(20) Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”
This verse could not describe the judgment of any other but Jerusalem (see comments on 16:6 and 17:6). Jesus called Jerusalem “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it” (Luke 13:34). Earlier in the book, the faithful had cried “how long before you will judge and avenge our blood” (6:10), now we hear, “Rejoice over her… for God has given judgment for you against her!” God has answered the cries of his people and has dealt justly with the wicked.
This was the same reason for the fall of ancient Jerusalem in 587 BC, as Jeremiah spoke, “This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed in the midst of her the blood of the righteous.” (Lamentations 4:13).
(21) 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;
The previous verse concluded the words of “the voice from heaven” which began in 18:4. Now we see a new addition to the scene, a mighty angel and his actions are a spectacular illustration to the words of Jesus,
“but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6).
Jerusalem was the great seducer to wickedness, and her influence was the cause of many to sin. Jesus had given a warning to “whoever” causes his “little ones who believe in me” (i.e. the children of God; the Christians) “to sin,” that it would be better if they had a great millstone tied around their neck and were tossed into a deep sea. This is what the angel in 18:21 is modeling for us, showing a great millstone being hurled into the sea is a way of showing that Jerusalem has caused many to sin against the Lord; therefore, their judgment will be great and terrible.
“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence.” The reference back to the figure “Babylon” causes me to remember the actions of Jeremiah – on a smaller scale, when God told him to symbolize the fall of Babylon.
“When you finish reading this book, tie a stone to it and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates, (64) and say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disaster that I am bringing upon her, and they shall become exhausted.'” (Jeremiah 51:63-64).
(22) and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, (23) and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
These statements are common language throughout the book of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 7:34; 16:9; 25:10; 33:11), in every case these statements are applied to Jerusalem. The meaning of these statements go without saying; they show a city that no longer sees joy, song, light, and love.
“And all nations were deceived by your sorcery.” This figurative comment relates to the evangelism of Jerusalem in teaching the world to falsely worship the God of heaven. Jesus pointed this out too, in Matthew 23:15,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
(24) And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
This is the charge against Jerusalem. Jesus accused her of the same, even saying, “it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:33). If we believe Jesus, then we believe that the fallen city in Revelation is none other than Jerusalem, for “in her was found the blood of prophets”. When God repeats something, we must take heed, and now this is the fourth time that this message has been repeated in the book (16:6; 17:6; 18:20), but it won’t be the last (19:2).
“And of all who have been slain on earth.” This expands the charge but is probably still in reference to the blood of the righteous, as Jesus said to the Jews, “so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth” (Matthew 23:35). Jerusalem was a worldwide problem for the righteous.