Posted by: stpowen | January 17, 2014

Revelation (13). The Fall of Babylon

Revelation 18:10. “Alas, alas, that Great City Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgement has come.”

2 Peter 3:10. ‘Since everything is going to be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?’

In the last article, we looked together at Chapter 17 of Revelation, and I suggested that the Great Harlot, Babylon the Great, represents to us the secular world, especially that which entices the Christian with its glitter and excitement, and seeks to entice him from his devotion to God. It also stands for that world that has no time at all for those who do not conform to its debased standards (17:6; 18:24). In His letter to the church at Ephesus in Rev. 2, our Lord says of the Ephesians, “You have forsaken your first love.” He doesn’t elaborate on that, but is it not possible that the Ephesians, despite their hard work and doctrinal purity, had begun to get bogged down with the world- making money and spending it on luxuries, theatre-going, fine clothes and so forth, none of which are necessarily wrong in itself, but which tend, if we’re not careful, to lead us away from our Lord? Consider Matt.13:22.

Now we must keep a balance on these matters. We are to work hard to keep ourselves and our families, and we earn no points with God if we abstain from the good things which He has graciously provided for us- Lydia (Acts 16:14) was a seller of purple cloth, a luxury product in those days- but where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also (Matt. 6:21), and it is the purpose of Satan, through Babylon, to seduce us away from our love of God to love of the world.

So Babylon is that which seeks to seduce us from our first love, and therefore she is termed a harlot. I have suggested {1} that the beast upon which she sits represents the political power which supports, and is supported by, Babylon, just as Rome used ‘Bread and Circuses’ to keep the masses quiet, and those who ran the circuses and imported the wheat for the bread depended on the political power of Rome. We also considered the possibility that there would be a final revelation of the Beast in some sort of ‘New World Order’ right at the end of the age, when worldliness, false religion and secular power would combine to make true Christianity all but impossible.

Have you ever wondered why John uses the name Babylon to describe the Harlot? Well, we have seen that Babylon was a by-word in ancient times for idolatry, luxury and power, but the other important point is that the historic city of Babylon fell to the Persians in a single day. “Alas, alas, that Great City Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgement has come” (Rev. 18:10). This is as reported in Daniel 5:30-31, and also by the Greek historian Herodotus. Apparently Cyrus, the Persian king, diverted the waters of the River Euphrates that ran through Babylon and entered the city by night on the dry river bed. The Bible tells us that the present age will end just as suddenly and finally (eg. Luke 17:26-37; 1 Thes. 5:2-3.)

Vs.1-3. ‘After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory, and he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxuries.”’

This angel is perhaps to be compared with the mighty angel of 10:1. He is clearly authorized to make great and portentous announcements. The duplication of the verb ‘fallen’ emphasises the disaster and the use of the Perfect tense (literally ‘has fallen’) denotes the finality of the event. Babylon will become a desert place where unclean creatures and evil spirits dwell (cf. Luke 8:29). The imagery, as usual in Revelation, comes from the Old Testament. ‘And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there. But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, and their houses will be full of owls; ostriches will dwell there and wild goats will caper there. The hyenas will howl in their citadels, and jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come and her days will not be prolonged’ (Isaiah 13:19-22).

I wonder if you can remember where you were when the World Trade Centre came crashing down back in 2001? Obviously there was great horror that so many lives had been taken away by such an fanatic and evil act, but also it was a tremendous shock. Who would have believed that such a thing could happen so suddenly? That such enormous buildings with such an air of permanence could be destroyed in just a few moments? I remember that when I first heard about it two texts came into my mind. The first was Mark 13:2, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.” The second was 2 Peter 3:11. ‘Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?’ If your nation and all your security were as suddenly overthrown as was ancient Babylon; if death came upon you as suddenly and unexpectedly as it came upon those in the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, would you be ready? Are you keeping short accounts with God? Are all your happiness, your hopes, desires, ambitions tied up to this present world, or can you say with the writer to the Hebrews, ‘Here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come’ (13:14)? Are you able to agree with the closing words of the Bible and say, ‘Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus’? These are questions that Rev. 18 should make us all ponder. {2}

I want to draw your attention to the great hatred that God has for Babylon. As you read through this chapter, do you notice the vehemence of the language, and the complete and utter destruction that He will bring upon her? “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down and shall not be found anymore” (v.21; cf. Jer. 51, esp. vs. 63-64). When God creates the New Heavens and New Earth, there will not be so much as the tiniest vestige of Babylon remaining (21:27), so if you and I are feeling quite at home in this current world, how suitable are we for heaven?

All those who have done well out of Babylon, particularly those who have made money for themselves by providing luxuries for her are weeping and mourning, not over Babylon itself, but over the loss of their livelihoods (vs. 11-17a). ‘For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived’ (v.23b). Today it would be the pornographers, the abortionists, the loan sharks, the celebrity plastic surgeons, the stock market speculators who would be mourning and crying out, “Alas, alas, the great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgement has come” (v.10). Once again, if we have nice possessions, a new car, an expensive hi-fi, there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves, but we need to hold on to them with a loose hand for they can be taken away from us in a moment.

‘And in her was found the blood of the prophets and saints, and of all who were slain in the earth’ (v.24). The historic Babylon shed the blood of thousands of Jews at the time of the fall of Jerusalem (eg. Lam. 2:21) and their blood would be later avenged (Jer. 51:49), but other civilizations and their great cities have also persecuted God’s preachers and people. John probably had Nero’s Rome in mind, but we might think of Savonarola, executed in Florence, the Spanish Inquisition, the persecution of the French Hugenots under Louis XIV and the Marian martyrs in Britain. We should also remember that in the last Century there were more martyrs for Christ than in all others put together, and the number increases to this day (cf. 2:13; 6:9f; 16:6; 17:6; 19:2).

So we have seen that Babylon the Great, the world as it lies under Satan is to be utterly destroyed; what is your hope that you may be saved on that day? Let it be the blood of Christ! Don’t, in the last analysis, depend on anything within yourself, but put all your faith in what Christ has done upon the cross. If you are trusting in Him, He has taken away all your sin, having paid the penalty for it in full, and God sees you clad in a robe of spotless righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Himself. Don’t plead or rely on any good thing in yourself, but rely instead on your Great High Priest in Heaven who ever pleads His blood on your behalf before the Father. And let us turn away from this Babylon, the glittering world of sin and corruption, and let us seek for ourselves the City that has foundations whose Maker and Builder is God (Heb. 11:10).

Notes

{1} See https://marprelate.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/revelation-12-babylon-the-great/

{2}It is not my intention to make any sort of strict comparison between Babylon the Great and the World Trade Centre. I’m sure that there were many fine Christian who died in New York that day, and their eternal destiny is entirely safe with God. My only intention has been to show the impermanence of this current world.

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