Babylon is Fallen

Before the world’s end, God sends a message to the whole world. This message of the everlasting gospel is so important that in Revelation 14:6–7 it is given by an angel flying in the midst of the heavens.

In Revelation 14:8, however, we see that there is another, a second angel, who follows with yet another message. “And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

First of all, we must not confuse the Babylon of Revelation with the city of Babylon revealed in the Old Testament as the oppressor of God’s ancient people. The ancient city of Babylon had been lying in ruins for hundreds of years before the book of Revelation was written. Isaiah and Jeremiah had both prophesied the complete destruction of the ancient city and that it would never again be rebuilt. (See Isaiah 13:17–22; Jeremiah 50 and 51)

The message of Babylon’s fall is preceded by the announcement of the Judgment. (See Revelation 14:6–7) As the Bible associates the Judgment with the return of Jesus, the message regarding Babylon’s fall could not possibly be given before the closing hours of earth’s history, placing the message thousands of years after the literal city of Babylon has ceased to exist. This leads us to look for a spiritual significance. Are there characteristics of the spiritual Babylon of Revelation that are similar to those of the ancient city of Babylon?

The message to Babylon describes her as being a great city. Notice also that it is not a local event being described, for it involves all nations.

An Apostate Church

Babylon in the New Testament is referred to as a woman. In the Bible the church is likened to a woman. God likened ancient Israel to a comely woman. “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.” Jeremiah 6:2. In the New Testament, Paul uses the same symbology to represent the Christian Church. “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2

Second: the fact that Babylon is fallen implies that this has not always been its condition. This raises the question as to whether it is possible for a pure woman, or church, according to the biblical understanding, to have once been pure and to have fallen so far in apostasy that it is viewed as a harlot. Can she begin by being holy and end in a condition of unfaithfulness, likened in the Scriptures to harlotry? Yes, for this was in fact the experience of ancient Israel. “How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.” Isaiah 1:21. In the Scriptures, it is clear that God considers an unlawful relationship between the church and the world adultery. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4. While ancient Israel’s adultery is usually spoken of in terms of their having fallen into idolatry, it was their forbidden relationship with the nations around them that led them into idolatry. “I will do these things unto thee, because thou hast gone a whoring after the heathen, and because thou art polluted with their idols.” Ezekiel 23:30. We notice also that one of the indictments against the harlot of Revelation 17 is that she has committed fornication with the kings of the earth. (See Revelation 17:2) Instead of seeking a relationship with God, she has formed relationships with the kings of the earth.

In the first angel’s message, the gospel was preached. In addition to the preaching of the gospel, the Judgment was announced, and there was a call to worship God as Creator. In order for this to be followed by an announcement of Babylon’s fall, we understand that Babylon had rejected not only the true gospel and the announcement of the Judgment but also the call to worship God as Creator. They believe that they are religious, but God says that they are fallen.

Identifying Characteristics

It was the policy of ancient Babylon to enforce her religion upon all conquered nations. A very clear example is found in Daniel 3. In this experience, several points of interest very closely parallel the events described in Revelation 13.

1. Worship is enforced by human law.

2. The issue is whether or not God’s law must be obeyed.

3. Except for God’s people, the entire world is involved in this false worship.

4. The power of the state was exercised in behalf of this false, religious worship.

5. Death was the price for failure to comply with the false system of worship.

Anciently, the basic issue in the controversy was a question of loyalty and revolved around a system of false worship based on human laws, as opposed to obedience to the law of God. Looking at Revelation 14, we see a similar contrast drawn. After announcing the fall of Babylon and warning against receiving the mark of apostasy, the remnant people of God are pointed out in contrast. “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12

Whenever persons or churches lose sight of heavenly things, their interest will imperceptibly drift to the world. This change of interests is reflected in the way that they live. When there is a falling away from pure religion, lawless error develops. Peter warned the believers in 2 Peter 3:16–17 that a misunderstanding of the Scriptures leads men to be carried away by the errors of lawless men. Paul warned the believers in Thessalonica that even in his day the “mystery of iniquity doth already work” and that it would continue, manifesting itself by miracles, signs, and wonders. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:7–9)

We see also that the professed followers of Christ were prepared to receive this delusion by their failure to love the truth. Worldliness and false theology go together. As men place their affections upon the things of the world, they disregard God’s law. There is in the human heart a natural attraction for error and evil. Error takes root in the soil of the heart more readily and grows more vigorously than do the precious seeds of truth. And, as men wander away from the truth into skepticism, everything becomes uncertain and unreal. No longer does conviction take hold of the soul. They no longer have faith in the Scriptures as the revelation of God to men. There is for them nothing authoritative in its commands, nothing terrifying in its warnings, nothing inspiring in its promises. It becomes to them as an idle tale, meaningless and contradictory.

Not only has Babylon fallen, but she has also made all nations drink of the wine of her fornication. Wine has the power to confuse and alter perceptions. Anything that deceives and clouds the judgment might, then, be likened to wine. We read of ancient Israel passing through a similar experience. “Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath He covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” Isaiah 29:9–14

Here was a people who were spiritually asleep and drunk but not with wine. They professed to draw near to God, but they could not understand the prophets. Jesus met this same problem with the people of His day. “But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:3, 8–9

It is with these false teachings that the people are deceived. They have a form of godliness, but they lack the power of God. (See 2 Timothy 3:5) While they sleep in indifference, suggestions that weaken faith are insinuated into the heart. Influences that confuse the perception of truth are brought to bear upon the life. As they depart from truth, the Holy Spirit leaves them, and they can no longer distinguish between truth and error. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

As we have shown, replacing Jesus and the things of heaven with worldly considerations results in placing the affections upon earthly things. There is a spiritual fall and a corresponding loss of the power of the Holy Spirit. As a church loses the power of the Holy Spirit, it looks to another source to supply the lack. Deprived of the power of the Holy Spirit to change hearts, it looks to civil government to shape men’s behavior; and in this resort to force, a second fall is experienced.

Man lost his eternal home when he listened to the serpent and doubted God. His unbelief led to disobedience and the Fall. Men will be restored only by a return to obedience to God. This obedience is only possible by faith. It is for this reason that the remnant people of God are noted not only for their obedience to the commandments of God but also for having the faith of Jesus.

Christ, Our Example

In sending Jesus to the world, God gave man an example of perfect obedience. This obedience is not to be considered as separate and distinct from that which is expected of us. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” 1 Peter 2:21–22. Only a holy commandment-keeping people will enter heaven. “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14

This announcement of Babylon’s fall is a warning against accepting a false gospel, a gospel that professes to offer salvation in any other way than by obedience to God’s law and a separation from the world. It is God’s desire that by a return to loyalty and obedience, men may be prepared for the judgment going on in heaven and thus escape the judgments soon to be poured out upon this great false religious system. “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven.” Revelation 18:4–5

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