Should we rejoice when a criminal is brought to justice?
Revelation 17-18 show the fall of Babylon, the arch-type enemy of God. Beginning with the tower in Genesis 11, that region and that attitude have symbolized opposition to God throughout the Old Testament. Babylon becomes the nation that harasses Israel, steals the vessels from their temple, ravishes their city, and takes them exile. Babylon is also the tool that God uses to punish His people. But God has people in Babylon—sometimes even the King of the pagan city himself!—and so the message is given to “come out of Babylon” before it falls, because fall it will.
Without question, this is a difficult passage, and the angel’s explanation doesn’t seem to give a lot more help initially. Stefanovic provides a helpful perspective, but a point worth considering here is that John is taken in vision into a wilderness, and he sees a woman. We saw the woman who birthed the Messiah (the church, then) in ch. 12 flee to a wilderness, and she has children. But now the woman in the wilderness isn’t dressed with sun and moon and stars. Now she looks like royalty and acts like a prostitute. She has children—daughters—who are also prostitutes. The language parallels that of Israel when she went astray in the Old Testament and God called her a prostitute. Certainly this imagery must be included in the identity of Babylon the Great. The fallen and apostate religious aspect is central to her reign of terror and drinking the blood of the saints.
Stefanovic likewise is helpful in explaining the end-time alliance between Babylon and the Beast. The sexual language is hard to miss here, but the point is the affair is both an abomination and brings bad results for God’s people.
In the end, the woman is hated (think Absalom and his sister Tamar), and the kings of the earth turn on her. In Ellen White’s description of this scene in the Great Controversy, the deceived masses turn on their religious leaders after they realize their error. It is a chilling reminder of how serious it is to think for ourselves, to study the Word of God personally, and not to take someone else’s theories as gospel without prayerful examination.
Do you see a joining of religious thought with secular power today? Without resorting to conspiracy theories, do you see how it might happen in our day, or might there be obstacles in the way of this kind of alliance that would mirror the Dark Age church-state power?
The final scenes of Babylon’s fall in Revelation seem to be an amalgamation of prophecies from Isaiah (see ch. 47), Jeremiah (chs. 50-52), and Ezekiel, not just about Babylon, but also of Egypt and Tyre. Each of the major prophets groaned over these wicked cities’ roles in Israel’s distress, and each spoke about the cities’ fall.
Revelation looks at the fall of Babylon from two perspectives: first, that of the Kings of the Earth who grew rich from their relationship with her. Their response is one of loss, grief, and lament. The second perspective is that of the righteous and heaven in verse 20-24; it is the sound of rejoicing because all that Babylon has stood for—the nation that harassed and leveled Israel, Jerusalem that slaughtered prophets and crucified Jesus, Rome that murdered the apostles, the Papacy that massacred saints and reformers, and an end-time confederacy that will do the same—this Babylon is finally destroyed once and for all.
Is it appropriate to rejoice over Babylon’s fall? If Babylon isn’t a literal city, but is a system of opposition to God that has killed His people, does it better explain the rejoicing here, and at the beginning of ch. 19?
The fall of Babylon is the final opposition to God’s people’s deliverance. The people of earth recognize her as the charlatan that she is, masquerading as Christ Himself. Her deceptions are unmasked. Those who have followed her will recognize in the true Messiah the rightful King, even though they refused to receive a love of the truth (2 Thess. 2) when they had the opportunity. This event is both sad and joyous. The closing scenes of the great controversy are playing out, and Christ is about to come and get His people.