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Opening Question

Do you believe that ancient Babylon will be rebuilt?


We now move to the 2nd Angel’s message. Although the city of Babylon has not been mentioned yet in the apocalypse, at our very first glimpse we learn that it fell. In the Old Testament, Babylon was a city rebuilt at Shinar, the location of the ancient city of Babel. (compare Genesis 10:10 and 11:2 with Daniel 1:2). Babylon was, according to the prophets, a tool in the hand of God to punish His people for their sin and disobedience. But they went too far, and failed to give Yahweh glory. Daniel 5 tells of the overthrown of the Babylonian city and the death of King Belshazzar who shook His fist in the face of God, much like those first generations after the flood. Revelation draws on this story and retells is, but instead of Babylon’s glory and power being illustrated leading to its eventual fall, Revelation uses Hebrew thinking—from effect back to cause—to showcase the “great city” that rules over the whole earth, and from the outset, it is already in ruins.

Revelation 14:8

Read Revelation 14:8. The second angel announces that Babylon fell, and unlike the first and third messages, this one is not given in a loud voice. Revelation will use language more like that of a funeral dirge for Babylon’s demise. The use of the aorist tense of the verb “fall” here suggests it is a completed past action. The city fell, it fell. And it isn’t ancient Babylon, it is “Babylon the Great.” Who is this new iteration of the old city of Babylon, which is still in ruins?

The lesson spends a lot of time on Revelation 17, which describes Babylon the great in some detail. First, she is related to the woman in ch. 12. In both places the women are described by their clothing, their relationship with the dragon is shown, they both have offspring, and both are in the wilderness or desert. The implications here are hard to ignore: the symbolic woman in ch. 12 who gives birth to Jesus is the very people of God. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people were shown to be His bride, His wife. Her frequent infidelity was a continuous source of pain, grief and discouragement to God; He bore long with her but was finally forced to give her up. The prophetic story repeats itself in Revelation; the people of God appear as the woman in Ch. 12 who flees from the multi-headed red dragon into a wilderness where God cares for her. But the next time John sees her (ch. 17), she looks like the ancient Babylonian queen mentioned in the prophets. Instead of fleeing the dragon, she is now in a relationship with the multi-headed scarlet beast. She is described as having harlot daughters, those who have done just what their mother has: lived in immoral sexual relationships. The illicit nature is shown rather graphically in Rev. 17 and appears to be a relationship with the kings of the earth, seeking power!

If these two women represent the same symbol but at different times in history, what happened to God’s people that they became so enamored with power and earthly politics? How can political activism really be an illicit relationship with power?

The Fall of Old Babylon

In the Old Testament, Babylon’s fall was predicted in both Isaiah 21:9 and Jeremiah 50-51. The prophets looked forward to a day when the enemy of God’s people could no longer threaten, harass, and destroy them. The day came, according to Herodotus, when Cyrus the Great and the armies of the Medes and Persians sieged Babylon. But Babylon was nearly self-sustaining with the Euphrates river running below it and the hanging gardens providing food, the walls protecting from any siege engines, and the armies ready to defend it. Herodotus says the siege engineers had previously diverted a river from its course as vengeance against it for sweeping away one of the King’s prized stud war-horses. They decided a similar method could work with Babylon. The river was diverted, and Daniel 5 recalls the night the city fell. The prophetic hopes for Israel were realized. Isaiah 44-45 even call Cyrus a messiah because he is God’s chosen who delivers them from Babylon.

If God could use a pagan king to save His people, what surprises might God have in how He delivers His people from Babylon the Great at the end of time?

Revelation’s Two Cities

The city of Babylon in Revelation represents a religious entity or institution that takes political power just as did the Christian church hundreds of years ago. The final scenario depicted in Revelation seems to be still future for us today. It may seem fearful when it arrives, and even filled with truth and goodness in some ways. Afterall, it deceives the people on earth. But it will direct those who dwell on the earth and don’t make the Bible their theological and practical foundation to put their allegiance in something other than the Creator.

Revelation 18 laments the fall of Babylon the Great from the viewpoint of the merchants and kings of the earth who grew rich from their relationship with her. Whether the financial wealth described there is symbolic or literal is yet to be seen, but it is likely that both fit. The seventh plague in ch. 16 says that Babylon falls when the great river Euphrates is dried up preparing the way for the kings from the east. God will cause Babylon’s support system to dry up, and the city will fall from within. The people who have invested in Babylon will be shown the error of their ways, and the “city” will be unmasked.

But God has His own city, as well. It has a river flowing down the center, with trees on either side just like Ancient Babylon. God’s New Jerusalem is the great original of which Babylon was a poor earthly copy or parody. His city will never be destroyed; it will last forever!

Revelation describes the 144,000 as not deceived by the beast because they follow Christ wherever He goes. How can we follow Jesus today so fully that no person, situation, or institution can sway us from our faith and commitment?

Closing Comments

Babylon the Great’s fall paves the way for God’s New Jerusalem! Today, it may be unpopular to point out the errors and sins of Christian institutions that have strayed from the truth of the Bible, but God is calling people out of Babylon, for their own good!

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