1. What should be the pure Bride of Christ becomes a wicked fallen woman.
This downfall started even during the days of the apostles when some of the churches were committing spiritual fornication with the world (James 4:4). Demas was one of those who turned from the truth because he loved the world (2 Tim. 4:10).
The doctrine of Balaam and Jezebel was operating in the early churches.
“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (Rev. 2:14).
“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols” (Revelation 2:20).
According to this false doctrine, Christians have liberty to participate in the wicked things of the world.
The doctrine of Balaam and Jezebel has increased throughout the church age and is the doctrine that prevails among professing Christians today.
2. The harlot “church” is already taking shape.
Though it won’t be complete until the time of the Antichrist, the harlot “church” is already growing rapidly in the world.
It is being built through the unity movement. Throughout Christianity there is a call for “unity.” We are told that unity is more important than doctrine. We are told that we should not create divisions among Christians. We are told that we should not judge other Christians, but that we should join them in fellowship and ministry. We are told that the different denominations are like ice cream. There are many different flavors of Christianity--Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Evangelical, Baptist, Church of Christ, etc.--but we cannot say that only one is right and the others are wrong. We are told that we should learn from one another and not condemn one another.
This ecumenical philosophy is creating the one-world church, but the Bible teaches us to earnestly contend for the one true faith that was revealed during the days of the apostles (Jude 3). Paul taught that we are not to allow any other doctrine, which is the most narrow approach to doctrinal purity that one can conceive (1 Tim. 1:3). We are to separate from those who teach different doctrine (Rom. 16:17).
The harlot “church” is also being built by contemporary worship music. This music merges the things of Christ with the world’s party music. The Christian rock philosophy is a Balaam/Jezebel philosophy. Contemporary Christian Music creates an appetite for the things of the world. It builds bridges to the world and to apostasy so that the churches that use it become corrupted in doctrine and practice. There is a close association between contemporary worship music and the Roman Catholic Church.
See 1 Corinthians 15:33, which warns that wrong associations corrupt good manners of Christian living. (See the book The Directory of Contemporary Christian Worship Music and the video presentation The Foreign Spirit of Contemporary Worship Music, which are available from Way of Life Literature.)
The harlot “church” is being built by many other things, including the social gospel, kingdom building, the positive philosophy (don’t speak about “negative,” controversial things), contemplative prayer, and the heresy of “non-essential” doctrines. (See What Is the Emerging Church? from Way of Life Literature.)
3. The harlot “church” will take its final form after the Rapture.
We see an outline of this timeline in the book of Revelation.
In Revelation 2-3 Jesus addresses the seven churches, and we can see in these chapters a description of the apostasy that began small in the days of the apostles (signified by the church of Ephesus losing its first love, Rev. 2:4-5) and grows through the age until most of the churches are apostate (signified by the church of Laodicea, Rev. 3:15-17).
In Revelation 4 the true churches are taken out of the world to heaven’s throne room to be with Christ. Just as John was called up to heaven in Revelation 4:1, so will all of the New Testament believers be called up to heaven at the Rapture (1 Th. 4:15-17). See Jesus’ promise to the faithful Philadelphia church (Rev. 3:10-11). This church signifies the true churches that still exist at the end of the age. They are weak but they keep God’s Word (Rev. 3:8).
In Revelation 6 the judgments begin to fall on the world of unbelievers for seven years. During this time, the Antichrist will come to power and the harlot “church” will reign with him for a brief time.
4. Consider the characteristics of the harlot “church” of Revelation 17:
Mystery Babylon descends from ancient Babylon (Rev. 17:5).
The apostate harlot “church” descends from the false religion established at Babel during man’s early history (Gen. 10:8-10; 11:1-9). Babylon is “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (Rev. 17:5), meaning that the world’s dark religions had their evil beginning with her. At Babel the devil organized the first idolatrous religion. The Tower of Babel was preeminently an act of idolatry. It was the beginning of the mystery religions that eventually permeated the world. It represented mankind united against the Creator and His holy laws. At the heart of Babylonianism is the worship of self, which is based on the ancient lie that Satan uttered to Eve, “ye shall be as gods” (Gen. 3:5). Babylon is the devil’s world kingdom, with all of its religious, political, and commercial aspects. The head of this dark kingdom is called “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2).
The Babylonian religion spread throughout the earth. Idolatrous towers were built all across Mesopotamia. These were devoted to the worship of the sun, moon, and stars. Goddess worship was also prominent. The idolatry was practiced by the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian, the Greek, and the Roman. It spread from the Middle East to Africa, Europe, North and South America. (We deal with this in the section on Babylon in the apologetics course An Unshakeable Faith and in the PowerPoint/Keynote presentation on Babylon that accompanies that course.)
The Roman Catholic Church is a Christianized Babylonianism. The Papacy, the Mass, Mariolatry, the Rosary, the Priesthood -- all of these were borrowed from the idolatrous Babylonian religions. The ancient Babylonian mother-goddess worship was the basis for Rome’s doctrine of Mary. In the Bible, Mary is never called Queen of Heaven or the Mother of God, but the old mother-goddesses had these titles. The images of the goddess Isis and her baby Horus were the models for the Madonna and child. (Evidence for this can be found in the section on Babylon in the apologetics course An Unshakeable Faith and in the PowerPoint/Keynote presentation on Babylon that accompanies that course.)
“Babylon the great” in Revelation 17 is the final form of Satan’s world religion and government. It is taking shape today and will come to power with the Antichrist during the Tribulation and will be destroyed before Christ returns (Rev. 19:1-3). (For a detailed study of Revelation 17-18 see the Advanced Bible Studies Series course on Revelation, which is available from Way of Life Literature.)
Mystery Babylon is worldwide.
“Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: ... And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (Rev. 17:1, 15).
The “many waters” are “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.”
Mystery Babylon’s headquarters is in Rome.
“The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth” (Rev. 17:9).
Rome is famous for her “seven hills.” Rome, of course, is the headquarters for the Roman Catholic Church, which is at the center of the great harlot religious system.
Mystery Babylon will probably be ruled by the pope. On August 7, 1977, Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury in the Anglican Church, said: “We should like to see the churches of England, Scotland, the United States and any other countries, bound together in one body. If the pope would like to come in as chairman, we should all welcome him” (Why Were Our Reformers Burned?). Our books Evangelicals and Rome and The Directory of Contemporary Worship Music document the back-to-Rome movement within practically every segment of Christianity.
Mystery Babylon is filled with blasphemy.
“I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy” (Rev. 17:3).
This is true of the Roman Catholic Church. The titles of her popes are blasphemous (e.g., “holy father,” “his holiness,” “vicar of Christ”). Rome’s mass is blasphemous. It is blasphemous to claim that bread actually becomes Jesus and it is blasphemous to worship the bread when it is put into a box called a tabernacle in Catholic churches. Rome’s doctrine of Mary is blasphemous. Rome has created fables about Mary’s sinless birth, her bodily assumption into heaven, her coronation as queen of heaven, her intercession for sinners. Consider Santa Maria Maggiore Church (Saint Mary Major) in Rome, which was built to honor Mary as the “Mother of God.” It features a large mosaic on the ceiling depicting Mary sitting with Jesus on His throne and being crowned by Him as Queen of Heaven. Another image of Mary in this church is titled “Mary Queen of Peace,” which is blasphemous because peace only comes through Christ. Outside of the St. Mary Major Church, Mary is even depicted hanging on the cross with Jesus! The Saint Stanislaus Kostka Catholic church in Chicago has an image of Mary sitting on the ark of God and surrounded by worshiping angels. This is a great blasphemy, as the ark was the place where Jehovah God abode in the tabernacle (Ex. 30:36). (For photos of these things see “Rome’s Mary on the Cross” at the Way of Life web site -- www.wayoflife.org.)
The blasphemy is not limited to the Roman Catholic Church. It is spreading throughout Christianity. It is blasphemous, for example, to mix the holy things of Christ with the unholy party music of this world. The emerging churches even go further in their blasphemy, by performing wicked secular rock songs in their church services. For example, NewSpring Church in Florence, South Carolina, performed “Highway to Hell” by the vile rock band AC/DC for Easter service 2009, and Northpoint Church of Springfield, Missouri, performed “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones for Easter service 2011. It is also blasphemous to say that God accepts the moral perversion of homosexuality, which many evangelicals are saying. (See The Treacherous Waters of Evangelicalism, which is available as a free eBook from Way of Life Literature -- www.wayoflife.org.) It is blasphemous to say that the God who sends sinners to hell is a mean God, but this is what some in the emerging church are saying. (See the book What Is the Emerging Church?)
Mystery Babylon is clothed in purple and scarlet.
“... the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour” (Rev. 17:4).
The apostles and Christians of the early churches lived simple lives and built simple churches, but apostate Christians love impressive cathedrals, flowing robes, ritualism, candles and incense, and expensive clothing.
Revelation 17:4 describes exactly how Rome’s bishops and archbishops and cardinals and popes are clothed even to this day. In 2003 I witnessed a mass in St. Paul Without the Walls basilica in Rome in which the bishops were clothed in scarlet. When Pope John Paul II died, the cardinals who met to elect a new pope were clothed in scarlet.
Many of the emerging churches are moving in the direction of Rome by adopting things such as candles, incense, dim lighting, ambient music, labyrinths, icons, prayer stations, art, dance, meditation, chanting, and contemplative prayer. (See What Is the Emerging Church? from Way of Life Literature.)
Mystery Babylon is immoral.
“... the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Rev. 17:1-2).
She is described as a whore. This refers both to spiritual and physical fornication.
The apostasy has always been associated with living after “the lusts of the flesh” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
The Roman Catholic Church has been immoral throughout its history. After Martin Luther visited Rome he observed, “If there be a hell, Rome is built over it.” He was referring to the wickedness that he found in that city. Many of the popes, who were supposed to be “celibate,” committed fornication. Pope John XII (955-63) is described by the Catholic Encyclopedia as “a course, immoral man, whose life was such that the Lateran palace was spoken of as a brothel.” Pope Benedict IX (1032-1045) lived a “dissolute life.” Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) erected a house of prostitution in Rome. Pope Pius II (1458-64) and Pope Innocent VIII (1484-92) each had at least two illegitimate children. Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) had at least four illegitimate children whom he made rich through church positions. Alexander held unspeakable orgies in his palace and kept married women as mistresses. Pope Julius II (1503-13) had at least three illegitimate children. Throughout the world, Roman Catholic priests are infamous for homosexuality and child abuse. In Northern Ireland they are called “filthy beasts” by the Protestants. According to Roman Catholic bishop Pat Buckley, studies have shown that 80% of the Catholic priests in Ireland have broken their vows of celibacy (“500 Irish Priests Having Regular Sex with Women,” London News Telegraph, Jan. 21, 2006). In America, Rome has paid over $1 billion to settle court cases against child-molesting priests. Most of these are homosexuals. A 2004 study found that 5,148 priests had been charged with committing this wickedness.
The rock & roll Christianity of these last days is filled with immorality. Rock & roll Christians live almost the same as the world. They love the world’s wicked movies and television programs and the world’s music and the world’s immodest dress fashions and the world’s vain sports stars and the world’s strange video games and the world’s Internet sites. Even homosexuality is widely accepted among the rock & roll churches. (See The Treacherous Waters of Evangelicalism, a free eBook available from Way of Life Literature.)
Mystery Babylon is wealthy.
“And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand...” (Rev. 17:4).
This is an accurate description of the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church. The crown of Pope Paul II (1464-1471) was “set with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, chrysolites, and jaspers” (Ouseley, A Short Defence, 1821, p. 230). The wealth of the Catholic Church is vast. In the 1970s, the Vatican was the third wealthiest “nation” behind America and Japan.
The wealth also describes the Protestant denominations and “evangelicalism” and the charismatic movement today. Like the church at Laodicea, they are rich and increased with goods (Rev. 3:17). Evangelical and charismatic churches are large and prosperous. Evangelical and charismatic colleges and publishing houses are rich and influential. Their radio and television ministries are heard by millions. Some of the evangelical and charismatic leaders own multiple mansions and fly around the world in their own luxury jets. In 2006, churches in America spent $8.1 BILLION just on audio and projection equipment (“High Tech Churches,” Christian Post, Sept. 26, 2007). An article in Christianity Today in October 2006 entitled “Let’s Improve the Public Perception of Evangelicalism,” described “evangelicalism” in the following terms: “We now have institutional resources and influential churches to a degree barely hoped for 50 years ago. Our people are better educated and more affluent. Our global networks are connecting believers like never before.” This is more representative of the apostate church of Laodicea and the harlot “church” of Revelation 17 than the simple churches founded by the apostles.
Mystery Babylon is ecumenical.
“the Mother of harlots...” (Rev. 17:5).
She has many daughters who share her character. This refers to the ecumenical movement that is joining together all branches of Christianity: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Protestant, Baptist, Pentecostal, evangelical, charismatic, etc. The ecumenical movement is even bringing “Christians” together with pagan religions.
The emerging “harlot church” was seen at the 1983 World Council of Churches’ (WCC) General Assembly in British Columbia, Canada. The WCC is made up of more than 340 denominations representing roughly 500 million professing Christians. The opening ceremony was led by North American nature-worshipping Indians who burned fish and tobacco in a fire to their pagan gods. Three Hindus, four Buddhists, two Jews, four Muslims, and a Sikh participated in the Assembly. There were readings from Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim scriptures. A Hindu woman from South India performed a pagan dance to the earth mother goddess. Philip Potter, General Secretary of the WCC, said that it is God’s will “to unite all nations in their diversity into one house.” Dirk Mulder, moderator of the WCC interfaith dialogue program, said that a Buddhist or Hindu can be saved without believing in Jesus (Foundation, Vol. IV, Issue III, 1983). There were also “evangelicals” who participated in this abominable conference. Clearly this is the “church” of Revelation 17.
The emerging “harlot church” was seen on January 24, 2002, when Pope John Paul II led the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy. The interfaith prayer gathering featured some 200 religious leaders, including representatives of “Christian” denominations (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed, Baptist, Lutheran, Mormon, Mennonite) as well as representatives of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Bahai-ism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, etc. Prominently featured were 29 Muslim leaders from such countries as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, and Libya, all of which persecute Christians to various degrees.
The emerging “harlot church” is seen in the contemplative prayer movement which is spreading quickly throughout Christianity. This movement borrows practices from the old Roman Catholic monasticism system, which in turn were borrowed from pagan Babylonian religions. The contemplative prayer movement promotes the writings of Roman Catholic mystics such as Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, and Madame Guyon. Many within the contemplative prayer movement are openly promoting Zen Buddhism and Hindu yoga, which are Babylonian religions. The late Thomas Merton, one of the most influential men in the movement, was both a Buddhist and a Catholic monk. Jesuit priest Thomas Clarke admits that the contemplative movement has “BEEN INFLUENCED BY ZEN BUDDHISM, TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION, OR OTHER CURRENTS OF EASTERN SPIRITUALITY” (Finding Grace at the Center, pp. 79, 80). The contemplative prayer movement puts professing Christians into communication with the demons that are the powers behind the ancient Babylonian idolatry. Many of the most influential evangelical leaders are recommending contemplative prayer, including Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah, Beth Moore, Max Lucado, Philip Yancy, Lee Strobel, and Charles Stanley, as we have documented in the report “Evangelicals Turning to Catholic Spirituality,” which can be found at the Way of Life web site -- www.wayoflife.org.
Thus, there is already a harlot “church” taking shape and sitting upon many waters.
Mystery Babylon is a persecutor.
“And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus...” (Rev. 17:6).
It has been estimated by reputable historians that during the Roman Catholic Inquisition 50 million people were killed for the crime of “heresy” between A.D. 600 and A.D. 1850. This is the number cited by John Dowling, who published The History of Romanism in 1847 (book VIII, chapter 1, footnote 1).
From A.D. 1160-1560 the Waldensian Christians who dwelt in the mountains in northern Italy and France were visited with 36 terrible persecutions because they refused to submit to the Roman Catholic Church (Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists). They were almost completely destroyed. For example, in 1209, Pope Innocent III called for a war against the Waldenses. Anyone who volunteered to join the war was promised forgiveness of sin and many rewards. Tens of thousands took up arms for the pope and marched against the Waldenses. Some 200,000 non-Catholic Christians were killed within a few months. Two large cities were destroyed, together with many smaller towns and villages. The Christians were thrown from high cliffs, hanged, disemboweled, pierced through, drowned, torn by dogs, burned alive, crucified. In one case, 400 mothers fled for refuge with their babies to a cave in Castelluzzo, which was located 2,000 feet above the valley in which they lived. When they were discovered by the rampaging Catholics, a large fire was built outside of the cave and they were suffocated. Thousands were made homeless and were forced to wander in the woods and mountains to escape the persecutors. “In this manner, the war was carried on for twenty years. Town after town was taken, pillaged, burnt. Nothing was left but a smoking waste” (John Christian, A History of the Baptists).
This is but a tiny sampling of Rome’s Inquisition.
During the Great Tribulation, terrible persecution will be unleashed against those who refuse to submit to the Antichrist, and the harlot religion will be intimately aligned with him.
“I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them” (Dan. 7:21).
“And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people” (Daniel 8:24).
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another” (Mat. 24:9-10).
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled” (Rev. 6:9-11).
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. 13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9-14).
“And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Rev. 13:15).
The New Testament describes two types of churches: true and false. There will be true churches in the world until Jesus takes them away through the Rapture. But false churches will outnumber true churches by far and will eventually be formed into the great worldwide harlot “church.” This “church” will rule with the Antichrist for a short season and will then be destroyed.
Excerpted from THE FUTURE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE. ISBN 978-1-58318-172-0. One of the many reasons why the Bible is the most amazing and exciting book on earth is its prophecies. The Bible unfolds the future in great detail, and The Future According to the Bible deals in depth with every major prophetic event, including the Rapture, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Tribulation, the Antichrist, Gog and Magog, the Battle of Armageddon, the Two Witnesses, Christ’s Return, Muslim nations in prophecy, the Judgment of the Nations, the resurrection body, the conversion of Israel, the highway of the redeemed, Christ’s glorious kingdom, the Millennial Temple, the Great White Throne judgment, and the New Jerusalem. The first two chapters deal at length with the amazing prophecies that are being fulfilled today and with the church-age apostasy. Knowledge of these prophecies is essential for a proper understanding of the times and a proper Christian worldview today. The 130-page section on Christ’s kingdom describes the coming world kingdom in more detail than any book we are familiar with. Every major Messianic prophecy is examined. Prophecy is a powerful witness to the Bible’s divine inspiration, and it is a great motivator for holy Christian living. In this book we show that the Lord’s churches are outposts of the coming kingdom. The believer’s position in Christ’s earthly kingdom will be determined by his service in this present world (Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21). The book is based on forty years of intense Bible study plus firsthand research in Israel, Turkey, and Europe. 520 pages
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