The fall of Babylon (Rev. 17-18)

Publié le 13 octobre 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon preached by Pastor Vincent Bourrel on 10th October 2021

Chapters 17-18 focus on one aspect of the seven bowls: the judgment of Babylon. By the time John writes Revelation, Babylon is in ruins, a city greatly reduced in size and without any influence. In the Old  Testament, Babylon symbolized everything that was pagan, powerful, arrogant, self-sufficient, and vile. But it was judged by God in 539 B.C. under the Medo-Persian emperor Cyrus. Babylon was the capital of the empire (Nebuchadnezzar was its illustrious founder), it was an extremely powerful city, magnificent, rich but also debauched, idolatrous, occult…).

So when the angel makes John see Babylon the great harlot, he is not referring to the historical city of Babylon but to what it represents, to the spirit of Babylon that remains throughout the centuries. Babylon embodies the world system that has rejected God and is intoxicated with power, luxury and debauchery… 

In John’s time this system was embodied by the Roman Empire and its capital Rome, (17:9 the city of seven hills). This is the system that persecutes them, these emperors are worshipped as gods. John  cannot name it, as he is already in exile because of the Roman power. That’s why he says v.9 « It is here  that we need an understanding enlightened by wisdom ». We still need this understanding to understand what form Babylon is taking today.  

Just as fashion is difficult to grasp as it is a phenomenon, a way of dressing, style, tastes, codes of  society it is a very powerful industry and fashion also has a world capital: Paris. Well Babylon is also a  state of mind, a philosophy of life, a religion that is opposed to God and Jesus Christ. And it also has a  capital with the same name, which perfectly embodies this spirit, it is the showcase of the system.  

Babylon is one of the oldest cities and the spirit that drives it is as old as the devil. It will be very  powerful before the return of Jesus Christ. And it will be judged and destroyed.  

THE POWER OF BABYLON  

Here are some characteristics of Babylon for us to unmask:  

It is very powerful:  

The city built by Nebuchadnezzar had thick walls and massive gates. When Cyrus the Persian king  camped with his army in front of Babylon and his shots bounced off the city walls, Belchazar, king of  Babylon, celebrated inside with his guests.  

In 18:10 it is called « the mighty city ». It is dominant, it sits (17:1) « on great waters » and v.15 = « peoples,  crowds, nations, and tongues » Sitting symbolizes stability, dominance, position of strength, reign.  

Such strength gives it a sense of impunity, 18.7b « She said in her heart, ‘I sit as a queen, I am not a  widow, and I shall not see mourning' » (quoting Isa 47.7-8). She cannot imagine for a second that she  will falter. With this power also comes pride, smugness.  

It is very rich:  

Everything in these two chapters reminds us of the prosperity of the system that benefits above all the  powerful people, the kings, and the merchants of the earth. 17.4, 18.19 mentions its opulence, 18.7  says that it is immersed in luxury, 18.12-19 reports the shipments of gold, silver, precious stones,  pearls, fine linen… that reach it daily. When I thought about this city it made me think of Dubai. Luxury  and excess. A city in full expansion, it has tripled in less than 20 years from 1 million in 2000 to 3.1 

million in 2018 (10,000 more inhabitants every month). It has created artificial islands; it has many  skyscrapers and the highest tower in the world (828m) and is building a tower that will exceed 1km  high (kingdom tower). This shows how confident it is. Dubai is the world capital of shopping with a  shopping mall of 800 000m2 (13 times that of Portet-sur-Garonne), the city has one of the first  commercial ports in the world and the 3rd airport in the world. Sunny all year round, Dubai is  appreciated for its fine sandy beaches, its winter sun and its jeep rides in the sand dunes. It is the playground of the world’s billionaires.  

Look at 18.13, everything is sold in Babylon, including « the bodies and souls of men ». Human  trafficking, sexual slavery, exploitation of men. Its prosperity, its opulence is built on human  exploitation, on oppression. With wealth also comes inhuman brutality.  

It’s seductive:  

18.23b, All the influencers dream of having a foothold in Dubai and Babylon is the place to be.  

Its spirit echoes in many hearts of men, 18.4 it even seems that believers have been seduced and are  invited to leave the city before its destruction. Power and luxury, Sea Sex & Sun. Babylon is a fascination  for the inhabitants of the earth. She represents everything that the heart of man without God would  like to fill itself with. This seduction is the lure of sin. This city is called a harlot because it is  characterized by its debauchery, it is 17.4 « full of abominations and impurities ». And 18.5 « her sins  have accumulated to heaven » like her skyscrapers. Babylon is where the Tower of Babel was built, a  symbol of her rebellion against God.  

It’s idolatrous:  

In fact, her name « the great whore » refers less to the sex trade than to her idolatry. Prostitution in the  Bible frequently refers to the idolatry of people who do not know God. The idolatry here is almost  worldwide, all the nations, the kings of the earth have indulged in it. It is the religion of the Beast  (Antichrist), 17.7b it is carried (supported) by the Beast and his associates. The Beast will eventually  ruin the world religion so that finally only the devil is worshipped. She is opposed to God 17.14 and  she is the persecutor of the saints, of the believers 17.6 John seeing this is shocked, upset by the  violence against the Christians. This woman, so elegant, so refined is in fact so murderous. And 18.24.  She is very broad-minded but her pleasure, what she is intoxicated with, is to ruin the Christians, to despise them, to mock them, to fight them and to make them die.  

THE DESTRUCTION OF BABYLON  

It will be sudden:  

Ancient Babylon fell suddenly (Is 47:9-11 or Jer 50:24, 51:8). This undefeatable city fell, and the world  was stunned. Cyrus the Medo-Persian king was a great strategist, he discovered a loophole in the  defense of Babylon. The city was crossed by the Euphrates River, which passed under the city walls. So Cyrus diverted the Euphrates and his army entered the city through the riverbed. The Babylonians  were taken by surprise. The most populous, most powerful, and most secure city in the world had  fallen in one night.  

18.10 The kings of the earth, who made her great, are cut down; 18.16 The merchants of the earth,  who made their living with her, are ruined; 18.19 The captains of ships, the carriers who lived on her trade are terrified by the suddenness of the judgment.  

All of them lament, all of them say “Woe, woe”, an expression of great suffering, pain, and sadness,  but not of repentance. They do not cry over their sins but over their lost business. 

How can we not think of the collapse of the Twin Towers in September 2001? We know that a sudden  collapse is possible.  

It will be just:  

Revelation 18.6-7. And Jeremiah 51:24, 56. Retribution belongs to God. It is not the believers who are avenged, but God who works His justice. And he gives to each one according to his deeds. The  expression « twice as much » has the meaning of fullness, which is what we understand in v.7 with « as  much ».  

18.20 Heaven must rejoice not in the condemnation of sinners, but in the victory of righteousness, the exaltation of Jesus Christ, the elimination of his enemies and the arrival of his kingdom on earth. This  is the purpose of the book of Revelation, for those first readers who are persecuted by the Babylon of the first century (Rome), to take courage, and persevere. Justice will triumph. For us also: let us stand  

firm.  

It will be final:  

Jer 51:26, 37, 43. Ancient Babylon was never rebuilt. Even though its spirit and system remain to this day. But in Rev. 18:21-23, the system of the great Babylon and its world capital are definitely ruined.  No one will be heard playing music, no one will work there, no one will cook there, the city will be  deserted, and no one will marry or settle there. But the rebellious spirit of Babylon will also be  destroyed.  

SOME REMARKS:  

The judgment of ancient Babylon was prophesied by several prophets at a time when Babylon was at  the height of its power and wealth. Her judgment was sudden, just and final as announced and as I  have tried to show you. So when God announces the judgment of Babylon the great, (reincarnated in  the last days) in a sudden, just and definitive way, it would be a folly not to take notice, not to learn  from it.  

The story of the destruction of Babylon is:  

1°) A parable for our lives  

Man was created to worship God and delight in him. Sin has turned man away from God, since he  seeks his pleasure elsewhere than in God. People will inevitably worship someone or something  because they were created with an inner emptiness in the form of God that they constantly seek to fill either with the true God or with the false gods they have created for themselves. Among the false gods that men have made for themselves are power, wealth, success, sex. Everything that Babylon the great  offers.  

If you go down this road, you must know that there is no satisfaction possible. You will always thrive for an ever-higher tower, an ever-greater fortune, an ever more beautiful woman, an ever-stronger  emotion….  

If you go down this road, if you live for Babylon, you must know that it will all end abruptly, in one hour, you will lose everything and appear before your creator empty-handed, to be judged according  to your works and condemned. After losing everything, you will lose the most precious thing you have:  your soul.  

In Christ alone who died for our sins our relationship with God is restored. He is risen and we can  worship him and find our pleasure in him. He perfectly fulfills the needs of our hearts. 

2°) A health examination for our souls  

Are we seduced? Worldliness always makes godly attitudes appear strange and ungodly values normal,  so that we are tempted to adopt what the world considers normal. How do we practically avoid such  contamination while we have a job, buy a house or a car, prepare for retirement?  

A. Always value people more than possessions. In Babylon, people’s bodies and souls are exploited as  commodities. => Are you generous?  

B. Beware of pride in actions, in projects and after successes. Babylon is sufficient, she does not need  God. We need God => Do you pray? Do you give thanks to God? This is a good barometer of my  dependence on God.  

C. Don’t make any concessions that put you at odds with the will and Word of God. When money or  sex or success is a god in our lives, we sacrifice to it what we have in integrity, honesty, our  relationships, our friendships… Do what is right no matter what the cost.  

3°) A constant tension  

Until the return of Jesus Christ, the people of God will constantly be tossed in opposite directions  towards the city of God on the one hand and towards Babylon on the other. We may be tempted to  join forces with Babylon and become horribly compromised. We can be tempted to build a new  Jerusalem « out of cardboard » in which we live among ourselves, waiting for Jesus, but missing the  purpose for which he left us here on earth.  

Our ultimate hope lies in God who brings us the new Jerusalem (Rev 21-22) and overthrows this mother of harlots in his sovereign judgment. Our hope is in Christ.