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Sermon No: 42209-Mystery Babylon - Part 1



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SERMON TOPIC: Mystery Babylon - Part 1

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 20 February 2019

Topic Groups: MYSTERY BABYLON, PROPHECY, REVELATION

Sermon synopsis: The Apocalypse, written by John during his earlier time on the island of Patmos, is a series of vivid visions surrounding future events, one of the most riveting and intense being that of the harlot riding the beast in chapter 17.

Interpreters are divided as to whether it is a picture of past events, fulfilled over the Church Age, or a depiction of things to come in the future.
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MYSTERY BABYLON

(PART 1)

Rev 17:1-5 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

RELIGIOUS BABYLON

The Apocalypse, written by John during his earlier time on the island of Patmos, is a series of vivid visions surrounding future events, one of the most riveting and intense being that of the harlot riding the beast in chapter 17.

Interpreters are divided as to whether it is a picture of past events, fulfilled over the Church Age, or a depiction of things to come in the future.

RELIGIOUS BABYLON

Preterist:

1st century Jerusalem

Historicist:

Rome

Futurist suggestions include the following modern cities.

Rebuilt Babylon in Iraq

Rome

Jerusalem

A Muslim city like Mecca, Dubai or Istanbul (formerly Constantinople)

A Western city like London or New York

MYSTERY BABYLON

The woman is called “the great prostitute, who sits on many waters” (Rev 17:1).

The passage self-interprets “many waters” to mean many nations and people groups.

Rev 17:15 Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.”

So she represents a multi-national, cross-cultural institution or group of people.

RELIGIOUS BABYLON

Rev 17:5 This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Why is the identification made with Babylon?

In the OT:

An “abomination” most often referred to idols and pagan religious rituals.

Babylon was associated with organized idolatry, blasphemy and the captivity and exile of Israel.

WHY BABYLON?

The Book of Genesis records that Nimrod was the founder of Babel, the Hebrew form of the Greek “Babylon”.

Gen 10:8-10 (NASB) … The beginning of his (Nimrod’s) kingdom was Babel… in the land of Shinar.

The etymology of the name “Nimrod” is by no means certain, but several rabbinic commentators suggested that it is derived from the root Hebrew verb “marad” which means “rebel” or “revolt”. The name of the chief Babylonian god, Marduk, is also potentially related to “marad” (rebel) and some believe that he and Nimrod are one and the same (being identical in terms of consonant usage).

MaRDuk ~ MaRaD ~ niMRoD ?

Thus very early on, Babylon is linked to REBELLION against God.

REBELLION

Gen 10:8-9 (NASB) Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before [or “against”] the LORD…

The term “a mighty hunter before the LORD” has also been the topic of much debate, with uncertainty as if this is to be viewed as a positive or negative critique on the man’s character. The Hebrew word “lip̄nê” translated “before” is sometimes rendered “against”—albeit rarely—as in 1 Chron 14:8.

Hellenistic Jewish philosopher, Philo (BC 25-50 AD), took Nimrod’s name to mean “desertion” and comments on the Septuagint rendering, “For this reason, it is not ineptly said, ‘a giant before (enantion) God,’ which is clearly in opposition to the Deity. For the impious man is none other than the enemy and foe who stands against God.”

REBELLION

1st-century AD Jewish historian, Josephus, portrays Nimrod as opposing Yahweh and doing his utmost to get people to forsake him, writing that:

He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness.”

The Jerusalem Targum says that Nimrod:

“was mighty in hunting (or in prey) and in sin before God, for he was a hunter of the children of men in their languages; and he said unto them, Depart from the religion of Shem, and cleave to the institutes of Nimrod.”

REBELLION

Then in Genesis 11 we have the well-known account of the tower and city at Babel, where God stopped their building project by confusing their languages.

The Biblical account seems to express the main drivers for the tower-building as being a desire for fame, along with the fear by men of losing social cohesion.

REBELLION

But Josephus, suggests that Nimrod’s reason for construction was an act of defiance against God, by taking precautions against a future repeat of the recent Flood judgement—not by changing behaviour—but by attempting to avoid the consequences of bad conduct.

He [Nimrod] also said, “He would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again: for that he would build a Tower too high for the waters to be able to reach…” (Antiquities of the Jews – Book I, Ch. 4.2-3)

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God.

REBELLION

Babel could also have been a religious centre because the name means “Gate of God”. Some believe that the tower may have been the predecessor to the Etemenanki ziggurat, which Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484-425 BC) would call the “Temple of Zeus Belus”.

REBELLION

Enhanced depiction of Etemenanki, Babylon

The Genesis account indicates that in the spirit of the antediluvian Cain—the first to build a city (Gen 4:17)—Nimrod was responsible for a series of prominent cities and hence the first empire builder.

Gen 10:10-12 (NASB) The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, and Resen...

But Josephus relates that Nimrod would go on to abuse the power he derived from the system he established.

He gradually changed the government into tyranny—seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence upon his power.

REBELLION

Many see the story of Babel in Genesis as a godly indictment against urbanism and empire-building. They maintain that Nimrod was trying to establish a central world government, instead of obeying God’s directive to man after the Flood, not only to “be fruitful and increase in number”, but also to “fill the earth” (Gen 9:1).

Thus, we see that from the outset Babylon was associated with what today we call globalism and centralised world government, both ideals (and potential abuses) closely associated with a future Antichrist.

Many suggest that Nimrod can be equated with the Mesopotamian hero, Gilgamesh. The first clay tablets naming Gilgamesh were found among the ruins in Nineveh, a city founded by Nimrod.

REBELLION

In Genesis, Nimrod appears just after the flood sent by the Hebrew God Yahweh. In the Epic, Gilgamesh appears after a flood attributed to Huwawa.

The names Yahweh and Huwawa do sound somewhat similar.

Gilgamesh even visits the survivor of the Flood; while Nimrod was “the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah”, both of whom were Flood survivors.

Nimrod is portrayed by Josephus as the archenemy of the God who sent the flood. He incites the people to tower-building as an act of defiance against God.

Likewise Gilgamesh is the opponent of Huwawa, the monstrous giant who sent the flood. So that the one who sent the Flood will not trouble them any more, Gilgamesh sets out to cut off the head of Huwawa.

REBELLION

Josephus portrays Nimrod as setting up oppressive government, writing that “Nimrod, the son of Chus, stayed and tyrannized at Babylon”. Likewise Gilgamesh’s arrogance, ruthlessness and depravity were also a subject of grave concern for the citizens of Uruk (one of his cities).

There are still other parallels between the Bible and the Gilgamesh epic. Nimrod rules Erech in Shinar (Mesopotamia); Gilgamesh was king of Uruk in Mesopotamia. Cush is Nimrod’s father in the Bible, while Kish is a city in the Epic.

Consequently, it seems that Gilgamesh—the great enemy of Huwawa—might well be equated with Nimrod—the “mighty hunter against God.”

REBELLION

While other ancient writers mentioned Babylon with a tone of awe and reverence, the city owes its notoriety to the numerous references made to it in the Bible; all of which are unflattering. The city features prominently in the OT, in particular with the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple and the subsequent Babylonian captivity. It became a symbol for a centre or system that historically stood in opposition to God’s people. Babylon represents an oppressor against which righteous believers must struggle.

REBELLION

The Babylonians plunder the Temple

To the world, the city of Babylon was a centre of commerce, religion, culture, technology, military prowess, extravagance and riches.

But to the Spirit of God – it is a desert, a place of confusion, sensual decadence and self-sufficient arrogance. It represents spiritual adultery, false religion and the persecution of God’s people, who are instructed to flee from it and all that it stands for. And ultimately it is destined to be judged by God for its many abominations.

Some believe that these references to Babylon will be fulfilled in a rebuilt Babylon in Iraq. In 1983 Saddam Hussein started rebuilding the city on top of the old ruins. An article published in April 2006 stated that UN officials and Iraqi leaders had plans for restoring Babylon, making it into a cultural centre.

REBELLION

UN involvement immediately suggests that the rebuilt city may play a role in some form of world government headed by a more empowered UN. However at present the site remains just a tourist attraction.

But while I generally prefer the most literal view, it is notable that the term used is not simply Babylon, but has the qualifying word ‘MYSTERY’ before it, which appears to indicate that some other meaning is intended.

BABYLON IN IRAQ

Panoramic view over the reconstructed city of Babylon

In giving clues to its identity John states that “This calls for a mind with wisdom” (Rev 17:9) – surely it does not take too much wisdom to equate the city with itself?

While thousands of years ago under Nebuchadnezzar it could lay claim to be “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (Rev 17:18), this certainly wasn’t the case in the time that John wrote, nor has it been any time since then.

Nor is it a key commercial city in modern times which would cause merchants to mourn if it were destroyed.

And while at surface value this is the most literal view, the passage literally describes a seaport - which Babylon is not.

BABYLON IN IRAQ

The city is also not built on seven hills, a feature explicitly stated in the passage.

The woman was “drunk with the blood of the saints… who bore testimony to Jesus” but Babylon was not known for persecuting Christians.

Why does John write, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues” (Rev 18:4). As Pre-Tribulationists, we believe the church is removed before the Tribulation so “my people” must be referring to godly Jews. What would Jews be doing in modern Iraq, a Muslim country hostile to Israel? Despite having had 140,000 Jews in Iraq before World War II, today there are only 38 Jews in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital.

BABYLON IN IRAQ

Preterists attempt to equate the harlot with 1st century Jerusalem. But a few Futurists see it as modern Jerusalem.

It is true that the prophet Isaiah would say of Jerusalem in his day, “See how the faithful city has become a harlot!” (Isa 1:21)

JERUSALEM

Jerusalem seen from the mount of Olives (2012)

But the Revelation harlot is called “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (17:18). One cannot seriously apply that phrase in its entirety to modern Jerusalem. The United Nations is the closest body we currently have that could be said to have some dominion over the nations of the earth—and that organisation is renowned for issuing proclamations against Jerusalem—not for being governed by it in any sense.

In fact, most UN member states do not even recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and on principle insist on having their foreign embassies in Tel Aviv.

US president Donald Trump recently faced criticism from the UN member states for recently recognising Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

JERUSALEM

Jerusalem is not a port city, but is landlocked.

The harlot sits “on seven hills” (17:9). Preterists claim that this applies to Jerusalem, although in antiquity this was a phrase applied consistently to Rome, not Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been known by 72 names in Biblical and post-Biblical literature, but any reference to hills is conspicuous by its absence. Despite the claims of some, Jerusalem is not built on 7 hills.

In a Wikipedia article titled “List of cities claimed to be built on seven hills”, the researcher states that while some claim this title of Jerusalem, “considering the various changes of the landscape over the centuries, it has not been possible to locate the hills on which the city rests.” 1

1 http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ List_of_cities_claimed_to_be_built_on_seven_hills

JERUSALEM

As prophecy implies a Revived Roman Empire in the last days, some argue that this isn’t the Western Empire at all but rather the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), an area incorporating Turkey, parts of the Middle East and North Africa, which had Constantinople as its capital until 1453 before the city fell to the Ottoman Turks.

This is often part of the prophetic outlook of those looking for a Muslim Antichrist.

CONSTANTINOPLE

Pros: After Rome, Istanbul holds the next best credentials for actually being known as the City On Seven Hills. This was by design as it was originally Nova Rome (New Rome).

CONSTANTINOPLE

In AD 324, it succeeded Rome as the “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth”, when Constantine relocated the capital of the empire there.

Like Mystery Babylon, it is a famous port city.

Cons

Turkey—where Istanbul is located—still remains only a candidate for membership in the European Union, the body that is viewed by many Dispensationalists as the more legitimate end-times Revived Roman Empire.

CONSTANTINOPLE

A recent Futurist view attempts to identify Mystery Babylon as modern Mecca, with Joel Richardson and Walid Shoebat popularising this opinion of late.

With its history of persecution and killing of Christians, Islam could fairly be said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints”. There are those who argue that Mecca in Saudi Arabia is the figurehead city for the religion and thus can be viewed as accountable for all the ongoing slaughter of Christians by radical Muslims.

Those who make this identification make much of the fact that John was transported “into a desert” (17:3) to see his vision of the harlot. Saudi Arabia is 95% desert and the southern part of the country is occupied by Rub' Al Khali, one of the largest sand deserts in the world.

MECCA

Rev 17:3 (NASB) And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness (erēmon); and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast…

Rev 17:16 (NASB) … these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate (ērēmōmenēn) …

Rev 18:17 (NASB) … such great wealth has been laid waste! (ērēmōthē)

Rev 18:19 (NIV) … she has been brought to ruin! (ērēmōthē)

The Greek word translated “desert” or “wilderness” in Rev 17:3 is “erēmon”, while in Rev 17:16, 18:17,19 the related words “ērēmōmenēn” and “ērēmōthē” are rendered “desolate” or “brought to ruin”. Thus, the setting of the vision in the desert may simply be to illustrate her impending destruction.

MECCA

More Cons:

Mecca is not a port. The nearest port to Mecca is in Jeddah. But Mecca is a distance of over 100 km from Jeddah, making the prophecy of Babylon’s destruction being witnessed by sea-travellers impossible to apply to Mecca.

In antiquity, Mecca was never known as a City On Seven Hills and a quick encyclopaedia search on the current geography of the city makes no mention of seven hills being associated with the site. In fact, Wikipedia states that “Central Mecca lies in a corridor between mountains”. 1

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Mecca

MECCA

We’ll see next time what a good fit New York is for the Commercial / Political Babylon. But is it a good fit for the Religious Babylon?

New York is not “drunk with the blood of the saints”? From the outset, the US has always been a symbol of religious freedom and was the original refuge for Protestant Christians escaping persecution from state churches in Europe.

So, unless one believes in a separate Religious and Commercial Babylon, it’s unreasonable to apply this description to the US or New York today.

NEW YORK

Rev 17:18 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”

In John’s day “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” could only be a reference to Rome, not Jerusalem or Babylon. Yet Preterists claim it’s Jerusalem.

But Rome was the centre of the world’s largest empire at the time. So how is it possible that Jerusalem, in the process of being razed to the ground by Rome, can seriously be called “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth”, but the title cannot be applied to Rome?

The early Church Fathers (Hippolytus, Tertullian, Victorinus, Eusebius, Jerome, Augustine) are united—there is no dissenting voice—the harlot Babylon is unequivocally equated with Rome.

THE GREAT CITY

The Reformers and early Protestants all identified the harlot with Rome. The identification was made based on the seven hills, the woman being drunk on blood of saints and the reference to “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth”.

The early Church Fathers connected the harlot with Pagan Rome, while the Reformers saw her as Papal Rome.

ROME

Rome from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica

Babylon

Babylon

Medo

Medo

Greece Rome

Greece Rome

Revived

Revived

Persia

Persia

Roman

Roman

“FIVE HAVE FALLEN”

3) Babylon

4) Medo- Persia

“ONE IS”

5) Greece 6) Rome

“THE OTHER HAS NOT YET COME” 7) Revived

Roman

2) Assyria

1) Egypt

Rev 17:10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.

The Bible speaks of 6 world kingdoms that have ruled Israel in the past: Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. John (who wrote Revelation) lived in the Roman Empire.

SEVEN KINGS

On 29th Sept 2004 the new European Union constitution was signed in Rome - in the same room where the Treaty of Rome had been signed to establish the EU in 1957. There had been a long fight over whether or not to include mention of Europe’s Christian roots in the constitution. In the end they agreed not to mention it.

ROMAN EMPIRE

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is an intergovernmental organization of 43 countries from Europe and the Mediterranean Basin: the 28 member states of the EU and 15 Mediterranean partner countries from North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Europe. It was created in July 2008 at the Paris Summit for the Mediterranean, with a view to reinforcing the Euro- Mediterranean Partnership (Euromed) that was set up in 1995 and known as the Barcelona Process.

https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Union_for_the_Mediterranean

EUROMED Free Trade Area

Rev 17:6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.

ROME

Rev 18:24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.

Some estimate that almost 100,000 Christians were martyred by Pagan Rome before 313 AD, with over 20,000 believed to have died during Diocletian’s reign alone.

But “Christian” Rome killed many more believers.

Juan Antonio Llorente, the was General Secretary of the Inquisition from 1789 to 1801, estimated the number of victims in the Spanish Inquisition alone to be 341,021.

Conservative modern estimates for the total number of Christians martyred by the Catholic Church are around 5 million (David Barrett), while less well substantiated earlier figures range from 50 million to 150 million.

BLOOD OF THE SAINTS

Rev 17:9 “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.”

Throughout its history Rome has been described as the city of 7 hills as indicated in coins which refer to it in this way and in countless allusions in Roman literature. 7 hills formed the nucleus of the ancient city on the east bank of the Tiber – (1) Palatine, (2) Aventine, (3) Caelian, (4) Esquiline, (5) Viminal, (6) Quirinal and (7) Capitoline.

SEVEN HILLS

The Club of Rome is a global think tank that deals with a variety of international issues, including the world economic system, climate change, and environmental degradation. Founded in 1968 in Rome, Italy, it describes itself as “a group of world citizens, sharing a common concern for the future of humanity.” It consists of current and former heads of state, UN bureaucrats, high-level politicians and government officials, diplomats, scientists, economists and business leaders from around the globe. (https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Club_of_Rome)

They produced a computer model based on a world divided into 10 regions. According to TIME magazine (26 Apr 1976), “the model is fed data—population growth, food production, climate changes, energy supplies, etc.—that can permit economists to test scenarios for various situations.”

CLUB OF ROME DIVISIONS

CLUB OF ROME DIVISIONS

RELIGIOUS BABYLON

Applies to

Feature

Babylon

Rome

New York

Religious Babylon

7 hills

NEVER

TRUE

Rules 7 continents

Drunk on blood of saints

Before John

- Persecuted disobedient Israel

TRUE (John’s day and Middle Ages)

NEVER

Seat for ecumenical religion

Before John

Middle ages

UNAOC

SUMMARY

I think it’s unlikely that the literal Babylon in Iraq is being referred to, as it’s termed a ‘mystery’ and Babylon doesn’t feature in any meaningful form today.

If the prophecy refers to the modern equivalent of a city of John’s today, it is unequivocally a reference to Rome.

If it refers to a single city today, the strongest overall strongest candidate is Rome.

Being termed a ‘mystery’ it may in fact be a reference to the apostate church in general and the worldly commercial / economic system.

Rev 17:2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” **

Rev 17:4 … She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.

Adultery is used in scripture to speak of spiritual unfaithfulness. God called Israel’s disobedience to Him adultery and harlotry (Jer 3:8-9; 5:7; 13:27; Ezek 16:32).

Hosea’s prostitute wife, who disregarded her marriage covenant, was used as an example of Israel’s spiritual harlotry and unfaithfulness to her covenant with God.

So the prostitute represents not only a city, but a false religious system.

APOSTATE RELIGION

What is the false religious system that the prostitute (Mystery Babylon) represents?

Preterists identify the woman with 1st century Jerusalem and apostate Judaism.

Historicists identify the woman with Rome, but more specifically with the Vatican or the Catholic Church.

Futurists see her as representing the Apostate Church that is left behind, possibly in the form of an ecumenical (representing a number of different Christian Churches) or interfaith (different religions) movement headquartered in Rome. 1

1 Many people like to identify this harlot with the Catholic Church, but they do not have a monopoly on false religion. This is unification of all false religion, with representatives from apostate Catholicism, Orthodoxism, Protestantism and other religions of the world.

APOSTATE RELIGION

There are the religious movements that some Futurists have suggested as the apostate religion.

The Catholic Church

The New Age Movement

Islam

An ecumenical movement

An interfaith movement

APOSTATE RELIGION

Rome, where the Vatican is located, is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the largest church in the world with approximately 1.29 billion members.

While the identification of the Babylonian Whore not just with the city of Rome but specifically with the Catholic Church is very much a Historicist position, there are several Futurists (like Dave Hunt and Jack Chick) who make this same connection, most often due to the lingering influence of Hislop’s “The Two Babylons” book. But most modern Dispensationalists have avoided making a sole connection between the Catholic Church and the harlot.

This view thrived in the days of the reformers due to the conduct of the papacy, but surely these criticisms can no longer be fairly applied in the modern era.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Consider the temporal power of the Roman Catholic Church. While it is true that the Vatican wielded great political power in the Middle Ages especially when backed by the Holy Roman Emperor, it certainly is no longer the case today. In stark contrast to the days when the Pope ruled the Papal States, the modern Catholic Church operates and controls only Vatican City, the smallest state in the world.

While many modern Catholic doctrines are still devoid of Scriptural support, there can be no doubt that since the Reformation, there has been much-needed doctrinal reform. The Second Vatican Council encouraged the scriptural reading of the Bible rather than relying solely on devotional writings, booklets and the lives of the Catholic saints. And the RCC are certainly not burning perceived heretics at the stake anymore.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

A minority view first suggested by Michigan lawyer, Constance Cumbey, is that the end-time false religion will be the New Age movement. In her bestselling 1983 book, “Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow”, Cumbey stated that the New Age movement meets all the prophetic requirements of the Babylonian Harlot.

But many consider “New Age” too broad a term to be of any meaningful use, having become somewhat of a dumping ground for a plethora of sometimes vaguely similar beliefs. Wouter Hanegraaff, professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam, asserted that “New Age” was “a label attached indiscriminately to whatever seems to fit it” and as such it “means very different things to different people”.

THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT

Naturally, proponents of the “Mecca equals Babylon” view consider Islam to be the end-time apostate religion.

However, to be an apostate religion or an unfaithful wife to God implies that you were faithful in the first place and have since fallen from that position—which is not the case with Islam. Branches of Christianity (and formerly Judaism) could be said to apostatize but Islam was never a true religion in the first place; and hence its adherents were never in a covenant relationship with God—that could subsequently be broken.

ISLAM

Consequently, the harlot is most likely an international, ecumenical group of apostate churches; or an interfaith movement where member churches have compromised their core beliefs. There are many ecumenical or interfaith movements at present, none of which completely meet the requirement.

The World Council of Churches, based at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland includes denominations claiming to represent some 590 million people across the world in about 150 countries. If the Catholic Church were to take full membership status – this may well be the organisation referred to.

The Centro Pro Unione is an ecumenical research and action centre, inaugurated in 1968 and situated in Rome. It holds annual conferences on ecumenism.

ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT

The harlot is in an alliance with the Antichrist (the Beast).

Rev 17:7-8 Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction…

Why is the woman who represents apostate religion said to “ride the beast” (17:7), which is the Antichrist? This is because initially the harlot will co-operate with and be a pawn of the Antichrist, who uses her to achieve his own goals. It is an alliance of convenience because the beast will destroy her (17:16) once she has outlived her usefulness; just as men treat a prostitute—they do not love her but nevertheless use her for their own temporary gratification.

THE BEAST

Rev 17:16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.

The Antichrist and the world leaders of the 10 kingdoms hate the prostitute and the Beast eventually destroys her.

Preterists use this to identify the prostitute with Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans in AD 70.

According to SDA Historicism… the first beast of Rev 13 symbolizes the Papacy, and the second beast symbolizes the USA. But the beast destroys the harlot (Rev 17:16), so if their view is consistent, it means the Pope destroys the Catholic church, the very system which supports him.

PROSTITUTE DESTROYED

Futurist: The Antichrist tolerates the interfaith movement or the harlot church and uses her to satisfy his own selfish purposes.

Just as he uses the Jews to obtain his political purposes but eventually double-crosses them by breaking covenant, so he will treat the harlot accordingly. As men use prostitutes - only to discard them afterwards – so the Antichrist ultimately turns on the harlot and destroys her.

PROSTITUTE DESTROYED

Therefore, it is the Antichrist and the final ten kingdoms who ultimately destroy the apostate religion.

When will this occur?

Possibly when the Antichrist demands exclusive worship in the middle of the Tribulation at the point where the False Prophet sets up the Abomination in the Jerusalem Temple’s Holy Place.

In his treachery, the Antichrist mimics the Fuhrer of Nazi Germany with regards to his handling of Russia and the German Christian churches during World War II—initial pretence at cooperation—followed by duplicity when the time appears to be ripe and they have outlived their usefulness.

PROSTITUTE DESTROYED

It follows that if Rome is our Religious Babylon, it is more likely that the woman represents a worldwide ecumenical church centred at Rome but embracing many branches of Christianity and possibly even adherents of other faiths.

The Catholic Church certainly does not have a monopoly on heresy. While Historicists remained shocked at the heresies of Rome, the truth is that modern liberalism which is present in traditional Protestant churches, has far outstripped Rome in its departure from the Christianity and theology of the early church. Not to be outdone, modern Charismatics continually invent and propagate new heresies (like the Prosperity gospel, Generational curses, Self-Esteem gospel, Ransom Atonement in hell etc.) that would make the medieval popes blush.

ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT

But while Jesus himself did pray for unity among his followers, this must not be at the expense of key doctrine, especially that pertaining to the Atonement.

With an ecumenical movement, there is often the danger of an increased tolerance of heretical branches within Christianity.

And so, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, an ecumenical group comprising 100,000 congregations, has recently (April 2013) had a new member in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Commonly known as the Mormon Church, they are generally regarded as heretical within conservative Christianity.

ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT

The present ecumenical movement, although worldwide, does not embrace all major sections of Christianity. A merger between Protestantism, Greek Orthodoxy and the Catholic Church, while contemplated by some, has not been consummated.

There is also active opposition to the ecumenical movement based on its theological liberalism. Opposition efforts are often by those Christians who see Rev 18:4 (“Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins”) as a call from God to his people instructing them to break free from and disassociate themselves from any apostate body of churches.

As such, this more embracing ecumenical movement might only find its full realisation after the Rapture and the removal of any dissenting born-again believers.

ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT

Interfaith pluralism is aimed at unity or cooperation among diverse religions. Some believe that the end-time harlot is a global interfaith movement.

Some identify New York as the Mystery Babylon. Interestingly, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), based in New York, is a UN sponsored interfaith movement initiated in 2005.

Interfaith movements are even more dangerous than the Ecumenical movements as they incorporate those who deny the basic tenets of Christianity, including the deity of Christ and the Atonement.

The waters get very muddy here where unity and political correctness are taken to extremes which compromise some of the core beliefs of Christianity.

INTERFAITH MOVEMENT

On this issue, David Guzik notes that “Indications about Roman Catholicism’s ultimate partnership with a one-world religion were evident in Pope John Paul II’s bizarre involvement with and approval of other anti-Christian religions.”

In addressing a prayer gathering of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others, Pope John Paul II told participants that their efforts were “unleashing profound spiritual energies in the world and bringing about a new climate of peace.” The Pope pledged that “the Catholic Church intends to ‘share in and promote’ such ecumenical and inter-religious cooperation.” 1

1 http:// studylight.org/ commentaries/ guz/ view.cgi?book=re&chapter=17

INTERFAITH MOVEMENT

The Catholic Review commented on this and said, “The unity of religion promoted by the Holy Father Pope John Paul II and approved by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not a goal to be achieved immediately, but a day may come when the love and compassion which both Buddha and Christ preached so eloquently will unite the world in a common effort to save humanity from senseless destruction and leading to toward the light in which we all believe.” 1

Unfortunately, the above type of comments by John Paul II are driven, not by the teaching of Scripture, but by the modern tendency to be perceived as “tolerant” at all costs.

1 Ibid

INTERFAITH MOVEMENT

The idea that all religions are different paths to the same end destination is contradicted by Jesus himself. The claims for the exclusivity of Christianity were not invented by Christians but came from Christ. He did not say, “I am A WAY”; he did not even say, “I am THE BEST WAY”; he simply said, “I am THE WAY and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV).

Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:11-12).

If salvation was possible by some other means then Paul says, “Christ died for nothing” (Gal 2:21).

INTERFAITH MOVEMENT

For instance, Muslims say that Allah (God) has no son, but Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36).

Likewise, John writes, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).

Thus, while Christians need to love others of different faiths, they must acknowledge that there are not multiple truths. Jesus said, “I am the truth.”

INTERFAITH MOVEMENT

There is no common ground with philosophies or religions who reject the Son of God and the Atonement. While cooperation and co-working with others might seem commendable, this is not the greatest need facing the world.

The world needs a Saviour in Jesus Christ, who provides an atonement and reconciliation with the Father in order to spare us from the coming judgement of God.

If we cannot agree on that issue, we’ll do well to remember Paul’s injunction to the Corinthians (2 Cor 6:14-17 ) which sounds very similar to the call in Rev 18:4 to “Come out of her, my people”.

INTERFAITH MOVEMENT

2 Cor 6:14-17 (NIV) Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”

INTERFAITH MOVEMENT

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http:// www.Lockman.org)




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