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.
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.