In our previous study guide we learned that Revelation 14:6-12 contains a series of three crucial messages for the inhabitants of earth leading up to the second coming of Christ. The first angel’s message, we discovered, is “the everlasting gospel”—the eternal good news of God’s faithful love tangibly acted out toward us in Christ. Now we will explore the second angel’s message:

“And another angel followed, saying, ‘___________ is fallen, is fallen, that great _______, because she has made all nations drink of the ________ of the wrath of her ___________________!’” (Revelation 14:8).

Babylon is a big deal in the Bible. First, there is ancient Babylon, which begins with the Tower of Babel. Babylon then develops into an empire characterized by self-exaltation and false worship, only to fall under the weight of its own pride. Then in Revelation the memory of ancient Babylon is employed as a symbol for the end-time global system that deceives and dominates the world.

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Ancient Babylon

Explore the following characteristics of ancient Babylon by looking up and discussing

each scripture provided:

1. REBELLION AND UNBELIEF: Babel was founded by a man named “Nimrod,” a name that means rebel. In the biblical narrative there is a specific context to Nimrod’s rebellion. The human race had become almost universally evil and was on the verge of extinction through violence (Genesis 6:1-13). God intervened by bringing a flood upon the world and starting over with Noah. After the Flood, God entered into a covenant with Noah that included a promise that there would never again be a worldwide flood (8:20-22; 9:8-17). Against this immediate backdrop we encounter Nimrod, the rebel, aligning himself against God by launching a tower-building venture of unbelief in God’s covenant promise (Genesis 10:8-10).

2. SELF-EXALTATION: Following through with Nimrod’s rebellion, the people of Babel attempted to build a tower whose top would reach up to heaven. Rather than embracing God’s covenant promise, they were endeavoring to save themselves from the threat of another flood, although God had promised that there wouldn’t be one. The Babel builders went about to establish their own system of salvation (Genesis 11:1-4).

3. CONFUSION: As the builders of the Tower of Babel were engaged in their audacious enterprise of self-preservation, God confused their language. The resulting communication breakdown brought their quest to an end and scattered the people throughout the earth, preventing the consolidation of power and evil as had occurred before the Flood (Genesis 11:4-9).

4. FORCED WORSHIP: Babylon reached the height of its development under King Nebuchadnezzar, who personified self-exaltation as the core principle of Babylon (Daniel 4:30). Acting out the principle of self-exaltation to its logical conclusion, King Nebuchadnezzar established a system of worship with himself at the center, employing civil laws and threatened penalties to enforce his dominance. He built an image made of gold to symbolize his kingdom, a bold statement intended to negate all other kingdoms, including the kingdom of God. Then he commanded that all “peoples, nations, and languages” should “fall down and worship the golden image” on pain of death for dissenters (Daniel 3).

5. THE FALL OF BABYLON: In Daniel 5 we read the account of the fall of Babylon. King Belshazzar threw a decadent, idolatrous party during which he “lifted up” himself and openly blasphemed the God of heaven. As the party ensued, a bodiless hand appeared and wrote on the wall, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN”—indicating that the kingdom of Babylon was at an end and would fall to the Medes and the Persians. The point of the story is that lifting up self brings self down.

6. BECAUSE OF THE SHARED ATTRIBUTES OF SELF-EXALTATION AND DOMINANCE OVER OTHERS, ISAIAH EMPLOYED THE KING OF BABYLON AS A SYMBOL OF LUCIFER HIMSELF (ISAIAH 14:1-17). Jeremiah likened Babylon to a “dragon,” the biblical symbol for Satan, with emphasis on the attribute of “violence” (Jeremiah 51:34-35, KJV; Revelation 12:7-9). Read and discuss Philippians 2:5-11, taking careful notice of the downward steps Jesus took that led to His eternal exaltation, demonstrating that humility and self-giving love are the true principles of greatness. Then, by contrast, read in Isaiah 14:12-15 of the upward aspirations of Lucifer, noticing that his quest to exalt himself will finally lead to his eternal downward demise.

End-time Babylon

REVELATION 17 GIVES US AMPLE DATA TO MAKE A POSITIVE IDENTIFICATION OF THE POWER THAT CONSTITUTES END-TIME BABYLON.

1. BABYLON IS DEPICTED UNDER THE SYMBOLISM OF A “GREAT HARLOT” (VERSE 1). In Scripture God’s people are symbolized by a pure woman or bride (Jeremiah 6:2). It logically follows that a “harlot” represents an unfaithful church.

2. THE HARLOT “SITS ON MANY WATERS” (VERSE 1), REPRESENTING “PEOPLES, MULTITUDES, NATIONS, AND TONGUES” (VERSE 15). This is an international religious system that encompasses large segments of human population.

3. “THE KINGS OF THE EARTH COMMITTED FORNICATION” WITH HER (VERSE 2). She is a church that has engaged in political alliances to achieve her ends. The angel stated further to John that “the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (verse 18). She is a church that operates simultaneously as a state and has ruled over various kings during her nefarious career.

4. SHE WAS “FULL OF NAMES OF BLASPHEMY” (VERSE 3). Blasphemy is defined as a human being claiming to occupy the position of God (John 10:33) or claiming the power to forgive sins (Mark 2:7).

5. JOHN SAYS THAT THE HARLOT HAD “IN HER HAND A GOLDEN CUP FULL OF ABOMINATIONS AND THE FILTHINESS OF HER FORNICATION” (VERSE 4). So this is a church that has committed horrible acts in the course of her illicit political maneuvering.

6. SHE WAS “DRUNK WITH THE BLOOD OF THE SAINTS AND WITH THE BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS OF JESUS” (VERSE 6). This is a church that has killed many people in the name of God.

7. AND FINALLY, THE HARLOT IS “THAT GREAT CITY” THAT “SITS” ON, OR IS GEOGRAPHICALLY SITUATED ON “SEVEN MOUNTAINS” (VERSE 9, 18). From these seven identifiers, Babylon is a large, multinational church-state system that has claimed the position of God on earth, has formed political alliances that have resulted in horrible outcomes upon the world, and has shed the blood of many martyrs. When John wrote this detailed profile of Babylon in the first century, the power he was pointing to did not yet exist. From our vantage point in history it is unmistakably clear that John was describing in advance the Roman Catholic Church-State, which alone fulfills all the points of identification given.

READ REVELATION 18 AND WITH THE AID OF THESE QUESTIONS DISCUSS THE EVENTUAL FALL OF END-TIME BABYLON:

VERSE 1—The fall of Babylon is precipitated by the “glory” of a message illuminating the world. What does the word “glory” refer to? Compare Exodus 33:18-19; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6; Colossians 1:27.

VERSE 2—What kinds of non-human influences are at work in Babylon? Compare Mark 9:25; Revelation 16:13.

VERSE 3, 9-20—To what degree is Babylon involved with our world’s economic system and its eventual failure?

VERSE 4-5—What is God’s call to His people who are in the Babylonian system? Compare Hosea 2:23.

VERSE 7—Who does Babylon glorify and how does she live? Compare John 7:18; Hebrews 5:5.

In summary, the second angel’s message opens our eyes to the fact that the professed Christian system that has passed itself off as God’s one true and universal church has actually filled the world with dark confusion regarding God by posturing itself with self-exaltation and coercion, just like Babylon of old. We also see that this religious system is confederated with a larger political system that encompasses many nations. But the second angel’s message also informs us that end-time Babylon will ultimately fall under the weight of the beauty of the truth about God brought to light through the proclamation of the gospel.

[CONNECT]

In Scripture, Babylon is the archetypal kingdom of evil, embodying a composite of attributes that run directly contrary to the character of God while professing to represent God.

Contrary to popular Christian opinion, atheism is not the worst thing in the world. Bad religion is. The reason is obvious: many people in our world either serve God as fear-driven slaves or hate God as if He were a cruel monster, in both cases due to the way false religion has misrepresented God. The Bible speaks directly about bad religion in general and bad Christianity in particular. The second angel’s message brings relief and liberation from all anti-love images of God that counterfeit religion has pushed on the world and calls upon each of us to come out of the confusion into the illuminating truth of God’s glory as revealed in Christ. And yet, Babylon isn’t merely that big bad religious and political system out there, rather it is in all of us. Paul urged us to recognize that “the carnal mind is the enmity against God” (Romans 8:7), which is an indictment that includes all of us. The great protester himself, Martin Luther, insightfully observed, “I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.” The papacy is simply a corporate manifestation of the universal human inclination to exalt self in the place of God, to justify self rather than rest in God’s justifying grace, and to control our fellow human beings by coercion tactics rather than grant liberty of conscience.

[EXPERIENCE]

By God’s grace I want my life to reflect the self-giving, non-coercive love of God in all my relationships.
John says of Babylon, “She glorified herself” and that she made “merchandise” of the “bodies and souls of men” (Revelation 18:7, 13). It is self-evident that any religious system that exerts itself with self-exaltation and force over others is inherently wrong and opposed to the love of God so clearly revealed in Jesus Christ. I accept God’s call to come out of all such religious systems, and I pray God will take the principles of Babylon out of me.

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