Rev. 18:6 – Pay her back the way she also paid, and double it according to her works. In the cup in which she mixed, mix a double portion for her. 7 As much as she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, give her that much torment and grief, for she says in her heart, “I sit as a queen; I am not a widow, and I will never see grief.” 8 For this reason her plagues will come in one day – death and grief and famine. She will be burned up with fire, because the Lord God who judges her is mighty. (HCSB)
Pay her back
The voice from heaven calls, “Pay her back the way she also paid, and double it according to her works. In the cup in which she mixed, mix a double portion for her” (v. 6). To whom is the Lord speaking? Perhaps His angels, who execute judgment, or perhaps the earth’s wicked who unwittingly carry out God’s justice, thinking they are conquering a vanquished foe.
Twice there is a reference to double payback. We have seen this before in scripture. The Lord speaks through Isaiah that Judah will be comforted after she has received from the Lord’s hand “double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:2). This is a way of saying that Judah’s sentence is fully satisfied before God. In a similar manner, the Israelites are promised in Isa. 61:7, “Because your shame was double, and they cried out, ‘Disgrace is their portion,’ therefore, they will possess double in their land, and eternal joy will be theirs.”
We are continuing to work through the Book of Revelation with a focus on four major views of the so-called Apocalypse of John. You may read the commentary to date by clicking here.
Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era; a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history; a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled; or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book.
We would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.
With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together, we have captured the commentary into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the links below to capture notes on chapter 17. If you missed the link to notes on any other chapters to date, links are provided as well.
Rev. 17:9 – Here is the mind with wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated. 10 There are also seven kings: Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes, he must remain for a little while. 11 The beast that was and is not, is himself an eighth king, yet he belongs to the seven and is going to destruction. 12 The 10 horns you saw are 10 kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they will receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13 These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (HCSB)
The seven heads
The angel now explains the meaning of the beast’s seven heads: “Here is the mind with wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated. They are also seven kings: Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes, he must remain for a little while. The beast that was and is not, is himself an eighth king, yet he belongs to the seven and is going to destruction” (vv. 9-11).
The seven mountains probably symbolize Rome, built on seven hills. In John’s day, the Roman Empire is living in luxury, exporting false religion, corrupting its conquered people with idolatry, and persecuting the church. But the angel says the seven heads also symbolize seven kings or kingdoms, five of them past, one present, and one to come. The identity of the kings is highly disputed. Some interpreters say this refers to seven successive Roman emperors, but more hold that it refers to seven consecutive world empires.
If kingdoms are meant, then from John’s perspective the five past kingdoms are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece. The present kingdom is Rome, and the future kingdom is that of the beast. If kings are meant, the five Roman rulers who have fallen are Julius Caesar, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. Domitian is the one that is (assuming Revelation is written in the 90s), and the one yet to come is the king of the revived Roman Empire. For those who say Revelation is written prior to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, Vespasian is “the one who is” and Titus is the one who will come for a little while to lead the destruction of Jerusalem. Or, the one to come is Nero, referencing the legendary expectation that he would return from the grave.
Previously: Assemble them for battle – Revelation 16:14-16
Rev. 16:17 –Then the seventh [angel] poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the sanctuary from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 There were flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder. And a severe earthquake occurred like no other since man has been on the earth – so great was the quake. 19 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the Great was remembered in God’s presence; He gave her the cup filled with the wine of His fierce anger. (HCSB)
“It is done!”
When the seventh angel pours out his bowl into the air, a loud voice from the sanctuary declares, “It is done!” The 24 elders make a similar pronouncement in Rev. 11:15-19. They announce that “the time has come for the dead to be judged and to give the reward to Your servants the prophets, to the saints, and to those who fear Your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth” (v. 18).
More importantly, this cry echoes the declaration of a triumphant Jesus on the cross. Just before His death He shouts, “It is finished!” At Calvary, the Son of Man completes the work of redemption, bearing our sin and receiving the wrath of God on our behalf. Like a Roman commander overlooking the battlefield, He shouts, “It is finished!” because He has vanquished the evil one and released those bound to him in captivity. And like the high priest on the Day of Atonement, He shouts, “It is finished!” because no more sacrifices will be accepted. Both the Roman soldiers and the Jews around the cross have a clear context for understanding the significance of the Lord’s declaration. Jesus has fulfilled the law through His sinless life; fulfilled the types and shadows of the Old Covenant; fulfilled the prophecies of Messiah’s suffering; and completed the task for which the Father sent Him and the Spirit empowered Him. The work of redemption – it is finished!
Rev. 16:10 –The fifth [angel] poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues from pain, 11 and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, yet they did not repent of their actions. (HCSB)
Plunged into darkness
There is a sense in which the fourth and fifth bowl judgments offer the wicked a preview of hell. In the fourth bowl judgment the sun scorches the beast’s worshipers, and in the fifth bowl judgment the beast’s kingdom is plunged into darkness. Hell often is described in terms of fiery torment. It is “the lake of fire and sulfur” (Rev. 20:10); “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-15); and “the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” (Rev. 21:8). Jesus describes it as “the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Hell is where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). And it is a place where the rich man is “in agony in this flame” (Luke 16:24).
Jesus also describes separation from God as “outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13; 25:30).
Flame and darkness are fitting terms for God’s judgment upon sin and sinners. Fire consumes filth, and darkness aptly describes banishment from the presence of God, who is light (1 John 1:5). In John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself is “the light.” Note:
- John writes of Jesus, “Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
- John the Baptist comes as a witness “to testify about the light [Jesus], so that all might believe through him” (John 1:7).
- John describes Jesus as “The true light, who gives light to everyone” (John 1:9).
- Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
- He further tells his disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).
- Jesus tells a crowd, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36). And His concluding testimony is that He came into the world as light so that no one who believes in Him should remain in darkness (John 12:46).
The Greek word for light, phos, appears 23 times in the Gospel of John and 73 times in the New Testament. Most of the time it is used figuratively to depict holiness, purity, or godliness. Jesus uses the term in the Sermon on the Mount to portray the holy standard of conduct expected of His disciples (Matt. 5:14-16; 6:23).