For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Escaping from Babylon
Some of the questions regarding Babylon which demand a diligent explanation in the days in which we live.
In the Scriptures we find the history of two cities. It is a history that develops in parallel form. Since these cities have completely different origins and destinies, each has an entirely different ending. The first is celestial Jerusalem, whose description is found in the last chapters of Revelation. The second is Babylon, and appears in chapters 18 and 19 of the same book. Furthermore, both are the expression of a mystery. The first is the manifestation and the complete fulfilment of God's eternal mystery in Christ. The latter is the complete historical expression of what is called the "mystery of iniquity." It should be added that this is man's rebellion against God and his will.
The beginning of Babylon
Babylon has its beginning after the great flood, when men tried to build a city and a tower whose peak would reach to the heavens. The above-mentioned tower was an open challenge against God and his authority, since in it was the renewed desire of the fallen archangel: "I will ascend to heaven, I will raise my throne above the stars of God… and I will make myself like the Most High." (Isaiah 14:13-14). Babel also demonstrated the desire to dominate the land and systematically submit it to one form of life, whose essence was the glorification of man and the satisfaction of his sinful desires. This is the origin of what we call "civilization". A civilization is nothing more than the intention of turning a certain culture or particular form of life into something universal. Behind this, nevertheless, one hides the fallen human soul's alliance with the prince of this world.
When Adam ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, his soul became strong and self-sufficient, but also incapable of defending himself from the powers of darkness. Man turned into a creature dominated by Satan's lies and deceptions. The Serpent deceives the whole world, and Babylon represents the most definitive fruit from this deception. In effect, Satan sowed his own seed of rebellion and sin within the human soul, whose secret plan was to usurp God's place. We therefore discover that from the beginning, the real power that operates behind Babylon is Satan, as Isaiah shows by identifying him as the king of Babylon. (Isaiah 14)
Babel and his tower are a figure of all that man, in alliance with Satan, is capable of producing and creating. In order to build it, they "used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar." (Gen. 11:2). Brick signifies everything that man can achieve through his own soul, mind, will and emotions, whereas stone symbolizes everything that God alone can do. Thus, from Babel, men began to use their gifts and natural talents to build a system of universal life in order to satisfy their secret desires for power, glory and wealth, according to the prince of the kingdom of the air's orders.
In Genesis 10:8-11, it says that the man who built Babel was Nimrod, the first powerful man on the earth. He was a violent and ambitious man, who prefigures the antichrist; a man with a universal will, power and authority.
Babel, then, was the mother of many cities that through the passage of time turned into enemies of God's people: Nineveh, the capital city of the cruel and bloodthirsty Assyrians, and Babylon, the former Babel renovated under the reign of the arrogant king, Nebuchadnezzar.
Captive in Babylon
A little known fact is that Judaism, as a religious system of life centered on the synagogue, had its origin in Babylon. In effect, approximately 500 years before Christ, Babylon's armies invaded and conquered the kingdom of Judah and destroyed and devastated Jerusalem and the temple. Countless young men, women and children were led captive to the city of Babylon. For seventy years they remained there without any possibility of returning. Then a notable change occurred amongst them. Babylon was the most powerful and magnificent city of its time. Its hanging gardens were considered to be one of the wonders of the ancient world.
Here, human civilization had reached the zenith of development. Its possibilities seemed to be inexhaustible and the captives were well able to take advantage of them. There they turned into great merchants and businessmen. They became rich and constructed bigger and luxurious houses for themselves than those in their native land. And, amongst it all, they made a religion which adapted to its new conditions of life. It became necessary to replace the defunct temple and priesthood. Thus the synagogue arose as a religious system of life, which tried to harmonize the new conditions with the former law revealed by God.
God's word was mixed with men's traditions. Nevertheless, it is necessary to understand that while the temple and Jerusalem remained in ruins, Judaism and the synagogue did not represent God's will for his people,. Eventually the time came to return, but most of the people preferred to remain in Babylon with their religion of synagogues. They had established roots and had much to lose. They had completely lost interest in God and his holy city. What's more, while the city and the temple remained in ruins, God did not have his own testimony in the earth by which to demonstrate his will and authority. Nevertheless, a remnant returned to reestablish and restore God's testimony in the world. But the price was to leave everything that they had won and built in Babylon behind.
The Covetous City of Gold
In Daniel's vision, the great civilizations and world empires are represented by a great statue whose head of gold is Babylon and its king. The gold symbolizes the essence of Babylon: an insatiable greed for having and increasingly accumulating wealth and power. The Babylonians plundered people and nations in order to satisfy its unlimited greed. In Revelation 18, we find a vision of Babylon in its true condition before God. Despite the fact that before man its glory seems to be sublime, before God it is nothing more than an abominable and bloodthirsty prostitute.
Many interpreters have considered Babylon in Revelation as the apostate church. It is true that Babylon includes the apostate religion and deformed Christianity, enslaved by the world and its values. Nevertheless, it also represents the total sum of human civilization with its system of life, its science, philosophy, art, amusements, and economic system, with the entire attraction and seduction that they produce in the human soul. Its ambition is to turn into a universal power of global proportions. It is therefore the great city that reigns over the kings of the land.
It is also a system whose heart contains hatred for God and his people. John saw Babylon as a woman drunk with the blood of the saints. In his time, the Roman Empire came to be the historical incarnation of the mystery of Babylon the Great, which persecuted the saints. Nevertheless, Babylon is more a general symbol of the worldly system constructed by man throughout the centuries, in order to submit all the things to the wicked desires of his heart.
At this point it is fitting to ask where we find the principle of Babylon active today. It is present in today's process of turning the entire planet into a great market, subjected to the alliances of the world's political and economic interests. John tells us that in Babylon, men's souls are sold. This is the fundamental resource from which it sustains its existence. Men and women are thrown into a whirlwind of producing and consuming; thereby constructing a vast world system that ends by spending and squeezing the last drop of each individual's time and life.
It is sad to see up to what point modern Christianity is totally caught up in the same insatiable whirlwind of the world. Babylon has even penetrated millions of believers who live their lives caught in the system of life of this world. That is to say, they have been sold to work without rest, to buy more and better houses and cars, to accumulate all kinds of material goods, while they spend the best years of their lives building for Babylon. They are just as the Israelites in Egypt who built cities for the Egyptians.
Modern Christianity has turned the church itself into a matter of goals and human ambitions for managing power, reputation and wealth. Babylon has seduced and captivated the hearts of many children of God. In consequence, God's house and his testimony remain in ruins and his eternal purpose, relegated and unfulfilled. We have accommodated a lukewarm weekend religion, which provides us with certain emotional and psychological well-being and encourages us to obtain our worldly goals. It is a religion centered on one's self, hopes, needs and fears. Babylon tolerates and even feeds religion, providing it doesn't interfere with its own goals and interests. Truly, it is Babylon that has taught us to live a religion of "synagogues."
The Great King's City
The church is God's true city that is the supreme expression of the mystery of his will. He intends to give his Son Jesus Christ absolute authority over the earth and all its kingdoms. (Rev.11:15) However, it is first necessary for Babylon, the rebellious city of the enemy, to be completely destroyed. This will not happen until the church is restored to its original condition and it returns to be what it was in the beginning.
At this point it is vital to understand the intimate relation that exists between the edification of the church and the fall of Babylon. While Babylon is Satan's city, the church is the Great King's city. God has planned that the church demonstrate Christ's supreme authority and centrality in the world and put an end to Satan's authority over the earth. This does not mean that the church must conquer and dominate the kingdoms and systems of this world. Rather, it implies that the church must enter the full possession of Christ and of everything that has been given to him. Thus, when Christ is truly the supreme and absolute head over the church, then his authority will be manifested through it to deal with the powers and authorities in the heavenly realms.
To put an end to the world system, it is not necessary to conquer it physically, because the world (Babylon) was already judged and conquered by Christ on the cross. Its prince was judged and definitively defeated there. Rather, the church's mission is to demonstrate Christ's victory over Satan in the earth by dealing with the invisible powers that hide behind the visible systems. Our struggle is not against flesh or blood. If the church, with Christ's authority binds and deprives Satan and his evil hosts, who operate in the invisible heavenly realms, then the visible systems (the kingdoms of this world) will come to an end. Then, Christ's physical kingdom will come upon the earth. But, the visible manifestation of his authority in the earth is necessarily preceded by the invisible manifestation of his authority in the heavenly realms, in order to expel to Satan and his evil hosts. The church plays a fundamental role in this.
We arrive here at an important principle. Revelation 18:4 says that before the fall of Babylon, God's people must come out from it. When this happens, God will be in free to judge Babylon and its wicked system of life, as in the history of Sodom, whose judgment only occurred when Lot and his family had left.
Nevertheless, in the church, this exit must first be a spiritual experience of complete separation from everything that comes from Babylon. Before the end of this century and our physical exit to meet the Lord in the air, we must have completely abandoned Babylon in both our lives and in our hearts. We must leave its interests, goals and ambitions, and stop spending our lives in constructing houses and businesses for it. In this respect, Peter affirms that it is necessary that judgment begins first at God's house.
When Babylon has been judged and separated completely from the church, and Christ can occupy his place of absolute preeminence and dominion in it, then the definitive judgment will come upon the world and its wicked form of life. By means of the church, Satan will be expelled and God's kingdom will advance upon the earth. Nevertheless, the church will not be in a condition to demonstrate Christ's authority until it separates itself from Babylon and surrenders itself absolutely to Christ. This is not a matter of formulae, methods and human conciliations. Rather, it is a question of life and spiritual reality.
In respect to this, brother Watchman Nee wisely commented, "The difference between God's kingdom today and God's kingdom in the millennium is not a matter of quality but of quantity. The scope is more limited today than in that time, the sphere is smaller, but the nature is the same... The kingdom will not come automatically. We can do something to bring it. " (Emphasis mine)
This is the fundamental question for the church at the end times. Therefore the full restoration of the above-mentioned testimony will bring with it the definitive ruin of Satan and Babylon. To where must we return? Only one answer to that question exists: to Jesus Christ; to his absolute centrality and supremacy, to the first love with which the church loved him during the first hundred years of its life in the earth. To Christ, for whose sake the saints of the first century lost their possessions, their goods and left family and relations, got rid of religious traditions of more than 400 years (the synagogues). They left all this to wholly embrace a form of life whose center was to corporately know and express Jesus Christ. In Christ and his cross they found the power and the victory over Babylon and its king.
Therefore God's kingdom and Christ's authority came down in the midst of men to shake the system of the world down to its foundations. Satan's fortresses were falling down all around, while his hosts were fleeing in retreat. Though it did not happen again in history, by God's grace, it will happen again. Christ's kingdom will come by means of the church. This is God's eternal, unchangeable plan. Not even the apparent failure of Christianity throughout the centuries can alter it. Finally, he will obtain a remnant of men and women whose center consists of Christ and nothing more, completely separated from Babylon and its system of life, by means of which he will demonstrate his authority and put an end to the kingdoms of this world. Would the Lord, in his grace, grant us to be considered in the number of those conquerors, who will faithfully maintain their testimony to the end!