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Revelation 18:4, 5 says,
4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not receive of her plagues.” 5 For her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
All voices from heaven come from God, but often God speaks through angels or other intermediaries. In this case, personal revelation tells me that this voice came from an angel known by the name “Releasing Captives.” He is the angel responsible to send forth the word at the proper time to leave Babylon.
The timing of this release is important. In the days of Jeremiah, the prophet told the people of Judah to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, because divine judgment had been decreed, and the people were to accept His judgment (Jeremiah 27:12). The law of God commanded men to submit to the decision of the judges, on pain of death (Deuteronomy 17:9, 10,11, 12). Hence, those who refused to submit to Babylon, thinking that it was God’s will to fight the Babylonians, were called “bad figs” (Jeremiah 24:8), and they came under the curse of the law (Jeremiah 24:9, 10).
But Jeremiah also prophesied of the fall of Babylon at the end of their seventy-year sentence. In that context, the prophet told the people of Judah in Jeremiah 51:6,
6 Flee from the midst of Babylon, and each of you save his life! Do not be destroyed in her punishment, for this is the Lord’s time of vengeance; He is going to render recompense to her.
Jeremiah spoke of Judah’s release from Babylon, but this established the prophetic pattern of a much greater release in our time. Hence, the angel in Revelation 18:4 quotes Jeremiah 51:6.
Timing is everything. There was a time to go into captivity and be led by the Spirit into Babylon. There is also a time to be led by the Spirit out of Babylon. In our case, the captivity has been much longer than a mere seventy years, but we believe that 2014-2017 is the time of release. How will we know for sure? We will know when God causes Babylon to fall. Those who are alert and forewarned will need to be led by the Spirit to know specifically what to do at that time.
The Kinsman Redeemer
God’s “vengeance,” of course, is based fully on His justice, as defined by the law. One might ask why God would find fault with Babylon when He was the One who put the nations into captivity by divine decree. The answer is found in Jeremiah 50:33, 34,
33 Thus says the Lord of hosts, “The sons of Israel are oppressed, and the sons of Judah as well; and all who took them captive have held them fast; they have refused to let them go. 34 Their Redeemer [ga’al] is strong, the Lord [Yahweh] of hosts is His name; He will vigorously plead their case, so that He may bring rest to the earth, but turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon.”
If Babylon had released Judah willingly at the appointed time (i.e., after seventy years), no case would have been filed against them in the divine court. But Babylon had no intention of releasing Judah, so God acted as their Redeemer and brought justice upon Babylon. The same is true for us today. Babylon was required to release its captives by the feast of Tabernacles in 2014 and had one year in which to comply. The Babylonian leaders did not comply by October of 2015, so our great Redeemer rose up to bring judgment upon Babylon.
A “redeemer” is actually a kinsman redeemer, one who is responsible to protect the legal rights of the family and to execute the verdicts rendered by the court. In Deuteronomy 19:6 and 12 the NASB calls him “the avenger of blood.” The translators seem to know little about biblical law. The word they translate “avenger” is ga’al, which means “redeemer.” The word “blood” has to do with bloodline—that is, a kinsman.
By calling such a person “the avenger of blood,” they insert an unloving connotation to the title and thereby malign Jesus Christ Himself, who was our Kinsman Redeemer. So when Jeremiah 50:34 tells us that our ga’al is strong, we understand that He has the lawful power or authority not only to present the case before the divine court but also to make sure that the judgment of the law is carried out. In ancient times, God overthrew Babylon and sold them to “the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:28). In our day God is overthrowing Babylon and selling them to “the kings from the east” (Revelation 16:12).
The Court’s Verdict
Revelation 18:6 says,
6 Pay her back double even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.
This is the verdict from the divine court, based on the laws of restitution in Exodus 22:4,
4 If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.
The law also says that if the stolen ox, donkey, or sheep has been killed and cannot be returned alive to its owner, then the restitution payment is fourfold for a sheep or fivefold for an ox (Exodus 22:1). The fact that divine judgment specifies only double restitution in Revelation 18:6 shows that God’s “sheep” are returned to Him alive and well. This is good news for us, because so many today are spreading fear, telling us that we are all going to die. But if that were true, then the restitution payment would be fourfold, rather than just double.
Furthermore, “our Redeemer is strong” and well able to restore that which Babylon has stolen. To retain slaves longer than the law allows is a form of theft, but our Kinsman-redeemer is well able to execute the sentence of the law upon Babylon, as we are now witnessing.
The Judgment Fits the Crime
There are multiple charges brought against Babylon, because “her sins have piled up as high as heaven.” Therefore, double restitution is not the only judgment imposed on Babylon. All nations were to drink from the Lord’s cup in the hand of Babylon, but once the time of slavery ended, Babylon was no longer authorized to do this. The Babylonian leaders, of course, continued to mix her drinks for everyone in order to keep mankind in a drunken state of spiritual confusion and immorality. So the angel decrees in Revelation 18:6, “in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.” In other words, bring total confusion upon Babylon, so that her policies will make no sense at all.
All of this follows the basic principle of law found in Deuteronomy 19:19, “you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother.” In other words, the judgment fits the crime. It is the Golden Rule in reverse. Those who refuse to treat others as they would want to be treated will be judged in the same manner as they treat others. (Of course, in no way does this deprive the victims of their right to forgive.)
Revelation 18:7 continues,
7 To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, “I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.”
The rulers of Babylon believe that they are privileged and therefore above the law. They make laws for others to follow, but they themselves are exempt. This is their concept of what it means to be a ruler. They live to be served and believe that they deserve to have slaves. But the Kingdom of God is not that way, for even Jesus Himself came to serve. Matthew 20:25-28 says,
25 But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”] lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Babylon thinks of itself as a “queen,” that is, as Queen Jezebel or perhaps as the “queen of heaven” (Jeremiah 44:25). As a queen, she believes that she may do what others cannot do. She may glorify herself and live sensuously (streniao, “luxuriously, wantonly”) at the expense of the poor. The divine sentence upon her, therefore, is that she is to be given “torment and mourning.” This does not mean torture, but rather that she is to be treated as she treated others.
The Greek word for “torment” is basanismos, which is what a basanistes (jailor) does. A jailor imprisons people and does what the judge tells him to do. Under Roman or Greek law, of course, jailors often tortured people in order to extract information, but under God’s law they are forced to make restitution and also may be treated as they treated others. It may be, of course, that those in authority who demanded torture will themselves be tortured in the same manner, according to the law in Exodus 21:23-25.
Burned with Fire
Revelation 18:8 continues,
8 For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.
How does one burn a political system or kingdom? Is this done with literal fire? No, this is mainly a reference to the law once again. Babylon is being treated as if she were the daughter of a priest. Leviticus 21:9 says,
9 Also the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by harlotry, she profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.
Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, the king-priest of Sidon (1 Kings 16:31). He functioned as a counterfeit Melchizedek priest, which is a King-Priest order. Jezebel was also a type of the great harlot of Revelation 17. Hence, she was a daughter of a priest who had profaned herself by harlotry. For this reason she is judged by fire. (The law does not burn anyone alive; it only prescribes burning their dead body as a sign of disgrace. See, for example, Joshua 7:25.)
So Babylon will be burned with fire as part of the judgment of the law.