Fall of Babylon Announced

SYNOPSIS:  Two more angels appear and announce the judicial sentence of God on “Babylon” and the “inhabitants of the earth”  – Revelation 14:8-11.

The angel “flying in mid-heaven with the everlasting gospel” is followed by “another angel, a second one” who announces the fall of Babylon. In turn, “another angel, a third one” appears and pronounces a judicial sentence on all men and women who give allegiance to the Beast. In this next section, the vision incorporates language from key Old Testament passages about several ancient enemies of Israel judged by Yahweh, including the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and of Gog and Magog.

The book of Revelation continues its contrast between the men and women who give their allegiance to the Beast and those who follow the Lamb. In this and the following paragraph, the book is contrasting the final ends of the two groups – “torment” for one, “rest” for the other.

The language is figurative, not literal. 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. Ancient Babylon was a city but here she is portrayed as a woman who uses sexual enticements to trick “nations” into drinking her intoxicating “wine.” Likewise, “wrath” is neither “wine” nor any form of liquid that is administered to the condemned by drinking it from a cup.

(Revelation 14:8-11) – “And another, a second messenger followed, saying — Fallen! fallen! is Babylon the great, who of the wine of the wrath of her lewdness hath caused all the nations to drink. And another, a third messenger, followed them, saying with a loud voice — If anyone doeth homage unto the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark upon his forehead or upon 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 messengers and before the Lamb; And the smoke of their torment, unto ages of ages, ascendeth; And they have no rest day or night, who do homage unto the beast and his image, or if anyone receiveth the mark of his name” – (The Emphasized Bible).

This is the first explicit identification of “Babylon” in Revelation, but it is not her first appearance.  In the letter to the church at Thyatira, Jesus chastised the 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).

In that earlier passage, “fornication” or porneia was used euphemistically for idolatry – “Eating meat sacrificed to idols”. This “prophetess”used her influence to seduce Christians into compromising with local idolatrous practices – (Compare – Revelation 18:3, 19:2).

The language from the letter to Thyatira echoes the later depiction of “Babylon, the Great Whore” that John saw in the wilderness:

(Revelation 17:1-4) – “And one of the seven messengers who had the seven bowls came and spake with me, saying — Hither! I will point out to thee the judgment of the great harlot, who sitteth upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed lewdness — and they who were dwelling upon the earth were made drunk with the wine of her lewdness. And he carried me away into a desert in spirit. And I saw a woman, sitting upon a scarlet wild-beast full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed with purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stone and pearls — having a cup of gold in her hand full of abominations and the impurities of her lewdness” – (The Emphasized Bible).

While the preceding passage describes how “Babylon” seduced the “kings of the earth” and the “inhabitants of the earth,” Jezebel was doing the same within the congregation in the city of Thyatira, even in the late first century. In other words, “Babylon” was already active inside the church seducing believers to compromise with the surrounding pagan society.

In Revelation 14:8, this figure is called, “Babylon the Great,” a designation used elsewhere in the book.  But she is also called “the great city.” Thus, in Revelation 11:8, the corpses of the “Two Witnesses” were lying “in the streets of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt.” This earlier passage opened the way for applying imagery from the story of the destruction of Sodom in the present passage – (See also – Revelation 16:19).

She has caused all the nations to drink the wine of the fury of her fornication.” This parallels the description from Revelation 17:1-4 – (“They who were dwelling upon the earth were made drunk with the wine of her lewdness”). “The fury” translates the Greek noun thumos, meaning, “passion, fury, anger, fervor”. It is a different Greek term than the one commonly rendered “wrath,” as in the “wrath of God,” or orgé – (Revelation 6:16-17).

The usage of thumos in Revelation is specific and, most often, is applied to Babylon and the Dragon. Additionally, the Seven “Bowls of Wrath” poured out on the “inhabitants of the earth” in response to their dalliances with Babylon reads more correctly, the “bowls of fury (thumos).” In other words, “fury” or thumos is closely tied to Babylon and her activities. Note the following passages:

(Revelation 12:12) – “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great fury, because he knows that he hath but a short time.”

(Revelation 15:1) – “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the fury of God.”

(Revelation 15:7) – “And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the fury of God, who lives for ever and ever.”

(Revelation 16:1) – “And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the bowls of the fury of God upon the earth.”

(Revelation 18:3) – “For all nations have drunk of the wine of the fury of her fornication.”

Fury” or thumos is applied to God only when combined with “wrath” or orgé and used as part of a judicial pronouncement on Babylon.  Thus, for example, at the end of the “Seven Bowls of Fury,” Babylon came into remembrance before God to give her the cup of the wine of the fury (thumos) of his wrath (orgé).

Fury” heightens the sense of “wrath,” in this case, against Babylon. Later, the Rider on a White Horse is seen treading the winepress of the fury (thumos) and wrath (orgé) of God, an act that takes place outside of the city of “Babylon” – (Revelation 14:20, 16:19, 19:15).The point is not two kinds of “wrath” but the heightened intensity of the “wrath of God” in response to the seductive activities of “Babylon” and anyone who drinks her “wine.” That His “fury” targets Babylon adds irony to the narrative since she deceived the nations by the “wine of her fury.” There is also the principle of lex talionis in play, the law of retaliation, for she will reap what she has sown – Fury for fury.“Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great, who of the wine of the fury of her fornication has caused all the nations to drink.”

The sentence alludes to two judicial pronouncements against ancient Babylon by Yahweh for her idolatry and seduction of the surrounding “nations.” The nations might be guilty of idolatry, but Babylon is responsible for deceiving them to worship her false gods (“For this cause have the nations been acting as men who are mad”). Note the following:

(Isaiah 21:8-10)- “Then cried he. A lion! On the watch, O My Lord, had I been standing continually, by day, And at my post, had I been stationed whole nights; — When lo! 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 thou My threshing! And the grain of my corn-floor! That which I have heard from Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, Have I declared unto you” – (The Emphasized Bible).

(Jeremiah 51:6-8) – “Flee out of the midst of Babylon And deliver ye every man his own life, Be not cut off in her punishment — For it is Yahweh’s time of avenging, A recompense is be repaying unto 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, hath Babylon fallen and been broken” – (The Emphasized Bible).

A third messenger, followed them, saying with a loud voice — If anyone is rendering homage to the beast and his image, and is receiving a mark upon his forehead or upon his hand.” The third angel announces judgment on the men and women that give allegiance to the Beast. This group is identical to the “inhabitants of the earth” (“All the inhabitants of the earth will render homage to it, whose names are not written in the book of life” – Revelation 13:8).

The Greek verb tense must be given its full weight. It uses present tense verbs to describe ongoing processes – They are “rendering homage to the Beast,” and they are “receiving its mark.” In view is not a single past or future act, but what the “inhabitants of the earth” are doing now, in the present. Future punishment is based on present decisions. An inference is the possibility of a reversal of fortune if one ceases to “render homage” to the Beast.

He also will drink of the wine of the fury (thumos) of God, which is mixed unmixed in the cup of his wrath (orgé).” As the book of Revelation clarifies later, the Beast is dependent on Babylon for its economic control over the nations; thus, in the end, to pay homage to the Beast differs little from drinking the “wine” of Babylon. Therefore, men who are rendering homage to the Beast will partake also of the punishment of Babylon, which is “mixed unmixed.”

The image is that of wine not mixed with water; wine was normally diluted with water in the Greco-Roman world. Undiluted wine, obviously, would have the highest alcohol content. The wrath of God against Babylon is “unmixed” – His full fury is about to be unleashed on her.“He will be tormented with fire and brimstone…and the smoke of their torment ascends unto ages of ages.” This sentence contains verbal allusions to two Old Testament passages, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and as follows:

(Genesis 19:24-28) – “And Yahweh rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah BRIMSTONE AND FIRE — from Yahweh out of the heavens: so he overthrew these cities and all the circuit — and all the inhabitants of the cities and the produce of the earth…And Abraham gat up early in the morning unto the place where he had stood before Yahweh; and he looked out over the face of Sodom and Gomorrah, and over all the face of the land of the circuit, and beheld and lo! THE SMOKE OF THE LAND WENT UP LIKE THE SMOKE OF A FURNACE.”

(Ezekiel 38:18-23) “So then shall it come to pass in that day, In the day when Gog entereth upon the soil of Israel, Declareth My Lord Yahweh, That mine fury (THUMOS) shall come up into my nostrils; Yea, in my jealousy, in the fire of mine wrath (ORGÉ), have I spoken…Then will I contend with him by pestilence and by blood – And an overflowing downpour and hail stones, FIRE AND BRIMSTONE will I rain Upon him, and Upon his hordes, and Upon the many peoples who are with him. So will I Magnify myself and Hallow myself, and Make myself known. Before the eye of many nations.” [Note: In the Greek Septuagint version, thumos (“fury”) and orgé (“wrath”) are used in verses 18-19, further links to Revelation 14:9-10].

Previously, after the Beast killed the Two Witnesses, their corpses were left unburied on the streets of the “great city, which is called spiritually, Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord also was crucified” – (Revelation 11:8-9).

In His righteous indignation, God now inflicts the punishment meted out to ancient Sodom on “Babylon” and the inhabitants of the great city.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The reference to “fire and brimstone” is the verbal link to Genesis 19:24 and Ezekiel 38:18-23, one that enables John to fold the latter passage into his description. Though “Gog” has not been mentioned up to this point, it is introduced now indirectly. Later, at the end of the thousand-year imprisonment of the Dragon, Satan is released to gather “Gog and Magog,” the “nations from the four corners of the earth,” to destroy the “saints.” However, this force fails in this attempt and, instead:

Fire came down out of heaven and consumed them; and the Adversary that had been deceiving them was cast into the lake of FIRE AND BRIMSTONE, where were both the Beast and the False Prophet; and they will be tormented day and night unto the ages of ages” – (Revelation 20:7-10).

The verbal parallels between chapters 14 and 20 demonstrate that the judicial sentence announced in Revelation 14:8-10 anticipates the destruction of “Gog and Magog,” the “Great White Throne” of Judgment, and the “Lake of Fire” (Revelation 20:7-15 – “This is the second death — the lake of fire. And if anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire” [Compare Revelation 21:8]).

The book of Revelation employs verbal allusions to passages that describe how Yahweh destroyed His enemies in ancient times; specifically, Sodom and Gog. The image of “fire and brimstone” is the primary literary link that connects the several passages and, so, their imagery is transferred to the passage in Revelation 14:8-10.

In their original contexts, no mention is made of any eternal punishment of Gog or the inhabitants of Sodom, only their immediate death and destruction. This means caution is in order before interpreting the reapplied images too literally. Note, for example, that in Revelation 14:10 the “smoke of the torment” of the condemned ascends forever, while in Revelation 20:7-10 the fire and brimstone “consume” the nations that attack the saints.

The differences in the descriptions reflect the different source passages from the Hebrew Bible. The passage in Revelation 14:8-10 derives its image from the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 19:24 (“and the smoke ascended). That is why the passage describes the “smoke of their torment ascending unto the ages of the ages,” because the language is derived from the story of Sodom’s destruction. It is not a literal description of the actual torments endured by the wicked.

Likewise, the destruction of “Gog” by fire in Revelation 20:9-10 is based on the passage from Ezekiel 38:18-23 combined with the story of the prophet Elijah who called down fire from heaven to “consume” the soldiers sent by Ahab to arrest him, a passage alluded to in the vision of the Two Witnesses when fire issued from their “mouth to consume” their enemies. Thus, in Revelation 20:9, fire fell from heaven to “consume” the forces of “Gog and Magog” (2 Kings 1:10-15, Revelation 11:5).

He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone before the holy angels and before the Lamb.” “Tormented” (Greek – basanisthésetai), that is, the man or woman who takes the mark of the Beast will suffer torment. The Greek verb in earlier times was used for the testing of metals for their purity. Originally, it had the sense “rub” for rubbing a touchstone on a piece of metal to determine its purity. From this developed the sense of “torture, torment, harass, distress, trouble, disturb.”

The point of the clause is not the everlasting “torment” of the wicked in the fires of Hell. Instead, the word is part of the contrast between the fates of the wicked and the righteous. In the next paragraph, the saints who keep the “faith of Jesus” through thick and thin will “rest” from their labors. But the “inhabitants of the earth” that give homage to the Beast will, instead, experience “torment.” In other words, “torment” is contrasted with “rest” – (Revelation 14:13).

The image of the wicked being tormented in the presence of the angels and the Lamb echoes a passage from the concluding section of Isaiah. However, the original passage described how the surviving remnant of Israel would go out to observe the carcasses of their enemies. In Revelation, instead, this takes place before the angels and the Lamb:

(Isaiah 66:22-24) – “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I am about to make, are to remain before me, Declares Yahweh, So, shall remain your seed and your name. And it shall come to pass that From one new moon to another, and From one sabbath to another, Shall all flesh come in to bow down before me, Saith Yahweh. Then shall they go forth and look upon the dead bodies of the men who had been trespassing against me — For their worm shall not die, And their fire shall not be quenched; So shall they become an abhorrence to all flesh.”

The “torment” of them who take the “mark of the Beast” will be inflicted by the “fire and brimstone,” and it is the “smoke of their torment” that will ascend forever. There are verbal parallels to two previous passages from the fifth and sixth seal openings:

(Revelation 9:1-5) – “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven fallen unto the earth: and there was given to him the key of the pit of the Abyss. And he opened the pit of the Abyss; and there ascended a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace…And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was said to them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads. And it was given them that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented (basanisthésetai) five months.”

The Two Witnesses were also noted for “tormenting” the “inhabitants of the earth,” who then celebrated their deaths, “because these two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth.” The Witnesses executed this “torment” by the “fire that proceeds out of their mouth and consumed their enemies; and if any man desires to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed” – (Revelation 11:5-10).

And they have no rest day or night.” The condemned do not experience “rest” because of the “torment” they endure. Their lack of “rest” is in contrast to the martyrs who were seen underneath the altar when the fifth seal was opened, as well as to the “saints” in the next paragraph:

(Revelation 6:11) – “And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto 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 have fulfilled their course.”

(Revelation 14:13) – “And I heard the voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.”

The book of Revelation is continuing its comparison between the “inhabitants of the earth” that give allegiance to the Beast and the redeemed men of the earth who follow the Lamb. In this section, it is contrasting the different fates of the two groups and uses ominous-sounding language derived from the Hebrew Bible to communicate the horrific fate that awaits all who render homage to the Beast.

However literal or figurative the language might be, suffering, death, and destruction await every man and woman who follows the Beast; it is a fate to be avoided at all costs.

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