2. The Harlot of Babylon Close Up (Revelation 17:3-6)
The Mysterious Name “Babylon the Great!” (v 5): The prophet recognized a name on the forehead of the most dangerous of all harlots, a name that both revealed and veiled her character at the same time (Revelation 17:5). This name remains a mystery. We should not prematurely reach conclusions and solutions for this end time riddle. At present we are unable to decipher the spiritual significance of this name.
“Babylon, the great”, or “Babylon, the great city”, is mentioned six times in the book of Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21). These two formulations are mixed with each other in the various translations. In the beginning the talk is of “Babylon the great”, later she is defined as the “great city of Babylon”.
The “great city” (without name) is mentioned twice (11:13; 16:19); presumably implying either Jerusalem or Rome.
This peculiar name insignia is the defining characteristic of the woman on the beast. She is not only a “branded” person, but also a symbol for the antichristian city.
The end time followers of Christ out of Israel, too, bear an invisible name on their forehead, namely, the name of the Lamb and the name of God the Father (Revelation 14:1).
Jesus especially promised the church leader at Philadelphia that if he remained faithful to the end and overcame the temptations of the end time by the power of the Holy Spirit, He Himself, Jesus, would write on him the name of His God and the name of the city of His God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from His God (Revelation 3:12). Corresponding to this promise, the name of the New Jerusalem, the place where God Himself will dwell, is to be written on the foreheads of the holy saints. Therein can be seen in the seal inscriptions the unclean sovereign of the demon-filled Babylon standing against the residents of the spiritual city of Jerusalem.
The Meaning of “Babel” or “Babylon” in the Days of John (v 5): At first this name meant the “gate of God”, or the “gate to God”, or, the “gate through which God reveals Himself” (bab-el). Later, however, the name of the city was understood to signify “the confused” or the “mixed up”, (stemming from the word “babbala”) due to the boundless arrogance of her inhabitants.
The Babel of the Old Testament had been destroyed by the Persians and no longer existed at the time of Jesus and His Apostles. The great city on the Euphrates had been totally devastated (Jeremiah 50:35-40; 51:1-14).
For the Jews throughout all ages the name “Babel” signified the most horrible of all their enemies, who had destroyed the first temple and Jerusalem, their capital, and taken their people into captivity. In Jewish tradition Babel remains the arch enemy of God and of His people.
Strangely, following the destruction of Babylon by the Persians, relatively few Jews returned to their homeland. The so-called “sophisticated” culture in Mesopotamia became their temptation and their doom, so that they preferred to keep their homes and schools on the “many waters” of the Mesopotamian lowlands. Few rose up to return and rebuild their homeland, in the meantime grown wild.
After the Jews were defeated by the Romans in 70 A.D. and Jerusalem and the renewed temple of Herod were completely destroyed, they began to describe Rome with bitter rage as a re-birth of the old Babel. Added fury came when Judah's population was taken captive by the Romans and sold unto all nations in “wilderness” slavery.
The epithets of the old city of Rome were “the great”, “the powerful”, or “the mighty”. The name “Babylon the great” came to have a double identification, a two-fold code name for Rome (Revelation 17:5). John wanted to be certain that each reader of his book understood exactly “who” and “what” was meant in his day when he spoke of “Babylon the great”.
Babylon, the mighty, did not represent to the Jewish immigrants a single person, but a pernicious city with an ungodly administration, with powerful armies and a heathen population. For them, this unholy city full of abomination was the exact opposite of their holy city, Jerusalem, which had been destroyed.
The Mother of Harlotries and all Abomination on Earth (vv 5-6): After the time of John's writing, the city of Rome began to collapse amidst the surging waves and upheavals of mass migration of peoples in the succeeding centuries. The papacy, however, filled the vacuum that had arisen, and took over, among other things, the traditional attire of the Caesars, their calendar, with the months named after the Roman Caesars and gods, as well as parts of their successful administrative structures. Thus, in a certain sense, the papacy inherited the old Rome, and proudly called its “new” Rome “the Mother of all Believers”, and the “Head of the World”. Both titles represented a provocative arrogance and blasphemy of Jesus Christ.
Following the victory of the Persian armies over the Babylonian Empire, the Chaldeans gave the Jews the choice of whether to return to their homeland, or remain in Mesopotamia. But since the majority no longer wanted to return to their hilly homeland, which had in the mean time become a wilderness, there arose between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers flourishing Jewish colonies. Following the second destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, significant Torah schools had been established. The teaching in these schools was no longer based solely on the scriptures of the Old Testament, but borrowed energetically from the cultures and cults of the Babylonians and Persians. Astrology, contact with spirits, magic and other secret sciences came to influence the Biblical teaching. The result was a revised interpretation of the Torah in form of the Mishna and Talmud! Some of their chapters contain obvious anti-Christian formulations.
Can this association and mixing with foreign cultures again have represented a spiritual adultery, since it had systematically called upon foreign sources and spirits, and was no longer based solely upon the words of the Bible? In any case, the angel had said that “all spiritual abomination” arose out of old Babylon. Unbiblical ideas, clever distortions and false interpretations made their way via Jerusalem and Rome into all nations of earth.
Because of its name (bab-el), Babylon had initially made the claim to be the “open door to God”. But the true God was not speaking in Babel, where, foreign and unholy spirits were being revealed. Therein stood Babel and Jerusalem in antithesis to one another, for the true, triune God had revealed Himself in Jerusalem.
Esteemed Jews in old Rome, with their Talmudic teaching and distortions of the Old Testament Law, represented a spiritual threat to the young churches in the days of John (Acts 20:29). In similar fashion, the Catholic Church, following the mass migrations, consolidated its formation in the resurrected new Rome. To form her teaching, worship services and hierarchy, the church drew upon Greek and Roman thinking and principles. The church led by the pope was no longer founded singularly on the Bible, but also on the traditions of their church fathers. She no longer believed in redemption by faith alone (despite assertions to the contrary), but also built “good works” into her teaching of justification. Could this legalization of a subliminal folk religiosity with its self-justification represent a flawed mixing with divine revelation, and in the end signify a spiritual harlotry of the church?
In the same light, the excessive adoration of Mary and the worship of her in Catholic and Orthodox churches must be mentioned. In Christ's letters to the seven churches in Revelations Mary is not mentioned once. Today, however, the “immaculate conception of Mary” is spoken of. Accordingly, Jesus would not be true man, but would only possess a divine nature. Mary is often described as the “Mother of God”, who ascended into heaven, and has since appeared in many places. Pope John Paul II blessed Syria and Israel in the “name of Mary”. Numerous Oriental Christians honor Mary more than they do Jesus, who in their eyes is not the only Mediator and Savior. Beside, or even above Him, stands Mary, as their mediator and co-sovereign with God. She is worshipped by some as the “Queen of Heaven”. In so doing they attach to the humble Mary one of the blasphemous titles the Bible gives to Babylon (Jeremiah 47:1, 6; Revelation 18:7)! The heretical belief in Mary is a great abomination before God (John 2:4; Matthew 12:46-49) that will cause true Christians much trouble and distress in the last days.
Beyond that, the Second Vatican Council propagated the opening of the Catholic Church to other world religions and especially to Islam, in order to take in their existing truths. This currying favour with foreign and demonic revelations signifies a further spiritual harlotry, since Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6).
In the Vatican a professor's chair for parapsychology is to be established. In this department occult appearances and miracles are to be taught, examined and evaluated. Is this not a door through which all of the evil spirits of the past, present and future can enter in (Revelation 2:14)? John wrote that Babylon, the mother of all harlotries, was responsible for all abominations on earth. This warning is also meant for us, for the de-mythologizing that the theologian Bultmann propagated has, in fact, reversed course, and come exactly to fulfillment. Today spirits and demons not only receive attention, but are also contacted. In some extreme groups Satan is worshipped in black masses.
Whoever Lives in a Glass House Should not Throw Stones! We, as Evangelicals, should not make it a matter of priority to denounce the aberrations of other churches, but first sweep in front of our own door. Protestants originally built their faith on the Bible alone, faith alone, and Jesus, the Son of God, alone. From the very beginning until today they clung to their creeds of faith and church ordinances. In cases of doubt the conscience of the individual was understood to be the final authority. The trust of many Protestants in reason and intellect did, however, strike a wide swath of ruin in Biblical faith. Wherever an anemic rationalism, an arrogant criticism of the Bible, and a superficial enlightenment dominate, the fear of God will be eroded. A church that places rationalism, philosophy, science and current thinking above the Bible sinks to the level of a spiritual harlot. A tolerant conformity, false respect, as well as the search for universal consensus opens the church door to unclean spirits. Multi-cultural, syncretistic and even some human rights principles in the teaching of the church are an invitation to God's wrath and judgment! Whoever studies the seven letters of Christ to the churches in Asia Minor and in the end time will understand that the risen Lord jealously watches over His followers, to see that they cling to Him and His gospel alone. It is the visible fruit of spiritual harlotry when Evangelical bishops and pastors dare to tolerate, or even approve of, homosexuality, lesbian love and similar perversions. Whenever and wherever the fear of God and righteousness dwindles there creeps in a deluded, unlimited godless freedom that “generously” legalizes every sin. How blessed is the one who places his will and understanding under the leading of the New Testament, and has his speech guided by the Holy Spirit.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we thank You because Jesus, Son of Mary, is Your incarnate word and the summary of all preceding prophecies. Grant us the gift of discerning of spirits that we may not listen to or believe in the church teachings that oppose or go beyond the inspiration of the gospel, and that we may neither rely upon the opinions of philosophers, nor believe the teachings of other religions, nor open our hearts to the deceiving spirits of today. Your truth is Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, who sits at Your right hand, and comes to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end. Amen.
- What are the foreign spirits that have influenced the teachings of the Mishna and Talmud?
- What are the unclean spirits that enter churches today?