(8) Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”
In the previous verse, the first angel announced that the hour of judgment had come. Now we see a second angel following him with the announcement that Babylon is fallen. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon” were the words originally spoken by Isaiah (Isaiah 21:9). Babylon was a city which caused many sighs for the remnant of God (Isaiah 21:2); likewise, this figurative “Babylon the great” has sinned and caused many to sin with her.
She is described as the great city here, as well as in 11:8; 16:19; 17:5, 18; 18:2, 10, 21. This city was not just given the name Babylon, but also Egypt and Sodom (11:8). And so that there could be no doubt as to what great city is being judged for her sins, the book identifies her as the city where the Lord was crucified (11:8). She is Jerusalem, and every detail about her perfectly describes only Jerusalem. We will see the greater details of Babylon unfolding in the following chapters, especially in chapter seventeen. Please give consideration to all the details which God has given us before reaching your own conclusion as to the identity of Babylon.
Sodom was the ancient enemy of the righteous minority who was tormented daily by seeing and hearing their wicked deeds (2 Peter 2:7). Egypt was that classic enemy of the Israelites who greatly oppressed them. Babylon followed suit with a similar level of pride and irreverence. It was Babylon who was brought up in the scriptures more than its predecessors; for most of the books of the prophets were contemporary to or after the Babylonian captivity; making Babylon the most iconic figure of the enemy of God’s people. As we’ve seen, Jerusalem is called Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon in the book of Revelation. A threefold description of the greatest enemy of the body of Christ, Jerusalem. It was the city responsible for the bloodshed of all the prophets (16:6; Luke 13:33), for the crucifixion of the Lord (11:8), and for the bloodshed of the Christians (Acts 8:1). Was Rome also a persecutor of the first century Christians? Yes, but only for a few years during the reign of Nero; it was Jerusalem who was there from the beginning, making every attempt to suffocate the body of Christ. They are receiving retribution for their violent rejection of the word of God, not Rome (11:18; 16:6; 18:20, 24).
Recall that this verse, of the end of Babylon, is given directly after the scene of the gospel being preached to all nations. This is what Jesus said must happen before the end of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:14), not Rome. And why would Revelation be concerned with the fall of the city of Rome? Is that something that must “soon take place” (1:1; 22:6)? Is the year 476 A.D. consistent with things that must shortly occur in the lives of the seven churches in Asia? The commentators who are giving the date of 476 A.D. are not even providing accurate dating, for that was the year of the fall of the western empire, of which Constantinople was the capital, not Rome (see comments on 17:16-18). So, it is important to not get carried away in our own biased interpretations that we would neglect reality altogether. I first held the view that Babylon was a figure for Rome, and one can continue to confidently assert that as long as they keep themselves from the content of the book, but the book’s message weighed too heavy on me and I neglected my original position to seek the unbiased truth of the message.
“Drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” This is not the wine of her passion, but of God’s passion, that is, his wrath. The context identifies this wine as God’s wrath in verse ten, “he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath.” Therefore, this is God’s wrath that is upon her and upon all nations for her sexual immorality which she committed and tempted other nations to commit with her. This “sexual immorality” is not literal, but a figure of unfaithfulness to the covenants of God. She drinks up God’s wrath because of her rebellious and prideful actions, and all other nations drink from the same cup because of their activities with her.