Three Angels Messages Part 61

Thanks for joining us in our study of the Three Angel’s Messages today! We are still examining the message of the third angel, which warns in startling language against the “beast,” his “image” and “mark.” What is the beast? What is its mark? What is its image? All of these questions deserve our attention and close scrutiny. In searching for clues to identify the “beast” that has the “mark,” we have seen that besides what we read in Revelation 13, there are three depictions of this entity in the book Daniel, and three others in the New Testament.

We studied the “man of sin” described by Paul in II Thessalonians 2, and the “Antichrist” of I John. Last time we began our study of the seventh portrayal, found in Revelation 17, that speaks of an impure woman who rides a beast and is given the name “Babylon.” We find that this indeed is another picture of the fallen church, the papacy, which Satan has used to oppose God’s Word and His people.

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.” I Corinthians 10:11. Remember that the book of Revelation is a “collage,” stitching together the salvation/destruction stories of the past. Becoming acquainted with the salvation/destruction stories of the Old Testament is the key to understand the symbols of Revelation.

In Revelation 17 we read, “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, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’ 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. 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. And on her forehead a name was written: Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth. And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.” Revelation 17:1-6.

The symbolism in this chapter combines in a three-fold way a person, an animal, and a place. It describes a woman, a beast and a city. In Scripture, as we have seen, often a “woman” stands for a church. A pure woman, pictured in Revelation 12, represents the true church; an impure woman, a false church. This woman rides on a beast, which in prophetic sign language represents a kingdom. And, she bears the name of a city, “Babylon,” an ancient capitol that defiantly oppressed God’s people.

The time context in which this picture emerges is that she is being indicted for her crimes. She has fallen under divine judgment. Said the angel to John, “I will show you the judgment of the great harlot.” There are four aspects of the “judgment” which Babylon experiences, all of which are reflections of divine justice administered against the enemies of God in the past, but on a much smaller scale. The four aspects of judgment have to do with desolation, with self-destruction, with the “feast of the birds,” and with a “song of lamentation.” To students of Old Testament eschatological literature, these four themes are very familiar. Divine justice in the past included all of these elements. Last time we examined the first of these four aspects, the location of the judgment, the “wilderness” (Greek: eremos) or “desolate place.”

In this study, we will see that she also suffers the other aspects of God’s justice as seen in those stories that given as types of last-day developments. We’ll take up the examination of aspect of self-destruction and the “feast of the birds.”

In the second component of Babylon’s judgment, we will see that in many of the accounts and prophecies of deliverance recorded in Scripture, there is a phenomenon of the enemy’s panic, confusion and self-destruction that plays a part in the story. For example, when Jonathan defeated the Philistines, the Lord sent a panic among the enemy. “And there was trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and the raiders also trembled; and the earth quaked, so that it was a very great trembling. Now the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and there was the multitude, melting away; and they went here and there.” I Samuel 14:15, 16. The panic that broke out precipitated a significant defeat of the formerly self-confident Philistines, the enemies of God and His people.

The Lord sent panic and confusion among the ranks of the Syrians in the days of Elisha. “The LORD had caused the army of the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots and the noise of horses--the noise of a great army; so they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us!’ Therefore they arose and fled at twilight, and left the camp intact--their tents; their horses, and their donkeys--and they fled for their lives.” II Kings 7:6, 7. Again, the panic sent by the Lord brought about the defeat of His enemies, though in pride and arrogance, just before this they thought themselves invincible.
In the story of Gideon’s warfare against Midian, as he and his 300 broke their pitchers and shouted, we read that the enemy, in a confused state of mind, destroyed themselves. “The LORD set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp.” Judges 7:22. The enemies engaged in self-destruction. In the great victory that God gave to Jehoshaphat we read, “Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another.” II Chronicles 20:22, 23.

In a prophecy against Egypt the Lord declared, “I will set Egyptians against Egyptians; everyone will fight against his brother, and everyone against his neighbor.” Isaiah 19:2. The Lord said to the prophet Haggai, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying: ‘I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots and those who ride in them; the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.’” Haggai 2: 21, 22.  In Zechariah’s great prophecy we read, “It shall come to pass in that day that a great panic from the LORD will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbor, and raise his hand against his neighbor’s hand.” Zechariah 14:13.
What do we see in these stories? We find that there is an enemy of God, which seems poised to destroy His chosen ones. The enemy is filled with self-confidence, because from a merely human point of view, all indications lead to the conclusion they will surely triumph. Yet, God intervenes and rescues His people by sending a supernatural sense of confusion and disorganization, and the enemy is convulsed with panic and self-destructs. God’s people are saved!

All of these are illustrations teaching us how the end will come upon God’s enemies in the last days. In a similar way, the Bible predicts that end-time Babylon, though boastful and proud, will likewise one day self-destruct. “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast (representing other political powers which join hands with Babylon), these will hate the harlot (when it becomes clear that they have been deceived by Babylon’s policies), make her desolate (significantly, it is the Greek: eremoo, the verb form of eremos) and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” Revelation 17:16.

As the world begins to realize that Babylon has peddled falsehood and deception, causing the loss of men’s souls, there will be a gigantic reaction against the leaders who have been instrumental in misleading the minds of mankind. The swords which were raised against the saints will be turned against the false shepherds who have been the tools of Satan.

We have seen thus far two aspects of divine judgment that fall on apocalyptic Babylon, namely, that she is put in a desolate place, and that there is, consistent with a multitude of stories in Scripture, a sense of confusion and panic that falls on her as she mounts her final assault against God’s kingdom and His people, which results in self-destruction. The third aspect of heaven’s indictment is another familiar theme in Old Testament eschatology. It is the ravaging of wild animals on the unattended corpses of the slain.

In ancient times, and even today, to die an untimely or premature death would be terrible, but to not have a proper burial and have your corpse become the food of wild scavengers would be the ultimate humiliation. Repeatedly in Old Testament literature, this theme arises. It is portrayed as a rejection from God. To be abandoned by heaven is the ultimate denunciation. It will bring about the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” of which Jesus spoke. Moses warned the Israelites that if they were unfaithful in the Promised Land the Lord would remove His protection and they would be defeated by their enemies. “Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away.” Deuteronomy 28:26.

David said to Goliath, “This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” I Samuel 17:46. Judgment was pronounced against the house of Jeroboam. The prophet Ahijah said, “The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Jeroboam and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field.” I Kings 14:11. “And concerning Jezebel the LORD also spoke, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field.’” I Kings 21:23, 24.

Against Judah the prophet Jeremiah was given strong messages to deliver. “The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth.” Jeremiah 7:33. “They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth.” Jeremiah 16:4. “I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hands of those who seek their lives; their corpses I will give as meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth.” Jeremiah 19:7.

The prophet Ezekiel bore a similar message against Egypt. “I have given you as food to the beasts of the field and to the birds of the heaven.” Ezekiel 29:5. Ethiopia was warned by Isaiah, “They will be left together for the mountain birds of prey and for the beasts of the earth.” Isaiah 18:6. Ezekiel’s prophecy against Gog and Magog include this theme. “And as for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field: “Assemble yourselves and come; gather together from all sides to My sacrificial meal which I am sacrificing for you, a great sacrificial meal on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, drink the blood of the princes of the earth.”’” Ezekiel 39:17.

This invitation for the wild birds and beasts to feast on the unburied corpses of the slain enemies of God reaches its final fulfillment when Babylon falls at the coming of the Lord and there is no one to bury her. “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.’” Revelation 19:17, 18.