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Bible verses about Babylonish System
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Ancient Babylon is the model for the Woman of Revelation 17 and 18. Was ancient Babylon only a church? No! Ancient Babylon was both a city and nation that manufactured, conducted business, and made war. Did it have its brands of religion? Of course it did. However, Babylon was far more—it was a highly developed, complete, anti-God culture founded by Nimrod and developed to its ancient peak of power by Nebuchadnezzar.

The end-time Mystery, Babylon the Great, will be the same complete package, only far greater in terms of its influence and power because these are now worldwide. It is Babylon the Great. Most of us reading this article live in the end-time epitome of Babylon.

The name "Mystery" has an interesting aspect. Conservative, Protestant commentaries all make a point to say the Woman is the Catholic Church. If that is true, then everybody—even commentators who lived hundreds of years ago—already seems to know who she is. Where is the mystery?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character


 

Genesis 11:6-9

This is the legacy of Nimrod (which means "let us revolt"): a place he called Babilu, called by the Hebrews "Babel." It was a place of revolution. It was the administrative center of his revolution against God, and thus we can see why some interpreters translate that word "before" in Genesis 10:9 as "against." Even though "before" is literally correct, Nimrod was standing before the Lord as an enemy. God's scattering of the builders reveals Nimrod's, and therefore Babylon's, attitude toward God.

From this point Babylon became a worldwide political, military, economic, and religious system bearing the same basic attitudes as its founder. It can be a nation or a system, but its core characteristic that is against the Lord. Babylon became the Bible's code word for what its New Testament writers call "the world." As they used the Greek term cosmos, it is an organized worldwide system opposed to God. Just as surely as Nimrod was opposed to God, Babylon is an organized worldwide system opposed to God. It is a culture that is anti-Christ, anti-God, and it is everywhere!

This is what the context shows in Genesis 11. The people scattered from the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, taking much of the antagonistic-to-God culture with them, and each language group adapted it to some degree to their ethnic traditions. Undoubtedly, each group altered it somewhat, but secular evidence reveals a common strain connecting all civilizations worldwide to the Tigris-Euphrates region. It is the womb of man's civilization.

It took centuries for the people to migrate to and to settle in their new lands, but occur it did. And so the pattern of worldly government after the Flood was established in Genesis 10 and Genesis 11. God even foreshadows in Genesis 6 that it would rise again: "There were giants [Nephilim] on the earth in those days, and also afterward." Nimrod was the greatest of those Nephilim.

Even though this spread worldwide, not everybody migrated. Some people remained in Babylon, and through the centuries, they became the Babylonian nation. The Chaldeans dominated them. Babylon was the name of their capital city. Hammurabi was one of their great early kings, but later, Nebuchadnezzar became Babylon's greatest king. He was given the dream of a great image, and Daniel informed him that he, Nebuchadnezzar, represented the head of gold (Daniel 2:38).

Each of the other portions of that image represented powerful kingdoms that, in terms of time, would follow Babylon in dominating the Western world through the centuries: Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. They did not dominate the entire world—perhaps they could have—but there is no doubt they dominated the part of the world that the Bible is concerned with, the one that the Israelitish descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live in.

But because the head represented Babylon—and the head directs the entire body—the image in Daniel 2 also shows the continuation of the same general Babylonish system right to its end, represented by the feet and the toes. In other words, that image shows that the pattern established under Nimrod continues right down to today.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 2)


 

Deuteronomy 30:19

God wants us to be fulfilled in life by following His way ("choose life," He says in Deuteronomy 30:19). He tells us what not to eat and warns us against gluttony and overdrinking. He tells us when and where to worship and who to fellowship with. His law even covers clothing, strongly urging modesty. Its principles reach into every aspect of life. Israel has been unfaithful to things similar to this and many more.

God's way is alluringly confronted and challenged on every side by what the New Testament calls the "world" (Greek cosmos). Cosmos means an organized system, but one opposed to the way of God's commandment. Babylon, meaning "confusion"—confusion regarding a way of life—is the Bible's code name for that system. God charges us in Revelation 18:4 to come out of that confused system, and the only way we can do that is to quit practicing Babylon's ways of doing things in the worship of its gods.

Israel, however, lives for the moment and for as much immediate gratification as possible. As a whole, she does not believe God and is afraid to pay the costs to break away and be peculiar or distinctive in a right way. She finds it easier to be like everyone else and be willingly accepted on the world's terms rather than her Husband's.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character


 

2 Kings 17:6

Israel was defeated by Assyria even before Babylonian Empire arose to full strength, and it was taken captive to Assyria. But not long thereafter, they migrated, along with the Assyrians, settling eventually in central and northwest Europe. They began arriving and settling there long before Rome continued the Babylonish system. Another migration began when the Jews were defeated by Babylon and taken in captivity into Babylon.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 2)


 

2 Kings 17:33

This chapter reports on the behavior of the people placed in Israel after Israel's conquest and deportation by Assyria between 722-720 BC. These people, who became known as the Samaritans, feared the Lord but worshipped their own gods. They were afraid of God, but they did not really change their way of life. Thus, they developed a syncretic religious system, a blending of the truth of God and outright paganism. The Jews of Christ's day clearly recognized this putrid blend and despised the Samaritans for it.

What is so interesting is that, by verse 36, God is no longer reporting on the Samaritans but is addressing Israel. In other words, God is saying that He was driven to defeat and scatter Israel because they were guilty of exactly the same sin as the Samaritans! They too had blended the worship of the true God with outright paganism, utterly corrupting the relationship He had established with them.

It is urgent that we understand what is involved here because it reveals the cause of God's anger that led to Israel's defeat and scattering. We must understand that our god is not what we say we worship but what we serve. Our god is what we give our lives over to.

Theoretically, the Israelites did not believe in idols, but in reality, they did. They believed in a Creator God, but they worshipped Him at the shrines they erected to the Baals. While they gave lip service to the Creator, they adopted most of the Canaanitish religion with its lewd immorality, and in actual practice, patterned their life after it. In daily life, they conformed to and reflected the Babylonish system just as Israel does today. This is exactly what God warns us to flee, and the only way to come out of it is by developing and maturing in our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year


 

Daniel 2:38

Each of the other portions of this image represent powerful kingdoms that, in terms of time, would follow Babylon in dominating the Western world through the centuries: Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. They did not dominate the entire world—perhaps they could have—but there is no doubt they dominated the part of the world that the Bible is concerned with, the one that the Israelitish descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived in.

But because the head represents Babylon—and the head directs the entire body—the image in Daniel 2 also shows the continuation of the same general Babylonish system right to the end of the kingdom represented by the feet and the toes. In other words, that image shows that the pattern established under Nimrod continues right on down until today.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 2)


 

Hosea 10:1-2

Hosea exposes the problem between God and Israel. He describes Israel as a luxuriant grape vine sending runners in every direction, indicating a bountiful crop. It indeed produces great material prosperity, but it is consumed through self-indulgent gorging. This is God's way of showing that Israel abused its prosperity: It used its prosperity for the purposes of idolatry. Its prosperity played a part in corrupting the Israelites' hearts, which is why Hosea mentions the divided or disloyal heart in context with its bountiful fruit.

A large part of this world's appeal is its offer of financial security. However, God shows there is a possible harmful, secondary effect: As people become financially secure, their attention is diverted from His purpose to vain and unimportant things. In other words, prosperity turns people's heads. There is no doubt that prosperity is good, but unless one is properly focused and disciplined, it can also be a demanding master because of its power to distract one into idolatry. Recall God's prophecy in Deuteronomy 32:15, predicting that when Israel prospered, then it would rebel.

This connects with the curse of Laodiceanism because God shows in the Laodiceans what can happen spiritually as people increase materially. Because such people are drunk through riches' deceptive promise, their judgment is in danger of being radically altered. The Laodicean evaluates himself, saying, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17).

He is deceived into thinking that his material prosperity proves that God approves of his conduct and attitudes. His overall conduct may not be too bad, but his poor self-analysis persuades him that he has no urgent need to seek God any further. He then merely floats, going through the motions, even feeling good about himself as he neglects so great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). His opinion of his holiness as compared with God's judgment is so far off base, it causes Jesus Christ to regurgitate him from His body.

Recall the mention in Hosea 10:1 of increasing and embellishing altars just before Israel fell to Assyria. One would think that, if altars increase during this period of prosperity, then religion is flourishing. Indeed, religion flourished, as Amos, Hosea's contemporary, clearly reports (see Amos 5:21-27). However, it was not the religion God gave through Moses, but idolatry that flourished! It was a corruption of that religion, for the Israelites syncretized that holy way with Baalism and other idolatries.

In Hosea 10:2, God charges Israel with having a divided heart. Commentaries are at odds over what the Hebrew word translated divided means. Most modern translations use "false," "deceitful," or "faithless," and none of these are wrong, including "divided." The Hebrew word suggests "smoothness" or "flattering," describing people who "talk the talk" but do not "walk the walk."

Isaiah 29:13 clarifies what God means: "Therefore the LORD said: 'Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.'" Their reverence for Him was mere intellectual accommodation intended to appease Him. They used the name of God frequently, saying they trusted Him, but they filled the nation with stealing, lying, and murder.

II Kings 17:33 illustrates their worship: "They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods - according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away." This describes to a T what Israel did then and their descendants are continuing to do today. Moffatt renders this, "They worshipped the Eternal, and they also served their own gods."

This chapter reports on the behavior of the people placed in Israel after Israel's conquest and deportation by Assyria between 722-720 BC. These people, who became known as the Samaritans, feared the Lord but worshipped their own gods. They were afraid of God, but they did not really change their way of life. Thus, they developed a syncretic religious system, a blending of the truth of God and outright paganism. The Jews of Christ's day clearly recognized this putrid blend and despised the Samaritans for it.

What is so interesting is that, by verse 36, God is no longer reporting on the Samaritans but is addressing Israel. In other words, God is saying that He was driven to defeat and scatter Israel because they were guilty of exactly the same sin as the Samaritans! They too had blended the worship of the true God with outright paganism, utterly corrupting the relationship He had established with them.

It is urgent that we understand what is involved here because it reveals the cause of God's anger that led to Israel's defeat and scattering. We must understand that our god is not what we say we worship but what we serve. Our god is what we give our lives over to.

Theoretically, the Israelites did not believe in idols, but in reality, they did. They believed in a Creator God, but they worshipped Him at the shrines they erected to the Baals. While they gave lip service to the Creator, they adopted most of the Canaanitish religion with its lewd immorality, and in actual practice, patterned their life after it. In daily life, they conformed to and reflected the Babylonish system just as Israel does today. This is exactly what God warns us to flee, and the only way to come out of it is by developing and maturing in our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year


 

Amos 3:1-2

This statement of relationship is vital to Babylon's end-time identification. Only Israel of all nations has been coupled to God through a binding covenant likened to a marriage. A marriage covenant implies an intimacy limited only to those making the covenant. Israel alone of all nations has rightly earned the title "the Great Whore," as she alone came to know God through His revelation of Himself to her. In the biblical sense, a whore is a woman unfaithful to a covenant or to revealed standards. Israel alone had God's way of life so intimately revealed to her.

No other nation in all the history of mankind entered into a covenant with Him, vowing that all He said she would do. Thus, she alone of all nations was unfaithful to that exclusive union. God provides many proofs of her unfaithfulness and records of how He dealt with it in the prophetic and historical books. The biblical facts, when combined with the external evidence of history, point to end-time Israel. Most reading this article live in Israel and are commanded to come out of end-time Babylon, thus the concern over the Great Harlot's identification.

A number of times during the course of these articles, Babylon has been referred to as a "system." Babylon is a system, an anti-God way of doing things, but it is characterized most specifically in a particular nation. This nation, the focus of the Babylonian system and the one that most effectively influences other nations to follow it, is also identified as "Babylon." Thus, Babylon is both. Protestant commentaries, however, almost unanimously refer to Babylon as a system.

Some evangelical Protestant organizations focus a considerable amount of attention to biblical prophecy, but most of them are weak in several areas of understanding. Perhaps the most glaringly important is the identity of modern Israel - almost all of them say Israel is limited to the Jews. Their interpretations of prophecy, then, are slanted toward that tiny, New-Jersey-sized, Middle Eastern nation of less than ten million people. They overlook almost entirely that, at the time of the scattering, the twelve tribes of Israel were two distinct nations, each having its own land, capital city, and government.

The ten-tribed nation of Israel in the north, dominated by the Joseph tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, had its capital city in Samaria. It can be claimed that the name "Israel" belongs to these two Joseph tribes because Jacob ordained Ephraim and Manasseh to carry it (Genesis 48:16). To the south of Israel, the remaining two tribes, Judah and Benjamin - thereafter called the Jews - had their capital city in Jerusalem. II Kings 16-18 makes this two-nation fact clear. Both nations also had the priestly tribe, Levi, scattered among them, for the Levites were never given land to support themselves.

When God's time to act came in the eighth century BC, He strengthened and sent the Assyrian nation to conquer the northern ten tribes. The Israelites were taken into captivity, became assimilated amongst their conquerors, and migrated with them as time went on. Israel never returned to be reunited with the Jews. History combined with biblical clues places them in northern and northwest Europe, and also in the colonies the Anglo-Saxon peoples established in other parts of the world.

However, God dealt somewhat differently with the Jews. At the end of the seventh century BC, He raised up and sent the Babylonian nation to conquer and take the Jews into captivity. However, after 70 years, because of prophecies involving the coming Messiah to come out of Judah, a remnant of Jews returned to Judea, reestablishing themselves as a nation in Palestine.

Two thousand six hundred years later, at the time of the end, we find Israelitish people scattered all over the world and a small number of Jews back in the ancestral homeland God originally gave to all the tribes of Israel.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation


 

Habakkuk 1:5-7

This prophecy concerns the economic, political, and military machinations that will occur as the end approaches, but these maneuvers end with the return of Christ. Many parallel prophecies are fulfilled during the same period, for instance, the appearance of the Two Witnesses and their work. Even God declares that what He is going to bring to pass will be astounding, partly because it runs counter to what most believe could happen. Nonetheless, God will have His Two Witnesses expounding upon these prophecies and warning all who are willing to listen that a new world order is being ushered in through the tumultuous, worldwide events of the end-time "Axial Period."

It will not be the "New World Order" of human dreams, but Christ will return and continue to develop this new, God-devised revolution. The Babylonian image, which has governed and influenced the world since the sixth century BC, will be smashed on its feet, but the entire system will fragment into millions of pieces and be blown away into the dustbin of history, replaced by the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy and the Sixth-Century Axial Period


 

Habakkuk 1:5

Secular historians believe that what happened in the sixth century BC is marvelous almost beyond belief. Events of that magnitude do not happen that swifty in such a short period of time. We have seen evidence, however, in God's Word of what happened and why it happened that way. God Himself did it to bring about a radical change in the history of man. Since God did it, it was part of His purpose.

In Habakkuk, He is speaking about a work He will do that is so amazing that "If I told you, Habakkuk, what I am going to do, you would not believe it." What is that amazing work? God is going to turn the world upside down again, only this time He will replace the nations with the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 3)


 

Ephesians 2:2

In Ephesians 2:2, Paul writes of "the course of this world." The Greek word kosmos, translated into the English word "world," essentially means an "orderly system." To human eyes beholding all the activity throughout the earth, the world looks anything but orderly. It looks confusing, to say the least. However, that conclusion depends on one's perspective.

What is going on to discerning eyes, the eyes of one to whom God has revealed Himself, is an orderly system of deception cloaked by restless activity among humans involved in constant wars, thousands of religions, evil conduct, corrupting entertainments, and other distracting, time-wasting business and social vanities. All of this restless activity is in reality nothing but a smokescreen hiding a sinister influence from discovery.

Notice something to which we generally do not pay much attention. The word "world" appears as the object of the preposition "of." This prepositional phrase modifies "course," showing us that Paul is speaking of a specific "course" available to us to choose from among others. The Greek word translated "course," aion, is especially interesting. At first, it indicates "an age," "an indefinite period of time," and by extension, "perpetuity."

However, Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words provides an interesting alternative, saying that it also means, "Time viewed in relation to what takes place during that period" (emphasis added). Aion, then, does not have to mean simply "time" in some form: Vine shows that it is correctly translated "place" in Hebrews 5:6. Other commentators go into greater detail, but we will quote only two highly respected ones that other commentators frequently cite as authorities.

First, Richard C. Trench is a resource virtually every commentator eventually quotes on the definitions of biblical words. He defines aion as:

. . . all that floating mass of thought, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims and aspirations at any time current in the world, which is impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitutes a most real and effective power, being our moral or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably exhale.

Aion, translated as "course" in Ephesians 2:2, is the vague, ever-present immaterial realm that we are surrounded by and live in. It is interesting that Trench ties his definition to air, in that, even as we unconsciously breathe air in and out to sustain life, the course of the world is every bit as necessary to carnal life and is affecting us invisibly and constantly.

Second, Johann A. Bengel adds that aion is ". . . the subtle informing spirit of the Kosmos, or world of men who are living alienated and apart from God." This is what Germans termed zeitgeist, the spirit of the age—the "informing spirit"! The term "spirit" is used to indicate the invisible, immaterial influence whose characteristics are absorbed and then manifested in the attitudes and conduct of the general population of a given people.

An American commentator, Kenneth Wuest, is very helpful at this juncture:

To distinguish between aion and kosmos, kosmos gives the over-all picture of mankind alienated from God during all of history, and aion represents any distinct age or period of human history as marked out from another by particular characteristics.

Course in Roget's International Thesaurus, under the heading "tendency," has such synonyms as "thoughts," "zeitgeist," "spirit," "disposition," "character," "nature," "makeup," "bent," "slant," "frame of mind," "attitude," "inclination," "mind-set," "drift," "perspective," and many more. It may be easier to understand "course of this world" by rephrasing it into statements such as, "according to the disposition of this world"; "according to the character of this world"; "according to the nature of this world"; "according to the makeup of this world"; "according to the mindset, drift, or perspective of this world."

This is the spirit from which we must be converted. It is the unseen foundation and fountain of our pre-conversion conduct, and it is the same spirit still motivating us when we act carnally or in the flesh. Despite conversion, it remains within us, compressed like a spring that is ready to jump into action and influence our conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part One)


 

1 John 2:15-16

These verses are a basic guideline to the alluring heart of the Babylonish system. This system has its basis in human nature. It feeds right into our desire for frequent change and variety of experience as the answer to fulfillment in life, but the Bible clearly reveals God drawing His children into His oneness.

Babylon promotes fulfillment in material things, excitement and gratification of the flesh, and variety of experience. These major fruits are easily seen in the world around us as confusion of purpose. People do not know where they are going. They are bouncing in every different direction. There is competition, hitting heads with one another. There is disunity and diversity everywhere. There is disharmony, fighting with one's neighbor. There is separation from each other and eventually from God and ultimately the separation of death. The result is that the world is not a happy place to live in.

None of these factors that are part of the allurement of Babylon can give a lasting sense of peace, fulfillment, abundant living, and purpose in life because none of them is in constant harmony with the purpose of God. Each of these things, though they may not be sin of and by themselves, can only produce a temporary burst of well-being.

Many, many times, God instructed Israel against this proclivity. They were to seek out only Him in His only habitation in Jerusalem. But Israel is disastrously curious and terribly smitten with the discontented, unsettled, impatient "grass is always greener" disease.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

1 John 2:15-16

These verses provide a basic guideline for avoiding entrapment by this alluring heart of the Babylonish system. Since this system has its basis in human nature, it feeds right into the desires for frequent change and variety of experience as the answers to fulfillment in life. The Bible, however, clearly reveals God drawing His children into His oneness, which is diametrically opposed to the world's system. It promotes fulfillment in material things, excitement, gratification of the flesh, and variety of religious experience. Its major fruits are easily seen in the world around us as confusion of purpose, competition, disharmony, disunity, separation from each other and God, and death.

The result is that this world is not a happy place to live in. None of these factors can give a lasting sense of peace, fulfillment, and abundant living because none of them harmonizes with the purpose of God. They can only produce a temporary burst of emotional well-being or satisfaction.

God instructed Israel often and in many ways against this proclivity. They were to seek only Him in His only habitation in Jerusalem. Israel, though, is disastrously curious and incautious and filled with discontented, unsettled, impatient, "grass is always greener" yearnings.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 

Revelation 13:1-18

Chapter 13 begins with a very colorful, almost overpowering, vision showing an overview of the political system that Satan works through.

There is just enough given here to connect this with the Daniel 2 and 7. What arises in Revelation 13 actually has its beginnings long before Jesus Christ, all the way back to Nimrod, showing a definite time progression. This is the system that rears its head at the end time, but the vision is given so that we will understand that this is the system that Satan has always worked through.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 13:1-10

For many years, we have maintained that a great power, which the Bible calls "the Beast," will rise out of Europe as the last reincarnation of the Roman Empire (Revelation 13:1-10; 17:1-13). As described in Daniel 2:40-43, it has ten "toes," composed of iron and clay and divided on two "feet" - Eastern and Western Europe, we have interpreted - as the Roman Empire was similarly divided. This Beast power would dominate the world politically and militarily (Daniel 11:36-39), bringing on the "time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time" (Daniel 12:1).

Present-day Europe, however, appears particularly unqualified for such a role, which opens up a few possibilities:

1. The Beast is not European. Our long-held understanding is hard to toss aside because the biblical clues seem to fit the Europe-based Roman and Holy Roman Empires so squarely. If Europe or the EU is not the Beast power, then it must surely have a European component.

2. Christ's return is farther off than we think. Europe is so weak - militarily, in particular - that it could take years for its war machine to grow to world domination. In particular, Europe is in no shape to defeat the U.S., a present necessity for world hegemony.

3. Something other than Europe will destroy the U.S., and the Beast will fill the power vacuum. A few nuclear bombs or other weapons of mass destruction - possibly terrorist-related - might cut America down to size (Ezekiel 7:1-9). Europe could then appropriate NATO assets abroad and become a superpower overnight.

4. The U.S., originally colonized and founded by Europeans, will become a part of the Beast power, supplying its military might. Many have wondered if any Israelite country would join with the Beast, especially since the prophecies seem to suggest it is a Gentile empire, like Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. However, the nations of Israel today believe they are Gentiles and function as Gentiles in many respects, meaning it is not beyond the realm of possibility biblically (see Romans 9-11).

Other possibilities surely exist, and in this time of uncertainty, there is no way to determine whether any of these are real. Such is the character of prophecy. We are assured, however, that, "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
A Growing Divide


 

Revelation 14:8

Biblically, Babylon can be a city or a nation. Though it is sometimes figuratively portrayed as a woman, it is not a church. In prophecy, especially in the New Testament, it symbolizes the worldly system opposed to God. One must discern from the context in which "Babylon" appears which interpretation is intended, but experience shows that Babylon overwhelmingly signifies a nation. Even when it suggests a city, we have to remember that God often uses a city to represent the entire nation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Two)


 

Revelation 16:17-19

These verses are actually the introduction to chapters 17 and 18, which feature the description of Babylon the Great. They also serve to introduce the term "great." "Great" has many applications, but in relation to Babylon, it implies power, wealth, authority, influence, and evil. This adjective should be kept in mind as part of virtually every aspect of its character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Four): Where Is the Woman of Revelation 17?


 

Revelation 17:1-7

For her to be riding the Beast, there must be some relationship between the two. In fact, each, the Woman and the Beast, are part of the same general system, the Babylonish system. However, right up front - because one is depicted as a woman and the other as a beast - God is indicating two distinctly different sets of characteristics, personalities, or approaches within the system.

As depicted in Revelation 13:2, the Beast consists of the strongest parts of a leopard, bear, and lion. Unarguably, these three animals are vicious, wild beasts, and each is a very powerful animal that a woman on her own would ordinarily be no match for.

Obviously, a human woman would approach life and its events differently than an animal. Yet, the Woman is riding the seemingly super-powerful Beast. She, at this juncture in the prophecy, is the one in the position of strength and therefore is superior, greater, more powerful, and more influential than the Beast.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Three): Who Is the Woman?


 

Revelation 17:1-15

These verses show the Woman, the harlot, sitting upon many waters, the Beast, and seven mountains (a mountain is a biblical symbol of a nation), and in verse 15 the waters of which the Beast consists are defined as peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. In such a context, sitting is the Bible's symbol of authority, having power over. It is as though she gives orders and is served.

This description conveys two characteristics: First, the scope of her influence is wide-ranging, over many nations. Second, the Beast consists of peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The Woman, however, is not described in that manner; she is depicted as one unit. Therefore, a distinct possibility is that God sees the Woman in this end-time prophecy as one powerful and influential people, as contrasted to the Beast, which consists of many diverse peoples who, at first, cannot combine and coordinate their strengths to counterbalance and perhaps overcome the more united Woman.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:1

Notice the word "great" in both Revelation 17:1 and Revelation 18:2. End-time Babylon is not puny and insignificant, operating under the cover of some other greater organization. Great means "large," "immense," "prodigious," "massive," "considerable," and "extraordinary." All by itself, Babylon is powerful and influential, a major player on the world scene.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation


 

Revelation 17:1

Revelation 17:1 plainly declares that she sits upon many waters, and Revelation 18:17, 19 add related material through the mention of ships, sailors, and trading by sea. She sits, meaning that she rules, exercises her authority, operates, or is located, upon many waters. We cannot exclude the dual possibilities here of waters representing both peoples and literal waters. Please recall that this is a description of an end-time Babylon.

The ancient city of Babylon sat astride the Euphrates River, but the nation itself had relatively limited access to the sea. If God is describing the ancient nation, it is a poor application. By way of contrast, every nation of modern Israel except Switzerland sits on an ocean and has a multitude of deep-water seaports.

End-time Babylon has a large number of sea gates and is graced by great rivers and many large freshwater lakes. What this entire word picture in Revelation 17 and 18 describes is its political, military, economic, and geographic dominance. It is especially dominant worldwide in trade - so much so that Revelation 18:23 says that its merchants, not its priests, are called "the great men of the earth."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation


 

Revelation 17:1-6

As the head of gold, Babylon's alluring qualities are manifest in the world, and we must avoid these to keep from being ensnared. These traits are clearly delineated in Revelation 17 and 18, and they are these broad areas of possible temptation or trial for us: idolatry, prostitution, self-sufficiency, self-glorification, pride, complacency, reliance on luxury and wealth, avoidance of suffering, and violence against life.

Especially emphasized in these chapters is pride ("she glorified herself"), and the second is satiety, to seek the fullness of everything. It is especially used in regard to seeking food—to become full and then go beyond that. It is to become over-full in everything. However, satiety can apply to other things as well. Some people lose themselves in entertainment: A little bit of entertainment is not enough—their whole lives must consist of entertainment, practically from morning to night. Revelation 18:7 says that the great harlot lived luxuriously. Then there is the avoidance of suffering, seen where she says in the same verse, "I shall see no sorrow."

These three are interrelated, and when combined with the other attitudinal factors, they become the perfect matrix for producing Laodiceanism in the careless Christian. The world is already largely caught up in these things, but they are a temptation to us.

A matrix is described in the dictionary as "the environment in which something is developed." In some cases, it is synonymous with another better known and more frequently used word, "womb." The womb is the perfect matrix for the development of a baby. We in this society are living right in the midst of the perfect environment for developing Laodiceanism, which is why it is so important that we understand the origin, nature, and fruit of the Israelitish culture that has become the very epitome of the Babylonish system.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 17:3-5

The culture symbolized here is not mystery Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, or Israel. It exists down to the time of the end because its ways are embedded in the nations to this day. Babylon is the fountain and yardstick even in Israel. In fact, Israel epitomizes Babylonish ways brought to their very peak.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy and the Sixth-Century Axial Period


 

Revelation 17:5-7

It is interesting that God labeled this woman as a mystery. He goes on to say, through the angel, "I will show you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast." Revelation 17 and 18 contain many clues as to her identification.

Now the word mystery is Strong's #3466 in the combined Strong's Concordance and Vine's Expository Dictionary. The word is defined there as: "Mystery is that which denotes, not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illuminated by His Spirit."

In other words, a "mystery"—in the biblical sense, in the Greek sense—is something that is unattainable by common human research but is revealed by God so that His children, His people, can understand.

This word then parallels Daniel 12:10, which says that at the end "the wise shall understand." Here we are, in the end-time, and God has revealed where Israel is. Israel is a mystery to those in the world. They do not believe, even though they are told. They do not believe that the people of Northwest Europe, the United States, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand are the descendants of Israel. It just does not sink in. They can be presented with proof, not from the Bible, but from the world—from historical researches and such—and they still do not believe it. It is something that has to be revealed.

This revelation is not something that is just contained in words, but it is something that God gives to the heart and mind of His children so that they are desirous to believe it. And they do. It does not take a lot of brain power, but it takes instead a gift from God to believe, which His children will do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:5

Now what about this statement that this woman is the mother of harlots? In the past we have referred to her harlot children as being the Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic church; however, there is a weakness in this concept found in the Bible's use of the terms "daughter," "son," "harlot," and other similar terms.

God had Hosea physically act out what had happened to God in God's relationship with Israel. He says, "Plead with your mother" (Hosea 2:2). Who would be the mother of Hosea and all the people of Jerusalem? It would be Jerusalem, or in a larger context, Israel.

"Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife." This makes it clear that He is talking about all of Israel. God did not marry just Jerusalem; He married all of Israel. Does Israel only consist of men or women? No, both. We are beginning to see that the term "wife" can include both male and female people, depending on the context in which it appears. And, obviously, so does the word "children" indicate both male and female.

The word "daughter" also includes men, the word "son" also includes women, and the word "harlot" means both men and women. It does not mean just women, because Israel was made up of men and women. Children are made up of men and women. The Bible uses these terms interchangeably, and one gender almost always includes the other.

Consider Hosea 2:2-4 and Hosea 4:11-13. Were women the only ones who committed whoredom? No. The men committed whoredom too. And spouses? Was it only women who were committing whoredom? No. "Spouses" includes men and women who were sinning. Hosea 7:4 says they were all adulterers—male and female.

Daughters, in Ezekiel 16:44-48, includes everybody within the city.

Ezekiel 16:53-55 describes the Jews coming back to their former estate in Jerusalem. Was it only women who came back? Can we see the way "daughters" is used? It is being used in a collective sense.

In Lamentations 3:51, God also refers to all of Jerusalem's inhabitants, male and female, as "daughters." Why is this true? The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, page 194, speaks about "daughters" or "daughters of":

The Hebrew idiom reflects a double metaphor common in the culture of the ancient Near East. A capitol city was personified as a woman, and the inhabitants of that city collectively as her daughter. Jerusalem remains distinct as she whose Husband is the One God, Yahweh. Thus her daughters, the collective inhabitants, depended on her for identity, but also shaped her future by their action.

Thus the terms "sons," "daughters," "children," "harlot," as well as other descriptive terms like "seed," "adulterers," and "liars" are used collectively without regard to specific gender when the sense of the term is "those showing the characteristics of." That is what a child does. A child shows the characteristics of its parents regardless if it is a male or female. And so the inhabitants of Jerusalem showed the characteristics of Jerusalem. That is why Hosea is told to write "they are all adulterers." Male and female.

Thus in Revelation 17, the city is Babylon (symbolically a woman) and is said to be the mother of harlots, which is used in the same way as "daughters"—that is, collectively, including the male gender; thus all of her offspring—male and female—are to be considered as harlots. It is not something limited to church denomination.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:5

In Revelation 17:5, "harlot" is to be understood as including men too, involved in what the Bible specifies as "harlotry," something that in normal circumstances would only be said of a female, but biblically includes both men and women. Therefore, "MOTHER OF HARLOTS" specifically refers to unfaithfulness within a covenant relationship with God, not a specific human sexual sin.

The Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic Church were certainly not unfaithful to God as churches. Neither was the Catholic Church unfaithful to God as a church. Why? Because they never entered into a covenant with Him! They were never His church! But the citizens of the nations of Israel were certainly unfaithful to God within a covenant relationship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 17:5

In the past, we have been taught that this refers to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, does this truly refer only to a church, or is it something more politically, economically, and militarily powerful and influential? Notice her identification contains the name "Mystery." (I Corinthians 2:7-9 also uses this term.)

A biblical mystery is something that God must reveal for one to understand. It is not something right on the surface that anybody looking into Revelation can stumble across and quickly understand. This Woman's identification is not something easily seen. Of "mystery," William Barclay's The Letters to the Corinthians says: "The Greek word musterion means something whose meaning is hidden from those who have not been initiated, but crystal clear to those who have" (p. 26). Thus, commentaries are of virtually no help in identifying the Woman of these chapters.

Protestant biblical commentators pay little or no attention to the end-time twelve tribes of Israel. To them, that Israel does not exist! Conversely, evangelical writers and a few mainstream groups focus exclusively on the tiny nation of Israel in the Middle East. However, the Mystery Woman of Revelation 17 and 18 is much more than what that nation displays.

Commentators wholly disregard God's promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make Israel into a populous, powerhouse nation both physically and spiritually—promises that affect both race and grace. Ignoring the race aspect altogether, they teach that the promises of grace were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

However, God, as a blessing to His church, revealed the knowledge of the end-time location of Israel to Herbert Armstrong through other men who were seeking to find the "lost ten tribes." God did this so the church can make better sense of what is happening regarding the fulfillment of prophecy as the return of Christ approaches. In Daniel 12:10, God promises that the wise would understand, and the wise are those who keep the ways of the Lord (Hosea 14:9).

Almost all Protestants claim, as Herbert Armstrong did, that the Woman is the Roman Catholic Church, against which they have a prejudice. But Revelation 17 and 18 are a continued revelation of the same Woman, Israel, who appears in chapter 12!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:5

The phrase "mother of harlots" in Revelation 17:5 might be misleading and therefore misinterpreted because of the Bible's peculiar practice of frequently using terms such as daughters, sons, harlots, thieves, adulterers, and idolaters collectively, fully intending both genders. In other words, sin is not limited to one gender.

In collective usage, the term "daughters" includes males; the word "sons" includes females; and words like "harlots," "adulterers," "idolaters," and "thieves" include both males and females. This practice is what the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery calls a "double metaphor": one word, which may have a specific gender because the context demands it take that gender, but which actually includes both genders. Thus in Revelation 17:5, "harlots" is to be understood as including men involved in what the Bible specifies as harlotry.

Therefore, "mother of harlots," in Revelation 17:5 specifically refers to unfaithfulness within a covenant relationship with God, not a specific, human, sexual sin. The Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic Church were certainly not unfaithful to God as His churches. They never made the Old Covenant with God, entering into a figurative marriage; they, as an entire nation, had never vowed to keep His laws. Nor were the Protestant and Catholic churches unfaithful to God as a church because neither ever had a New Covenant relationship with God as churches. However, the citizens of the nations of Israel were certainly unfaithful to God within a covenant relationship. Revelation 17 and 18 are describing a city/nation, not a church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:16

The woman and the beast represent political power with somewhat diverse and competing application of the same Babylonish system. The competition, according to this principle in Mark 3:24-26, will eventually escalate into war between them. Each is competing for world domination, and just as surely as Satan's house cannot stand, the Babylonish system cannot stand.

We see where the competition will go between these two. At the beginning of Revelation 17, the woman is sitting on the beast, but by the end, the woman has been gobbled up by the super-powerful beast. It does not happen until God puts it into the heart of the kings, who make up the beast, to do so. We can begin to see that up until that point, God is intervening on the behalf of the woman who would seem to be weaker than this wild beast, but she is actually controlling it much of the time.

Competition may appear on the surface to be good, producing better quality and better value, but it ultimately destroys. That is God's point. It ultimately destroys.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:16-17

Within the practical realities of international political, economic, and military affairs, the Beast may be resentful and unwilling to do as the Woman directs. As a wild animal would, it will undoubtedly buck and resist, but until God is ready, it ends up most of the time doing what the Woman wants. The Beast submits to the Woman because she possesses power greater in certain areas than the Beast, a power the Beast resents, envies, and plots to have for itself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

Revelation 18:1-3

Was Babylon ever really a city? Yes, it was. Was Babylon ever really a nation? Yes, it was. Revelation is an end-time book, and just as Babylon of old was literally both a city and a nation, the Babylon at the end-time also is a city and a nation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 18:1-3

Revelation 18 is not describing a church, but a city/nation involved in massive, worldwide merchandising, shipping, and manufacturing. It is a prophetic picture of globalism. What church has sufficient economic power that, when it ceases to exist, worldwide trade quickly comes to a grinding halt, throwing hardheaded businessmen into a panic? Except possibly as an investor, the Catholic Church has never been involved in manufacturing. Revelation 18 provides no information whatsoever tying the Woman riding the Beast to religion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 18:4

Babylon, as an enemy of God, is used in several ways in the Bible. One is a literal city. A second is a worldwide system of government, trade, entertainment, and so on. A third symbolizes a spiritual entity. All three have to be considered together to understand Babylon. In Revelation 18:4, it is a city representing the worldwide way of life at the end time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 18:4

This warning is sobering because the course of this world is closer than ever to reaching its anti-God fullness. There has never been a time in the out-working of God's purpose when this advice is more urgently needed.

Among mankind, the course of the world did not begin in the original Babylon but in the Garden of Eden with the disbelieving conduct of Adam and Eve. They introduced the alien spirit and conduct among mankind - they were mankind at that time. Under the deceitful influence of Satan, they disbelieved God, following the Devil's line of reasoning and conduct. They spread it to their children, who spread it to their children, and so forth.

We have reached the time the Bible calls "the last days" or "the end time." We stand on the cusp of the Tribulation and Day of the Lord, and God's Word prophesies that Babylon will once again be on the scene of events - only this time its powerful influence will be felt worldwide. This time, Babylon not only has dominant armies, powerful economic and educational systems, and strongly entrenched and popular religions, but it also has extremely effective mass communication networks to disseminate its ways into the minds of men, influencing men against their Creator and His people.

Thus, God's urgent warning to take action while one can. The influence of Babylon is imposed through communication. It occurs when we experience countless examples of misguided conduct by those who - unknown to them - are already enslaved by its evil influence.

The apostles Paul and John speak of this largely unrecognized burden mankind carries. In II Corinthians 4:3-4, Paul writes, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them."

Additional subtle influence occurs when a person experiences Babylon's ways and words and fails to monitor the attitudes he picks up and lives. Perhaps above all, men must deal with the inaudible but nonetheless attractive and powerful spiritual communication of Babylon's invisible god and leader, the prince of the power of the air, and his hordes of equally invisible demons. Resisting it can be a daunting task even for those aware that this communication is occurring; it calls on one to be constantly on guard. Nevertheless, resisting the communication is the key to blunting Babylon's siren call.

God admonishes us to come out of her, but there is physically no place to go! The influence of Satan through Babylon's powers of communication is everywhere. In Revelation 12:9, the apostle John confirms we have no place to run because this world's god and his assistants have been permitted to communicate with and deceive mankind over the whole earth: "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." We have been born into this ready-made, deceived world, taken it for granted, and absorbed it until God revealed an alternative.

Compared to previous Babylons, the major difference in what we now face in modern Babylon lies in the intensity, availability, and receptivity of its communication. As far as we know, mankind has never before been confronted by these twisted, persuasive, demonic powers as he is today. They now have the global use of the visible and audible influence of radio, music, movies, television, and the Internet, in addition to the entrenched systems of thought and standards of conduct.

There is no place to run. The battle to resist, then, is almost entirely internal - it is fought right where we live and conduct the business of life. What we must believe, and trust with steely determination and discipline, is that God never gives a person a responsibility impossible to perform (see the principle in I Corinthians 10:13). What God commands of us we can do! Therefore, if He commands we come out, we can come out right where we are. The coming out will not be a physical leaving of a geographical area but a departure from Babylon's spiritual and physical influence.

This is not to say that changing one's physical location will not be helpful in fighting the spiritual battle - just as not frequenting a den of iniquity has definite advantages! It is logical to assume that the intensity of evil communication would be worse in the heart of Babylon than out in the hinterlands. However, we must acknowledge the reality that we can take Babylon's influence with us wherever we might go on earth. Even going to live on a deserted island will not spare us the burden of the influence Babylon has already exerted on us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part One)


 

 




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