Revelation 18:5

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Revelation 18:5

This explains the reason for the words of the previous verse. There, it said, “come out of her my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive her plagues. Why will these things come about? The reason is now stated, “For her sins have reached to heaven.”

Here is an allusion to the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11 –

“Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4

Babylon the great is a city (Revelation 17:18), its sins have reached to heaven, and instead of being scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth, it has made a name for itself all over the earth (Revelation 18:3).

To further solidify this idea, in some manuscripts the word translated as “have reached” signifies to join closely, glue, unite, and so on. In other words, like the tower that was built with brick and asphalt in Genesis 11, Babylon the great has likewise figuratively fabricated a tower with her sins so that it presses up to heaven itself.

The words here are also reflected in Jeremiah 51. In the previous verse commentary (18:4), Jeremiah 51:6, 7 was cited. Now, the next two verses continue to parallel those words here –

“Babylon has suddenly fallen and been destroyed.
Wail for her!
Take balm for her pain;
Perhaps she may be healed.
We would have healed Babylon,
But she is not healed.
Forsake her, and let us go everyone to his own country;
For her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies.” Jeremiah 51:8, 9

This symbolism continues with the second clause, saying, “and God has remembered her iniquities.” This is a close parallel to what was said earlier in Chapter 16 –

“And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” Revelation 16:19

To remember in the Bible does not mean that God forgot. Rather, it is called to the forefront. Babylon has heaped up sins, each and every one of them known to God. When her cup of sin is full, then God’s wrath is poured out from His full cup of wrath. The iniquity of Babylon the great eventually will reach that point, and there will be no remedy except complete destruction.

Life application: Ecclesiastes tells us that the things that have been will be again. The repetitious cycle of things shows us that we are unwilling to learn from the past and so God calls it to account in the present. When it says that Babylon’s sins have reached to heaven, we see an interesting parallel in the 57th Psalm –

“For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens,
And your truth unto the clouds.” Psalm 57:10

Even as our sins rise, heaping up because of their immense number and the graveness of them, God’s mercy continues to withhold the coming judgment. However, God’s truth is also there, proclaiming that there is a point where His mercy must be mixed with wrath because every sin must be judged. At a point known to God alone, He will remember iniquity that has not been addressed at the cross of Calvary.

However, as God remembers such iniquity, He also remembers those who faithfully follow Him. Some examples of God “remembering” in this way are found when God remembered Noah on the ark – Genesis 8; when He remembered Abraham and saved Lot out of Sodom in Genesis 19; when He remembered Rachel and Hannah and their barren state in Genesis 30 and 1 Samuel 1; and etc. Again, and again, God “remembers” by acting upon such things, bringing about that which is in line with His nature for the benefit or destruction of His creatures.

God really never forgets, and it is a sad lesson that Babylon the great will eventually discover. For those who are in Christ, there is one thing that God will certainly not remember again. Hebrews 10:17 says of those who come to Him through His Messiah, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” This is the greatness of what God has done for us. Our sins are forgiven. Thank God for JESUS.

Lord God, a time is coming when the world will be judged for its rejection of You. Before that day, help us to be responsible and to get the word of reconciliation out to all people. May we be willing to simply open our mouths and speak. Either heaven or hell awaits all people. With Jesus, heaven is assured. Without Jesus, only hell awaits. Give us wisdom to speak, O God. Amen.