2nd Angel's Message
"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).
This second angel, or message, foretells the fall of Babylon. The questions that arises from this message are;
Before these questions are answered biblically, let us initially look at the historical background of one of the greatest kingdoms that ever existed on this earth.
Babylon - "Confusion"
The word "Babylon" means "confusion, gate of Bel". The Greek mode of spelling what is in the Hebrew is uniformly "Babel". The Scriptures explain that just after The Flood (Genesis chapters 7 & 8), there arose a "mighty one in the earth" whose name was Nimrod. It was Nimrod who built the first city:-
"And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel..." (Genesis 10:10).
When Nimrod founded this city, it is said that he gave it the name "Bab-il", which stood for "gate of IL" or "gate of God".
The Tower Of Babel
To understand the origin of why Babylon is known as "confusion", the Bible gives an account of those who settled "in the land of Shinar". (Genesis 11:2).
"And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:4).
For a time the descendants of Noah continued to dwell among the mountains where the ark had rested. As their numbers increased, apostasy soon led to division. Those who desired to forget their Creator and to cast of the restraint of His Law felt a constant annoyance from the teaching and example of their God-fearing associates, and after a time they decided to separate from the worshipers of God. Accordingly they journeyed to the plain of Shinar, on the banks of the river Euphrates. They were attracted by the beauty of the situation and the fertility of the soil, and upon this plain they determined to make their home.
God had directed men to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 9:1), but these Babel builders determined to keep their community united in one body, and to found a monarchy that should eventually embrace the whole earth.
By carrying the structure of the tower to a much greater height than was reached by the waters of the Flood, they thought to place themselves beyond all possible danger of another deluge. The builders disbelieved God's covenant that He would not again bring a flood upon the earth. And as they would be able to ascend to the region of the clouds, they hoped to ascertain the cause of the Flood. The whole undertaking was designed to exalt still further the pride of its projectors and to turn the minds of future generations away from God and lead them into idolatry.
The tower had reached a lofty height, and it was impossible for the workmen at the top to communicate directly with those at the base; therefore men were stationed at different points, each to receive and report to the one next below him the orders for needed material or other directions concerning the work.
"And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." (Genesis 11:6, 7).
As messages were thus passing from one to another the language was confounded, so that material was called for which was not needed, and the directions delivered were often the reverse of those that had been given. Confusion and dismay followed. All work came to a standstill. There could be no further harmony or co-operation. Their confederacy ended in strife and bloodshed. Men were made to feel that there is a God who rules in the heavens.
Up to this time all men had spoken the same language (Genesis 11:1). Now those that could understand one another's speech united in companies; some went one way, and some another.
"So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." (Genesis 11:8, 9).
This dispersion was the means of peopling the earth, and thus the Lord's purpose was accomplished through the very means that men had employed to prevent its fulfilment.
The Weakness Of Self
Their confederacy was founded in rebellion; a kingdom established for self-exaltation, but in which God was to have no rule or honor. Had this confederacy been permitted, a mighty power would have borne sway to banish from the earth righteousness, peace, happiness and security. For the divine statutes, which are "holy and just and good" (Romans 7:12), men were endeavouring to substitute laws to suit the purpose of their own selfish and cruel hearts.
Yet men are continually pursuing the same course - depending upon self, and rejecting God's law. It is the principle that Satan tried to carry out in heaven.
In the professedly Christian world many turn away from the plain teachings of the Bible and build up a creed from human speculations and pleasing fables, and they point to their tower as a way to climb up to heaven. Men hang with admiration upon the lips of eloquence while it teaches that the transgressor shall not die (the immortality of the soul), and that salvation may be secured without obedience to the law of God. If the professed followers of Christ would accept God's standard, it would bring them into unity; but so long as human wisdom is exalted above His Holy Word, there will be divisions and dissension. The existing confusion of conflicting creeds and sects is fitly represented by the term "Babylon", which prophecy (Revelation 14:8; 18:2) applies to the world-loving churches of the last days.
The Babylonian Empire
After the confusion of tongues or languages which resulted after the building of the tower of Babel, the name "Babylon" was connected by the Hebrews with the root "balal", meaning "to confound". Babylon became the capital of the land of Shinar, and in the later Scriptures, was known as "Chaldea", or the "land of the Chaldeans".
It was under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, of the land of the Chaldeans, that Jerusalem was overthrown and destroyed. God made use of the Chaldeans to punish the iniquities of His people. The children of Israel had committed the most heinous sins; they had broken the commandments of God. The prophet Ezekiel describes some of those activities which eventually led to Jerusalem's ruin in chapter 16. It was God's will that His people were to be led into captivity by the king of Babylon, and remain in captivity for 70 years. (Jeremiah 25:11). After this period of submission to Babylonian rule, God further planned that His people would return to rebuild and restore Jerusalem. (Daniel 9:25; Jeremiah 27:22; Ezra 1:2, 5).
The Babylonian Empire was known as the golden kingdom of a golden age. Babylon, its metropolis, towered to a height never reached by any of its successors. The city was surrounded by a wall estimated to have been two hundred to three hundred feet high and eighty-seven feet thick, with a moat, or ditch, around this. Within, there laid luxuriant pleasure grounds, hanging gardens and a subterranean tunnel under the River Euphrates. The immense proportion and grandeur of this city, stands on record as one of the greatest artificial wonders of the world.
It is interesting to note the characteristics of the ancient Babylonian Empire in comparison to modern spiritual Babylon described in the book of Revelation.
Modern Spiritual Babylon
We have looked how the first angel's message, brought to view in Revelation 14, found its fulfilment in the Advent movement of 1840-1844. In both Europe and America, men of faith and prayer were deeply moved as their attention was called to the prophecies, and, tracing down the inspired record, they saw convincing evidence that the end of all things was at hand. (See the "2300 day-for-a-year" prophecy chart). The Spirit of God urged His servants to give the warning. Far and wide spread the message of the everlasting gospel, "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgement is come". (Revelation 14:7).
It was to separate the church of Christ from the corrupting influence of the world that the first angel's message was given. But with the multitude, even of professed Christians, the ties which bound them to earth were stronger than the attractions heavenward. They chose to listen to the voice of worldly wisdom, and turned away from the heart searching message of truth.
When the churches spurned the counsel of God by rejecting the Advent message, the Lord rejected them. The first angel was 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). This message was understood by Adventists to be an announcement of the moral fall of the churches in consequence of their rejection of the first message. The proclamation,
"Babylon is fallen", was given in the summer of 1844, and as a result, about fifty thousand withdrew from these churches.
The term Babylon, signifying confusion, is applied to Scripture to the various forms of false or apostate religion. More appropriately, the term may be applied to the Protestant churches, all professing to derive their doctrines from the Bible, yet divided into almost innumerable sects. The unity for which Christ prayed does not exist. Instead of one Lord, one faith, one baptism, there are numberless conflicting creeds and theories. Religious faith appears so confused and discordant that the world know not what to believe as truth. God is not in all this; it is the work of man, - the work of Satan, "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace..." (1 Corinthians 14:33).
In Revelation 17, Babylon is represented as a woman, a figure which is used in the Scriptures as a symbol of a church. A virtuous woman represents a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church. Babylon is said to be a harlot; and the prophet beheld her drunken with the blood of saints and martyrs. (verses 5 & 6). The Babylon thus described represents Rome, that apostate church which has so cruelly persecuted the followers of Christ. But Babylon the harlot is the mother of daughters who follow her example of corruption. Thus are represented those churches that cling to the doctrines and traditions of Rome and follow her worldly practises, and whose fall is announced in the second angel's message.
The great sin charged against Babylon is, that she "made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (spiritual adultery - disloyalty to God). The cup of intoxication which she presents to the world, represents the false doctrines which she has accepted as the result of unlawful connection with the great ones of the earth. Friendship with the world corrupts her faith, and in her turn she exerts a corrupting influence upon the world by teaching doctrines which are opposed to the plainest statements of the word of God. (We will look at these doctrines in more detail in the third angel's message.)
The message of the second angel did not reach its complete fulfilment in 1844. The churches then, especially those of the United States, experienced a moral fall in consequence of their refusal of the light of the advent message; but that fall was not complete. As they have continued to reject the special truths for this time they fallen lower and lower. Not yet, however, can it be said that "Babylon is fallen,...because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." She has not yet made all nations do this. The spirit of the world confirming and indifference to the testing truths for our time exists and has been gaining ground in the churches of the Protestant faith in all the churches of Christendom; and these churches are included in the solemn and terrible denunciation of the second angel. But the work of apostasy has not yet reached its culmination.
The Bible declares that before the coming of the Lord, Satan will work "with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness;" and they that "received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved," will be left to receive "strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11). Not until this condition shall be reached, and the union of the church with the world shall be fully accomplished throughout Christendom, will the fall of Babylon be complete. The change is a progressive one, and the perfect fulfillment of Revelation 14:8 is yet future.
Revelation 18 points to the time when, as the result of rejecting the threefold warning of Revelation 14:6-12, the church will have fully reached the condition foretold by the second angel, and the people of God still in Babylon will be called upon to separate from her communion. This message is the last that will ever be given to the world; and it will accomplish its work. When those that "believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:12), shall be left to receive strong delusion and to believe a lie, then the light of truth will shine upon all whose hearts are open to receive it, and all the children of the Lord that remain in Babylon will heed the call: "Come out of her, My people" (Revelation 18:4).