Angels announce the judicial sentence of God on “Babylon” and the “inhabitants of the earth,” but “rest” awaits the faithful followers of Jesus.
Next, “another angel” announced the “fall of Babylon.” He was followed by “a third angel” who pronounced the judicial sentence on the men who gave allegiance to the “beast from the sea.” The passage uses Old Testament language from pronouncements against Sodom and “Gog and Magog.” In contrast to the impenitent, the “saints” look forward to “rest.”
The language is figurative. By the first century, Babylon was no longer a center of regional commerce or political power, and she was no threat to the fledgling churches of Asia.
- (Revelation 14:8-11) – “And a second angel followed, saying: Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great, who of the wine of the wrath of her fornication has caused all the nations to drink. And another, a third angel, followed them, saying with a loud voice: If anyone renders homage to the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone before holy angels and before the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment is ascending unto ages of ages. And they have no rest day or night, who render homage to the beast and his image, or if anyone receives the mark of his name.”
This is the first explicit mention of “Babylon” in the book, but it is not her first appearance. In his letter to Thyatira, Jesus chastised that congregation for tolerating:
- “That woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and teaches my servants to eat things offered to idols. I gave her time to repent but she would not repent of her fornication” – (Revelation 2:20-23).
The language echoes the later description of “Babylon” seen by John in the wilderness. In the activities of “Jezebel,” end-time “Babylon” was seducing unwary believers in the church – (Revelation 17:1-4).
The figure is called “Babylon the Great,” but also “the great city.” Thus, for example, the corpses of the “two witnesses” were found lying “in the streets of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt,” which set the precedent for applying language from the destruction of “Sodom” to the destruction of end-time “Babylon” – (Revelation 11:8, 16:19).
“She caused all the nations to drink the wine of the fury of her fornication.” The Greek term rendered “fury” is thumos, meaning “passion, fury, anger, fervor,” a different word than the one commonly rendered “wrath,” as in the “wrath of God” – (orgé, Revelation 6:16-17).
In Revelation, thumos or “fury” is applied to “Babylon” and the “Dragon.” For example, the “seven bowls of fury (thumos)” were poured out on the “inhabitants of the earth” because they drank the “wine of her fury.”
“Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great.” The clause alludes to two judicial pronouncements against Ancient Babylon for her idolatry and seduction of the “nations”:
- (Isaiah 21:8-10)- “When, behold, here was a train of men coming. With horsemen in double rank. And one began and said, Fallen! fallen! is Babylon, and all the images of her gods are smashed to the ground! O you, My threshing, and the grain of my corn-floor!”
- (Jeremiah 51:6-8) – “Flee out of the midst of Babylon and deliver every man his own life. Be not cut off in her punishment, for it is Yahweh’s time of avenging, a recompense is He repaying to her. A cup of gold was Babylon in the hand of Yahweh, making drunk all the earth, Of her wine have the nations drunk. For this cause have the nations been acting as men who are mad. Suddenly, has Babylon fallen and been broken.”
“If anyone renders homage to the beast… He also will drink of the wine of the fury of God.” The “beast” is dependent on “Babylon” for its prosperity and the seduction of the nations. The two entities are inextricably linked. Therefore, men who have rendered homage to the “beast” now participate in the punishment of “Babylon.”
“Mixed unmixed.” The image is of wine not diluted with water, which would have the highest alcohol content, and thus the stress on intoxication. The “wrath of God” is “unmixed” – His full fury was about to be unleashed against “Babylon.”
“He will be tormented with fire and brimstone… And the smoke of their torment ascends unto the ages of ages,” a sentence alluding to two Old Testament passages originally describing judgments on Sodom and “Gog and Magog” – (Genesis 19:24-28:
- (Ezekiel 38:18-23) “So then shall it come to pass in that day, when Gog enters upon the soil of Israel, Declares My Lord Yahweh, That my fury (THUMOS) shall come up into my nostrils; Yea, in my jealousy, in the fire of mine wrath (orgé), have I spoken… fire and brimstone will I rain upon him, and upon his hordes, and upon the many peoples who are with him.”
After the “beast from the Abyss” killed the “two witnesses,” their corpses remained unburied on the streets of the “great city, which is called spiritually Sodom.” Now, in His righteous indignation, God inflicts the punishment meted out to Ancient Sodom on “Babylon” and the inhabitants of the great city.
The “fire and brimstone” point not to the everlasting “torment” of the wicked, but instead, contrasts the fates of the wicked and the righteous. The saints who keep the “faith of Jesus” will “rest” from their labors, but the “inhabitants of the earth” will experience “torment.” Whether the latter suffer eternal torment, here, it is the “smoke of their torment” that ascends forever. The image echoes the concluding section of Isaiah. The original passage described how Israel would observe the carcasses of their enemies. Here, this takes place before the “angels and the Lamb” – (Isaiah 66:22-24).
“And they have no rest.” The condemned do not experience “rest” due to their “torment.” In contrast, the followers of the “Lamb” receive “rest.”
- (Revelation 14:12-13) – “Here is the patience of the saints, they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.”
This preceding verse parallels the descriptions of the “war” against the saints by the “Dragon” and the “beast from the sea,” leaving no doubt as to the identity of the group. It is composed of the faithful followers of Jesus who are characterized by their “perseverance” – (Revelation 1:9, 12:17, 13:10).
“Rest” is a most appropriate term for the reward of saints who have endured the onslaught of the “Dragon.” The idea was introduced at the opening of the “fifth seal” when the martyrs pleaded for vindication:
- (Revelation 6:11) – “And there was given to each one a white robe; and it was said to them, that they should rest yet for a little time until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should be fulfilled.”
The martyrs were told to wait until the full number of “witnesses” was gathered, then together, all of them would be vindicated. The present passage anticipates that collective reward for all the faithful saints who have the “testimony of Jesus.”
The final fates of the followers of the “Lamb” and the “inhabitants of the earth” will now be unveiled in the vision of the wheat and the grape harvests.