The Concordant Version
1And one from among the seven messengers who have the seven bowls came, and he speaks with me, saying, "Hither! I shall be showing you the sentence of the great prostitute who is sitting on many waters, 2with whom the kings of the earth commit prostitution, and those dwelling on the earth are made drunk with the wine of her prostitution." 3And he carries me away, in spirit, into a wilderness. And I perceived a woman sitting on a scarlet wild beast replete with names of blasphemy, and having seven heads and ten horns. 4And the woman was clothed with purple and scarlet, and gilded with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, brimming with abominations and the uncleannesses of the prostitution of her and the earth. 5And on her forehead is written a name:
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF THE PROSTITUTES
AND THE ABOMINATIONS
OF THE EARTH
6And I perceive the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.
THE GOLDEN CUP
THE influence of great Babylon over the peoples of the earth is figured by a golden cup, which she holds in her hand, brimming with the abominations and uncleanness of the prostitution of her and the earth. Its wine made them drunk. These simple statements are tremendously suggestive, once we allow ourselves to ponder their import. They can mean nothing less than that the whole world is becoming intoxicated and the beverage is supplied by Babylon. We shall endeavor to show that this is actually true, and that the illicit liquor is already being served, so that the nations are staggering in a drunken debauch (Rev.17:4).
At the very same time that this furious wine is being swallowed by the peoples, the most intense and successful temperance and prohibition propaganda that the world has ever seen is being staged. The United States actually incorporates the prohibition of intoxicating liquors in its constitution, so that it is practically impossible to repeal it. Surely the world is getting sober! Yet even the world allows that, apart from the lawless use of intoxicating drinks, all society seems to be on a spree. It is characterized by the swaggering braggadocio of the inebriate. It is pleasure-mad in the very place where it is supposed to be sobered by constraint of law.
About one of every one hundred fifty of earth's population is a Jew. Yet there are not wanting those who have carefully considered the matter who insist that this small minority has as much influence in mundane affairs as all the rest put together. As most of the Jews have no personal influence on the world outside their own environment, this leaves a small group of the race with powers for good or evil unexampled in the history of mankind.
Jewish genius has often been descanted upon. The annals of the arts and sciences, of politics and finance, contain many a noted name from among God's ancient people, which proves them to be equal, if not superior, in mental vigor, to the other peoples of the earth. Until modern times these powers seem to have been consecrated to the better things of life. But in the future almost every talent they possess will be prostituted. They are destined to hold the golden cup of Babylon. It, however, will hold none of the wine that cheers the heart of God and man, but a fearful mixture that debases and demoralizes all who drink its devastating dregs.]
ROME NOT BABYLON
I am well aware that the Roman hierarchy is usually supposed to be figured by this woman, and the cup and its contents are taken to be the doctrines which she inculcates. I oppose popery and its empty ritualism as much as anyone. Mariolatry I abhor. Yet I do not shut my eyes to ritual and mummery in the Greek church and in some Protestant communions. Nor do I wink at the equally destructive rationalism which is flooding other Christian denominations, of which the Catholic and Greek were never guilty. I have no brief for any of these, and doubt not that God will deal with them as they deserve. But they are not Babylon. If I twist the Scriptures to smite them I also am guilty of a capital crime and must answer to my Lord for distorting His Word.
There was a time when Rome had temporal sovereignty and held a place somewhat analogous to that of great Babylon, for she claimed to be the suzerain of all Christian kings. She undoubtedly still has much political power through the number of her adherents. But, even in professedly Catholic countries, she has lost her supremacy. Her sphere is limited. Outside of so-called Christian countries she has no place. But the Jew is everywhere. He has more to say than the pope, in financial and governmental affairs, even in those countries which acknowledge the spiritual sovereignty of Rome.
The petulant impulse which urges every new division among Protestants to hurl the epithet "Babylon" at all its enemies, Evangelical or Catholic, shows a lamentable lack of reverence for God's revelation. It is not intended to be twisted into a whip for anyone whom we wish to castigate, but to reveal God's dealings with His people and with mankind. It is always possible to force some semblance of likeness between His enemies and ours, but that does not give us license to distort the Scriptures to make them fit, or ignore them when they do not suit. Babylon is a great commercial metropolis, as well as a spiritual source of corruption to all mankind. This was never true of Rome.
Before using the cry "Come out of her, My people" (Rev.18:4), in a sense derogatory to our spiritual opponents, let us calmly consider the whole of the chapter, with its merchandise and ships, its opulence and power. We may succeed in spiritualizing parts of it, but not all. Most of it must remain a misfit if we apply it to anyone but the apostate people of Yahweh, in their final struggle for world supremacy apart from their Messiah. This is the only satisfactory interpretation which fits without forcing, and needs no "spiritualizing" to make it suit the circumstances.
Babylon has not yet reached the stage which is shown in the vision. Yet even now, with less than one per cent of the earth's population, how often do we meet with a member of the race among the mighty!
What of the future of this golden kingdom? We are not prophets, nor do we wish to add a single letter to what has been written, yet there is one phase of this queen's career which seems clearly revealed. At present she does not realize her power. It is too diffused to show its strength. When she appears on the pages of prophecy there has been a grand combine, a "pool," our financial friends would call it, a concentration of all Jewish wealth and control, with headquarters in Babylon. The ancient world capital will be rebuilt with a magnificence the world has never seen. It will be the commercial and economic capital of the world.
Nations will be impoverished to provide it with luxuries. The Jew will have a first mortgage on the earth. We can readily imagine the hatred which this will engender. The gentiles have never found it hard to hate the Jew. They have never had so much cause as when, in that day, they will be their virtual vassals. Hence they eagerly hail the plan of their great leader, which is not simply a repudiation of their debt, but the destruction of their creditor. Great Babylon will fall, a victim of its own greed, hated and abhorred by both man and God.
This exposition is not written to blame the Jews, as though each one were individually responsible for a grand conspiracy against the rest of mankind. Indeed, I believe that he cannot help himself, if he would. God has predestined that nation for world dominance, not merely in the sense of promising it to them, or preparing them by His discipline, but by incorporating into their very being the qualifications for leadership, which are not altogether submerged by their apostasy. This fragment of fitness urges him, as an individual and as a race, to seek that high place which is rightfully his, if he would only himself submit to the greatest Jew of all - the Messiah Jesus.
We should not be surprised at their capacity to dominate, for they are of the race of Joseph and Daniel and Messiah, according to the flesh. Perhaps we should not be astonished at the utter sinfulness and sensuality of their methods, since they are alienated from the life of God and rejecters of their Saviour. But we cannot help marveling, as John did, at the magnitude and magnificence of their success in subjugating the nations and establishing a super-kingdom to which all other sovereignties must pay a golden tribute. At its present stage it is already the greatest political and economic marvel of this earth's history.
Students of prophecy have long known that the geographic center of God's unfoldings is Jerusalem, not Rome, or London, or New York, or Constantinople, or Pekin, or Tokyo. We acknowledge this in our division into eastern and western beasts. Longitude, in the Scriptures, is not based on Greenwich, England, but on the sacred city where God's glory was once displayed. So also they must learn that the central people of prophecy is Israel or the Jews, not some heterogeneous division of Christianity, of which neither prophet nor apostle had any inkling. At the time of the end Israel occupies the center of the stage. All the action revolves about the nation of promise. All the judgments are related to them. They either establish the supremacy of the faithful or destroy the supremacy of the apostates. Let us fix one eye on Jerusalem and the other on the Jews if we wish to follow the promontory footfalls of Yahweh, as He prepares for the coming eon.
What an illuminating light this casts upon our times! We sometimes wonder if the world has gone insane in its mad pursuit of pelf and power and pleasure, but now we know that it is merely drunk. Let us hope that this is a sign that our time is short, and that Babylon's brief reign on the back of the wild beast is very near, to be followed by the advent of Christ Himself, for we have an appointment to meet our Lord before these dark days, and shall view the tragedy of false Babylon while in His very presence.