Rev. 14:8 – A second angel followed, saying: “It has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, who made all nations drink the wine of her sexual immorality, which brings wrath.” (HCSB)
A second angel followed
A second angel now appears, saying, “It has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, who made all nations drink the wine of her sexual immorality, which brings wrath.” The angel takes up the prophetic announcement of the fall of the city of Babylon in the Old Testament:
- “Babylon has fallen, has fallen. All the images of her gods have been shattered on the ground.” (Isa. 21:9)
- “Suddenly Babylon fell and was shattered.” (Jer. 51:8a)
God uses Babylon as an instrument of His judgment against Judah. This wicked nation to the east basks in idolatry and exports it to others. Proud, powerful, and ambitious, the Babylonians destroy the temple, sack Jerusalem, and carry the Jewish people into captivity. This is exactly what the prophets warned would happen, but the Babylonians are foolish to think they control the world’s destiny; they are, in fact, a tool in the hand of God. Years later, the Medes and Persians tunnel beneath Babylon’s seemingly impenetrable walls and take the city in a single night. Babylon the Great falls. This dark period in Judah’s history is well-known to John’s readers, and they may readily apply its message to the words of the second angel.
Babylon the Great
Commentators assign a variety of meanings to Babylon, including:
- Rome. This ancient city is widely known as the city set on seven hills (Rev. 17:9). A coin minted in Asia Minor in 71 A.D., known as the Dea Roma coin, depicts Roma, a pagan goddess of Rome, sitting on seven hills. Further, “Babylon” is a common euphemism for “Rome” in the Pseudepigrapha (2 Apocalypse of Baruch 11:1; 67:7; Sibylline Oracles 5:143, 159) and in rabbinic writings. In addition, Peter uses “Babylon” to refer to Rome at the end of his first letter. As the Roman emperors wage brutal campaigns against Christians and export their pagan wickedness, making all nations “drink the wine of her sexual immorality” (Rev. 14:8), the Lord’s wrath ultimately crushes this evil empire. Finally, it should be noted that many commentators refer to Babylon, not as the ancient city, but as the revived Roman Empire of the last days.
- The apostate church. For some, this is Roman Catholicism, with its papal system, works-based salvation and corrupt practices such as the selling of indulgences. For others, it is the professing church, one which carries a form of godliness but ventures from the core doctrines of historical Christianity. Judgment will fall when the wheat and chaff are separated at Christ’s return. And despite the protests of false prophets who say they have prophesied, cast out demons and performed many miracles – all in the name of Jesus – the Messiah will tell them, “I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!” (Matt. 7:22).
- A symbol of all human societies organized and functioning apart from God; this human self-sufficiency is a direct result of the fall (Gen. 3) and is first expressed in the Tower of Babel (Gen. 10-11).
- The actual city of Babylon in modern-day Iraq, which will be revived in the last days, serving as the seat of global wickedness. A first-century audience, however, naturally would connect this with ancient Babylon and its destruction rather than a future empire, serving as a reminder that all who oppose God ultimately will experience His wrath.
- Israel. While this view does not receive a great deal of attention, it has merit. First, keep in mind that the Babylon of Revelation 14 is the “prostitute” or “harlot” of Revelation 17-18. Next, take note that in biblical history only one nation is linked to the moniker “prostitute.” That nation is Israel. In the Old Testament, we read about God’s people who prostitute themselves with pagan deities (see, for example, Jer. 2:20-24; 3:2-3; Ezek. 23:9-20). Ezekiel 16 and Revelation 17 are parallel passages. In both chapters, the prostitute commits adultery with the kings of the earth, is dressed in splendor, is adorned with gold and precious jewels, and is inebriated on the blood of the righteous. Thus the sins of Judah in Ezekiel’s day are comparable to the apostasy in John’s day. According to this view, Israel aligns herself with Caesar in killing the Son of God and persecuting His followers. Finally, while the prostitute wears the mark, “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and of the Vile Things of the Earth,” the bride of Christ bears the mark of the Lamb on her forehead. “Unlike ‘the synagogue of Satan’ (2:9) – those who claim to be Jews though they are not – she need not fear the judgment about to befall Jerusalem, for she has been sealed by ‘the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world’ (13:8)” (Hank Hanegraaff, The Complete Bible Answer Book, p. 509).
Ancient Babylon is the first center of human civilization (Gen. 11:1-9) and later serves as the hub of an autocratic world empire noted for its luxury and moral decadence. The title “Baylon the Great” is taken from Dan. 4:30. She makes all nations drink the wine of her “sexual immorality,” but God repays with “a double portion for her” (Rev. 18:6). Ancients typically dilute each part of wine with two parts of water, except when their aim is to become drunk. But God administers the wine of his anger at “full strength in the cup of His anger” (v. 10). How unwittingly some people – and some nations – think they are making their own destinies when in fact they are instruments in the hands of Almighty God.
Jurgen Roloff again comments, “First, Babylon did not keep its harlotry for itself (i.e., its idol worship and the resulting immoral way of life), but rather, as with an intoxicating drink, made all peoples of the earth drunk (cf. 17:4). Second, the cup that it offered to others in a seductive manner was at the same time God’s cup of wrath, which he gives the disobedient to drink, the contents of which are his judging wrath…. Thus, Babylon, without knowing it, is a tool in the hand of God” (Revelation: A Continental Commentary, p. 175). A more complete discussion of Babylon’s fall is found in Rev. 16:19 and 17:1 – 18:24. We will examine this subject in more detail then.
Next: And a third angel followed them – Revelation 14:9-11