Three Angels Messages Part 62

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.” 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.

Previously, 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.

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 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. Said the angel to John, “I will show you the judgment of the great harlot.” We see that 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. These have to do with desolation, self-destruction, the “feast of the birds,” and with a “song of lamentation.” To students of Old Testament eschatological literature, these four themes are very familiar. In our previous studies, we looked at the first three.

Finally, the fourth component of God’s judgment against Babylon is another oft-repeated theme in the Old Testament. It is the composing of a “song of lament” written at the destruction of an enemy. King David’s “Song of the Bow,” sung after the fall of Saul is a classic. II Samuel 1:17-27. David penned a song of lament for Abner. II Samuel 3:31-34. He sang a long of lament when Absalom died. “Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: ‘O my son Absalom--my son, my son Absalom--if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son.’” II Samuel 18:33.  A poem of lamentation was written concerning the fall of ancient Tyre. Ezekiel 28:11-19. One was composed at the fall of Jerusalem at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah 4:8, and the entire book of Lamentations. A song of lament was drafted concerning the destruction of Egypt. Ezekiel 32:18-32. One was written commemorating the fall of Nineveh. Nahum 3:7. All these were subjects of a “Song of Lament” at their unfortunate fall.

Likewise apocalyptic Babylon has its song of lamentation when it falls. “And the kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived lusciously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’” Revelation 18:9, 10. Thus we see four components of divine justice, as illustrated in the stories of the past, fall upon Revelation’s Babylon: desolation, self-destruction, corpses left as food for birds and beasts of prey and a song of lament.

In addition to these aspects, there is more information to glean from the passage. We see that Revelation’s Babylon is a combination of various groups, uniting as one to oppose God, His kingdom, His law and His people. When Jesus was here, there were different factions within Judaism, including Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, Herodians, and others. Though they retained their individual identities, they joined together to put Jesus on the cross. Likewise, Satan will weld different components of society at the end to war against, not God’s Son, but His law and His people.

More specifically, Revelation’s Babylon can be seen as a false trinity, the three parts of which can be identified as the “beast” (referring to the beast of Revelation 13, the system of the papacy), the “false prophet” (representing apostate Protestantism) and the “dragon,” which can be understood as spiritualism and all false religion, including atheism. Satan will work mightily through this confederacy to try to accomplish his goals as his time runs out. The picture of Babylon in Revelation 17, this last day triumvirate, seems to focus mainly on the papal power, in that she has spearheaded the movement against God through much of the post-cross era. The clues that we will examine in these verses pertain to all aspects of the parts of Babylon, but to the papacy especially.

That this woman shares many of the same characteristics of the papal power represented in the six other symbolic pictures in Bible prophecy, there can be no question. We see her exercising great authority and world-wide influence. She wears the garb of royalty, being arrayed in purple. She is labeled as “Babylon the Great.” She is pictured as sitting on “many waters.” As to what this symbolizes, we are not left to guess, as the angel told John explicitly, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” Revelation 17:15. This is a power of global impact, echoing the thought of Revelation 13:3, “All the world marveled and followed the beast.” The posture of her sitting on “many waters” can be a picture of the world-wide support she receives, but also the manner in which she oppresses the people of the world.
This is a system which has relied on the power of the state to accomplish her policies. We see a woman (a church), riding or being supported by a beast (representing a political power). This union of church and state forms a relationship which is not condoned by God. It is an illicit relationship, hence the use of the word “fornication.” History has shown that when church and state unite; when the spiritual power of the church is removed and it must rely on political power, then restriction of conscience and the removal of freedoms are the inevitable consequence.
This is a picture of a combined religio-political power. A “woman” on a “beast.” The “woman” aspect highlights the religious persona of the papacy, while the “beast” features its political façade. It is both. The papacy enjoys a unique position in the world, for it is indeed both a church and a state at the same time. As a church, it boasts the largest membership in the Christian community, having some 1.2 billion congregants. As a state, though it occupies only about 108 acres, among many other things, it receives ambassadors and issues its own postage.

You might say that this entity has a dual nature. Think of that concept for a moment. Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, came having a dual nature. He was both God and man. He was divine and He was human, for the purpose of bringing salvation. The Antichrist likewise has a dual nature, but it is far different. It has an ecclesiastical nature and a political nature, which is a deadly combination.

Back in the Old Testament, the false systems of worship promoted by the pagan Queen Jezebel were given support by the political authority of King Ahab. This, in type, was a union of church and state. During the Middle Ages what Jezebel had accomplished through Ahab on a smaller scale ballooned to be the horrors of medieval persecution and martyrdom. The reality of the illicit union of church and state was experienced when the arm of the state enforced the dogma of the church, resulting in the persecution of those who refused to violate their consciences.

Many souls shed their blood as they gave their final testimony of faith. Hence the woman is seen as being “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” We’ve encountered the prophetic picture of persecution in many of the other pictures of papal domination contained in Scripture. This snapshot is no different.

Other clues pointing to the Roman Church include her sitting on seven mountains. For centuries Rome has been nicknamed the “City on Seven Hills.” Whereas in chapter 13, the beast was “given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies,” in chapter 17 the beast is “full of names of blasphemy.” In other words, the disease of blasphemy has metastasized from being a condition of the mouth to spreading through the entire body.

As the indictment continues, she is pictured as being clothed in scarlet or crimson, the biblical color of sin. Said Isaiah, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18. The distinctive red color is a throwback to chapter 12, the vision of the “fiery red dragon,” which pictured Satan working through pagan Rome.

She holds a golden cup full of abominations and filthiness. The cup contains her wine, which is her intoxicating cocktail of false doctrine, which she forces the world to drink, resulting in confusion and stumbling. On her forehead a name is written, “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.” God’s last day saints, the sealed ones, are described as having the “Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1. In contrast, the impure woman in chapter 17 has something different written on her forehead, the signature of apostasy. In II Thessalonians, a passage we studied earlier, the Apostle Paul uses this same term, “mystery” in the phrase “mystery of iniquity.” It refers to a human claiming the position and authority of the divine. Of the claims and boasts of the papacy in this regard, we have spoken previously.

She is called the “mother of harlots.” Those other churches which initially broke away from Catholicism on the platform of “sola Scriptura,” but which eventually drifted back to the “mother church” in doctrinal teachings, particularly on the identification of the day of worship and the teaching of the immortality of the soul, are the “daughters” of Babylon. The churches of the Protestant Reformation which began in such glory but later refused to walk in all the glorious light of Scripture and concluded that God’s holy law has indeed been modified by human hand, and refuse to relinquish the unscriptural teaching that the dead are in some form still alive, are the spiritual offspring of the great harlot of Revelation. How are the mighty fallen!

This beast is described as having 7 heads, which no doubt represent the different manifestations through the ages by which Satan has worked to attempt to achieve his goals. There are varying interpretations as to exactly which kingdoms might qualify as the seven heads, and it might be that the number “seven” here stands for “completeness” and “totality.” If it is necessary to identify the seven, we favor the view that they represent ancient Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Pagan Rome, Papal Rome of the Middle Ages, papal Rome of the “deadly wound,” and papal Rome in combination with fallen Protestantism and Spiritualism, making up the confederacy of apocalyptic Babylon.

The phrase “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition,” resulting in those who dwell on earth marveling (Revelation 17:8), is closely linked with the description of the beast of Revelation 13, which has a mortal wound but recovers, to the “marvel” of the whole world, making it logical to see the beast of chapter 13 and the woman/beast of chapter 17 speaking of the same entity. It appears that at this particular point the picture is taken from the chronological perspective of the beast during its deadly setback. It “was” (the 1260 reign of the papacy during the middle ages), “is not” (the papacy during the period of the “mortal wound”), and yet is (it will be resurrected and regain power).”

Likewise the seven “kings,” may be thought of as being a parallel description of the seven heads of the beast. “Five have fallen (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and papal Rome), one is (the papacy during the deadly setback), and the other has not yet come (the resurgent papacy). And when he comes, he must continue a short time. And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition (the last day manifestation of this apostate power, which will feature the resurgent papacy, but technically be different than merely the papacy, in that it also includes fallen Protestantism and Spiritualism).” Revelation 17:10, 11. The main emphasis is not on the specific identities of these components, but on the truth of God’s ultimate triumph against Satan and those who have aligned themselves with apostasy.

There is a sad parallel that we note regarding this beast which was, then was not, then will be again, in that it draws our minds to similar language used to describe our blessed Lord. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, in that Satan’s policy has always been to copy what God does. Jesus describes Himself as the One Who “lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” Revelation 1:18. There was a “mortal wound” inflicted upon Christ on the cross, and for three days He “wasn’t,” being asleep in Joseph’s tomb. But then He arose in triumph and glory. The history of the Antichrist can be told in somewhat comparable language. But how different the two! But then, the Antichrist has always sought to counterfeit the true Christ.

The “kings of the earth” are those (other) political powers which join hands with the religious forces in bringing about the establishment of the image of the beast and the enforcement of the spurious sabbath, the mark of the beast. For a short time, laying aside their varying different points of view they, in a false revival, a false “Pentecost,” come together in “one accord” for the purpose of establishing a one-world religion, though it means the crushing of a minority who hold to God’s true Sabbath.

“These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.” Revelation 17:13. It isn’t necessary that all these factions reach total congruent agreement on all issues. In the days of Christ’s execution, there was a “coming together” of Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians and others. They retained their individual identities, but joined together and became of “one mind” regarding the crucifixion of Jesus. So it will be at the end. How sad that the unity achieved is within the confines of false religion. Paul spoke of Christians being of “one mind” (II Corinthians 13:11), but that was the mind of Christ! How tragic that their being of one accord results in their carrying out the impulses of the arch deceiver, Satan!

Jesus said, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” Matthew 18:16. Here we have seven witnesses, three from the book of Daniel, one from Paul and three from John. The Lord must have wanted this matter to be confirmed beyond any doubt. The system of the papacy is the “horn power” of Daniel 7 and Daniel 8, the “king of the north” of the latter part of Daniel 11, the “man of sin” of II Thessalonians 2, the “Antichrist” of I John, the “beast from the sea” in Revelation 13 and the “harlot” of Revelation 17. Seven different pictures of apostasy! As never before, the appeal is given to any and all who find themselves in communities of faith which are not teaching and practicing God’s truth for these end times, to “Come out of her, My people”!

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