While I don’t see a rebuilt city of Babylon in Bible prophecy, I’m sure there must be a future-or contemporary-manifestation of the woman called “Mystery Babylon” in Revelation. There must be a place, an organization or an influence fulfilling what God describes as an adulterous prostitute. So what exactly will (or does) the last-days manifestation of Babylon the Great look like?
MY INTERPRETATION: AN ADULTEROUS, IDOLATROUS WORLD
Mystery Babylon is predominantly a world of false gods, false religion and false philosophies, and an obsession with worldly possessions and pleasures to the point of idolatry. What you love and spend all your time and energy and money on, if it’s not God, is your idol, your god.
Babylon is also God’s name for a world in rebellion against him. It’s an attitude, a way of life, a culture, a spiritual condition and a mindset which is determined to ignore the Creator and go its own way. With this arrogant attitude, mankind creates its own gods and idols, its own philosophies and beliefs, its own set of morals and laws, its own explanation for origins, its own set of values, and its own economy in which to run what it sees as its own world. It’ s the ultimate form of humanism: a system of thought and life which will not submit to God.
THE BIRTH OF A REBEL
Mystery Babylon is called in Revelation the “Mother of Prostitutes”. Whether God sees the original Babel/Babylon as being one of the seven kingdoms “ridden” by the harlot in Revelation chapter 17 isn’t very clear, but It’s helpful to look at the Biblical account of what happened there, because the attitudes, beliefs and practices of the people in that first human civilization certainly passed on to successive world empires.
The Bible describes a time after the Flood in which people left their nomadic lifestyle, began to gather on the plains of ancient Mesopotamia, and build cities (Genesis 10:8-12). This fact, recorded in the Bible many centuries ago, concurs with our contemporary understanding of history. The first human civilization, we’re told by secular historians, was built in Mesopotamia, after nomadic people and farmers moved into the area from the north and east and began to build cities. Historians and archaeologists are amazed to see how suddenly people began to build cities, form government, create complex art forms, develop architecture, math, astronomy and scientific knowledge, and keep written records of their actions and their culture.
Genesis describes the settlers deciding to build an exceptional city which would contain an exceptional tower, using baked bricks. The reason they did this was:
“…so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:1-4).
This may seem like a good idea to us, but the most obvious problem with this decision is that God had already told man to spread out over the earth and fill it, not to gather in one spot and stay there. God blessed Noah and his sons, telling them to:
“Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1).
Before that God had told mankind through Adam:
“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28. See also Genesis 8:17 and 9:7).
As an aside extremists of the contemporary environmentalist movement are in conscious and intentional opposition to the commandment of God to fill the earth and subdue it. He didn’t say “trash it” as they try to claim the Bible implies. Instead, those who destroy the earth are going to be judged (Revelation 11:18).
So a major factor in God’s treatment of those gathering in Mesopotamia is that they were disobeying him: they were in rebellion. They had decided not to fill the earth as commanded, but instead to do their own will:
“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
Notice that they wanted to make a name for themselves, not for God.
There’s been a lot of discussion over the fact that they wanted their tower to reach into the heavens. This may or may not relate to their worship of nature-it certainly would fit the known beliefs and history of these people, and worship of creation rather than the Creator is sin. But the point is that they wanted to do it so as to make a name for themselves. They wanted to be somebodies; they wanted to be in control and to make their own decisions; they wanted to be sophisticated and clever, and they were excluding God. They were the first humanists.
But there’s more to their sin than disobedience. When they began to build the city and tower God said:
“If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (11:6).
God knew the potential he’d designed man to have, and he knew that a world in rebellion would have enormous potential for evil. Further, God didn’t want to see humans building a united, “one world” society without him: such an entity is in direct opposition to his will.
MYSTERY BABYLON: RELIGION WITHOUT THE REAL GOD
Mystery Babylon is said in Revelation to be a “prostitute” and the ‘Mother of Prostitutes”, as well as an adulteress. In the Bible the terms “prostitute” and “adulterer” are not only used for a female of ill repute and an unfaithful wife, they can also be used as a metaphor for people who endulge in the worship and reverence of other gods rather than the real God. He regards the worship of other gods as unfaithfulness. Remember that the first of the ten commandments quoted in the Old Testament reads, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The second warns against making or worshiping idols, and God said:
“…for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” (verse 4).
Israel was at times accused by God as having been unfaithful, because the people were seduced by other gods. But it was not only the people of God who would be committing prostitution if they regarded other gods than the Creator: it was, and is, a sin unbelievers can commit also. This is a spiritual form of prostitution:
“Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead you to do the same” (Exodus 34: 15-16).
Since Mystery Babylon is the “mother” of harlots, it seems that she is the originator of all kinds of spiritual prostitution and adultery.
Does her prostitution also represent physical immorality? That’s probably a part of it, but I don’t think it’s God’s main focus in Revelation.
A TALE OF TWO WORLDS
Jesus criticized people at the time of his earthly ministry because they demanded a miraculous sign from him before they would take any notice of him. His response:
“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!” (Matthew 12:39).
This was no organization or city he was criticizing: it was an attitude.
God lovingly warns and pleads with those who love him to:
“Come out of her my people, so that you will not share in her sins…” (Revelation 18:4).
Sometimes the Bible speaks of “the world”, meaning not the physical earth that God created, but the rebellious ways of life created by man. James, in remarkably similar language to that which John used speaking of Babylon in Revelation chapters 17 and 18, wrote:
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4-5).
James then went on to warn about worldly wealth and business being persued without regard for God (4:13-5:6).
Paul, also counselling separation, wrote:
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers, for what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?…What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said, I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from them and be separate, says the Lord…” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
THE WORLD-WIDE WOMAN
Mystery Babylon “sits on many waters” (17:1). This imagery is interpreted for us. The waters are:
“…peoples, multitudes, nations and languages” (verse 15).
This seems to be stressing the fact that Mystery Babylon has been and is a world-wide phenomenon, affecting everyone in one way or another:
“Babylon the Great…made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries” (Revelation 14:8).
The people of earth, including its leaders, have all been led and corrupted by her prostitution (17:2). Each empire she has had influence over has been marked by polytheism, pantheism, pluralism and materialism, rather than the worship of the one true God. The modern West was, until just a few decades ago, predominantly Christian. Now it’s been altered so that Christianity is the one religion that’s marginalized and rejected. Foreign gods and philosophies have moved in, and some people who’ve rejected those have embraced a militant form of atheism in determined opposition to God.
© Nick Fisher 2016
Part 3 will appear next week…