Revelation, and the entire biblical record, are overwhelmingly a call for the faithful to get their own house in order, not to seek to get the world’s twisted caricatures and dreamy, vaporous hopes in line with God’s revelation. Thus the King’s promise to “make all things new” assures us of his sovereign intention and our subordinate role.
The Apostle John’s account of “the revelation of Jesus Christ,” the last book in our Bible, has much to teach us about the Kingdom of God. In my previous article, we looked at its teachings about “the Lamb.” Today, we will look at the description of “the beast” that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
Babel, the Beast & Utopia
The vision presented in the interlude of Revelation 18 fills out the picture of the last great monstrosity that bids all peoples everywhere on earth to give allegiance or die. It is personified in the first empire in the biblical record, which attempted to circumvent the prime directive to go out into the earth and subdue it and bring it into the service of God and man.
At Babel, the choice to seek security above courageous obedience led first to a sovereign scattering and eventually to a wicked empire. John sees this same evil in the final convulsions of a corrupt world system. Here is a kind of ultimate evil. Using government’s coercive powers to acquire and manipulate wealth for imperial control of the lives and livelihoods of others is a complete perversion of God’s original command to subdue and have dominion over the earth and all creation.
The prophetic charge is that “all the nations” (Rev. 18:3) have drunk the intoxicating nectar of governmental power being manipulated for the aggrandizement of the elitist few at the expense of those loyal to Christ, who are unable or unwilling to play Babylon’s game. This is hellish work, for it acquires wealth through intrigue, reputation, coercion, and the politics of preferential legalities, rather than through God-honoring labor, toil, thrift, and deferred rewards.
Babylon is symbolic of all the great imperial visions that have been swept away in the march of God’s sovereignty throughout history. Some have been directly destroyed by God’s revealed actions (Israel and ancient Babylon), others have been shown to be unable to resist his mighty works even as they continued to stand (Egypt), but all have passed from the scene just as surely as Rome did after its long run. All of them partook of Babel’s failed promise to deliver security and wealth through unholy and unbiblical departures from God’s rule fueled by covetousness, envy, and power-mongering.