Scripture Focus- Revelation 17 and 18
When we consider the wickedness of the world, sometimes we wonder if a day of reckoning is ever coming.
I read about the 10 mile walking event of the Olympic Games. A Chinese woman was leading the other athletes coming into the last part of the competition. She had trained hard for several years leading up to it. A gold medal was in her reach. As she entered the stadium she noticed another athlete was coming from behind, at a very fast pace.
She wanted to walk faster to avoid being overtaken but was unable to do so without both feet leaving the ground. By definition, if both feet left the ground it was considered running which was against the rules. Anyone violating the rule three times would be disqualified. She had already done so twice in the previous nine miles.
She was tempted to do so but persisted in keeping her feet down. Another athlete overtook her. A gold turned to silver. Another athlete overtook her. A silver turned to bronze. She came in third with much disappointment. To everyone’s surprise, the gold medal went to the Chinese athlete because the other two had violated the rules against running in a walking event. Others may seem to be involved in religion that is spiritual, but in the end will be judged as false.
False religion takes place when people seek something or someone to worship other than the one, true, living God.
People have an innate religious bent, and because of this people are prone to religious deception.
False religion promises to bring spiritual satisfaction but instead results in spiritual destruction.
False religion will be prominent in the end times. The appeal to the supernatural is strong and overcomes politics, economies, barriers and so forth.
Chapters 17 and 18 are dropped into the chronology of Revelation. After the seventh bowl of judgment is poured out in Chapter 17, the return of Jesus follows to end the great world battle of Armageddon spoken of in Revelation 19. These two chapters focus on the subject of judgment and the reason for judgment. The world system led by Satan, Antichrist, and the false prophet will draw people in especially during the time of the Tribulation.
To understand Babylon, we have to go all the way back to the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9. Noah’s descendants arrived in the land of Shinar, in Babylon, after traveling to the east after the flood. They wanted to make a name for themselves so they began to build a tower toward heaven.
Towers in those days had religious significance, and were referred to as ziggurats. Ziggurats used later on had the sign of the zodiac which pagan priests used to chart the stars and gain spiritual insights. God said nothing would be impossible for them so he confounded their language and scattered the people. Modern day Babylon is located at the crossroads of Asia, Europe, and Africa near the Persian Gulf. There is great wealth in oil in the region and a water supply from the Euphrates River.
Babylon historically continued as a focal point for idolatrous worship. In the end of days, false religion will come back to focus on where it began. The final and false world religion will come back to Babylon. At the root of all of this is Satan. 2 Corinthians 11:14 For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. He keeps people blinded from the truth. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
Consider the largest religions in the world- Islam (1.605 billion followers); Hinduism (1.05 billion followers); Buddhism (488 million followers); Shintoism (104 million followers); Daoism (93 million followers), and on and on. Consider also the major cults in the world- Christian Science; Jehovah’s Witnesses; Mormonism; and Seventh-Day Adventist. These are powerful deceptions, but in the end there will be a unified false religion.
Represented here are-an Angel, John the Apostle, a Prostitute, a Scarlet Beast, the Kings of the earth.
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with John and connected the judgment of Babylon with the seven last plagues.
The prostitute spoken of is symbolic of false religion. In addition to Babylon, several other cities are referred to as harlot cities- Ninevah, Tyre, and Jerusalem. The prostitute is influential over the peoples, the multitudes, and nations and tongues. The entire world will be under her sway.
The scarlet beast supports the prostitute. The beast is Antichrist, the satanic ruler of the last human empire in the history of the world. Satan will use him to persecute believers and come against Christ. Characteristics in Scripture- intellectual genius (Dan 7:8); captivating orator (Dan 7:20); shrewd military leader (Dan 7:23); powerful politician (Dan 8:25) and; religious fraud (2 Thess 2:4).
The kings of the earth are associated with false religion because they will have ascribed to it. The beast is depicted as having seven heads and ten horns. The ten horns represent ten kings who will rule in relation to Antichrist. All who dwell on the earth will follow their lead and worship, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
All of this represents a comprehensive alliance of evil assembled around false religion.
Let’s consider some characteristics of false religion and the judgment that will certainly follow from the Lord. Judgment is coming. The system of false worship will have seduced people and nations and a day of reckoning is certain.
The first characteristic- False religion is unfaithful.
The nature of unfaithfulness-
Ch17:2 The kings of the earth committed sexual immorality with her, and those who live on the earth became drunk on the wine of her sexual immorality.
The connection between Babylon and sexual immorality was made back in Ch 14:8 An angel said- It has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen. She made all the nations drink the wine of her sexual immorality, which brings wrath. Babylon is the personification of spiritual unfaithfulness or idolatry.
Isaiah 23:15-17 On that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years—the life span of one king. At the end of seventy years, what the song says about the prostitute will happen to Tyre: Pick up your lyre, stroll through the city, you forgotten prostitute. Play skillfully, sing many a song so that you will be remembered. And at the end of the seventy years, the Lord will restore Tyre and she will go back into business, prostituting herself with all the kingdoms of the world throughout the earth.
Babylon has prostituted herself with much evil and drawn many to immorality.
Sexual immorality and idolatry are commonly connected in the Bible.
Sexuality is God’s design, his idea. He defines the parameters for its use. Sex was created to be enjoyed between one man and one woman who are married. Sexuality is a gift from God. Any expression outside of this is outside of God’s plan. Adultery, premarital sex, pornography, and homosexuality.
Idolatry is worship of anything other than the one true God.
Both are unfaithfulness. Both make relationships impure. Both are sins that feed off of selfish human desires and destroy trust. Both are destructive and bring great personal loss. Cult prostitution was integral to idol worship. Women were lured into cults to and paid for their services and they thought they were serving a deity.
St. Augustine prayed, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5 But know this: difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of religion but denying its power. Avoid these people!
Characteristics of false religion that is unfaithful:
Confuses the nature of God and the basis of truth.
Makes the Bible serve human desires.
Broadens the way to salvation.
Attracts the selfish nature of people.
Appeals to the temporary and not the eternal.
The second characteristic: False religion is demonic.
V2 She has become a home for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, and a haunt for every unclean and despicable beast.
In the region of Babylon, 200 million formerly bound demons were released at the sounding of the sixth trumpet (9:13-16) along with the demons released from the abyss at the sounding of the fifth trumpet (9:1-11), and those cast from heaven with Satan (12:4,9). That is a lot of evil in one place.
The Antichrist’s evil religious empire will have spread to all the nations of the earth.
People are easily deceived. The Apostle John said of the Satan in Revelation 12:9 So the great dragon was cast out, the serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan who deceives the whole world, he was cast to the earth and his angels were cast out with him.
Satan deceives not only those in the pagan, non-Christian world, but he devises a counterfeit Christianity.
2 Corinthians 11:3-4 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you may well put up with it!
People will be so deceived in the future they will literally do battle with the returning Son of God and the armies of heaven.
Tertullian, an early church father who lived between 160-220 AD said, “The devil, by the mysteries of his idols, imitates even the main part of the divine mysteries.”
False religion that is demonic deceives people into following false gospels.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8
Good works Gospel-more good deeds than bad
Universal Gospel-everyone will ultimately be saved
Easy Believism Gospel-prayed a prayer
Prosperity Gospel-health and wealth
Social Gospel-solve the social ills
There is only one true Gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
Do not be deceived by a false religion that is demonic.
The third characteristic: False religion is prideful.
V7 As much as she glorified herself and indulged her sensual and excessive ways, give her that much torment and grief.
Pride is excessive belief in one’s own person, which hinders understanding and living by the grace of God. Pride is the religion of believing in self.
Humility is the idea of lowering yourself, and has been described as self-forgetfulness.
John Wesley- “A right judgment of ourselves which cleanses our minds from those high conceits of our own perfections and form the undue opinions of our own abilities and attainments.”
C.S. Lewis said “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”
Peter addressed false teachers in 2 Peter 2 There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved ways, and the way of truth will be maligned because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with made-up stories. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.
Verses 1 and 3 mention destructive heresies and false words but everything else is about their lives.
Pride, defying authority-v1 they deny the Master who bought them.
Sensuality, sexual sin-v2 many will follow their sensuality.
Greed, for money and material gain-v3 in their greed they will exploit you.
Pride, greed, sensuality– Power, money, sex
2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.
This is our great hope.
Mighty is the Lord God who judges false religion!V8
18:4 Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins or receive any of her plagues.
18:20 Rejoice over her, heaven, and you saints, apostles, and prophets, because God has pronounced on her the judgment she passed on you.