Now turn with me to Revelation 17 please, and I think we'll take time - we're only looking at two chapters tonight, other nights we've been scanning three or more. We've only got two this evening, and they are not that long, so we'll just read them together beginning at verse 1 of chapter 17, through to the end of chapter 18.
"And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials", or the seven bowls, "and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth".
"And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth".
So tonight we look at 'The Seven Dooms On Babylon'. We have seen the beginning of the tribulation period, the seven seals, the seven trumpets - we took a week in parenthesis to look at the seven key figures of Revelation - and then we entered about the mid-period of the seven-year tribulation, about 3 1/2 years in, and looked at the seven bowl judgements which will bring us to the very point, at the end of the tribulation seven years, when the Lord Jesus Christ will return at that moment the seventh bowl judgement is poured out. Here we find somewhat of another parenthesis, where we are seeing something that has already been mentioned in the judgements that have already gone - but the Lord wants to give John further insight into it, because it's such an important subject: 'The Seven Dooms On Babylon'.
You've got to understand the significance of Babylon in the Bible to realise why the Lord has taken two chapters in the Apocalypse to go into great detail as to how this great city will be destroyed. So let me give you a bit of background regarding Babylon. The larger geographical area of Babylon encompassed an area of about eight thousand square miles from the river Tigris, really between the river Tigris and the river Euphrates - so in between really comprised the whole area of Babylonia. Now Babylon, you may or may not know, is the second most mentioned city in the Bible after Jerusalem. There is an obvious reason for that: the history of Babylon in the scriptures essentially begins at creation, if we believe that the traditional site of creation where man was placed, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden where the fall took place, was around this area of the river Euphrates. Therefore that was the place, essentially, where Satan first appeared as far as man was concerned, and Satan first lied to man about God - that's very important to remember. We believe that it was perhaps around this area in modern day Iraq.
Following the fall came the flood. The evil and wickedness of man was so great that God had to destroy him, and after the flood the settlement of the family of Noah, and civilisation and population after that, eventually got to the point in Genesis chapter 10 where they clubbed together and decided that they were going to found a city or a kingdom called 'Babel'. Incidentally, that took place in an area that was also known as 'Shinar'. Now the word 'Shinar' may be related to another word 'Shina', which can mean 'Shine', 'Year', or 'to repeat'. If you think of those ideas, you think of the yearly cycle of months, which could have a distant allusion to the fact that astrology originated and was first perfected as a wicked art in this area. Upon that discovery, gods were conceived of as the beings who ruled the heavens and the earth. So it's from this general area that essentially paganism began.
Now we encounter in Genesis chapter 10 a character by the name of Nimrod. Nimrod became the first king of Babylon. Nimrod's name means 'let us revolt' - and that is effectively what the kingdom of Babylon was. It was a manifestation of rebellion against God and His rule. Now the name 'Babel' is comprised of two words really: 'Bab' and 'El'. You have learned, I'm sure, from Sunday School, that anything with 'El' in it speaks of God - but 'Babel' means 'the gate of God'. In Genesis 11 we have the famous Tower of Babel which was an idolatrous attempt by the men and women of Babel to defy God. The idea was that they were reaching to heaven, but many believe that the actual top of this tower was like a temple that was meant to be heaven itself - but it was man's attempt at getting to his own gods.
Now you remember what happened: God sent judgement upon Babel. He did it by sending upon the builders, who all spoke one language, sending many languages - and therefore the name 'Babel' became synonymous with confusion. What I want you to remember is that right from the inception of this place called Babylon, it is seen to be the root of all paganism, all false approaches to God, all erroneous religion and faith. From Babylon, through art and culture, paganism was made fashionable.
The next time we encounter it, after the origin of this city Babylon, is the call of Abraham. Abraham was called by God - and we know from the New Testament that God revealed His glory to Abraham, he was converted supernaturally, born of God - but he was called out, did you know, of Babylon. Ur of the Chaldees is what it was called in those days, in Genesis 11. We really leave there and have to come to the period of the great empire after the exodus of the children of Israel in Egypt, we come to what we could call 'neo-Babylon', where Babylon comes forth as a great imperial power, and Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps, as the greatest personification of that. He becomes God's instrument to chastise Israel and destroy Jerusalem before Babylon is finally destroyed itself by Medo-Persia.
What I want you to understand - this is vital to these portions of Scripture that we're looking at from Revelation tonight - from the beginning of Babylon in Genesis 10 it was an insidiously anti-God civilisation. Now we get a glimpse of God's view of all this when we go to Isaiah 14. You will be familiar with Isaiah 14 as a depiction of the fall of Satan, Lucifer - but you've got to remember that initially this was written as a taunting poem against the sovereign and the system of Babylon, the king of Babylon and his kingdom. You are right in believing that it is the fall of Lucifer that is depicted, because what is actually happening is: the King is being portrayed, and his kingdom, as the epitome in illustration of Satan himself. The idea was that Babylon and its king were the present-day personifications of Lucifer and his kingdom of darkness.
So you have seen a bit of the history of Babylon, and we could talk now in a general term about Babylonian or Babylonish influence upon societies throughout history - and it's even being felt today in our world, because chiefly Babylon speaks of the reign of man, man doing his own thing. It's synonymous with all in society that is opposed to God's truth - and it's present-day influences, I believe we will see as we go through our study tonight, can be found in all false religions and all political powers. What we have before us tonight in 17 and 18 of Revelation is a prophetic declaration that this Babylonish power will rise again in the seven-year tribulation period, and will ultimately be destroyed by the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes again.
John is given an insight into two aspects of Babylon in the tribulation period. First of all religious Babylon, and then secondly commercial Babylon. So let's look at them in that order. First of all religious Babylon - so we're turning to chapter 17 verses 3 to 6. John was carried away in the spirit into the wilderness and 'saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration' - I marvelled, or I was astonished.
Now look at verse 5, this name was written on her forehead: 'MYSTERY, BABYLON'. Now I believe that 'Mystery, Babylon' represents a system that has endured since ancient times, since the origination of Babylon as we have traced it in biblical history. You notice that this woman is not just 'a harlot', verse 5 gives her the title of being 'the mother of all harlots and abominations of the earth'. We know, historically speaking, that the ancient city of Babylon was the original seat of idolatry. Now I don't know how many of you were here when we went through the seven churches at the beginning of these studies, but you might remember that when we looked at the church of Pergamos we noted that Alexander Hislop in his book 'The Two Babylons' [PDF] - which I would encourage you to read - shows that at the death of the Babylonian Emperor Belshazzar the headquarter of mystery Babylon, that is that pagan worship cult, moved to Pergamos or Pergamum. Then after Pergamos in Asia Minor, it moved to Rome, and Rome as the Imperial city became the seat of idolatry with her pagan mystery cults. Incidentally, that cult was often characterised by the cult of mother and child worship - and mother and child worship can be followed through many religions in the world, many pagan religions too - but we believe that that was possibly inspired by a suggested incestuous relationship that took place, a marriage in fact, between Nimrod and his mother. Semiramis, his mother, became his wife. Of course, we see that same mother and child worship in the Roman Catholic system, but we'll touch on that a little bit later.
Now during that study on Pergamos, I hope you can recall - and this is important to understand church history and interpret it - that Rome was the seat of pagan idolatry, and Constantine the Emperor had what we would call a 'spurious' conversion. In that moment, 324 AD, Christianity became the adopted religion of the Empire. Now this is what happened: pagans were baptised, called Christians, and entered, effectively, an established church to get into the Empire - paganism was christened, baptised, Christianised; and many pagan practices were adopted. We're taking somewhat of a quantum leap to today, but a lot of that can be seen in Roman Catholicism, and what became Roman Catholicism.
Now I believe that chapter 17 of Revelation very graphically depicts characteristics that we can see today in Roman Catholicism. If you want to do an in-depth study of that, Dave Hunt has a good book 'A Woman Rides the Beast', and he goes into great detail on these chapters in particular. This chapter cites much of the religious and political compromise that we see in the Roman Catholic system - how she, if you remember how we read, has sway over many of the Kings and Presidents of the earth, how she is drunk with the blood of the martyrs. But I want you to note this tonight: that Roman Catholicism is only one of the places where Mystery Babylon is manifest - it is the place, I grant you, where it is most obviously manifest, but it's not the only place. Mystery Babylon is reflected in all false religion. John is telling us that in the future it will be expressed, predominantly, in a religious system, this harlot that rides or controls the beast for a while. It is the domain of antichrist. We have learned in chapter 13 that this beast is antichrist, and the antichrist's kingdom, which we also learned - without going into too much detail - that we believe this will be a revived Roman Empire.
Again it's detailed for us in this chapter, in verse 7: 'And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel?', he gives an interpretation, an explanation of this scene, 'I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not'. You remember we saw how antichrist would be slain, it would appear he dies, perhaps literally dies, and it would appear that he is resurrected, perhaps literally resurrected by satanic power. So this describes him: 'He was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition'. The inference there is that he will be possessed by a demon, if not the devil himself, from the bottomless pit - but ultimately his end will be: he will go into perdition when the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire. 'Then they that dwell on the earth shall wonder', and it is wonderful when we consider it.
Daniel gives us another clue regarding this - now we haven't got time to go into all the details of Daniel's prophecy, but right throughout the book of Daniel, Daniel is given insight into the times of the Gentiles. We've already looked at the 70 weeks, prophetic weeks of Daniel, but in chapter 2 of Daniel, Daniel interprets a vision for Nebuchadnezzar. Ultimately if you race from there right through to Daniel 8, you see all the pieces of this vision coming together to interpret the time of the Gentiles, the time of Gentile rule on this earth. We know from the testimony of Scripture that Babylon was that golden head, Nebuchadnezzar himself. The next great world empire was Medo-Persia - a gold head Babylon, the silver breast Medo-Persia - then the loins were of brass, speaking of the Grecian empire. The legs, Daniel insinuates, is this great empire of Rome, the empire of John the apostle's present day. But the interesting thing about this vision is that the feet of this great statute are made of iron and clay. Now Rome is depicted as being iron, and the feet - an empire that has not yet been seen, antichrist's empire - will be a mixture of iron and clay. So it will have something to do with the Roman Empire, and that's one of the reasons why we believe it will be a revived Roman Empire. Another indication of this in our passage here tonight is the fact in verse 12 that it speaks of 10 kings, and Daniel 7 speaks of 10 horns that were 10 kings - and so it's all fitting together, and we don't have time to look at all the jigsaw pieces - but that's your job, to go home and study the scriptures to see if these things are so.
Now in verse 9: 'Here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth'. Now traditional interpretation of that is that the harlot has her headquarters in Rome, for Rome was the city built on the seven hills - but of course there are other sevens in this passage as well, some of them depicting seven great world empires and so on, but we do know that of course John himself would have identified these seven hills with the seven hills of Rome because that was the empire of his day. Incidentally, we could identify it with papal Rome, where Mystery Babylon is manifest presently in our age. But we have to assume, therefore, as we look into the future - and remember this is chiefly about the future, the things which shall be hereafter - that Rome must, in some shape or form, become a religious centre of Mystery Babylon in the tribulation days. Of course, verse 18 would indicate that: 'And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth'.
Now we have to be careful that we don't read too much between the lines regarding prophetic Scriptures, so what I'm going to say is not dogmatic - and I want you to weigh up the facts as they are, and discern whether we are seeing prophetic Scripture fulfilled before our eyes today. If we are not, it is a sure fact that some force of some kind is trying to bring these things to pass in our day and age. It is very possible, and I think probable, that the revived Roman Empire has its embryo in the European Union. We have to go back to 1957 to the signing of the Treaty of Rome, incidentally, when the European Economic Community was established, the EEC. Later that Treaty was renamed 'the Maastricht Treaty', signed in the Netherlands in 1992, which effectively created a European Union. Europa Publications, the official publications of the European Parliament I think that is, their symbol is a woman riding a beast. Now I'll go into that in a moment or two.
Here you have the Louise Weiss Building, which is part of the European Parliament in Strasbourg in France. If you look at it, clearly it has the appearance of an unfinished tower. Now don't think I'm reading into this too much, and jumping off the deep end, because if you look at these two paintings that are beside one another on the screen - on the left you have a painting from 1563 of the Tower of Babel by Peter Bruegel, the Flemish Renaissance painter; and on the right is an official European Union publication. It is symbolically depicting their mission, and it combines, as you see, the twelve stars of the EU flag with the rebuilding of the Tower of Babel - it is the Tower of Babel, and it's based on Bruegel's painting. The motto underneath, if you can see clearly just at the far bottom right, is 'Europe, many tongues, one voice'.
Now some wise guy has put these two depictions together - a photograph of the parliament and Bruegel's painting - to show what it is based on, and that is accepted fact. Now come nearer to today, to 2004, the European Union constitution was signed. It was signed in the political and religious centre of ancient Rome, which is today the home for Rome's City Hall - but it was signed underneath the shadow of this gentleman, Pope Innocent X. Now that EU constitution fell through, because the French and the Dutch rejected it in their various referendums - but to bring you right up-to-date to December 2007, the end of last year, a reform of the EU constitution of 2004, called 'the Treaty of Lisbon' was agreed and signed, and also signed by Gordon Brown our Prime Minister, though he was a bit late signing it. It effectively alters the way the 27 nation body of Europe operates. One of the things that is enshrined within this Lisbon Treaty is a President of Europe, that is going to happen. Indeed, at the signing of that new constitution effectively, the Lisbon Treaty, Jose Manuel Barroso said - that's the European Commission President - listen carefully: 'From this old continent, a new Europe is born'.
Now, you saw this depiction of a woman riding the beast before in one of the slides, and this is on one of the Euro - the 2 Euro coin. Now this is meant to be a depiction of Europa - I haven't got time to go into the story, but it's based on Greek mythology. If you were to suggest that this is an allusion to anything in Revelation 17 you would be completely pooh-poohed - but we believe that behind these forces of government and political establishment works the forces of Babylon, principalities and powers. Whether or not this originated from Greek mythology, it certainly seems to depict something of a more demonic intelligence and inspiration. Now let me clearly say: whilst Mystery Babylon obviously is manifest today in the Roman Catholic system, it is in other beliefs. In the end time, at this tribulation period, Mystery Babylon will, I believe, be manifest in an eclectic religious system which is, I think, in embryo today in ecumenism. It might well be based in Rome, and it might even be headed up by the Roman Catholic system, but it will be a spectrum, I believe, of all types of faiths.
Incidentally, Pope John Paul II, before he died, I think it was in the eighties, personally took the initiative to unite the leaders of world religions for a prayer summit in Assisi, Italy. It was 1986 actually. They came from all around the world: Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians and Jews; Muslims from nine nations sang from the Koran; American Medicine Men called on the great spirit; Buddhism's Dalai Lama, traditionally regarded as a living deity, chanted rhythmically; Animists from the jungles of Africa; Hindus; Zoroastrians. They said: 'We will stand side-by-side asking God to give peace'. With a papal invitation 160 leaders from the religions of the world gathered to petition God for world peace. Now that was unprecedented in the whole history of Christendom - but something is going to happen during the first half of this tribulation period, this religious system is going to ride the beast; but halfway through - verse 16, look at it: 'The ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire'. The revived Roman Empire and antichrist will turn on the harlot, probably at the midpoint of the tribulation. Now you remember that at the midpoint, antichrist will go into the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, set himself up as God; he will destroy this false religious system that he has breathed power into, set himself up as God, and set up the false prophet as the new religion of antichrist. Religious Babylon.
Now let's move on to chapter 18, because here we have commercial Babylon. Chapter 18 effectively is a funeral song or dirge, but it's not really a dirge because it's celebrating the fall of Babylon. Now some people see chapter 18 as a further judgement on the whore of chapter 17, and it may well be in many parts - and of course you remember that Babylon, the name 'Babylon' was code language for the apostle Peter, we believe, when he was writing his epistle - and John would have associated Babylon with Rome, but that was where it was manifested in John's day. The emphasis of chapter 18 does seem to be on the commercial side of Babylon, and you probably gathered that as we read through it. Ancient Babylon, right at the very beginning of her history, also gave birth to the idea of a city state. It was from Babylon that that idea of a city expanded to be a system of bureaucracies that eventually established control over populations. It all started in Babylon.
So this commercial Babylon, this Babylonish material greed and secularism, if you like, has infected and affected all the nations of the world from her inception. Now, having said that, and I think we can see that prevalent in our own cities and nations today, some prophetic students believe that if we're going to be consistent in interpreting the Bible - particularly prophetic Scripture - we have to conclude that Babylon will be the actual city of Babylon, Babylon as it was rebuilt and come to world prominence again. I don't know what you think about that. For 1700 years the city of Babylon remained hidden beneath the sands of time, but it is very interesting to note that in modern history Babylon has begun to rise again. Now we don't have time to look at these portions, but I encourage you to look at them when you get home. Read, when you get home, Isaiah 13 and 14. Read Jeremiah 50 and 51, and you will read there the description of the destruction of Babylon. It is said there that it will take place at the time of the day of the Lord.
Now this is what we call, in prophetic Scripture, the law of the double mention - remember that. What it simply is, if you look at this chart, when prophets were given visions by God - apocalyptic visions often - there were mountaintops of prophecy, but they could only see one peak, one word from God, one fulfilment. There was the near fulfilment - so the prophecy in Isaiah 13 and 14, Jeremiah 50 and 51, would obviously have been relevant to those prophets to the Babylon of their day, to its destruction in the 70th year of Israel's captivity. But there is a far fulfilment - if you like, it's not identical, but the two advents of our Lord Jesus; His first coming to Bethlehem, and His second coming to the Mount of Olives. It's often not easy to see those two things separated in the Old Testament, but they are - they are different peaks of the mountain peaks of prophecy. That's what we have when the Bible speaks of the destruction of Babylon in the day of the Lord, and we know the day of the Lord ultimately is that day of judgement, tribulation at the end of time.
Now let me get you to turn to one verse in Isaiah 13, verse 20 please - Isaiah 13 verse 20 - this is speaking of Babylon, the city of Babylon, and the destruction that comes upon it will be so severe. The prophet says, inspired by God, verse 20 of chapter 13 of Isaiah: 'It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there'. Now that says Babylon will never be inhabited again. Now over the past 100 years Babylon has grown as a city, and houses 250,000 people as we speak. Of course, you know where Babylon is, don't you? Iraq. Now that is a satellite image of Babylon from 423 miles above the earth, and as you can see it is far from a city that is no longer inhabited, neither will ever be inhabited. You can see here in this old document which is about 21 years old, Saddam Hussein - the deceased dictator of Iraq - produced this document and founded the Babylon International Festival to celebrate the fact that Babylon as a city was undergoing a renaissance. Here you see a coin with a depiction of Nebuchadnezzar's head and Saddam Hussein's head, and underneath is a caption 'From Nebuchadnezzar to Saddam Hussein'. Well, we know he came a cropper, but nevertheless Babylon is still there. There are some of the walls that are extant, some of the buildings that have been newly erected in the city of Babylon - you can see what's going on. Now I'm not declaring anything dogmatic here tonight, but is it possible that Babylon as a city will literally become that powerful city that will be destroyed in a day, that will depict the whole of the Babylonish system right from the inception of the fall? Will it be there, in Babylon, that our Lord Jesus destroys that empire when He comes? Then will that place remain, as Scripture says, uninhabited for the whole thousand year millennial reign of our Lord Jesus Christ?
One thing is for sure, there is certainly a lot of world interest in Babylon today, isn't there? There's a lot of investment in the nation of Iraq. Now, however it's going to be fulfilled, the Babylon system has had a most harmful effect on all the cities of the world. We've got to get a grasp of this, because this is the real message for us, I think, today: all idolatrous religion, all greed based commerce, all secular government began there. Verses 5 to 8 of chapter 18 shows us that the righteous God of heaven has not overlooked man's sins. There's many a time, isn't there, that the prophets and the Psalmist cry out: 'Is God not looking and seeing men's sins?'. We can look through our own histories and see awful atrocities that men seem to have committed without any consequence or justice - but what we're seeing here is the sins of the elite powerbrokers of history who have used commerce and government for centuries to feed themselves, to live luxuriously at the expense of others, particularly the poor. The commercial, social and political systems of the world and of end time antichrist will receive double judgement from the Lord! 'Fallen, fallen'.
At the end of the tribulation, God, it says, in the pouring out of the seventh vial judgement, bowl judgement, will destroy all the great cities of this world. Staggering, isn't it? Seven dooms pronounced - we don't have time to look at them individually, but there are these: one, Babylon will be devoid of human life; two, it will be burned with fire; three, it will be destroyed in one hour; four, people will be afraid to enter; five, its riches will be brought to nothing; six, it will be violently overthrown; seven, all activity in it will cease. Verse 11 speaks of the merchants of the earth, chapter 18, weeping and mourning over 'for no man buyeth their merchandise any more'. You've got a great list of her produce and trade - but look at verse 13, it's interesting: this great empire traded in slaves and the souls of men. You know, ancient Rome, a third of her population was made up of slaves. It was not unusual for 10,000 human beings to be auctioned off in one day in the slave markets of the Roman Empire. Staggering, isn't it?
Verse 23 says that this empire has deceived the nations by her sorceries - the word for 'sorceries' there is the Greek word 'pharmakeia', it's used to describe a lifestyle of drug-induced occultic practice. What is being said is that this empire has traded in people, made slaves of people, it has deluded people, bewitched them by pleasure and material possession. That's what Babylon is and what Babylon does, and that's what the apostle Paul said people will be like in the end time: they will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Well, in verse 21 a mighty angel casts a millstone into the sea as an example of how the kingdom of antichrist will be destroyed in a moment.
Let me conclude tonight and sum everything up. One reason John, in this whole book and indeed in these two chapters, uses symbolism is that his message should encourage believers - Christians who lift up this book in any period of church history, whenever they have lived. It's bright hope for tomorrow, but it's strength for today - let's never forget that. So much of the time we lose the book of the Revelation because we look to a future day and forget there's an application and interpretation for today. Every age has had its Babylon, Mystery Babylon has been there from the fall of mankind: a religious Babylon, a political Babylon, an economic Babylon - systems of our world which have sought to control people's minds and their destinies. Because of that, there is a message for the church today - there is a message for you, Christian.
Let's take the message to the church first of all. Here it is from John: the church must protect her purity. She is a pure virgin. It's interesting, when we get into chapter 19, you'll see that she is the bride of Christ. In chapter 17 we have a harlot, in chapter 19 we have a bride - but the false religious system has abandoned the truth of God, gone man's way, prostituted herself for personal gain, for wealth and prestige. But the church has to keep itself pure, the church must beware of compromise with religious falsehood, with religious Babylon. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul, I think, is alluding to this in a sense when he says: 'For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ'. Those who were following after the world, James the apostle called them 'adulterers and adulteresses'. Of course, some in Corinth were going around the temple of idols and feasting at the cultural dinners in society - and Paul had to remind them: 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?'.
Earth dwellers give allegiance to Babylon, except those that are written in the Book of Life - but the believer in Christ gives allegiance to a heavenly city whose builder and maker is God. Do you see what this message is even to us today? The church must protect her purity. Let me bring it closer to home: throughout history political systems have used religion, and used religious bodies to further their political causes. You only need to turn your news on, maybe tonight, and see the presidential race in America - it's wonderful, you don't need to have any gospel campaigns any more, just have a presidential campaign and everybody gets converted to get elected! They all become Christians to get the born-again evangelical vote! They are using religion for their own ends. But the opposite of that is that at times religious groups have wrongly used politics to achieve their purpose - that is equally as wrong. I'm not saying Christians can't be involved in politics - you answer that question - I think it's very difficult to be, but one thing is sure: you can't Christianise politics. Someone put it well: 'The marriage of church and state is not a happy one. It has often spawned children that have created serious problems. When dictators are friendly with religion it is usually a sign that they want to make use of religious influence, and then destroy it' - just like the antichrist. He'll be friendly with religion, he'll use and abuse it, and then he'll destroy it. The church of Jesus Christ has been most influential in the world when it has maintained a separate position - in the world, not of the world. The church must protect her purity.
That's the message to the church, but there's a message to the individual Christian - and it's simply this: secondly, the Christian must beware of compromise with the world. Babylon, though it will be manifest in the tribulation period, is the epitome of everything in this world that is anti-God and anti-Christ. It is man's rebellion against God: religiously, economically, politically! Though, I grant you, it is tantalisingly attractive at times and intoxicating to the taste, we as believers in Christ must beware of its subtle influence. Listen to the apostle John as he writes in his epistle: 'Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever'. 'Hang in there!' is the message to the Christian. Don't compromise! Don't give in! It will be worth it.
Indeed, in verse 4 of chapter 18 there is a cry goes out: 'Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues'. Come out! Come out of religious Babylon! Come out of ungodly associations with political and economic Babylon! 'Come out, come out to Me!'. At the end of chapter 18, and indeed the beginning of chapter 19, there is a great song of praise where the prophets and the apostles, they cry praise to God and hallelujah. Now don't you think for one moment that God, or the host of heaven, is rejoicing over sinners being damned - that never happens. What is going on here is justice is being restored, righteousness is being established again, judgement is falling. Man's rebellion has ended - and all of us, surely, can say 'Hallelujah' to that. All false religion finished, false government finished, false economy finished - for Christ has come, and He will reign with a rod of righteousness. God will make His enemies the footstool of His feet.
Well, which kingdom are you in? Or should I say: which kingdom are you of? Babylon or the Lamb? The Lamb will have the victory, the Lamb will have all the glory. God willing, next week, we will look in chapter 19 at the return of Jesus Christ.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventeenth recording in his 'The Book Of The Revelation' series, entitled "The Seven Dooms On Babylon" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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