Revelation 18:18

ESV and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?”
NIV When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, 'Was there ever a city like this great city?'
NASB and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’
CSB as they watched the smoke from her burning and kept crying out, "Who was like the great city? "
NLT They will cry out as they watch the smoke ascend, and they will say, 'Where is there another city as great as this?'
KJV And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!

What does Revelation 18:18 mean?

This continues to describe the mourning John hears in his vision (Revelation 17:1–3). Babylon, as an economic superpower, has been quickly and utterly destroyed. The merchants and kings of earth are grieving their loss of income (Revelation 18:9–16). In their lament, the shipmasters, seafarers, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea reflect upon Babylon's past greatness. They ask, "What city was like the great city?"

Cites are often used as stand-ins for an entire culture or government. This is seen when referring to "Mecca" when discussing some teaching of Islam, or "London" when referring to a law of the United Kingdom. As it pertains to the end times, this "Babylon" certainly refers to some physical city, but the effects of ruin might extend beyond one location to an entire government. In his rise to power, the beast (Revelation 13:1–8) would have been able to make Babylon the most famous, most powerful, and most affluent center of commerce in the world. However, it also seems to become the most decadent, godless city in the world, and God destroyed it accordingly.

Throughout history cities have attracted people for various reasons: security, job opportunities, cultural and sports attractions, and convenience. But someday all the cities of the world will tumble and cease to exist. Even their tallest skyscrapers will collapse into dust. This will happen when God melts the earth with a fervent heat. The apostle Peter predicts in 2 Peter 3:10: "But the day of God of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed." Only one city is secure forever; that is the city of God. Hebrews 13:14 states: "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." The writer of Hebrews credits the people of faith listed in Hebrews 11 as desiring a better country, a heavenly one, and tells us God has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:16). Revelation 21:1–2 identifies the city as the new Jerusalem.
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