Revelation 18 Discussion Guide
We have established over the past two weeks that the fall of Babylon is not so much about the fall of a particular city. It is the total collapse of the ethos by which the unbelieving world has operated. As with all Biblical prophecy, there are many layers of
As with all Biblical prophecy, there are many layers of application. The churches of Asia were able to see these things take place immediately in the first century. Some saw the foretelling of the fall of Rome a few hundred years later. Many commentators see a great parallel between Revelation 18 and Jeremiah 51 as they speak of the sudden and abrupt fall of a pagan city. We can look forward to a total and final collapse of the kingdom of Satan that will take place in the future when Christ replaces the counterfeit throne with one that is true and lasting. All Christians of all ages should have their faith strengthened and their wariness of the seductiveness of the world system heightened.
Christians of all eras can have their faith strengthened and their wariness of the seductive world system heightened by Revelation 18.
I want to highlight how one of the most important theologians in the history of the church dealt with the reality of the fall of Babylon in his own time. His name is Augustine of Hippo.
When the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410 AD, the reaction throughout the empire was very similar to the shock throughout the United States after 9/11. Many Christians were sure that this event was sign of the soon return of Christ. The fact that Christian churches were spared the brunt of destruction further spread an apocalyptic view.
The separation of the empire between Constantinople (in Asia Minor) and Rome brought about the very decline in trade that is foretold in Revelation 18. People were asking difficult questions:
- How could this happen?
- Is God not on our side?
- Aren’t we a Christian nation?
- Is this the judgment of God?
- Is this the judgment of the gods of paganism?
- Does Rome have a future?
- Is this what was prophesied in Revelation 18 (the majority view of church history has been to equate Babylon with Rome)?
In his magnum opus, The City of God, Augustine is not able to adequately answer all of the questions surrounding the calamities of the decline of Rome. He does, however, give Christians a theology of history that allows us to see and contrast the City of God (Jerusalem) with the City of Man (Babylon) throughout every age of Biblical and post-Biblical history. He challenges the reader to set their sights higher than a mere earthly empire.
Read more about Augustine at https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2015/augustine-and-the-city-of-god/
In our own day, we should be able to identify many of the goods of Babylon that cannot satisfy and will not last. These are all summed up in power, privilege, pleasure, and value.
I believe that the consumerism of today is certainly in view among the things that the people of today prostitute themselves toward. Folks find their value and pleasure based on the fashion, cars, foods, real estate, and entertainment they consume. People pursue power in their families, in the workplace, and even at church. The privilege of social standing becomes the all-encompassing pursuit of the lives of others.
In John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, he allegorizes all of the worldly goods of Babylon by creating a place he called Vanity Fair.
Our young adult Life Group is being greatly enriched by discussing Pilgrim’s Progress every week. I highly recommend it as a short classic to put on your reading list.
The fall of Babylon certainly involves economic collapse. Plagues destroy any sense of the pleasure and satisfaction that people sought to buy from the wares of the city. Trade comes to a halt. Incomes vanish. Jobs go away.
Verse 19 tells us that in one hour the rich city has been laid waste. Many of us received a taste of what this feels like in 2008. Jobs, investments, homes, cars, and all of the nice things that money can buy disappeared in a matter of months. Times like this can cause great anguish and depression — especially for people who worship the power, privilege, pleasure, and value of Babylon.
The message for the church is clear: Babylon is an incredibly seductive place. We must be constantly watchful if we are going to remain separate from this worldly ethos and focused on the worship of God.
I can give example after example of born-again Christian who have seen their lives shipwrecked by consumerism, debt, sexual immorality, worshipping of titles/positions/jobs/sports/education, and love for the raw power of leadership positions.
We can NEVER assume that we won’t be sucked into the ethos of Babylon and have our lives upended in an instant when the great city falls down.
- Where does the American church struggle with putting power, pleasure, privilege, position, and value before Christ?
- What is consumerism?
- Do you think consumerism is a particularly powerful form of spiritual prostitution in America today?
- How do you live as a wealthy person without being suddenly consumed by that wealth?
Note: If you make $38,000/year you are in the top 1% of income earners in the entire world. Almost every American alive is wealthier than the average person in the world.
- Where do you struggle with the temptations of power, pleasure, privilege, position, and value in your own life?
- Is it possible to “trade” with Babylon and not subscribe to her ethos? How?
- Do your value systems sometimes seem weird to those around you? Is it because your value systems put Christ at the center?
- Discussion Guide: Fall of Babylon
- Revelation 18 at BibleGateway.com
- Augustine and the City of God
- The Pilgrim’s Progress (Free Download)
- Sermon: The Fall of Power, Privilege, Pleasure & Value