Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
THE DESTRUCTION OF MYSTIC BABYLON
"Declare ye among the nations, and publish; set up a
standard; say, Babylon is taken."
While our message for today is "meat in due season" to the Household of Faith, and in every way important to be understood, it is, nevertheless, a subject difficult to treat without giving offense, without seeming harsh. Bear with me, then, while expressing what I believe to be the Divine Message in as kindly a manner as I know how.
The Scriptures which I may quote in support of my presentation seem harsh almost to cruelty; but I assure you, my hearers, that I am not responsible for the language of the Bible. My responsibility is to speak the Word of the Lord. In doing this I shall endeavor to present the message in as kindly a manner as I am able, and as far as possible explain some of the harsher expressions; but I must not shun to declare the whole counsel of God—and as fully as I believe He would now have His people understand it.—
In the days of Jesus and His Apostles there was no Mystic Babylon. Therefore the expressions in the Revelation of St. John bearing upon Mystic Babylon were prophetic of the systems and conditions which have since risen in the Church. The word Babylon has a double significance.
It is derived from the word Babel, and reminds us of the time when the sons of Noah lost faith in the Divine providential care and in the rainbow of promise, and endeavored to erect a structure for their own preservation—the Tower of Babel. This attempt led to the confusion of tongues.—
Similarly, following the days of the Apostles and of the persecution of the early Church, an attempt was made to erect a great religious system for the protection of the
Church, not waiting for the fulfilment of the Divine promise that in due time Messiah would come and establish His Kingdom for the blessing of the world.
The religious "Tower of Babel" was, primarily, Papacy. So far as it went, it was a wonderful structure, but it never accomplished the designs of its founders. It never mastered and established the Church far above the power and influence of the civil governments and earthly monarchs.
It was when the Tower of Babel rose to a considerable height in dignity and grandeur that the Lord manifested His Power amongst the workmen and confounded their speech. Disconcerted, the people ceased the further building of the Tower, and each set up for himself. This corresponds well with the Protestant Reformation Movement and the various denominations into which those once Catholic became divided.
BABYLON AND ITS WALL
Another thought connected with our subject is that the literal city of Babylon was a prototype, a prophetic figure of Mystic Babylon. The name Babylon signifies "The Gate of God"—the gateway by which access to God is to be attained. This in effect was the claim made by Papacy, and the claim which she still makes—that she is a great City, a great kingdom; that she has a great wall of Divine salvation and protection round about her—a great wall built of superstition and ignorance, say her enemies.
In the Revelation Jesus prophetically pictures the greatness of this City, this spiritual Empire. It is essentially religious, although it includes the great kingdoms of earth, which unitedly are styled Christendom. This great "city," Babylon, is represented as being divided into ten different wards, each of which represents one of the kingdoms of Christendom, and which corresponds to the ten horns of the symbolic "beast." Compare
#Re 11:13; 13:1
#Da 2:41; 7:7
As this great "city," or spiritual kingdom, thus includes the chief monarchies of Europe, so under another figure Babylon, Papacy, is represented as a woman, in whose forehead is found the name, "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots." Thus is shown in some manner the various Protestant systems of Christendom which separated from the "Mother Church" of Rome, but which are still her daughters, still related to her, partakers of her character, traits and disposition. Thus Babylon with her ten wards includes practically all of Europe; and Mother and Daughters of this same family name include nearly all of the Protestant denominations as well as the Catholic Mother Church.
WHAT IS MEANT BY HARLOTRY?
It should be remembered in discussing this subject that the Scriptural language is figurative—that it does not signify that either the Church of Rome or her Protestant Daughters are immoral. The correct thought is this: Primarily the Church of Christ was a "virgin" company of persons, called out, separated from the world, its aims and its ambitions—called to be saints and joint-heirs with Christ in His Kingdom. To whatever extent systems rose amongst the followers of Jesus and became affiliated with any of the kingdoms of this world—to that extent, Scripturally, figuratively, they committed harlotry; for they were espoused to the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and were to wait for Him, that at His Second Coming they might become His Bride and His Associate in His Throne.
It will not be questioned that Papacy became affiliated with the Roman Empire and sat down on the throne of Rome; nor that the Church of England, as one of her "daughters," became affiliated with the British Government and now sits, representatively, in the House of Lords. It would not be questioned that the Greek Church experienced a similar betrothal and marriage to the Russian Government, the Lutheran Church to the German
Government, etc., etc. It is on this account and in this sense that the Church of Rome and her Daughters—mother and daughters, organizations of Protestants—are figuratively called by the family name of Babylon.
BABYLON’S GOLDEN CUP
Under the figure of "a woman clothed in purple and scarlet" the Mother System of Babylon long centuries ago "made all the nations drunk with her wine," the doctrines which she had in her Golden Cup. (
.) The Golden Cup represents the Bible, the Divine Standard, or authority. It was misused when the wine of false doctrine was put into it—when the Bible was claimed as authority for various erroneous teachings of the Dark Ages. The intoxicating "wine" which made the nations drunk, and which led them to support the "woman" and to call themselves Christian nations, Papacy still holds in her hand, and still offers to whoever will receive it. But the nations are gradually sobering up.
It is not necessary to suppose that every doctrine presented by Papacy was false and intoxicating. The thought is, rather, that a stupefying potion was put into the wine already in the Cup. As the Golden Cup represents the Word of God and its Message, the stupefying potion may well be understood to be some of the doctrines; for instance, that God’s Kingdom has already been set up, that the papal throne is the Throne of Christ, and that the Pope reigns as Christ’s Vicegerent, or substitute and representative. Other poisonous elements threatened the people with purgatorial torture or with eternal torment if they failed to keep in line with the papal authority—this claimed vicegerent authority of Christ.
The Protestant denominations were all born under these intoxicating influences and false theories. While they separated from the Mother system and denounced her, nevertheless they held doctrinally to many of her intoxicating errors. Consequently they, too, claim that
somehow, they know not how, Messiah’s Kingdom has been set up and is reigning. They, too, join in giving the nations some of the same commingled "wine" that the Mother gave them, telling the people that these are Christian nations, even though they have anything but the Christian spirit, and are building guns and dreadnaughts to blow each other off the face of the earth.
So strong is the power of this intoxication that the inconsistencies of such theories are not discerned by those intoxicated. Only the few who are gradually getting free from the stupefying potion are able, by Divine assistance, to see some of the mistakes along this line. These see that neither the Church of Rome nor any of her Daughter systems is the true Church.
Each system professes to be the Bride of Christ, yet each knows that the marriage of the Lamb is to take place at the Second Coming of Christ. They have therefore very generally lost sight of the fact that the true virgin Church of Christ, only a Little Flock (
), who will be accounted worthy to become the Bride of Christ, must wait for the Lord from Heaven. (
.) She must keep herself "unspotted from the world," a
that she may be accounted worthy to enter into the joys of her Lord, become His Queen and Joint-heir.
BABYLON, THE GREAT CITY
It is not to be expected that either the Mother or the Daughters, who are now claiming to reign with Christ, who are now claiming that His Kingdom is already set up, who are now claiming that their union with the kingdoms of this world is legitimate, can have the Bridegroom’s approval. It is not to be expected that they realize their true condition—that they are disloyal to the Heavenly Bridegroom and King.
In the symbolic language of the Book of the Revelation, as already explained, the name Babylon is applied not only to the typical woman, Papacy, and her mystical daughters, the Protestant denominations, but also to the
great City, Mystic Babylon. The symbol woman more particularly represents the ecclesiastical systems, and the symbol city the governmental features—the sacerdotal, or religious, authority to govern and control the kingdoms, the nations of the earth.
We all remember the history of the ancient city of Babylon, with its most wonderful walls and its hanging gardens. We all remember that it was built across the River Euphrates, which flowed through its center and was supposed to protect it fully from the hazard of invasion.
Besides its vast storehouses of food it had the river for its water supply. Babylon was therefore considered impregnable—a strongly fortified city.
Mystic Babylon, Christendom of our day, is a most masterly organization. Its walls are built of ignorance and superstition, whose great foundations were laid centuries ago. Ancient Babylon’s great gates of brass, which came down to the level of the Euphrates, represented Mystic Babylon’s worldly wisdom, human ingenuity and dexterity of organization, to maintain the control of the symbolic waters and to protect the "city" from a possible approach from that direction.
THE EUPHRATES TO BE DRIED UP
In the symbolic language of the Scriptures the word water has two distinct interpretations: (1) Water is a symbol for Truth; (2) Water also symbolizes revenues from outside peoples and kingdoms. In harmony with this latter thought we read that the woman with the golden cup sits upon many waters; "and the waters which thou sawest are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." (
.) This "woman" does not reign over one nation or people alone; her rule is catholic, or general; for all nations were made more or less "drunk with her false doctrines." The water of the River Euphrates, flowing through Babylon, might therefore be understood to symbolize the peoples and nations supporting Mystic Babylon by contributions, offerings.
In the Revelation not merely is the name Babylon used long after the ancient city was so blotted out of existence that for centuries its site was unknown, but the symbolic description includes also the River Euphrates. Of that great river we read, "The water thereof was dried up, that the way of the Kings of the East might be prepared." (
.) If we are correct in our interpretation that the waters of that river signify revenues from all nations, the drying up of the river implies a cessation of the revenues of Babylon, a decline in the contributions which heretofore have made her wealthy—millions coming every year from rich and poor of all nations, for her support.
It is in full accord with this Divine prediction of what is yet to come that we hear cries of distress rising from all denominations, both Catholic and Protestant, to the effect that the revenues of the churches are being "dried up," and this at a time when the world is larger in population and in wealth than ever before.
History tells us that ancient Babylon was captured by Cyrus the Great and his army after a siege of considerable length, which was unsuccessful until his soldiers digged a fresh channel for the river and turned aside its course. Thus was the River Euphrates dried up; and the Medo-Persian army entered the ancient city suddenly in the night. While these events were occurring, the princes of Babylon, corresponding to the notables of Christendom, were holding high carnival, rejoicing in their security, boasting of the strength of their walls, the impregnability of their gates and the sureness of their waters. As they were using the golden vessels of the Lord’s Temple from which to drink their wine, so now, in the hour of Mystic Babylon’s fall, we may expect something to correspond to this—a spirit of boastfulness, of pride, of intoxication with error, apparently drawn from the Divine Word.
At this moment of their exuberance there appeared in Belshazzar’s banquet-hall a hand, which wrote the words,
"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin"
—the days of your rule have been numbered by God and are finished; you are weighed in the balances and found wanting; your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.
.) The strong symbolic language used in respect to Mystic Babylon corresponds so well to the prophetic language respecting ancient Babylon that we are warranted in understanding that city to have been a prototype of Mystic Babylon and her fall a prefigure of Christendom’s fall.
"FLEE OUT OF BABYLON"
When foretelling the disaster upon Babylon, the Prophets of Israel gave to God’s people the message, "Flee out of Babylon; deliver every man his soul"—his life—and terrible descriptions, which seem grossly exaggerated unless we view the matter from the standpoint already suggested—that the experiences of the ancient city were figurative and prophetic of the much more serious experiences of Mystic Babylon, then long future. If further evidence were required to demonstrate that Mystic Babylon represents a great nominal system, it is found in the Apocalypse, a part of which is, "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues."—
This call must be heard and heeded before the disaster comes; for it will come suddenly, as in an hour. Those who do not stand aloof will be involved in the disaster.
And it is God’s will that they should be involved if, after seeing the truth respecting Babylon and her character, they are not enthusiastically opposed to her deceptions and intoxicating false doctrines. The tribulations upon Babylon will constitute a part of the great tribulation with which this Age will terminate and the New Dispensation of Messiah’s Kingdom be ushered in—"a Time of Trouble such as was not since there was a nation." Let God’s people remember that loyalty includes action and faithfulness even unto death.—