Bible study series: The Beginning and the End - Genesis and Revelation
The Counterfeit - Babel and the Harlot
by I Gordon
This message, as the title implies, is the first on the counterfeit and the counterpart. We'll probably do this over three separate studies, each focusing on a different aspect of this theme. As I have mentioned previously, probably on many occasions, this series is a 'big picture' series where we are examining some of the prominent themes of the Bible that have their introduction in the book of Genesis and find their fulfillment in the book of Revelation. So what would be a big theme in scripture? Well the woman and the city of course. "Argh yes... Of course!" you say. "The woman and the city... the city and the woman... the... um... what?" "What woman? What city? What are you talking about?"
Now obviously there are lots of women and lots of cities out there. It is fair to say the Bible is probably not talking about your home town. But the Bible is concerned with one specific woman and one city. That woman is the true bride of Christ. The city is her home, the New Jerusalem. We will look at both of these themes through scripture in the coming studies but for now we need to take a little time to explore their opposite. You see, the enemy is a counterfeiter. He doesn't create, he imitates. Anything that is close to God's heart, he simply tries to mimic and bring forth for himself, for his own glory - but in a thoroughly corrupted way.
So where the true Biblical story involves God bringing forth and separating a people, a bride fit for Himself, the enemy will imitate this and have his 'woman' - a corrupted false version of that which is true. The Bible calls her the harlot. In like manner, where God has a city prepared for all the saints, the new Jerusalem where righteousness and truth will dwell, the counterfeiter will have his city wherein sin, lies and deception dwell. The Bible calls this Babylon. These two themes of the woman and the city run right throughout scripture and take many forms. So as mentioned this study will be focused on the counterfeit. We'll look at its origins in Genesis and its fulfillment and final overthrow in Revelation. The next couple of studies will take the positive side and focus on the true bride and home for God's people.
Where it began... Babel... Babylon
So where did the counterfeit city begin? A large part of Genesis is taken up with the stories of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph but right before it speaks of them, it mentions a very important event in the history of mankind - the tower and city of Babel. Let's revisit that story.
Gen 11:1-2 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
So the Bible records a time where everyone had the same language and as they moved together they came to the plain in Shinar. Shinar is another name for 'Babylon' and is located in modern day Iraq. The late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was actually rebuilding the city of Babylon to restore it's ancient glory. Smith's Bible Dictionary says concerning Shinar - 'The ancient name of the great alluvial tract, through which the Tigris and Euphrates pass, before reaching the sea — the tract known, in later times, as Chaldaea or Babylonia.' This is the first mention of Shinar, or Babylon, in the Bible but it begins a theme that is throughout the scriptures. Because it is the first mention, it is important that we see what it was used for. Let's continue!
Gen 11:3-4 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
|The way of Man
|The way of God - True Salvation
|Gen 11:4 "Come, let us build for ourselves..."
||Mat 11:28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Rev 22:17 "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
|Man is forever trying to build for themselves. If it is not one scheme it is another. But the heart remains the same - we can build, we can work to achieve salvation. God's way is the opposite - you come with nothing in your had but take God's offer of salvation freely, without works, without cost.
|Gen 11:4 "Come, let us build... a tower whose top will reach into heaven"
||Rom 10:6-9 "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down) or 'Who will descend into the deep?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
||Man's goal is to ascend and reach Heaven by it's own works. Yet scripture tells us not to do that. The word we proclaim is the word of faith - Confess that Jesus is Lord and has been raised and you will be saved.
|Gen 11:4 "... so that we may make a name for ourselves"
||1Co 1:28-31 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
||Man's attempt at salvation is for his own glory. God's salvation leaves no boasting in man at all - only in the One who paid the price for us - Jesus, who is our righteousness and redemption. We make no name for ourselves but boast only in Him.
Here we see the spirit of Shinar or Babylon expressed through the focus of the text and the desire of the people. Look at what they said. Where is God in any of it? It is all about self. It is all about humanism. What they can do. It is all about making a name for themselves in defiance of God. Arno Gaebelin writes "Notice the absence of the name of God in the beginning of the chapter. They had excluded Him. “They said ... let us make ... and they had ... let us build ourselves ... let us make ourselves a name.” It is self-exaltation and defiance of God. It was full rebellion against God." In like manner, the old brethren writer C.H.M writes:
“The human heart ever seeks a name, a portion, and a centre in the earth. It knows nothing of aspirations after heaven, heaven's God, or heaven's glory. Left to itself, it will ever and find its objects in this lower world; ever "build beneath the skies." It needs God's call, God's revelation, and God's power, to lift the heart above this present world, for man is a grovelling creature, alienated from heaven, and allied to earth. In the scene now before us, there is no acknowledgement no looking up to, or waiting on, Him; nor was it the thought of the human heart to set up a place in which God might dwell - to gather materials for the purpose of building a habitation for Him - alas! no; His name is never once mentioned. To make a name for himself was man's object on the plain of Shinar; and such has been his object ever since. Whether we contemplate man on the plain of Shinar, or on the banks of the Tiber, we find him to be the same self-seeking, self-exalting, God-excluding creature, throughout. There is a melancholy consistency in all his purposes his principles, and his ways; he ever seeks to shut out God, and exalt himself.”
In this 'let us' self centered, God-rejecting attitude we get an early glimpse of that which shall exist and increase in the last days as described in Psalm 2 where we read:
Psa 2:1-3 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. Let us break their chains, they say, "and throw off their fetters."
Gen 11:5-9 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel --because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
So the Lord came down to see this place. Notice how He said that because there were speaking one language and were of one purpose, there is nothing that they plan that will be impossible for them. And so the Lord confused their language. That is why it was called 'Babel' which means 'Confusion'. But is this not what the world eagerly desires to rebuild today? Through the internet especially the world has become one once more and is sharing knowledge in yet another attempt to make a name for itself. And once again, if God doesn't intervene, nothing will become impossible for mankind1. On the surface that can sound well and good for it can be used for medical advances that benefit mankind. But unfortunately, left to a corrupted humanity it never ends well. Instead the advances are used for power and control. Mankind believes that if it can just come together once again (but of course leaving God out of it) we can achieve this ancient goal of making a name for ourselves.
And thus, we see this today. With the recent Covid 19 virus frightening many around the world, several Hollywood "celebrities" (with celebrities very much in speech marks!) came together to sing a song. Oh, that's nice you say. What did they sing? Were they calling on God for help? No... it wasn't a song calling on God's help. They choose that favourite song of the United Nations, John Lennon's "Imagine". You know, the one were he tells us to imagine that there is no heaven, imagine that there is no hell, imagine no religion, no countries or possessions... just a brotherhood of man living for today and how wonderful that would be. Humanists love that song. The men in the days of the tower of Babel would have loved that song for it expresses the exact same proud desire they had - "Together we can achieve anything we want.. without God!"
This same spirit is seen through the formation of the European Union. Many others have pointed out that the EU parliament had it's design based on a painting of the tower of Babel. An early poster put out by the EU had the tower of Babel on it and the slogan: "Europe - Many tongues, one voice". So from it's conception the EU has displayed this same spirit which God had to come down and put an end to all those days ago. And He will have to come down and put an end to it again in the approaching days! Interesting. Europe is getting ready for the last days and the emergence of a powerful leader to come. And he will come in the same spirit of Nimrod, the founder of Babel, right back in the days of Genesis.
Revelation - where is this going?
So where is this going? Well, we don't have to be confused there for the Bible tells us where it is going. It gives us a picture of 'Babylon' in the last days and it comes in the form of a woman. As you probably know there are a couple of chapters on Babylon so we'll just focus mainly on the first six verses. Let's have a read:
Rev 17:1-2 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality."
Rev 17:3-6 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."...When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.
In Revelation chapters 17 and 18 John was given a vision of 'Babylon' but in its 'mystery' form. That is, he didn't see the physical literal city/kingdom of Babylon that had long been the enemy of Israel, but the religious and commercial aspect that will exist right down through the ages and come to a head, and an end, in the last days. In the Vision John saw this form of Babylon as a woman, a harlot. In fact not just any harlot but on her forehead is the name 'Mystery, Babylon the great, the Mother of Harlots and of the abominations of the earth'. Remember how we said at the start that Satan is a counterfeiter? And that if God has His 'woman', His bride, then Satan will try mimic that? Well her she is. What John saw as described in Revelation 17 is a spiritual prostitute, a counterfeit false religious bride that will be used to deceive and persecute the true bride right down through the ages and especially in the last days.
This mystery religion originated right back in the days of Babel and has existed since then in various forms2. In John's day it was seen through the power of Rome and there is no doubt that he had this in mind as he wrote. But even John seemed shocked by seeing the religious element to Babylon and how it will persecute the true believers. He says that when he saw this woman3 he was greatly astonished. In John's day Rome existed as a political power. It wasn't until the 4th century that it became a religious power through the Roman Catholic Church. And yes, that "church" did become 'drunk with the blood of the saints' as scripture foretold (Rev 17:6)4
But in the last days it will be more than just the Roman Catholic Church. It will be a uniting of all false religious systems. The widespread prevailing nature of this is seen by the 'woman' sitting on many waters. These waters are later described as 'peoples, multitudes, nations and languages' (Rev 17:15). In other words this false spiritual religious system will spread to all nations. That is where things are heading. It started back in Babel with its focus on humanity uniting together and making a name for itself, in defiance of the true God, and that is the same spirit that will be manifested in a religious form in the last days. But notice that the woman is also riding upon the Beast. That indicates that this coming world religion will be, for a time, united with the one-world government. She will use it and partially control it.
What does this mean?
What this means is that we should expect to see greater calls for a one-world religion in the days to come. Christians, if the Lord hasn't returned, will be seen as the obstacles to religious peace and harmony around the world. Pope Francis often calls for unity between the religions and has joined with Islamic leaders claiming that we worship the same God. He supports 'Chrislam' which seeks to unite and combine Christianity and Islam. He promotes globalism and global government and speaks of humanity coming together to stop climate change and injustices against the planet. In fact he speaks, and sounds, more like a politician that a religious leader! What you don't hear is him speaking about how Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. The Pope recently called on 'believers of all religions to spiritually unite on May 14th (2020) in a day of prayer and fasting, and works of charity, to implore God to help humanity to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.' You see it doesn't matter what 'God' you pray to according to the Pope. Just unite! Beware of anyone that says that we all worship the same God!5 This is all part of the end times apostasy that has been predicted in the Bible.
It is also worth noting that In the last days people will become more 'spiritual'. Many today will happily claim to be 'spiritual'. But that means something different to each person! The last days 'woman', mystery Babylon, will include all types of religions, new age and spiritual beliefs... except Bible believing, Christ honoring believers! It is interesting that even in Europe, which has long passed from being a Christian continent, there is still dwells this 'mystery religion' undercurrent. On the surface it is a very humanistic, atheistic continent. And yet their foundation has its roots in the Babylonian mystery religions. And so, maybe without knowing it, we see this mystery religious root bubbling to the surface. As an example one of the sculptures outside an EU building is actually of a woman riding the beast!6 This sculpture is based on the ancient pagan story of how Europa (from which we get the name Europe) was seduced by the god Zeus who appeared in the form of a bull. Interesting! Well that is happening and will happen to Europe once again!7
The uniting of the woman with Shinar again...
It has been noted earlier that Revelation chapters 17 and 18 present different forms that Babylon will take in the last days - religious and commercial. We have concentrated on the mystery religious aspect as seen in the woman who rides the beast. I won't say much about the commercial side other than mention a prophecy in Zechariah which indicates that in the last days it will all end back where it started... in the very same place where the initial tower of Babel was built! The prophecy says that a woman, representing wickedness, will be taken back to Shinar, Babylon in the last days so that a house or temple can be built for her. Here is the scripture:
Zec 5:5-11 Then the angel who was speaking with me went out and said to me, "Lift up now your eyes and see what this is going forth." (6) I said, "What is it?" And he said, "This is the ephah going forth." Again he said, "This is their appearance in all the land (7) (and behold, a lead cover was lifted up); and this is a woman sitting inside the ephah." (8) Then he said, "This is Wickedness!" And he threw her down into the middle of the ephah and cast the lead weight on its opening. (9) Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and there two women were coming out with the wind in their wings; and they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens. (10) I said to the angel who was speaking with me, "Where are they taking the ephah?" (11) Then he said to me, "To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal."
This prophecy is summed up well by William Newel in his commentary on Revelation where he writes:
The vision of the ephah of Zec_5:1-11 corroborates overwhelmingly the thought of the revival of commercial Babylon. A woman, called Wickedness, is seen sitting in an ephah measure, covered with a round piece of lead. (An ephah would be, to a Jew, a perfect symbol of commerce.) Two women with “wings of a stork” (an unclean bird to Israel- Lev_11:19) bear this ephah away “between earth and heaven.” The prophet asks the revealing angel, “Whither do these bear the ephah?” And the significant answer is, “To build her a house in the land of Shinar: and when it is prepared, she shall be set there in her own place.” What could such a vision portray, if not the final concentrating of wickedness in a great center which should reach the whole earth? Direct rebellion against God, in a new, and astounding, and organized way, began in that very land of Shinar and it will complete its cycle and come back for judgment to that same place!
Whatever dark, persecuting history the harlot woman sitting on the Beast has been guilty of; and even if, as is very probable, she represents all false worship since the Flood: doctrines which, pretending to teach worship of God, have led men into the depths of uncleanness of idolatry; this much is certain: the harlot represents the mystery of iniquity, and the Beast, manifest iniquity.
The Harlot's end...
So what of her end? Does scripture foretell her end? It sure does!
Rev 17:16-17 "And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. (17) "For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.
The woman, this false religious system that will ride and try to control the beast will only be able to do so for so long! The ten kings that rule in the early stage of of the tribulation along with the beast (the antichrist) will actually hate the woman and will destroy her! And this purpose, scripture tells us, is from God. This is likely to occur somewhere around the middle of the tribulation period before the antichrist places himself in the Jewish temple declaring himself to be God. (2 Thes 2:4). From that point on the beast will not allow any other religion or religious system... including the harlot woman! He will only allow worship of Himself as God. He wants to be the sole focus of humanity's attention and worship!
So that is all pretty heavy. How are we to respond? Our response to this today is the same as was commanded in the day John wrote about 'Mystery Babylon'. And that is 'Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins'. No matter what the Pope or any other religious leaders may say, the different religions do not worship the same God and we are not to be united with that which is false. We are to love the Lord our God will all our mind, all our soul and all our heart. And we are to worship Him and Him alone. Unity among the true brethren is important. But we see a union today, even pushed by prominent 'Protestant' leaders, that is at the expense of truth. And as Charles Spurgeon wrote:
'It is easy to cry 'a confederacy,' but that union which is not based upon the truth of God is rather a conspiracy than a communion." And again -'To pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus Christ.'
Secondly, hold fast to the gospel of grace. All other religions have one thing in common - they are 'works' based. The true biblical gospel is not based on what you do but what He did. Not your works but His work. In other words, grace. Unmerited favour that cannot be earnt but can only be believed and received.
What started thousands of years ago in the plains of Shinar, Babylonia, spread throughout the world. We have seen mankind's self focus and determination in defiance of God in the days of the tower of Babel and this same spirit is coming to a crescendo in these last days. The days of Genesis once again point to that which will be, as seen in the book of Revelation. The last days will involve a counterfeit woman and a counterfeit city. But thankfully, despite all this deception, God is still calling out His true bride, to live in His true city that is prepared for her. Things are coming to a head. Make sure you are on the right side. Stay true to the Lord and worship Him alone.
And may you be part of that glorious bride. We'll look at her in the next study!