Then I saw another angel flying high in the air, with an eternal message of Good News to announce to the peoples of the earth, to every race, tribe, language, and nation. He said in a loud voice, “Honour God and praise his greatness! For the time has come for him to judge all people. Worship him who made heaven, earth, sea, and the springs of water!” A second angel followed the first one, saying, “She has fallen! Great Babylon has fallen!
St Luke 10.1-5, 17-20
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!”
The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
The Book of Revelation is not popular in the URC. We find it sadly lacking in middle class religiosity, with little to offer our aspirational Christianity.
It’s our loss, because this book finds in the midst of the horrors of judgement the ultimate hope for the world – “Great Babylon has fallen!” When God announces that all peoples, tribes, languages and nations are to be judged, the angel knows what that means – the empire is over. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.
It was always a mistake to disregard Revelation. In the midst of climate crisis it is fatal. We need to know that God judges the world. He judges those who use up the resources He provided in creation for their own profit. He judges those who even as the earth burns believe that imperial life can carry on regardless. Without that judgement, there is no hope; life on earth will be extinct. But if we open ourselves up to that judgement, it is possible that we might yet be saved.
Contrary to many interpretations of Revelation, we don’t have to wait for the end of the world. Jesus saw the signs of judgement and hope all around him. Each time the self-denying disciples of Jesus were greeted with peace, each time they found the courage to do things they thought they could never do – such as challenge demons in the name of Jesus – Satan fell from heaven.
The fall of Great Babylon, the ultimate defeat of empire, has not yet come. But the diabolical forces which sustain empire can be defeated, in the name of Jesus, one by one. Greed, genocide, misogyny, hatred do not have the last word. They will fall. Then peace will come to this house and this world.
Pray today with the TV, radio or internet news turned on or with the newspaper open in front of you. Look for the signs of demons submitting to the disciples of Jesus, for signs of nations, peoples, languages and races facing judgement. Do you see Satan falling from heaven like a flash of lightning? Pray for the day when Great Babylon will fall. Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.
You may be interested in listening to this song, Babylon has Fallen, a song believed to date from the Civil War and sung, here, by the Merry Wives of Windsor. The song is also popular in groups that use tSacred Harp hymnody – particularly in America.
The Rev’d Gethin Rhys is Policy Officer for Cytun (Churches Together in Wales) and a member of Parkminster URC, Cardiff.