Babylon is Fallen

The evil Babylon world system will not last forever:

In my morning devotions I again read this from Hebrews 13:14: “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” We await life on the new heavens and new earth, with the new Jerusalem our final abode. But in the meantime we live in sin-soaked earthly cities, of which Babylon is so very representative.

Babylon has a long history in the Bible. We first learn about Babel in Genesis 10-11. It becomes a mighty nation, known for its evil, and is often used by God to judge other nations, including Israel. But it too is eventually judged by God.

In the ESV the word “Babylon” is found 271 times, overwhelmingly in the Old Testament. The book that uses the word the most is Jeremiah, with 151 mentions. Only 12 times is the word found in the New Testament. And in the last third of the book of Revelation we find the final six uses of the word. More on that in a moment.

While Babylon is associated with evil and arrogance, the good news is that it is not invincible. The Tower of Babel was judged early on, and the prophets made it clear that ancient Babylon would not last forever. Isaiah for example could say this (Is. 21:9):

“And behold, here come riders,
horsemen in pairs!”
And he answered,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon;
and all the carved images of her gods
he has shattered to the ground.”

Thus Babylon of old did fall long ago, but the anti-God world system of which Babylon symbolically refers to will finally and fully fall when Christ returns. That is good news! Consider the references found to it in the book of Revelation:

Revelation 14:8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

Revelation 16:19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.

Revelation 17:5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”

Revelation 18:1-2 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.”

Revelation 18:10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.”

Revelation 18:21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more;”

Spiritual Babylon is all around us. If you live in Melbourne or Auckland or Chicago or Toronto or London or Paris, you are living in the evil, godless world system – a habitation of demons, as Rev. 18 puts it. In the helpful 1998 reference work, The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, the article on Babylon says this in part:

Already in the OT (cf. Is. 13:1-22, esp. the ultimacy of the language in Is 13:9-13; 14:3-23) and certainly in the NT (e.g., 1 Pet. 5:13; cf. 1:1; 2:11), Babylon stands not for a specific power but more generally for world power in opposition to God – the empire where God’s people live in exile. This is particularly clear in Revelation, which draws heavily on OT imagery in portraying the end times. Here stands Babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes. She is the harlot, drunk on the blood of the martyrs, making others drunk with the wine of fornication (Rev 17:1–6), forced by God to drink a double draught of judgment in her own cup (18:3–6). She is the arrogant and secure queen of the whole earth, now smitten suddenly and decisively with pestilence, mourning and famine (17:15–18, 18:7–8); desolate, naked and destroyed (17:16); deprived of all her previous luxuries (18:11–19). She is the ruin inhabited by demons and birds (18:2). The force of the imagery is the more strongly felt in Revelation because of the deliberate contrast drawn toward the end of the book between Babylon and the new Jerusalem, which is presented as the Bride of Christ (19:6–9; 21:1–27).

We certainly have something to look forward to. At the end of this age there will be a funeral and a wedding. Babylon will be destroyed while the Bride of Christ weds our Lord. Great rejoicing will occur at both. As to the final fall of Babylon, Rev. 19:1-5 says this:

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,
you who fear him,
    small and great.”

Let me close with some commentary on this passage. James Hamilton remarks:

Babylon is guilty of idolatry and immorality. These are not idle sins. Her idolatry has led her to murder the saints who refuse to participate in that false worship. Her immorality has enabled her to entice the unbelieving world, enslaving the foolish in the worship of what is not God. Does anything have more power among people than religion and sex? . . . Perhaps nothing in existence is more potent and consequential than these two things, religion and sex, both of which are ultimately about God. Babylon has defiled both. Babylon has profaned what God made holy and has taken what should be kept clean and pure and made it dirty and unwholesome. Proverbs 11:10 says that “when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness” and Revelation 19:1-8 shows us the shouts of gladness at the fall of Babylon.

Joel Beeke comments:

Believers will rejoice at the funeral of Babylon on judgment day. They will rejoice when Babylon’s unholy mix of religion, sexual permissiveness, idolatry, and injustice turns to smoke in the fire of God’s wrath. Here on earth, God’s saints suffer much because of the world around them. They struggle with injustice in the world, with the sufferings of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked. They are tempted by evil, enticed by idolatry, and lured by immorality. But God will graciously bring them through all these trials and preserve them through the Vanity Fair of this world. One day, their struggles will be over, for Babylon will be destroyed – hallelujah! Every time we are tempted by idolatry, immorality, and evil, we should remember the end of the harlot Babylon.

Image of Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary (Volume 20) (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)
Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary (Volume 20) (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) by Paul, Ian (Author), Schnabel, Eckhard J. (Author), Perrin, Nicholas (Author), Schnabel, Eckhard J. (Editor), Perrin, Nicholas (Editor), Schnabel, Eckhard J. (Series Editor), Perrin, Nicholas (Series Editor) Amazon logo

Finally, Ian Paul says this in his recent commentary:

All through the Scriptures, God’s justice in his judgments is something for which he is praised. Indeed, it is core to his character and closely related to the idea that God is ‘true’; he is not fickle, changing his mind from one time to another, but is the dependable constant in an inconstant and changing world. Trusting in the justice of God is essential for John’s audience as providing the sure ground for their remaining faithful, with ‘patient endurance’ (1:9), in the face of, at times, ferocious opposition. If God is to vindicate his people, it will mean the defeat of his people’s foes, and bringing to an end all systems of power that oppose and oppress them. As elsewhere in Scripture, rejoicing over their fall is not an expression of revenge or glee, but the delight and relief of those who have been oppressed seeing their oppressors brought to justice.

And that is good news indeed. Right now things are looking so very dark and diabolical. But this will not always be the case. So we must trust God and persevere. Soon enough we can rejoice in the fact that Babylon is fallen.

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2 Replies to “Babylon is Fallen”

  1. Dear Bill,

    Thank you for your brilliant Biblical explanation of Babylon. This world is certainly the new Babylon and more and more people are showing that they don’t want it. To me, when the authorities used the police force who are supposed to protect the people to enter a Catholic Church where the sacred rite of Holy Mass was taking place to check on whether the congregation was conforming to the mask mandate that was the ultimate in evil. I have never forgotten it. As you will know Bill Catholic tradition teaches that the True Presence of Jesus is in the Host at Consecration. It teaches that it not symbolic. Whether most Catholics believe this anymore is another argument. As for myself all I can say is that at my age I am not giving up what the little Irish priest taught me long ago in the fifties when I was first attracted to the Catholic religion. Perhaps that is why this blasphemy sticks in my mind. The police should never have been used for a purpose like this. It was a betrayal of what the police force is supposed to be about.

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