Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Revelation of Babylon's Fall

Part 22 of a series through the book of Revelation

Text: 17:1-19:5


“Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk” (17:1-2).

The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus (17:4-6).

We read of the fall of ancient Babylon in the book of Daniel (“great Babylon,” 4:30).

Babylon’s Symbol: The great prostitute. There is a contrast in Revelation between New Jerusalem (the city of God) and Babylon (the city of man). New Jerusalem is portrayed as a bride (21:2); Babylon is portrayed as a prostitute.

Babylon’s Identity: The world opposed to God. Other interpretations of Babylon include: (1) a restoration of ancient Babylon, (2) the Roman Empire (probably party correct), (3) a revived Roman Empire, and (4) the Roman Catholic Church. “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4). “Sexual immorality” (17:2, 4; 18:3, 9) should be interpreted as spiritual infidelity—in other words, idolatry (worshiping what is not worthy of worship).

Babylon’s Message: You can be happy without God. Advertisements tell us, “This is what you need to be happy.”

Babylon’s Enticements: possessions, power, and pleasure.


“All nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living” (18:3).

The intoxicated mind thinks that the world’s enticements will someday satisfy.

Jesus warned about “the deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22). Immanuel Kant said, “Give a man everything he wants and at that moment, everything will not be everything.”


“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” (18:2).

“Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come” (18:10; cf. 18:16-17, 19).

“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” (19:3).

“Come out of her, my people” (18:4).

The sober mind knows that the world’s enticements will one day pass away.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

“There are no U-Hauls behind hearses.”

We must not be nearsighted. Polycarp, before he was burned at the stake, said, “You threaten with fire which burns for a season and after a little while is quenched: for you are ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will”

Jesus: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16). We are in the world but not of the world.

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