This is the third part in the Bible study series: End-Time Prophecy 101. The Bible shows us Babylon was a city, an empire and the personification of all that opposes the plan and purpose of God. The Book of Revelation shows an end time global manifestation of this age long system. It will be Satan’s final masterpiece of deception. What do the people of God need to understand about Babylon in order to “come out of her” and take no part in her sins (Revelation 18:4 Revelation 18:4And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues.
American King James Version×)? Join us in this fascinating look at “Babylon Through the Ages”.
[Darris McNeely] Alright, let’s go ahead and open with prayer. If you would, here, bow your heads, and I’ll ask God’s blessing upon our study. Father in heaven, the God of Abraham, the God of history. Father, You who control the events of this world according to Your purpose and plan. We bow before You this evening, in this study, and ask for Your blessing and Your guidance upon us as we study into a subject that is both fascinating and important and certainly relevant to our world today and the future, but also gives us, Father, an understanding of the world we live in and Your guiding hand upon all of us through these times and at all times. So Father as we gather, we ask Your blessing, and may this study be profitable for all of us here and many who will hear and watch this even beyond this evening. We thank You, Father, for Your great kindness to us and pray this in Christ’s holy name, amen.
I would like to begin tonight by setting, kind of, a scene of where we are in our world today, just a reminder of something that I think all of us realize and, perhaps, don’t fully grasp the significance of the times in which we live. We talk today about globalization and living in a global world or a global village, and we certainly are living at a very prosperous time in the history of the world. We, in the United States of America, North America, Canada and actually many of the other parts of the Western world live a very high standard of living. And because of the communications and transportation, advances and links that truly linked together all nations of the world in many different ways, we can call and travel to various places and be in contact with people instantaneously. Certainly through telecommunications and the communications network that we have which enables communication, which enables the transfer of information and even money as it flows through those particular systems that have been set up. And with the transportation that links our nations and our world together today, we are living in a very significant global period. It is not, however, the first period of so-called globalization that we have lived in. And we should understand that.
For those that, perhaps, follow things like that, you should realize that about a hundred years ago, the world went through, at least for modern times, another period of globalization that ended really with World War I. At the beginning of World War I in 1914, the world was… there was a period of globalization that had linked the world at that point through, again, communication and transportation for its time, which was quite advanced. In fact, because of that and the linking of economies and nations, there was this feeling that nobody would go to war. They would not fight one another because of the interconnected economies and nation states. That was blown out of the water in August of 1914 when World War I erupted and upset so many different things. And it was not until, frankly the 1980s, about 25 years ago, some say with the fall of the Berlin Wall, that we entered the current period of globalization that we have today, the acceleration that we have especially with the internet. But, if we go back in history, globalization is something that is almost as old as man, in terms of the ideas of linking people together in powerful communities that have various purposes. Would we begin to go into this subject tonight of Babylon the Great, I want to at least put that out there for us to understand because we will come back to it.
As we look at this subject that we have from the Bible and from history of Babylon, understand that we are dealing with something that is both a city, an ancient empire, an ancient city but also a age-long system, both spiritual, economic and cultural in many ways that we see from the Scriptures and we can see from history that continued to impact the world today and seek to draw people together in a global community or global world for purposes other than what God Himself intends. And that’s one of the things we should understand as we look at the subject of Babylon the Great, and just remember the world we live in today and realize that it is a dream that is almost as old as man. And as we go into the study of Babylon, that I think should help us to understand something that is very relevant for us today on this particular subject and the future and help us to understand this time, our time, in the world scene, in the world history. So with that as a bit of a preface and believe me, on this particular subject, I was reminded in preparing it that that’s about all I am going to give you tonight is a preface. A preface to an introduction. Forget the book; we just don’t have time to do that. It is a large subject that deals with history and prophesy and God’s purpose and plan for mankind that is extremely important as we look at this particular situation.
All right, so let’s look at the concept of Babylon the Great, which we can know and do know from history and from the Bible, was a city, an ancient city that existed in what is now the present nation of Iraq. In this artist reconstruction of what the city looked like shows the renowned Ishtar Gate which was a prominent feature of ancient Babylon and epitomized the grandeur, the glory, the power, the wealth of the religion, the entire reach and scope of Babylon as it was at its height, very likely during the time of the biblical Nebuchadnezzar in history, Nebuchadnezzar the second. But the one that we read about in the book of Daniel as he interacted at that point in time with the servant of God and even God himself as that particular story goes along to show.
Babylon had risen to a point where it was an empire and it, biblically, is the one that is dealt with in a unique way. Egypt, in terms of the ancient world, had existed before Babylon. The Egyptian empire – we know that story from the book of Exodus and the children of Israel and Moses and that particular story as it is told earlier in history. And Egypt itself was a very great civilization that, kind of, broke out of the pack very early in the stage of human development. But it never reached the point that Babylon and the successive empires that we know about from the Bible that they did. And in terms of the interaction of Babylon with the people of God, Israel in particular, and the story of God’s dealing with His people and His plan, Babylon takes on an even different role than Egypt did because it is a story that stretches from literally from Genesis all the way into the book of Revelation and the time even yet ahead of us, in terms of the prophetic scheme of things. And what it became and what it was in terms of this ancient system in time is very, very important. And so it was the unique status, it had a unique status in the biblical record that begin even before the time of Nebuchadnezzar and when we read about it in the Book of Daniel. In fact, we look into the past of Babylon and look at this and began to sketch it forward from the earliest reference. We have to go back to Genesis chapter 10, where in that post flood world, we began to read about certain individuals that are men of renown during that period of time and we come across an individual that is named Nimrod, a very famous figure from that period of time. We are given just a brief sketch of his life, in Genesis 10:8-10 Genesis 10:8-10 8 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.
9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: why it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.
10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
American King James Version×.
But it says of him that his kingdom was of Babel and it says, “Like Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel.” This is the essence of the description that we are given of this individual who rises above his peers and his contemporaries and becomes a mighty hunter before the Lord. Now, again it’s a very sketchy description of Nimrod, but he is the leader of the people at this time and his kingdom was known as Babel which is the very site of what was to become Babylon and the kingdom that he had such as it was, and it was not anything near what it would become, what Babylon would become later under Nebuchadnezzar. But for the time, that early post flood period was significant, and his reach is something, at least from the recesses of history that we have about Nimrod, gives us some very clues of that he was a very interesting figure. What we are, what we can discern from this phrase, “a mighty hunter before the Lord,” is not so much his prowess as a hunter. But the fact that what that tells us in terms of the type of ruler that he was. He was an early tyrant. The fact that he was a hunter tells us the exact opposite of God’s ideal for a king.
When we read about how God expected a leader, and a king especially, to rule his people and ultimately pre-figure in David and also in Christ, we find the image of a shepherd, not a hunter. God’s ideal of a leader is one who shepherds the people under him, not acting in a sense of a predator, as a hunter is. And I say that understanding that I have deer hunter and goose hunters in my midst and people listening to this. We are not making any comment about that cultural aspect of life today. But in terms of what just we are told here from the biblical record, he devotes himself to exploiting people rather than taking care of the people and so he seems to be one who gratifies himself, and we are not told much more than that. We can go to a lot of other histories, but this at least gives us the beginning of an individual, the type of rule that he had in the place that the Bible describes as Babel and if we, again, keep that in mind that we are looking at a place, a city, ultimately an empire but more importantly a system that works in a sense, lords it over people.
Remember Jesus said that, what He told his disciples the ideal of a servant would be one who serves the people, and He said that the gentiles have a different approach. They lord it over others, and He made that distinction when He looked at the gentile leaders, not only of His day but through history, to tell His disciples and us the contrast and that we should be more like a servant where we shepherd the people or serve the people. This was what’s applied to the system that begins here at Babel, a system that can gather people together. That can even have great success economically and financially, religiously, culturally. But in terms of the system and the expression of love toward humanity and its fulfillment of God’s plan and God’s purpose for mankind, it doesn’t reflect what He wants and it does not reflect His way. This is an important takeaway from the story of Nimrod and what we find here, perhaps the most important. Legends, myths and some of the histories we can read tell us a lot of other things, but if we just focus on what the Scripture tells us then we know what’s important. And I think that should be understood here.
Now, the next step in the past system that we should understand is what takes place, as is described in Genesis chapter 11, with what is called the Tower of Babel. And again the gathering of people here together as Chapter 11:1 begins to tell us, where the earth “had one language and one speech. And it came to pass that they journeyed from the east, and they found a plain of the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.” And so civilization begin to develop as it was at that point and they begin to use bricks, and stone, and asphalt, and water to begin to build and put together a culture and a civilization. And they said in verse 4, “Let us build ourselves a city and a tower.” Notice there is both. Within that city is this tower “whose top is in the heavens; and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” So here we see a concerted attempt to bring people together: one language, one grouping of people here, one speech and a culture that keeps them from being scattered. There is a unity that is being striven for. If you will, there is another attempt at globalization, at keeping people together, to work together, to build together, to create together a culture and a way of life that is based upon a particular premise. And in this case, it is something that would reach to the heavens and allow them to have a name, an identity that others would know upon the earth at that time. As the story goes on in this account, God came down and He saw what was being done. He observed it all, and He said, “The people are one,” in verse 6, “and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” And He scatters them by confounding the languages. Confounding the languages.
And so what we see here is a scattering of people. Of course we know that, today, we have a multitude of languages that continue to divide people and in spite of our best efforts, in spite of Google, where we can translate instantaneously, we still have divisions within the world that also are very, very deep, culturally ethnically, religiously in many different ways. But this particular effort to build a tower became a symbol of defiance toward God that God could not allow in these early stages of the rebuilding of civilization in the post-Flood world. There is a certain level of pride that is referenced here by the idea of building a tower whose top is in the heavens. The land of Shinar, that area of Iraq is flat, just like, just flat as the stage up here. And any edifice that would begin to be built and reached that high, whatever height they would have been able to do, would certainly be noticed. And if that was the intent, there is a level of pride here that, instead of man looking up and seeing God’s creation and seeing the heavens, they look up and they see something created by man. And again it begins to epitomize a pride and a defiance of God that God would not permit.
We can speculate that perhaps at this point, God understood that, were civilization allowed to develop and human culture unimpeded by any divisions, that mankind would have progressed much, much more rapidly toward perhaps even a modern world than it was in God’s plan and purpose to accomplish. That perhaps goes a bit beyond the text but there was a reason that the God stopped at this particular point as He confused the language and scattered people over the face of the earth abroad over the earth. And it ended. Now, it’s well recognized that this wasn’t the site of Babylon that became again the city of Babylon. But I think we could reason that this is another attempt, perhaps the first great attempt, at creating a global world, a global effort to harness all the abilities of the human race at that particular time. But with the diffusion of languages and scattering of peoples that just did not happen and was not done. And so we have to move forward here.
And we’ve got a little glitch on the computer because it wants to update its software, I believe. So if we could remove that. Technology. You love it. There you go. All right, thank you.
Let’s look, let’s move forward again, move into the realm of the time period of Babylon as it continued to grow. Time went on.
In terms of the record in the Bible, we read about Assyria becoming a great power that at one point is used by God to chastise Israel which had been developed as very significant power in the land that God gave to the Israelites there, as we all know where it was there on edge of the Mediterranean. After coming out of Egypt, the empire — the Kingdom of Israel under David and then under Solomon at least during its period of the united monarchy — created quite a buffer between Egypt to the South and the developing empires of Babylon and Assyria and Nineveh further over to the East. But after the division of the Israelite empire into the North and South and the problems that historically we see there, these other nations beginning with Assyria began to come on the scene. Assyria conquers the northern tribes of Israel, taking them captive, leaving just Judah. Ultimately, Babylon itself becomes a larger empire, swallows up the Assyrian empire and begins to move against, not only Judah, but also against Egypt as well. And you see that, from this map here, that their influence of the Babylon Empire extended down into the Arabian Peninsula, effectively nullifying the power of Egypt without taking it over during that time. But the Egyptian empire’s time had come and gone, and its influence was eclipsed by that of what we see now of Babylon in this particular time.
And so we come into a period in the Scriptures and primarily, when we focus on the account in Daniel, where we find Daniel coming into contact with Nebuchadnezzar, and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and calling in Daniel to interpret that dream, and perhaps Nebuchadnezzar and the entire Babylonian empire at that point is epitomized by the statement that Nebuchadnezzar makes, “Is not this great Babylon, this great city that I have created?” as he boasts in his pride during those early chapters of the book of Daniel about what he had built. And indeed it was a large and a very great system, a city, an empire that developed there in what is now modern day Iraq. Babylon became the largest and grandest city in the ancient world. And truly, Nebuchadnezzar’s boasting had some merit to it. They continued their conquests and, for a period of time, were the big kid on the block. No question about it. They had taken the tiny nation of Judah. They had sacked the temple, brought its treasures to Babylon as well as Daniel and his friends and other Jews and deportation. The Babylonians had an approach. When they conquered a people, they moved them into Babylon. They enslaved them. Babylon became a very, very big slave trader, if you will, or slave system of their conquered peoples.
This is one of the primary features about Babylon that again you should note and understand because it figures in what we read in Revelation chapter 18 about the Babylon of the time of the end. But ancient Babylon had a very large number of slaves. And if they found a Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that had unique skills and talents, they were not beyond recruiting them into their intelligentsia, into their civil service, to use their skills, which we see happening with Daniel and his friends in the first chapter. And they enriched themselves that way while they also enslaved the common folk, if you will, in other ways for work within the entire system of Babylon. But the city becomes great, and as we see it develop in that story of Daniel and also from the prophesies, particularly of Isaiah and Jeremiah, we see that Babylon becomes the epitome of a city that represents a system that is against the way of God. They defeat Judah, they sacked the temple, and God deals with the head of that system, Nebuchadnezzar, in the unique ways that He does through Daniel, even to the point in the story of, because of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, making him for seven years live off of grass. Like the beast of the field, it describes there.
So they come into a very unique relationship with God at that particular time. But the city of Babylon as we know from both the historical accounts and the excavations that have been done within the city during this time, was indeed a great city. It had a triple walled system and Herodotus, the Greek historian who was one of the early travelers in the ancient world, Herodotus, one of these names that come down to us in his writings are part of the classical history, but he was an inveterate traveler at a time when men didn’t traveled that much. And he wrote about his travels. And he went to Babylon and he gives us a pretty good description. And he says, he talks about the huge walls, the streets, the buildings and temples and the system, the description of the culture. He says at one point, that the walls of Babylon are so wide that you can drive several chariots abreast around the wall, on the top of the walls around the city. As they had build their system up there. So it was quite a large system, and it had a number of gates. We showed a reconstruction of that gate here. The artist construction in the earlier slide. This is a actual reproduction, actually a reconstruction, not a reproduction but a reconstruction of the gate of Ishtar which was probably the primary gate at the end of what was called the Processional Way past Nebuchadnezzar’s palace and kind of the center avenue of boulevard of Babylon at the time. It’s been excavated, reassembled in Berlin. You can see this in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin to this date. But it’s quite a structure, quite a sight. The bricks are a blue enamel that was the exterior facing of the structure and the walls of the city, and especially along the processional way.
But it represents the wealth of Babylon. It became an extremely large, commercially prosperous city and empire that endured for a long period of time into the Persian period, into the Greek period, into the Roman period. But it began in Babylon. And when you read the histories, Will Durant has some very good information in his first volume, The Story of Civilization , where he talks about Babylon. His chapter on ancient Babylon is very, very good. And he brings out how that the priestly class, the priests in Babylon, they were the stabilizing factor. And when we talk about Babylonian religion and that part of it, the priests played a key role not only in what they promulgated, what they taught, and what type of a Babylonian system begin to infiltrate religion and false religion even down to our day in many aspects of modern religion as well, that legacy lives on.
But one of the things that Durant brings out in his story about Babylon is that, as kings came and went, Nebuchadnezzar II, the great one we read about was the second. There was a first, and there were others beyond him. Kings and leaders came and went, but the one constant within Babylonian culture and society was the priesthood. And as the empire grew and the money came in from the outlying regions, the money came into the temples. And of course the priests couldn’t spend it all, and so they began, they actually became the financiers. They became the bankers of the Babylonian culture, because they use it to build some pretty big religious edifices as well, but they couldn’t spend it all. And so they loaned it out. And they became the financial wizards, if you will, the Wall Street of the Babylonian period in time and financed the kingdom and operations. And not only did they do that, but they also created a priesthood and a cult that did endure. They were not elected. They were free from all of the elections and the problems of and cessation and illness and death that happened with the political rulership. They endured every administration. And were really the continuity of that city and that empire, and even beyond the time of Babylon’s dominance, even after the Persians came in.
And this is important to understand as we look at and understand when God interprets the dream through Daniel and tells Nebuchadnezzar that “You are this head of gold,” and this whole system that he describes in Daniel 2, that Babylon epitomize, personified by Nebuchadnezzar, is the head of gold. The head directs the whole system. The gold is the finest of the elements that are, that image it makes up, and if you look at again the history and see this at least in the priesthood and what is developed there and understand it from a financial and religious point of view, you can see why there is such a far-reaching influence that Babylon had in its day and even in this period of time.
Another part of the story that goes off in another direction when you look at the fall of Babylon and through those successive ages then, through the great period and ultimately the Roman period, the question becomes “What happened to these priests? Where did their system go?” Well, there is a line that stretches very likely from Babylon, one line of historical research put this priestly cult migrating into the area of Asia Minor and solidifying in the area of the city of Pergamon, and Pergamon or Pergamum gives rise at least for us in the book of Revelation when we read that there is a church in the city of Pergamos. And Christ says there to the citizens of Pergamos that you are there where the seat of Satan is. There was a very large priestly cult in Pergamon — that’s another whole story in itself — but some historians feel that this Babylonian priesthood migrated there, and of course with Rome at its height, eventually they wound up in Rome. And so you can see through history that what began in Babylon didn’t just stay there. It migrated with the times, with the expansion by the conquering of people that came in into the Western Mediterranean. And a system that began in Babylon eventually wound up in Rome. Of course, we know from the book of Acts that God’s truth eventually went to Rome as well. It was taken by a prisoner whose name was Paul the apostle. But there, developed there very a interesting part of the story which we will come back to here in just a little bit.
But the wealth in the city of Babylon is what it was here during this particular period of time. These are just a few scenes from again the Pergamon Museum that show these walls that have been reconstructed in the museum in Berlin that stood in Babylon at its height. And lions and glazed tiles, it’s quite an impressive sight that that has been excavated in this part by the Germans brought back. They built a whole museum to put this there. And it’s interesting, I mentioned that the city of Pergamon just as an aside, you walk down this hallway and turn left and into another part of the building there. In fact, the bigger installation in that building is the altar of Zeus from the city of Pergamon, which is probably, archaeologists feel and historians, when John says, in Revelation that talks about the seat of Satan in Pergamon, he is probably talking about this very item that is today, the remains of which is in Berlin museum, Pergamon Museum. It’s an altar to the god Zeus, and it’s a huge reproduction, or reconstruction of what they moved over there and the Germans moved it back at the early 1900s, late 1800s after they had excavated that part of the world, Babylon as well as Pergamon. It’s quite a museum. It’s quite a collection of artifacts, especially with the Ishtar gate remnant of Babylon and the temple of Zeus, the altar of Zeus, there from the city of Pergamon. But when you understand the historical, spiritual connections there, you can see part of the story. This is also another picture from that museum of just a reconstruction, a scale model, of a Ziggurat temple that stood in Babylon at its height, giving you again just a little bit of indication of again their building prowess.
But the power of the system that we find in Babylon that clash right there at the time of Daniel and the downfall of Judah and for that period of time in the biblical history, we find that they come up against the people of God and therefore the plan of God. God uses them to punish His own people, and that’s true. But when you look closely at the prophesies, God shows the powerful spiritual impact of Babylon, its destructive influence, and how He, too, will judge Babylon. That’s not left out especially in the prophesies of Jeremiah. God’s plan and purpose is being worked out, but this is what we see coming in contact with God’s people and therefore God’s purpose and plan. Which is why Babylon, at the time of Nebuchadnezzar and as we read about those other empires, those three other empires of Persia, Greece and Rome that develop from it, are so important to the story of God’s purpose and plan for His people and what is being done.
Babylon becomes this system that is very prevalent, embedded in this empire and the city in the Old Testament but becomes then the objectified identification of idolatrous kingdoms, that are diverse, but it becomes the symbol for everything from Sodom and Gomorrah to Egypt, to Tyre, to Nineveh and even Rome itself, Babylon becomes the overarching symbol for it, for all of these systems that at various times and in various ways, through pride, through the enslavement of God’s people, through the defiance of even, it was the system of Rome that engineered the death of Jesus Christ in the first century. The beast empire. And understand that. In many different ways, this whole system that is embodied within Babylon represents the very antithesis of, the heritage that is the antithesis of what God is bringing about. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible explains the implications of the Babylonian heritage. We quote this on our booklet on Revelation, but it’s worth noting in part right here. The Interpreter’s Dictionary says this about Babylon “as the realm of the devil, Babylon is understood as the archetypical head of all entrenched worldly resistance to God. Babylon is an age-long reality including idolatrous kingdoms as diverse as Sodom to Rome, and Babylon, the Mother of Harlots, is the great source and reservoir of enmity to God as well as the product of one mind. A product of one mind. Which gives power and authority to false gods and, as such, Babylon is the antithesis of the virgin bride of Christ, the holy city, the New Jerusalem and the kingdom of God.” This is what the Interpreter’s Bible says in its article Babylon about Babylon itself. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of Bible.
And so looking at it historically and understanding it from that point of view, we can begin to look at the Babylon of the future and what we should begin to think about and look to in the future because Revelation chapter 17 and chapter 18 specifically, those two chapters, talk about Babylon again in the setting of the vision that John had on the Isle of Patmos, and we see a city mentioned. We see the image of a woman riding a beast, and if you turn over to Revelation chapter 17, you will note a few parts of it. We won’t have time to go through it all. But Revelation 17, this brings us down to perhaps the juiciest part of the story. This is what you want to get into. Although, frankly, I find the ancient part just as fascinating as the future, and there are more clues in the past to understanding the future than we realize. So I really like getting into the ancient part of the story, but we have to just continue on with our little bit of a preface this evening. In Revelation chapter 17, the apostle John describes a woman with a name upon her forehead, called Babylon the Great. All right, if we look at this here, I am not going to get into all the angels and the heads and the horns so much with this, but he begins at verse 1. He said: “I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,” assemblies of nations, “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”
That part of the description is repeated again in verse 18. He is carried away into the wilderness and verse 3 says, he says: “I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.”
And then it goes into a little bit more, the description of this with horns and heads and the systems, which it would take a whole other series of study, part of the series to go into and explain what we understand from that and what we feel is the correct interpretation of all of that, but before I touch briefly on it, let me just again see what John tells us. It’s a woman riding a beast. You have two entities here. A woman in Revelation is symbolized as a church. In Revelation 12, the Church of God is symbolized by a woman And now we have a different woman in Revelation 17, and she is riding a beast that has heads and horns, and from chapter 13 of Revelation, going back to Daniel 7 as well, we see that this biblical image of a beast represents nations and empires and political authority.
And so, putting that quickly together here in this context, we see a church and state united, wedded together in this imagery that we have here that has, at least the woman has on her forehead, this name of MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. We would have to bring in the chapter 13 of the two beings that arise there. One is a political leader. The other is a spiritual leader who causes the earth to worship the first beast, the political leader. And so we see those two figures there, this in chapter 17 is where they’re given a bit more imagery. Here at this particular juncture of the story and then also a name that tells us a bit more of what we are looking at and what we are seeing. And so here is a prophesy that describes a great city, a woman riding a beast with a name on her head that is a great city that we know from the Old Testament and history, Babylon. And we are projected forward in time, through John’s vision, to see her setting astride an end time combine of nations that are described figuratively here as a beast.
So that in a nutshell is what would take us a whole other series of matters, Bible studies, to go into. Now there are a number of ways to look at this and begin to understand as people do. I think, there is one biblical way to understand it. But, and one historical way to understand it, but as people look at a Babylon to arise in the future and a system. Some people interpret this in many different ways. Some interpret that Babylon itself will actually come back to become a great city power. Babylon has been excavated in modern Iraq. Saddam Hussein poured a lot of money in excavating the ruins there. It’s not completely renovated but it’s, you know what Iraq is like today. And this is not a functioning city, it’s an archaeological site. Some people, though, there was a popular series, the rapture series Left Behind, posited that Babylon would be the center of the system at the time of the end. And there are some that believe that. There is another line of thought that I have heard from some people who feel that the city is New York City. And that United States, the United States is somehow a part of this end time system because of its financial position. And I have heard that and I have studied that and I have looked at history and I have looked at the Scriptures and looked at what we have taught, what other churches have taught on the subject as well, and personally I don’t believe it’s New York city. Okay.
When it’s all said and done, to me there is only one city that can fit the bill of the Babylon to come and ride a system, a political system of nations that arise at this time of the end, that are dominated over by ten kings who give their powers, chapter 17 shows, to one individual called the beast and that city, that system to me can only be the city of Rome. Where it has as its headquarters the Roman Catholic church. We again specifically named that in our book on Revelation that has been our traditional teaching. It’s not only ours, it’s been that of others as well. I have studied this, being taught it all my life, studied it, taught it to others. Studied it in history. And because I believe that the book of Revelation does give us a road map into the future and these are imagery, this is apocalyptic literature that does show us things to come that as we look at history, the only conclusion that I can come to is what we have always understood and taught in the church, that this particular woman riding this beast is a church and state combination that has been a part of history since the time of the ancient world and particularly after the fall of the Roman Empire, and a religious system that was embodied, that was in that city, that continued on even after Rome fell, the Western Empire collapsed, there was a religious system in Rome that become the Catholic church that endured.
And history tells us a fascinating story about that, because it kept alive a lot of things in terms of religion, a Babylonian system of idolatry that I spoke in to here that was passed on from Babylon. And it kept it alive, and in time that church, that system that religious system, anciently became wedded with at first, the Roman Empire as early as 381, 386 AD. The church and state began to work together to enforce orthodoxy in what was the Roman Empire. By the late 400 — 476 is the traditional date at least for the fall of city of Rome — the church endured on even though Rome had been sacked and overrun by Gothic tribes. But the church endured. And in time, within less than 300 years, the church found itself again wedded to another system, another political system that saw a revival of this Roman system that came down in the history, has come down in history as part of what had been called the Holy Roman Empire, but a political system embedded in Europe that allowed the church to thrive as it did. So that when John gives certain telltale observations to us here in the book of Revelation about this city, this church, this system, he describes it as “that great city that reigns over the kings of the earth,” in verse 18, here in chapter 17. “The woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
It doesn’t take a PhD in history to read and to study and to see which city, which city reigned over many kings through a system of alliances that developed very early on. As early as 800 AD when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, this Frankish king way up in what is now France, a Germanic king Charles the Great who was a Christian warlord but had gathered tribes, an empire around him, and was allied with the Pope Leo III, needed some help on Christmas day in 800. He placed the crown on Charlemagne and declared him the successor to the Caesers, and he becomes a significant factor in the story. And the wedding of church and state continues on throughout that period of history, on onto the modern world, in a unique way that tells us a great deal about what is behind this particular verse and this description here. There is only one church, there is only one system, and that’s the Roman system, that begin to fit this bill when it comes to understanding what John is seeing in this vision. And as we look back to understand in history for us to be able to look forward in times as well.
There is another statement that is made about that great city, in verse 6. We already read that. It says that, “this woman is drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus and when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.” Again historically, it doesn’t take a lot of research to understand that the Christian church that developed in Rome beginning in 200 AD, 300 AD, 400 AD that embodied itself as with this entire system, persecuted those and stamped out those who did not agree with it. For earliest stories of that reference is that in 386 when after the council of Constantinople and the actual stamp of approval put upon the Trinitarian teaching, the emperor with the church enforced within the empire at that time the orthodox teaching about the Trinity. And any who disagreed with it were put out. And ultimately martyred. And from that time, you can trace the beginning of a system that we begin to see that involved the cult of Mary, the veneration of saints, and a system that we see today in the Roman church. But you see it wedded with the empire that becomes its sword and they begin to portray themselves as the kingdom of God on earth, as Christ ruling through this combination of church and state.
That’s one of the most fascinating and dramatic stories from that period that stretches throughout what is called the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, and a system that becomes drunk with the blood of the saints. There’s saying by one historian that I read, goes something like this, “that there were more martyrs under Christian Rome than there were martyrs under pagan Rome.” More martyrs, more people killed for their faith under Christian Rome than under pagan Rome. There were people killed under pagan Rome for their faith, i.e. the apostle Paul. But there were more under Christian Rome.
When Pope John Paul the second was still alive, a number of years ago in his pointificasy, you may remember, he made an apology for all of the excesses of the Catholic church within history. He made a historic apology of the persecutions on behalf of those that were done acting on behalf of the church. It was very carefully worded. The apology did not say that the church had erred. But it did make an apology more than any other previous pope had done. I don’t remember the exact year he did this, but it brought attention at the time to the long record of death and injustice that had been inflicted upon those who would dare oppose the doctrine and the teaching of the church at a time when the church could enforce that.
In the modern age, that began to wane. After 15, 1600 in some ways that began to be taken away, and as the rise of secular nations states took place, the Protestant Reformation, the Church began to lose its ability to enforce its doctrine in such a manner and certainly as we come into more in the modern world. But the stories throughout history are rife with that. I mean, you study the crusader period of the 11th and 12th century, 13th century when Christian Europe invaded the Holy Land to rescue the holy places from the Saracens and from Islam. And what they did, it just bloody massacres. On July 15 in the year 1099, the soldiers of the first crusades finally got broke into Jerusalem and captured the city for Christianity, but they massacred Muslims and Jews throughout the streets. Literally, the blood ran in the streets at the hand of crusader soldiers. You have to imagine that the last sight that many Muslim defenders of Jerusalem on that day saw was the cross on the tunics of a crusader coming over the wall against them. It was a bloody day, part of a bloody history epitomizing exactly what is said here in regard to John’s vision.
“That great city which reigned over the kings of the earth…” I’ve touched briefly on this. This is mentioned in verse 18 of chapter 17, which is a very important point to realize when this is the crown of saint Steven that sits in Vienna, the traditional crown of the Holy Roman Emperor. This is a bust of Charlemagne that is in the city of in Aachen in Germany today, which was the seat of imperial authority for Charlemagne. But this is the crown you can see in Vienna today, in the museum of the Holy Roman Emperor, the crown of saint Steven. And its rich with symbolism. It would take another, a lot of time for us to talk about that which I am not going to be able to do.
Let’s move quickly forward to what we, that as a brief background, as we look at our world today and look at things to come to understand the system of Babylon and what we are really seeing in Revelation 17 with a woman riding the beast and brief power given by ten kings to one for a brief period of time and then, moving into chapter 18 and the description given of what really is again a global system, all right.
When we look at that, we have to understand that the Babylon of the end, particularly in Revelation 17 and 18 here, is another global system that is destined to arise in our time ahead of us that will involve, again, a woman riding a beast or an arrangement or partnership of church and state. And go back to this picture right here. This was just last week Pope Francis went to Strasberg in France and addressed the European parliament. We look at Europe, we watch Europe, we understand and I think, again rightly so, that this system is ready or is going to come from this European system again and what we are looking at in terms of the European Union is at the very least a forerunner of what will develop, whether it will be what is there now or something that will form out of this. I’ve learned long before not to try to prognosticate too closely on that. But the role of the pope going there it’s not something that is done every year. The last pope to go there was John II, Pope John Paul II and a number of years ago that he did that. But just last week, the pope went there and he reminded, as John Paul II did and Pope Benedict XVI did, that Europe has Christian roots. Interestingly, Pope Francis last week, said that Europe lately has been acting like an elderly grandmother. Not a lot of energy, in other words.
If you follow the European scene and what’s going on, Europe has never recovered from the crisis of September 2008, the financial crisis that rocked the world and us here. They are stagnant, in one sense. They have had a number of the problems. Sometimes, you look at that and you wonder “How will anything arise out of that system that is described here like in Revelation chapter 17?” Again, as I studied this for more than 50 years, and looked at it all, read it, read what we have printed and said, sometimes to excess in terms of our zeal to make certain things clear, we have missed the mark. But when the dust settles, time goes on, there is no place else to look. And personally I come to look at what we find described in Revelation chapter 18, again, as a system that is a period of globalization that will probably be even greater than what we are living in right now. And in time through probably another crisis that will shake this system, perhaps the European and other global communities, to an awakening, that if something is not done the whole system will come collapsing down around us and the credit cards won’t work. Your ATM debit cards won’t work. And retirement funds won’t be funded.
And if that happens, something, somewhere, some person, some system will step in and it will say, “we have got a solution, it’s going to be all right.” And that’s likely when a super-national authority will be created by other nations, other kings, ten of them are mentioned, give their power to someone, who can fix it and say, “I have got a solution.” And it’s a spiritual as well as an economic solution and it will work, and it does work and it creates probably an even greater period of wealth and global security than what we see now for a short period of time. How else will people say, “peace, peace” and there is no peace? When they say that, sudden destruction comes. You try to put all these things together and understand all of it and see what is here, my particular understanding is this is another period of globalization that will be on the horizon that will take root beyond what we see right now.
How else, could you have a system in place that could even deceive the very elect, as Christ warned in Mathew 24. Which brings us down to us. All of this is fascinating. All of this is interesting. All of this is historical. All of this is biblical.
But as we all know, what does it mean for each of us as we walk out of here and we go about our lives? Prophesy should motivate us in an understanding of our world today and what is to come. Should motivate us to righteousness and godly conduct. To, if you will, fill up our vessels with oil of the Holy Spirit. So we don’t find ourselves at the critical hour without the spiritual power to discern idolatry, spiritual deception, and sin. Where we do not take part of a system that is collapsing around us, as the scripture says here, that in Revelation 18 that Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen. And what is described in chapter 18 as a truly global system that trades even in the souls of men and eventually comes down. This final system will be both a political and a spiritual system. There’s a political and spiritual dimension to this final Babylon. And again chapter 17 shows us that the political is going to turn on the spiritual. You see that in chapter 17 and verse 16, “The ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot (the woman), make her desolate, naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” Wow, pretty gruesome. Somewhere, at some point the political system will turn on the spiritual system.
But then at the end, the political system is going to be brought down by God. Because God, Christ at His appearing, will deal with the political system of Babylon. That’s what we find in Revelation 16 when the kings of the earth are gathered to fight the great battle of Armageddon and, of course in Revelation 19 when we find Christ finally appearing and He wages war with the saints against the beast and his armies that are gathered to fight Him at His coming. And so Christ will put down this final, the political aspect of it and again, how in the world all that will develop is yet to be seen, and it will be happening around us and we are going to be… it’s going to be a whirlwind of activity that I have never felt we will be able to ever chronicle or predict in that way. Which is why understanding these broad strokes of prophesy in history are so important, so that we are aware. I would say that as we conclude here on Babylon the Great here tonight, that these things do matter. They do matter to us in the Church, for the work that God had placed us to do, but also for our survival spiritually, so that we are, find ourselves at whatever point, grouped with the five wise virgins of Matthew 25 – those who have oil and have trimmed their lamps and the light is burning strong.
Because we’ve studied all of end time prophesy with a heart to understand how we are to be before God in righteous conduct and a godly life. And if we do that, we are doing honor and justice to what God has revealed to us in His Word about prophecy and His hand in human history. It’s a fascinating story. And as I said, this is just a preface. We only got to the introduction. So if you came looking for any other information, I don’t have it. And I’ve also run out of time.
So, thank you for coming, thank you for watching at home and in the future. Travel safely as you go home tonight. Remember, we will be having our next Bible study in two weeks. Steve Myers will be doing that one, I believe, and we will be right back here at the same time. Take care.