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Bible verses about Babylon
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Worldliness: "the love of beauty—that which one finds attractive, appealing, or desirable—without a corresponding love of righteousness." The product of worldliness is that, rather than "tend and keep" as he was commanded by God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), man will "use and abuse." Undoubtedly, Eden was gorgeous, the best and most magnificent environment anyone on earth has ever lived in. What did Adam and Eve do? They used and abused it until God was forced to banish them from it, placing cherubim with flaming swords to guard against their return (Genesis 3:24).

The general record of mankind is that wherever he has put his hand, man has not beautified but used and abused the earth. God is more concerned about man's spiritual beautification than He is about the physical earth, but He warns very clearly in Revelation 11:18 that He will "destroy those who destroy the earth." Man does not have the right concept of beauty. He has the wrong standards and ideals because Babylon impressed itself upon him. He uses and abuses virtually everything, and the results show everywhere on earth. This approach to life manifests Babylon's way and illustrates why God commands His people to come out of it.

God is most concerned about how we act toward other people, how we work within our relationships with our mates, our neighbors, and above all, our God. Do we use and abuse our relationships with God and other people? Do we do everything in our power to dress and keep? Do we have a love of beauty along with a love of righteousness? Although righteousness is indeed the keeping of God's commandments, God requires more of us in our lives. Unless we love the beauty of holiness, we will never become holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:13-16). The love of beauty must be encased in a love of righteousness.

The way of the world is 180 degrees removed from the love of beauty and righteousness. In I John 2, the apostle addresses this way of the world within the subject of love. Though keeping the commandments defines love, it includes a great deal more than that. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . ." (John 3:16). Jesus did not avoid suffering because suffering is an act of love. He loved beauty and righteousness so much that He was willing to follow the commands of God right to the cross. Beauty sustained Him, the beauty of holiness, the beauty of helping multitudes of sons and daughters to inherit the Kingdom of God.

Babylon would not do that. Those impressed by the way of Babylon will love beauty as much as we do, but they will not mix it with a love of righteousness. They will not "tend and keep" fellow man and God. The ever-repeating result is warfare on the field of battle, in the family, in the workplace, in society.

The reason for the state of this evil world is the lack of the love of beauty and the love of righteousness. It is simply a lack of the love of God. The love of God is a choice that is open to all Christians. If one does not choose to love, the only alternative is selfishness—self-concern. A selfish person will abuse. That is the worldly system. Worldliness is nothing more than self-centeredness. An individual chooses to be self-centered or show outgoing love—to be worldly or godly.

Laodiceanism is the most subtle form of self-centeredness or worldliness. It is so subtle that it escapes the detection of those who should be most able to see it.

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


 

History documents the wild debauchery of Rome before its inglorious fall. The depths of its perversions and excesses make fascinating and disgusting reading, yet we need to consider it in terms of the present condition of America and Canada. We may not allow our sporting events to become as violent as gladiatorial contests, but our emphasis on sports and entertainment is reminiscent of Rome's. The condition of America's heart and mind is displayed in our raunchy and violent movies and music. The United States is being set up to collapse!

Much in the world remains attractive and appealing. If there is not a corresponding love of righteousness, those beautiful things can draw a Christian into Babylon's seductive trap, where the spiritual intellect becomes dulled and Laodiceans are produced. Only a love of righteousness will prevent a Christian from allowing his heart and mind to fall into Laodiceanism. If a Christian in ancient Rome did not have his heart anchored in a love of righteousness, Rome's debauchery, presented in an alluring package, would have gradually become acceptable in his own life. Without it, the Roman Christian would have had no protection from the deceptive charm of the world or the resistance to it that he would need to avoid its Laodicean results.

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


 

Babylon's influence is being spread into the Western world in a much more concentrated dose than the original migration begun with the confusion of languages in Genesis 11. It is directly impacting upon and at the same time being carried by Israelitish people. Again, the biblical concept of Babylon is of a worldwide, anti-God system that began in the Tigris-Euphrates valley but which did not remain there.

The Roman Empire is one dominant power within that anti-God system, and because of the migrations of the ethnic groups, it ruled over the entire Mediterranean area and into Europe as far north and west to, and including, the British Isles. The direct supervision and influence ended at Hadrian's Wall that separated Scotland from England.

Almost all of the people who eventually make up the northern and western parts of the Roman Empire are Semitic. Israel, the Assyrians, and the Chaldeans are all descended from Shem: Israel through Shem's son, Arphaxad, then through Eber and Abraham; Assyria through Shem's son, Asshur; and Chaldea, also through Shem's son, Arphaxad, but through Chesed.

Where did the peoples who colonized Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and the United States begin their colonization? Semitic Israelitish people from Northwest Europe colonized every one of them, and the colonists all came from within the vast area of the Roman Empire in the same manner that the people from Nimrod's kingdom took the Babylonish anti-God system with them. The colonists from Northwest Europe carried much of Rome's Babylonish culture with them, but with their own Israelitish, semi-biblical twist to it.

For the past two thousand years, the history of the Israelitish people has been culturally dominated by Rome's Babylonish system because they were geographically within its borders. And more importantly, they were under its religious, economic, military, and political influence. English, Dutch, French, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Belgians, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, and Germans colonized first. It was not until later, after the colonies were well-established with Semitic people, that large numbers of immigrants from Eastern Europe came into the Israelitish colonies.

The Bible clearly reveals Babylon to be a worldwide entity. Even though the Bible does not directly present Rome as being geographically as massive as Babylon, it is nonetheless dominant culturally on a worldwide basis because of the migrations and influence of the Israelitish people.

The dominant religions in all Israelite areas are Roman Catholicism and its Protestant daughters. All of us have a basically Roman republican form of government and educational system through the government's schools.

Now why should we think that the Beast must be confined to Europe if the Israelitish people have carried its influence everywhere they have gone, except that they put a biblical twist to it, and because the Bible shows the geographical location of the dominant powers consistently changing? Remember the head of gold? The shoulders and torso of silver? The West consists of all those countries that are predominantly Semitic Roman Catholic and Protestant religiously, and are republic in form of government, and so that could include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States.

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


 

Babylon is no longer a secular nation but, in one sense like the church, is a spiritual entity. Perceived in this manner, it exists in all nations. It is the worldwide, anti-God system called "the world." It has no physical place specifically designated in the Bible as its headquarters, but in Revelation 17, this spiritual entity does have a geographic focus—a place where it reaches the height of its influence. Never has Babylon ever been as powerful as it is right now.

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


 

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)


 

Psalm 83:1-8

The nations listed in Psalm 83:5-8 comprise a fairly complete rundown of the ancient enemies of Israel, and Edom, the descendants of Esau, is given primacy of place. After Edom come the usual suspects: the Ishmaelites, Moab, the Hagarites, Gebal, Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, and Tyre; and Assyria joins them, specifically helping the children of Lot.

Descendants of Esau actually appear three times on this list, as Amalek (see Genesis 36:12) and Gebal (here, a region of Idumea, often confused with the Phoenician city of Gebal or Byblos) are tribes that became distinguished from the bulk of the Edomites. Evidently, these tribes struck out on their own and eventually established their own identities. Amalek, in particular, was a thorn in Israel's side.

Bible history, from about Genesis 16 on, records that all of these nations rose up against Israel and Judah perpetually. Only very rarely did they ally with Israel for any length of time, and when they did, it was usually because they faced an even stronger, more dreaded enemy. It seems that Israel had peace from them only when they were conquered and put under tribute.

The only major nations missing from this list of Israel's persistent enemies are Egypt and Babylon. There may be several reasons for their omission. First, the context speaks of a particular historical "confederacy" against Israel, and Egypt and Babylon may not have been part of it. Second, as major powers in the region, Egypt and Babylon were generally unconcerned about Israel, or at least did not posses the visceral hatred of God's people that these other nations did. Third, the peoples that are mentioned were either ethnically related to Israel or lived in close proximity to her, while Egypt and Babylon are not related to Israel and inhabited distant realms.

Finally, as a prophecy of the last days, Psalm 83 may not consider Egypt and Babylon to represent the physical peoples that they did anciently. In fact, a physical Babylon does not seem to exist in the end time; the ancient city lies in ruins for tourists in Iraq to behold. If Egypt, a modern Arab nation, is contemplated in the prophecy, it may be included under the Hagarites, as Hagar, mother of Ishmael, was an Egyptian (Genesis 16:1). In addition, Ishmael's wife was also Egyptian (Genesis 21:21), making the Ishmaelites three-quarters Egyptian.

Nevertheless, all of these different peoples—Edom, Ishmael, Amalek, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Tyre, and Assyria—are among the major players in the Middle East today. These are peoples from whom the Jihadists and the Islamic fundamentalists hail, making up what is known as the "Arab" or "Muslim world." Today, these people inhabit the nations of Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, etc., and the pseudo-nation of Palestine.

Psalm 83 lists a group of peoples—a confederacy—whose main enemy is Israel. Today, there exists a worldwide jihad against the West, particularly aimed at the "Great Satan," the United States, and the despised Jews, the State of Israel. The physical descendants of ancient Israel—the English-speaking peoples, the democracies of Northwest Europe, and the Jewish Diaspora—are the standard-bearers of Western civilization. The same players are still in the game!

Who has initiated the conflict over these last several years? For the most part, Islamist or fundamentalist Arabs have been the aggressors. The terrorists have mainly come from Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, North Africa, Iraq, etc.—that is, Arab nations. The philosophical or religious underpinnings for these attacks have their source in the virulent and violent anti-Western teachings of Wahhabism (spread from Saudi Arabia), militant pan-Arab socialism (cultivated by despots in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, etc.), and anti-Semitism (practiced hypocritically by a majority of Arabs, who are themselves Semitic peoples, descendants of Abraham).

Where have most of the attacks taken place? Although many of them have occurred in the Middle East, they have been predominantly against Western interests. Terror organizations have targeted Western people, planes, helicopters, ships, homes, shops, hotels, and embassies—anything Western seems to be fair game to them.

For example, the bombing in Beirut against a U.S. military installation in 1983 killed hundreds of Marines in their barracks, and jihadists attacked the U.S. mainland on September 11, 2001. The State of Israel, of course, has endured a heavy share of the militant Islamic violence since its founding in 1948. More recently, Britain, Australia, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and other predominantly Israelite nations have also suffered terrorist atrocities. This in no way discounts the terrorism that has also struck non-Israelite but Western nations like Spain and Italy.

Putting Psalm 83 together with what we know about these nations' ancestries and with what we see on the evening news, these prophecies are coming to pass before our eyes!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Two)


 

Proverbs 4:14-17

A popular question during the Vietnam War was, "What if they threw a war and nobody came?" This illustrates that we condone and lend support to activities we attend. If everyone obeyed God by refusing to keep pagan holidays, one of Satan's ploys to obscure God's plan for mankind would be thwarted. The Bible is very clear that we should avoid, flee, or turn away from the ways of this world and beware of their entry into the church of God (II Timothy 3:1-5).

Martin G. Collins
Pagan Holidays


 

Proverbs 7:9-12

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says this about verse 11:

"Stubborn [rebellious, NKJV]." The same word as is applied to Israel represented as an untamed and refractory heifer (Hosea 4:16). Having cast off the wholesome yoke of religious and social restraints, she is ready for every sin. Instead of the soft and gentle voice of feminine modesty, she is "loud," and full of words flowing from assurance. A modest woman shrinks from undue publicity, and is a "keeper at home" (Titus 2:5), and industrious (Proverbs 31:10-31); but she "wanders about from house to house" (I Timothy 5:13); disliking home labor, she resorts to places of amusement, the dance, etc.

Adam Clarke's Commentary adds:

. . . she is never at rest, always agitated; busily employed to gain her end, and this is to go into the path of error. [She turns aside,] preferring any way to the right way. And, therefore, it is added, her feet abide not in her house; she gads abroad; and this disposition probably first led her to this vice.

It is significant to note how universal and unchanging these descriptions are. Proverbs, written roughly 3,000 years ago, still paints a vivid picture in our minds, making it easy to imagine these events. The attitude and approach of the actors are not strange depictions to us, even within the context of our modern world. A common thread and an identical attitude spans the millennia. This pattern is readily identified as Satanic, for the Devil tries to lure us away from the truth with false religion and the culture of Babylon in the same way a prostitute lures young men.

David C. Grabbe
Strange Women (Part Two)


 

Proverbs 7:13-21

The description of seduction in Proverbs 7:13-21 includes several indicators of the tactics and approaches that Satan has used for thousands of years to lure people away. First, notice how the seductress appeals to the senses. This woman has prepared the perfect environment for her seductions, and everything about her approach is meant to be attractive to his sight, smell, and touch, even his emotions. In fact, the only thing she does not try to use on him is real logic. But the atmosphere here is just perfect for what she is intending.

In the same way, this world entices us with everything that is attractive to our carnal human nature. A simple definition of "Babylon" is a system dedicated to living life apart from God. It emphasizes

» gaining material wealth—so we can live independent of God's providential care.

» gaining power and influence—so we can exert control rather than having someone control us.

» physical pleasure—on pleasing the self, rather than serving others.

» fashion, self-image, and being noticed—so that we can attract attention, rather than pay attention to others in encouragement or other forms of service.

Babylon tries to entice us with all these things, but without any real thought about the consequences or showing the other side of the coin.

James 4:4 sounds a clear warning against Babylon:

You are like an unfaithful wife who loves her husband's enemies. Don't you realize that making friends with God's enemies—the evil pleasures of this world—makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy the evil pleasure of the unsaved world, you cannot also be a friend of God. (The Living Bible)

David C. Grabbe
Strange Women (Part Two)


 

Jeremiah 50:4-6

Jeremiah 50:1 begins a two-chapter prophecy of judgment against Babylon. Babylon was the dominant world power in Jeremiah's day, 600 years before Christ.

Clearly, these verses are placed in the time just ahead of us. Is it possible, then, that at least some of the judgments pronounced against Babylon in these two chapters also actually apply to our time? Could what occurred to Babylon when God carried out His threats in the sixth century BC have been only a type of far greater end-time fulfillments against a modern Babylon?

Verse 6 plainly pictures an end-time scenario. The Israelites are even called the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel. It is as if God is saying they have forgotten who they are, and the world does not know their location either. God says they are "turned . . . away on the mountains." Mountains are a biblical symbol of large nations, and hills, of smaller ones. This prophecy foretells Israel's long-term scattering among Gentile peoples worldwide, and so thoroughly accomplished is the scattering that Israel has forgotten she began in Canaan.

Revelation 13, 17, and 18 establish that there are a Beast and a Babylon at the end time. Even as the Beast is literally an amalgamation of many nations with a strong, persecuting, religious component, so also is Babylon a literal nation with a somewhat different religious component and with an attitude that is not as animalistic as the Beast.

Just as the term "beast" shows the spirit of a group of violent, warlike, anti-God nations, the term "Babylon" reveals the source of the spirit of prideful rebellion motivating the Woman, who represents the end-time nation God calls Babylon. This is similar to God using Sodom and Egypt to illustrate Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8.

However, some people want to turn Babylon into a mere religious organization with only mystical and spiritual influence. The original city and nation of Babylon have disappeared into the sands of Iraq because God's judgments against them in Isaiah and Jeremiah were fully carried out.

However, Revelation 17-18 describes the end-time Babylon, the Great Harlot, not as simply a religious organization, not even a system, but as a literal city and nation involved in massive, worldwide craftsmanship, manufacturing, entertainment, and commerce. It is a blockbuster political and economic powerhouse, exercising global influence, over which businessmen weep when it is destroyed. They feel its loss personally, even though they are not literally a part of it, only having done business with it.

If indeed we are in the prophesied end time—and all indications suggest that we are—the only nation on earth today that fits this description as both an economic powerhouse and a great harlot, because of its broken relationship with God, is Israel led by the Joseph tribes of Ephraim (Britain) and Manasseh (America). Israel is still Israel, but it epitomizes the spirit of Babylon at the end time.

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


 

Jeremiah 51:41

He is speaking of Babylon falling. At the time Jeremiah wrote this, they were so powerful as a nation that nobody wanted to deal with Babylon in an angry, accusative, attacking sort of way. He calls her "the praise of the nations." This means, essentially, "the greatest of the nations." Everybody praises Babylon as the greatest of the nations that are on earth. God applies that to Babylon in Revelation 18, or rather infers it, as it is not directly stated. Even so, Babylon "has glorified herself."

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


 

Ezekiel 23:1-4

Isaiah, Jeremiah, and especially Ezekiel and Hosea use this same metaphorical form to illustrate Israel's faithless relationship with God, connecting directly to the same usage in Revelation 17 and 18. Why is this important? Virtually the entire Bible is devoted to God's purpose for and relationship to Israel and the church. They are the focus of God's intention to reproduce Himself, beginning with His promises and then His covenant with Abraham. God went so far as to enter into a symbolic marriage with Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, revealing the intimacy He considered their relationship to have.

He did this with no other nation. Even when the time came to summon Gentiles into His purpose, the great bulk of those called into the church have been Israelites dwelling among fellow Israelites in Israelitish lands. A person even becomes a spiritual Jew when converted! God's pattern of focusing on Israel continues throughout the Bible to the end-time prophecies. We live in the end time, and God's concern in Revelation, the ultimate end-time book, does not turn from this pattern. God's purpose for the nation of Israel is not yet complete, as Romans 9-11 makes clear.

Thus Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, and the church, the Israel of God, Abraham's spiritual descendants, are still His major focus. Other parts of the Bible reveal that Israel has fully earned the title of "the Great Harlot Babylon" even as she has earned the titles of "Sodom" and "Egypt."

The Great Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18 is not a Gentile church or a Gentile nation because neither of these has ever qualified for that title by corrupting a covenant relationship with God as Israel has. Of this, God says in Amos 3:2, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Having done only what comes naturally without the revelation of God, the Gentile world will have its opportunity to have a covenant relationship with Him following Christ's return.

In defiance of God, Israel has rebelled against her responsibilities and played the harlot with the world. She has embraced its ways to such an extent that she has outdone the Gentiles in their manner of life, becoming appropriately named "Babylon the Great." In Revelation 17 and 18, God is describing the influence and character of end-time Israel. He depicts all of Israel in close relationship with the Beast, influencing it, but with the two Joseph tribes, America (Manasseh) and Britain (Ephraim), as the Woman's strongest components - and perhaps America is the one primarily described, as it is the most influential at the end.

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


 

Daniel 2:37-38

The Bible gives us the interpretation of the head of gold in these verses. Babylon had existed for centuries before this time, but only under Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC) had she reached her height. In a flurry of activity, he had conquered from Persia to Egypt, picking up the reins of power left unheld by the decline of Assyria. During this time he conquered Judah, taking its citizens into captivity to Babylon.

Not only did he rise quickly to world supremacy, but he also played a major role in beautifying and strengthening the city of Babylon. Covering 200 square miles, the city boasted 250 watchtowers and walls 87 feet thick. He laid out the city in rectangular blocks. Built of brick and faced with enameled tiles of blue, yellow, and white, houses rose up to four stories and lined broad avenues, interspersed with parks and gardens. One 30-foot wide bridge over the Euphrates ran 660 feet. According to Diodorus Siculus, a 15-foot wide and 12-foot high tunnel under the river also connected its two banks. It was the largest and most magnificent city of the ancient world.

But Babylon was also a city of rank paganism. Within its walls stood 53 temples and 1,327 shrines to various deities. Dominating the skyline in every direction, Babylon's famous ziggurat rose in seven stages to 650 feet, crowned with a shrine. Some think this structure, taller than the Great Pyramid of Egypt, is the Tower of Babel.

The city streets were named after the gods of Babylon. Cults to dozens of different deities flourished. In all, the Babylonian priests worshiped 4,000 separate gods, each with a specialized function. In the ninth century BC, an official census of the gods tallied 65,000. Even taxation was done in the name of their gods. Also a center of astrology and the occult, Babylon was the seat and prime example of this world's religious confusion (Revelation 17:5).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part One): 'Head of Gold'


 

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)


 

Daniel 2:39

The idea of inferiority seems to pass to the succeeding empires as well. But in what way was Medo-Persia inferior?

Medo-Persia controlled a larger territory than did Babylon, so it was certainly not inferior in political or military might. Even before the fall of Babylon, Cyrus had defeated the wealthy Croesus, king of Lydia in Asia Minor (546 BC). After victories in central Iran and in Phoenicia, he conquered Babylon in 539 BC, and his son Cambyses overthrew Egypt and Libya in 525 BC. At its height the Persian Empire was nearly double the size of Babylon.

It did, however, have a problem with internal unity. Cyrus, a Persian, initiated the growth of the empire by usurping the Median throne with the help of the Median nobility. The empire, from this point on, was dominated by Persians, or as the Bible says, the "bear . . . was raised up on one side" (Daniel 7:5). The two arms of the image symbolize this division.

Also, each time an emperor died, severe struggles erupted over succession to the throne. Fortunately, mostly strong and capable rulers won these struggles, especially during its first century, and kept the empire whole for over two hundred years. Only the superior might of Alexander's Macedonian army spelled its downfall.

Another factor of its inferiority was, oddly, its rulers. Cyrus, regaled in the Bible as God's "shepherd" and "His anointed" (Isaiah 44:28-45:13), was not the same caliber of man as Nebuchadnezzar. Though he was a humane and conciliatory ruler for his time, he neither lived long enough to stamp his character on his realm (d. 529 BC), nor did he acknowledge God's sovereignty as did his predecessor (Daniel 4:28-37).

In relation to this, the word inferior itself ('ara') means "earth, world, ground." Persia was literally more "earthly" or "worldly" than Babylon in God's eyes. The aims and drives of its kings were, as a whole, of a lower nature than Babylon's, though the latter's were certainly misguided as well. However, the trajectory of this factor in all these kingdoms is, according to the prophecy, downward, and it sinks further with each new empire.

On the other hand, it must be injected here that Cyrus was the instrument that God used to reestablish the Temple in Jerusalem (II Chronicles 36:22-23). The Persians had a general policy to honor the gods of all their defeated enemies by repairing or rebuilding temples and giving offerings to them. This was mainly done to appease the gods "just in case" they had been offended by the subjugation of their peoples, as well as to smooth relations between the Persians and their vassals. Scholars are still divided over whether Cyrus actually meant that the God of Israel was indeed the true God and thus his sovereign Lord. Most think he did not because decrees to other nations have been found in which similar language is used.

Unlike the Babylonians, the Persian Empire centered squarely on its military and political bases rather than its religious, cultural, or economic life. Historians consider the Persian imperial political structure and administrative forms to be the finest example of government before the Roman period. In fact, they think that the Romans borrowed Persian ideas in forming their own. This meant that the real basis of power in the empire was the army, even above that of the king, although the king supposedly controlled the army.

The religion of the Persians was Zoroastrianism, a dualistic belief in good and evil and man's struggle between them. Although it was less bloody, warlike, idolatrous, and superstitious than other polytheistic religions of the region, it retained vestiges of ancient beliefs that eventually supplanted it. The cults of Mithra, the sun god, and Anaita, the goddess of fertility—similar to Nimrod/Tammuz and Semiramis, the old Babylonian Mystery Religion—grew in popularity until Zoroastrianism faded into obscurity. But its principle of dualism lived on in Gnosticism and the mystery religions of the Roman Empire. Some of these beliefs and practices (such as Mithra's birthday, December 25; Sunday as a holy day; All Soul's Day; and heaven, hell and purgatory) were later embraced by Catholicism to counter the popularity of these cults.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Two): Chest and Arms of Silver


 

Daniel 7:4

In this prophecy, which many believe parallels Nebuchadnezzar's vision in Daniel 2:31-35, the prophet saw four beasts, the first of which represents Babylon. The symbolism of the beasts matches that of the image. The lion is the king of the beasts, but it is a vicious and formidable beast. With wings, it is also very swift. This imagery describes the early years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, marked by war, captivity of defeated nations, and destruction.

The lion imagery does not end with Babylon, however. When the apostle John "saw a beast rising up out of the sea," it possessed a "mouth like the mouth of a lion" (Revelation 13:1-2). Like the empires that followed, qualities of Babylon will be found in the end-time Beast power. All of the empires symbolized in this image spring from one common way of life that is thoroughly contrary to the way of God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part One): 'Head of Gold'


 

Daniel 7:5

Among modern interpreters there is a consensus that the three ribs represent three nations subjugated by the Persians. They also represent the three kingdoms that posed the greatest threat to their power: Lydia, Babylon and Egypt (or some think, Media, Lydia and Babylon). The command to "devour much flesh" emphasizes Persia's superior military might over the peoples from Asia Minor and Egypt to India.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Two): Chest and Arms of Silver


 

Daniel 8:3-4

History records that the Persians considered a ram with sharp, pointed horns to be their guardian spirit, and the king bore the head of a ram instead of a crown when he led his armies into battle. The symbols of Medo-Persia used in the Bible, the ram and the bear, are powerful creatures, as opposed to the quick and agile goat and leopard, representing Greece. As for the different heights of the horns, the taller one represents the Persian half of the empire that rose to power later than the Median half.

Both the Medes and the Persians, as the Bible shows are represented by these horns (Daniel 8:20), also had territories located near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Though it makes little difference in the prophecy's interpretation, this river could also be "the River Ulai" (Daniel 8:2) upon whose banks the Persian capital of Susa (Shushan) was built.

The ram's pushing in every direction except east reflects the historical reality that Persia's eastern campaigns were inconsequential as compared to its other conquests. Though they did conquer as far east as the Indus River, subjugating Asia Minor, Babylon, Egypt, and Armenia was much more significant. Persia felt very little resistance in the east, and in its later history the western Macedonians under Alexander, represented by the he-goat with a notable horn (verse 21), were its most challenging foes.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Two): Chest and Arms of Silver


 

Hosea 4:11-12

Undoubtedly, the Israelites of Hosea's day were literally getting drunk and involved in harlotry, but for us today the application is spiritual. At the end time, God predicts, His people will be deceived by a force near demoniacal in its deceptive power. Because of their closeness to the world, they will share the great harlot's attitude, "drunk with the wine of her fornication" (Revelation 17:2).

Hosea's word-picture illustrates the effect a drug like alcohol has on a person's mind. Under the influence of alcohol, one's reactions slow, even though the person thinks he has better control. Most fatal accidents in the United States involve automobiles and roughly half of them occur with at least one driver under the influence. In driving while intoxicated, one's ability to make right decisions is severely hampered. Alcohol obscures judgment. When one cannot think clearly, a sound judgment is nearly impossible.

Linked to this inability to make sound judgments is the destruction of inhibitions, modesty and restraint. In addition, alcohol produces a false sense of security and confidence, so people do silly and senseless things while drunk and regret them along with their hangovers.

The same process occurs to a person drunk with the wine of the wrath of this spiritual prostitute. The attitude of this world deprives people of their spiritual judgment and removes their spiritual inhibitions. Their resistance to evil weakens, and they will begin to do things that they vowed they would never do. Like a drunken man's fidelity to his wife is destroyed by wine, so is a Christian's loyalty to God when he imbibes of this world's attitudes. His judgment is shattered.

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


 

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


 

Amos 6:3

The prophet pronounces God's judgment. Notice the many parallels to Babylon and Laodicea. Also notice what Jesus says in a parable concerning the time just before His return: "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards . . ." (Matthew 24:48-49). Amos and Christ speak about the same sequence of events. The attitude of putting off the day of Christ's return promotes violence and injustice toward one's fellow man. Appeasement, a "strength" of the Laodicean, virtually guarantees violence and war, as happened in the years leading to World War II.

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


 

Amos 6:4-6

What a picture of excess and uselessness! Like Babylon, these people live in indolent luxury, surrounding themselves with the latest creature comforts, overindulging in rich and expensive food and drink. A glass or a cup is not enough for them—they must drink wine from bowls to satisfy their addictions! They sing songs that mean nothing, but in their hearts they think their songs and music equal to David's! Life is a party! And all they have to show for their lives is a lack of judgment.

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


 

Matthew 13:32

Birds are naturally attracted to the taste of the mustard seed. Matthew identifies the birds of the air as "the wicked one" (Matthew 13:4, 19). Mark connects them with "Satan" (Mark 4:4, 15), and Luke links them to "the devil" (Luke 8:5, 12). In Genesis 15:11, fowls swoop down on Abraham's sacrifices, and he has to drive them away (see Deuteronomy 28:26). The end-time Babylon becomes "a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird" (Revelation 18:2).

In the parable, Jesus predicts the birds of the air would lodge in the branches. These "birds," demons led by "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), have continually tried to infiltrate the church. Upon the unsuspecting early church, Satan moved quickly to implant his agents in it to teach false doctrine while appearing to be true Christians. Just as God permitted Satan to tempt Job intensely (Job 1:12; 2:6) and to sift Peter as wheat (Luke 22:31), He has allowed antichrists to lodge within His church (I Corinthians 11:18-19).

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Four): The Parable of the Mustard Seed


 

Luke 21:34

Of itself, having a party is not wrong. But what happens when Babylon reaches the apex of its influence on men's lives? People fall into dissipation, into abuse of their God-given responsibilities. Christ worries that although we intellectually say the world is full of self-centeredness and excess, we will still find it attractive. Thus, He warns us to be careful because, if not, the consequence is that the Day will come on us unexpectedly. This is sobering!

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


 

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)


 

2 Timothy 4:3-5

We see here indications of the influence of the world, the influence of the Babylonian mystery religion, surrounding Christians wherever they might live. It gradually wears them down simply by its presence as well as by occasional, open persecution against Christians. These Christians were gradually weakening rather than growing, and beginning to feel that the best thing to do was to give in—inch by inch—to what was happening. They were beginning to request of the ministry teachings that were deviating from the truth that the apostles had given them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)


 

1 John 2:15

This verse begins to explore the connection between Babylon and Laodiceanism. "Do not love the world. . . ." Theologically, that makes sense after understanding what God says in Revelation 18:7 about pride, self-sufficiency, avoidance of suffering, and the like. The apostle John, aware of the nuances of the concept of love, did not use agape here but phileo, which means "have affection for, to cherish, a feeling of warm regard." Agape is a reasoned love, and there need not be any feeling or affection connected with it at all. That kind of love can very easily be done coldly, calculatedly, simply because it is right.

Here in I John 2:15, the apostle says, "Don't have a feeling of warm regard or affection toward the world." Why would he have to say anything like that unless the world was attractive? The world possesses a beauty that, carnally, we find very difficult to resist. Because Laodiceanism springs from this attractiveness, it becomes very critical to a Christian. Many members of God's church find the world irresistible. Somehow or another, many cannot avoid it spiritually.

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


 

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)


 

Revelation 3:14-22

The seventh and last of the attitudes within the church, Laodiceanism is the attitude that dominates the era of the end time. It seems more natural to think that this attitude would be the least likely to dominate in such terrible times—that it ought to be obvious that the return of Christ is near. Though it seems contradictory for the church to become lukewarm during such a stimulating period, Christ prophesies that it will occur. It indicates the power of Babylon! Spiritually, she is so very alluring. To our eyes, the world may look ugly, but its spiritual charm distracts us from more important things. Why does Babylon dominate the church in the end time? It dominates the world, and the Christian permits it to dominate him!

In August 1987, a well-known evangelist in the church of God said, "You would be surprised how often the Work internally mirrors the world externally. I don't think we realize how often this is true." Why? Church members bring the world's ways into the body. Laodiceanism is so subtle that those who seemingly are best-equipped to detect it are blind to it! This is Christ's major concern for these people. It is not only that they are Laodicean, but also that they are blind to their own state!

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


 

Revelation 3:15-16

Christ admits the truth about them. "I know your works [obedience and service], that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot" (Revelation 3:15). Why does He wish this? Because if they were either cold or hot, they would be useful to Him. Lukewarm Christians send confusing messages. In this state, being useless to Him, He spews them out of His mouth. All the messages to these seven churches highlight works because they are evidence of how Christians conduct their relationships with God. Works reveal the heart. They are a gauge of one's witness and spiritual state.

Metaphorically, what does lukewarmness signify here? To define it to this point, a rough definition might be "that which gives no refreshment, or that which has neither the cleansing properties of hot water nor the refreshing properties of cold." Modern synonyms of the word "lukewarm" give illuminating insights into its use in this letter: lacking ardor, enthusiasm or conviction; moderate; mild; unemotional; halfhearted; hesitant; indecisive; irresolute; uncertain; uncommitted; unresponsive; indifferent; impassive; languid; phlegmatic; apathetic; nonchalant; lackadaisical.

Recall the hallmarks of Babylon: pride, self-glorification, reliance on wealth, satiety, complacency, avoidance of suffering. Although he has the abilities and resources to be a great witness, the Laodicean is complacent, self-satisfied, bored with or indifferent to the real issues of life. For a Christian, the real issues are faith in Christ and our Christian responsibility. And to do the work Christ has called us to, our loyalty and devotion must be to Him, first and foremost!

A problem arises, however, in "spotting" a Laodicean—these qualities do not necessarily show on the outside. Why? Remember Christ describes a spiritual condition. This is a matter of the heart. What does He want to see in him? He wants the Laodicean to get off the fence—to be one way or the other, cold or hot. Conversely, the Laodicean judges that he is balanced, right in the middle. But his concept of balance is skewed. Why will he not move off the middle? He feels he has it good there! If he moves left or right, he fears that he will suffer! Thus, he has no desire to move.

Then what happens? The Laodicean must compromise. This is interesting in light of what the history books record. Ancient Laodicea's main line of defense was conciliation and compromise! Why? Again, the answer lies in the city's inadequate water supply, making it very susceptible to the siege of an invading army. By having its tenuous water supply cut off, the city was at the mercy of its attacker. With no water, it could hold out for only a short while. The Laodicean solution? They became masters of appeasement, accommodation, conciliation, and diplomacy. Peace at any cost! How did they appease? They bought their enemies off! Laodicea used its wealth to conciliate and compromise.

Christ uses the attitude of the surrounding environment to illustrate that those in the church of Laodicea are affected by the attitudes of the world. Without even realizing it, they behave exactly like their unconverted neighbors. They are worldly. Though they are not out on the streets robbing banks, raping, looting, murdering, mugging old grandmothers, or abusing children, in their hearts they have the same general approach to life as Babylon has. Theologically, spiritually, they hold the same values as Babylon, proved by their works. Spiritually, they become very adept in avoiding the sacrifices that might be necessary to overcome and grow in character, wisdom, and understanding. In other words, they are skilled in appeasing Satan and their own consciences.

Christ says He will spew, or vomit, the Laodicean from His mouth! That is how He views this attitude of compromise with principles, ideals, standards, and truth!

Some may expect Laodiceans to be lazy, but on the contrary they are often workaholics. Satan has foisted this false concept of Laodiceanism onto the church. One cannot become "rich and increased with goods" by being lazy! Their problem is a faulty setting of priorities. They are very vigorous people, but they are vigorous in areas that fail miserably to impress their Judge, Christ. Vigorous in conducting business and other carnal affairs, they are lackadaisical in pursuing the beauty of holiness, which is their calling. They are not vigorous or zealous in maintaining their prayer life with God or in studying. They are not energetic in making the sacrifices necessary to love their brethren or in developing their relationships with others. Nor are they enthusiastic about guarding the standards and principles of God. By erring in the setting of priorities, they victimize themselves.

Over the last fifteen years of his life, Herbert Armstrong expressed deep concern about the church becoming Laodicean. Because of the plethora of activities this world offers, he saw that ultimately they distract us, cause us to set wrong priorities, and keep us from putting our time, energy, and vigor into godly things. He often cited Daniel 12:4 as a telltale sign of the last days: "Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." Are we busy in this age? Satan is a slick strategist, and he really deceives anyone who allows himself to believe that busyness and prosperity are signs of righteousness.

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


 

Revelation 11:8

That identification is pretty clear: Sodom—Egypt—Jerusalem, all in one hand, each describing the other. God is giving evidence here to solve the identity of the prostitute by comparing Israel to Sodom and Egypt. Sodom is noted in all of the history of mankind for its sexual sins, and Egypt is known to all biblical students of a harsh and exacting slavery of the Israelitish people.

These two stunning and dramatic comparisons are of Israel's immoral characteristics, so why not compare Israel to Babylon? He has already compared Israel to Sodom and Egypt. Could it get any worse? None of those is a beautiful comparison. Every one of them is putting Jerusalem and Israel on the spiritual and moral level that they deserve—to be compared to Sodom and to Egypt. God reserved His harshest judgments for those who should know better but waste their gifts in prideful self-indulgence.

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


 

Revelation 11:8

Babylon is called great (Revelation 14:8; 16:19) in the same way that Jerusalem, representing all of Israel, was called great (Revelation 11:8). When "great" is used in this manner in this kind of a context, it not complimentary. The word in the Greek is megas, and it literally means "big." It can mean big or great in size, magnitude, intensity, or rank, in either a good or a bad sense. It depends on the context. This is interesting, because when God symbolically dwelt in the Holy of Holies, Jerusalem was known by its citizens as the "Holy City."

Tradition tells us (especially through Josephus) that God departed His residence there shortly before AD 70. The "Holy City" title for Jerusalem does not come back into the story-flow of the book of Revelation until Revelation 21:2-3.

In Revelation 21, the title "Holy City" is once again going to be applied to Jerusalem, but until that time, when God dwells there, it is known as the "great" city. It is great just like Babylon in its anti-God, sinful influence and economic, political, and military power. But most certainly it is not great in holiness. Israel's conduct puts its place next to Sodom, Gomorrah, Egypt, and Babylon in great defiance against God, against His message and His messengers, and thus it lost its identification as "the Holy City" and became "great."

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


 

Revelation 11:8

In Revelation 11:8, Jerusalem is referred to as "the great city." At first thought, Jerusalem is not a great city as New York City is great; it does not occupy as much territory nor does it have the population base. It is not of that sort of magnitude. However, we must not forget that Jerusalem, as a capital city, represents the entire nation of Israel and its greatness lies in what was given to it and what was expected of it considering those gifts.

The apostle John writes in Revelation 14:8, "And another angel followed, saying, 'Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." He adds in Revelation 16:19, "Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath."

Babylon is great too. When "great" is so used in this kind of context, it is not complimentary. "Great" is megálee in Greek, and it literally means "big." It can mean big or great in size, magnitude, and intensity or rank in a good or bad sense. How it is to be understood depends on what is being compared.

When God symbolically dwelt in the Holy of Holies, Jerusalem was known by its citizens as "the holy city." Tradition tells us that God departed His residence in the Temple shortly before AD 70. Jerusalem's title as "the holy city" does not come back into the story flow until Revelation 21:2, when New Jerusalem comes down from God out of heaven—long after the time covered in these prophecies. Revelation 21:3 specifically says that God again dwells there. However, at the time of the prophecies in Revelation 14 and 16, Revelation calls both Jerusalem and Babylon "great." This is not a positive comparison. Israel is great as Babylon is great, and at that time, neither of them is great in holiness.

Babylon is great in its anti-God, sinful influence and in economic, political, and military power, but it is most certainly not great in righteousness. Israel's conduct places it next to Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon in great defiance of God, His message, and His servants, and thus it loses its identification as "the holy city."

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


 

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 17:3-5

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

Is it really wild, unjust, and perhaps outright wrong that God could refer to Israel as a great prostitute, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots? Notice, however, Revelation 11:8: "And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." In the same book, He calls Jerusalem "Sodom and Egypt"! Both were despicable places. God is providing evidence to solve the identity of the prostitute by comparing Jerusalem—representing all Israel—to Sodom, noted in history for its sexual sins, and Egypt, known to biblical students for its harsh slavery of the Israelites and as a type of the anti-God world we must come out of.

These are two stunning and dramatic comparisons of Israel's immoral characteristics! Why should God not also compare her to Babylon? God reserves His harshest judgments for those who should know better but waste their gifts on prideful self-indulgence. Jesus says, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:48; see Amos 3:1-2).

In Ezekiel 16:46-51,56, God not only compares Jerusalem to both Samaria and Sodom, but He judges it to be more immorally vile than even those two well-publicized examples of ancient sin run wild! God portrays them as sisters under the skin! We all know the perversity of Sodom's sins. God goes so far as to say that Samaria had not committed half the sins that Jerusalem had. These verses put Israel's conduct into a perspective that we find difficult to accept, but it is true nonetheless—it is God's own judgment and testimony! That God calls Israel "Babylon" gives evidence of the magnitude of Israel's unfaithfulness to her Husband and Benefactor, God.

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 18:2

In God's description of Babylon's evil qualities, He links demons with birds—not just any birds but unclean and hated birds, ones that display in their natural characteristics activities humans find disgusting and revolting.

America's national symbol, the bald eagle, is beautiful to behold and majestic in flight, but it is also a carrion eater, feeding on the dead, and a vicious killer, relentlessly and ruthlessly seeking to devour. Then there is the vulture, ugly to behold, which strips the flesh of anything, including unburied human dead. Other birds, like certain types of owls, have somewhat similar characteristics, yet are nocturnal in their habits, seeking to attack and kill under the cover of the darkness of night. They also seem to seek out ruins of buildings as their habitats, places that men perceive to be cursed.

God paints Babylon as a dangerous place inhabited by predators, as if it were the very generator and purveyor of all evil on earth. Babylon has spread its influence over the whole earth, but in another sense, its heart and core are in one place: the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:1-3).

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


 

Revelation 18:3

Babylon the Great is clearly the economic nerve-center of world trade, not of religion. Notice, first the kings of the earth bewail her destruction, and then the businessmen follow suit. It is hard to imagine both the kings of the earth and hardheaded businessmen bewailing the destruction of a church! These leaders are bewailing the destruction of an entity in which their power and wealth are involved, placing them in grave danger of overwhelming loss because Babylon is no longer able to consume their products.

Notice in Revelation 18:3, 7, 19, and 23 how clear the inferences and direct statements are regarding wealth, not only of Babylon itself, but also of those who trade with her. How can these scriptures apply to a church? Modern Israel has been largely responsible for causing the prosperity of Germany, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and now China through trade.

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


 

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

Revelation 18:4 is God's exhortation to the churches to shun the treacherous beauty and charm of this theological and political prostitute, Babylon. God uses very specific wording in His description of her in Revelation 17, calling her a harlot or prostitute. A prostitute can have beauty and charm. Any number of a harlot's attributes can snare a man's attention and divert him from his purpose. Because the world had already ensnared him before conversion, a Christian must be spiritually watchful that he does not return to it. Unfortunately, the world too easily reclaims the unwary, so the apostle counsels God's people to flee from it—to avoid the edge of the cliff.

But what must we flee? In Nebuchadnezzar's vision in Daniel 2, Babylon is the head of gold. Gold is attractive. People give their lives to the power and attractiveness of gold. The head of gold has a beauty that stimulates the eyes, the feelings, the desire for the good things of life. In addition, gold represents quality. In the prophetic image, the quality of metal degenerates or declines as time moves toward the end. Babylon represents a tolerable system, but through the ages, the system degenerates from gold to silver to brass to iron to a final mixture of iron and miry clay.

At its beginning, the system, represented by the whole image, is attractive. As in Paul's analogy of the body in I Corinthians 12, the head guides and directs the other parts of the body. In effect, this means that Babylon, the head of gold, has impressed its system, its ideas, its style, its qualities on all of civilization. Though the system is not acceptable to God, it nevertheless has stamped its mark on the whole world.

Everyone has participated in it. American culture is an Israelite adaptation of the head of gold. All other nations have absorbed its qualities, putting their own particular twists on them. The same basic system pervades the world—and as it is practiced, it is anti-Christ. Because of its attractiveness, its magnetism, and because all are defenseless before conversion, it has impressed itself upon God's people. Babylon is the world Christians must flee.

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)


 

Revelation 18:7

From a theological point of view, Revelation 18 identifies the hallmarks of Babylon. The signs are idolatry, theological prostitution or spiritual adultery, self-sufficiency, self-glorification, pride, complacency, reliance on luxury and wealth, avoidance of suffering, and violence against life. Reading Revelation 17 and 18 carefully, one finds each of those traits expressed in some way.

Interestingly, God emphasizes three in particular in Revelation 18:7. Personifying Babylon as a woman, God reveals her innermost, secret thoughts and thus her true character.

The first of the three characteristics emphasized here is pride, self-glorification: "She glorified herself . . . 'I sit as queen. . . .'" The second is reliance on wealth, satiety, overindulgence: She "lived luxuriously [extravagantly, lustfully, without restraint]." The third trait is avoidance of suffering, for she says, "[I] will not see sorrow." Because reliance on wealth can easily lead to proud self-sufficiency and avoiding all suffering, these three are interrelated. What bothers God is that her self-sufficiency is aimed against Him. Who needs God when one has everything? Avoidance of suffering produces compromise with both conscience and law. It can severely damage one's character, and to God that is a serious matter.

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


 

Revelation 18:7

First, she glorifies herself. This implies pride, even to the point of arrogance. Jeremiah 51:41 is used in relation to ancient Babylon, but it applies to modern Babylon as God uses it here in Revelation 18. Jeremiah writes:

How is Sheshach [a biblical code name for Babylon] taken! And how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! How is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!

This refers to the fall of Babylon. When Jeremiah wrote this, they were so powerful as a nation that nobody wanted to deal with Babylon as an enemy. He calls her "the praise of the nations." This means, essentially, "the greatest of the nations." Everybody praises Babylon as the greatest of the nations on earth. God applies this to Babylon in Revelation 18. It is something implied, not directly stated. However, even Babylon "has glorified herself."

Second, "she has lived deliciously" or "she has lived luxuriously, extravagantly, lustfully, unrestrainedly." The woman is the very apex of luxury on earth. This phrase indicates satiety, that is, over-indulgence, super-abundance, the state of having too much.

Third, she says, to magnify these, "I sit as a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow." "Nobody's going to bother with me. I'll never know any sorrow." Taken together, there is in her an avoidance of suffering, an unwillingness to sacrifice, and it indicates a rather "in your face," cocky superiority. Interestingly, an avoidance of suffering, the unwillingness to sacrifice, inevitably produces compromise with law and conscience.

In this one verse, a nation is portrayed as proud to the point of arrogance, self-confident in its security, thinking that it has produced its power by its own means, and living extravagantly relative to the rest of the world, as it seeks immediate gratification while failing to discipline itself to conform to a set standard.

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


 

Revelation 18:10

Revelation 17 and 18 are not describing a church, but a city/nation that is involved in massive worldwide merchandising and manufacturing. We are looking at a prophetic picture of globalism (the term we use today), which cannot describe a church organization.

The Catholic church has never been involved in manufacturing. It has invested, to be sure, but to actually be the manufacturer, that is another thing altogether. Nor has it been the actual seller of manufactured goods.

Revelation 17 provides no information whatsoever directly tying the woman riding the Beast to religion.

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


 

Revelation 18:11-13

The merchants, who gained wealth and perverse pleasures from this world's system of religion and commerce, cry and lament because it satiated their greed for materialistic acquisition and their lust for self-pleasure. As the Babylonian system incorporates every expression of corrupt government, so its prostitution includes every corrupt economic system and idolatry. Even human beings are reduced to cargo, traded as slaves to drive the engines of production, prosperity, and sinful pleasures.

Sadly, the modern descendants of Israel have promoted and become part of this self-serving, perverse world system. Sin inevitably brings its own punishment, and there are always consequences to disobedience. Thus, when today's Israelites go into captivity in the last days, they will have no excuse for their sin and no freedom whatsoever.

Martin G. Collins
Slavery and Babylon


 

Find more Bible verses about Babylon:
Babylon {Nave's}
Babylon {Torrey's}
 




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