What does Revelation 18:21 mean?
ESV: Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more;
NIV: Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: 'With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.
NASB: Then a strong angel picked up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, 'So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will never be found again.
CSB: Then a mighty angel picked up a stone like a large millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, In this way, Babylon the great city will be thrown down violently and never be found again.
NLT: Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a huge millstone. He threw it into the ocean and shouted, 'Just like this, the great city Babylon will be thrown down with violence and will never be found again.
KJV: And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
NKJV: Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.
Verse Commentary:
In the New Testament era, a typical millstone, usually made of basalt, was about a foot and half (45 cm) in diameter and about four inches (10 cm) thick. Two millstones, one above the other, were used to grind grain. Some were even larger, requiring animals and mechanisms to operate. Even a "small" millstone can weigh more than 100 pounds (45 kg). In John's continuing vision (Revelation 17:1–3), a mighty angel, perhaps Michael the archangel, picked up a millstone described as "great." This uses the Greek root word megas, implying something very large. A "very large" millstone could easily weigh thousands of pounds / kilograms.

After picking up the large millstone, the mighty angel threw it into the sea. He cried out loudly that Babylon would be thrown down violently and vanish from the face of the earth. Earlier, the demise of Babylon was said to have happened "in a single hour" (Revelation 18:10). This description supports the full meaning of that phrase: Babylon's ruin is sudden, dramatic, and unavoidable. Like dropping a boulder into the ocean, it happens with violence and is over as quickly as it starts.

This is precisely what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, when God destroyed those wicked cities with sulfur and fire (Genesis 19:24–25). This rapid, total ruin happens at the end of the tribulation, when God overthrows Babylon. The once proud, powerful capital of the beast's empire (Revelation 13:1–10) becomes an ash heap and disappears from the face of the earth. Babylon had opposed God and His people. It had practiced all kinds of evil. Its ruler, the beast, assumed the role of God and demanded worship (Revelation 13:11–15), but the true God put an end to all that with one powerful stroke.
Verse Context:
Revelation 18:21–24 provides a description of Babylon—the political and economic center of the Antichrist—after its fall. Isaiah predicted Babylon's fall and wrote about its desolation after God overthrows it (Isaiah 13:19). Daniel 2:34–35 and Daniel 2:40–45 describe the collapse of the beast's empire at the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus referred to the end of the times of the Gentiles in Luke 21:24. The times of the Gentiles began with the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylonian forces and the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, and it will end with the destruction of Babylon.
Chapter Summary:
A glorious angel announces the fall of Babylon, here used to name a dwelling place for demons and the source of corrupt commercialism. Another angel summons believers to get out of Babylon and avoid being caught up in the judgment for her sins. God is ready to punish Babylon for extensive wickedness. He promises to burn the city with fire. The kings of the earth mourn Babylon's demise, and they keep a safe distance from her as she burns. Merchants, too, weep because no one can purchase cargo from her and profit from selling her goods. Like the kings, the merchants try to put distance between themselves and Babylon for fear of sharing her destructive fate. Their mourning is intense. They throw dust on their heads, weep, mourn, and lament how quickly she fell from prominence and prosperity to a wasteful state. A mighty angel announces Babylon's doom and desolation. The city that once included renowned merchants, deceived the nations, and martyred believers, is now shattered into silence and desolation.
Chapter Context:
Revelation 18:1–8 contains a glorious angel's pronouncement of doom on Babylon. This Babylon here appears to be a literal physical city, whereas the Babylon described in chapter 17 is a corrupt religious system. The Babylon of chapter 17 was associated with a political system but was not the political power. The Babylon of chapter 18 is the center of a demonic political, commercial, and economic system. The fall of Babylon parallels what happened to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1–29). Religious Babylon falls in the middle of the tribulation to the delight of kings. Commercial Babylon falls at the end of the tribulation, and kings lament her fall.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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