KEY TEXT: Revelation 17:1-6 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk." And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: "Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations." And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
KEY THOT: The most important question we want to answer (but not today) is, "Who is Babylon the Great?" It is definitely some kind of world power--whether religious, political or economic--for it has influence on all the nations of the earth: "the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk." In fact, it is later clarified in verse 15 that the "waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages." So, clearly this "great prostitute who is seated on many waters" (mystery Babylon) has global influence and power. It has corrupted the world morally and spiritually through her "wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk" (v.2). But most importantly, mystery Babylon would be "drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (v.6), the persecutor of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Many different religious institutions and political entities have been identified with Mystery Babylon, viz., Roman Catholic religious system, Iraq, Islam and even America (USA). Mystery Babylon is referred in this passage as the woman who sits on the scarlet beast, the anti-Christ political institution which has "seven heads and ten horns" (v.3). The ten horns are later identified as 10 kings (v.12). Whichever city or institution Mystery Babylon is pointing to, we know that she will corrupt the world spiritually and morally, and will persecute true believers who dare to stand up against her attempt to undermine the Church through sexually immoral practices. The resulting spiritual conflict will cause this great prostitute to wage war against true believers wherever they are found globally.
When the Great Tribulation starts, there will be no escape as Mystery Babylon's reach is global, not just local. As we shall see later, Mystery Babylon's real power is economic, for the global economy and wealth depends on her: "the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living" (Revelation 18:3). We will examine the details of Mystery Babylon's power over the nations when we come to Revelation 18.
But for today, we need to reflect on own lives: are we being influenced by the temptations of sex and money propagated by this Great Prostitute known as Mystery Babylon? Those who oppose this lust for sex and money will become targets of her wrath. As believers, we will have to make a choice--whether to make the pursuit of holiness our life goal ("without which no one will see the Lord", Hebrews 12:14) or to make the pursuit of happiness of luxurious living as our life goal ("for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many", Matthew 7:13).
In the coming days, our real motives for following Christ will be exposed. As some would-be followers of Christ once discovered, following Christ was no guarantee that life would be easy: "And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head'" (Luke 9:58). If our view of discipleship does not involve self-denial, then it is cannot be true Christianity.
The goal of true discipleship is holiness, not happiness. Seeking holiness first will produce true happiness but seeking happiness first may not lead to holiness--in fact, it may produce unholy lifestyles that will lead us to destruction:
- 1 Timothy 6:8-10 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Have we already fallen into Mystery Babylon's temptations of sex and money? If we have, we need to repent immediately and not rationalize our ungodly desires for more of this world, rather than more of Christ.
Abba-Father, even as the influence of Mystery Babylon has already encroached into this world and even into Your church, we pray that You will keep us walking in holiness, in the fear of God. Amen.