THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
Lesson Number 32
THE FALL OF BABYLON
After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ""Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury." And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.' Therefore her plagues will come in one day; death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her." (Rev 18:1-8, NKJV)
The section of Revelation with which we are dealing is an extensive one. It is a view of the end of the world, but it is from a focused point of view. This is a delineation of the collapse of the corrupt church, or worldly religion. The point of the passage is that religion that aligns itself with this world, will perish with it. Lifeless religion can no more survive the coming of the Lord than the present heavens and earth. A religious system that borrows from the world will perish with it.
Admittedly, there are difficulties associated with the message we are reviewing. Those challenges, however, have more to do with the incompatibility of the book of Revelation with the current religious culture, than with the message itself. That circumstance is a most serious one. Any approach to Christianity that encourages or approves of the neglect of God's Word, cannot be right.
FIRST, there is a conspicuous absence of this kind of teaching in the contemporary church. Yet, this is a message God gave to Jesus, to be given to the churches. It is a message God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have directed to the people of God (1:1,2; 2:7,18). There is no acceptable excuse for the people of God remaining ignorant concerning this message.
SECOND, the message is not considered relevant. Others matters, such as soul winning, missions, and church planting, are considered to be preeminent. But is this really the case? If this is, in fact, the final word of Jesus to His people, should it not be taken with the utmost seriousness, and an understanding of it be sought with great fervency? God the Father is presenting it! The Lamb of God is imparting it! The Holy Spirit is communicating it! Holy angels are employed in the giving of it! It is Apostolic doctrine, coming through the pen of one of the foundation stones of the glorified church (21:14)! What could possibly make this message more relevant? In fact, how is it possible for anything to be more applicable than a message given by God, through Jesus, through an angel, through an Apostle, to the churches?
THIRD, the symbolic, of apocalyptic, language of the book tempts men to believe it is not important-that it is an optional book. In this view, the message is not perceived as important because of the metaphorical language it employs. This is not, however, a perceptive view at all. The symbols, types, and figures used in Revelation have all been taken from Moses and the Prophets. It is not new language, subject to some new kind of interpretation. This circumstance (the language of Moses and the Prophets) indicates the Lord was actually preparing men for the message of Revelation. Through the ancients, He provided a sort of template through which the general message of the Revelation could be comprehended.
FOURTH, the existence of numerous novel interpretations of the Revelation has constrained many to stay away from the book. The varying views of the book, however, only confirm there is a valid message to receive-else, Satan would not be so aggressive to corrupt it.
FIFTH, the popular notion that the church is no longer in the world from the fourth chapter on, has produced a sort of indifference concerning the entire book. This aberrant view of Revelation ignores the continuous references to those aligned with Jesus from chapters 4 through 20 (5:8; 8:3; 7:14; 11:18; 12:17; 13:7,10; 14:4,12; 16:6; 18:4, etc.).
A HIGH VIEW
The Revelation is a high view of the working of God and the reign of the exalted Christ. It reveals the utter futility of Satan's effort to overturn God's purpose, remove His people from the earth, or nullify the salvation being administered by Jesus. It also proclaims the unquestionable triumph of all who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus-i.e., those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Believers need to have these things reaffirmed to them. The experiences of life appear to contradict these realities, but we must not be deceived by such appearances.
As the certainty of our salvation is affirmed, faith revives and survives, making us equal to the challenges of life. If, however, the well of promise is closed, faith soon begins to deteriorate, the heart becomes heavy, and discouragement revives. That is why it is so important to get this message into our spirits.
WHY SO MUCH ON BABYLON?
Because this line of spiritual reasoning is so rare in today's religious culture, men question why the Spirit is saying so much about Babylon. Some purported expositors have said "Babylon" is Rome, while others have said it is Jerusalem. Both of these views are out of harmony with the thrust of Apostolic doctrine-the message Jesus gives to the churches. Because of the length of Christ's message, we need to see it right.
Neither Jesus nor the Apostles spoke extensively about Rome, even though the Jews were under its dominion during the time of Jesus and the apostles. Since Jesus ascended into heaven, earthly empires are not the focus of divine commentary. Daniel spoke of world empires, but only because they provided a context in which the eternal Kingdom would be revealed. Apart from that enduring Kingdom, those ancient empires have little, if any, significance. To devote such a large section of Scripture to the demise of the Roman empire simply does not blend with the nature or thrust of the heavenly Kingdom. It has no bearing whatsoever on the "eternal salvation" with which Christ's dominion is concerned.
While Jerusalem was the city where God had placed His name (1 Kgs 14:21), it did not have the global impact of "Babylon the great" of the book of Revelation. Its corruption was more localized than that of "the great harlot." Jerusalem was severely judged by the Lord for defiling the name of the Lord. That judgment, however, did not have the universal impact portrayed by the "great city" of Revelation. Too, its judgment had already occurred at the writing of John.
A Global Satanic Initiative
What we are given to see is a remarkable Satanic initiative. It is marked more by subtlety than brutality-although brutality is often employed. It is more a corruption of truth than an open renunciation of it. This is the bulk of the "flood" spewed out of the mouth of the dragon to carry away the people of God (Rev 12:15-16). He could not cause them to renounce the name of the Lord through bloody persecution, so he has redirected his drive. He now proposes a merger between the church and the world. In such a merger, the world will be the most prominent. It is not possible to blend the cursed with the blessed, and end up with a blessing!
By joining the religious and the worldly, Satan causes men to feel comfortable, even though they are at a distance from God. He also causes them to think there is no real need to press closer to the Lord, or engage in a hearty effort to apprehend that for which they have been apprehended in Christ. When men attempt to join the religious and the worldly, the world always takes the preeminence.
By adopting this view, men forfeit the approval of God, fellowship with Christ, and their reward in heaven. The preference of this world makes one the enemy of God (James 4:4). This is particularly true when the form of godliness is retained while rejecting its power. The fact that men are reluctant to address these things confirms the effectiveness of Satan's tactic.
A GLORIOUS ANGEL
"After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory." The holy angels play a key role in our salvation. The book of Revelation confirms this with remarkable consistency. You will observe these exalted beings never have any difficulty with the inhabitants of the earth. They are never stymied by their wisdom, or thwarted by their power. The best of the world's system is vastly inferior to the holy angels. How blessed to be in Christ and have this sacred assemblage as our ministers (Heb 1:13-14).
Descending from heaven, this angel is said to have "great authority." This is not token authority, but is effective superiority. In the earth, men have a form of authority, but often cannot implement their preferences, or subdue their enemies. Jesus spoke of the "kings of the Gentiles" who lord it over people, doing their own will, and reducing the people to "benefactors" (Lk 22:25). Some have viewed the Lord and those executing His will from this perspective. They see authority as the ability to carry out ones own good pleasure, while lording it over the people. This is a worldly view, and is unacceptable before God.
This angel had "great authority" to carry out the will of God. His authority was circumscribed by Divine purpose. That, of course, is the manner of the Kingdom. Even the Lord Jesus, when coming into the world, confined Himself to doing the will of God (Heb 10:7-9).
What we are here beholding is the execution of God's will. This is a very detailed examination of God's view of Babylon-corrupt religion. He will not allow it to continue. Unlike the Kingdom of His son, this monstrous intrusion into the affairs of men will be brought down. The Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the holy angels are aligned against corrupt religion. It has no blessing from God-not so much as a small blessing, if there be such a thing. If it appears to be successful, it is only the longsuffering of God that is enduring its insolence. It is accruing wrath, not blessing, by its appearance.
By saying "great authority," the Lord means this mighty angel cannot be resisted. His mission cannot be thwarted. His words cannot be contested. He comes to carry out the will of God, and he will not fail in his commission. Men have become so accustomed to powerless people, ineffective words, and aborted missions, that this is a most difficult thing to see. There is, however, a Divine purpose in place that cannot be overturned. In his Sovereignty, God has employed mighty angels who cannot be successfully resisted.
God's people need to know that this purpose, and power, is devoted to the demise of spiritual Babylon-the "great harlot." Unfaithfulness to Christ-whatever form it takes-will be judged by the Lord, and cast from His view. It is rare to hear such a proclamation in our day, but this is the kind of message to which we are exposed in this text. To suffering saints, it is particularly significant.
His Glory Illuminated the Earth
Angels do have glory. Jesus Himself spoke of the glory "of the holy angels," affirming it would be unveiled when He returns (Lk 9:26). That glory is even associated with the "glory of the Lord," as declared in Luke 2:9. Their glory is unlike the glory of man, which is "as the flower of the grass" that "falls away" (1 Pet 1:24).
The earth being illuminated with the glory of the angel is a symbolic way of saying the will of the Lord is being executed. The time of its fulfillment has come to pass. This is a manner of speaking that is found throughout Scripture: i.e., when the Lord entered into the affairs of men, His glory illuminates the earth. This was the case at Sinai, when the law was given (Ex 24:16).
In particular, this passage is a DECLARATION of the fulfillment of God's will. That is, it is an affirmation that what has been determined will surely come to pass. This is a prophetic way of speaking that confirms the certainty of Divine counsel. The same type of language was employed when the Lord revealed to Ezekiel that He would overthrow the spiritual harlotry that existed among His people. The forty-third chapter of Ezekiel tells of this overthrow. It was a time when Israel would "defile" the house of God "no more" (verse 7). There would be a restoration of purity, and a removal of spiritual contamination (verses 8-27). In all of this, the "glory" of God was most prominent (verses 2,4,5). That is to say, what is declared would surely come to pass.
Now, this is precisely the type of language used in our text. The Lord is declaring before hand what He is going to do to corrupt religion. A mighty angel that cannot be restrained by men declares it. The glory of this angel, which is less than the glory of the Lord, illuminates the earth, pushing the darkness from it, and drawing attention to the working of the Lord.
This is something that will occur. The people of God are to ready themselves for it, and shape their lives in anticipation of it. If they are suffering at the hands of false religion, they are to take heart that the harlot will be judged. If they are tempted to join hands with powerless religion, they are to adjust their thinking, remembering that such alliances will be destroyed when God's judgment falls on Babylon.
BABYLON THE GREAT IS FALLEN!
"And he cried mightily with a loud voice . . . " This is not the shout of an unfulfilled desire, but the announcement of what will happen! There are cries, or shouts, that express the desire of God; i.e., "Repent," "Look unto me," "Choose life,"
and "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt 4:17; Isa 45:22; Deut 30:19; Matt 11:15). These are all appeals to humanity to do something. But this is not the case with the shout of this mighty angel. He is not appealing to men, but announcing something that has been determined in heaven.
Daniel's Similar Experience
This is much like what was experienced by Daniel. He too was shown things that had been determined in heaven-things that were certain, and could not be changed. The angel of the Lord told Daniel, "But I will show thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth . . . " (Dan 10:21). The phrase "scripture of truth" does not refer to the "book of the Law," or Scriptures, as ordinarily understood. Other translations capture the sense of the text by using the phrase "Book of truth" (NRSV, NIV). This is another way of saing, I will now reveal to you what has already been determined in heaven. The term "Book of truth" is another way of saying Divine purpose-what God has determined to do.
Thus, when the angel cries "mightily with a loud voice," he is revealing what has been determined. He is announcing what cannot be averted. Here is a declaration faith must grasp! It is to have an impact upon our wills, and shape the way we think. It is a statement of Divine certitude!
BABYLON IS FALLEN
" . . . saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen . . . " The language is taken from Isaiah, who foretold the fall of glorious Babylon of old. "And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground" (Isa 21:9).
Not Yet Risen
Keep in mind, this monstrous fabrication of Satan had not yet arisen when John received the Revelation. Yet, its demise is proclaimed, even before it has a beginning! How appropriate are the words of Isaiah here. "Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,' Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it" (Isa 46:9-11).
Among all the uncertainties of life, we must devote ourselves to believing the Word of the Lord. What the Lord has determined cannot fail of fulfillment! If the faith of the people of God is to grow, there must be more said about what God has determined! Faith cannot flourish on the declaration of duty or relating of routine. Much of the preaching of our time is nothing less than fleshly counsel wrapped in a religious shroud. It has no message or power, and actually stifles faith.
But John writes to those who are in tribulation. He himself is a "companion" in their tribulation and in their perseverance (1:9). Through him, Jesus gives a message that will spawn hope and strengthen faith. It is a message of certainty and finality something faith can grasp.
God's people cannot be satisfied until corruption is overthrown. Their ultimate joy will be realized when they are "ever with the Lord" (1 Thess 4:17). That satisfaction, however, does not exclude the desire for Christ's enemies to be put down. Even Jesus, although at the very right hand of God, is expecting "until His enemies be made His footstool" (Heb 10:13). He will not be satisfied until He "puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet" (1 Cor 15:24-25).
The Souls Under the Altar
The saints of God participate in this expectation. Even the martyrs, now safe from their oppressors beneath the heavenly altar, are awaiting the vindication of their blood (Rev 6:9-11). When they cried "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?," they were not rebuked for being insolent, but consoled for being righteous. They were told to patiently wait, assured that such vengeance would, indeed, take place.
There is a sort of spiritual naivety in the church world that leads people to believe it is not right to look forward to the overthrow of what is false. Such thinking is inspired by the devil, and maintained by the religion he perpetrates. While men have labored to explain the imprecatory Psalms, and to veritably explain them away, they are still a part of God's Word. These are Psalms where men of God prayed for the punishment of God's enemies and the vindication of saints whom they persecuted (Psa 5:10; 6:10; 9:20; 10:2,15; 25:3; 28:4; 31:17-18, etc.).
Other holy men have prayed such prayers-prayers for the judgment of the wicked. These include Moses (Num 16:15), Nehemiah (Neh 4:4-5), Job (Job 27:7), Jeremiah (Jer 11:20), and Paul (Gal 1:8-9; 2 Tim 4:14-15). All of them knew the ultimate outcome of God's enemies.
None of these men took matters into their own hands. Their prayers were not the eruptions of flesh, but the expressions of godly and tender hearts. David, for example, did good to Saul, who was his avowed enemy, even seeking to kill David (1 Sam 24:16-19). When oppressed by the Jews, the early church asked God to "behold their threatenings," granting the believers boldness to speak the Word in spite of opposition (Acts 4:29). God would not assure His people of the ultimate overthrow of Satan's substitutions if the matter were inconsequential. I fear that our time has cause the love of many to "wax cold," as Jesus said (Matt 24:12). They do not love the truth with such zeal that they are offended by religious corruption.
Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10). The fulfillment of that petition not only involves the establishment of the truth, it also includes the overthrow of the lie. Truth and falsehood cannot dominate simultaneously. Lifeless religion and the power of godliness cannot be enthroned at the same time. With unspeakable clarity, the Lord Jesus affirmed, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted" (Matt 15:8). A review of that text will confirm He was speaking of religious corruption-something that professed Divine origin, but was from the earth.
The Faithful Know
The sorrow that has been inflicted upon the saints by spiritual Babylon is staggering. From "newborn babes" to seasoned veterans of the faith, the hearts of God's people have been crushed by lifeless institutionalism. Many a godly soul has been oppressed by a supposedly Christian environment that was stifling to the soul. Hungry and thirsty souls are regularly deprived of spiritual nutrition, while the institutional wheels continue to run smoothly. Scriptural illiteracy continues to proliferate at an astounding rate, while the religious institutions grow and flourish.
Many a servant of God has dropped through the religious cracks simply because the Word of God was not preferred, and would not be received. Countless multitudes of believers long for freshness and power from the Lord, only to have the cold waters of institutionalism suffocate their desires. Such people are viewed as peculiar, and out of synch with reality. Personally, my greatest sorrows have come from my associations with lifeless religion. How I long for the demise of spiritual Babylon-the overthrow of powerless religion-the uprooting of lifeless forms. This section of Revelation confirms such desires will be answered, praise the Lord!
Babylon is scheduled for a fall from which she will never recover. That means the Lord will judge her. It also means her influence will dissipate and dry up. Those with whom she has aligned herself will turn against her. Her role in the Divine economy will come to a close, and she will be removed.
WHAT BABYLON IS NOT
At this point, we need to spend some time further defining spiritual Babylon-the "great city" and the "great harlot." With zeal, we must avoid a view of Babylon that makes us sectarian, or that provokes us to repudiate some of God's people.
WHAT BABYLON IS
What, then, is spiritual Babylon, that "great city," "Babylon the great," and the "great harlot?" What is this that the mighty angel proclaims is fallen? What is it that cannot be reformed, and for which there is no hope? Allow me to make some attempt to further define this monstrosity.
Worldliness is the predominate trait of "Babylon." It is of this world, and has willingly adopted the ways of the world. It is, in a word, "worldly." What does that mean? Often it involves deep immorality, as ordinarily conceived. But it is not confined to decadent conduct.
The word "worldly" is used several times in Scripture. The KJV uses it two times. First, it describes desires, or passions, that are of this world (Tit 2:12)., Second, the word is used to describe the tabernacle, or sanctuary, that was given under the Law-an external, or visible, one (Heb 9:1).
The NASB employs "worldly" 5 times. First, it is used to identity fables that detract from the truth and unite men to the cursed order (1 Tim 4:7). Second, it describes empty and pointless chatter that brings no eternal advantage (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 2:16). Third, it denotes desires that are of this world (Tit 2:12). Fourth, it is a description of the type of mind possessed by those devoid of the Spirit-worldly-minded (Jude 19).
The NIV uses the word "worldly" ten times. Here are some examples of how the NIV uses the word "worldly." It speaks of "worldly wealth" (Lk 16:9,11). It also describes the infantile state of believers that have not grown (1 Cor 3:1,3). The wisdom totally and summarily rejected by God is called "worldly wisdom" (2 Cor 1:12). In distinguishing himself from those living apart from the Lord, Paul said he did not make plans in a "worldly manner" (2 Cor 1:17). The new creation, or those in Christ Jesus, no longer regard people from "a worldly point of view" (2 Cor 5:16). It is also affirmed that "worldly grief brings death" (2 Cor 7:10).
Babylon is Predominately Worldly
This is the Scriptural perspective of Babylon-worldly! She is immersed in the lusts, or desires, of this world. She thinks according to the patterns of this world, and considers everything from a worldly point of view. Were it not for the worldly teachers, she would not learn. If the world did not give her ministers their credentials, they would never have any. If the world did not receive her, she would not become famous or be popular among men-any men.
This type of mind-set is meant when Scripture employs the words "pleasure" and "folly" (Prov 15:21; 21:17; 1 Tim 5:6). The height of enjoyment is reached when the world's resources are obtained. Even though the world order is fallen and cursed, Babylon continues to draw from its polluted well. It patterns its government after the world's manner. It structures its presentations according to worldly concepts. It adopts its view of music, rhetoric, economics, and exercising influence. It is "worldly." As such, Babylon is not offensive to the world.
Much Required, but Little Given
Being worldly is listening to the lower realm-the world-and investing in it. Such investments require much, but yield little. This is a consistent trait of the world. It requires much, but gives little. Scripture describes this condition. "You shall eat, but not be satisfied" (Micah 6:14). The prophet Haggai identifies this circumstance with remarkable clarity. "You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes" (Hag 1:6).
This is the character of the world, and Babylon participates in it. Mind you, this is NOT the Divine Nature! God never requires much without giving much. Those who give themselves to the Lord will find "riches" (Rom 2:4; 11:33; Eph 1:7; 2:7; 3:8; Col 2:2), "treasures" (Col 2:3), and "abundance" (Rom 5:17; Eph 3:20; Tit 3:6). If they "sow bountifully," they will "reap bountifully" (2 Cor 9:6). Babylon is where spiritual growth is difficult to achieve, and little is received from God.
Having joined with the world, Babylon esteems the praises of men greater than the praises of God (John 5:44; 12:43). It courts the world because it longs for its approval. It will change its manner of preaching to please it. Babylon will even change the structure of its meetings so they will be approved by the world. It makes its music appealing to the world, and alters its message so it will not be offensive to those who are themselves offensive to God.
This Is Common Knowledge
These things are well known to the saints of God, even though they rarely hear them expressed in this manner. Many a hungry and thirsty soul has known the debilitating effects of powerless preaching, meaningless singing, and lifeless assemblies. Righteous people without number have had to go outside the confines of their "church" to be edified, or to learn what the Word said, or to find comfort for their soul. Others have experienced rejection and spurning by the very people and organizations for whom they spent themselves. God does not treat His people this way, but Babylon does-it is of the world. It has no regard for Christ or His people, being driven by its own objectives.
In a word, Babylon the great is the world with a religious name. It has no wisdom from God, but gathers its wisdom from the world. It feels at home in the world, and does not like to think of leaving it. Its messengers speak of being "so heavenly minded they are no earthly good," while the Lord warns us of being so worldly minded, we are of no heavenly good (Rom 12:1-2).
This type of religion is so reprehensible to the Lord that He is devoting several chapters of this book to its demise-the fall of Babylon. It is perceived as the object Divine judgment. The end of the world is not contemplated without an extensive Divine commentary on the cessation of lifeless and powerless religion. This message is to be taken seriously. When our text says, "Babylon the great is fallen, IS FALLEN," it means the fall is determined, and is sure. Nothing can avert it-no prayer, no deed, no work! It has wed itself to the cursed order, and there is no way to recover it.
A Suitable Dwelling Place for Demons
" . . . and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!" Because Babylon is the work of the devil, his cohorts feel at home there. Its doctrines were "the doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:1). It drank from "the cup of demons," and ate from their "table" (1 Cor 10:21). Now we find Babylon falling, and only the realm of darkness is any longer associated with her.
The language is again borrowed from the prophets, and denotes the curse of the Almighty. Isaiah spoke of the fall of ancient Babylon, employing this very language. "But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged" (Isa 13:21-22). Again, Isaiah spoke in the same manner of the Lord's controversy with, and judgment against, the nations (Isa 34:11-15). Jeremiah also used this language in declaring the coming demise of ancient Babylon. "Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation . . . And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwellingplace for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant" (Jer 50:39 ; 51:37). Zephaniah used precisely the same language in foretelling the destruction of Nineveh. "And He will stretch out His hand against the north, Destroy Assyria, And make Nineveh a desolation, As dry as the wilderness. The herds shall lie down in her midst, Every beast of the nation. Both the pelican and the bittern Shall lodge on the capitals of her pillars; Their voice shall sing in the windows; Desolation shall be at the threshold; For He will lay bare the cedar work. This is the rejoicing city That dwelt securely, That said in her heart, "I am it, and there is none besides me." How has she become a desolation, A place for beasts to lie down! Everyone who passes by her Shall hiss and shake his fist" (Zeph 2:13-15). This is the language of DESOLATION.
Babylon is the realm of lesser spirits-demons, foul spirits, and unclean and hateful birds. Satan is at home there, and the powers of darkness and world of demonic spirits are not intimidated by "the great city."
How different from the household of faith-the place to which those in Christ are come. The holy society to which the Lord brings us is described within great detail. "You are come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel" (Heb 12:22-24). Hor marvelous is the place to which faith brings us!
How significantly this differs from "a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!" The devil is at home in Babylon-God is not. Demons dwell in Babylon, the Holy Spirit does not. Babylon is s snare for the soul. In the end, those who are trapped there will find themselves in company with every foul thing and spirit. Babylon is where Christ's name is espoused, but His Person is absent. How dangerous is such a place!
NATIONS, KINGS, AND MERCHANTS
"For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury." Here again, the depravity of spiritual Babylon is declared. Ordinarily, you would think of corrupt religion as committing fornication with the world. But our text says the world committed fornication with it. The nations drank the harlot's wine, and "committed fornication with her." She was not made rich by the earth's tradesmen, but "the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury."
Again, the language is taken from the prophets. Ezekiel employs similar language when he speaks of the "merchants" profiting from corrupt Jewry. For this reason, and others, judgment was brought upon the ancient people (Ezek chapters 26-27).
This description should not surprise us. Remember, spiritual Babylon is the fabrication of the devil himself. Although it is religious, it maintains the devil's view, and still is at home in the world. Its opulence is not of heaven, but from earth. What it offers did not come "down from above," but is "earthly, sensual, demonic" (James 5:15-17). It is not strange, therefore, that the world is attracted to this spiritual monstrosity.
The world imagines itself to have become better because of Babylon, the "great harlot." It sees the corrupt "church" as a valuable addition to the world order, and thus welcomes it with open arms. The "kings of the earth," who had set themselves against the Lord's Christ (Psa 2:2; Rev 16:14), see advantage in joining with "Babylon the great." The "merchants of the earth" who traffic in temporal things, eagerly join in affinity with this "great harlot." Neither the kings nor merchants of the earth were threatened by "Babylon the great." With them, the "harlot" was a lovely and dignified woman, and the corrupt city beautified the earth.
It Had Already Started
This very condition had begun to creep into the church as John wrote the Revelation. Remember how Jesus indicted some of the churches. "You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead . . . Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'; and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev 3:1,17). While it was the exception then, it would soon spread into all the world, becoming the prevailing form of Christianity.
Babylon has actually made the world worse, all the while claiming to make it better! She is the "mother of harlots AND the abominations of the earth" (17:5). The joining of church and state is highly revered by Babylon. With God, it is "fornication." An alliance with the kings and merchants of the earth is considered an advantage by Babylon. It is the accrual of wrath with God. God is taking a people "out of" the world, not merging His people with it (Acts 15;14). Believers are the "light of the world," not compatriots with it. They are "the salt of the earth," not a projection of its thoughts and manners. They are, in the true sense of the word, "not of this world" (John 8:23; 17:14,16; 18:36).
The kings of the earth committed fornication with Babylon, and the merchants of the earth became richer through her. In saying this, the Lord is declaring the world would have been better off without this religious monster. Like the Pharisees of old, Babylon shuts up the kingdom of God against men, and refuses to allow men to enter it (Matt 23:13). Its evangelistic crusades are much like those of the scribes and Pharisees, yielding sons of hell (Matt 23:15). Like the lawyers of Jesus' day, Babylon has taken away "the key of knowledge," robbing men of the insights required to enter into glory (Lk 11:52). Its presence in the world is an obstacle to honest and good hearts, and a refuge for those lacking faith. Its chief work is to provide solace for the carnal. It draws a curtain over the riches of glory.
When those who are the greatest in this world (kings of the earth) are comfortable with Christianity, Babylon is the name of the Christian representation. When those who profit from this world (the merchants of the earth) benefit from an alliance with religion, Babylon is the name of the religion.
Religion that maintains affinity with the world order is Babylon. A form of godliness that cannot be successful with aligning itself with, and borrowing from, the world, is Babylon.
There is such a remarkable consistency on this subject in Scripture that it is astounding it is not more readily seen. Think of these observations.
Any place, and every place, people of earthly acclaim are identified with Christ, it is in spite of their worldly status, and never because of it. Men and women of God are always presented as having the advantage because of their faith-never because of their fleshly accomplishments. It was their separation from the worldly order that made them great, not their association with it. But this is not the case with Babylon. The world has made it great, and it has made the world worse.
COME OUT OF HER!
"And I heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities." We now come to an admonition that is extremely strong. It must be understood in the Spirit. This is not the summons of a man, but is a "voice from heaven." It is a Divine requirement-a call to be more completely associated with God, and less identified with the world.
God's People in Babylon
Some of God's people are in spiritual Babylon! They have been caught in its snare, and have still remained His people. This is not owing to any advantages given to them by Babylon. They have survived in spite of Babylon, and have kept the faith even though in an environment that militated against it. They have had to overcome lifeless religion.
As with Israel, so it is with those in Christ Jesus, "Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom 11:5). That blessed remnant is scattered, and cannot be found in a single cluster. All through the defiled religious realm, God's people are scattered as the Jews were scattered among the nations (Deut 4:27). Babylon, in this regard, is much like the church in Sardis. "You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy" (Rev 3:4). Do not suppose for one moment that everyone associated with lifeless religion is of one spirit with it. The Lord still has a people, and He is still calling to them.
There are sensitive hearts and tender spirits that are being oppressed by Babylon. Many of them are not fully aware of their circumstances. But if they will listen, above the noise of Babylon, they will hear a voice from heaven, calling for them to come out of her. "COME OUT OF HER, MY PEOPLE." Babylon is the place of cursing, not of blessing. It will be overthrown, while the church of the Firstborn will stand. The judgment of God will fall upon Babylon. The blessing of God is reserved for "the holy city."
This is a call to separate from the course of this world-particularly when it has a religious flavor. It is NOT a call to monasticism, or physical isolation-even though many have so interpreted it. God does not call us to be hermits in body, but "strangers and pilgrims" in heart and spirit. This is a call to not permit the world to corrupt our faith. It is a summons to keep our minds free from the contamination of this present evil world-particularly when it wears the clothing of religion. It is quite possible for this to require some form of outward movement, but it is really a matter of the heart.
The Spirit is not tolerant of godless associations, especially when they are Christian ones. When speaking of "perilous times" that would arise in the latter times, the Spirit speaks with unusual clarity. First, He identifies such times with corrupt religion, not drunkenness, immorality, drugs, etc. In summary He says the times will be characterized by those "having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Tim 3:5a).
Note carefully, the Spirit is very specific about what type of defection this is. He does not refer to false doctrine-although that is surely involved. The doctrine may appear to be sound. It may even be supported by a haberdashery of Scriptures. Such teachings as keeping the Sabbath day, eternal security, and justification by works, are presented with an assortment of Bible texts. Other teachings focus on family values, economic stability, and political involvements. They too are supported with sundry verses from the Bible.
As unsound as these teachings may be-and they are-they are not the focus of the Spirit's warning. It is a "form" without accompanying "power" that is the sign of unusual spiritual degeneracy. When a person has the shell of the truth without its content, he is in a more dangerous position than having no form of the truth at all. In such a case, his religion puts him to sleep. A religion that puts you to sleep, and leaves you comfortable in this world is NOT from God-it is the devil's own concoction! Historicity without Divine power is nothing more than a fable. God has no "sound doctrine" that is not immediately related to Divine power!
What Are We To Do?
And what is to be our attitude toward such a phenomenon? Again, it is not possible to miss the Spirit's intent unless our hearts are calloused. "FROM SUCH TURN AWAY" (2 Tim 3:5b). There are no other alternatives offered. It makes no difference how extensively men may reason on this, or how convincing their arguments, these words will stand the test of eternity. They will remain after heaven and earth have passed away. In the end, all who have contradicted them will be found liars, and God will be found true.
Others versions confirm the emphatic nature of these words. "Avoid them!" (NRSV). "Avoid such men as these" (NASB). "Have nothing to do with them" (NIV). "Avoid such people" (RSV). More literally, the words mean turn yourself away from them! Do not allow them to influence you! Do not submit to their persuasive words! With an exertion of your will, separate yourself from the influence of powerless religion! This is done primarily in your heart. You may wonder about external involvements with such people. If your heart is repulsed by powerless religion, you will not spend much time around it. Further, that is an area of your responsibility-to react correctly to the overtures of both Christ and Satan.
"Touch Not the Unclean Thing"
There is a sense in which the Lord's reception of us is directly related to our separation from defiling things. It is written, "As God has said: I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. Therefore, Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty" (2 Cor 6:16b-18).
This text focuses on idolatry-which is religious corruption. It does not deal directly with Babylon, as our text, but does deal with the principle of it. God calls upon His people to "Come out" from influences that defile and corrupt. Things that are "unclean," or contaminate our spirits, are not to be "touched." If it is something we have been saved "from," we are to maintain our distance from it.
The promise is unequivocal: "And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters." Is there anyone foolish enough to believe God will maintain that identity if the individual refuses to "Come out from among them?" God NEVER pledges His fellowship with those refusing to cut the chord to the cursed order! Babylon, however, does not believe this. They allow worldly affiliations, while God does not! They do not call out for people to "touch not the unclean thing," but God does! Babylon teaches people they remain "sons and daughters," even though their hearts are divided, and their affection neutralized by a love for the world and the things that are in it. But this is not true!
How Do We Come Out?
And how does a person "Come out from among them and be separate?" This is a personal decision, and must be made in accordance with our faith and sensitivity-but it must be done. It means that we will not lend our influence to the perpetration of something God has condemned. The question Jehu put to king Jehosaphat is appropriate for our time. "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD?" Whatever you may choose to think about that question, here is what Jehu said to the king, who had done precisely what was posed in the question. "Therefore the wrath of the LORD is upon you" (2 Chron 19:2).
This does not exclude feeding our enemy or doing good unto all men (Rom 12:20; Gal 6:10). It DOES mean, however, that such ministrations are done at a distance, without becoming a part of the thing God has cursed. Our quest is to bring men higher, not to come lower.
God's call has consistently been "COME OUT." Abraham was called out (Gen 12:1-3). Lot was required to separate (Gen 19:22). Israel was admonished to separate, and not touch the unclean thing (Isa 52:11). When foretelling of the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus told the people to get out of the city before it came down (Matt 24:16). The call to "Come out!" is a perfectly reasonable one. To refuse to hear it, is to refuse to hear Jesus, which makes grace inaccessible.
Israel was called to go forth from Babylon, and separate from the Chaldeans (Isa 48:20; Jer 51:6,45). The text in Revelation is couched in this language and circumstance. Like Israel was captivated by ancient Babylon, so the people of God have been captured by spiritual Babylon. That captivity, is not intended to be uninterrupted. There comes a time when the people of God must vacate the confines of lifeless religion.
In our separation, we must "Remember Lot's wife" (Lk 17:32). She came out of Sodom physically, but her heart remained in it. For that reason, she did not get to the place of safety. From the heavenly view, she really did not come out. The same was true of Israel, when they came out of Egypt. The hearts of many of them remained in Egypt, even though they had exited it bodily. Stephen said of them, "And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt" (Acts 7:39).
Not To Be Done Perfunctorily
The Spirit is not calling people to a perfunctory separation from Babylon, but one of the heart. The call of the Lord to "COME" to Him, presumes we are leaving something (Matt 11:28; 22:4; Mk 8:34; 10:21; John 7:37). It infers a preoccupation with the Lord's Christ, and a hindering influence in Babylon. This is not a call to mere formality.
Thus our text does not say "LEAVE Babylon," but "COME out of her." The idea is that Jesus is NOT in Babylon. It is therefore unreasonable for His people to be there. As with the church at Laodicea, He is on the outside of this the "great city" (Rev 3:20). His people are to leave Babylon in order to obtain His fellowship and direction. The only reason to leave a lifeless realm is to obtain life. The only reason to leave a powerless domain is that we might obtain power. It is not possible to remain where Jesus is excluded, and still enjoy the benefits of His fellowship and blessing.
Reformation Not Possible Throughout history, there have been noble efforts expended to reform a dead church. The intention was commendable, but the objective was impossible. Wherever a valley of dry bones is found, resuscitation is not the need, but resurrection-and there is a difference. New life must be given, not the restoration of the old life. You will recall that the Spirit of God breathed upon the valley of dry bones, bringing them to newness of life (Ezek 37). God did not issue a revision of the Old Covenant, but brought in a new one, making the first "old" (Heb 8:13).
Not Just A Technical Point
This may appear to be a technical point, but it is not. The life of God does not die, and thus cannot be resuscitated. There is a vast difference between "transformation" and "reformation." Transformation presumes the need for new life. Reformation is a mere modification of something that exists.
When our Lord says, "Come out of her My people," it is assumed that Babylon cannot be changed. That is why the summons is given to leave it. Babylon has been so corrupted by the world that it is no longer salvageable. God's people must leave it, quite thinking like it, and cease from efforts to redirect it or reshape it.
Remember, we are speaking of a WAY of thinking more than an external organization or affiliation. It will not do simply to leave one church, so to speak, in favor of another, or to abandon one theological emphasis for another. The Lord is calling His people to abandon any worldly manner-to repudiate a religion that allows the world to remain in the central position.
Sharing Her Sins and Receiving Her Plagues
What a solemn warning! "Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues." The Lord has rejected Babylon, and determined its curse-but He does not desire to bring His people down with it. Unless they separate from the cursed thing, however, they will share in its fate! If Lot had not come out of Sodom, he would have died in the fiery judgment of it.
Not only do "evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor 15:33), they make one subject to Divine judgment. If the "spot" of the world is found upon us, we will suffer the judgment leveled against it. No wonder James affirmed, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).
It is for our protection that we come away from worldly principles, earthy thinking, and a life that is motivated by sight. Our senses must not be the directors of our religion, for God will not abide it. Nor, indeed, can human logic be accepted as the engine of thought. Appearance cannot become the essence of our religion. All of this is "Babylon the great."
The Judgment Is Determined
The judgment of God against lifeless and powerless religion is determined. Like the fall of ancient Babylon, the fall of spiritual Babylon cannot be averted. As Jerusalem was judged for its rejection of Christ, so will the "great city" be judged for its refusal to walk in His life and power. Babylon cannot do anything to change this judgment-it has already gone to far. The only hope is for God's people to leave "the great city" in preference for Christ Jesus. He will strengthen them to make the move, undergirding them every step of the way.
HER SINS REACHED INTO HEAVEN
"For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities." Again, the language is taken from Moses and the Prophets. This is a way of saying the time of judgment has come. It is also a way of saying the offenders have become so repulsive to God, He can no longer bear them. This is an aspect of the Lord that is unfamiliar to religious multitudes. They have been led to believe the longsuffering of God is endless. But they are wrong.
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because their sins had become "very grievous," coming up "unto" the Lord (Gen 18:20-21). Ezra fervently prayed for mercy from the Lord because he knew the "trespass" of Israel had "grown up into the heavens" (Ezra 9:6). The Lord sent Jonah to Nineveh because "their wickedness" had "come up before" Him (Jonah 1:2). This is another way of saying the cup of iniquity has become full (Gen 15:16). There came a time when the people in a plain in the land of Shinar went too far. They aspired to build a tower that reached into heaven, making a name for themselves. They thus pushed God's longsuffering to its limit, and He abruptly terminated their effort (Gen 11:1-8).
There Comes A Time
There does come a time when the longsuffering of an infinite God comes to an end. God is eternal, but His longsuffering is not! The Divine tolerance of sin and sinners by no means suggests they are acceptable. One aspect of the Lord's longsuffering is seen in His desire that all come to repentance. As it is written, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet 3:9). But this is NOT case with spiritual Babylon.
A word most appropriate for this situation is found in Romans 9:22-23. "What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory." The vessels of reference were not salvageable, yet were endured for the sake of "the vessels of mercy." It is the same principle revealed in the parable of the tares of the field. The tares, if removed prematurely, would cause the destruction of some wheat. At some point, the wheat and the tares were indistinguishable. So it is with "Babylon the great." There is a time when the people of God are scattered throughout the wicked city. But when the sin of Babylon reaches its fullness, and can no longer be endured by the Lord, her destruction will take place.
What, therefore, appears to be Divine toleration, is actually the filling of a cup of wrath by the unfaithful. The Lord is not kindly disposed toward Babylon at all, but only enduring her until her wicked ways reach their apex. This is precisely the circumstance Jesus described when He spoke of individuals who did not believe on Him. "He who does not believe is condemned already . . . He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:18,36). By saying the wrath of God "abides on him," the Lord means it hovers over the unbeliever like a storm cloud, ready to erupt at any moment. Some choose to identify that circumstance as God's love for the individual. Scripture rather represents it as the Divine toleration of the person. It is a subduing of the Divine nature which is offended and grieved by the very person endured. This is the circumstance with Babylon.
The Language of Jeremiah
The language of our text is couched in the language of the prophets. The prophesy of the fall of political Babylon is attended with language remarkably like that of our text. "We would have healed Babylon, But she is not healed. Forsake her, and let us go everyone to his own country; For her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies" (Jer 51:9). The children of Israel were held captives in Babylon, yet their circumstances remained somewhat tolerable. That captivity was not like the one they experienced in Egypt. Here, they were told to pray for the peace of the city in which they were held (Jer 29:7). The great prophet Daniel exercised remarkable influence during that captivity. Yet, with all of the prayers and influence, Babylon was not healed. It kept its gods, and maintained its godless ways.
Let it be clear, the failure of spiritual Babylon to be pleasing to God is not owing to a lack of exposure to truth. It is not because efforts have not been expended to change her, and infuse her with life. Countless multitudes of God's people cry out, "We would have healed Babylon!" The great Reformers would have healed her! Myriads within her institutional walls have sought her spiritual health. I doubt there has ever been a dead and lifeless church that has lacked a person burdened because of its condition. Both young and old, learned and unlearned, gifted and ungifted, have sought to heal Babylon. Yet it is as true with corrupt religion as it was with the corrupt government of Babylon of old: "SHE IS NOT HEALED!"
Now, after all of the effort spent on her healing, her judgment "reaches to heaven, and is lifted up to the skies." Her wickedness is confirmed by her failure to respond to those who would have healed her. The concerned were serious and fervent in their efforts. Their labors were extensive and prolonged, yet yielded no essential change in the institution for which they were concerned. Now God calls His people out of her. Judgment time has come! It cannot be circumvented, and no further labors will be allowed within Babylon. The time of Divine forbearance has come to a close!
An Unknown Kingdom Trait
This aspect of the Kingdom was affirmed by Jesus when He was among us. When He sent out the twelve he said, "And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!" (Matt 10:14). The same direction was given to the seventy. "But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you. But I say to you that it will be more" (Lk 10:10-12). I do not believe there is any word of Scripture that suggests this is now inappropriate.
Paul also followed this procedure. In Antioch of Pisidia, Paul reasoned extensively with the Jews of a local synagogue concerning Christ. When they rejected his words, Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly. "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46). Later, when adversarial Jews stirred up devote women and the chief men
of the city against Paul and Barnabas, they were expelled form the city. They did not seek to return. Rather, it is written, "they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium" (Acts 13:51).
Satan has persuaded some that modifying their message, reducing its power, will somehow produce conversion among sinners. Thus we hear of seeker-friendly churches and services. Some are audacious enough to remove any obvious reference to Christ and salvation in order to avoid offending the ungodly-those who are themselves an offense to God. In so doing, they have only identified themselves with Babylon the great. No such procedure has ever been followed by those sent by God. Moses, the holy Prophets, John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostles, are NEVER said to have adopted such a strategy. It is a human innovation.
It may be countered that Paul "became all things to all men" (1 Cor 9:22). In every case of record, however, this was done where the people already had a commitment to Christ, but were limited in their understanding. Paul shaved his head and took a temple vow to reach men who were already committed to the Lord, but lacked understanding (Acts 21:20-24). Neither Jesus nor Paul ever accommodated themselves to Pilate, Herod, or the Pharisees-even though they doubtless longed for their salvation.
Some Things Must Not Be Tolerated
Where religious corruption and a lack of devotion exist, no accommodation is allowed. Moses did not do it. The prophets did not do it. John the Baptist did not do it. Jesus did not do it. The Apostles did not do it. And, we must not do it. Our hearts long for the enlightenment and healing of Babylon. We are not content with its lifeless institutionalism and spiritual pretension. Yet it remains true, and we must acknowledge it, "she is not healed!" She has not changed, and has not improved. She remains unfaithful and corrupt.
REPAY HER DOUBLE!
"Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her." Were it not for the extended word of the Lord on this subject, it would be difficult, indeed, to remain on this theme. However, we are being exposed to the heart of the Lord, and we do well to seek grace to take hold of His message. Just as He has strong attractions to His people, He is repulsed by Babylon.
In keeping with the law of sowing and reaping, Babylon will reap a harvest that exceeds what she has sown. It will be in the precise measure of her corruption. Jesus spoke of this principle in Matthew 7:1. "and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." The allusion is to a device used to measure grain, or some other commodity-something like a scoop. Our text affirms what the Lord gives to Babylon will be "as she herself has rendered" (RSV). She was aggressive in her rejection of the truth-God will be aggressive in His rejection of her. She was assertive in her opposition of the saints, her enemies will be assertive in their opposition to her.
In her wickedness, Babylon actually determined her own judgment. She decided the measure and extent of her condemnation, and did so willingly and heartily. Precisely the same means of measure she used against the Lord's people, He will use against her.
The Prophet's Use of "Double"
The use of the word "double" is taken from the prophets. It denotes an adequate and final measure. Isaiah used it in this manner. (Isa 40:2). "For she has received from the Lord's hand Double for all her sins" In this case, Israel had suffered enough, and was going to be reclaimed. In our text, the suffering is to come, and Babylon will not recover. In particular, Jeremiah employed this language in his prophecies of the overthrow of Babylon of old. "And first I will repay double for their iniquity and their sin, because they have defiled My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable and abominable idols" (Jer 16:18). Taking hold of the reality of these words, Jeremiah prayed against Babylon, using the same language. "Bring on them the day of doom, And destroy them with double destruction!" (Jer 17:18).
This, then, is not a mathematical measure, but one of justice-Divine justice. Let it be clear, the mercy of God does not obliterate His justice. The fact that Jesus Christ has inducted an era of grace does not remove the "day of wrath" (Job 21;30; Rom 2:5). It is not pleasant to contemplate such things, but it is necessary to do so. God's wrath will be poured out upon corrupt religion and the adulterous church. It will be in copious measures, and without mercy. That is why God's people are called to "Come out of her." It is for their own protection that they are summoned away from the cursed thing.
SHE HAS GLORIFIED HERSELF
"In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow."
Started at Laodicea
The beginning of this prideful attitude was seen in the church in Laodicea. Thinking itself to be thoroughly adequate, that church said, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (Rev 3:17). It is not that this was the official statement of the Laodiceans-it is their perspective. Jesus was reading their hearts. This was apparently an opulent church, recognized as being large and flourishing-much like many mega-churches of our day. The glory she possessed, however, was from herself, not the Lord. Hers was not the glory of the day of Pentecost when 3,000 gladly received the Word, and were baptized (Acts 2:41).
Christ's assessment of this church differed from its own evaluation. He said it
was it was "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Thinking it had no need, this church actually had nothing, and needed everything. They were bereft of Divine benefits, and were surviving without heaven's resources. Jesus gave them very pointed direction. "Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see" (Rev 3:18).
History confirms the professed church did not learn from the Laodicean situation. It did not "hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Spiritual Babylon is nothing less than an extension of the devilish spirit that surfaced in the church at Laodicea.
The Spirit of the Evil One
The spirit that characterizes Babylon is the very spirit of Satan. He is the first who sought to glorify himself. Of him, the Lord said, "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" (Isa 14:13-14). Although he was once "the anointed cherub," the Lord said of the devil, "Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor" (Ezek 28:17).
This is the spirit that pervades spiritual Babylon. It exalts self at the expense of Christ's glory. Its glory is in what it has done, not what the Lord has done. That is a sin of enormous magnitude, and will not long be tolerated by the Living God.
When the Gospel was first preached, the essential message was "the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11). The good news, or Gospel, is embodied in "Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1). When it comes to accomplishments, the real church glories in the achievements of the Son of God.
But it is not so with Babylon. She "glorified herself," in flagrant contradiction of the Divine mandate that "no flesh should glory in His Presence" (1 Cor 1:29). She spoke of herself, not her Lord, and sought her own glory instead that of the One to Whom all glory is due. It is for this reason that judgment will come upon her.
There is a cunning lure to this type of religion. Which of us has not felt its tug upon our hearts? It is a religion that "takes pride in appearance, and not in heart" (2 Cor 5:12). Those who live by faith "look not at the things which are seen" (2 Cor 4:18). It is not that they should not, but that they DO NOT! But it is NOT so with "Babylon the great." Its strength is its appearance. Take that away, and she is unimpressive. In this, she differs radically from the Lord Jesus. Of Him it is written, "He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him" (Isa 53:2-3). This is how the world saw Jesus. He did not fit into its mold, or reflect its values.
But it is not so with Babylon. She fits into the world. Her glorying, or boasting, is after the worldly manner. Her ministers are recognized by the world. Her music is popular with the world. Her institutional approach to things is perceived as good, and her boastful manners are not at all offensive to "the enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil 3:18).
Flesh can produce a confidence that causes both individual and institution to imagine they are invincible. Babylon says, "A queen I sit, I am no widow, mourning I shall never see." Like Nineveh of old, Babylon reasons, "I am and there is none else" (Zeph 2:15). Like Jericho, it trusts in its walls-the work of its own hand. Its own achievements are the source of its confidence. The Divine observation is arresting, "she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously." Now, her destruction will be in the same measure-she gave herself a lot of glory, now God will pour a lot of judgment upon her.
THE INCARNATION OF PRIDE
Babylon is nothing less than the incarnation of pride. It is pride brought to its fulness: flesh glorying in religious garb.
God has pledged He will break all pride (Lev 26:19; Jer 23:9). Because of pride, men will NOT seek after God, excluding Him even from their thoughts (Psa 10:4). The fear of the Lord will now allow for pride. It even constrains the individual to hate it (Prov 8:13). With pride comes shame and disgrace (Prov 11:2), as well as contention and strife (Prov 13:10).
There is a deception in pride that is lethal, setting the Almighty against those possessing it. The Prophet Obadiah spoke with great clarity on this matter. "The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, whose dwelling is high, who say in your heart, 'Who will bring me down to the ground?' Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, thence I will bring you down, says the LORD" (Obad 3-4).
This is precisely what we are seeing in the Revelation-the casting down of a religious institution driven and fed by pride. Such deceiving religion leads people to ignore realities like the day of judgment, accountability to God, and the coming of the Lord. That is why those subjects are rarely mentioned within Babylon's walls. It is not that men have merely forgotten about those facts. They simply have no place in their scheme of religion, and that is why they do not speak of them. They really have no relevance to the institutional program, and are therefore placed on the shelf for theological relics-something from a bygone day. Babylon does not have a message that makes people conscious of eternity. That is not where its life is anchored, and therefore little is said about it. All of this is inspired by the devil.
The Lure of Canaan
When the Lord delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, He held out more than simply being free from enslavement. They left Egypt to inhabit Canaan, "a land flowing with milk and honey". Repeatedly, this land was held out as an incentive to the ancient people (Ex 3;8,17; 13:5; 33:3; Lev 20:24; Deut 6:3; 11:9; 26:15; 27:3; 31:20; Josh 5:6). Godly Joseph, in anticipation of a deliverance that would come long after he had died said, "God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence" (Gen 50:25).
Godly People Wait Expectantly
Godly men like Joshua and Caleb patiently waited for the promised land, even if their unbelieving brethren die in the wilderness (Num 14:30,38; 26:65; 32:11-12; Josh 14:6,13). The contemplation of the promised land sustained those saints, enabling them to keep believing, and continue going while others failed. Their expectation enabled them to survive.
Spiritual Babylon has no such incentives. It does not hold "the world to come" before the people, because it is at home in "this present evil world." This world is where it feels at home, and this world is where it belongs. That is what makes it "Babylon."
Wherever an overestimation of the flesh exists and is fostered in the name of Christ, there you have "Babylon the great." When men glory in their own achievements, and are made confident by their own religious accomplishments, Babylon is in control. When men insist on being identified as "Christian," yet entertain no prevailng interest in eternal things, the "great harlot" is dominating. Where a reigning active Christ is irrelevant, yet the shell of religion remains, you have "the great city." It is preeminently a way of thinking, but does reveal itself through institutionalism. It allows the individual to remain a part of the world order, while at the same time wearing the name of Jesus. This is iniquity in its worst and most subtle form. It lulls men into "the sleep of death" (Psa 13:3), and deceives like Delilah did Samson.
BABYLON FALLS QUICKLY
"Therefore her plagues will come in one day; death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her." It will not take Babylon long to fall. Once the judgment of God is leveled against something, its demise is immediate. The entire population of the world, saving Noah and his family, was obliterated in less than 150 days (Gen 7:17-24). The remarkable unity of the people devoted to building the tower of Babel was instantly destroyed, and the building project abandoned (Gen 11:8). Sodom and Gomorrah, and the productive cities of the plan were utterly destroyed in a single day (Gen 19:25,28-29). Egypt's entire army was eradicated in the brief time it took the waters of the Red Sea to return to their normal course (Ex 14:28). Sennacherib's army of 185,000 was annihilated in a single night (2 Kgs 19:35). The Lord can, indeed, bring an abrupt conclusion to evil that has dominated for centuries!
Again, this type of language was introduced by the prophets. It speaks of Divine judgment that is certain, and will be thoroughly effective. Isaiah said, "But these two things shall come to you In a moment, in one day: The loss of children, and widowhood. They shall come upon you in their fullness Because of the multitude of your sorceries, For the great abundance of your enchantments" (Isa 47:9). In one judgment against Judah, "Pekah the son of Remaliah killed one hundred and twenty thousand in Judah in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers" (2 Chron 28:6).
This is the manner in which God spoke of the fall of Babylon of old. "Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD'S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad. Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed" (Jer 51:7-8).
This is language that depicts a sudden and overwhelming reversal. One day the adversary dominates, the next day he is gone. One day the saints are oppressed, the next day their oppressor is gone.
The language is vivid, and no doubt offensive to the flesh. Those who insist on maintaining an accommodating view of God that makes no allowance for wrath, will be repulsed by these words. They are not intended to be crude, but reflective of the seriousness of offending God Almighty. "Therefore her plagues will come in one day; death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire." Four judgments are mentioned, each of them appropriate for the situation.
DEATH, because she scorned the very idea of being a widow: "I sit as queen, and am no widow." MOURNING, because she reveled in her spiritual decadence and affirmed she would "not see sorrow." FAMINE, because "glorified herself and lived luxuriously." She will also be UTTERLY BURNED WITH FIRE because of her fornication. This was the judgment against the daughter of any priest who played the harlot. As it is written, "The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire" (Lev 21:9).
There Is A Reason
In my judgment, the reason for this graphic language is to confirm the wickedness of a religion of form without power. It also verifies that such has NOT gone unnoticed by the Lord of glory. Even though such lifelessness flourishes in the religious world, and men tend to overlook it, Divine judgment has been pronounced against it. The judgment is not casual or ordinary.
Only those who have in some way been oppressed by "Babylon the great" will derive comfort from this message. To others, swept up in the current or popular religion, the whole message is confusing and uninteresting. But for believers that are "companions in tribulation," there is a comforting note in this communication. It is a sweet sound to the souls under the altar, and to those who have been rejected by religion because of their faith in and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Their joy is not in their personal vindication, but in the triumph of Christ and His truth.
When we read "Babylon is fallen, is fallen," we are not reading of something momentary. It is not a fall like that of the devil and his angels, who continue to harass the saints. Nor, indeed, is it a fall like the reprobate, who leave the faith, yet corrupt the earth with their presence. This is a fall like that which the whole cursed order will experience. Isaiah referred to this type of fall in his book. "The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, And shall totter like a hut; Its transgression shall be heavy upon it, And it will fall, and not rise again" (Isa 24:20).
This is the type of all that has been heralded-a final demise and absolute removal from any kind of fleshly prominence. It will be removed from the religious arena like the heathen nations were removed from Canaan. It will be judged before the sight of others like the cities of the plain were removed in the "vengeance of eternal life" (Jude 7).
The reason for this judgment ought to be clear. Babylon the great-corrupt and powerless religion-has defied the Living God. With purpose and consistency, it has rejected the Person and agenda of the reigning Christ. Not content with that rejection, it has concocted dogmas that appear to justify its lifelessness. It has also adopted a program that does not require Divine power. It can run on human energy and ingenuity alone.
Spiritual Babylon is to the real church like Korah was to Moses. This rebel, joining with other rebellious spirits, "rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, 'You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?'" (Num 16:2-3). They were an impressive assembly, indeed. While appearing to be influential for a brief period, the Lord ultimately judged Korah and those with him. The earth, as though itself siding against these insurrectionists, "opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly" (Num 16:32-33).
Thus Babylon the great, the great harlot, has risen to contest the reign of Jesus. It is driven by the devil, and is more a frame of mind than an identifiable institution. There is no town too small for its influence, and no city too large for it to dominate.
No person is excluded from its influence. It pervades both government and business, and has a carnal beauty about it. It can operate in the country and in the city. It can compel an individual or an institution. It is a dreadful attempt to combine both curse and blessing, and temporal and eternal. It is lifeless, and therefore powerless to effect any change for good. It cannot bring a single person to God, or produce a solitary spiritual thought. It is utterly impotent spiritually.
The best way for the saints to avoid the influence and ensnarement of Babylon is to develop an aversion for this present evil world. It is to press close to the Savior, culture a love and appetite for the truth, and set their affection on things above. In doing this, they will rob Babylon of its power against them. The Lord Jesus will side with such, empowering them to stand against the most subtle approaches of the adversary. Thus, they will be oriented for glory, and prepared for the fall of all that is false. When Satan's fabrication falls, they will lose nothing.
The Lord Has Much to Offer
All of this is presented against the backdrop of a "great salvation." That salvation has been purchased at great cost, and hammered out in the crucible of unspeakable suffering. It is offered without any Divine reluctance to "whosoever will." No individual or congregation is powerless because of a deficiency in Christ's work. Spiritual lifelessness in any degree, whether in a person or an institution, cannot be explained satisfactorily. Only unbelief and delusion can produce an unacceptable state.
Babylon has arisen because of an unfocused and unfaithful church. It is a strong delusion, sent by God, because of obstinance-a refusal to receive the love of the truth. As in other curses, countless innocent people have suffered in the wake of this delusion. Many of the saints have been opposed, and even killed, by false religion. Countless others have walked through life with heavy hearts, watering their beds with their tears, because of the corruption of the church. This is not something to be taken lightly, or treated as though it has little or no relevance.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem that was only briefly exposed to His presence. What must be His reaction toward a decadent church that is living in the midst of the day of salvation? How must holy angels view the development of spiritual corruption in a "day" when the grace of God has been poured out copiously, and the Holy Spirit lavished upon the people of God. How can men explain a commitment to spiritual deadness when the well of the water of life is so readily accessible? With remission, empowerment, Divine fellowship, and continual access to God available, why do religious men court the world? In a day when "all are taught by God," what would provoke those so sorely needing such instruction to seek wisdom from the world?
"Babylon the great" is responsible for the promotion of form without power, and having a name that one is alive, but actually being dead. It moves men to settle down in the very realm that has been cursed. It advances a form of religion that ignores the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of Christ, and the coming of the Lord Jesus.
Do not marvel at such an extensive commentary on the fall of Babylon the great! It is a monstrosity on the landscape of life that comes to steal, kill, and destroy. It is a system of pretension that makes a profession, but has no possession. It can only flourish where faith is suppressed and the love of the truth refused.