The Mystery of Babylon
THE mystery of Babylon is wrapped up in the figure of a woman. The literal city restored to sevenfold splendor is the abode of the unfaithful wife of Yahweh.
This figure of unfaithfulness is not a new one in the Scriptures. Judah and Israel were often charged with being treacherous to Yahweh (Jer.3:9; 13:27; Ezek.6:9; 16:15-33; 20:30; 23:11; 43:8,9; Hosea 1-5). They trusted in their idols and in the nations round about. Egypt and Assyria, the kingdom of the south and the kingdom of the north, were special temptations to the little buffer state lying between them. Even trading Tyre is figured as seeking the favor of nations (Isa.23:17).
So it will be at the time of the end. To those who know not Yahweh, it will seem absolutely necessary to form an alliance with the great world ruler, the minion of Satan. The powers of evil score no greater victory than the covenant which the false Messiah confirms with the people who are bound by the covenants of Yahweh.
Idolatry, the worship of gods other than Yahweh, was often the cause of her unfaithfulness. We may well doubt whether Israel will ever again fall into this sin as in the days of old. But we must remember that the worship of wealth is but another form of this abominable evil. Covetousness, which is idolatry (Col.3: 5), will be the summit of Israel's sins in the approaching end of the eon.
As we have seen, Babylon is considered under the Temple section of the Apocalypse. Her defection is in the sphere of worship. And is it not these two transgressions—the worship of wealth and the worship of the wild beast—which call down the bowl of wrath from the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven? When the people who should spread His name over all the earth break the first and chiefest of His commandments it is high time to give her her just deserts.
"Jealous" is Yahweh's special name for Himself in His association with the people of His choice (Ex.34:14). True to the dictates of affection, He cannot bear to see them enjoy the bounty of another. He desires to draw them to Himself. Far better that they should be miserable than that their happiness should have any other source than Himself.
God is love, and all the lightnings of jealous wrath are but the vindication of that love. Indeed, all the judgments which crowd each other in the book of the Revelation must be viewed in this light. They are not the vindictive outbursts of malice and hate, with no object but self, and no motive but destruction, but they are the vindication of wounded love which insists on the ultimate blessing of its object, even if the way is one of destruction and death.
We are inclined to be satisfied with a temporary happiness even though it carries in itself the elements of decay and destruction. But He is aiming at our eternal bliss, not based on the fleeting circumstances of this life, but on the welding of our hearts to the One Who is in His very being Blessed, and the Blesser of His creatures.
God's arrows are aimed at one objective—that He may be All in all. Few have ever seen His target, and those of us who have are constantly aiming at nothing and fall far wide of the mark. He is not only to be All in ALL (for which we cannot bless Him enough!) but He will be their All. Every alien source of satisfaction must be severed. Every other object in our lives must be obscured until He becomes what His Anointed is in the vaster realm of all creation—the Origin and consummation of everything.
The heart of the mystery of Babylon lies in her alliance with the wild beast. She who should rely only on Yahweh is supported by His most malignant enemy. The blessings which His love denies to one estranged from Him are loaded upon her by the world which wars against Him and His Christ.
BABYLON AND THE BEAST
Two distinct powers will be in control of the world when the Son of Man sets up His Kingdom. These are brought before us in the Revelation under the figure of the wild beast and the false woman, and in Daniel's great image as iron mixed with clay or earthenware. Too little attention has been given to the part played by the woman and the symbol of the clay has been misunderstood.
THE DUAL DOMINION OF THE END TIME
The time of the end will see the sovereignty of the world in the hands of both an autocracy and a plutocracy. The wild beast is given jurisdiction over all kindreds and tongues and nations (Rev.13:7). The woman which it supports has her kingdom over the kingdoms of the earth. Both are worldwide, but one is political, the other is plutocratic. So far, men have striven in vain to seize the political scepter. At present it seems impossible. But the control of the plutocracy is already well established, and by the very nature of modern institutions, bound to increase in strength.
But what will it be when all the Jewish capitalists combine in Babylon? Their interests will demand more than a private recognition of their wealth and they will be able to make a treaty with the wild beast which will recognize their paramount power in the affairs of mankind. This state of affairs is pictured for us in the great image which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream.
The first three kingdoms of the image were each of a single substance—gold, silver, and copper. There was no division in these dominions. But the fourth kingdom is not so. Its sovereignty is divided among two elements, iron and clay, or earthenware. The subsequent visions of Daniel are concerned almost entirely with the conflict between the faithful in Israel and the nations. This vision of world empire shows us how the apostates will confederate with the nations and will have their part in the world dominion along with the ten toes.
Israel, the clay in the hands of the great Potter (Jer.18:1- 6) forms an alliance with the iron confederacy of the last days. So that a hint of the mystery of Babylon was given to Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar. Sovereignty was taken from the clay kingdom because of their apostasy from God. It degenerates through gold, silver, copper, and iron until it once more comes into the hand of the clay people. But their strength lies alone in their union with the iron (Dan.2:36-43).
It is not difficult to see a likeness between the clay and the mountain which falls upon the image and destroys it. It is not wrong for the clay to rule. But what place has it in an image which pictures the rule of the nations? What right has it to mingle with the iron confederacy which defies God and tramples on His people? Have we not here an intimation of the secret we are studying? God would rule the nations through them. They would rule the nations without Him.
It will help us greatly to see the sin of Babylon if we compare her with the true bride, Jerusalem. There is a contrast at almost every point. Nothing could be more diverse than the descriptions of these two women and the part they play in this world's closing tragedy. At first, Jerusalem suffers and Babylon revels in pleasure. But in the final act, the tables are reversed. Jerusalem reigns in blessed splendor but Babylon is banished from the earth.
BABYLON AND JERUSALEM
The two cities brought before us in the visions of the end time, Jerusalem and Babylon, are both seen under the figure of a woman. Jerusalem is the faithful woman, Babylon the unfaithful. The contrasts between them are extreme and startling. Jerusalem suffers for her faithfulness to Yahweh. Babylon enjoys all the luxuries of life and the pride of power for her unfaithfulness.
Both cities are mothers. Jerusalem bears the male son, Who is to rule all nations with an iron mace. Whether we take this as Christ (Psa.2:9) or include the overcomer (Rev.2:27), the result is the same: she is the source of the righteous rule in the earth. And this rule will be established, not by the gradual increase of enlightenment and education, not by the evolution of improved forms of government, not by the accumulation of wealth and power, but by the intervention of God's Anointed and the destruction of the nations. It will be the rule of right enforced by might; but it will bear a bountiful harvest of peace and blessing.
Babylon is the mother of the abominations of the earth. The love of money, the root of every manner of evil, tempts her into all the sordid avenues of gain and graft.
The earth and its fullness are the Lord's and will be used by Him for the blessing of the nations and to call forth their responsive praise. At present it is gradually passing unto the hands of the unfaithful nation, to be a curse, not only to them, but to all the other nations as well.
Both women are crowned. Jerusalem has twelve stars in her coronal, apt symbol of the twelve apostles of the Lambkin, who will sit on twelve thrones in the days of her power. But Babylon's brow will be blazoned with blasphemous names. Since their dispersion the name of God has been blasphemed because of them (Rom.2:24). Now, however, their power is exercised by means which deny and defy the authority of Yahweh.
But how different are their fates! Jerusalem, hated and hounded by the entire world, becomes the joy of the whole earth. Babylon, petted and spoiled, becomes a byword and a hissing.
What a marvelous exhibition of the ways of God do we find in this, the final apostasy of His people! Of old, they sought righteousness, but they did not seek the Source of righteousness. They insisted on attaining it by their own acts, and spurned the righteousness of faith. But they never attained it. Now they are seeking blessing in the same way. Impatient, they will not wait until His time has come to bless them. Distrustful, they will not have it from His hand. And so, just when bliss seems sure and permanent, it turns into sorrow and dire distress. Why? Because they sought it not by faith (Rom.9:30-32).
Both cities are clothed, one with the sun, the symbol of heavenly power and plenty, the source of all earthly provision, the other with treasures from beneath, the product of human toil and travail. The gold and gems come from the dark bowels of the earth; the pearls from the ocean's depths. These were but the gilding of her regal robes, suggesting an authority earth-born and superficial. But behold Jerusalem! Her raiment is radiant as the sun. She is robed as becomes the kingdom of the heavens. Her power benign, spreads blessing in its train. But above all, it is the power of God, not of men.
Both cities are exalted above the powers of evil: Babylon is borne by the wild beast, Jerusalem has the moon beneath her feet. What a contrast! Babylon is supported, sustained, dependent on the wild beast which persecutes Jerusalem. But Jerusalem, in spite of her temporary trials, can, in faith look forward to the time when the beast will be slain and the dragon chained and all the powers of darkness, aptly symbolized by the moon, will be humbled beneath her feet. Babylon has a brief era of rule resting in the arms of Yahweh's enemies: Jerusalem's day will last for a thousand years triumphant over all the powers of the night.
Both cities suffer: Babylon is rent in pieces by the very beast which was her exaltation and support, Jerusalem is persecuted by the dragon which obsessed the beast. But God intervenes for Jerusalem and helps her through her trial. He judges Babylon by the means of the ten horns in which she trusted.
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