Proclamations of Three Angels - Page 2 (series: Lessons on Revelation)
by John Lowe
II. The Proclamation Concerning Babylon (v. 8)
8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
The first proclamation was good news, the second was great news, and the third angel announces the doom of the Beast-worshippers. “And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” This is the first mention of Babylon in the Apocalypse, but it is by no means the last. It gathers up into itself in one brief preliminary statement—“Babylon has fallen”—all that is later unfolded in chapters 17 and 18. This nation makes people drink the wine of her immorality. Every thought and every desire of this nation is so wicked and evil that its heart is obsessed with destroying God. Babylon was the name of both an evil city and an immoral empire—a world center for idol worship. It is the name given to the civilization that was seduced by the beast (see also 17:1-9). This world system is filled with idolatry, corruption, and sexual sin (18:2-3, 7), a wellspring of ungodly religion, governments, and economics. The name can represent the pride and wickedness of humanity that opposes God.
Before this city was called Babylon it was known as Babel. The people who lived in Babel built a tower they hoped would reach to the throne of God, but God confused their languages so they could no longer communicate and had to leave the tower unfinished. The city of Babylon will evidently be rebuilt during the Great Tribulation Period. I believe that ancient Babylon will be rebuilt, though not at the same location, and that judgment upon it, which is predicted in the Book of Isaiah, is yet to come.
This proclamation anticipates the complete collapse of the political, economic, and religious system of the beast. The angel is letting everyone know that God is going to do away with the beast’s empire. It will fall. Its doom is so certain that it appears here as already “fallen.” This note is sounded here in view of the warning that follows, for those alive on the earth at this time will have a dire choice before them. That choice is the subject of the third proclamation. This second proclamation puts things into perspective for them and thus helps them decide. The triumph of Babylon will be brief.
It is true that those who live through all or most of the Great Tribulation do so because they have received the mark of the Beast. However, part of the Great Tribulation is not caused by Satan being released, but by Christ’s judgment upon the earth. He will move personally and directly in putting down the rebellion against Him here on this earth.
In John’s time Rome had replaced Babylon and had exceeded her in wickedness. In later New Testament times Rome was called “Babylon” (16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21; 1 Peter 5:13). Rome, like Babylon before her, had used her power and wealth to seduce the nations. She had acted like a temple prostitute who intoxicated her victims before seducing them. Even this warning seems to imply a call to repentance.
III. The Proclamation Concerning the Beast (vs. 9-12)
9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb
The issues are now made clear, the alternatives unmistakable. “Worship me,” cries the beast, “or be doomed!” “Worship me,” cries the Lamb, “or be dammed!” The proclamation is in two parts. First is described as the doom of those who deify the beast. This doom is twofold. Those who take this step can expect unbelievable torment from an angry God. John says, “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” The message is urgent; it is proclaimed by an angel, and it is heralded in a loud voice. It is short, it is
blunt, it is plain, and it is one of the most unique proclamations in Scripture, for it depicts the horrors of hell with a fullness of detail rare indeed in the Bible. There will be no hope for those who worship the beast, bow before his image or receive his mark. They can’t expect anything but the wrath of God. The full extent of His anger, undiluted by mercy and grace, would soon be poured out on those who had adamantly refused to turn from sin and receive His salvation. It will be payback for how they have rejected God and mistreated their fellow human beings (Matthew 13:41-42; 16:27). Jesus promised that Satan, his demons, and the wicked would be thrown into hell at the final judgment (Matthew 25:41). Jesus repeatedly warned that hell would be a fate far worse than physical death. Scripture consistently describes hell as a place where one is utterly alone, rejected by one’s Creator, and excluded from His presence (Matthew 25:12, 41; Luke 13:24-28; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). If in this life we choose to be independent of God, in the next life we will be separated from Him forever.
Punishment is awaiting those who take the mark of the beast and worship him. Keep in mind that the mark of the beast represents humanity. It is not just a number—it is a religion and a life philosophy. Those who receive the mark of the beast will receive the following punishments:
1. They will drink of the wine of God’s wrath. This refers to both His power to punish and the totality of all of His anger. The “wine of the wrath of God” is a figure of speech adopted from the Old Testament. In Psalm 75:8 we read: “In the hand of the Lord is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs” (NIV). The Old Testament prophets picked up that theme. They saw the cup of wrath filling up to the brim. God was patient and let men go on and on in his sins, but when the cup of wrath was filled, then God would press it to the lips of a godless society. Rebellious men kept building this thing up until judgment had to take place.
2. They will be eternally tormented with fire and brimstone. This refers to the burning of hell. This hell is a place the angels and Jesus will be able to view. Dear reader, “God will never send anybody to hell. If a man goes to hell, he goes by his own free choice . . . God has done everything within His power to keep you out. He even gave His Son to die on that cross to keep you out . . . You can go to heaven or to hell. The choice is yours” (Billy Graham). Adding to their torment is the fact that their punishment will take place in the presence (full view) of the lamb and holy angels.
3. They will be tormented continually. Their lives will be tormented both day and night without rest (11).
“The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God . . .” Each man who worshipped “the beast” and wore his mark on the forehead or hand will suffer a twofold punishment: (1) he will “drink the wine of God’s wrath undiluted; (2) he will be tormented with “fire and brimstone” forever. These severe punishments are permanent. If they seem too severe, one must recall that the doomed people have refused many calls to repentance. They are not casual sinners; they have confirmed their rejection of God by worshipping the beast and wearing his mark.
If you believe that the church is going to go through the Great Tribulation, you also believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to subject His own to the mingled, unmixed cup of His anger. I simply cannot believe that Christ would do this to the church which He has redeemed.
“. . . and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone . . .” This scripture is very clear and understandable. These will be “tormented with fire.” Do I think it will be real fire? Why should I think anything else? When the Word of God clearly says, “he shall be tormented with fire,” why should I spiritualize or symbolize that statement? It is real fire, just like the fire we know. “Brimstone” is added to the fire. If you look up that word in your dictionary, you will find that it means “burning sulfur.” That will add heat to the blaze and pain to the tormenting, which will be in the sight of the holy angels and the Lamb of God.