Who Is Babylon?

(Today’s post by Chris Queen)

Who Is Babylon? – Revelation 18:1-20

babylonI’ve read Revelation I don’t know how many times, and I still maintain that it’s truly unknowable and that anyone who thinks they have it all figured out is sadly mistaken.

I think there’s a certain conception that the events in Revelation take place sometime in the future. I don’t necessarily believe that’s true. I think some of the events in Revelation have yet to come, but I also believe that some of the accounts may have taken place shortly after the Lord revealed them to John.

Long story short – I just don’t think it’s a linear narrative.

Take Revelation 18, for example. In it, the world marks and celebrates the destruction of the evil civilization of Babylon:

9 Then the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and indulged in luxury with her shall weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning—10 standing far off because of the terror of her torment, saying: “Alas, alas, O great city— O Babylon, the mighty city! For in a single hour your judgment has come!”11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, because no one buys their merchandise anymore—12 shipments of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk, and scarlet; all kinds of citron wood; all kinds of ivory products; all kinds of products made of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble; 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, and frankincense; wine, oil, fine flour, and wheat; cattle, sheep, horses, and chariots; and slaves—that is, human souls. 14 The fruit of your soul’s desire has gone from you, and all the expensive and beautiful things are lost to you —never again will people find them. 1 5The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, shall stand far off for fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, 16 saying, “Alas, alas, O great city— clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! 17 For in a single hour so much wealth has been ruined!”

So…who is Babylon? There are plenty of theories. Some believe that Babylon represented Rome and its decadent civilization that railed against both Jews and followers of the Messiah. Others believe that it’s a future civilization, and I’ve even thought (but don’t really believe) that the defeat of Babylon could represent the end of Islam. I’ve even heard some pessimistic claims that Babylon represents America.

Scholar David Stern points out that there are parallels here to Ezekiel 27-28 and the prophet’s lament for Tyre. The corrupt city of Tyre was often used by the Israelites as a metaphor for Satan’s kingdom. Stern believes that the concept of a fallen Babylon represents the defeat of the devil himself.

What’s the bottom line here? We don’t know who Babylon really is, and that’s probably for a reason. All we really need to know is that God is in control. And if you ponder that idea and let it sink in…isn’t it so true?

Today, let God be in control.

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