14:8, note a
What is Babylon?
"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. (Rev. 14:8)
This is the second of three that fly with end-time warning messages. Zechariah tells about a second messenger calling the people of God to flee from living with the daughters of Babylon zc0206ff. Failure to heed the warnings of the three angels, constitutes the first fall. At the very end of time the angel of chapter 18 makes a final appeal. Then the issues will be absolutely clear and the evil worship system will crash re1801.
Babylon is first an ancient city, now in ruins in modern Iraq. But Revelation, written centuries after the city was abandoned, is all about the future from John's time re0101. Therefore we must understand the city to be symbolic of another power or powers. Revelation's first mention of the city appears in the verse we are studying.
To make sense of Babylon, we need to remember what the word means in the biblical setting. The people whom God had chosen as His representatives gradually fell into apostasy, turning to heathen gods. After the time of Solomon, Israel split into two kingdoms, and God allowed subjection of the less faithful ten tribes of the north to the Assyrians (722/721 B.C.). The Assyrian power ended around 605. (Remember that B.C. time counts backwards).
In 587, about 150 years after the fall of the Northern Kingdom, Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon breached the Jerusalem city wall, looted the temple and took captives to Babylon. Leaders of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, had followed the path of the tribes of the north in disregarding divine counsel through Jeremiah and others. Most of them went into captivity and were absorbed into the pagan kingdom of Babylon where we found the prophet Daniel.
Thus in predictive prophecy Babylon became a symbol of apostasy and of oppressors and seducers of God's people. As God had promised (Jer. 32:44), Jerusalem was re-established and the temple rebuilt (Neh. 3). Revelation draws from this symbolism and pictures the evil Babylon and the New Jerusalem as contrasting powers. We see the New Jerusalem come down in chapter 21. re2101.
Let's notice in our verse one significant clue about the character of Babylon. "Babylon is fallen . . . that great city. . . ." Was Babylon really a great city when she fell? We will be looking at the account of Babylon's fall from Daniel 5. The drunken, blasphemous kingdom could hardly be considered great in God's sight. Its description as "great" comes from Daniel 4. Let's pick up the story as Daniel speaks to King Nebuchadnezzar after interpreting his dream of a tree that was cut down.
"Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity. All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.
"At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen. . . ." (Dan. 4:27-32)
Thus Babylon became a symbol of assumed human greatness in defiance of God.
How good it is to know that, although oppression and evil persist now, God is ultimately in control and will be gracious to all who accept His way of happiness.
The fall of ancient Babylon
^ 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. (Rev. 14:8)
The Babylon role is played
several times in the Scriptures. To understand, we need to look back to
the original source of the symbol. Daniel tells us about Babylon. In Daniel
2 King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream (earlier than the dream of the cut-down
tree). This is an amazing and interesting story. I suggest you read it
from your Bible da02.
In the dream, the king saw an image. He was the head of gold and other kingdoms would follow (v. 39). The other metals were silver, brass and iron plus the feet and toes of iron and clay (in sequence of diminishing value). By comparing with chapter 7 and a simple knowledge of history, we find them to represent Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the division of Rome.
In chapter 3 we find the powerful story of the three Hebrews who stood for their faith before the furnace. They refused to bow to the image Nebucahdnezzar had set up. It was all of gold. He obviously didn't like the outcome of his dream where other kingdoms would take over.
In chapter 4 we read how Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind and behaved like an animal. After seven years, God restored him to his senses and he again became king. In chapter 5, the old king was apparently dead. Belshazzar was king and had a great feast. Let's read the story:
The story from
Daniel 5 - For more, see comments on this chapter - Dan.
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. . . . They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.
In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.
The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. . . . Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. . . .
Now the queen [likely Mrs. Nebuchadnezzar who declined the invitation to the feast], by reason of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever. . . . There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him. . . . Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel [also absent from the feast] be called, and he will shew the interpretation.
Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake. . . . now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be . . . the third ruler in the kingdom.
Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour. . . . But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses . . . till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. Image in the public domain
And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:
Then was the part of the hand sent from him. . . . And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet. . . .
In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old [539 B.C.]."