Beth Moore - The Seduction of Babylon
You and I cannot fully appreciate any part of what's happening in Revelation 21, unless we get some of Revelation 17, because he is meaning to contrast the two. He is saying, "Come, I will show you the prostitute. Come, I will show you the bride". Now, first of all, just because, listen, I've been you. I already am on to some of you women because I have served women. I've been a woman for 61 years, and I have served women for 34 years, so because of that, I want you to get it out of your head from the very beginning that this is about bad girls and good girls, that this is somehow about brides and harlots, that either you fit into the bride category, which very few of us in this room, all you have to do is live a while. You don't even have to give yourself away to all sorts of illicit relationships to just get the clue, somewhere along the way in your life, that you're not a very pure person. Would anybody in the house be willing to say, "Amen"?
It's just, I need more than that because, listen, we can't appreciate what God has done for us until we are able to recognize in the mirror, listen, "There was no making it here on my own". Listen carefully to me: Everyone whose name is in the Lamb's book of life has gotten there by the blood of Jesus. Nobody earned her way there. You could not be a pure enough woman to work your way into deserving to wear the white linen of the saints in the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19. You do not have what it takes, nor do I. It takes Jesus. Nobody earned her way there. Nobody deserved her way there. There is nobody. "All our righteousness is as filthy rags before him," the prophet said. So just get that out of your head. This is about the redeemed and the unredeemed and what's driving both sides. Now listen carefully, and I'm hoping this will be some good understanding to somebody that is early in Bible study.
In the Scriptures, when sexual immorality is used in symbolic terms, which is definitely being used for it right now, and we would see it many, many, many times in the Word of God. Often now, there's just regular sexual immorality. That's its own matter. That's another matter. But what it's talking about now in these prophetic terms and when the prophets talked about Israel committing sexual adultery, when it's used in those terms, in symbolic terms, it is talking about religious apostasy. Religious apostasy. Let me put that easier for somebody that this computes better toward. It is about spiritual infidelity. What he's saying is "You've gone after other gods. You've gone after others instead of staying true and staying faithful to the one". There's a place where the apostle Paul conveys this very concept in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, "For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ".
That doesn't mean that, when he came to share the Gospel, he said, "Are you a virgin"? "Well, what do you mean by"... "You know what I mean by 'virgin.'" "Well, no"... "You're out". "Are you a"... "Yes, I'm a virgin". "You're in". "Are you? Are you a virgin or not"? "No, I'm not". "You're out". "Who is? Everybody that is a virgin, please come up front. Everybody that's not a", that's not what he's doing here. He is saying, listen carefully, it says, "But I'm afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ". Now, this is about to set somebody free that will admit to having a background like my background to understand "virginity" in these theological terms. You know what it takes to be a virgin? A pure, whole heart toward Jesus Christ alone as Lord and Savior, that he's it, that I have no other god. I have no other savior. Jesus, my devotion is to Jesus Christ. Everything beyond that is "religious apostasy," in the terms of the prophets, or "spiritual infidelity".
What it meant to be "virginal," in theological terms, in this kind of symbolic language, was to be completely devoted to Christ. Is that a relief to anybody? Would anybody just put up her hand? This is what I'm getting at, and I'm fine with that. I'm fine with it. I may be getting some of this, I'm good with it. I'm good with it because I need to know that. Well, okay, so what in the world is Babylon? Because Babylon is in a very symbolic posture in the book of Revelation. It was a literal place and, for a time, even a ruling empire, but as is often true in prophetic Scripture, it had a more immediate way that it could be and was indeed applied and then still have a futuristic way it will be yet ultimately fulfilled. Is everybody trackin' with me here?
So, okay, to these original New Testament believers and in their culture in the time that it was spoken to them, absolutely positively Babylon would have been Rome, and the beast that it talks about with this prostitute and the beast, the beast would've been the Roman Empire, the influence of the whole thing, but what had an immediate rendering and application of them because they were under all sorts of persecution. So it indeed landed right there in its interpretation, and it had an immediate interpretation, but also, it had a future interpretation. Listen carefully to this little excerpt from Expositor's commentary: "Babylon cannot be confined to any one historical manifestation, past or future. Babylon has multiple equivalents. The details of John's description do not neatly fit any past city, whether literal Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, Rome, or even Jerusalem. Babylon is found wherever there is satanic deception. It is defined more by dominant idolatries than geographic or temporal boundaries. The ancient Babylon is better understood here as the archetypal head of all entrenched worldly resistance to God".
So those names, the first time you would hear any glimpse of it whatsoever is by the time you only make it, remember Genesis to Genesis? This is the original Creation. This is the new creation, circling all the way back. What we have right here, you only get as far as Genesis chapter 11, before there is a reference that connects with Babylon, and it is to the Tower of Babel, and it is when you already see what will become characteristic of this persona that is often symbolic. Again, it was a literal place, a literal city, and a literal empire at one time, but you'll also understand, when it's symbolic like this, you will see this throughout its meaning. It will carry it all the way through. They wanted to make a name for themselves and not for God. Their gathering together to make a name for themselves. That will carry throughout.
So it was Babel, Babylon, the literal city; Babylon, the literal empire; and then Babylon, the symbolic persona of all that is just boastfully against God. In Hosea's wording, you heard that she's called a prostitute, and we're gonna figure out a few reasons why as we talk about the harlot, some renderings, the Whore of Babylon. We're gonna see it in Hosea's wording in 4:12. Hosea 4:12, it says, "For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray". It would be this spirit, this is what it's talking about, this spirit of harlotry. Some of the versions say, "leading them away from God," and in Revelations, specifically, away from Jesus. "Babylon is audacious godlessness personified". So according to Revelation 17:1-6, she's seductive, intoxicating, blasphemous. She's hideous. She's beautiful. She's full of abominations. She's murderous, and she's intoxicated by harm to Christians.
I wanna pause there just a moment. When was the last time you looked at the world and thought, "They have lost their ever-loving minds"? Have you ever thought to yourself, "This, that we're all acting like it's normal, is not rational thinking"? How have we honestly gotten it in our head that this is more important than this? Anybody? Anybody with me? Have you ever looked and gone, "How can educated men and women believe this and say that this is so"? Because they're drunk. This spirit of harlotry, it comes. It's intoxicating. It's seductive. If we do not guard ourselves against it, we're sucked up into it.
This is why we're told in the New Testament Scriptures, in 1 Peter chapter 1, that we're to be sober, and we're to be sober-minded because what he's doing is, listen, it ain't hard to get drunk in this world, on the world. Anybody know what I'm talkin' about? Anybody besides me just goin' through a season where you totally lost your mind? Just drinkin' from the cup of the harlot of Babylon, goin', "Oh, the world tastes good," and you won't even be able to think. "By the time you sip from me enough, you will not be able to think".
Eighteen, I want you to look with me at 18:1-10, because it's still gonna talk about her: "After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out in a mighty voice, 'Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast. For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living'". This is gonna give us clues right here. And then he says, "Come out of her, my people, lest to take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues". That "plagues," again, that is reaching back to Exodus. Exodus, when, I mean, he's preparing to say, "You'd better let my people go because you are filled with plagues".
In that little portion of 18, these are a couple of things about Babylon that would help you to be able to characterize her She drives economic oppression. This is why when you think "Babylon," you can't just think in terms, and I just can't think in terms of sexual immorality. There's more to it than that. This is about godlessness. This is about driving economic oppression, exuding self-glory. This is about basking in riches and luxury at the cost of other people's misery. It is like cheating the poor for the rich to become richer. This is the idolatry of Babylon, and it is all over our globe. I need to know if anybody is gettin' the message with me today? In 1823, this is so interesting: "And the light of the lamp will shine in you no more". This is still talkin' about Babylon.
I want you to see all these connections. The light will shine no more. Only her light will go completely out. The light we're gonna see will never go out. It says, "And the voice of the bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery". So, you see this about Babylon? This whole spirit of sorcery that, when people who really do have a brain between their two ears are thinking like idiots, and have we ever been among those people? I can't tell you how often I look in the mirror and say out loud, "Have I lost my mind"? I don't ever see someone that I think, "He has lost his mind, lost his mind," that I don't soon walk into the mirror and go, "Have you"? Because, you know what? Losin' your mind in this kind of world is really contagious. "In her was found the blood of the prophets, of the saints, and of all who had been slain, all, all who had been slain on earth".
She is bloody. That's the last thing I want you to see. Bloody. Violent. Revelation 18:21, look back at that: "A mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea". I'm so intrigued by that because there's this time in Matthew chapter 18, where Christ says, "Woe to any of you that cause one of these little ones to sin. It would be better for you if a millstone was hung around your neck and you were cast into the sea". I mean, those are big words. Thank God for the power of the cross. Somebody, say, "Thank God for the power of the cross". There's nothing, no sin, no transgression that exceeds the power of the cross. Thank you, God. But I wonder if there's any connection here? And I don't know if there is or not. I wonder if what he's holding Babylon responsible for is "You have enticed so many people that were innocent at the time, into your adulteries and into your idolatries".
Now, I want you to write down a verse because, if you wanna know what her motto is, this is it. You can write down that whole list of things that I put up on the board, but all you will need to know is this, and you will have it. Jot down Isaiah 47, verse 8, "Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures", so this is what he's calling Babylon, "you, who sit securely, who say in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one besides me'", Babylon. We're not supposed to miss that, five times, in the previous chapters in Isaiah, five times in chapter 45 and 46 in the book of Isaiah, five times, God has said, "I am the only one. There is none besides me". He says, "Babylon, your motto is 'I am,' and there is no one besides me".
Listen, I'm not meanin' to pick on us, but I'm just telling you, isn't it interesting, the generation we're in, where our favorite picture is a selfie? "I am the only one in the picture, and there is no one besides me". Where do you think we're gettin' that? What happened when we became our favorite picture? I'm askin' somebody. This is drinkin' from the cup of Babylon. This is everything that, just, like, I mean, just, like, woos us away from... you know what? In all this world of "I am," "I must," "Consider me," there is a God who said, "You know, my name is 'I Am.' That's nobody's name, but my name is 'I Am.'" Never in history have we had a wider lens on all that is ugly. Never. I mean, we could see it all now. At the touch of our fingers, we can see it all. I mean, we used to know, and I'm not saying that we unplug. I've got to know, I want to know what's going on in the East Coast. I want to know what's going on, on the other side of the world with country against country, and refugees just wandering around, homeless, starving to death. I want to know. I need to know. But I am saying, we have such a wide lens on it that it's terrifying.
Our anxiety levels. I mean, our anxiety is nearly killing us. But I hope to prove to you today that something spectacularly gorgeous and beautiful is happening on this same, warped orb, and if we lose sight of it, we will lose our courage. We will bankrupt our joy. We will hemorrhage our faith, and we will develop cold, hard hearts. Listen, out of nothing but self-defense, we'll get cold 'cause we don't know what else to do. We can't bear it. So we'll just shut down. Never in history. Would you turn with me to Revelation 21:9. It's not until he's seen all that is hideous. Do you realize what the revelator has just been shown by that angel? And he says, "Now come". And in between, we've gotten this glimpse in the heavens of the marriage supper of the lamb, where the bride, the church of Jesus Christ, is seated at the table, this gorgeous sight, and then it says he just gets up from the table, and he comes back.
That's when every eye will see him. Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Comes back, and that is what begins that end, those end events that will culminate then in the evil one being bound and then ultimately shut completely down. All that has been, all the old, original Creation will then defuse, and it will, like it is burned up, 2 Peter says, and the new heavens and the new earth will be created by God, and it brings in the eternal realm where there is no more time. But in this reference, he takes that moment, that moment after he has seen that harlot and everything that is blasphemous and abominable about the world, and then says, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb".
Let me tell you something: We are so discouraged, everything from discouraged, to disgusted, to depressed about the state of the church, and one reason we are is because we don't have a New Testament perspective of what she is like. We think in national terms, but if there was anything Jesus was trying to free them out of when he came and set them to the new course of every kingdom, every nation, tribe, and tongue, which was the plan all along, Israel chosen so that, through Israel, all nations could be blessed. Jesus comes, embodies that message, God wearing flesh, and he says, "Now you will go therefore into all the nations," and the thinking, the perspective became global. We are the global body of Christ, that there are believers all over this world, fighting the good fight, just like you are, just like I'm trying to do.
And I want you to write this down in point number three: "Not so far from all that's ugly, Jesus is doing something stunningly lovely". Same spirit, different gifts, called to different places and different paces with all sorts of different faces. We carry the same and unchangeable, unalterable Gospel, but we carry it out there in diverse approaches and methods with diverse people. This is why the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, "To win the weak, I became weak. I become all things to all people, so that by all means I might save some". 1 Corinthians 12, says, "But as it is, God has arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.'"
Here's the thing: You see the faces on these screens? While you're doin' the thing here, there are people all over the earth, doin' what God has called them to do. Every picture you see is a legit Jesus-follower that was kind enough to send in her place, her nation, her walk of faith, her name to us. You see up on the screen Balkus Viola from Hungary. You see Eilidh from Scotland. You see Mercy from Zambia. You see Joy from Nigeria. You see Melanie from Indonesia. You see, I don't know how to say her beautiful name, but she's just about the cutest thing I've ever seen, and then there's Sara, so lovely and breathtaking from India. Meet the bride. Come, Holy Spirit, show us the bride.