(14.8)         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.


1.   You might want to make a notation that this is the first reference to Babylon in John’s Revelation, though it is mentioned in five other verses subsequent to this one.[1] John Walvoord rightly observes that “Prophetically, ‘Babylon’ sometimes refers to a literal city, sometimes to a religious system, sometimes to a political system, all stemming from the evil character of historic Babylon. . . Inasmuch as the context here seems to deal primarily with the end of the great tribulation and the beginning of the millennial kingdom, the reference seems to be to the literal city.”[2]


2.   When Walvoord’s comments were published in 1966 they might have seemed wildly speculative to some, but events have so dramatically turned in the Middle East and in Iraq, which is where ancient Babylon is located, that the literal fulfillment of this prediction no longer seems far fetched.


3.   Here we have a second angel flying around crying out loudly. “Lack of response to the first angel’s message causes a second angel to pronounce this judgment.”[3] Turn, once again, to the Old Testament to see what the implications of this verse are. Isaiah 13.19-22:


19    And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

20    It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.

21    But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.

22    And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.


4.   There are two ways in which this passage can be understood. If you take this passage to be a suggestion that Babylon will be destroyed in the same manner as Sodom was destroyed, which was fire and brimstone which rained down from above. Babylon has not yet experienced this type of destruction. Thus, this passage seems to indicate that the antichrist will rebuild Babylon during the Tribulation, at which time it will then be destroyed by fire.


5.   If this line of reasoning is correct, then this angel is predicting the downfall of the city of Babylon, using the prophetic aorist tense that is translated “fallen.”[4] That is the way the Greeks had of predicting something in the future as if it already had occurred. And with God, such figures of speech are very reasonable. You see, if God’s Word predicts an event is going to happen you might as well mark it down as if it already has happened, since nothing will keep it from happening.


6.   Romans 8.29-30 is an example of this same type of prophecy. Those who are the objects of God’s electing purpose have not yet been glorified, though they are spoken of in this passage as though it has already happened. How can this be? Simple. Nothing on earth or in heaven will prevent it from happening. Read those two verses with me:


29    For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30    Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.


7.   What will precipitate this destruction of Babylon? “. . . because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”


a.   It is clear from this statement that Babylon will be destroyed because of something collectively done. There is corporate responsibility born here that will be judged by God. The whole of the city will be judged for what the city collectively does. But what, precisely, will Babylon do?


b.   Making all nations drink of her wine sounds hauntingly similar to Jeremiah 51.7, where the prophet writes, “Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD’s hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.” Wine is an intoxicant. Thus, the picture is of the nations becoming intoxicated by Babylon’s influence.


c.   Fornication has to do with sexual infidelity, with promiscuity, with illicit behavior. But sexual sin is very frequently used in the Bible as a picture of spiritual wickedness. So, Babylon us pictured here as a wanton woman, guilty of gross immorality and of enticing others to commit sin with her. By the way, is not this decadence characteristic of the United States and the west? When Nixon opened China to the west it was with the knowledge that China would be enticed by our materialism and conspicuous consumption. When the Berlin wall was torn down, it was the result of the East Berliners craving the living standards and the possessions and the wealth they saw on television and heard about on the radio in the west. And is this not what outrages the fanatical moslems about the United States and the west? It is our decadence, our immodesty, our promiscuity, as well as what they see as the west’s religion. Well, what is done by the west will be done to the west, and to the rest of the world.


d.   But there are consequences to sin. And the idolatry that was spawned in Babylon centuries ago, and which will be promoted by Babylon during the great tribulation, will provoke God’s wrath . . . not only against Babylon, but also against all those who yield to Babylon’s temptations. What, precisely, will Babylon entice the nations to do and intoxicate them with? Whatever the precise form of the enticement, it will lure people away from the real Savior, away from the true gospel, and from the genuine God. Thus, God’s wrath will be enflamed toward those who succumb to counterfeit religion and worship the counterfeit god and his counterfeit savior.

[1] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[2] Walvoord, page 218.

[3] See footnote for Revelation 14.8 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 2011.

[4] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol VI, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930), page 411.

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