Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
All of Revelation has been leading up to this moment – the fall of empire, the fall of every source of brokenness, division, hatred, war, poverty, greed, abuse and oppression. Perhaps you know Babylon all too well, what it’s like to be under the thumb of someone with more money, more greed, more status, more leverage than you. Perhaps you know first hand the horrors of war and poverty. Perhaps “Fallen, fall is Babylon” is a breath of especially fresh air to you.
The actual nation of Babylon had ceased to exist hundreds of years before John’s time. So Babylon is a code name for Rome, the empire of John’s day. But more than that, Babylon is every empire across human history, past, present, and future. This is simply the fate of empire. And so a heavenly voice calls out, “Come out of her, my people, so that you don’t take part in her sins, and so that you don’t share in her plagues.” This isn’t to say that Christians should move to a new zip code. Getting out of Babylon means getting the Babylon out of us, purging Babylon’s DNA out of us, washing ourselves clean of Babylon’s stain on us. Babylon runs on the fuel of getting us to fall in love with division and war and greed, so coming out of Babylon is falling out of love with everything it offers us. Babylon is every government, corporation, institution and culture that pumps more consumerism and war and poverty into our world.
A heavenly host begins singing, “Hallelujah! The smoke goes up from her forever!” (19:3) This is not to gloat because we found ourselves on the winning team, but celebrating that God is in fact on the throne, that God is up to the task of defeating injustice in all its forms. This is also to praise God for a certain kind of victory – not one in which we took up the sword and found the strength to overthrow empire, but one in which the Lamb laid down its life. Overthrowing Babylon by our own might would be no victory at all (another Babylon would simply rise up in its place). Plus, when we survey the world’s brokenness and trace it to Babylon, the trail doesn’t end there. There is something darker and even more sinister behind Babylon animating it to life. And so with Revelation 20 the story turns its attention to “the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan.” Drawn into one final confrontation, the dragon is quickly cast aside and thrown into lasting punishment.
No matter how much our eyes, ears, and news outlets might try to convince us of the opposite, Babylon is simply no match for the Lamb. The Lamb has conquered. The source of all brokenness, division, hatred, war, poverty, greed, abuse and oppression has been defeated.
Then what’s left for us to do? Allow the Lamb to draw us further and further out of Babylon. Purge its DNA out of us and fall out of love with everything it offers. And then allow the Lamb to draw a “Hallelujah” out of us. The God of Revelation, the God who sits on the throne now and forever, is worthy of all the hallelujahs we can muster.