The Message of the Second Angel – Revelation 14:8

Revelation 14:8 A second angel followed and said, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”

This verse is interesting because John finally names the kingdom of the beast:  “Babylon the Great.” As with the coming of the judgment, the fall of Babylon is described as an event that has already taken place (two aorist verbs, ἔπεσεν, ἔπεσεν). Sometimes an aorist verb can be used for a future event in order to highlight the certainty of the prophetic prediction. Wallace calls the use a “rhetorical transfer” of a future event to the past because it is so certain (GGBB 564). This proleptic aorist is rare, but it is possible here depending on how the interpreter understands Babylon in verse 8. The arrogant empire of Babylon had already fallen hundreds of years before this, but John predicts another arrogant empire was about to fall.

AngelFor most readers of Revelation, “Babylon the Great” is a clear allusion to Rome. Writing from Rome, Peter greets his readers by implying he is in Babylon (1 Peter 5:13). After the first century, the identification of Rome and Babylon is four in other apocalypses (2 Baruch and 4 Ezra). The parallels are obvious, both are huge world empires that are completely anti-God, both quite arrogant, and both destroyed Jerusalem (in 586 B.C. and A.D. 70). Babylon as the final enemy of God appears several times in Revelation (16:19, 17:5-6, 18: 2, 10, 21).

The prediction that Rome had fallen would have been laughable in the first century. Rome had endured for centuries by the time John wrote Revelation, and would last in glory until the 400’s A. D. when the Germanic tribes looted Rome. The Empire still hung together, although in a far less glorious form, well into the middle ages. There were predictions of the fall of Rome in the first century, such as the Oracles of Hystaspes, which predicted Rome would fall to powers from the east, but 6,000 years in the future!

This will be the cause of the destruction and confusion, that the Roman name, by which the world is now ruled … will be taken from the earth, and power will be returned to Asia, and again the Orient will dominate and the West will serve.

Unfortunately this text dates to the early fourth century and may not reflect first century views of the fall of Rome. (The text was quoted by Lactantius Div. Inst. 7.15.11, Aune, Revelation, 2:830–831.)

In Rev 14:8 Rome is described as giving the world “maddening wine of her adulteries.” The noun θυμός refers to “an intense, passionate desire of an overwhelming and possibly destructive character” (LN 25.19). This is probably a reference to the imposition of Roman worship on Christians. In the Hebrew Bible, adultery is a common metaphor for idolatry, and the spiritual adultery of Judah resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon and the long Exile.

So what, or perhaps “when,” is John talking about? In the first century Rome did not fall and Babylon is long gone. The empire described as a “beast” in Revelation 13 is a conglomeration of all the previous kingdoms predicted by Daniel 2 and 7. The message of this verse is that arrogant empires of humanity will fall to the coming kingdom of God. For a preterist, this is a prediction of the actual fall of Rome, even if that prediction was not realized quite as John imagined it (with the return of the Messiah). For a futurist this is a prediction of the ultimate enemy of God in the future, an empire that styles itself as a “new Rome” by bringing peace to the world.

There is no need to fret over what empire this will be since John’s point in Rev 14 is that the kingdoms of mankind will finally be judged at the return of the Messiah.

9 thoughts on “The Message of the Second Angel – Revelation 14:8

  1. While it would make the most sense for a first-century Jew to expect Babylon in Revelation 14:8 to be a symbol for Rome this is probably not what John is addressing. Other Jewish texts might amplify this interpretation such as 1 Peter 5:13. However, John was not writing to prophecy the fall of Rome nor the fall of the ancient city Babylon. John was probably writing about a future city or national power. John also might have been using Babylon as a symbol for the world. This interpretation seems to be the most accurate. Babylon quite possibly could refer to something greater than a specific people group or nation.
    Babylon, in this context, might be easily equated to Augustine’s idea of the city of man. The city of man is not a specific city but the entire world that we live in. This city, according to Augustine was founded by Cain who was known to be the first murderer. In contrast, the city of God, or the Kingdom of God is where the Lamb reigns. Augustine writes that this city would have been founded or first experienced by Abel (Augustine, City of God). John’s Babylon is a representation of the sinful world that we live in which makes “all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality” (Rev 14:8). The second angel is calling forth the fall of the world in which we are ambassadors to (2 Cor 5:20). Soon after this calling fourth of defeat, God’s wrath is distributed out onto the earth as plagues through bowls. This may indicate that Babylon is a symbol for the world. Ultimately, whether Babylon represents a specific nation or the entire world God is still sovereign and protects his people who as sealed with the Lamb and the Father’s names (Rev 14:1).

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  2. The message of the second angle in Rev 14:8
    With this verse having the name of the empire that has or will fall, it brought some confusion for me, like usual. But this could mean that John is writing about something that will soon happen to Babylon, or Babylon is a representation of what will happen.
    I doubt that John is seeing a vision of events that will soon happen because with prophecy, whatever was said will come true. And that’s not the case here. The only reason I consider that option is that the angle says that Babylon has fallen. But we can rule that out. So then this is a kingdom that has not happened yet and will fall someday. This Babylon will most likely not be Babylon but is a metaphor for a lack of a better term.
    Babylon could just represent anyone who will follow the beast. And the beast will fall. Babylon is what the angle said. I need to remember that what John is writing is revealed by Jesus. It is hard to know what to take black and white? Or as an analogy or metaphor of some sort.
    We will never know, that’s why part of me hopes this will all come soon, so I can witness all of this. But it wouldn’t be bad to also view all this from heaven.

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  3. Babylon has been a big city that has been going against God for many generations. They have welcomed many religions into their place, but they choose not to follow God. They have had many Jews live in their city and have tried to convert them as well. It seems like Babylon was to be expected to fall down when the angel had proclaimed that Babylon has fallen. They have sinned against God many times. What is interesting is Isaiah has also predicted this in Isaiah 21:9 before John had heard the angel say Babylon the Great has fallen. The verse talks about a man in a chariot and yells: “‘Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!’” (Isiah 21:9). Isaiah was writing a prophecy against Babylon long before John saw the angel and his prediction was right as always. People discuss whether the kingdom is Babylon or Rome based on how they interpret the verse, but it sounds like it leans towards what Isiah is saying in his prophecy.

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  4. I believe that this verse, like many others in Revelation, is not necessarily trying to pin-point one specific empire. I am not sure that a literal Rome or a literal Babylon is exactly what John is referring to. Perhaps, instead, he is trying to make the text, vision, and idea relatable and understandable for the people to whom he was writing (the churches).
    “Babylon the prostitute represents society’s allure of material prosperity and pleasure, seducing the unwary into adultery against the Lord” (ESVSB 2483). This feeds more into the idea of Babylon being a metaphor, not necessarily a specific empire; although, that idea does have great merit. John is writing Revelation, addressing the churches and getting their attention. He was calling out the idolatry within their circles.
    The idea of this “Babylon” committing sexual immorality would refer to the fact that “adultery is a common metaphor for idolatry, and the spiritual adultery of Judah resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon and the long Exile” (P. Long). The message of this chapter is that judgement will come upon the rebellious ones.
    “The arrogant empire of Babylon had already fallen hundreds of years before this, but John predicts another arrogant empire was about to fall” (P. Long). This, again, leads to the idea of Babylon not being a literal Babylon; a metaphorical empire could be implicated here.
    As you stated, so I agree: “The message of this verse is that arrogant empires of humanity will fall to the coming kingdom of God” (P.Long).
    The second part of this angel’s message is to worship the Lord because His judgement is coming. This is a contrast to the idolatry that happened through the influence of this “Babylon” It is very interesting to see these positive happenings begin to take place because “Babylon” has been torn down from her place of authority.

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  5. There is always going to be a rise of kingdoms of humanity that will challenge God in every way possible, whether it is spiritual or physical. I think the main point here for me to agree on is this, Dr. Long stated “the kingdoms of mankind will finally be judged at the return of the Messiah,” I say this hits the head of the nail. Blackwell stated, “wine of Babylon’s adulteries is also the wine of God’s fury; judgment comes to those who have the mark of the beast which comes after the angelic pronouncement against Babylon (128).” I think the message of the second angel could be taken in consideration as being a confirmation of those who defile and denies God, will receive what is justly in judgment. I do agree with the metaphor of “adultery,” can be used in idolatry, spiritual adultery, defiling the characteristics of Christ Jesus, saying you are a Christian, but the fruits bear the ways of the world rather than of the Holy Spirit. We need to take wisdom and discernment, in understanding the seasons, times, and days.

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  6. Whether the great city that John talks about in Revelation is Rome or another city, the point that stuck out to me is that, in the end, all cities, nations, or empires that turn against God will be destroyed. As both Rome and Babylon were seen as indestructible in their day, it makes me think about how many powerful nations have risen and fallen since the time of those two great cities. It also makes me think of America right now and how our nation has been slowly turning into one that thinks it is also great and mighty, indestructible, and turning away from God. Babylon and Rome are just examples of two great nations who thought they would never be overcome and were struck down. Ezekiel 38:23 God says “So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.” Someday, America will be in the same exact position, whether it is by the hands of another country or at the end of days when Jesus returns and wages war against the nations in his final battle. Only those who turn to God and profess that he is the only king worthy of honor, praise and devotion will be spared from the ultimate battle and destruction that will befall the nations. The ways of men are feeble, and in the end, only God’s kingdom will be everlasting when he establishes the new heaven and the new earth.

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  7. Babylon has been a city that we have been hearing about for some time now throughout the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation. It plays a significant role in the fact that it defies God and does not believe in him or his words and has caused many people who do believe in God to put their faith to the test (Daniel being taken to Babylon during exile). They are responsible for trying to lead Christians astray and will be harshly judged for that. But what was really interesting to me about this blog post is what P Long said about not needing to worry about the earthly kingdoms because they will be judged in the end. Babylon, along with many others have been discussed in the book of Revelation as rebelling against God and trying to overpower him and almost act as him, but when God returns, he will show them that he is all powerful and will destroy everything they thought they had. No one is more powerful and worthy of our praise than the one true God.

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