Babylon the Great has fallen! She has fallen! She has become a place for demons to live, a refuge for every unclean spirit… ~REVELATION 18:2
Here is the big theological picture of chapter eighteen: Preparing the earth for the reoccupation of its rightful King–Messiah, Jesus. All obstructions to the loving, perfect rulership of Christ will be cleared away. They must be. All false gods must and will be kicked out to make room for the one true God.
The term “Babylon” had come to signify any anti-God world system under satanic influence, any culture seduced and animated by evil entities and their agenda. This is what we mean when we say “the way of the world” with a negative connotation. This also sheds light on the title “Ruler of this world” used for the devil in Scripture. It is not that the devil is so powerful that he runs everything on planet earth, it’s simply a way of saying that he is in charge of those who have surrendered to his seduction, knowingly or not, and who have allowed their God-given authority over their own bodies, minds, souls, and domains to be usurped by the great deceiver, and hijacked for nefarious purposes.
Rome was the Babylon of the first century. She had become a dwelling place for demons. Evil was comfortable living there since the leaders and so many others had surrendered to the seduction of unclean spirits and the worldly comforts of excess they provided.
One major aspect of Rome’s evil was that they had turned everything, which the Lord ultimately made and provided, into a commodity. They slapped an exorbitant price on everything they could get their self-serving hands on. There is quite the inventory list of Rome’s commodities in vv. 12-13, which the merchants of the world are weeping and mourning over because Rome is being utterly destroyed for her wickedness. What is particularly sad is found at the end of this inventory list, the merchandise mentioned after cattle, sheep, horses, and chariots–the bodies and souls of human beings.
Rome had turned human lives into a product to be bought and sold.
The language John uses is peculiar. Apparently no one really wrote like this in the first century when speaking of slavery. Ancient writers would indeed say “bodies” as John does, but not “souls”. That is interesting, and poignantly appropriate, isn’t it? With slavery, trafficking, you are disrespecting and disregarding human souls–the whole person. This particular evil is all-encompassing and horrifyingly dehumanizing, as I believe John is trying to convey here. Not only had Rome turned the precious stones, spices, and animals of the earth into their own exclusive cargo for profit–again, all created and generously provided by Yahweh for everyone–but they had even taken God’s uniquely special creation, humans made in His image, and treated them as mere property.
All of this was done under the influence of evil spiritual beings (that’s a Ripple for another day), and therefore must be undone in order for God’s kingdom to be fully consummated and for abundant Life to flourish.
It was serendipitous to come across this verse as we just saw Sound of Freedom in the theater this week. It is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. I was an absolute tear-drenched mess while watching it, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. As difficult as it is, we do need to face the reality and horror of what happens to so many of God’s children. I love this powerful line delivered by Jim Caviezel: “God’s children are not for sale.”
May we each do our part to bring God’s Kingdom into reality more and more fully while we are here, and push back the gates of hell a little farther every day.