Revelation: what lies beneath all the sparkle
We’ve now arrived at scene 6 (according to Michael Wilcock’s ‘The Message of Revelation’) which addresses Babylon the Whore with seven Words of Justice. You can read about this in Revelation 17:1 – 19:10.
As we have seen so far, on occasion John identifies what a particular symbol represents but more often that not, he does not. This inconsistency feels confusing. It’s a mystery, like the mystery of Christ spoken about in Paul’s letters, that can be made clear in the hearts of God’s people. Any explanation John gives is not a literal interpretation. This is not that. It’s a hint at how to view John’s revelation on many different levels, most of them outside the dimension in which we currently live and breathe. For myself, I find it more helpful to read Revelation as a series of abstract dramatic images that carry a deep truth than to try to work out what each symbol represents in our physical world. And that truth that shines out so clearly for me is this.
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for true and just are his judgements. Revelation 19:1-2
Word #1: Babylon
Babylon represents all that is unclean. She’s all glittering and sparkly and seductive on the outside but that is a facade masking the filth on the inside. This isn’t just about sexual immorality, it’s about unfaithfulness to the one true God on so many levels, turning away from the Creator God and embracing earthly pleasures and fame and power. It’s all about idolatry, believing that ‘she’ can do it without God, do it better than God, replace God. The ideology that looks to replace divine ideology with an ideology rooted in evil. She’s influential all over the earth. This isn’t about one man, one state, but about a warped way of thinking that pervades the kingdoms of this earth.
This calls for a mind with wisdom. Revelation 17:9
This is nothing new. It’s what the Old Testament prophets warned their audience about. It’s what Jesus talked about in his parables. It’s what Paul and the other New Testament letter writers have been warning their readers about. We live in a world that has turned away from God and that world can appear attractive and seductive and can lure us away from the way, the truth and the life if we do not pay attention. This calls for a mind with wisdom. We need to be fully aware and fully awake all of the time.
Word #2: the mystery of Babylon
A parallel is drawn between a victorious God, who was, and is, and is to come, and the powers of this world – it once was, now is not, and yet will come. Watch out, but do not fear – God is the constant here. God has already won the victory. The seven heads and seven hills represent leadership and authority, solidity and permanence and strength – and yet all of this will crumble before the one true God. The references to horns and kings allude to strength and political power on this earth – yet in the end, what will all this count for?
Word #3: the fall of Babylon
We should never dare to underestimate the powers of persuasion of these forces of evil (it looks different depending on which part of the world we find ourselves in – totalitarian repression and decadent capitalism both hold inherent dangers), or the power that will be wielded on the earth. We shouldn’t take our eye off the ball, in other words, just because we already know the final score. We each have our part to play.
Word #4: the judgement of Babylon
The kingdoms of this earth will fall. All of them. We have to be able to see these kingdoms for what they are and believe in God’s future.
Word #5: the death of Babylon
At the destruction of Babylon, there is an eerie silence. All the clamour has been silenced forever. There is a stillness. Everything stops.
Word #6: the doom song of Babylon
And then we hear a song, breaking the silence to proclaim victory.
God reaches down, with salvation both for his church and for his world, and glory and power which more than equal Babylon’s. His voice speaks judgement: Babylon the destroyer is finally herself destroyed; and church and world are safe forever. No wonder praises go up from the throng of spectators…Michael Wilcock, page 171
Word #7: the successor of Babylon
This takes us beyond the end of human history and gives us a glimpse of what is to come. And so we see the bride: simple, utter, beautiful perfection. What a contrast to all that has gone before!
Seeing ‘Babylon’ with this right sense of perspective (God’s) will fill us with hope and courage and confidence.
How awesome is our God?