We are going through Revelation in church. Last week we started chapter 17 about Babylon, “the notorious prostitute” John sees riding on the back of a scarlet beast (Rev. 17:3). John is told this whore “has an empire over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18). The fact she rides the beast emphasizes this–the beast in Revelation is a composite of beasts Daniel saw in a vision (Dan. 7). The beasts in Daniel’s vision are identified as human kingdoms, governments. Babylon holds the reigns. She is queen of kings and whore of lords.
As I pondered Revelation 17, I wondered–What fundamentally rules all of humanity? What governs even our governments? As I prayed, the Lord reminded me of a prophecy against the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14: “You said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will set up my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of the gods’ assembly…. I will ascend above the highest clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Throughout this passage, the refrain is “I”–“I” exalting itself, “I” grasping after equality with God (contrast this with Philippians 2:5-11). Not surprisingly, the great governing principle of humanity is “I”, self–self-promotion, self-gratification, self-centeredness, self-________ (fill in the blank). “I” whorishly beds down with whatever advances its interests and goals. In the world, we were all drunk with the wine of her sexual immorality (Rev. 18:3). In other words, we lived in the stupor of self-determination.
This makes the opening thought of Revelation 18 that much more magnificent: “Babylon the Great has fallen!” (Rev. 18:2). The universal dictatorship of self is broken! What a thought! But how can this be? Self rears its head daily in most of our lives. It still claims the right to rule. Even in the church the whore of self lurks about, twisting spiritual things into “I” candy. If Babylon’s empire extends even into the church, how can God declare her fallen?
The answer is Galatians 2:19-20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” The dictatorship of “I” ended at the cross. “I” has been crucified. “I” no longer lives. Christ lives. Period.
Christians are all growing into the reality of the cross. We experience our liberation from self in varying degrees. But our relative experience doesn’t change the fact of Jesus’s death and resurrection. The believer’s role is not to try to be less selfish; it is to believe the cross; it is to believe Babylon has fallen! We are free!
“If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).