The Second Angel Proclaims . . .
"And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." —Revelation 14:8
The first angel’s message of Revelation 14, announcing the hour of God’s judgment and calling men to fear and worship Him, was meant to separate the professed people of God from the corrupting influences of the world and arouse them to see their true condition of worldliness and backsliding. But the churches generally did not accept the warning. Their ministers, who, as watchmen “unto the house of Israel,” should have been the first to discern the tokens of Jesus’ coming, had failed to learn the truth either from the testimony of the prophets or from the signs of the times. As worldly hopes and ambitions filled the heart, love for God and faith in His word had grown cold.
Powerless to refute the time prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, many ministers declared that the prophetic books were sealed and not to be understood. Most professed Christians accepted this false testimony and turned away from the heart-searching message of truth. In refusing the warning of the first angel, they rejected the means Heaven had provided for their restoration, and turned with greater eagerness to seek the world’s friendship.
In Revelation 14 the first angel is followed by a second proclaiming: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 14:8). The term "Babylon" is derived from "Babel," and signifies confusion. It is employed in Scripture to designate the various forms of false or apostate religion. Revelation 17 represents Babylon as a woman. This figure is used in the Bible as the symbol of a church—a virtuous woman representing a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church.
In the Bible the sacred and enduring character of the relation that exists between Christ and His church is represented by the union of marriage. The Lord has joined His people to Himself by a solemn covenant, He promising to be their God, and they pledging themselves to be His and His alone. He declares: “I will betroth thee unto Me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies” (Hosea 2:19). And, again: “I am married unto you” (Jeremiah 3:14). Paul declared, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2).
Unfaithfulness of the church to Christ in turning her confidence and affections from Him to the world, is likened to violation of the marriage vow (see Ezekiel 16:8,13-15,32; Jeremiah 3:20).
Professed Christians who seek the friendship of the world above the favor of God, are warned: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
The woman (Babylon) of Revelation 17 is described as "arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness: .., and upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots."
Says the prophet: “I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” Babylon is further declared to be “that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (see Revelation 17:4-6, 18). The power that for so many centuries maintained despotic sway over the monarchs of Christendom is Rome. The purple and scarlet color, the gold and precious stones and pearls, vividly picture the magnificence and more than kingly pomp affected by the haughty see of Rome. No other power could be so truly declared “drunken with the blood of the saints” as that church which has so cruelly persecuted the followers of Christ. Babylon is also charged with unlawful connection with “the kings of the earth.”
By departing from the Lord, and forming alliances with the heathen, the Jewish church became a harlot (see Isaiah l:21;Jeremiah3:l-8; Hosea4:15). Rome, corrupting herself in like manner by seeking the support of worldly powers, receives like condemnation.
Babylon is “the mother of harlots” (Revelation 17:5). Her “daughters” symbolize churches that cling to her doctrines and traditions, and follow her example of sacrificing the truth and the approval of God, in order to form an alliance with the world. The message of Revelation 14, announcing the fall of Babylon, applies to religious bodies that were once pure and have become corrupt. Since this message follows the warning of the judgment, it must be given in the last days; therefore it cannot refer to the Roman Church alone, for that church has been in a fallen condition for many centuries. Furthermore, in the 18th chapter of Revelation the people of God are called upon to come out of Babylon. According to this scripture, many of God’s people must still be in Babylon. The greater part of the followers of Christ are now found in the various churches professing the Protestant faith. At the time of their rise these churches took a noble stand for God and the truth, and His blessing was with them. But they fell by the same desire which was the curse and ruin of Israel—the desire of imitating the practices and courting the friendship of the ungodly. “Thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown” (Ezekiel 16:14, 15).
Many of the Protestant churches are following Rome’s example of iniquitous connection with “the kings of the earth”—the state churches, by their relation to secular governments; and other denominations, by seeking the favor of the world. And the term “Babylon”—confusion—applies to these bodies, all professing to derive their doctrines from the Bible, yet divided into numerous sects, with widely conflicting creeds and theories.
Besides a sinful union with the world, the churches that separated from Rome present other of her characteristics. Humanism, spiritualism, commercialism, worldliness, garish worship, and false doctrines of every kind reveal Babylon’s flagrant defection from pure Bible doctrine.
What is the origin of this great apostasy? The church first departed from the simplicity of the gospel by conforming to the practices of paganism, to facilitate acceptance of Christianity by the heathen. Paul declared, even in his day, “The mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). During the apostles’ lives the church remained comparatively pure. But toward the latter end of the second century most of the churches compromised with the world. To secure converts, the exalted standard of the Christian faith was lowered. As the result a pagan flood, flowing into the church, carried with it its customs, practices, and idols. This corrupted form of Christianity gained the favor and support of secular rulers. Multitudes became Christians in name, while remaining essentially pagans in heart and practice.
Has not the same process been repeated in nearly every church calling itself Protestant? While blindly clinging to the creed of their fathers and refusing to accept any truth in advance of what they saw, the children of the reformers depart widely from their example of humility, self-denial, and renunciation of the world. Thus the first simplicity disappears; worldliness abounds, and with it a corrupted “gospel” is preached that evades the sanctifying power of God’s word, while retaining a form of godliness.
Protestant Scholars Write …
“I now know and am sure that the Papacy is the kingdom of Babylon.” -—Martin Luther, Luther’s Primary Works, p. 295, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1896.
A papal medal struck at Rome in 1825 depicted the Church of Rome as a woman holding out a golden cup (see Revelation 17:1-5). The medal bore these words in Latin: The Whole World is Her Seat. Commenting on this, Albert Barnes (Presbyterian minister) wrote: “It is a most remarkable fact that the papacy, as if designing to furnish a fulfillment of this prophecy, has chosen to represent itself in almost precisely the same manner.” —In Facts for the Times, p. 70, edited by George Butler, 1885.
“Read this wonderful prophecy concerning ‘Babylon the Great’ in the clear, all-revealing light of history. I ask those of you who have read the history of the last eighteen centuries, Did not Christian Rome become a harlot? Did not papal Rome ally itself with the kings of the earth? Did it not glorify itself to be as a queen, and call itself the mistress of the world?” —H. Grattan Guinness, D. D., Romanism and the Reformation, p. 99, London: Nisbet & Co., 1891.
“And now the prophecy became clear, clear as noonday while we read the inscription , emblazoned in large letters, ‘Mystery Babylon the Great,’ written by the hand of St. John, guided by the Holy Spirit of God, on the forehead of the Church of Rome.” —Christopher Wordsworth, D. D. (Anglican), Union With Rome, p. 63, Longman’s and Green, 1909.