Tag: BABYLON THE GREAT

THE END OF AN IRE

No, dear reader, I haven’t mis-spelled a word in my title, I’m just rather partial to puns…

393px-Gojira_1954_poster_3Do you ever wish you could read a book or watch a movie in which nothing goes wrong, where nobody gets hurt and there are no problems to solve? I’ve discussed with my sons the fact that works of fiction probably would never meet with much, if any success, without trouble at their center.

Without some sort of tension to resolve-injustice, war, loss, unfulfilled desires, threats or enemies-any movie, novel or drama would probably be rather hum-drum and not very interesting to the majority of people. Can you think of any work of fiction without at least one problem to put right? Even Christian stories center on family break-up, loss, persecution or aggressive debate.

It seems that while we all hate to suffer ourselves, we want to see others suffering, at a distance…but then perhaps to see the problem resolved at the end of the story. The hero must win the battle, or wreak revenge, or get his desired lover. If there isn’t a problem, we like to create one…don_quijote_and_sancho_panzaWe like to tell ourselves that we enjoy seeing suffering because it “reflects reality” and touches upon our own struggles. Even sci-fi and fantasy stories are really just dressed up hypothesized versions of real-life problems, although in these times some Hollywood-style stories attempt or hope to shape reality rather than mirror it.

History is a long succession of stories filled with tensions and resolutions, and in many cases there is no happy ending. So it is even in the Biblical narrative. Problems begin almost on the first page, when Adam and Eve fail a simple test. But wait a minute: why is there a test to pass or fail in the first place? Wasn’t it God himself who put that nasty tree in the garden? And wasn’t it God who seems to have turned his back while the Tempter came to persuade Eve to disobey? Behind it all, God had a grand plan-a scheme, the subject of the Bible: a narrative which is still in process of being acted out and fulfilled. I’ve written about this in my series “Why Do We Suffer?”Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)I was looking at a few facebook pages of people I used to know, and I was amazed to see even there that a common source of mirth and hilarity these days is ridicule of Donald Trump. Of course this isn’t news to any of us-it’s going on in many places. And the things they say about him are hateful, spiteful and most often completely false. They come from a media and an entertainment industry which has declared war on the world’s leader and his supporters.

So what do they want in Trump’s place? Who would they replace him with? I’m convinced they want more of the same. They want what President Obama was working hard to give them: a throwing off of the influence Christianity has had over the past two millennia, and a reversal of the confusion and separation of Babel. At Babel God acted to prevent the world of men from being unified. He did that because he knew that any such unity would be in opposition against him and against all that he created mankind for. And sure enough, the modern socialistic, one-world movement seeks to redefine marriage, spirituality, gender, love, and just about everything you can think of which relates to the original plan of God for mankind. Trump, imperfect though he is-as we all are-and his supporters, seeks to set back the clock on the perversion of God’s plan. The dissenters, the “jokers” and the haters all seek to continue the movement away from God, which was so enthusiastically facilitated and encouraged by our last president, his appointed judges and his devoted followers.800px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_editedThe history of man has been likened to a tale of two cities: one the celestial city of God, and the other Babel, the city of man. It’s all actually one story only: history is His-story. I’ve written before about the “Beautiful City”, a place in which man will one day, he hopes, realize his Utopian dreams; where he can do whatever he wants without consequence or criticism, and from which God is banished forever. However, proponents of modern humanism and secularism do seem to like the idea of inviting into the free world one version of god and his followers, in the hope that this god will aid in the removal of the one they see as the great ogre-the Biblical God.

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot in vain? (Psalm 2:1 ESV).

Behind it all the devil works to take down free society so that the gospel of Jesus Christ can be strangled once and for all. Many people see this as a top priority in life. They just refuse to see the fact that the gospel cannot be controlled or suffocated, any more now than it ever has been; any more than it was at the beginning when Jesus Christ was crucified and his disciples scattered and persecuted throughout the world. Persecution, as horrible as it is, only serves to further the cause of the gospel.What-is-truth02All these people will accomplish is the loss of freedom. But freedom will not only be lost for those that they hate: it will be gone from them also, because the system they work to impose in God’s place is intentionally excluding the only source of freedom.

All the machinations of those who seek to destroy what the West has stood for, with all its failures and weaknesses, may succeed temporarily, and on a superficial level- the only level they’re willing or able to see and detect. But in fact they’re expending all their energies only upon that which God has already planned and foreseen. Man without God is like a convict digging an escape tunnel, only to find that the entire prison guard are waiting for him at the other end.

God’s grand story is still unfolding-we’re in the middle of it now. The last page of the story of rebellious man is not far away, and man himself is helping to write some of the detail. Our Creator will bring to completion the Resolution of all resolutions, when those who’ve sided with God’s only son Jesus Christ will experience the happiest ending of all. And the happiest ending of all will begin a never-ending succession of wonderful, amazing stories without tension, trouble, or problems.

There can be no other outcome for the world than God’s victory over man’s rebellion, because God is the creator and sustainer of all things. Not only this, but he, and his Son, are the beginning and the end of the grand story:

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:12 The words of Jesus Christ-see verse 16)

 

 

 

BABYLON THE GREAT, Part 3

Here’s the third and final part of my personal study on “Mystery Babylon”. It probably needs a little editing, so it’s a rough diamond…

800px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited

THE MERCHANDISE OF MYSTERY BABYLON: CHAPTER 18
Revelation chapter 18, which describes the destruction of a great city which has made the merchants of the world rich, is often interpreted as a literal city which will be rebuilt on the original site of Babylon. I said in the first two parts of this post that I don’t think this is true, and gave some of my reasons.
The first verses of chapter 18 recapitulate what we’re told in chapter 17: Mystery Babylon has corrupted the entire earth with her adulteries. But another dimension is introduced in verse 3: she has enriched the merchants of the earth with her “excessive luxuries”. Verse 7 tells us that she has given herself “glory and luxury”. From verse 9 we’re told about the merchants of the earth standing far off, watching and mourning over her destruction, because they’re no longer able to gain wealth from her as they did.
Along with “glory and luxury” the prostitute blesses herself with great wealth:
“The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold and precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand…” (17:4).
How does this picture of wealth relate to the interpretation I’ve given of the woman?
BABYLON AND IDOLATRY
I’ve talked about the woman’s adultery and prostitution being metaphors for false religion as well as rebellion against God. That is, along with rebellion the religions, gods and untrue theologies and philosophies of history all add up to “Mystery Babylon”. They’re a dominant component governing successive human civilizations.
“Idolatry” is another word used in the Bible for the worship of false gods, but it can also describe an obsession with luxuries, material wealth in general, and even other people. Something or someone we are obsessed with-something or someone we give our devotion to rather than giving that devotion to God-is our idol. I think this is what Revelation chapter 18 is mostly about: Mystery Babylon is not only a symbol for false religion and rebellion, but for man’s obsession with “stuff” and people we put on a pedestal, rather than putting God there. I’ve already written about the need for us believers to be separate from what the Bible calls “the world”, and how the world and its way of life apart from God relate to idolatry. Here are a few other examples from the Bible:
A greedy person (“covetous” in the KJV) is an “idolater” (Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5).
The worship of statues and false gods is called “idolatry” and “adultery” (Ezekiel 23: 35 and 37).
Obsession with food is making your stomache your god (Phillippians 3:19).
The worship of statues is called “prostitution” (Leviticus 17:7).
Paul called gods “idols” (I Corinthians 8:10).
Israel lusted after “the nations” as well as their gods: they wanted to be like them instead of being set apart for him. God called their lusting “prostitution”, “lewdness” and “promiscuity” (Ezekiel 23:29-31).
John said, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of the eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:15-17).
Remember that James called those who are friends of the world “adulterous people” (James 4:4). Therefore those things that come from the world, as listed by John above: the cravings, the lusting of the eyes and the boasting of what we have and do, are spiritual adultery.
So the Bible says that idolatry, which is spiritual adultery, is not only the worship of statues and false gods but can also be greed. It can be a continual lusting for something we haven’t got but are determined to have no matter what the cost to our spiritual condition, and it can be a prideful attitude about what we possess and what we do. It can therefore be something we “serve”- something which is our first love-our priority- rather than having God as our first love.
With this in mind, it seems logical that the obsession with worldly wealth spoken of in Revelation chapter 18 is referring to the idolatry of man, to materialism, to the lust for stuff and the wealth it brings, rather than the pursuit of God. The world’s merchants, we’re told:
“…grew rich from her excessive luxuries” (Revelation 18:3).
Mystery Babylon is the personification of idolatry. She is adultery, and she is rebellion and disobedience.
Jesus, having just told his disciples to store up treasure in heaven and not on the earth, said:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24).

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THE CONTINUATION OF BABEL’S SIN
The sins of the “mother of prostitutes” have continued on in successive world empires ever since she appeared. They are the desire to congregate rather than to disperse; the desire to rule in a centralized power over the masses; the practice of idol worship and the worship of numerous false gods and philosophies rather than the one Creator God. Also among the sins passed on to subsequent empires are the persuit of a unified, multi-cultural, noted and revered humanistic society without God; an obsession with immorality and all kinds of sexual perversion; a smug arrogance and bloated image of its own wisdom, knowledge and importance (Isaiah 47:10 and Revelation 18:7b); the persecution of the real people of God; an obsession with material wealth and the worship of “super” humans such as movie stars, rather than God:
“Your merchants were the world’s great men” (Rev. 18:23).
BABYLON AND ON…
Mystery Babylon is seen to “ride” upon a seven-headed beast in Revelation chapter 17. As I’ll show in a later article the seven heads are commonly understood to represent seven kingdoms or empires which have arisen in chronological order throughout history. She has not only been the distinguishing characteristic of all these empires since the beginning of human civilization, but she has dominated them and controlled them:
“The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18).
The kingdoms or empires normally associated with the heads of the beast, that is, the “five have fallen and one is” as recorded by John in Revelation, include Babylon, Assyria, Medo-Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. Some people see the Ottoman Empire as one of the seven. It’s not greatly important which of the ancient empires God intended to be in the list: he knows who they are. But the last two or three are of great importance to us, particularly, of course, the last one, which is an eighth beast.
We could wonder why such nations and empires as those in the far east are not included in the lists made by theologians and prophecy “experts”. In answer, I would say that 1: Those in the list are the dominant empires of known human civilization, 2: They all had a profound effect on the nation of Israel-the location of Old Testament events and the nation which carried the human line of geneology to the Messiah and his place of birth and ministry, and 3: They are the “ancestors” of the future kingdom of the antichrist.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE HARLOT
Babylon’s destruction is said to take place “in one hour” (Rev, 18:10, 17 and 19). Proponents of the rebuilt city theory see this as evidence that a literal city of Babylon will be destroyed suddenly, possibly with nuclear weapons.
However, the use of the word “hour” in the Bible is sometimes used as a metaphor to mean a general time, not a literal hour of time. For example, the Tribulation, although known to be a period of at least three and a half years, is referred to as “the hour of trial that will come upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10). The time of judgment is referred to as “the hour of his judgment” (Rev. 14:7). The beast will have authority on the earth for “forty two months” (Rev. 13:5) and yet ten kings are seen to have authority along with him for “one hour” (17:12).
BURNED BY FIRE?
Revelation speaks of Babylon being consumed by fire (Rev. 18:9). I find it interesting that this seems to fit with a prophecy in Ezekiel in which, while Israel is being attacked by Gog and other neighboring nations, God says:
“I will send fire on Magog and on those who live safely in the coastlands” (Ezekiel 39:6).
Is this a literal fire, or is it a metaphor for some other major problem? The beast and his ten kings who will hate the prostitute:
“…will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire” (Rev. 17:16).
This must be a noxious collection of metaphors, because these world despots aren’t likely to leave a city literally “naked”, and they aren’t going to eat it. Therefore the word “fire” may well also be imagery for some other kind of attack.
WHY WOULD THE 8TH BEAST WANT TO DESTROY THE PROSTITUTE?
This is a fascinating question to me: what will be different about the final beast, the final kingdom and its leader, that would make them hate the woman and want to destroy her?
It’s necessary to remember that the beast is unknowingly employed by God to fulfill his will: the destruction of the prostitute (Rev. 17).
THE 8TH BEAST: A FEW THOUGHTS
The books of Daniel tells us that the antichrist will exalt himself above every “god” (Daniel 11:36 and 2 Thess 2:4). Daniel and Jesus tell us that he will desecrate the Jewish most holy place on the temple mount in Jerusalem. Revelation tells us that he will demand worship around the world. Paul tells us that he will claim to be God (2 Thess. 2:4).
They all tell us that he will speak against the Biblical God and blaspheme him. He will attempt to replace all other gods. He will persecute and kill Jews and Christians. He will seek and almost attain world domination. He will invade Jerusalem, believing it to be his, and occupy the temple mount. This is the spot where dedicated Muslims-with their fierce monotheism and hatred for the decadent West-obsessed with material wealth and luxury- have wished for hundreds of years to eradicate the memory of Judaism and Christianity, and enthrone its own god…

WHO OR WHAT IS MYSTERY BABYLON? Part 2

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?

800px-RedEnzo(photo by Karrmann, who has not endorsed this post!)

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…