False religion rose into prominence in history when Nimrod, son of Cush, son of Ham, son of Noah, rose to power in ancient Babylon about 4500 years ago. (The total world population then was about one million persons, and everyone spoke one common language.) Nimrod's wife or consort was Semiramis, who initiated a religious cult of the adoration of Mother and Child. Nimrod's great tower was intended reach up to heaven to bring God down to man.
Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.” And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city). (Genesis 10:8-12)
...Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:1-9)
From Ray Stedman, "We shall take the family of Ham in two sections, briefly commenting on certain items:
The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord." The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Reho'both-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. Egypt became the father of Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim (whence came the Philistines), and Caphtorim. (Genesis 10:6-14 RSV)
The four sons of Ham are relatively easy to trace in history: Cush is associated with the peoples of Southern Arabia and Ethiopia. Ethiopians still trace their ancestry back to Cush. Egypt is self explanatory. Egypt (or Mizraim in Hebrew, an ancient name for Egypt) became the father of the Egyptian Empire, settling in the Nile Valley. Put is associated with Lydia, on the west of Egypt, in North Africa. Canaan centered largely in and around Palestine, though the Canaanites later became much more widespread, as this account tells us further on.
The account zooms in on an individual named Nimrod, who is called a great hunter. He is a rather mysterious figure, of great importance in ancient history. He is the founder, as we are told, of both Babylon and Nineveh, the two great cities of antiquity which ultimately became enemies of Israel. The prominent thing said about him here is that he was a mighty man, "a mighty hunter before the LORD." Now it was the work of kings in those ancient days to be hunters. This was a time when civilization was sparse and wild animals were a constant threat to the peoples. Kings, having nothing much else to do, organized hunting parties and acted as the protectors of their people by killing wild animals. Nimrod evidently gained a great reputation as such a hunter, but he was more than a hunter of wild animals. The Jewish Talmud helps us here, for it says that he was "a hunter of the souls of men." By the founding of Babylon and Nineveh we have a hint given of the nature of this man. We are told here that he was "the first mighty man on earth," i.e., after the Flood. That phrase, "mighty man" takes us back to Genesis 6 where, in that strange story of the invasion of the "sons of God" into the human race, there resulted a race of giants called Nephilim. We are told that, "these were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown." This was evidently a demonic invasion of the race, with sexual overtones, which brought into being a race of giants that were morally degraded. These also appear later on in the Canaanite tribes. We have found this suggestive line of thought running through the Scriptural account up to this point. It now suggests that Nimrod was one of these "mighty men," and therefore introduced a perverted, degraded form of religion into the world. It began at Babylon, spread to Nineveh, and can be traced in history as it subsequently spread throughout the whole of the earth. Thus, in this man Nimrod, we have the seed of idolatry and false religion coming in again after the Flood.
If you drop the first consonant of Nimrod's name and take the others -- M, R, D -- you will have the basic root of the god of Babylon, whose name was Marduk, and whom most scholars identify with Nimrod. In the Babylonian religion, Nimrod (or Marduk) held a unique place. His wife was Semiramis. (Some of you who have been at Cairo have stayed at the Semiramis Hotel, which is named after her.) Marduk and Semiramis were the ancient god and goddess of Babylon. They had a son whom Semiramis claimed was virgin-born, and they founded the mother and child cult. This was the central character of the religion of ancient Babylon, the worship of a mother and child, supposedly virgin born. You can see in this a clever attempt on the part of Satan to anticipate the genuine virgin birth and thus to cast disrepute upon the story when the Lord Jesus would later be born into history. This has been the effect of it.
This ancient Babylonian cult of the mother and child spread to other parts of the earth. You will find it in the Egyptian religion as Isis and Osiris. In Greece it is Venus and Adonis and in Hindu it is Ushas and Vishnu. The same cult prevails in various other localities. It appears in the Old Testament in Jeremiah, where the Israelites are warned against offering sacrifices to "the Queen of Heaven." This Queen of Heaven is Semiramis, the wife of Nimrod, the original mother of the mother and child cult. The cult has also crept into Christianity and forms the basis for the Mariolatry that has prevailed in the Roman Catholic Church, where the Mother and Child are worshiped as joint redeemers.
If you would like to read more on this, there is a book by Alexander Hislop, a very authoritative writer in this field, called The Two Babylons. I am sure you will find it of great interest if you desire to pursue this further.
This idolatrous religion culminates at last in the Bible in the book of Revelation. You remember the "great harlot" that appears there whose name is "Mystery Babylon the Great," the originator of all the harlotries and false religions of earth. The essence of Babylonianism, as we understand from Scripture, is the attempt to gain earthly honor by means of religious authority. That is Babylonianism, and it has pervaded Christian churches, Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, and Mohammedan mosques. Everywhere it is the element that marks falseness in religion, this attempt to gain earthly power and prestige by means of religious authority. That is Babylonianism. That is what Nimrod began and what God will ultimately destroy, as we read in the book of Revelation.
The land of Shinar, mentioned here, is also the land of Shunar or Shumar, from which we get the word, Sumeria, and the Sumerian civilization, with which scholars are familiar. The city of Resen was founded by people who later migrated into the north of Italy and began the great Etruscan Empire, which again is familiar to any who study ancient history. We also have here the countries that came from Egypt and are associated with it here, all of which are countries of North Africa." God's Funnel, by Ray Stedman.
After the confusion of languages ('tongues') at Babel, the residents dispersed to the four corners of the world (as God had originally intended).
The Babylonian Mystery Religion went with them.
Three main streams of this religion are discernible. One branch was taken to China and India--the fount there we now know as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and the like. A second stream initiated the Egyptian Mystery Religion. Branch Three was exported into Europe via the Etruscan Mystery Religion --and from there incorporated into the Church of Rome.The myth of "great civilizations" down through history is easily dismissed when one realizes that everyone is incurably religious and that pure paganism underlies the facades in every culture and every generation.
"Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons is the classic work on Babylon, then and now. My friend Bryce Self has written on Semiramis, and on related matters about Babylon Nimrod, Mars, and the Marduk Connection. Noah Hutchings recognizes that God will purge all traces of this ancient demonic system from the world--soon. See Babylon, Its Coming Destruction.
History will soon be radically interrupted by the second advent of Jesus Christ. God in Christ will then remove all evil from society, everywhere.
“The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:41-43)
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
(2 Peter 3:10-13)
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10)
Since the wellspring of Babylon's evil religious system can be traced back to Semiramis, we ought not to be surprised that the Hebrew prophet Zechariah foresaw this great vision.
“Then, in Scene Four, Zechariah sees a woman in an ephah. An ephah is like a big bushel basket, and while the prophet and the angel watched, wings were given to this basket and it flew away to the land of Babylon. What does this strange thing mean? If you had a vision like that you would wonder what you had been eating the night before! But the prophet knows that a meaningful vision has been given to him. As he meditates upon it, he can understand it because it contains terms that are used elsewhere in the Scripture. Whenever a woman appears symbolically in Scripture, there is always reference to something wrong in the realm of religion. (I did not invent that, the Scriptures did.) Here, then, is the picture of the judgment of the false faith, the false church, very much as we find in the book of Revelation where a woman who is the false church is called Babylon the great. Zechariah sees the same thing: God's judgment upon hypocritical religion, false faith.” --Ray Stedman.
As in vision six, God will move against evil in two dramatic acts. These two acts are:
A. Wickedness Will Be Placed Under Wraps 5:5-8
B. Wickedness Will Be Housed in Babylon 5:9-11
WICKEDNESS WILL BE PLACED UNDER WRAPS (5:5-8): This time the prophet is shown "a basket that is going forth" (v. 6). The weight and measurements of this "basket," or "ephah," like most from that time, are difficult to describe. The ephah held somewhere between 3/8 to 2/3 of a U.S. bushel. By any estimate, it was too small for any woman to fit into. But that fact is not all that significant for apocalyptic literature where it is not necessary for the images, especially those that occur in dreams or visions, to conform in all aspects to reality.
When Zechariah, true to his previous form, asks "What is it?", he is told that "This is Wickedness!" (v. 8). Wickedness stood for everything that was the opposite of righteousness--whether in the ethical, civil or religious realm. This was wickedness personified. (The possible connection between Babylon being the ancient center of mercantile commercialism and its current ascendancy to the center of the economic forces through the oil cartel should not be missed.)
To make the image of the personified wickedness even more vivid, wickedness is depicted as "a woman sitting inside [a] basket" (v. 7). The picture is reminiscent of a kind of genie in a jar. This woman's influence would be capped by the "lead disc" (v. 7). Surely that would be God's concluding act of placing wickedness under wraps.
Wickedness had grown to such proportions that it looked as if iniquity came by the bushel-fulls. But no longer would it prevail; in God's concluding acts of history He would remove the wicked (vision six) and, as this vision shows, wickedness itself.
WICKEDNESS WILL BE HOUSED IN BABYLON (5:9-11): In the second half of this vision, the prophet suddenly sees "two women, coming with the wind in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork" (v. 9bc). The Hebrew word for "stork" is hasida, meaning "faithful one," and is similar to the Hebrew word for "grace," hesed. The faithful one--the stork--may symbolize God's gracious removal of sin and iniquity from His people, just as God had removed the sin of the dung-spattered High Priest Joshua by His "grace" (Zech. 3:4).
The woman in the ephah will be removed to "Shinar," the ancient name for that part of Babylon that contained such cities as Babel (Babylon), Erech, Accad, and Calneh (Gen. 10:10; 11:2; Dan. 1:2). This was the area that from earliest times was opposed to the will of God (Gen. l1:1-9). In this land, which had also served most recently as the place of Judah's captivity, God would "build a house for [wickedness]" (v. 11).
God would give wickedness a home far removed from His people. A home like the ancient ziggurats, exhibited first, perhaps, in the tower of Babel. "When it is ready, the basket will be set there on its base" (v. l1c). Once located on its "base," or "pedestal," wickedness would be worshiped like the idol it was for those who had so consistently resisted God's will.
Given the part that Babylon plays in the eschatological drama of the closing days of this present age, the removal of wickedness to Babylon might have been in preparation for the final conflict between good and evil. Isaiah 13-14, and, especially, Jeremiah 50-51, place a revived Babylonian empire at the center of the final contest between God and "all the nations of the earth" that have been gathered into the Near East for history's finale. But God will triumph, for He has full control over evil. That can be seen in His ability to pack up evil and literally ship it to the center of wickedness where He is able to deal with it conclusively at the end of the age.
CONCLUSION: The only successful way to deal with evil conclusively is to remove it completely. This God will do as He concludes the times of the Gentiles and moves in grace and love to restore His people Israel. The Woman and the Ephah, by Lambert Dolphin.
The Great Harlot by Lambert Dolphin describes fallen femininity in the world, exemplified by Jezebel and her daughter Athaliah. Chapters 17 and 18 in the book of the Revelation are important in understanding what is even now unfolding regarding the ultimate fate of Mystery Babylon.
One of the frequent questions asked about the end times is: "Will the church go through the great tribulation?" ...but we have seen in many passages of Scripture, and especially in the seven letters to the churches of Revelation, several reasons to say, "No, the true church of Jesus Christ will not go through the great tribulation." Those who truly know the Lord and who are alive when this period comes, will be caught up to be with him before the tribulation begins.
Yet all the church today is not necessarily included in that promise. All of Christendom is not the true church, in other words. There is a church that goes through the great tribulation, and we come to that matter in our studies in Revelation now. We had a hint of this in the letter to Thyatira in the second chapter of this book, where the Lord describes a woman there named Jezebel who taught the people to commit immorality, and of whom the Lord said, "I will cast her and her children into great tribulation," (Revelation 2:22 KJV). We get the full account of that here in Chapters 17 and 18. It is introduced in the first six verses of Chapter 17:
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries."
Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 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. This title was written on her forehead:
MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. (Revelation 17:1-5 NIV)
We have already learned that the beast represents a western coalition of nations, headed by a great political leader who will dominate world economics in the last days. (We will see more of this beast later in this chapter). But now the apostle is called to focus on this woman who sat upon the beast. There are several clues, in fact ten of them, which are given to help us identify the woman. What does this symbol mean? Two full chapters are devoted to this. No symbol in the book of Revelation is given more identifying marks than this woman, therefore she must represent a very important factor. Here are the clues: First, we are told that this woman is a "prostitute." She is a harlot, or, to put it bluntly, a whore. The use of a sexual symbol indicates that physical wrongdoing, which is bad in itself in the sight of God, is a picture of an even greater evil, that is, worship of God gone wrong! It pictures unfaithfulness to God by someone who claims to honor him. A harlot is one who offers sexual satisfaction, as a wife would, but does not otherwise fulfill that role. This clue points to some organization or group that claims to worship God but is actually unfaithful to him. The second clue given is that this woman has universal influence. She is described as "the great prostitute, who sits on many waters." We do not have to guess what that means for in Verse 15 of this same chapter John says,
Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages." (Revelation 17:15 NIV)
Many peoples all over the earth are affected by the teachings of this harlot organization. In Verses 1 and 2 we read, "With her the kings of the earth committed adultery." She will have power over the leaders of nations -- "the kings of the earth" -- and she makes the common people "intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries." In other words, they are misled by the heady wine of religious illusion which results from the teaching of the woman. The third clue is that she is seated upon the beast. That pictures a relationship between them. It is clear that the woman dominates the beast for a period of time. She exercises tremendous power over the political leader of these last days, but eventually Verses 16 and 17 will be fulfilled.
"The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled." (Revelation 17:15-17 NIV)
All through these sections, we see constant reminders that God is in overall control. He allows things to happen, and they will actually accomplish his ultimate purposes. The fourth clue is that the woman is obviously very wealthy and expensively adorned. She was "dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls." These are symbols, figures of divine and spiritual truths, but which are only outwardly held. They are not actually possessed, but outwardly adorn, thus making the woman very attractive to many people. She also holds, we are told as the fifth clue, "a golden cup in her hand." Outwardly it is of gold, which is a symbol of divine activity -- it looks to be divinely given -- but it is filled with false religious concepts, "with abominable things," with spiritual adulteries, filthiness of teaching. As many commentators point out, this is intended to be a contrast with the communion cup of the New Testament, "the cup of the Lord," which is associated with the truth of God. This is a counterfeit of the cup of the Lord. It looks like it is the true thing but is not.
Then the sixth clue is given: she is called "Mystery, Babylon the Great." The word "Mystery" indicates there is something deeper here than appears on the surface. Babylon, of course, was the great city on the Euphrates River, the empire which dominated the ancient world. We see the founding of this city in the book of Genesis. It was begun as the city of Babel, founded by Nimrod, the great hunter of human souls. It became a source of idolatry for all of the ancient world. But this is not a reference to Babylon by the Euphrates because the title "Mystery" indicates something deeper. It is that which is spiritually identified with Babylon, i.e., with idolatry or spiritual adultery. Similarly, in Verse 8 of Chapter 11 we were told that Jerusalem is called "Sodom" and "Egypt" because it had become a source of wrongful teaching and corrupt practice.
The seventh clue is that she is called "The mother of prostitutes." Other religious organizations and groups follow the same errors and fall into the same idolatries and false religious teachings. She spreads wide the seeds of false doctrine throughout the world, and many groups will follow her. Then, the eighth clue is that she is a persecutor of the true believers in Christ: "I saw the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus." She cannot tolerate any opposition that reveals the falsehood she is perpetrating. She opposes with violence and death all those who preach the truth contrary to the lie she promulgates. Two other clues appear elsewhere in this chapter which we will consider along with these to be sure we have properly identified this woman. One is found in Verse 9, and the other in Verse 18, the last verse of the chapter. These add further confirmation to the woman's identity. Verse 9:
"This calls for a mind with wisdom [i.e. it is not something easily identifiable. One must think about it]. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits." (Revelation 17:9 NIV)
More than dozen ancient writers describe Rome as the city built on seven hills. This was familiar terminology in the First Century. And that identification is further confirmed by what John is told in Verse 18:
"The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth." (Revelation 17:18 NIV)
In John's day that could only be one city -- Rome. "The great city," which was the capital of the Roman Empire that dominated the whole known world of that day, literally ruled over the kings of the earth. But at that time the church in Rome was not a counterfeit church; it was a genuine Christian assembly. At the end of the First Century when John is writing this, it was the church of the catacombs. It was persecuted and hounded and had to hide in the caves of the earth underneath the city. That probably explains the last part of Verse 6 where John tells us that when he saw the woman seated upon the beast, "I was greatly astonished." Why? Doubtless it is a great surprise to him to see that the church he knew in Rome would become a great harlot church, dominating the kings of the earth.
When we put all these clues together it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that this pictures the Roman Catholic Church. It is a church that arises during the present church age, but comes to its greatest power in the last seven years of this age, after the true church has been raptured. When we say that, we must remember that we are not talking about Roman Catholic people. We think of the church as people, but the Roman church itself teaches that the church is the clergy -- the papacy and the hierarchy -- not the people. It is interesting that Catholic scholars themselves admit as they study this section of Revelation that it is Rome which is described here, but they say it is pagan Rome. The only problem with that is that John would not have been a bit surprised that pagan Rome persecuted the saints of God. He expected that for this was common by his time. But to see the church itself persecuting the saints of God is what astonished him so.
It would be simplistic to say this describes the Roman Catholic Church and that church alone. We must remember, first of all, that there are many true saints within the Roman Catholic Church. There have been godly popes, bishops, priests and nuns through the centuries. I have met some of them; so, perhaps, have you. What we need to understand is that it is the teaching of the Roman church that is described here -- the extra-biblical teachings from pagan sources that have been brought in under the name of Christendom. They involve a seeking of earthly power or status gained by religious authority. That is Babylonianism. That is what first arose in the city by the Euphrates -- a search for earthly power and glory by religious means. The Tower of Babel was built unto heaven, and the people said, "We will make a name for ourselves." That is Babylonianism.
There are many religious groups and churches today that are afflicted by this taint. Not only the Roman Catholic Church, but also Orthodox churches, Anglican churches, Eastern churches, Western churches, Protestant churches, Independent churches, Charismatic churches, and Evangelical churches -- many of them reflect this same error. Our good friend, Eugene Peterson, who has such a gift for putting things powerfully, says it well:
Whoredom is sex connected with money. Worship under the aspect of the Great Whore is the commercialization of our great need and deep desire for meaning, love and salvation. The promise of success, ecstasy and meaning that we can get for a price is Whore-worship. It is the diabolical inversion of "You are bought with a price," to, "I can get it for you wholesale."
Verses 8 through 14 are given to an interpretation of the beast. I will not read them because we already covered this in Chapter 13. There we saw that it describes a revived form of the Roman Empire: ten European nations who give their power to one man to rule. The startling fact that I promised you when we came to this section is that the Imperial form, the emperors or Caesars of Rome, did not pass away until 1917 (the year of my birth) when the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar were both overthrown in one year. Each of these titles are ways of spelling Caesar: Kaiser is the German form; Czar is the Russian. So the imperial form, which is described in this section as the sixth form of the beast, passed away only as late as 1917. A seventh would appear for only a short time, John is told, and then the eighth, which is the beast, will come into being. The end of that eighth form is described in verses 13-14:
"They have one purpose [i.e., the ten kingdoms, the ten nations] and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings -- and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers." (Revelation 17:13-14 NIV)
When the Lamb appears, the church will be with him. Several Scriptures predict that when Jesus appears in power and great glory, the church is already with him, for, as it says here, accompanying him will be "his called, chosen and faithful followers." That is a brief anticipation of what we come to in Chapter 19, which we will look at next week. Chapter 18 now adds further details of the judgment of the great whore. It is self-explanatory, needing little interpretation. I shall merely read it and make a few comments as we go along: First, a great angel announces the fall of Babylon and gives reasons for it:
After this [John says] 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!
She has become a home for demons
and a haunt for every evil spirit,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.
For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth
committed adultery with her,
and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries." (Revelation 18:1-3 NIV)
Three reasons are given for the overthrow of the great harlot. She is demonic: "She has become the haunt of every evil spirit and every unclean and detestable bird." That is doubtless a reference to our Lord's parable of the mustard seed, found in Matthew 13. There he speaks of this tiny seed, which is the church planted in the world, which grows to be a great tree and becomes a nesting place for evil birds. It pictures demonic ideas and teachings finding a place in the church. Also Mystery Babylon is said to be, as we have seen before, spiritually unfaithful (kings commit adultery with her) and materially seductive (merchants grow rich from her excessive luxuries), and for these reasons she is overthrown. Then, in Verses 4-5, an appeal is made to the true saints that are still within this false church in the last days to come out of her.
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;
for her sins are piled up to heaven,
and God has remembered her crimes." (Revelation 18:4-5 NIV)
This great religious system still retains much saving truth. One can become a true believer in the church though much error is found as well. There is enough truth there that, by the Spirit of God, someone can become saved, and some do even in that day. But now the appeal is made to come out of her, and further reasons are given for judgment:
"Give back to her as she has given;
pay her back double for what she has done.
Mix her a double portion from her own cup." (Revelation 18:6 NIV)
This is simply the law of retribution. What you do to others will come back to you. "What goes around comes around." In this case it is doubled because of the length of time that error is promulgated. Another reason is given in Verses 7 and 8:
"Give her as much torture and grief
as the glory and luxury she gave herself.
In her heart she boasts,
'I sit as queen; I am not a widow,
and I will never mourn.'
Therefore 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." (Revelation 18:7-8 NIV)
The second reason for judgment is her arrogant, self-indulgent pride. She lavishes luxuries upon herself and takes pride in the fact that she is a queen; she does not need help from anyone. There is something we must notice carefully here. We saw in Chapter 17 that the beast and the false prophet will turn against her and destroy her with fire. But beyond that hatred and destruction of the beast there seems to be a further judgment from God which is described in Verses 9-10:
"When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:
'Woe! Woe, O great city,
O Babylon, city of power!
In one hour your doom has come!'" (Revelation 18:9-10 NIV)
There seems to be a sudden judgment from God at the end here. In Chapter 16, this was announced as coming at the time of the great earthquake described there. The kings who destroyed her are now terrified at a sudden and total end that comes to this great city. They are mourning, of course, as the account goes on to tell us, not for the Whore but for their own loss.
"The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more -- cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep, horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men." (Revelation 18:11-13 NIV)
Their business is ruined by the destruction of this city. False religion has been good for business, but now it is all gone. It included costly ornaments, fine clothes, ornate building materials, expensive perfumes, incense, fine foods, expensive vehicles, and even slaves -- fine young men and women who are bound to serve without pay and who give up every human right and liberty out of mistaken devotion to a false system. Verses 14-19 continues the lament of the peoples of earth:
"They will say, 'The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.' The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out:
'Woe! Woe, O great city,
dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,
and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!'
"Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, 'Was there ever a city like this great city?' They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out:
'Woe! Woe, O great city,
where all who had ships on the sea
became rich through her wealth!
In one hour she has been brought to ruin!'" (Revelation 18:14-19 NIV)
The merchants and seamen seem terrified and amazed at this sudden judgment that comes upon this great city. Notice how many times "one hour" is mentioned. This destruction is very rapid. It seems to be a judgment by fire from God. It suggests enormous volcanic activity. Geologists have long known that almost all of southern Italy, from Rome down through the city of Naples, is volcanic in nature. Vesuvius, the great volcano behind Naples, has destroyed parts of that city in times past. So there may well be a tremendous volcanic destruction of Rome in the final days of Daniel's 70th week. Now, in contrast to the reaction on earth, heaven rejoices. Verse 20:
"'Rejoice over her, O heaven!
Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets!
God has judged her for the way she treated you.'" (Revelation 18:20 NIV)
Note that the cruel treatment by Mystery Babylon goes back to the time of the apostles. Religious error has come in that has created opposition to the truth, and unleashed attack upon prophets and apostles and the saints of God.
Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:
"With such violence
the great city of Babylon will be thrown down,
never to be found again.
The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters,
will never be heard in you again.
No workman of any trade
will ever be found in you again.
The sound of a millstone
will never be heard in you again.
The light of a lamp
will never shine in you again.
The voice of bridegroom and bride
will never be heard in you again.
Your merchants were the world's great men.
By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.
In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints,
and of all who have been killed on the earth." (Revelation 18:21-24 NIV)
We do not need to add anything to the solemnness of that final word. But we must not stop there. There are five more verses from Chapter 19 that belong with this:
After this [John says] I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants."
And again they shouted:
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:
Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
"Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
both small and great!" (Revelation 19:1-5 NIV)
This is the first time the word "Hallelujah" appears in Revelation. There is a great Hallelujah Chorus in heaven that rejoices over the final removal of this terribly destructive church that insinuates error into the midst of truth and, in the name of God, leads people astray. Verse 3 confirms that the final judgment of Babylon is from God for it says, "The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever." That is not an earthly scene; it is eternity that is in view.
Let us now leave that solemn and sobering picture. The quarrel God has with Babylonianism wherever it may be found, not only in the Roman church but in many churches which fall prey to this error, is that "she glorifies herself" in the name of God. She teaches in the name of Christ, mingling truth with error. Saints are called to separate themselves from that root error: the hunger for earthly glory and position obtained by religious devotion. Whenever a church seeks influence by impressing people with outward splendor you have the seeds of Babylonianism present. Whenever individual Christians try to appear pious and devout while the heart runs after material gain or status, there is the silken allurement of Babylon. In the New Testament the occasion where this begins in the church is the judgment that came upon Ananias and Sapphira. That couple seemed to be godly and devout, but what they were after was not the glory of God but self-glory. They were using an apparent act of devotion on their part in selling their land and giving only a part of the proceeds to the apostles to gain a false status in the midst of the people.
We must ask ourselves, "Why does God show us all this?" All through Revelation we are seeing the end of things that are present with us now. We are shown this because, if we see how things will end we can turn away from them now. That is the reason this book is sent to the seven churches of Asia -- that they might learn from the judgments God will bring on Babylon what is wrong with the practices they see around them throughout the church age. --Ray Stedman, The Dragon Lady
It is important to see that Mystery Babylon the Great is not only about false religion in the world. The economic, business, industry, banking, and power centers of society will shortly fall as well. Probably most preachers avoid speaking of this for fear of undermining their own power base, income, and retirement plans. Every one on earth is implicated of course! Revelation 18 has been greatly neglected!
"The love of money is a root of all evils..." (1 Timothy 6:10) (See Riches)
Ancient Babylon is a vast subject in the Bible! The story is not limited to the Tower and the supernatural confusion of language recorded in Genesis. The poison stream of false religion (the Babylonian mystery religion) spread to Tyre in Phoenicia where the roots sank deeply into human emotions related to commerce and trade.
The fall of a mighty archangel, Lucifer, is recorded cryptically in Isaiah 13-14, Ezekiel, 26-28, and Jeremiah 50-51. In passages concerning Tyre, history has much to teach anyone who wants to dig a bit further!
Ray Stedman summarized highlights of Babylon and Tyre in his studies on Isaiah in 1986.
“That question is answered many times in the Scriptures, but notably here in this section of Isaiah, beginning with Chapter 13. In these chapters the prophet is given a vision concerning the great world powers that surrounded Israel in that day. The prophecy begins with a word concerning Babylon; then focuses on Assyria, Moab, Egypt, Edom and other nations; and ends in Chapter 23 with the burden of the city-nation of Tyre.
These messages were wholly predictive when they were uttered. They point out things that are going to happen from Isaiah's time onward. As we look back on history we can see that much of this prophecy has already been fulfilled. One of the secrets of understanding Old Testament prophecy is to separate the historic from the yet still future. These nations are not only historic but are symbols of forces at work in every age and every generation. What makes this passage so real and valuable to us is that through the experience of these nations we begin to understand our own personal struggles.
I wish I could cover these passages in detail, but I must move rather rapidly. Chapters 13 and 14 concern the city of Babylon; "the burden of Babylon," or, "the oracle concerning Babylon," as it is in the RSV. When Isaiah wrote this, Babylon was not yet a world power but only a small city on the banks of the Euphrates River. It would not come into world prominence for 200 years after Isaiah. What the prophet is describing here is not the rise of Babylon as a great city and world power, but the fall of the empire. The chapter opens in beautiful poetic language with a description of an army assaulting the gates of the city, and the summons comes from God to enter its gates and capture the city. This is historically fulfilled in Chapter 5 of the book of Daniel. There is recorded the story of the conquering of Babylon under its king, Belshazzar. During a great feast which the king gave in the palace he brought out the vessels from the temple in Jerusalem and used them in riotous debauchery. A supernatural hand appeared and wrote on the wall, "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin," meaning, "Your kingdom has been numbered and divided among the Medes and Persians."
That very night Darius the Mede took the city, just as Isaiah predicts. I will call your attention only to certain verses in this section. In Verse 6 the prophet says:
Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;
as destruction from the Almighty it will come! (Isaiah 13:6 RSV)
Isaiah labels this time of the fall of Babylon as a manifestation of "the day of the Lord," a time of judgment from God, even though that judgment came at the hands of another nation. This is God's process throughout history: he uses one nation to judge another. In World War II, he used Hitler to judge the nations of the world; then he used the other nations to judge Germany under Hitler. Here this judgment is called "the day of the Lord."
In Verse 9 Isaiah repeats this phrase, but he is now talking about a future "day of the Lord," the final, terrible "Day of the Lord." Notice how the language expands here:
Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the earth [not the land, but the Earth] a desolation
and to destroy its sinners from it.
For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising
and the moon will not shed its light.
I will punish the world [not just the Earth but the World] for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant,
and lay low the haughtiness of the ruthless.
I will make men more rare than fine gold,
and mankind than the gold of Ophir.
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,
and the earth will be shaken out of its place,
at the wrath of the Lord of hosts
in the day of his fierce anger. (Isaiah 13:9-13 RSV)
Many times in the Old Testament prophets you will find a description of "the terrible day of the Lord." This is a day yet future, described in the book of Revelation under the symbol of the trumpets and the vials of judgment that are poured out upon the earth. One of the signs of "that day" is this prediction, repeated several times in Scripture, that the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. In the 24th chapter of Matthew our Lord himself spoke of a time when "the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars will fall from the heavens," Matthew 24:29). Then shall be the great tribulation that has been long predicted in the Scriptures. This is what we have here in Isaiah.
In Verse 14 through to the end of the chapter, the prophet returns to the historic destruction of the great city of Babylon after its rise to empire status. This is accomplished, we read in Verse 17, by the Medes:
Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them,
who have no regard for silver
and do not delight in gold. (Isaiah 13:17 RSV)
We know that history has fulfilled this in the capture of Babylon under Darius the Mede. The closing verses of this chapter give the ultimate fate of this great city. Verses 20-24:
It will never be inhabited
or dwelt in for all generations;
no Arab will pitch his tent there,
no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there.
But wild beasts will lie down there,
and its houses will be full of howling creatures;
there ostriches will dwell,
and there satyrs will dance.
Hyenas will cry in its towers,
and jackals in the pleasant palaces;
its time is close at hand
and its days will not be prolonged. (Isaiah 13:20-22 RSV)
This, too, is history now. For centuries the site of Babylon was actually lost. So totally destroyed was the city that no one could even find where it had been located, great as it had been. Only in the early part of this century did the spade of the archaeologist turn it up again. For all those long centuries these words were literally fulfilled. Babylon was a total desolation, without life, except by wild animals.
The animals mentioned, hyenas, jackals, satyrs, ostriches, etc., are not the actual names of the dwellers among the ruins. No one really knows what these words refer to. The animals named are only guesses on the part of the translators. This in itself indicates there is something hidden here. Scripture uses Babylon as the symbol of a terrible evil that pervades our whole race and finds its judgment at last in the terrible scenes of the book of Revelation. In Chapter 17 of that book there is a remarkable description given of a beast with seven heads, upon which is seated a woman. The Apostle John, the writer, says in Verse 4, 5:
The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: "Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth's abominations." (Revelation 17:4-5 RSV)
The opening two verses of Chapter 18 give the fate of this woman:
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendor. And he called out with a mighty voice,
"Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
It has become a dwelling place of demons,
a haunt of every foul spirit,
a haunt of every foul and hateful bird; (Revelation 18:1-2 RSV)
The reason that Isaiah's translators cannot translate these names of animals (or whatever they are) is that these are really names of demonic beings. From these names we see confirmation of the biblical use of Babylon as a symbol of spiritual evil.
Babylon gets its name from the Tower of Babel, which means "confusion." That is where God confused the languages of earth. That tower was built by people who said, "Come, let us make a name for ourselves. We will build a tower that reaches unto heaven," Genesis 11:4). Thus, all through the Scriptures, Babylon becomes a symbol of the use of false religion to gain earthly prestige and prominence. Babylon is very much present with us today.
The cults are Babylonish in that sense. They distort the true faith to gain an earthly following, to gain power and prestige among men. Babylonianism is formed in every church to some degree, Protestant, Catholic, whatever. The fall of Babylon as an earthly city did not mean the end of Babylonianism. The error it represents goes on. That gives us a hint as to how these great visions of Isaiah are to be treated.
It is not surprising that Chapter 14, which continues the vision of Babylon, opens with a description of the nation Israel at rest in its own land, free from captivity, and master of its own destiny.
The Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and aliens will join them and will cleave to the house of Jacob. And the peoples will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them in the Lord's land as male and female slaves; they will take captive those who were their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them. (Isaiah 14:1-2 RSV)
This is not a description of the return from Babylon, recorded in the prophecies of Malachi and Haggai, because Israel was still a vassal of Babylon. This prophecy looks on to the end, when Israel will be restored to its land under its own Messiah. He will lead them as they move out against their enemies to gain first place among the nations of the earth. Then they will rejoice in their freedom and break forth into song, as Isaiah records,
When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: (Isaiah 14:3a RSV)
[The last king of Babylon was Belshazzar, but the words of this song indicate that this king is more than an earthly king. Clearly, Verse 12 and following describe a supernatural figure who, in the invisible world of the spirit, is behind the earthly kingdom of Babylon. These words are very significant:]
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn![literally "O Lucifer, Lightbearer"] How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven, above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit." (Isaiah 14:12-15 RSV)
We are here looking at what has been called, in theology, "the fall of Satan." Lucifer, the brightest and most beautiful of the angels of God, the nearest to his throne, became so entranced with his own beauty that he rebelled against the government of God and thus became the adversary, Satan. Here he is seen as brought at last to the bottomless pit, mentioned in the book of Revelation.
We are clearly looking beyond the events of earth to that spiritual world which governs those events. As the Apostle Paul put it, "We do not wrestle with flesh and blood, [people are not really the problem] but with wicked spirits in high places, with the rulers of this world's darkness," (Ephesians 6:12). What an instructive term that is. The great king of evil is behind all human wrong. This is why the nations rage, why we cannot achieve peace among men at the level of human counsel. We must reckon with these supernatural beings who are behind the mistakes and mistaken deeds of men.
In this passage we learn the origin and the nature of sin. The root of sin is self-occupation. Ezekiel 28 (which is a parallel passage to this), describes the king of Tyre in similar language to this as a supernatural being, and says, "Your heart became proud on account of your beauty and you corrupted your wisdom because of your brightness," (Ezekiel 28:2, 28:17). Thus the fundamental character of evil is to become occupied with one's self. This is behind the narcissism of the day in which we live. The media constantly push people to look out for themselves, to speak of "My rights, my desires, my plans. What's in it for me." This is the philosophy that, like a ferment, keeps troubling the pot of international relationships, boiling over again and again in wars and conflicts.
The answer to the question, "Why do the nations rage?" is that Lucifer, the Lightbearer, forgot his dependence on God. In self-sufficiency he uttered these five "I wills" recorded here:
"I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God;"
"I will set my throne on high;"
"I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north;"
"I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;"
"I will make myself like the Most High." (Isaiah 14:13b-14 RSV)
The nature of sin is to play God in our own little world. It does not matter whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, what constitutes sin is to feel you are in control of your own destiny, that you have all it takes to handle life. First John 3:8 says: "If any man commits sin, he is of the devil, for the devil sinned from the beginning." Playing God is the nature of sin. It is an extremely pleasurable experience. We all have felt, from personal experience, "How sweet it is!" We love it. A Christian businessman of my acquaintance wrote of his own experience:
It's my pride that makes me independent of God. It's appealing to feel I am the master of my fate. I run my own life, I call my own shots, I go it alone. But that feeling is my basic dishonesty. I can't go it alone. I have to get help from other people. I can't ultimately rely on myself. I'm dependent on God for my very next breath. It's dishonest of me to pretend that I'm anything but a man; small, weak and limited. Living independent of God is self-delusion. It's not just a matter of pride being an unfortunate little trait and humility being an attractive little virtue. It's my inner psychological integrity that's at stake. When I am conceited I'm lying to myself about what I am. I am pretending to be God and not man. My pride is the idolatrous worship of myself; and that is the national religion of hell.
This is why these passages that deal with Babylon are so significant to us, for we all have Babylon at work in our lives...”
In summary, the roots of “commercial Babylon” in Revelation 18 are deep. Anyone wishing to explore further should jump into Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel and do his homework.
"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; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes." (Revelation 18:4-5)
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26)
You and I are greatly loved by Jesus Christ. He wants to give you new life and wholeness no matter how religious you were, or are.
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Created March 18, 2019
Edited by AZL 9/4/2019, 11/22/19