Sociologist Edward T. Hall has called culture “the silent language” that controls our lives in unsuspected ways. Because we are embedded in culture, we intuit the rules but rarely give them conscious thought. Hall warns, “Culture hides more than it reveals, and strangely enough what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants.”
One reason Babylon is an appropriate name for the great city in Revelation is because it is a place where God’s people live as aliens. Because they are embedded in a culture whose practices are shaped by values opposed to God, they don’t always see the danger. Therefore, they are warned to “come out of her” (v. 4). This call is directed not only to those who reside there at the time of its fall but also to all the generations that have come before.
The cultural threat of Babylon is outlined in verses 9 through 20. In addition to the spiritual appeal of its false teaching, Babylon seduced its adherents through sensuality, pride, and greed. The cultural tone of Babylon was glory, luxury, and ease (v. 7). She promised to enrich all those who trafficked with her (vv. 11–14). These trappings of outward success masked the rottenness at the core of Babylonian worship and values. Only in her fall will the true nature of Babylonian religion and culture become evident to all (v. 2).
The call to “come out” of Babylon is God’s longstanding appeal to His people. It was issued to Israel and to the church alike (see Isa. 48:20; Jer. 50:8; 51:6–45; 2 Cor. 6:17). In this respect we are always living in Babylon! We are always in danger of letting those values that are opposed to God’s truth press us into their mold.
We are often too complacent and uncritical about the values of our culture. They should always be tested by the measure of God’s Word. We must pray for wisdom, discernment, and the courage to come out from the ungodly worship of greed, self, and success. Join with others to pray together for God’s perspective to be sharpened in your lives.