Big City Dangers: Tower of Babel II

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A well-known Christian personality recently made an interesting comment. He said, “If I had it to do all over again as a parent, there is one thing I would do differently. I wouldn’t raise my children in Southern California.”

Does that surprise you? After all, Los Angeles is sunshine, beautiful beaches, Disneyland, and some of the finest schools in the country! So how could he say such a thing? Because Los Angeles also means Hollywood values, rock video role models, pornography, cults, drugs, witchcraft, gang violence, greed, and peer pressure in mega-doses that few young people are able to resist.

Of course, it isn’t Southern California only that challenges our family values and Christian faith. Today, any city of moderate size poses the same temptations. And not only for children! The same forces are at work seeking to undermine our integrity and lead us away from Jesus. Paul warned in Romans 12:2, “Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its mold.” (Phillips paraphrase)

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How powerful is this pressure to conform? e.e. cummings, the American poet and painter, wrote: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

In fact, thanks to television and the internet, the smallest hamlet can now play host to big city values. But the point is, they originate in the city. 150 years ago, most Americans lived on farms and didn’t face these pressures. We were innocent and naïve. Three cheers for innocence and naïveté! But today, with 95% of our people living in cities, the pressure to conform has become almost unbearable.

In this study, we examine the causes and cures of this problem. The original cause is Babylon the Great, mother of big-city wickedness. The cure, on the other hand, is two-fold. Our duty in the short term is to separate from evil. But the final solution is God’s – the destruction of Babylon the Great. Listen carefully, then, as we read this chapter for we are about to hear four cries from heaven. The first is –

  1. The Call for Condemnation

John reports in Revelation 18:1, “After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by His splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted: ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’”

A. The Certainty of Babylon’s Fall

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The first fact this angel emphasizes is the judgment of Babylon the Great. This is in effect the end of Antichrist’s kingdom. Like many commentators, I find two “Babylons” revealed in Revelation 17 and 18. In chapter 17, it was “spiritual Babylon,” the false religious system that Antichrist used to unite his kingdom. But once he gained full power at the midpoint of the Tribulation, he destroyed it and took his seat in the Temple pretending to be God. That brings us to chapter 18 where political Babylon is in view. Here we are given a glimpse of the capital of Antichrist’s kingdom which will be destroyed at the end of the Tribulation. You can find evidence for these two “Babylons” in the phrase which begins Revelation 18:1. John writes, “After this (that is to say, after the events of chapter 17), I saw another angel coming down from heaven.” In other words, the events of chapter 18 follow the events of chapter 17. In chapter 17, religious Babylon is destroyed, followed by the destruction of political Babylon in chapter 18.

But someone may ask, if political Babylon is headquarters for Antichrist’s kingdom, what city is it? The passage does not say. The best we can do is piece it together from other passages of Scripture. For example, Daniel 9:27 identifies the Antichrist as the Roman prince, and since Rome was the great city in John’s day, known symbolically as Babylon (See this in 1 Peter 5:13, where referring to the church in Rome, Peter says “she who is in Babylon . . . sends you her greetings.”), it is my conclusion that the Babylon of Revelation 18 is the revitalized city of Rome, Italy. After all, how could Rome not be the capital of the revived Roman empire? Moreover, one fact is very clear. This is not the literal city of Babylon. Why not? Because, according to verse 17, this city is located near enough to the sea that the sailors can see the smoke of her burning, whereas ancient Babylon was located more than 200 miles from the sea.

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The best guess, then, come on is that this is Rome, which becomes Antichrist’s capital, but is destroyed due to her pride, her greed, her violence, and her godlessness. The reason for her judgment is given in verses two and three.

B. The Reason for Babylon’s Fall

Verse 2 says of her, “She has become a home for demons, and a haunt for every evil spirit.” In other words, she’ll look like an angel of light on the surface. She will be exciting, glamorous, and beautiful. But her appeal will come not from God, but from Lucifer who will use her glamour to blind people to the glory of Christ. That should not surprise us. The same forces are at work today. When you think of Hollywood’s grip on man’s fantasies, Las Vegas’ appeal to his passions, and San Francisco’s impact on his morals, is there any question from whom these cities get their power? If we looked beneath the surface, we’d find multitudes of unclean spirits working feverishly to keep people from even thinking about Christ.

How they are able to do this is explained in verse 3. John describes two weapons in the enemy’s arsenal: adultery and luxury. In our last study, we found that adultery is a symbol of false religion. Luxury, on the other hand, refers to the materialism which the city inspires. But then there is nothing new under the sun. In the Garden, it was the appeal of the forbidden fruit. In Gethsemane, it was the glitter of 30 silver coins. Today, it’s whatever new digital device money can buy. This is why Paul warns, “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

Howard Hughes is a sad example. Having become one of the world’s richest and most powerful man, he died mentally impaired and utterly alone. His scraggly beard hung down to his waist, his unkempt hair reached to the middle of his back, his fingernails were 2 inches long, and his toenails hadn’t been trimmed for so long they looked like corkscrews. Most tragic of all, when he passed out of this life, he entered a Christ-less eternity. Why? Because he loved money more than Jesus. So be careful! If you’re looking for real riches, try switching kingdoms. As Jesus said, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6: 33)

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2. The Call for Separation

In light of Babylon’s judgment, God calls for separation in verse 4. “Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.’”

A. Reasons for Separation

Two reasons are given for separation. The first is temptation. God warns His people that if they do not “come out of her,” they may “share in her sins.” Sin is nothing to fool with. Many think, “I could never be tempted by that!” only to find themselves drawn toward the very thing they claim to hate. Our daughter was quick to learn this lesson. Invited to a party at age 15, her Christian friends chose to watch a video she knew we wouldn’t approve of. So, when it became clear they weren’t going to change their minds, she called us for a ride home. That didn’t win her any points with her friends at the party, but it multiplied our trust in her, knowing that she was able and willing to stand up for her convictions even when we weren’t around.

Compare that to the well-known Christian writer who was caught in adultery. He was heard to say for years that this was the one sin he could never be tempted to commit. Why was he vulnerable to it even after years of serving Christ? Because contained within our fallen nature is the desire for every wicked the thing this world has to offer. Not until we reach heaven itself can we afford to relax. In his book, The Best Is Yet to Be, Henry Durbanville issued this warning:

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With the mind at rest regarding the past, and the heart reveling in the consciousness of being at peace with God, you may have entertained the thought that all dangers are over, and that you will have no more problems as you journey to the Better Land. But that is not so. Scripture and human biography alike testify to the fact that old age has its perils. Noah, after long years of faithful walking with God, failed ignominiously. Moses, near the close of his career lost his temper. Samuel, the man of prayer and the prophet of God, put family interests before loyalty to God and His people. Solomon began magnificently, but ended disastrously. The records of all these good men, temporarily drawn aside from the path of fellowship with God, give point and urgency to the apostle’s warning, “Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” The fact is that youth, adulthood, and old age – each period of life – has its own temptations and hazards.

Not only is there danger of sin, there is also the danger of judgment. To remain in Babylon will mean death for God’s people. Think of Lot in Sodom. 2 Peter 2:8 says he was “righteous,” which means his eternal salvation was secure. But had he remained in Sodom, he would’ve died with the Sodomites.

The same principle is just as true today. In your case, it may not be a city you’re asked to flee, it may be a church that no longer teaches the word of God; a romantic affair with someone who does not love the Lord Jesus; or a business partnership with someone who does not share your Christian ethics. No matter. Whatever compromising situation the Spirit calls you to leave, do it immediately and without delay! For fellowship with evil always carries within it the seeds of judgment – lost jobs, broken homes, sexual disease, even death. Don’t assume that eternal salvation will shield you from the present consequences of sin.

Many years ago, we attended the funeral of a young man who was involved in our junior high youth group. But in high school, he became involved with more “exciting” friends. After an evening of drinking, they began to chase one another in their cars at high speeds. Coming around the corner, our young Christian friend rolled his car in the ditch. He was the only one of the group who died. How happy we were to reassure his parents that he was in Heaven! But that didn’t spare him the shame nor them the pain of his needless death.

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The call for separation leads, in turn, to another warning. Verse 6 says, “God will pay her back double for what she is done.” Why? Two additional reasons are given for her judgment in verses 5 to 7.

B. The Reasons for Condemnation

The first reason is the persistence of her sin. Verse 5 says: “Her sins have reached to Heaven.” The word “reached” originally meant to put bricks together with mortar. This play on words is a reminder of the first Tower of Babel. God never forgets our sins unless they been covered by the blood of Christ. As verse 5 emphasizes, “God has remembered her crimes.” The truth is, what began at Babel with Nimrod’s rebellion has deceived mankind in every age culminating with the final wicked reign of Antichrist during the Tribulation. But God will put an end to her rebellion in this chapter, freeing the world from her sin.

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The second reason is the arrogance of her sin. Verse 7 adds: “In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as a queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’” Babylon is so proud of her renewed power that she can’t imagine it’ll ever end. But verse 8 says, “In one day her plagues will overtake her: death mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” Again, this is a reference to Babylon’s past, for after laying siege to the city for weeks, Cyrus the Great learned of a secret way. He diverted the course of the Euphrates River and in just one night he and the Persian army destroyed the great city.

Swollen with pride, Belshazzar, king of Babylon ordered his servants to bring the gold and silver vessels from the Temple in Jerusalem and defied the God of heaven by drinking from them at his drunken orgy. What was the result of this blasphemy? Before the night was over, God brought the city down around his ears, and Belshazzar died upon his throne. Heinrich Heine tells the story:

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Midnight came slowly sleeping on; in silent rest lay Babylon. But in the Royal Castle high, red torches gleam and courtiers cry. Belshazzar there in kingly hall is holding kingly Festival. The vassals sat in glittering line, and emptied the goblets with glowing wine. The goblets rattle, the choruses swell, and it pleased the stiff-necked monarch well. In the monarch’s cheeks a wildfire flowed, and the wine awoke his daring mood.

And onward by his madness spurred, he blasphemes the Lord with a sinful word; And he brazenly boasts, while the servile courtiers cheered and smiled. Quick the King spoke as his proud glance burned; quickly the servant went and returned. He bore on his head the vessels of gold, of Jehovah’s Temple the plunder bold. With daring hand, in his frenzy grim, the King seized a beaker filled to the brim, and drained to the dregs the sacred cup, and foaming he cried as he drank it up, “Jehovah eternal scorn I owe to Thee, I am the monarch of Babylon.

Scarce had the blasphemy rolled from his lips, ere the monarch’s heart was cold. The yelling laughter was hushed, and all was still as death in the Royal Hall. And see! And see on the white wall high the form of a hand went slowly by, and wrote – and wrote on the broad wall white, letters of fire and vanished in night. Pale as death, with a steady stare, and trembling knees, the king sat there; the horde of slaves sat shuddering chill; no word they spoke, but were deathlike still. The Magicians came, but of them none could read the flame-script on the wall. But that same night, in all his pride, by the hands of his servants Belshazzar died.

 The lesson for us? It’s as old as Proverbs 16:18. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

III.             The Cry of Lamentation

In verse 9, a third voice is now heard – a cry of lamentation by three groups of people, each group deeply impacted by Babylon’s fall. The first group are –

A. The Kings of the Earth

John says in verse 9, “when the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxuries. See the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.” The word “mourn” means to carry on weeping and wailing with no relief in sight. Why will kings be so upset? Because all the economies of the world rely on her. She will be the great financial center of Antichrist kingdom. In fact, given our global economy and the complex computer systems, tying them together, it’s not hard to see how the collapse of one great city could send the stock markets crashing and leave the governments of the world in total chaos.

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B. The Merchants of the Earth

The second group of mourners are the “merchants of the earth.” They weep not because they are sorry for their sins or they sympathize with those who perish, but because they are materialists grieving their losses. Verse 11 explains, “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore.” They’ve lost all their customers in just one day their life of the luxury will come to an end.

Even more interesting is the products they sell. John lists 28 items including, among other things: precious metals, expensive clothing, costly woods, imported food, and livestock. But the most alarming commodity is found in verse 13: “bodies and souls of men.” In John’s day, they were 50 million slaves in the Roman Empire. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for as many as 10,000 human beings to be auctioned off in one day in the slave markets of Europe. Is John saying this will happen again during the Tribulation? Yes! n today, we see an ever-increasing loss of personal liberties – large corporations exercising more and more control over their employees; higher and higher taxes, giving government control over the private sector; private ownership of land becoming rarer and rarer. It is not difficult to envision worldwide slavery under the Antichrist. We’ve already seen that no one is allowed to buy or sell without taking his mark on their bodies. Henry Morris adds another explanation in his commentary on Revelation:

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“This probably refers to the so-called ‘white-slave trade.’ The Greek word slaves is soma meaning ‘body.’ The international traffic in forced prostitution, both of men and women, is a tragic but lucrative business of modern times and will become even bigger in the evil days ahead. These vice barons are venomous not only amassing great wealth for themselves, but destroying the bodies and souls of the helpless girls and boys under their control.”

But the wealth and security of this city will not last. Proverbs 23 warns, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” That’s a fitting reminder for modern, materialistic America. For what’s pictured on the back of the good old American dollar? An eagle with wings stretched out ready to fly out of our wallets. No matter how hard we try, we can’t buy security. The tighter we cling to what we have, the harder the fall when it is ripped away. And that happens here. In one day all the riches of the wicked are burned up, plunging them into inconsolable grief.

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C. The Sailors and Ship Owners of the Earth

The third group of mourners are the ship owners. Like the merchants, they will be ruined by Babylon’s fall. In fact, this judgment will lead to skyrocketing unemployment around the world. For in verse 17, it is not just the ship owners who mourn; it’s also their employees – the sailors. The verse says, “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors and, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim . . .Oh great city where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin.”

4. The Cry of Celebration

While Earth is grieving, Heaven is rejoicing at the fall of this great city. Notice two facts John emphasizes about her judgment in verses 23 and 24.

A. The Rightness of God’s Judgment

Verse 23 reminds us that this is no ordinary city that is being judged. It is the Great Harlot who deceives “all nations” with her magic spells. That is to say, she deserves everything she gets and more. Her judgment will also be total and complete. Six times the King James version uses the phrase no more – no more music, no more craftsmen, no more grinding, no more marrying, no more trading, and no more light. It reminds me of Bill Gaither’s song:

“The Marketplace is empty, no more traffic in the streets; All the builder’s tools are silent, no more time to harvest wheat; Busy housewives cease their labors, in the courtroom no debate; Work on earth is all suspended as the King comes through the gate. Oh, the King is coming, the King is coming! I just heard the trumpet sounding, and now His face I see. Oh, the King is coming, the King is coming! Praise God! He’s coming for me.”

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 B. The Reasons for God’s Judgment

Someone may wonder, how can a Christian rejoice at this judgment? After all, didn’t Jesus tell us to love our enemies? Yes, but given the evil this city has caused, it’s only right to be glad about its destruction. Verse 24 says this is the city in which “was found the blood of prophets and the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” Our joy doesn’t come from the pain of those being judged; it comes from the fact that justice is being carried out. It’s the relief we may feel at the execution of a Ted Bundy or Wesley Allen Dodd. God doesn’t want anyone to perish. That’s why He has delayed His judgment so long. But when we realize this city can no longer hurt anyone, how can we not be glad? This is why God commands us to come out of her and rejoice at her destruction.

C. The Danger of Compromise

Have you heard of the friendship that exists between two little creatures living off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef? One is the sea anemone, a little animal with a tubular body and a circle of tentacles. The other is the clown fish which attracts bigger fish to the anemone by darting in and hiding among its poison tentacles. The anemone immobilizes and devours all intruders except the clown fish which enjoys temporary immunity to its poison. Sadly, with time it too grows weak and loses its immunity. That’s when the tentacles close in on it as well.

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That is a picture of the Christian who ignores the danger of this present world system – a system born and bred in Babylon. Her charms are so inviting many forget that within her walls are heartache, sorrow, and death. But you don’t need to be fooled by her. You and I can remember who inspires these temptations and where she is in inevitably headed. Babylon the Great is falling, is falling! And when she does, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men will never put her together again.” Praise his name forever!

(To listen to the audio message of this study, click Audio. To download a written copy of this message, click Written.)

Special Father’s Day Video: “Thank You, Dad!”

MYSTERY: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST WHO KILLS HER

Here’s a different kind of Pearly Gates Story. A man dies and goes to Heaven. St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates and explains, “OK. Here’s how it works. To get into Heaven, you need 100 points. So, tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I’ll give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you’re in!

“OK,” the man says. “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.” St. Peter says, “That’s good and certainly worth 3 points.” The man says, “3 points? Well, I also attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my time and tithes.” “Great!” Peter replies, “That’s worth another point!” “Only 1 point!” the man says. “Well, how about this. I started a soup kitchen and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.” “Terrific! That’s good for 2 more points!” Peter says. “2 points!” the man cries. “At this rate, the only way I’ll get into Heaven is by the grace of God!” “Right answer.” Peter says, “Come on in!”

There are several theological problems with that story. First, Jesus is the Judge of who will join Him in Heaven, not Peter. More importantly, the decision as to who gets into Heaven is made in this life, not afterwards. Finally, there is no point system for getting into Heaven. And yet, that’s the problem with every false religion. It is based on self-righteousness and works, rather than faith in the work Jesus did for us by His death and resurrection.

I begin with that reminder because our last case focused on false religion. We came across the mystery of a great prostitute who sits on many waters, which turned out to be a symbol of false religion and its power to deceive the people and rulers of the world. For more details about that, please review the first part of our study of Revelation chapter 17.

But now, having cracked the puzzle of the prostitute, it is time to unravel the second mystery that John encounters in Revelation 17:7-14. Here John gives us an explanation of the beast on which “Beauty” rides. This isn’t intended to shift our attention away from the harlot, but to emphasize how great her influence is and how she will meet her end.

  1. HER INFLUENCE

The angel says to John in verse 7, “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns.” Verse 9 then goes on to explain the heads: “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does, he must remain for a little while.”

The wisdom needed for understanding this verse comes from God’s Word, and when you study God’s Word—Isaiah, Daniel, and the other prophets—you find that mountains are symbols of kings and kingdoms. In this case, seven world empires ruled by seven dictators. Let’s remember to interpret this from John’s perspective. In John’s day, five kingdoms had arisen and fallen—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The angel also says that “one is,” referring to Rome and its evil emperor, Nero. Rome finally fell from within due to its decadence. Since then, no ruler has been able to solidify a kingdom that controls all the peoples of the world. Many have tried—Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler, etc.—but none have succeeded. The final world dictator is described by the angel as “the other” which is yet to come.

To whom does this refer? The wisdom to answer this comes from the Old Testament prophet Daniel, where in chapter 7:24 he is told that in the last days a union of ten nations will emerge in the same area as the old Roman Empire. Out of this union the Antichrist will build his kingdom. That’s why verse 11 says of him, “The beast who was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.” In other words, just as this new European union is solidified, Antichrist (who is one of its kings) will seize control of the government and set up the most brutal dictatorship the world has ever seen.

How he will do this is explained in verse 12. John continues, “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast.” The ten horns symbolize ten kings who initially band together with Antichrist to form a revived Roman Empire. Many think they see the stage being set for this in the current European Union. The EU is a fact we have grown used to. But remember, prior to 1945, the nations of Europe went to war with each other not once but twice, drawing the rest of the planet into two world wars in 30 years. But no longer. Now there is a large confederation of European nations who have banded together based primarily on the profit motive. Some come and some go, depending on their individual interests. The United Kingdom, for example, voted last year that they would withdraw their membership in the EU by April 2019.

So, the situation is in flux. But one day soon, Jesus will return for His Church, remove the restraining power of the Holy Spirit who keeps evil in check on earth, at which point the harlot will draw the nations of Europe using two beguiling forces. She will inspire love for the beast. Verse 13 says they will “have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.” She will inspire hatred for the Lamb. Verse 14 adds, “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.”

Just as false religion has influenced all of earth’s rulers, so she will serve as the unifying force behind Antichrist’s kingdom—until he tires of her and gives the order for her execution.

  1. HER EXECUTION

Verses 16 to 17 describe the end of the love affair between “Beauty and the Beast.” Though she has been courted by countless kings, she is now judged as a common whore.

First, notice who executes her. Verse 16 says, “The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin.” In other words, the very ones she rode on will become her assassins—the beast and his horns! Why will the beast turn on her like this? Two reasons: first, he was simply “using her” to gain power and approval. But now that he no longer needs her, he orders his henchmen to kill her; more importantly, John reveals in verse 17 that God will “put it into their hearts” to destroy this false religious system. No matter how it looks the surface, God is behind everything that happens on earth! He rules and overrules to accomplish His will, using even the wrath of man to praise Him. (Psalm 76:10)

When will this murder take place? The passage does not say. Some think it will happen at the midpoint of the Tribulation, when the beast demands the world’s worship. That sounds logical to me. But the fact that this vision is given by an angel with one of the bowl judgments may mean that it occurs at the end of the Tribulation as the final plagues fall upon the earth.

What is clear is how she will be executed. According to the Law of Moses, the penalty for immorality was burning. Leviticus 20:14 says, “If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire…that there may be wickedness among you.” So, it will be with the prostitute! Verse 16 says they will leave her naked, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. In fact, when we study the extended description of her judgment in chapter 18, it sounds like a nuclear strike. Perhaps the kings of Europe will agree to drop “the bomb” on this mecca of false religion, destroying both the city and the false religion she has inspired.

There is only one conclusion to make as we conclude this study: God hates false religion regardless of the form it takes. In our day and age, the feeling is that one religion is as good as another, if we’re sincere and loving people. So, we watch our neighbors play with horoscopes, practice Transcendental Meditation, talk about reincarnation, consult psychics, and chant New Age slogans about global unity and our unlimited human potential.

We have a friend like this—a dear lady who attends a mainline church with her family on Sundays, but consults a New Age medium every few months to have her fortune told. Asked about this inconsistency, she was very defensive. “After all, God is love. He wouldn’t judge me for these things.” She is right and wrong. God is supremely loving. That is why He sent His Son to die on the Cross for our sins. But He is also perfectly holy, and will one day judge this ancient Babylonian occultism and those who engage in it. Not because He takes pleasure in judgment. But because He deserves to have us worship Him with all our minds, souls, and strength. He is a jealous Creator who will not share our love with anyone.

Let God’s Spirit search your heart as we finish. Has any spiritual compromise crept into your worship? Remember, it isn’t your job to kill the prostitute. That’s something God will do in His own time and way. What He’s calling you to do is to “’Come out from among them and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘and do not touch the unclean thing.’” 1 John 2 adds, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away and all its lusts, but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

  1. YOUR COMMITMENT

One of the first lessons I learned as a pastor was how important the church nursery is. Young parents want a safe place where children are lovingly cared for while they worship. This includes reliable furniture, background checks of nursery workers, a way of contacting mom or dad if their children need them, and a certain method of matching the right child with the right parent when worship ends. However, the most common complaint I heard, after many conflicts between parents was the need for proper sanitation. To be specific, parents don’t want to leave their lambs in a nursery with children sick with colds, the flu, and other illnesses. So, finally we had to ask parents to keep their children home if there was a danger of infecting others.

Did you know that God feels the same way about His children? He wants His Forever Family safe from sin and every form of evil. For that reason, no one who practices evil will be admitted to His Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem. He says in Revelation 21:27, “And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Take time right now to examine yourself and see if there are any ways in which the great prostitute of false religion and immorality has infected you. If so, repent! For Jesus, our Heavenly Bridegroom is coming soon and we need to be ready— “a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27) in love.

(To download the written version of this study, click Read Message. To listen to or download the audio version of this study, click Listen to Message.)

Please pray that my Parkinson’s tremor won’t interfere with this online ministry. I’m finding that both the recording and writing is much harder than it was. But we give thanks in everything knowing this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.

MYSTERY: THE MURDER OF A PROSTITUTE

Have you noticed the great divide growing not only in our country, but also among the peoples of the world? On the one hand, there are those of us who believe that there is great evil in this world and this evil finds its roots in the heart of man. This, of course, makes the other side angry, for they are optimistic. They believe man is born good with an unlimited potential for saving our planet. As Michael Jackson sang, “We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones to make a brighter day.” The Dalai Lama adds, “My true religion is kindness.” Mahatma Gandhi advised, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean. If a few drops become dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

What is behind this hope for the future? One powerful factor is the New Age Movement, which is a smorgasbord of beliefs and practices from which each New Ager can fill his tray with whatever he finds appealing. As such, it is inherently self-centered—a “Have It Your Way Religion” perfectly suited to the tastes of modern man. Most of its beliefs find their roots in Eastern religion such as the belief that God is in everything (pantheism), that all is one (monism), that each person is his own god (idolatry), that each person’s experience is the test for truth (not an outdated book like the Bible), and that there is no evil in the world (only spiritual immature acts paid for through the process of  reincarnation.)

Among its promoters are Stuart Rose, Deepak Chopra, and Oprah Winfrey who was raised a Baptist, but no longer believes Jesus is the only way to God. This is the great weakness of the movement—their denial of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We ourselves have had many blasphemous comments posted on our website recently cursing God and His people. Why? Because of the evil spirits that have turned so many hearts against the Lord and His Christ, promoting in their place a new age religions and practices.

All of this makes it clear that the New Age Movement is nothing new. It is ancient Babylonian occultism in modern dress—the false religion which has controlled the world since the beginning, and is now fighting for a foothold in the Church and hearts of Christians, while at the same time paving the way for Antichrist. So, do not be taken in! No matter how convincing the lies, remember: There will never be a brotherhood of man without the Fatherhood of God, and we will never enjoy the Fatherhood of God apart from the love of His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

How does God feel about this movement? In Revelation 17, He condemns it calling it “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes.”

  1. THE MYSTERY OF THE PROSTITUTE

In keeping with his assignment to “prophesy again about many people, nations, tongues, and kings,” John flashes back to another dynamic behind the Beast’s kingdom. One of the angels with charge over the bowl judgments urges him to see “the great prostitute who sits on many waters.” From this we immediately know that it is no mere woman John is describing, for no woman could sit on many waters. Normally, the rule of interpretation is “When the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense, seek no other sense.” But in this case, the plain sense of Scripture does not make good sense, leading us to look for another explanation. When we do, comparing Scripture with Scripture, it is clear that God is using this woman to symbolize false religion. That is not unusual. In the Old Testament, Israel was pictured as the wife of Jehovah. In the New Testament, the Church is called the Bride of Christ. Therefore, it should not surprise us to find a prostitute masquerading as false religion. This is a common metaphor for both idolatry and witchcraft in the Bible. To appreciate her wickedness, notice four facts about her.

A. Her Influence

How powerful is false religion? One thinks of headhunters in the Amazon jungle, animists in Papua New Guinea, and the spiritually naïve in our own country who sell their souls to cult leaders like Jim Jones. But the picture John paints is far more pernicious. He emphasizes that in every age and every place “the great prostitute” has reigned supreme, controlling the worship of everyone who rejects Christ. Three details make this clear.

She sits on many waters. What does this mean? John explains in verse 15, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.” In other words, whether they realize it or not, everyone has been affected by false religion. Unbelievers often take pride in the fact that they have made it through life without the “crutch of religion.” But they are deceiving themselves. As Freud said, “Man is incurably religious.” We may reject the God of the Bible. But when we do, we invariably open our heart to something else—humanism, materialism, scientism, etc. The hold that false religion has over the unbelieving world is absolute. She “sits” on everyone who rejects Jesus as Savior.

She seduces many kings. Verse 2 adds, “With her the kings of the earth committed adultery.” Pharaoh did so. Each time God displayed His glory through miracle after miracle, Pharaoh hardened his heart. Why? Because of the Satanic miracles of Jannes and Jambres, his court magicians. Nebuchadnezzar did the same. He filled his court with astrologers and built a huge idol in his own image. The Caesars took it a step farther, calling themselves gods and forcing everyone to burn incense in their honor. But the most flagrant example will be Antichrist whose very kingdom will be built on false religion. More on that in a moment.

She intoxicates the people of the earth. All of us seek comfort for the heartaches of life. But when Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor and Great Physician is rejected, the only thing left to turn top is drugs and false religion. One example is the beautiful actress, Linda Evans. Hurt by two broken marriages and deprived of the child she always wanted, she spent more than 15 years searching for inner peace. She explained in an interview, “I’ve tried a lot of things along the way—psychotherapy, TM, Science of the Mind. I don’t know where the answer is.” So finally, in an attempt to find it, she moved to the Pacific Northwest where she now lives near her dear friend and New Age psychic, J. Z. Knight. How sad!

Another graphic example is the false religion of Hinduism. Thousands of children lie starving in the streets of India, while half a billion cows (That’s half the cows on earth!) gobble up and trample their crops. Why not simply butcher them and feed everybody hamburgers? Because that’s against their religion! In the Hindu thinking, cows are even more sacred than children! You say, “A person would have to be drunk to think like that!” You are right. But that is what false religion does. It intoxicates the people of the earth.

B. Her Appearance

Verse 4 continues, “The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.”

Two facts are emphasized by her appearance. The precious jewels show the wealth enjoyed by false religion. Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, and Islamic mosques do not lack for gold or jewels. (Nor do the multiple homes of many television preachers.) But their worshipers are often forced to beg for their daily bread. That was one thing that turned Martin Luther away from the Roman church. When he saw the opulence of the Vatican, he knew it was something that Jesus would not commend. (See Revelation 3:17-18.) The woman’s clothing, on the other hand, symbolizes her immorality. In Rome, no common person wore purple or scarlet. Only two groups could afford such a thing—aristocrats and prostitutes. Paul made this contrast in 1 Timothy 2:9 where he said that godly women should dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not like immoral women with “braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.”

C. Her Origin

Where does this prostitute come from? Three clues are found in her name.

She is a mystery. This doesn’t mean she is mysterious. When you see the word “mystery” in the Bible, it refers to a divine secret which only God can explain. For example, in Ephesians 3, Paul says this about the Church. In the Old Testament, it was a “mystery” in that its future creation hadn’t been revealed. The same is true of “Mystery Babylon.” Until now, the Bible hasn’t said much about her. So, rather than speculating about her, let us pay close attention to John’s explanation. Here he points out two important details about her.

First, she is a city. The angel explains in verse 18, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” To what city is he referring? Two explanations are given. Verse 5 says her forehead reads, “Babylon the Great.” In the early church, that was a code word for Rome. You can see this in 1 Peter 5:14 where speaking of the Church, the apostle says, “She who is Babylon, chosen together with you, sends her greetings.” The literal city of Babylon did not exist in Peter’s day. So, he was likely sending greetings from the Church in Rome, where he served and was eventually martyred. To support this view, many point to the “seven hills” in verse 9, reminding us that Rome was built on seven hills.

The second view is that it refers to the literal city of Babylon, which no longer exists, but will be rebuilt during the Tribulation. Some object to this based on Jeremiah 50 to 51, which say that once destroyed, Babylon will never be rebuilt. But the question is: Have Jeremiah 50 and 51 seen their final fulfillment? The answer is “No!” When Babylon fell to Persia in 539 B.C., it wasn’t utterly destroyed, as Jeremiah prophesied, but continued to be populated and productive for centuries. Nor is it without inhabitants today. Speaking about Babylon, L. Glynn Dairos, the assistant secretary of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, said, “There are three modern settlements situated inside the walls of ancient Babylon. The government of Iraq does indeed plan to restore much of Babylon and has made a start on certain buildings.”

So, which view is correct? I think it is foolish to be dogmatic about either position. Daniel describes Antichrist as the Roman prince yet to come (Daniel 9:26), which means he may set up his capital in the city of Rome. However, Zechariah 5:11 hints that there may be a second Tower of Babel built in the last days in the literal city of Babylon. Consequently, like so many prophecies, we need to take a “wait and see” approach, knowing that wherever the Beast erects his headquarters, God will have the final say and burn this evil city to the ground.

She is a mother. Verse 5 adds, “The Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth.” She is the mother of all that is spiritually depraved. Her history began in Genesis 10 when the world’s first dictator erected the world’s first center of false religion. His name was Nimrod (meaning “we will revolt!”) and is described as a “mighty hunter in defiance of the Lord.” Under his leadership in the days following the Flood, mankind rejected God’s command to “multiply and fill the earth.” They gathered instead in the plain of Shinar to build a tower “whose top would reach into the heavens.” These people weren’t so naïve as to think that they could build a stairway to Heaven. This was likely the world’s first astrological observatory, for centuries later, when God condemned Babylon, He said “she had labored with sorceries and astrology from her youth.” (Isaiah 47:12, 13) So, God confused their languages and scattered them across the face of the earth, where they took their false religion with them.

Dr. David Hocking describes how false religion even affected the Roman Church. He writes, “The wife of Nimrod (who himself was a son of Noah’s grandson Cush) was Semiramis the First, the high priestess of the Babylonian mystery religion. It was claimed that she had a son, Tammuz, born in a miraculous fashion, who supposedly was the promised deliverer. This was the beginning of the ‘mother and child’ religion of Babylon that eventually found its way to Rome. There it flourished under priests who wore head mitres in the shape of a fish (honoring the fish-god Dagon), and eventually took on the title ‘Pontifex Maximus.’ This title was adopted by Julius Caesar and passed down through the succession of emperors including Constantine, who assumed the role as head of the church at Rome. From there, the title was conferred on the bishops of the church at Rome, and is still borne by the Pope today. . . Other mystery motifs include purgatorial purification after death; salvation by sacraments; sprinkling of holy water; offering round cakes to the queen of heaven; and celibacy (of the priesthood).”

Babylon’s influence on the Roman church is undeniable. But, of course, it hasn’t been confined to Rome. Her “children” have spread her influence wherever false religion is found, even trying to worm its way into today’s Bible-based churches. Furthermore, one day this mother herself will come alive again in the plain of Shinar, where mankind will make one last effort to “reach into the heavens” apart from God. Only this time Babel will not merely be scattered. Verse 16 says she will be brought “to ruin,” left “naked “and burned “with fire.”

B. Her Guilt

Verse 6 explains why she will be judged. Not only is she the source of false religion, she is the motivating force behind the persecution of the saints. John says, “I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.”

Today, we think of radical Islamic terrorism and the hundreds of thousands who have died because of that false religion. But false religion has also been at work within Christianity as well. One example is the Inquisition. Instituted by Pope Innocent III, it was the Papacy’s weapon for fighting the Reformation for almost 500 years. Those suspected of heresy were subject to torture without even being told the names of their accusers. If convicted, they were turned over to civil authorities for imprisonment or burning. Imagine! Priests and monks directing with heartless cruelty the torture of innocent men and women, all by order of the “Vicar of Christ!” In France, between 1540 and 1570, 900 thousand Protestants were killed. Things were worse in Bohemia. In 1600, the population was 4 million (80% Protestant). But by the time the Jesuits and Hapsburgs were finished, only 800 thousand were left—all Roman Catholics.

But her bloodthirstiness isn’t confined to history. If statistics are correct, more believers are being martyred today than in all previous centuries combined—by communists, Islamists, Hindus, animists, and every other false religion. But then, what has happened in the past and is happening today will seem mild once the Tribulation begins. For at that time, the Prostitute will inspire a bloodbath extending to believers from every tribe, tongue, and people. No wonder God will burn her with fire! What she has done to others will finally be done to her.

In our next lesson, we will finish this study of Revelation 17 and Babylon the Great by investigating the details surrounding her murder.

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