The Mystery of Babylon
BABYLON means in confusion: and this may well describe, not only the city and its secret, but the present state of theology on the subject. Luther's vigorous denunciation of the Roman church was spiced by his attempts to show that she is the scarlet woman of the Apocalypse. Many of the Protestant sects have followed this course and still teach that Catholicism is the embodiment of the mystery of Babylon. During the rapid corruption of Protestantism, those who have risen in protest against it have not been slow to turn this weapon against it, and the Protestant sects have been denominated the daughters of Babylon. Some have gone still further and insist that all outside their favorite communion are Babylon. Could all of these charges be substantiated by Scripture, not one of the saints could free himself from the guilt of association with Babylon, or would escape her dreadful doom! Thus the whole teaching with regard to Babylon has become reduced to an absurdity. It has become a mere lash of party leaders. It is the sting of slanderous tongues, anxious to proclaim their own sanctity by disparaging others.
Were it our object, in this meditation, to fasten this byword, Babylon, on some of our theological enemies, we could not conscientiously ask anyone to waste his time in reading it. But we are convinced, by much labor and study of the Scriptures that, not only is the spirit which urges the use of this epithet by theological belligerents contrary to the spirit of Christ, but the interpretations are contrary to His Word.
Leaving out of consideration, for the time being, the mystery connected with Babylon, it has become clear to us, past all contradiction, that Babylon means Babylon --and not Rome or Jerusalem or any other city. The burden of proof, of course, does not lie with us. God says Babylon and we simply believe that He refers to the city of Shinar which has always been known by this name. If He means some other city it will be necessary to show this by the Scriptures and some satisfactory reason must be given for calling another place by this name.
The mystery of Babylon is presented to us under the figure of an unfaithful woman. It is conceded by all that she is in contrast with a faithful one. The fact that Christendom believes the present church to be the "bride of Christ" is the source of all the misapplications of the mystery of Babylon. If the church is the true wife, why is Babylon the false one, and is to be found today in the false, apostate systems which abound. But if the present grace is not presented under the figure of a bride or wife--which we hope to show in due course--then we may not characterize the false as Babylon.
Our first task, then, will be to show who is the bride of the Lamb. Yet, even before this, we must consider the teaching concerning the wife of Yahweh. After we have seen how He wooed and won her, and how, in spite of her unfaithfulness, He keeps Himself for her and promises to renew His marriage vows, then we are prepared to see that, since the wife can be none other than the nation of Israel, then the bride must be out of that same nation. The bride is the elect company of faithful Israel.
As this will unlock to us the Song of Songs, we will briefly consider its bearing on our theme.
We will also consider those passages which are usually supposed to prove that the present church is the bride, and will endeavor to show that we have a nearer and dearer place--the body of Christ.
In order to understand more clearly the contrast which is presented in the book of the Revelation between faithful Jerusalem and false Babylon, we will consider the "openings" of the Apocalypse.
Then, after a brief review of Babylon in the past, we will attempt to show that, just as Jerusalem will be the home of faithful Israel, so Babylon will be the refuge of unfaithful Israel in the future. There the wealth and opulence of Hebrew merchant princes will combine to build the most magnificent commercial capital of the earth. By means of their wealth, they will have a "kingdom over the kings of the earth."
Yahweh has promised Israel a kingdom over the other nations, but we may rest assured that He never intended that they should get it by such means--and all apart from His Messiah and His grace. The kingdom of Babylon is a false fulfillment of His promises to His faithful people. The true fulfillment will be the marriage supper of the Lambkin, during the thousand years.
Great Babylon, the most hateful of all the opposition to God's Kingdom will, in due time, raise her proud head in defiance of Yahweh, but her short-lived grandeur will find a sudden and desperate end, for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
May it be our privilege to enter into sympathy with Him, and our portion to perceive His hand in the terrible times which impend. And may it lead us to appreciate the grace which delivers us from it, seeing that we are not appointed unto wrath. During the pangs of earth's sorrows, we will be enjoying salvation and eonian glory with our blessed Lord.
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