How could Revelation be about the fall of Rome when Rome didn’t fall until AD 476?
I intend to start teaching on Revelation soon. I have a decent basic understanding of the book so far, but I have some unanswered questions about it.
I believe that John wrote the book around 95 AD during Domitian's reign. From what I've read, John was released under Nerva's two-year reign. Also, I don't think there was any persecution under Nerva, so this would have given Christians the time to anticipate the next flood of persecution under Trajan and Hadrian, as that is why the book is written (to provide comfort to Christian's battling persecution).
The problem I find is with the downfall of the Roman Empire. It seems that "Babylon the Great" would fall, according to Revelation 18. If this is talking about the Roman Empire, how do we reconcile this thought with history? Rome did not fall until 476 AD. And John stated what he was writing was about to take place. Obviously, the church in that area had slipped deep into apostasy by the fifth century, and, of course, John is not writing to the apostate church.
So I guess my question is: What is the fall of Babylon if it's not the literal fall of the Roman Empire?
Revelation is about the fall of the Roman Empire, but Rome wasn't built in a day and it did not fall in a day either. The date of AD 476 is given because it was in the fall of that year that the last Roman Emperor was deposed, but it can be argued that he was deposed because Rome had already fallen.
Nor is it true to say that just because the apostasy that lead to the formation of the Rome Catholic church was well entrenched by this time that there were no faithful Christians left. God's Kingdom could not be destroyed (Hebrews 12:28). It wasn't in the limelight, but you can find hints of its existence here and there. See:
- John Hus: The Pre-Reformer
- Pre-Campbell Christianity
- The Church in 1492
- The Story of the Churches of Christ in Central Europe
- Traces of the Kingdom
Ed Smith did an excellent summation of Revelation in Revelation for Today. There are also class notes on Revelation in The Revelation Given to John.