Search For Certainty
23. The Mystery of Spiritual Babylon Revealed
God's Call for Today's People
The book of Revelation portrays a great conflict between truth and error. It graphically describes two systems of worship in collision. Truth, opposed by error, triumphs. In Revelation’s prophecies a pure, chaste woman represents the true church (see Revelation 12:1, 2). A harlot woman represents the fallen church. The bride of Christ, the true church, radiates the glory of God, revealing His truth to the world. The apostate church, pictured as a harlot, offers her wine of false doctrines, confusing the mind and leading multitudes to destruction.
In this lesson we will especially notice the characteristics of this false system of worship so that we can keep from being deceived. We will also discover the characteristics of true worship so that we can embrace it.
01. How does God describe the True Church?
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.
In each of the following texts God describes His people as His bride: Jeremiah 6:2; Isaiah 54:5, 6; Hosea 2:19; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:22-26. The woman clothed with the sun represents the bride of Christ, or His church.
02. What does the Lord call His church?
1 Timothy 3:15
but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
03. How is the false church portrayed?
01. Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
02. with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”
03. So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
04. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.
05. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
The true church is pictured as the bride of Christ. The false church is pictured as a harlot (or prostitute). Wine affects the forebrain, where conscience, reason, and judgment are located. It signifies the confusion of false doctrine. Psalm 116:13 speaks of the “cup of salvation.” Babylon’s wine cup which is full of lies may be rightly called the cup of death.
Revelation’s Babylon represents a false religious system, which brings the principles of Old Testament Babylon into religious worship in the Christian-era. An understanding of Old Testament Babylon lets us positively identify New Testament Babylon and flee its errors.
04. Who is the author of all false doctrine?
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
Satan, the father of lies, counterfeits truth. He attempts to deceive us. Through religious deceit he desires to capture the minds of thousands. Spiritual Babylon passes her wine cup of false doctrines to deceive those who are blinded to God’s truth.
CHARACTERISTIC 1 - Rebellion
05. What is the origin of Old Testament Babylon?
05. But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower [Babel] which the sons of men had built.
06. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one 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.
07. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
08. So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
09. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
The Tower of Babel was built shortly after God destroyed the earth with a flood. Filled with rebellion, proud people determined to build a monument to their own egos. God demonstrated their folly by confusing the languages of the workers. The Tower of Babel was a monument to their confusion. It reveals the folly of substituting human ideas for divine truth. Old Testament Babylon was built on the site of the Tower of Babel. It represents confusion or humanity’s way in opposition to God’s way.
06. Was Old Testament Babylon centered in God's way or humanities way?
The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”
Old Testament Babylon was established in direct opposition to the plain commands of God. It was a system of religion based on the traditions and authority of human beings rather than God. It was human-centered rather than God-centered. Any system of worship that places the word of human leaders above God’s Word is part of the Babylonian system. Any system that substitutes religious leaders for Christ is a false system.
07. According to the Bible, Who is our only Savior?
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
08. What counsel does the prophet Isaiah give us?
“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
Salvation is not in the rites and ceremonies of the church. It comes from looking to Jesus. Salvation is a gift received by faith. It is based on Jesus’ death on the cross, not our good works. The false Babylonian system is based on human teachings, human works, and human accomplishments.
CHARACTERISTIC 2 - Idolatry
09. How was Babylon's rebellion against the True God revealed?
A drought is against her waters, and they will be dried up. For it is the land of carved images, And they are insane with their idols.
Modern Babylon is a system of religion that uses idols in its worship. Its statues, images, and religious icons revive the idolatry of ancient Babylon. Any system that incorporates images into its worship service is part of spiritual Babylon.
10. What clear command has God given to His people?
04. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image - any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
05. you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,
God commanded His people to worship Him directly. To worship God through idols or images is to give those images the holiness that belongs to God alone.
CHARACTERISTIC 3 - Immortality / Ancestor Worship
11. What was the ancient Babylonian concept of death? In Ezekiel 8:14, who were the Jewish women weeping for?
So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the LORD’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.
Tammuz, the god of vegetation, was one of the many deities of Babylon. The Babylonians believed that in the winter Tammuz died. In the season of abundant crops, they believed, he lived again. This worship of the dead was common in Babylon. The concept of the immortal soul was at the heart of Babylonian worship. The thought that the soul leaves the body at death comes directly from paganism.
12. What does the Bible teach regarding death?
For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.
The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor any who go down into silence.
For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?
Any system of religion that teaches the doctrine of the immortal soul is part of Revelation’s Babylon of confused religious doctrine.
CHARACTERISTIC 4 - Pagan Sun Worship
13. What Babylonian worship practice mingled with the worship of Israel for a time?
15. Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.”
16. So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east.
Sun worship was a part of pagan worship for centuries. The Edomites, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Romans all revered or worshipped the sun.
14. What sign of loyalty had God given His people?
Ezekiel 20:12, 20
12. Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.
20. hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.’
The following historical quotations enable us to discover how the pagan day of worship gradually slipped into the Christian church:
In Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church, Arthur B. Stanley says: “[Constantine’s] coins bore on the one side the letters of the name of Christ; on the other the figure of the Sun-god, . . . as if he could not bear to relinquish the patronage of the bright luminary” (p. 184). This is an important detail! On Constantine’s coins were Christ on one side, and the Sun-god on the other side. A wedding took place, a wedding between Christianity and paganism. A wedding between the church of Rome and the pagan emperors of Rome. Stanley also says: “The retention of the old pagan name of ‘Dies Solis,’ or ‘Sunday,’ for the weekly is, in great measure, owing to the union of pagan and Christian sentiment with which the first day of the week was recommended by Constantine to his subjects, pagan and Christian alike, as the ‘venerable day of the Sun’” (ibid.).
15. How did many religious leaders relate to this union of true and false religion in Bible times?
Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.
CHARACTERISTIC 5 - Self Indulgence
16. Does the false religion of Babylon sense the significance that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.
This drunken feast is a typical example of Babylon’s desire to gratify the physical senses.
17. What earnest appeal does the Apostle Paul give?
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Spiritual Babylon’s principles run through many religious organizations today. They include:
Looking to a visible, earthly head rather than Christ.
Any form of idol/image worship.
A misunderstanding of what happens to people when they die: prayers to deceased saints, veneration of dead loved ones, etc.
Worship on Sunday.
A misunderstanding of the body as God’s temple: use of alcohol, tobacco, and unclean foods.
18. What appeal does God give to those still in Babylon?
And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.
God’s call is not to stay in Babylon and reform it, but to come out of Babylon. Soon the plagues will fall on all who rebelliously ignore God's call to leave Babylon. In His great love, God has sent you a message to come/stay completely out. Will you respond to His call, by recognizing His claim upon you and following the truths laid out in His word?
FOR FURTHER STUDY
Read the following Bible passages:
The inhabitants of Babylon were idolatrous (Jeremiah 50:38; Daniel 3:18), spiritualistic (Isaiah 47:9, 12, 13), disobedient (Daniel 5:1-3), rebellious (Isaiah 47:10) and arrogant (Daniel 4:30).
Revelation’s Babylon is a last-day religious system disobedient to God’s word, worshipping idols, breaking His law (specifically His Sabbath), and disregarding His commands (see Revelation 18:4; 1 John 3:4; John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16; Mark 7:7).