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Mystic and Commercial Babylon
Revelation 17:1-18 and Revelation 18:1-24
The seventeenth chapter of Revelation discusses what we call mystic Babylon; and the eighteenth presents commercial Babylon. Personally, we believe that there will be a union of apostate protestantism with apostate Catholicism. This is discussed in chapter seventeen. Then, we believe that Babylon will be rebuilded. We are quite aware of Isaiah's prophecy concerning the former Babylon, which was to be destroyed, never to be inhabited, and never to be rebuilt. The new Babylon, however, may easily be erected on a sight distinct from the former one. If the eighteenth chapter does not. discuss a literal Babylon it certainly discusses a great city. If not Babylon, perhaps Rome where the world's commerce may be centralized.
We should remember, as we approach these two chapters that we are at the very end of the seven year period of Tribulation, in which the antichrist shall rule, and reign over a ten kingdom empire, and in which his authority will reach to the end of the world. By way of introduction, we wish to speak upon one thing only. That is the present hour development of that great religious hierarchy which is known, in chapter seventeen, as the Great Harlot.
In considering this strange name for an apostate church, let us remember that the true church has been recognized in the Word of God as the bride, the Lamb's wife. If a true fellowship in Christ is known as a Virgin, with raiment spotless and clean, why should not the contradiction of that spiritual fellowship be known as the great harlot? Let us observe several things in Revelation 17:1-6 which are spoken about this evil woman, which we call the apostate church.
1. Consider the statement that she sitteth upon many waters. In verse fifteen, these waters are designated as peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. We all know of the universality of the Roman Catholic Church. While the Roman Apostasy centers in a little corner of the earth, in Rome. Yet. its sweep and sway is known and felt the world over.
2. Consider that the inhabitants of the earth, have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. When an individual is drunk, we think of him as dominated by a power, in which he loses his own sober, and individual self. Thus, also have millions come under the sway and the sweep of apostate Christianity.
3. Consider that the woman was seen sitting upon the scarlet colored beast. This beast is not difficult to place, because he is full of names of blasphemy, and he has seven heads and ten horns. We found out in a study, that these things are especially true of the antichrist. The verse, three, reveals to us the fact that apostate Christendom will make a league with the antichrist.
The fact that the woman was seated upon the beast, shows that she will have great power in directing, at least the early movements of the beast. Antichrist will have a religious personality, particularly, when he comes in power. The Roman Catholic church has long flirted with dictators and kings and potentates. Its dream is to hold a regal, as well as a spiritual relationship toward men. In this role apostate modernism will have no difficulty in playing its part.
4. Consider the harlot's raiment. Verse four tells us, "And the woman was arrayed in purple, and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls," No one could doubt the significance of this description. We were present at the Eucharistic Conference of the Roman church in Budapest, Hungary. The great church leaders had the appearance of monarchs, as they paraded the streets in purple and scarlet and gold. Apostate Christendom is more and more following in the same footsteps.
5. Consider the golden cup in her hand full of her fornications. What abomination, what filthiness, what shame have been found in many acts of the apostate church. Much of the blood of the martyrs lies at her feet. She seems to be holding her golden cup aloof in her hand, as she makes bold to boast of her power, and authority, in realms political. Many a politician has sought the favor of Rome in order to obtain his seat.
6. Consider her name. In verse five her name is described, as being written upon her forehead. Here it is: "Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth." Mark you, we do not say that in this great world system of Romanism, and apostate Christendom, there are to be found no lovers of the Lord. Not that. We speak merely of the facts that the system, as a whole, is drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
I. THE MYSTERY EXPLAINED (17:7-11)
1. The beast is explained as one who was and is not and is about to ascend out of the abyss, and to go into perdition. What a picture of the antichrist. It was because of this, in the old days, that John wrote, "Even now there are many antichrists." It is not because the personal antichrist is not to be revealed. The antichrist is to ascend out of the bottomless pit. Whether this means that the antichrist will be one who has already lived, or whether it means that his system and methods come out of the abyss, under the touch and power of Satan, we are not prepared to say. Perhaps the former is true.
He shall go into perdition. This we know is literal, because, in the nineteenth chapter, we read: "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he received them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone."
2. They that dwell on the earth wonder after the beast. Among men he is of great renown. Only those whose names are written in the book of life, will refrain from following after the antichrist. Daniel gives us a most graphic picture of the power of this striking personage. He is called a vile person, who comes in peaceably, and attains his kingdom by flatteries. He enters into league with others. Then, he works deceitfully. He stirs up his power and his courage against kings. He waxes great even to the host of Heaven. He magnifies himself. He destroys wonderfully, and prospers, and practices, but he shall be broken without hand.
3. The beast had seven heads. Verse nine tells us, "The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth." Our mind cannot help but go to Rome. There are some real Bible interpreters in the church of Rome. We wonder how they treat this chapter as a whole, and these words, in particular? To us, there can be but one meaning.
Verse eighteen tells us this: "And the woman, which thou sawest, is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." Once again the city of Rome comes to mind and the Roman Catholic Church.
II. A GROWING ANTAGONISM OF THE BEAST TOWARD THE GREAT HARLOT (Revelation 17:12-15 )
Let us take up these verses statement by statement.
1. "The ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings." This statement is in perfect accord with many others. The ten horns here, are the same as the ten toes of Daniel two. They are the same as the ten horns of that dreadful and terrible monster in Daniel 7:7 . That the old Roman Empire has come into a ten kingdom empire under one super-king, there can be no doubt.
2. The ten kingdoms will have one mind, and shall deliver up their power and strength to the antichrist. We heard Stanley Baldwin, of London, say one night that a democracy believes in the voice of the people, but a totalitarian state, under a dictatorship, gives the people no voice. In a totalitarian state, he said, everything runs smoothly, and peaceably so long as the people have no mind, and no power or strength of their own. Mr. Baldwin had just come over from Europe, and was speaking in New York City. His words met a response in our own hearts.
3. The ten kingdoms will make war with the Lamb. This also is the message of the prophetic Scriptures as a whole. David, by the Holy Ghost, put special emphasis upon these things. He spoke of the kings of the earth, the coming confederacy, as they set themselves together, and took counsel together, against the Lord, and against the Anointed. Yes, the world that rejected Christ, when He came the first time has the same antagonism now, as of yore.
4. "The Lamb shall overcome them." In Psalms 110:1-7 , we read that He shall strike through kings in the days of His wrath. In the same Psalm we read that His arrows will be hot in the hearts of the king's enemies.
5. He who fights against the Lamb, fights against those who are with Him. These are described in our verse as the called, the chosen, and the faithful. Thus, whatever befalls our Lord, befalls His saints.
III. THE FINAL OVERTHROW OF THE GREAT HARLOT (Revelation 17:16-18 )
1. When the antichrist comes into power he will need the patronage and influence of the apostate church. When, however, he shall have ascended the seat of authority, it will be another matter. Even the Catholic Church will break with the antichrist. So long as he. was willing to permit the richly arrayed harlot, to sit upon him, all was well. When he, however, having received power from Satan, begins to demand the worship of the populace, and to lift himself up above God, and is worshipped; then, even the apostate church will bear with him no longer. Or, perhaps, he will bear no longer with her. He throws her from his back, and tramps her beneath his feet.
When the antichrist throws apostate Christendom from the saddle, he makes her desolate and naked, and as it were, eats her flesh, taking everything that was hers to himself, and then he burns her with fire.
2. This is the method by which God's will is to be performed. For verse seventeen says, "God hath put in their hearts to fulfill His will, and to agree." After this scene of judgment there remains among men, but one will, and one mind, and one supreme king, even the antichrist, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Our advice to the ministry of today is to carry forward their evangelism. It is not for us to take judgment into our own hands. Suppose that modernism does devastate the churches; suppose that Roman Catholicism does carry away many from the full Gospel, of glory and of grace; we should only preach that Gospel the more faithfully. We need not war against apostates, because we cannot overthrow them. We need not seek to avenge ourselves against the Romanists; we may contend for the truth, we may preach the Word; then, when the day comes God will judge this great religious harlot, with His own judgments.
IV. "THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE FALL OF BABYLON (Revelation 18:1-3 )
Our verse reads. "And after these things I saw another angel come down from Heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory, and he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying. Babylon, the great, is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."
1. Think with me for a moment upon the ministry of angels. As we have been preaching on this wonderful book, you, no doubt, have seen the angels of God at every turn. They have ever been ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation. With what tender, guarding hands they have ever encamped around those who fear the Lord. Now, however, they have become the angels of God's judgments toward the ungodly.
The highest, and the holiest of angels, are seen in these hours of tribulation. One after the other appears on the scene. They come clothed with great power and glory. Just now we saw how the very earth was lightened with the glory of the angel, as he cried mightily with a strong voice announcing the fall of Babylon,
2. Come with me a while, as we look upon the greatness of the world's great city, Babylon.
From the days of Babel and its mighty tower, until this moment, the name Babylon has stood for confusion. It has stood for the tearing down of God and of His authority, and for the erection of the dominion and rule of the coming superman. Babylon, in the chapter we are now considering, stands for world commercialism. Its message is the message of wealth and its power.
3. Come with me as we behold Babylon's fall. All nations drank of the wine of her fornication, and the kings of the earth mingled with her in every evil way. The merchants of the earth waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. Now, commercialism, having reached its greatest height, is seen toppling and falling, Babylon quickly becomes the habitation of demons. Vandals come to sack her. Every unclean and hateful bird comes to suck her blood. She rose, but to fall. She lifted herself up, and God brought her down in humiliation and disgrace. She lived for self, and she lost it all. She played the game, but went into worse than bankruptcy.
V. A CALL TO GOD'S PEOPLE TO EVACUATE THE CITY (Revelation 18:4-7 )
1. The call, "Be not partakers of her sins." This is God's last call to His own people to come out of Babylon. Away back in the beginning, God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. Later He called the children of Israel out of Egypt. There has always been a great danger when saints mix and mingle, in the world of self-centered commercialism. Yet, it has been absolutely necessary for all to buy, and to sell. As the age, however, comes to its close and antichrist rules; and, as no man can buy or sell, excepting under the supervision of the man of sin, the antichrist; more and more it will be impossible for saints to compete in commercial life.
When, at last, God is about to destroy Babylon, the commercial center from which comes the authority of earth's dictator, then, God cries, "Come out of her, My people."
When Sodom had to burn, Lot had to flee. Poor Lot! He was so entangled in commercial Sodom and Gomorrah that he had to be urged to fly from her overthrow. The two angels who warned Lot, hastened him (Genesis 19:15 ).
Has not God said to saints, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth"? Has God not also said concerning the riches of this earth, "But thou, O man of God, flee these things"? Let us beware lest we become too much entangled by the lure of gold.
2. The curse. The iniquities of commercial Babylon reached up unto God, and God says, "Reward her, even as she rewarded you; and double unto her double according to her works." Then God added, "How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her; for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow."
Thus did commercialism boast her security, and thus did she trust in her gold.
VI. THE WOES AND WAILS OF MERCHANTS AND SHIPMASTERS (Revelation 18:8-19 )
1. When the merchants of the earth, who had luxuriated with the wealth of the world, saw that in one day she was cut down, and utterly burned with fire, they bewailed her and lamented. John foresaw all of this. The merchants saw the smoke of her burning as they stood afar off, because of fear. And they said, "Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come."
Thus did the merchants of the earth meet and morn, for no man bought their merchandise any more.
2. The merchandise, in which the merchants of the earth traded. Here is God's forewritten list: "The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet; and all thyine wood, and all manner of vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and of iron, and marble; and cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep; and horses, and chariots; and slaves, and souls of men."
3. The woes of the shipmasters. Every shipmaster, and sailors; as many as trade by sea, stood afar off and cried as they saw the smoke of her burning. Do any of you wonder at the grief and groans of these men who had made themselves rich by trading? Men love money. They love to live deliciously, they love to luxuriate. When Christ commanded the demons to enter the swine, and the swine ran down a steep place into the waters of Galilee, the people were not slow in wanting Christ to leave their coast.
Shakespeare might write, "Who steals my purse steals trash"; but the average man thinks of his purse, as his greatest possession.
VII. THE HEAVENS REJOICE (Revelation 18:20-24 )
1. There is a bright side, as well as a dark side to every cloud. While on earth the merchants and the shipmasters were bewailing the fall of Babylon, Heaven was rejoicing. Here are the words of the angels, "Rejoice over her, thou Heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you of her."
The Lord knows that all of us need to be clothed and fed, and He has promised to supply our needs. Legitimate commerce is honorable and right. However, today the whole world seems to be rising up against the inconsistencies and sins of the rich, as they have depressed the poor.
The Holy Ghost, in the book of James, gives us a brief record of this. "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, your garments are motheaten (James 5:1-20 ).
This will suffice to show you why God's curse is upon the trade and traffic of men. It is because they have lived in pleasure on the earth and been wanton; it is because they have nourished their own hearts, in a day of slaughter. It is because they have condemned and killed the just.
2. Now we understand why the saints are told to rejoice at the overthrow of commercial Babylon. Commercial Babylon ceases forever upon the earth. The mighty angel, as he took up a stone, like a millstone, cast it into the sea, and said, "Thus with violence, shall that great city Babylon, be thrown down and shall be found no more at all." Along with Babylon's overthrow, comes also another overthrow: "The voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and of trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee."
Thus, does Babylon fall, and in her wreckage is found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Revelation 17". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25