“And another angel,
a second one, followed,
saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great,
she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.”
And another angel,
a third one,
followed them, saying with a loud voice,
“If anyone worships the beast and his image,
and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand,
he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God,
which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger;
and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone
in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
“And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever;
and they have no rest day and night,
those who worship the beast and his image,
and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
Here is the perseverance of the saints
who keep the commandments of God
and their faith in Jesus.
And I heard a voice from heaven, saying,
“Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ”
“Yes,” says the Spirit,
“that they may rest from their labors,
for their deeds follow with them.”
The Bible is a masterpiece of literature that spans thousands of years, several genres and is written to specific people at specific times. Some, in an attempt to clarify or describe what the Bible is, have used the word Bible as an acronym that reads; Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. While I do believe that the Bible is simple enough for a child to read, and that scholars waste time in ivory tower debates over it and search for the less simple, and that it does have instructions, this acronym has helped keep the Bible caged. It is not an instructional manual, it is historic at time, and in other times, poetic. It is timeless and is a literary masterpiece. Readers of the Bible, from the time it was written until now, have caged the text by their misunderstandings and misinterpretations. The CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics looks to eradicate erroneous interpretation by closely considering the following:
- Context; One must not take a verse as a stand alone statement. In fact, one must understand that the Bible was not written with chapters and verses. They were added later for ease of reference, with a slight exception in Psalms. One must consider the surrounding sentences to see the related texts. All the other principles follow and are closely related to the context principle.
- Author’s Aspiration to Audience; Who wrote it, to whom and why? What is the author’s desired outcome to those to whom he wrote, specifically? This also goes to context.
- Genre; The Bible is composed of 66 different books, with several different and some overlapping genres. Some genres include, historical, prophetic, poetic, gospel and epistles Often, there will be at least one subgenre as well. In Jeremiah we find several subgenre. The book is full of prophesies, yet also has elements of historical genre. There is also a letter; or epistle. We must consider the language used and see similes, analogy, metaphor and all other figures of speech. Again, this goes to the context.
- Expository exegesis of examples. The Bible does not contradict itself, rather it confirms itself. The reader must understand that which is written by the examination of the text, surrounding texts and similar texts. When the book of Matthew quotes from the book of Malachi, the reader needs to read the context of Malachi. This is why it is said, “context is king.” The New Testament draws from and clarifies the Old Testament and the Old Testament can certainly help one understand the New (there would be no New without the Old). As with chapters and verses, the Testaments were added later. One needs the entire Bible to rightly divide the word of truth.
- Divide rightly the Word of Truth. Simply stated, put it all together. See the similarities, compare and contrast. Seek what the Spirit has said.
I will, from time to time, refer to the principles in the CAGED method as Vitamins. For instance, “context” I will call “Vitamin C.” We will now take our vitamins and consider the CAGED method as we read. We also will benefit greatly if we waltz through the text. Revelation is written in three round bursts–it boarders on poetic.
“And another angel,
a second one, followed,
saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great,”
Vitamin C; we’ve seen the first angel within this interlude of the 3 angels in chapter 14, and have read about a second and a third. Taking a dose of Vitamin E, we recall the importance of the number three. As we zoom in on this second angel, we continue to take our vitamins.
The second of the three angels follows the first. The first proclaims, give God the glory and fear him. He has an eternal gospel to preach to all the nations which harkens back to Revelation 7 and the introduction to this chapter–the 144,000–the great multitude–those who follow the Lamb. This second angel proclaims the fall of Babylon– emphatically. Notice, “fallen, fallen;” in the Bible, such as when Christ says, “truly, truly,” the reader understands the emphasis placed on the statement when words are repeated. The angels speech leaves little doubt about the judgement against Babylon–old Babylon or a new Babylon?
One agreement most Americans have is that movie sequels rarely are as good as the originals; why is that? They characters are better developed, the special effects are better because time has elapsed, new characters are added, we get to reunite with the themes, stories and the personal relationships we feel we have with the characters and our anticipation of the reunion churns within us. Why then do we find flatness and disappointment with the sequel? I believe it’s because it has lost its freshness. Nothing is ever as good as the original. In the same way I believe that if some despot dictator, the likes of Hitler, Mao, Stalin or Nero, were to rebuild a bigger and better Babylon, it would still pale in comparison to the first. The reason sequels are made is to emulate elements from the original. A future Babylon would be based on the previous Babylon and that speaks volumes. If a future Babylon is built, it would be based on a looking back to the Babylon that seized and destroyed Jerusalem.
Based on that premise and the context, I believe the imagery is clear. John’s aspirations to his audience is to recall the former Babylon. However, the first century church wasn’t to see a literal Babylon but what Babylon represents– a nation of unbelievers. Context is king! Chapter 14 begins with the Lamb and his followers, represented by the one hundred and forty-four thousand but signifying the nations who display the number of the Lamb and respond positively to the eternal gospel. The second angel has switched gears and now we’re focused on Babylon, the nations with the mark of the beast, the followers of the dragon, those who respond negatively to the gospel. We will see this clearly as we continue in the context. Remember, there are only two types of people, those who follow the Lamb and those who follow the dragon.
Speaking of the dragon, could Babylon more directly refer to the dragon, who is also called Satan and the devil? Look at the context; “she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.” I don’t think so, while the devil gives the power, I don’t believe that Babylon represents the dragon specifically. One cannot say, “the devil made me do it.” If one sins, one makes that choice. Does the devil encourage, tempt, persuade? Yes, he does but the intent of the proclamation is to paint the picture of the two types of people. Babylon and immorality represent the apostate Israel. The one hundred and forty-four thousand represent true Israel. Also, we never see the devil referred to as, “she.” That pronoun is often reserved for a nation or country. We need to take a healthy dose of Vitamin E, we need to consult our Old Testament tutor and see what the New Testament writers have written concerning this. But even before we do that, we remember what was written within the context of Revelation. “Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them to come and bow down cat your feet, and to know that I have loved you.”
Followers of the Lamb or followers of the dragon? Now, the first fruits, the first followers of the Lamb were Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. The majority of the New Testament writers were Jewish. Paul writes; “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” And, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” There is therefore zero call and zero acceptance for antisemitism or racism of any kind for the followers of the Lamb. For we too, were once apostate Israel, we had to be grafted in. We’ll get back to this. Nevertheless, we must see what God has spoken concerning the nations.
“I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Two types of people, Lamb followers and dragon followers-true Israel or apostate Israel. Consider: “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name.” And, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” Peter says it this way; But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.”
While wrestling with the weight of these text, we must also remember the context–we must remember the angel with the eternal gospel. Consider what Paul also wrote to the church in Ephesus: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind,[mark of the beast, hand and forehead] and were by nature children of wrath,[followers of the dragon] even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [Mount Zion] in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, [eternal gospel] which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them[mark of the Lamb].”
We cannot circle the wagons and create gospel ghettos–preaching prisons–wherein we won’t welcome the nations. There are only two types of people but we’re called to preach the gospel to the unbelieving nations. However, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
As I repeat myself we see Revelation repeats the themes from the Old and New Testaments. As we uncover more and more of the context, our eyes open to the fantastic forethought of the Lord and are shut to the fanciful farce that Revelation is full of far-future fantasy. First century followers are front and center of this apocalyptic book. We need to see what they saw. Continue considering the context and imagery of the genre, understanding the author’s aspirations to his audience.
And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.’” I believe this passage reminds the reader of Revelation that Romans reads; “For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” Consider the following question that appears theologically troublesome:
Are they really tormented in the presence of the Lamb and his angels? Romans rips from the context of Isaiah; “Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. “They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, And all who were angry at Him shall be put to shame. In the LORD all the offspring of Israel Will be justified, and will glory.” Men either enter into God’s presence and power by the gospel, fearing him in reverence, or they fall on their faces in absolute terror of his judgement.
The third angel comes with a proclamation against apostate Israel–those who are earthy and not heavenly, follow the dragon not the Lamb, and that message is of eternal damnation. We see it in the context while considering the genre. We remember the abyss and the smoke rising. There is eternal suffering for apostate Israel. They drink from the cup of God’s wrath. We will discuss this in greater detail soon.
After the three angels, there is an interlude to the interlude. God continues to compare and contrast between the two types of people. A voice from heaven comforts those who follow the Lamb. Perseverance pays off; those who are in the Lord and labor through the Lord are rewarded for the work done by the Lord through them. Their deeds follow them; the eternal mark of the Lamb. The comparisons will be terminated next time by an eternal harvest.