Posts Tagged ‘John’

Just What is Babylon?

Today’s lectionary text comes from Revelation 18:1-10.

Yes friends, we’re still in Revelation today. Perhaps my comment yesterday about it being a confusing book was foreshadowing to the fact that we’d be back again today…though admittedly, it came a surprise to me as well. I don’t look ahead, but reference the texts day by day. Low and behold, we didn’t travel very far scripture-wise since yesterday.

The entire 18th chapter of Revelation is called “The Fall of Babylon.” Now, many scholars have long debated just what “Babylon” is supposed to be referencing. Personally, I found a printed comment in the Lutheran Study Bible (see it’s page on here) that signifies that John was actually speaking about the Roman empire here. That makes sense considering the time frame that John was writing revelation…sometime late in the 1st century. Wikipedia says somewhere between about 65 and 95 CE. The Roman Empire was still kicking along pretty strongly at that time.

But that being said, it can also be noted that Babylon can be referencing any major world power that people place their trust in. After pondering on this passage for a few minutes, I’m reminded of the Israelites, constantly trying to place their trust in something other than God. On a personal note, I’m preaching about the rise and fall of King Saul (the first king of Israel…featured heavily in the book of 1 Samuel). God didn’t want the people to have a king, because God is all the leader that the people need, yet they clamor to be like all their neighbors…but I digress.

Best get back to Revelation.

The language of this passage is clearly announcing judgment on Babylon…and therefore whatever “kingdom” or “organization” John was referring to. Some evidence of this judgment can be seen in the following: “Her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (verse 5),  “therefore her plagues will come in a single day…for mighty is the Lord God who judges her” (verse 8), and finally “alas the great city…for in one hour your judgment has come” (verse 10).

All that being said, there is hope to. God does not forget the individual. “Come out of her, my people” (verse 4). God is giving the people a chance to leave prior to judgment. There is a chance for individuals to take their trust away from the things of this world (government, organization, etc) and place it back in the Lord. For only God is eternal…everything else will fade away.

If Revelation is truly about the end times, then perhaps we read these words and think about the final judgment. Perhaps we imagine God’s wrath raining down upon the sinful world and those that have chosen to turn their backs on him. As I mentioned earlier, I find it helpful to view this as a parable of sorts…reminding us that the apparent “power” in the world pales in comparison to the power of God.