Life-Study of Revelationby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider the material Babylon (18:1-24). The Bible reveals three aspects of Babylon: the literal, ancient Babylon, the religious Babylon, and the material Babylon. The site of ancient Babylon is in today’s Iraq. I visited that region eighteen years ago and found it to be dusty and hot, like an oven. I could not stand to stay there. Before I visited that place, I had studied the curses pronounced upon Babylon recorded in the Bible. The Old Testament, especially the book of Jeremiah, contains many curses and condemnations pronounced by God upon Babylon. In my visit I saw that in every respect the word of the Bible concerning Babylon had been proved true.
The ancient city of Babylon is also the ancient Babel. Genesis 11 speaks of the tower and city of Babel. Both Babel, the Hebrew word, and Babylon, the Greek word, mean confusion. Babel was founded by Cush, the father of Nimrod. According to history, Nimrod invented the pagan, idolatrous system of worship. Many centuries later, Babel was enlarged by Nebuchadnezzar and became the Babylon known in the Old Testament. Babylon became an evil and devilish place because under Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonians destroyed God’s temple and seized the holy vessels, the vessels for the service of God in the temple (Dan. 1:1-2; 2 Kings 25:8-9, 14-15). Furthermore, Nebuchadnezzar brought these vessels to Babylon and placed them in the temple of his idols (Dan. 1:1-2). That was an insult to God. At the time of the recovery in the Old Testament, Ezra brought these vessels back to Jerusalem and placed them in the rebuilt temple (Ezra 1:7-11; 5:14; 6:5). Therefore, Babylon became evil not only because of her idolatry, but also because she destroyed God’s temple and carried away into captivity God’s people and the holy vessels.
In the Bible we have two important lines—the line of Babel and the line of Jerusalem. The line of Babel is a counterfeit of the line of Jerusalem. Before God began the line of Jerusalem, Satan began his counterfeit. Thus, two cities, Babylon and Jerusalem, are opposed to each other. These two lines continue to the present day. The church is today’s Jerusalem, and the Roman Catholic Church is today’s Babel, Babylon. Furthermore, the daughters of the great prostitute, the denominations and groups which still practice some of the Babylonian traditions, also belong in the category of Babylon. Only the pure, genuine local churches are in the line of Jerusalem today.
Chapters seventeen through twenty-two are the ultimate conclusion of the whole Bible. In these chapters we also see two cities—Babylon and Jerusalem. Babylon will be utterly destroyed, and Jerusalem will be completely built up. This is the consummation of the Bible, the ultimate issue of the line of Babel and the line of Jerusalem.
The writings of G. H. Pember and Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons say that, without exception, every pagan religion originated with Babylonianism. The religion invented by Nimrod has spread throughout the world, even to India, China, and Japan. Nimrod, for example, originated the picture of the Madonna and her child. The story behind this picture is an evil story of incest. Nevertheless, that picture has been taken into Catholicism and presented as a picture of Mary and Jesus. As a child, I saw this picture of the woman and her infant in the idol temples in China. Later I was surprised to see the same picture in a Catholic cathedral. Eventually, through study I learned that they were both of the same origin. The first Catholic missionaries to go to China found the image of the Madonna and child already in the Buddhist temples. It was also found in Japan and India. Although the same picture under different titles is found everywhere, its origin can be traced to Nimrod at Babel. This example illustrates that every religion is an outgrowth of Babylonianism. All religion comes from one devilish source—the ancient city of Babylon.
The second aspect of Babylon is religious Babylon. In the eyes of God the Roman Catholic Church, which perpetuates much of Judaism and has assimilated much from paganism, is Babylon.
The third aspect of Babylon is the material Babylon, the city of Rome.
At times it is difficult to distinguish these three aspects of Babylon because the Bible blends them together. For example, the Babylon in Revelation 18 is material Babylon. But when I was young, I was told by some Christian teachers that it is the literal Babylon. This chapter, however, does not refer to the literal Babylon; it refers to the city of Rome, which is Babylon in the eyes of God.
In Revelation 17 and 18 two aspects of Babylon, the religious aspect and the material aspect, are mixed together. On the one hand, the female in chapter seventeen is a “prostitute” signifying the apostate church; on the other hand, she is a “woman” signifying the city of Rome. Verse 1 speaks of the prostitute, and verse 18 speaks of the woman. Therefore, the female in this chapter has the aspect of the prostitute, the apostate church, and the aspect of the woman, the physical city of Rome.
It is not easy to understand the Bible. We need to pray over and ponder certain portions again and again. I do not know why the Lord in some verses mixes together the various aspects of Babylon. I only know that He has done so. Knowing the various aspects of Babylon is like knowing the prophecies regarding the two comings of Christ. In a number of places in the Old Testament Christ’s two comings are mentioned together. It is like two mountain ranges that appear to be one when they are viewed from a distance. But as you approach them, you realize that there is a great gap between them. In reading the prophecies regarding the coming of Christ, we must know which refer to His first coming and which refer to His second coming. It is the same with the verses regarding Babylon. We must discern which refer to ancient Babylon, which to religious Babylon, and which to material Babylon. If we are clear about this, then we shall be able to understand Revelation 17 and 18. Years ago, I simply could not understand these chapters because I did not know the various aspects of Babylon. If we are clear about these aspects, then we have a solid foundation for understanding these two chapters, and we shall be able to discern which verses concern the religious aspect and which verses concern the material aspect.
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