largely caught up in these things, but they are a temptation to us.
A matrix is described in the dictionary as "the environment in which something is developed." In some cases, it is synonymous with another better known and more frequently used word, "womb." The womb is the perfect matrix for the development of a baby. We in this society are living right in the midst of the perfect environment for developing Laodiceanism, which is why it is so important that we understand the origin, nature, and fruit of the Israelitish culture that has become the very epitome of the Babylonish system.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 18:7 provides us with three of Babylon's important characteristics: that she glorified herself; that she lived extravagantly; and that she proclaimed herself a queen, not a widow, and would see no sorrow. We are looking for an end-time city/nation that is exceedingly wealthy, influential, disdainful, contemptuous, and mocking. She is portrayed as proud to the point of arrogance, self-confident in her security, thinking she has produced the power by her own means. She lives extravagantly relative to the levels of other nations, seeking further gratification while simultaneously compromising with known standards.
We see three remarkable characteristics: arrogant pride; satiety ("fullness of bread," as God calls it elsewhere, a super-abundance of all the good things in life); and avoidance of suffering, a compromising, self-absorbed, self-indulgence.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot
From a theological point of view, Revelation 18 identifies the hallmarks of Babylon. The signs are idolatry, theological prostitution or spiritual adultery, self-sufficiency, self-glorification, pride, complacency, reliance on luxury and wealth, avoidance of suffering, and violence against life. Reading Revelation 17 and 18 carefully, one finds each of those traits expressed in some way.
Interestingly, God emphasizes three in particular in Revelation 18:7. Personifying Babylon as a woman, God reveals her innermost, secret thoughts and thus her true character.
The first of the three characteristics emphasized here is pride, self-glorification: "She glorified herself . . . 'I sit as queen. . . .'" The second is reliance on wealth, satiety, overindulgence: She "lived luxuriously [extravagantly, lustfully, without restraint]." The third trait is avoidance of suffering, for she says, "[I] will not see sorrow." Because reliance on wealth can easily lead to proud self-sufficiency and avoiding all suffering, these three are interrelated. What bothers God is that her self-sufficiency is aimed against Him. Who needs God when one has everything? Avoidance of suffering produces compromise with both conscience and law. It can severely damage one's character, and to God that is a serious matter.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism
In Revelation 18:7, three of this mystery Woman's remarkable characteristics are named, which will help to identify her.
"She has glorified herself" implies pride, even to the point of arrogance. Jeremiah 51:41 adds an interesting assessment of why Babylon may have this haughty attitude: "Oh, how Sheshach is taken! Oh, how the praise of the whole earth is seized! How Babylon has become desolate among the nations!" Having the admiration of the nations is enough to turn the head of all but the most sound-minded of people, and Babylon is not of this quality.
Revelation 18:7 then says of her, "she lived luxuriously," or as other translations suggest "extravagantly," "lustfully," or "unrestrainedly." The terms suggest the very apex of luxury, indicating satiety, an overindulgent superabundance, a state of having too much. She indulges herself in a surfeit of things to pamper her flesh and stimulate the vanity of her mind.
Finally, the verse peers into the depths of her thoughts about herself. What she thinks of herself magnifies the other qualities: "I sit as a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow." She sees herself as above the masses of people struggling to get by. She directs her life to avoid suffering. She displays an in-your-face, "let them eat cake," haughty superiority. We should realize, however, that the avoidance of suffering inevitably produces compromise with law and conscience.
Thus, we have a nation portrayed as proud to the point of arrogance and self-confident in its security, thinking it has produced its power by its own means. It lives extravagantly relative to the levels of the rest of the world, and it seeks immediate gratification. It fails to discipline itself as it compromises with known standards.
Notice how this description parallels one of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16:48-51:
"As I live," says the Lord God, "neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit. Samaria did not commit half of your sins; but you have multiplied your abominations more than they, and have justified your sisters by all the abominations which you have done."
Incredible but true because God's Word is true. Jerusalem, by God's judgment, was worse than either Sodom or Samaria!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Four): Where Is the Woman of Revelation 17?
Babylon the Great is clearly the economic nerve-center of world trade, not of religion. Notice, first the kings of the earth bewail her destruction, and then the businessmen follow suit. It is hard to imagine both the kings of the earth and hardheaded businessmen bewailing the destruction of a church! These leaders are bewailing the destruction of an entity in which their power and wealth are involved, placing them in grave danger of overwhelming loss because Babylon is no longer able to consume their products.
Notice in Revelation 18:3, 7, 19, and 23 how clear the inferences and direct statements are regarding wealth, not only of Babylon itself, but also of those who trade with her. How can these scriptures apply to a church? Modern Israel has been largely responsible for causing the prosperity of Germany, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and now China through trade.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation
Isaiah, Jeremiah, and especially Ezekiel and Hosea use this same metaphorical form to illustrate Israel's faithless relationship with God, connecting directly to the same usage in Revelation 17 and 18. Why is this important? Virtually the entire Bible is devoted to God's purpose for and relationship to Israel and the church. They are the focus of God's intention to reproduce Himself, beginning with His promises and then His covenant with Abraham. God went so far as to enter into a symbolic marriage with Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, revealing the intimacy He considered their relationship to have.
He did this with no other nation. Even when the time came to summon Gentiles into His purpose, the great bulk of those called into the church have been Israelites dwelling among fellow Israelites in Israelitish lands. A person even becomes a spiritual Jew when converted! God's pattern of focusing on Israel continues throughout the Bible to the end-time prophecies. We live in the end time, and God's concern in Revelation, the ultimate end-time book, does not turn from this pattern. God's purpose for the nation of Israel is not yet complete, as Romans 9-11 makes clear.
Thus Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, and the church, the Israel of God, Abraham's spiritual descendants, are still His major focus. Other parts of the Bible reveal that Israel has fully earned the title of "the Great Harlot Babylon" even as she has earned the titles of "Sodom" and "Egypt."
The Great Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18 is not a Gentile church or a Gentile nation because neither of these has ever qualified for that title by corrupting a covenant relationship with God as Israel has. Of this, God says in Amos 3:2, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Having done only what comes naturally without the revelation of God, the Gentile world will have its opportunity to have a covenant relationship with Him following Christ's return.
In defiance of God, Israel has rebelled against her responsibilities and played the harlot with the world. She has embraced its ways to such an extent that she has outdone the Gentiles in their manner of life, becoming appropriately named "Babylon the Great." In Revelation 17 and 18, God is describing the influence and character of end-time Israel. He depicts all of Israel in close relationship with the Beast, influencing it, but with the two Joseph tribes, America (Manasseh) and Britain (Ephraim), as the Woman's strongest components - and perhaps America is the one primarily described, as it is the most influential at the end.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible
First, she glorifies herself. This implies pride, even to the point of arrogance. Jeremiah 51:41 is used in relation to ancient Babylon, but it applies to modern Babylon as God uses it here in Revelation 18. Jeremiah writes:
How is Sheshach [a biblical code name for Babylon] taken! And how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! How is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!
This refers to the fall of Babylon. When Jeremiah wrote this, they were so powerful as a nation that nobody wanted to deal with Babylon as an enemy. He calls her "the praise of the nations." This means, essentially, "the greatest of the nations." Everybody praises Babylon as the greatest of the nations on earth. God applies this to Babylon in Revelation 18. It is something implied, not directly stated. However, even Babylon "has glorified herself."
Second, "she has lived deliciously" or "she has lived luxuriously, extravagantly, lustfully, unrestrainedly." The woman is the very apex of luxury on earth. This phrase indicates satiety, that is, over-indulgence, super-abundance, the state of having too much.
Third, she says, to magnify these, "I sit as a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow." "Nobody's going to bother with me. I'll never know any sorrow." Taken together, there is in her an avoidance of suffering, an unwillingness to sacrifice, and it indicates a rather "in your face," cocky superiority. Interestingly, an avoidance of suffering, the unwillingness to sacrifice, inevitably produces compromise with law and conscience.
In this one verse, a nation is portrayed as proud to the point of arrogance, self-confident in its security, thinking that it has produced its power by its own means, and living extravagantly relative to the rest of the world, as it seeks immediate gratification while failing to discipline itself to conform to a set standard.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Revelation 18:7:
1 John 2:15