The Fall of Babylon – Revelation 17-18
Revelation chapters 17 and 18 talk about the fall of Babylon which is the great prostitute. Before getting into these chapters, I find it important to discuss the identity of who Babylon is. There are different theories about her identity. The theory that I feel lines up with Scripture and makes the most sense is that Babylon is not an actual physical city, but is really a classification of people, kingdoms, and religions. These are the ones who, throughout history, have stood in direct opposition to God and to his people. They have aligned with Satan and the work of evil, rejecting God. When we see Babylon here in Revelation and the fall of it, it is the destruction of a system of evil that we are seeing. A system that has affected so many people and lives. Satan, the ruler and director of this nation of evil has no more authority or power as Babylon falls.
John describes this woman as one sitting on a scarlet beast full of blasphemous names, and seven heads with ten horns. This is a description that should be very familiar to us because it is exactly how the dragon is described to us in Revelation 12:3. This description given to us in both locations shows us that the power and authority of the prostitute comes from the dragon, who John has already told us is Satan. The woman, he says, is dressed in an alluring way that entices the people of the earth to come and take part in her abominations. She was drunk with the blood of the saints, the martyrs of Jesus, and this we will discover will be her greatest downfall.
As John looks at this, he marvels at the great signs that he is seeing. An angel comes to him to explain what is going on. The beast is the one who was, is not, and is about to rise again. This points to the power of Satan and the apparent death and resurrection of the antichrist. The seven heads are seven mountains which are seven kings. These are the ones who have come together to make war on the Lamb. It is the many nations and kings that the antichrist gathers together for the final battle. However, the angel tells John that God will put in all of their hearts to turn against the great prostitute. Somehow, they turn on each other playing into the fall of Babylon.
Chapter 18 then, goes more into the fall of Babylon, this kingdom of wickedness. The chapter is broken into different sections. In the first section, verses 1-3, an angel with great authority comes out and declares how fallen Babylon is. It has become totally desolate and a place fore every unclean thing. It has been judged for many things, including its ability to make others drink of her sexual immorality, and turning man’s heart toward riches rather than God.
Verses 4-8 make up the second section. In this passage, a voice cries out form heaven to the saints. Calling the saints to come out from within the city of Babylon before they are to take part in her sin. She is going to be paid back for her deeds, and plagues will come. God wants his people to take no part in her and so be pure and blameless when the judgment comes.
Third, verses 9-19, we see a group of people mourning. They are mourning because of the fall of Babylon. They are devastated to see her destruction. The reason for their sorrow is that through Babylon, this kingdom of evil, they have made their riches. They have grown fat off the sin of the world and dealing in wickedness. They realize that no longer will they be able to do the things they once did, and their income is gone. John even mentions that they were dealing slaves which he describes as human souls. It is a dark place, and to think that there are people who will be devastated by its destruction is mind boggling. However, we can see it in our world today. So many have gone so deep in evil and wickedness, that when things come to light and they can no longer do them, they are broken.
Verse 20 gives us one verse of rejoicing. The saints, apostles, and prophets will rejoice because of Babylon’s destruction. They know the evil that has happened in the world, but also the evil that has happened against the people of God. Now they get to see judgment and vengeance poured out on the vile. They rejoice because God is cleansing the world to make way for righteousness.
The final section of this chapter, verses 21-24, give us one last lamentation for Babylon. A mighty angel throws a great stone into the sea and declares it to be symbolic of Babylon being thrown down. The destruction is over and final. There will be no coming back from this one. There will no longer be any joy or work found in the city, for it is gone. She has deceived the nations and the blood of the prophets and saints have been found in her. Her time of judgment has come.
With this passage, Christians must hold in tension the great love of God and the great justice of God. His love is everlasting, and he is not willing that any should perish. He has given time after time for the people of Babylon to repent, and yet they continued to refuse Him. His seemingly drastic punishment on Babylon does not negate the great love of God, but He also cannot deny His own justice.
As we read this account, it is important for us to take the warning from verses 4 and 5. God is calling us out of this world of wickedness. There is so much evil all around us, and it can be so easy to find ourselves caught up in it. Sure, we start out with good intentions and plan to stick close to God, but we might let our convictions loose in one area. When that happens, we find it less difficult to lax in another area. This then begins to snowball as we continue to find it easier and easier to change our convictions and we end up living in the city center of Babylon. As an example, think about Lot. He did not intend to live in Sodom and Gomora. He simply went the direction that seemed to be best for his livestock. However, we find him later right in the city and potentially a man of good standing in the city. He let down his guard, and Satan took advantage of Him.
Be vigilant. Keep yourself pure. Walk Godly. God is calling you out of Babylon. He wants His people to be a pure witness to the world.