“Then another angel followed him through the sky, shouting, “Babylon is fallen—that great city is fallen—because she made all the nations of the world drink the wine of her passionate immorality.””
Revelation 14:8 NLT
The Apostle John’s vision is certainly full of action. The first of the three flying angels is still in his memory, as he mulls over the implications of the global declaration of the Gospel. Perhaps the first angel is still visible, just on the horizon. But he now sees another one coming towards him, shouting a very different message. A message about the fall of Babylon.
Babylon was the capital city of successive empires that flourished many years before the birth of Christ. And today its ruins are located quite close to Baghdad, in Iraq. It was probably the largest city in the ancient world and had enormous significance in the lives of the Jews because so many of them were attacked and killed, and many of their people exiled, by Babylonian oppression. There are several passages in the Old Testament that detail the evil intent of the Babylonians. In Jeremiah’s day, the Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem, and we read about a request made to the prophet in Jeremiah 21:2, “Please speak to the Lord for us and ask him to help us. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is attacking Judah. Perhaps the Lord will be gracious and do a mighty miracle as he has done in the past. Perhaps he will force Nebuchadnezzar to withdraw his armies.” Daniel, a young Jewish man, was exiled to Babylon, and what happened to him and his colleagues there can be read in the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. His story starts in Daniel 1:1, “During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.” And continues with Daniel’s exile, recorded in Daniel 1:3, “Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives.” And there are many further accounts in the Bible about Babylon and its role in Jewish history. Babylon became a symbol of evil and oppression, immorality and idol worship, cruelty and a place where you just didn’t want to be.
So in John’s vision what was the implication of the angel’s message, “Babylon is fallen” and what was “her passionate immorality”? To the Jews, the oppression and cruelty of the Babylonians made them a feared and evil enemy. The word “Babylon” came to mean wicked, debauched, evil, hated. In fact, every negative descriptive phrase all bundled up in just one word. Psalm 137:8 encapsulates what the Jews dreamt of concerning Babylon. “O Babylon, you will be destroyed. Happy is the one who pays you back for what you have done to us“. I’m sure this is the sanitised version of what the psalmist really thought!
Babylon became associated with sinful sexual acts, prostitution, idol worship and other immoral content too graphic to be shared here. And in Revelation, John wrote that “all the nations of the world” came to be the immoral legacy of the Babylonians. Here in the End Times, Babylon and its influence is finally dealt with and destroyed. No prizes for guessing who was really behind Babylon, its culture, its society, its influences, and its peoples.
We pilgrims can only look on with sadness and concern, that so many generations of people in the earth’s nations were taken in by the Babylonian immoral and evil spiritual influences. Not for us that sinful life, but we must be careful because the lusts of our sinful nature could quickly cause us to be sucked into a Babylonian lifestyle. Our twisted logic could be something like, “Just once won’t hurt”. Or “I’m only researching for my essay”. And before we know it we are fully paid up members of the Babylonians. Our enemy, the devil, knows where we are weakest and he will pick away at our resolve unless we stand firm against him.
We have all the tools we need to stand firm against the devil’s ploys. Ephesians 6:13 says, “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm“. And the remaining verses in Ephesians 6 break down the weapons we have at our disposal. We have the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. We have Gospel shoes and a shield of faith. A helmet of salvation and an offensive weapon, the sword of the Word of God.
We pilgrims are called to a life of purity. It isn’t easy. In fact it is very hard. The Apostle Paul knew that, and he appealed to the Ephesians to “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:22-24). But if we stumble and fall, there is a remedy. 1 John 1:9 reads, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness“.
The second angel announces the demise of the Jews’ arch-enemy Babylon and its associated immorality. Most of the world would have been stricken with regret, their lifestyles overturned. The party over. But is that a cheer I can hear from that synagogue over there?
Dear Father. Thank You that through the gloom of the End Times comes a ray of light, as the wickedness in the world is finally dealt with. Please help us to stay strong in the face of temptation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.