Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Woman Rides the Beast - Revelation 18

We established in the last post that the woman sitting on the beast in Revelation 17 is the Roman Catholic Church located in Rome. Revelation 18 begins with another Angel coming down from heaven to give John more information. ‘With a mighty voice he [the angel] shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”’ (Revelation 18:2-3). I believe that God is making it clear – the Roman Church will fall. Why? It cannot get clearer than this - she has become a home for demons. The Lord is telling us that her teaching is not from Him, but from demonic activity. She has committed adultery against God by preaching false doctrine and leading many to idolatry. We are told that the ‘kings of the earth committed adultery with her’. I believe this references the governments of the world throughout history welcoming her false doctrines and gaining worldly power from her. This angel ends his dialog with yet another reference to the excessive wealth of this church.

The next verses are powerful. Another voice from heaven says: ‘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; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes…’ (Revelation 18:4-5). The Lord is calling to His people from heaven. He is saying that there are true believers within this church, yet they are deceived. He is telling them to come out of this church and its unbiblical doctrine so that they ‘will not receive any of her plagues.’ We are also told in verse 5 that God ‘has remembered her crimes’. This is chilling. The Lord is going to repay this Church for what it has done to His people. For all of the Lord’s saints that have been killed, for all of the people who have been deceived by false teachings – the Lord is going to avenge.

The Lord continues in verse 6: ‘Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, “I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.” Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her’ (Revelation 18:6-8). We are given more reasons for this judgment. The Lord mentions ‘torture and grief’ and ‘luxury and glory’. Throughout the middle ages this Church tortured the Lord’s saints and became rich and powerful. I believe that it will once again persecute the Lord’s saints before its judgment. The Lord has heard the cry of his Saints and He is going to avenge them. The Lord is also telling us that He sees the heart of this church and it is boastful and arrogant. Finally, we are once again told that this Church will be judged by fire…..resulting in death, mourning and famine. This parallels Revelation 17:16 ‘…they [the beast and the ten kings] will eat her flesh and burn her with fire’ and Revelation 13:13 ‘he [the beast] performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men’.

The last verse of Revelation 17 states: ‘The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.’ (Revelation 17:18). Revelation 18:9-10 states: ‘When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: “Woe! Woe, O’ great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’ Since Babylon is a reference to the city of Rome, it becomes clear that the entire city of Rome will be affected by this judgment – not just Vatican City. This also gives us another clue. Revelation 17:16 tells us who the Lord uses to judge the Roman Church – ‘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.’ It’s clear that the highest leadership of the world government is responsible for the destruction of this city. However, Revelation 18:10 tells us that there are kings of the earth who are ‘terrified at her torment’. This leads me to believe that the world’s most powerful leaders are deceiving the rest of the world. If all of the kings of the earth knew what was happening they would not be ‘terrified’ since they would be expecting it. I believe that this world government beast once again uses massive destruction to its advantage. It will use the destruction of Rome to setup its own ‘image’ of the Roman Church. (What will this image look like? We’ll spend some time on this topic in a later post, because I believe we are seeing a glimpse of this image today.)

I also believe that this type of deception will ultimately lead the world to the final worldwide battle of Armageddon. If I didn’t know how things ended according to Bible prophecy, I would probably believe that a worldwide government (evil or not) would have a much tighter grip on the nations of the world. How could wars break out if national boundaries disappear and we’re all one, big, happy family? This sounds logical – and you hear this at times even today. It would be much easier if we only had one currency that was handled without cash or coins (no need to haul money around, no more armed robbery, etc.). Without national boundaries, no need to attack your neighbor to gain more space since we’re all together. It really sounds logical….except for one thing – Satan. This world government isn’t one, big, happy family. This world government will rule with an iron fist. All wealth and power will be at the top….forcing the world to adhere to demonic doctrines. No private ownership of land…no buying or selling unless you receive their ‘mark’…which will force many to deny Jesus Christ. Ultimately, I believe that much of the world begins to rebel against this ‘beast’…..leading to a final worldwide war – Armageddon. Many prophecy scholars today believe that Armageddon will be fought only in the Middle East against Israel. Logically, this doesn’t make much sense. Why send 200 million soldiers to attack tiny Israel? Why not just drop a few nuclear weapons? Why march millions of men, hundreds of miles when we have ships and planes that could do the job much more easily. This simply doesn’t make sense to me. These scholars are once again fitting Scripture to their prophecy beliefs. It is made clear that everyone in the world will be affected by this final battle: ‘For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.’ (Mathew 24:21-22). Jesus makes it clear – no one would survive if not for the grace of God. This is a worldwide event.

Let’s finish our study of Revelation 18. Will Rome ever be rebuilt? Will the Roman Church ever return before the Lord’s return? I believe the answer is no. ‘”They will say, ‘the fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ (Revelation 18:14). Revelation 18:16-17 tells us: ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ Once again, the colors and wealth of this church are mentioned. These verses parallel Revelation 17:4 and confirm for us that this ‘Babylon the Great’ is the same entity as the woman whose title is ‘Mystery – Babylon the Great’ of chapter 17: ‘The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls’ (Revelation 17:4).

It is clear that destruction is brought on suddenly and without warning. ‘In one hour’ is used more than once to describe this judgment. In verse 20 we’re once again told that the Lord has not forgotten His saints that were tortured and killed by this Church: ‘Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.’ Regardless of what we face in the near future, we should always take comfort in the Lord and know that it is not up to us to repay those that persecute us – the Lord will repay just as we’re told in Deuteronomy 32:35: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.’

Chapter 18 finishes with the words of a mighty angel: ‘With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will be found in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on earth.’ (Revelation 18:21-24). This chapter ends with finality. With violence, this city will be destroyed and never be rebuilt. Never again will people inhabit this city. Never again will a church be built in this city (bridegroom and bride). The chapter ends with the reasons for judgment – false teachings that led people away from Jesus and the killing of God’s saints. Very clear and very chilling.

I realize that it’s hard to believe these things. Much of what I have written about is not easy to believe because it’s not what we want to hear. We would much rather hear that things are going to get better and that the world will be peaceful. The truth of God’s Word tells us differently. The Lord’s truth tells us that things are going to get worse – so prepare yourself. Don’t buy into the lies of the world. Our focus should always be on His kingdom, not this world.

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