Why Will God Destroy Babylon?
November 20, 2016 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos
Revelation 17:1-2, 5
Sunday, 20 November 2016
In the last days there are going to be three main instruments Satan will use to oppose God’s people or to entice them away from the worship of the true God.
the beast that rises from the sea (aka the antichrist) (Rev 13:1-8)
the beast that rises from the earth (aka the false prophet) (Rev 13:11-18)
the great prostitute (aka the great city of Babylon) (Rev 17-18)
It is true that throughout history there have been many antichrists who have used their political power to oppress God’s people violently, many false prophets have tried to deceive believers with their heresies and false religions, and many cities have been centers of idolatry and immorality and commerce that have lured believers away from the worship of God, but there will come a time when the ultimate antichrist, the ultimate false prophet and the ultimate anti-god city will arise. This is what we see in the book of Revelation, particularly in Revelation chapters 13-19.
Thank God, these instruments of Satan will not last very long to oppress and deceive believers. As soon as they arise, they will very soon be destroyed by God either at the time of Christ’s return or just before He does.
Rev 19:20 describes how the antichrist and the false prophet will be destroyed when Christ returns. (Rev 19:20, And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.)
And regarding the destruction of the city of Babylon, it will happen even before Christ returns. How the city of Babylon will be destroyed is described in two places in Revelation:
- The first is in Rev 17:16-17: And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose…
- The second description of Babylon’s destruction is in Rev 16:18-19: …and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.
I am not sure if these descriptions will happen at the same time or immediately one after the other. But what these seem to show is that God will use different instruments to destroy Babylon. One will be by means of a very strong earthquake that will split the city into three parts. Another means of destruction is the antichrist and the 10 horns (or 10 kings according to 17:12).
Last week we did not look try to interpret Rev 17 yet. I felt that I needed to first clarify some things to prepare us to understand the text. To do this I tried to answer two questions:
- How many Babylons do we see in Rev 17 and 18—one or two?
As I mentioned to you before, if we are going to carefully read these two chapters together as a unit, setting aside the chapter divisions, we will discover that this section points to a single theme, the destruction of only one Babylon, not two Babylons. Because of the chapter divisions many interpreters of the Revelation see a religious Babylon in chapter 17 and a commercial Babylon in chapter 18. I think this is incorrect.
The section about the judgment of Babylon flows from Rev 17:1 to 19:10 without break. The next section that follows this is in Rev 19:11-21 and it talks about the second coming of Christ and the Battle of Armageddon.
If we were to make an outline of Rev 17:1—19:10 it would be something like this:
- Rev 17 - Description of Babylon and the Beast
- Rev 18 - The Fall of Babylon
- Rev 19:1-10 - Jubilation over the fall of Babylon
This whole section begins with the invitation of the angel to John to see the judgment of Babylon:
Rev 17:1-2 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”
The section ends with the heavenly jubilation over the fall of Babylon:
Rev 19:1-2 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
Another way that I have proven to you that there is only one entity in chapters 17 and 18 is that we find similar descriptions for both the great prostitute in Rev. 17 and the great city in Rev. 18:
- Both have the name “Babylon the great” (17:5 = 18:2),
- Both are called the “great prostitute” (17:1 = 19:2)
- Both are sitting (17:1 = 18:7)
- Both are spiritually wicked (17:5 = 18:23)
- Both are guilty of fornicating with kings (17:2 = 18:3)
- Both have a cup (17:4 = 18:6).
- Both cause nations to be drunk with the wine of immorality (17:2 = 18:3).
- Both are called “the great city” (17:18 = 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21)
- Both wear the same clothing and adornment (17:4 = 18:16 [3c, 7, 11-15, cf. 16-17]).
- Both have global influence (17:15, 18 = 18:3, 9; 19:2)
- Both persecute believers (Rev. 17:6 = 18:20, 24; 19:2).
- Both will be destroyed by God, by fire and become desolate (Rev. 17:16 = 18:5, 8, 9, 17, 18, 19, 21)
Out of all of that, we have come to the conclusion that the great prostitute of Rev 17 is none other than the great city of Babylon in Rev 18.
- The second question was: What is Babylon in Revelation 17 and 18?
There is some debate among theologians regarding the meaning of Babylon. Generally bible teachers have followed one of four views:
- According to some Babylon is used in Revelation for Rome as the center of opposition to God and his people either in John’s day or in the future.
- According to others it represents the entire world system (political, economic or religious) throughout the ages or in the final generation under the rule of the antichrist.
- According to others Babylon is the Roman Catholic Church. This is the view of the Reformers that you see in the classic commentaries.
- According to others it is to be understood as literal Babylon—rebuilt and restored. (This is the view that I hold.)
- Rev 17:18 And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”
- Rev 18:10 “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon!...
- Rev 18:16 “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls!
- Rev 18:18 “What city was like the great city?”
- Rev 18:19 “Alas, alas, for the great city”
- Rev 18:21 “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,
Moody Bible Commentary:
The term stands for a literally rebuilt city of Babylon on the banks of the Euphrates River. This position has the advantage of a more consistently literal approach. Opponents of this view insist that prophecies of its final destruction (Isa 13:19-22; Jer 51:24-26) were fulfilled during the sixth century BC, thus precluding a rebuilt city. Proponents respond that the details of these prophecies have never been fulfilled, and thus still look forward to the future. … If this approach is correct, then there was a judgment in Gen 11:1-9, a second under Belshazzar, with the final destruction to take place during the great tribulation (Isa 14:1-4, 7). This is the best choice. Babylon will be rebuilt and destroyed again.
Now to be honest with you, although I hold the view that the Babylon mentioned in Revelation is a literally rebuilt city of Babylon, I do not want to be dogmatic about it. I like what Arthur Pink, whose view is also that Babylon in Revelation is literal and refers to the rebuilt Babylon, said,
Both at the beginning and close of the book the Holy Spirit expressly states that the Apocalypse is a “prophecy” (Revelation 1:3; 22:19), and prophecy is, admittedly, the most difficult branch of Scripture study.
It is true that during the last century God has been pleased to give His people not a little light upon the predictive portions of His Word, nor is the Apocalypse to be excepted.
Yet, the more any one reads the literature on the subject, the more should he become convinced that dogmatism here is altogether unseemly.
Pink also wrote that during the last fifteen years he read the Revelation carefully at least three times a year, and during this period he read 30 commentaries on Revelation. In his studies he discovered not only varied but even conflicting interpretations. And he said that this has taught him three things:
- to be cautious in adopting any of the prevailing views;
- the need of patient and direct waiting on God for further light.
- the probability, that many of the prophecies of the Revelation are to receive a double, and in some cases, a treble, fulfillment.
With a spirit of humility, caution, and continuing dependence upon God for more wisdom, let us continue in our study of this wonderful book.
What I intend to do today is to give you one more background information before we get into a detailed study of this Revelation 17. What I want to discuss with you is why God will destroy Babylon and also look at the background behind this.
You will remember that the opening of verse of Revelation 17 is the angel’s invitation to John to see the judgment of the great prostitute (17:1):
1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.”
(Now please don’t forget that according to Rev 17:18, this woman is the great city. In other words the prostitute is a personification of the great city of Babylon.)
Now the question is why will God destroy this city? We find the answer in Revelation 17. When you read this chapter, you will see the immorality, wickedness and destructive nature of this city. This is why God is going to destroy it.
- She is called "the Great Prostitute" (17:1)
- She is seated on many waters which is according to 17:15 the “waters” are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. This means that this city has great influence over many nations.
- She has committed sexual immorality with the kings of the earth. (17:2a)
- She made the inhabitants of the earth drunk with the wine of her sexual immorality. (17:2b)
- She is depicted as a woman sitting on a scarlet-colored beast that was full of blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns (17:3). This means that this city is going to be supported by the antichrist who is the beast. (However, this relationship is not going to last. After a while, the antichrist together with 10 kings will hate the prositute and destroy the city. That is all I will say about this for now.)
- She is arrayed in purple and scarlet and adorned with gold, and precious stones and pearls (17:4a)
- She is holding a golden cup full of her abominations and fornications (17:4b)
- Her name which was on her forehead is a mystery: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND EARTH’S ABOMINATIONS. (17:5)
- She is drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus (17:6).
- She is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth 17:18)
All of those descriptions give us an idea why the holy God will destroy the city of Babylon. This is a city that is immoral and evil and has had a very bad influence on the world. Not only that, this city has given birth to other prostitutes and abominations on earth. And to make matters worse, this city has caused the death of the believers in Christ.
You noticed the descriptions John used for the city, especially the one in Rev 17:5 - 5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.”
Why did he say that? What is the background behind those words?
To answer this question, we need to go back to the ancient world to find out. Before we can understand the Babylon of the future, we have to comprehend the Babylon of the past. There are two passages that will be of interest to us: Gen 10:8-10 and Gen 11:1-9.
In Gen 10 we find the first mention of Babylon, although here is it is called Babel. The next mention of Babylon or Babel is in Gen 11.
The stories found in Gen 10 and 11 come after the account of the flood in Genesis chapters 6-9. You will remember that the flood destroyed the whole world, including all of the animals and humans. The only creatures that were left alive were those inside Noah’s ark. The only humans who survived the flood were Noah and his wife and their three sons and their wives, only eight individuals.
After the Flood, Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth and their wives began to repopulate the world. And because all people of the world at that time came from Noah’s family, we can understand why Gen 11:1 says, "Now the whole earth had one language and the same words."
Now let’s continue to read the story in Gen 11:2-9:
2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
What was going on here? They were building for themselves a city and a tower with its top I the heavens. (Gen 11:4). Often we remember the tower of Babel but this is actually the city of Babel and the tallest structure of the city is a tower.
Gen 11:5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower
, which the children of man had built.
Gen 11:8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city
. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel
Why were they building the city and the tower? The reason they were building the city was so that they did not have to be dispersed over the face of the whole earth contrary to God’s command in Gen 9:1,7. And the reason why they were building the tower was in order to make a name for themselves (Gen 11:4).
ESVSB: The Babel enterprise is all about human independence and self-sufficiency apart from God. The builders believe that they have no need of God. Their technology and social unity give them confidence in their own ability, and they have high aspirations, constructing a tower with its top in the heavens (11:4).
The tower was probably a temple-tower called a ziggurat. (It’s easy to find an illustration of that in the Internet.)
Ziggurats were regarded as sacred mountains by which deities descended to earth. Mesopotamians thought that the earth met heaven at the top of the tower and so it would give them access to the realm of the divine. Ziggurats were specifically constructed for religious purposes in the worship of various gods.
James Montgomery Boice, a Reformed theologian and Bible teaches who died in the year 2000, suggests that astrology may have originated there in Babel. Boice says,
Turn to any book on astrology and you will find that it was the Chaldeans (another name for the inhabitants of Babylon) who first developed the zodiac by dividing the sky into sections and giving meanings to each on the basis of the stars that are found there. A person’s destiny is said to be determined by whatever section or “sign” he is born under. From Babylon, astrology passed to the empire of ancient Egypt where it mingled with the native animism and polytheism of the Nile. … By the time the Jews left Egypt for Canaan, astrology had infected the population there. Hence, some of the strictest warnings in the Bible against astrology date from this period (Lev. 19:31; Deuteronomy 18).
The interesting thing about these biblical denunciations of astrology is that astrology is identified with demonism or Satanism in the sense that Satan and his hosts were actually being worshiped in the guise of the signs or planets. This is the reason for the Bible’s stern denunciation of these practices. … “From some such beginning soon emerged the entire complex of human ‘religion’—an evolutionary pantheism, promulgated via a system of astrology and idolatrous polytheism, empowered by occultic spiritism and demonism.”
Isn't it amazing? God had drowned the whole world, you'd think they have gotten the message. The only people remaining were the righteous family of Noah, and yet it doesn't take very long before the sinfulness and the rebellious heart of man who no longer seeks God but seeks false religion finds fruition to its seeking and develops a false religious system. The whole world was in on it. It was the first form of false religion. It was the first form of demon worship. It was the first time that men had been seduced into inventing a religion. Demons for the first time impersonating the true God.
Now guess who led this spiritual immorality and abomination? This was led by a man by the name of Nimrod. Turn to Gen 10:6-10
[The sons of Noah were Shem, Ham, and Japheth.] 6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. … 8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
What is so significant about Nimrod?
James Boice writes,
Nimrod… is said to have been the founder of the first world empire. Here is the first place in the Bible where the word “kingdom” occurs. Significantly, it is used, not of God’s kingdom, but of this first rival kingdom of Nimrod. This matter was obviously of great importance to Moses, for a related parenthesis occurs in the first nine verses of chapter 11, in the story of the tower of Babel.
But there is much more that can be said. Nimrod was the first person to become a “mighty” man. Our text calls attention to this by using the adjective “mighty” three times in describing him: “Nimrod … grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord’” (vv. 8–9). The adjective also occurs in a similar way in 1 Chronicles 1:10. Why is this emphasized? Is it good or bad? A little thought will show that it is bad. The empire of Babylon under Nimrod was an affront both to God and man, an affront to God in that it sought to do without God (Gen. 11:1–9) and an affront to man in that it sought to rule over other people tyrannously. Martin Luther was on the right track when he suggested that this is the way the word “hunter” should be interpreted. This is not talking about Nimrod’s ability to hunt wild game. He was not a hunter of animals. He was a hunter of men—a warrior. It was through his ability to fight and kill and rule ruthlessly that his kingdom of the Euphrates valley city states was consolidated.
This is why one commentator renders Gen 10:6-10 in this way:
“Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be a mighty despot in the land. He was an arrogant tyrant, defiant before the face of the Lord; wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod, the mighty despot, haughty before the face of the Lord. And the homeland of his empire was Babel, then Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From this base he invaded the kingdom of Asshur, and built Nineveh, and Rehoboth-Ir, and Calah, and Resin between Nineveh and Calah. These made up one great city.” (Quoted by Boice from Barnhouse, The Invisible War, 192
So Nimrod, the great grandson of Noah, was the first apostate after the universal flood. He invented and promoted his apostate religion that was an abomination to God at the city of Babylon in the plain of Shinar.
And then what happened? God scattered the people who were influenced by Nimrod in building the tower that stood for rebellion to God. And so you could say that this is how all the false religions spread upon the earth. Babylon mothered them all. She was the fountainhead of every false religion in the earth. And when God changed the language of the people and scattered them from Babylon, with the scattering went the religion in a different forms and so these abominable beliefs spread through the whole world. But Babylon was the mother of them all.
Now what happened to Babylon? One author says, “Although Shinar and Babylon are referred to in Genesis 10 and 11, and though there are occasional mentions of them in the centuries that followed, it was not until Israel’s apostasy had been fully manifested that we find Babylon coming into the place of prominence and dominion.”
And the founder of Babylon’s greatness during that period was Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. In Daniel 4 we read that one day Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon and he looked out over the city. He was impressed with its magnificence. Judging himself to be responsible for this, he took to himself the glory that should have been given to God. He said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” Nebuchadnezzar constructed this Babylon for his glory as Nimrod had constructed the first Babylon for his glory. So God promised to destroy this city forever.
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,
the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans,
will be like Sodom and Gomorrah
when God overthrew them.
20 It will never be inhabited
or lived in for all generations;
When was this prediction fulfilled?
Arthur Pink writes,
[Daniel 5 tells] how Belshazzar, the successor of Nebuchadnezzar, was slain by Darius, who took over the kingdom. Neither the city nor the kingdom was then destroyed, and so far from it being made desolate and without inhabitant, it remained for long centuries a city of note. Two hundred years after…, Alexander the Great, after his conquest over the Persians, selected Babylon as the intended capital of his vast dominion, and, in fact, died there. In the first century of the Christian era Babylon still stood, for Peter refers to a church there! (See 1 Peter 5:13). Several of the church “Fathers” refer to Babylon, and at the beginning of the sixth century A.D. The famous Babylonian Talmud was issued by the Academies of Babylonia. Mr. Newton tells us that “Ivan Hankel in A.D. 917 speaks of Babylon as a small village. Even in the tenth century, therefore, it had not wholly disappeared”. Slow and almost undiscernible was its decline and decay. Even in this day there is still a small town, Hillah, standing on the original site of ancient Babylon. What, then, of the future?
That there will yet be another Babylon, a Babylon eclipsing the power and glory of that of Nebuchadnezzar’s day, has long been the firm conviction of the writer. Nor are we by any means alone in this conviction. A long list of honored names might be given of those who have arrived, independently, at the conclusion that the Scriptures plainly teach that Babylon is going to be rebuilt.
The first Babylon was originally the source of all the false religions that spread throughout the world during the time of Nimrod and the confusion of languages that happened at the city of Babel. Babylon is the mother of all harlots and abominations of the earth. Someone said, “From her have come ancient paganism, Chinese Confucianism, Asian Buddhism, Indian Hinduism, Shamanism, Taoism, Shintoism, animism, astrology, witchcraft, spiritism, Sikhism, and all the world’s vast complex of what 1Co 8:5 calls “many gods and many lords.”
I do not know exactly how the city of Babylon that gave birth to all of these false religions and abominations will be rebuilt in the last days. I also don’t know how it is going to influence the world but I believe this is not going to be impossible. It is possible for one city to be a strong influence to other nations.
The Wall Street Journal (July 13, 2016)
Viacom in Talks to Sell Paramount Pictures Stake to Chinese Group
Viacom Inc. executives are pressing ahead with plans to sell a stake in the Paramount Pictures movie studio despite resistance from controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone, potentially inflaming an already incendiary boardroom battle at the media giant. … China’s Dalian Wanda Group Co. is in talks with Viacom about buying 49% of the studio, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The Washington Post (Sept 24, 2016)
China’s Influence Over Hollywood Grows
China has never been shy about its desire to acquire “soft power” – the kind of cultural and economic influence that can’t be wielded by military might. And Hollywood has often been a partner in its project.
The Chinese company is expanding elsewhere, acquiring cinema chains in Australia and Europe in steps toward its goal of controlling 20 percent of the global film market by 2020. It is also heavily investing in China's domestic industry, including a 400-acre film studio slated to open in 2017 that will have 30 soundstages, an underwater stage, and a permanent set of a New York City street.
By means of entertainment and movies, China’s Dalian Wanda Group is going to exert economic and cultural influence upon the world. I am not saying that this company that is building its new Hollywood in China is going to be the Babylon predicted in Revelation.
All I’m saying is that what the Bible talks about could happen. Babylon is going to be rebuilt and it will influence the world in terms of culture, religion, commerce. But one day the antichrist will go against it. And then eventually God will totally destroy it.
We will continue next week.