The angel in chapter 17:1 called the false religious system the “great harlot” but was this symbol used? The description is used to describe a person who is unfaithful and offers sexual satisfaction for a price what a spouse would for love. What makes it worse in these two chapters is that this is done by one who claims to be married to the Lord. Worship under religion is: Proclaiming our need but only accepting a solution that does not meet our need and being charges for it! Religion develops its own terms and conditions to manipulate a god of its own creation and then evaluates itself to determine how well it lived up to its own standards.
Although it will appear for the first 3 ½ years that the religious system will be riding the political system of the antichrist, but the truth is satan will allow this until his purposes are served.
Vs. 1-13 Bankrupt in Babylon
Vs. 1-3 After the destruction of the religious system in 17:16 John sees another angel illuminating the whole earth reflecting God’s glory. The angel’s statement in verse 2 is that this religious system had “become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird” and is very reminiscent of Jesus parable of the “mustard seed” in Matt. 13:31-32. The commercial world has had intoxicating effect upon this religion’s institution with materialism, popularity, and power. Paul had warned in 2 Tim. 3:4-5 that religion had produced people who were “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Through these false religions system, the kings of the earth as well as their subjects had bought into her false teaching. This had caused the merchants of the world to become wealthy be adhering to her seductive message of prosperity. The things offered by the world always comes at a cost and they never satisfy.
Vs. 4-8 Here God gives two reasons for those rapped up into her influence to come out:
- “Lest you share in her sins”: The word, “share” means a joint partner, so they are warned to avoid further pollution and to do so they need to come out!
- “Lest you receive of her plagues”: To not come out is to receive the same judgment as the false religious system.
God is reaching out to those who are on the fringe during the tribulation, not the ones who want to worship satan but the ones that as of yet do not wanting to die to self-centeredness either. A person can become a true believer even in a false religious system if there is enough open heart to the truth that the Holy Spirit can work with. Yet the opposite is true as well a person can be a non-believer where the truth is readily available, yet they just go through the motions. If a person is a true believer in a false system God’s word is still “come out of her”! The prayer of religion does not reach the throne of God, but her sins sure do. The word “reached” is “glued or piled up” meaning the sins of religion just keep on being stacked on top of each other until they reached God. I’m reminded of the tower of Babel where they desired to communion with heaven without having to have a relationship with God. In Psalm 103:12 we are told that, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” What a tragedy that instead of confessing their sins so that they would be remembered no more they chose to hang onto them. There is a natural law of “retribution” where what is done to others comes back upon those that have done evil to others here it is doubled probably because the refusal to repent. Those who wish to do good works to be right with God will in the end find that they will be repaid for the bad works as well!
The religious system is judged upon two things here in verses 7-8:
- “She glorified herself”: She calls herself the “queen” and “am no widow and will not see sorrow.” The arrogance of her pride and boasting is what often attracts the world to her.
- “Lived luxuriously”: She loves to adorn herself in the treasures of this world instead of the treasures of heaven and the people of the world flock to that which they want for themselves.
God’s judgment will be swift as in one day this false religious system that caused all the world to become intoxicated with materialism will be destroyed. Her wealth and affluence caused a false since of security and clouded her ability to see her real need.
Vs. 9-13 The kings of the earth who committed fornication with her now weep at her destruction but at a distance for fear of being associated with her and receiving the same fate. Verse 11 indicates that their mourning is not over her loss but rather the loss of their profits, such is the case with religion and those who belong to her. False religion was great for business, but no one cares for the moral religious speech just that which can be gained from religion.
In verse 12-13 John lists the commodities that brought wealth and power to those who trafficked in them through the false religious system. Satan has long used the fallen appetites of man to enslave them in their own passions. Every one of these items are not necessities but rather they are all luxury items. It is not immediately known what John sees as it relates to the “bodies and souls of men”, but whatever enslaves men’s bodies entraps their souls as well.
Vs. 14-24 Two responses to religions destruction
Vs. 14-19 Offer a further description of why the merchants of the world weep as all “The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you”. In the end mankind will be seen worshipping their own possessions and unable to find this treasure any longer will become miserable. Jesus warned in Matthew 6:19-21 “not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Babylon (Rome) will be the city that drives the world’s economy as everyone who exported from or imported to her is saying, “Oh no! How will we buy and sell now?”
Vs. 20-24 There are two responses to her destruction:
- Vs. 19 “They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour, she is made desolate.” Those who have profited from her weep because of the loss of profit.
- Vs. 20 “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” Heaven will rejoice, as it was this same system that was responsible for the killing of the saints.
Our rejoicing is not over the destruction of “sinners” but rather over that system which oppressed and destroyed so many lives as His justice will be done. God lists three reasons for her destruction:
- Vs. 23a “For your merchants were the great men of the earth,” The heroes of the world’s system are the ones that oppressed mankind the most.
- Vs. 23b “for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.” The word for “sorcery” is drugs in the Greek; so, it seems that the merchandise of the world and the economy in the tribulation will be in large part propped up by drug trafficking who not only get rich but dope up the world in so doing.
- Vs. 24 “And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” God blames not only the death of the saints upon this false system but all murders.
Why does God tell John to write these things for us? (Remember that these things were first to be given to the seven churches). I believe God is showing us not only a picture of the last days but also the present dangers while we live in this world now so that if we are into these things and apart of His Church we can come out of such things. It is time for us to evaluate our own hearts!