In the book of Revelation the actions of evil powers are depicted as mimicking those of God. For instance, God has three angels proclaiming the gospel to the world (Rev. 14:6-12), and the dragon has three demonic spirits going to the kings of the earth to gather them for the final confrontation with the Lamb (Rev. 16:13, 14). The message of the second angel is based on this way of thinking. God has a city and the dragon creates his own city: Babylon. Babylon proclaims a message to humans that is the counterfeit of the eternal gospel, and as a result it will not prevail.
BABYLON AND THE LAMB
The second angel proclaims good news: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality” (Rev. 14:8).¹ In the following we look in more detail at the key elements of this message.
ANCIENT BABYLON AND THE FALLEN CHERUB
It all began on “a plain of the land of Shinar” (Gen. 11:2), another name for Babylon designating the southern part of Mesopotamia. There, after the Flood, humans decided to build a city called Babel, with a tower reaching to heaven (verse 4). In the narrative the noun Babel is based on the Hebrew verb balal, meaning “to mix,” indicating that Babel means “confusion.” The narrative is about a project that unifies humans in a common goal. It is about human deeds and achievements rooted in a concern for self-preservation. It is about a human ambition beyond imagination, for it intends to have dominion over the earth and the heavens— over everything. It is an ambition of cosmic proportions that consists in building a cosmic city that, in total independence from God, would integrate the two most important spheres of existence, namely, the human and the divine. Babylonians called the city bab-ilani, “Gate of the Gods,” probably because the city was visualized as a cosmic city that unified humans on earth with the gods in heaven. The biblical story is about an act of rebellion against the divine intention for humans (Gen. 9:7; 11:4). The building project and its intended purpose came to an end when God, the uninvited One, intervened by altering the unifying role of human language (Gen. 11:7, 8).
The pride and self-sufficiency of Babylon are fully developed in Isaiah when the Lord announces His judgment against Babylon, represented by its king (Isa. 14:3-23). The passage uses the deepest ambitions of the fallen cherub to describe the ambitions and intentions of the king of Babylon, and in so doing, God unveils the inner corruption of the cherub: “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly . . . I will make myself like the Most High’ ” (verses 13, 14). The same ambition, in one way or another, has found a place in the human heart too. Although the historical Babylon fell, the ambitions of the cherub are still alive, and he will try to attain them during the time of the end.
END-TIME BABYLON AND THE FALLEN CHERUB
The nature and purpose of the ancient city of Babylon are now used as a type of the end-time Babylon. In Revelation Babylon is, first, an unclean trinity. It is constituted by three powers united to promote the agenda of the fallen cherub (Rev. 16:13). These are the dragon, who seems to assume the role of God (e.g., Rev. 13:2, 4); the beast from the sea, often mimicking Christ (e.g., Rev. 1:8 and 13:14); and the beast from the earth, also called the false prophet, performing the work of the Spirit (e.g., Rev. 13:13; 19:20). In the historicist interpretation of the apocalyptic prophecies, the beast from the sea represents the Christian church during the Middle Ages; the beast from the earth stands for American Protestant Christianity; and the dragon is spiritualism—based on the pagan idea of the immortality of the soul, through which Satan will work deceiving miracles (Rev. 16:13, 14).
Second, Babylon is an end-time climatic expression of apostate Christianity of global dimensions. It is a portion of the church of Laodicea that did not heed the call of Christ to open the door and return to Him (Rev. 3:14-22). Since she is wealthy (Rev. 18:3, 11-13) and possesses beautiful dresses (verses 16, 19), there is no need for the wealth and the dress that Christ offers to all—the richness of the gospel (Rev. 3:18). The beasts that constitute Babylon are not the beasts of social and economic oppression in modern societies, but an apostate expression of Christianity that will oppose God’s end-time people (Rev. 13:15).
Third, Babylon reaches out to the world with a false message of salvation. She “has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality” (Rev. 14:8). The force that drives Babylon is passion/desire and not a mind enlightened by the Spirit. By sharing the wine of spiritual harlotry, Babylon is identified as an unfaithful wife, implying her unfaithfulness to the Lord. In the Old Testament the unfaithfulness of Israel to God consisted in making alliances with the nations in order to preserve itself (Eze. 16:26-29) and by accepting religious practices and beliefs from other nations (Jer. 2:20, 21; Eze. 6:9; 16; 23). Both were expressions of apostasy (Ps. 106:35-39). In Revelation Babylon seeks the support of the kings of the earth (Rev. 17:12, 13) and supports the deception and worship of the dragon (Rev. 13:4).
Fourth, in the process of constituting the end-time Babylon, the dragon reaches out to the non-Christian world to unify it around the convictions of apostate Christianity. This is certainly a difficult task, because the planet is filled with a multiplicity of global religions, antagonistic political powers, contradictory ways of thinking, and even atheism and secularism. The most effective way for the dragon to achieve its purpose would be through the use of supernatural phenomena. There is hardly anything more effective to change humans’ loyalties than a supernatural experience that would appear to be unquestionable. Revelation speaks about the performance of great miracle on the part of the dragon and his agents that will result in changes in the social, political, and religious map of the world that at the present time seem to be impossible to anticipate (Rev. 13:13, 14).
THE TRIUMPH OF THE LAMB
What is it that Babylon is specifically offering the world? Babylon is offering her own way of salvation through the proclamation of a false gospel. God offers to the world the gospel of salvation through the Lamb, but Babylon offers her wine. Wine is often a symbol of God’s saving blessings for His people. Babylon provides for her followers the wine of her own “saving blessings,” namely, her spiritual immorality. In the Old Testament, wine is called “the blood of the grape” (e.g., Deut. 32:14), an excellent symbol for the blood/life of Jesus. During the Lord’s Supper He offered to His disciples the wine that represented His life given for the forgiveness of sin (Matt. 26:28)—the good news of the gospel. In the Gospel of John, Jesus offered His blood as the only source of life for sinners (John 6:53, 54; cf. John 19:34). By giving to the dwellers of the earth her own wine, Babylon is handing out a false gospel allegedly validated through the extraordinary miracles performed by the dragon and his agents (Rev. 13:13, 14; 16:13, 14). This false gospel is called “the wine . . . [that is to say] the passion of her immorality [her apostate teachings]” (Rev. 14:8). It is the corruption of the divine plan for the human race, and it is therefore spiritual unfaithfulness/immorality.
The human race will be polarized by the confrontation of the gospel of salvation through Christ and the false gospel of salvation through the dragon/the fallen cherub. The final result would be the fall of Babylon. This fall will take place in two stages. The first one is a spiritual one that is still in the making. It will occur when the apostasy that began early in the history of the church would reach its climax in the reunification of apostate Christianity. The fullness of Babylon is not yet present until such an event occurs. The second fall will transpire at the second coming of Christ and will result in the final defeat of Babylon. John says that at that time, “The great city [Babylon] was split in three parts” (Rev. 16:19). The unholy trinity is unable to stand united before the Lamb (cf. Gen. 11:8): “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them” (Rev. 17:14). The wicked will seek to hide themselves “from the presence” of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16). It is not the attack of the Lion that defeats [the unholy trinity], but the sacrificial figure and work of the Lamb who was slain for our sins. The Lamb embodies the gospel and comes out triumphant in the conflict.
Babylon is not yet present in the world in all of her fullness. As we already indicated, the process of apostasy began early in the Christian church and will reach its culmination shortly before the coming of Christ (2 Thess. 2:1-10). It is important for us to observe what is taking place in the relationship between Protestants and Catholics, particularly the signifificant increase of the inflfluence of Catholicism in some parts of the world, even among non-Christian religions. The world is changing rapidly, and we should expect more significant changes, particularly of a religious nature. Meanwhile, it is our duty to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation, alerting the world about what lies ahead of us. “We may have less to say in some lines, in regard to the Roman power and the papacy, but we should call attention to what the prophets and apostles have written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God.”²
Questions for Reflection
How can we avoid a “Babylonian” mindset in our own lives?
Why is Revelation’s message of Babylon’s fall good news for those who follow the Lamb wherever He leads?
Revelation references a “fake” trinity that seeks to imitate Scripture’s Trinity. How can we be prepared to avoid being duped by this unholy trinity?
Ángel Manuel Rodríguez and Díxil Lisbeth Rodríguez
Contributing Writer •
Ángel Manuel Rodríguez is well known to readers of Adventist World as he authors our monthly Bible Questions Answered column. He retired
in 2011 as director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, where he served for a total
of 19 years. Rodríguez was born in Puerto Rico, earned a Th.D. from Andrews University, and has worked for the Adventist Church as pastor, educator, and administrator. His daughter, Díxil Lisbeth Rodríguez, earned a doctorate in rhetoric from Texas Woman’s University and has served as university professor and hospital chaplain. “I enjoy teaching, but I have a passion for humanitarian mission and chaplaincy,” she says when asked about her favorite things to do. Both father and daughter enjoy conversing deeply about theology.