God has finished His series of judgments on the earth. He has punished sinners and those who have tormented His children. Now we will see the fall of the greatest city on earth at the time of the tribulation. No one knows exactly which city this will be. Some believe it will be in the ancient territory of Babylon. Some believe it will be Rome, the headquarters of Christian persecution in the day of John when this was written. Still others believe it will be a new city to rise to prominence during the last seven years. Regardless, it will be recognizable at the time as a center for commerce, trade, and world-wide influence. One of the seven angels comes to John and offers to show him God’s punishment of the great prostitute, the city that has sold herself to idols and turned from God. It will be the center of evil, sitting on “many waters”, meaning much worldly influence and power. The kings of the earth commit adultery with her, meaning they sold out God in order to have a relationship with one of power and influence. The inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with her adulteries, meaning their actions were embraced by the people who live there. John was then carried away in a spiritual vision. He saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman is a city, Babylon the Great. The beast is the multinational political confederation of the last days. She is dressed in purple and scarlet, reflecting her sins. This is compared to the white dress of the forgiven saints. She was gaudy in her material excess, glittering with precious stones. She held a gold cup filled with her many sins and she drank of it until she was intoxicated with it. She was drunk with the blood of all the saints that had been killed in her streets (17:6). The beast is described as “once was, now is not, and yet will come” (17:8). Some believe this refers to a fatal wound, such as the head wound of the antichrist, that will kill him and then he will rise from the dead, prompting the nations to worship him as god. Some believe this is Satan or another demon that was held in the Abyss and then let go for a time before being thrown back into the Abyss. Either way, it is a sorry comparison to the one “who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Rev 1:8)- Jesus Christ.
We are specifically told that understanding this passage takes a mind with wisdom. Let us pray for the wisdom to understand it from the source of all wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills. This possibly may refer to Rome, which is situated on seven hills. The seven heads also refers to seven kings. Five have previously fallen, one is (the Roman Empire of John’s day), and the other one has not come yet. The beast, or the antichrist, is the eighth king. Five empires previous to John have persecuted the Jews- Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, and Greece. The Roman Empire persecuted God’s people, the Christians, in John’s day. Has there been a ruler or Empire that has persecuted God’s people between John’s day and now? Hitler, maybe? Just a possibility. If not, there may be another yet to come before the tribulation begins.
The ten horns probably refer to the ten toes of Daniel’s vision. This also corresponds to the ten horns on the beast in Daniel, a different vision, that showed one of the horns swallowing up, or conquering three of the horns, reducing the number to seven. They will make war against Jesus, maybe referring to a battle at the place named Armageddon. But Jesus, the Lamb, will win because “he is Lord of lords and King of kings- and with him will be his called, chosen, and faithful followers” (17:14). Let us all pray that we will remain faithful until the end so we can be counted among that group. It will take wisdom, determination, and perseverance. God will then turn the peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages against themselves and they will actually be the ones to destroy Babylon the Great.
In chapter 18, we see an angel coming down from heaven proclaiming again that Babylon the Great has fallen. The angel calls for all of God’s people to come out of the city so that they will not share in her punishment. God plans to give back to her double for all the pain she has caused. The kings of the earth will mourn at her destruction because they thought nothing could bring her down. They will be terrified. The merchants of the earth will mourn over her destruction because now they will have no more fine cargoes. All the riches and splendor will vanish in one hour (18:17). Every sea captain and sailor will mourn her destruction. Could it be a city on a coast somewhere? The city of Babylon will never be found again. There will be no more music, no more work, no more family (18:22). There will be no more light, no more future, and no more joy (18:23). Her two great sins were leading the whole world astray, and killing God’s followers.
The fall of Babylon the Great is not just a story about the fall of a great city- it is the story of the fall of individual sinners who rejected God. The result? Total desolation and silence. No laughter or joy or weddings or families or jobs. Nothing. Let us strive to keep our minds focused on what is important- living a life worthy of the call of God. It does not matter how things look on the outside- money, beauty, possessions, homes, power, influence. The only thing that matters is what God will think when we stand before Him. Where is our focus? Once everything else is gone, will we be left with only silence? Or will we be left with the fellowship of our Creator, Lord, and Savior?
God’s attribute: deep. A relationship with God is found deep within us. Yes, people can see outward evidence in the lives of believers by their obedience. But the benefits of a relationship with God cannot be seen by the naked eye. It is not found on the surface. It is found deep within- the peace, joy, love, hope, and confidence that God is who He claims and that He loves us, died for us, and is coming back for us. There is no silence in the lives of believers, even if there is quiet all around them.
Prayer: Praise God for judging the sin on the earth. Thank Him for sending Jesus back for us a second time. Ask Him to help you resist the propaganda of the world and resist the temptation to be sucked down into a materialistic and self-gratifying culture. I will do the same.