By Stephen W. Hiemstra
Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities (Rev 18:4-5).
What exactly are the sins of Babylon?
The first thing to note is that v 5 uses two words for Babylon’s transgressions: sin and iniquity. Often the analogy for sin is the arrow that misses the target while the analogy of iniquity is a legal violation like adultery which breaks the seventh commandment (Exod 20:14).
Babylon is described as intoxicated, sexually immoral, possessed with demons, and engaged in luxurious living (v 3). Babylon is proud (her sins are heaped high as heaven; v 5) and she has induced others to share in her sinning (the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her (v 9)). And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth (v 24).
Most striking, perhaps, is the flaunting of wealth. Verses 11-13 list 27 types of luxury goods. Last on this list are slaves—human souls (v 13).
What is Babylon’s punishment? The judgment on Babylon is repeated three times. We are told that it will be burned (v 18), laid waste (v 19), and thrown down with violence (v 21). The mighty angel throwing down a millstone in this last verse brings to mind a statement by Jesus himself: but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matt 18:6). The term, little ones, is a euphemism referring to disciples. The judgment was directed at those who taught false doctrine that led to sin.
Who then mourns for Babylon? The kings (v 9), the merchants of the earth (v 11), and merchants of the sea (v 17)—all who shared in her sinning. This image of Babylon is like the heroin addict whose funeral is attended only by the pusher who supplied him.
Do you think God takes sin seriously? Should we?
1. What is the difference between a sin and an iniquity? How about a transgression? (v 5).
2. What are the sins of Babylon? (vv 3, 5, 9, 27). Why the list in verses 11-13?
3. Who lives in Babylon?
4. What is the advice in verse 4? Why?
5. What is Babylon’s punishment? What three ways is it described? (vv 18, 19, 21)
6. Who mourns for Babylon? (vv 9, 11, 17).
7. Does God take sin seriously? Why?
Chapter 18 of Revelation: Babylon Revisited
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