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Jun 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapters 17-18 06/02/2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion!  How beautiful it is to be together in this new space!  Grace and Peace to you!

Chuck left us with questions last week.  Have you been pondering them? First, he asked, “What are you going to do about the beast?” For me, what I’m going to do is to first recognize the beast!  Chuck also said, “The beast never shows up in his true form.  He floats in like an angel of light and speaks in soft tones.  Only when he’s enslaved a person, does he remove the disguise.” 

I have heard it said that bank tellers are trained to recognize counterfeit money just by repeatedly handling the real.  Then if the counterfeit is offered, they recognize the imposter.  I think it’s the same way with the dragon and the beasts. Paul said he let go of everything to know Christ Jesus, his Lord.  Jesus said that if we abide in his word, we will be his disciples and the Truth will set us free.  To know Christ as Lord is to know the Truth of Christ and to recognize the ways of those anti-Christs (the dragon and the beasts in Revelation’s terms).  So, what am I going to do about them?  First of all, recognize them! 

And then boycott them.  We are familiar with the term boycott to mean to refuse to support, to refuse to buy their products.  Wikipedia’s definition: “A boycott is an act of nonviolent, voluntary abstention from a product, person, organization, or country as an expression of protest. It is usually for moral, social, political, or environmental reasons.  The purpose of a boycott is to inflict some economic loss on the target, or to indicate a moral outrage, usually to try to compel the target to alter an objectionable behavior.” 

I remember that the fifth bowl of Revelation was poured on the throne of the beast, not the beast per se, but on his throne.  The throne represents the seat of political power. This plague plunged his kingdom into darkness, and it wasn’t the beast who suffered, but the people under his rule.  It’s an ongoing struggle that is both within our own inner life, within our spiritual community, and within our nation.  We face the conflict with purpose, with intention, and with the Spirit of Christ.

We remember that Babylon invaded Judah in several stages before it was taken.  Can we see through the propaganda, promises and pressure to the ways of manipulation, injustice, hatred, and division?  Can we stay true to what we believe and remember who we are: disciples of Jesus?  That is how we will resist and conquer the beasts.    Yes? 

Join me to pray:  Eternal Father may your will be done.  As we move from immaturity to maturity, may we have ears to hear your voice and let us be careful to discern the spirits.  We pray for your intervention in our lives, the lives of those you love, and for our nation.  Keep us from idols.  May your Kingdom come.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk Revelation 17:1-2

Intro: I’m going to begin with a quote by St. Augustine

In The City of God he traces two cities through world history
Augustine, “Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly [city] by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly [city] by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord.”
– John, the visionary, identifies the heavenly city as Jerusalem and the earthly city Babylon
• Babylon is featured in chapters 17 and 18, then in chapters 21-22 we visit the new Jerusalem
– Growing up, I was taught that in these chapters of Revelation, Babylon was the Roman Catholic Church
• this was reinforced in commentaries and books I read later on
◦ but one morning, reading these chapters, I said to myself, |
“This is not the Roman Catholic Church! If anything, it’s the USA.”
• now I realize that the city revealed exercises a worldwide and inescapable influence

One last time, we’ll review roots of spiritual Babylon

In the genealogy of Noah in Genesis, one person stands out:
Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD (Ge. 10:8-9)
– he caught God’s attention, but there’s no indication that he walked with God
The beginning of his kingdom was Babel . . . in the land of Shinar (Ge. 10:10)
• the region where the city of Babylon would be built many years later
◦ in the next chapter of Genesis we find the Tower of Babel
◦ the ambition of the builders was threefold:
1. that the top would reach into the heavens
2. that they would thereby make a name for themselves
3. to prevent them from being scattered from each other across the world
• to thwart their project, God cut off their communication with each other
◦ their confusion (Babel) prevented them from completing their project
◦ but the impulse that drove them was the same that drove Nimrod
Nimrod is a prototype
• he distinguished himself as a independent, legendary hero
• he made his own way through the world – relied fully on himself
Nimrod is also an antitype
• his is the mirror image of Abraham who is distinguished by his faith
Babylon is a prototype
• it is the epitome of all cities, civilization, and human enterprise
• Babylon is the embodiment of power, self-rule, and self-determination
Babylon is also an antitype
• it is the mirror image of Jerusalem, the holy city of God
Babylon is an antitype in another way
• In chapter 12, we saw that Israel was a mother who gave birth to the Messiah
• Babylon, on the other hand, is “the great prostitute”

John gets his first sight of Babylon
And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman siting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus
Revelation 17:3-6a

The actual city of Babylon was destroyed 600 years before John’s vision
– but it was still very much alive in Israel’s memory
• it was the monster that devoured Jerusalem
◦ that oppressed the Jews and dragged them into exile
• Babylon is depicted as a woman, is on the back of a beast
– the beast is the true face of the invisible political powers
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ep. 6:12)
• in verse 18, the Greek word that is translated “city” is polis – like a metropolis or, by extension, politics
• here is we see the underworld of political influence without its mask
◦ it is a beast – animalistic, predatory that uses its power to dominate, oppress, and acquire wealth
– in verse 2, earthlings are drunk on Babylon’s wine
• in verse 6, she is also drunk, with the blood of the saints, the blood of the witnesses of Jesus
• the earthly city rejects and excludes anyone and anything it cannot own or can’t seduce

The angel gives Babylon a title (like sometimes LA has the title, “The City of Angels”)
– her title: “the great prostitute” – this is a metaphor we find frequently in the Hebrew prophets
playing the whore with other gods was an extreme form of spiritual adultery (Jer. 3:6; Eze. 16:34)
• the in the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek,
◦ the same word for sexual immorality is used both there and here in Revelation
◦ that is why we interpret sexual immorality as infidelity to God
(Israel’s true husband and lover–i.e., Jer. 2:1-5 & 3:1)
Jacques Ellul, “Prostitution is the diabolical parody of love”
◦ like Samson, unlucky in love, settled for sex with a prostitute (Jdg. 16:1-3)
– prostitution turns sex into a commodity
• it is business – without commitment, without intimacy, without caring for the other person
• Babylon turns everything into a commodity – chapter 18
◦ the list of her merchandise includes the bodies and souls of humans
◦ when the world has your soul, you are owned
In the context of profit and loss, Jesus asks, For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Mt. 16:26)
◦ to lose your soul is to lose everything–and Babylon always strikes deals at the cost of a soul
• again, Babylon’s influence is like “wine” – a stimulant
◦ it intensifies passions, lowers inhibitions, affects thinking, and is addictive
• her forehead is tattooed with a name – as the Father’s name was imprinted on the 144,000, (Rev. 14:1)
◦ Babylon imitates God, because she intends to replace God
◦ therefore, she has
the forehead of a whore;
you refuse to be ashamed (Jer. 3:3)
◦ Babylon wears her name like an emblem of defiance

John’s first impression of Babylon
When I saw her, I marveled greatly. But the angel said to me, “Why do your marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her Revelation 17:6b-7

If you’ve ever visited a beautiful city for first time, you understand why John can’t help but be enamored
• whether it was Babylon’s wealth and splendor, its gross consumerism, or its brutality–he marveled
– I am not able to imagine the angel’s tone when he asked John, “Why do you marvel?”
• at first it sounds like a rebuke, but may be a simple question leading into an explanation
◦ he informs John about the beast behind world powers:
◦ what he is and what he does
• his seven heads are seven mountains – okay
◦ but then the seven heads are also seven kings
Jacques Ellul, “we find here again the plurality of meaning in symbols . . . . but at times the author gratuitously complicates the situation when he writes that the beast belongs to the seven but that it is nevertheless an eighth king”
• “kings” symbolize the political power of governments
◦ seven is the fullness of that power – complete control

The world rulers receive their kingdoms and authority from the beast
– but then, when they have firm control of their empires,
• they turn around and hand their power and authority over to beast
– when the beast receives the power of the nations, he goes to war against the Lamb
• it seems odd that in this role Jesus doesn’t appear as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”
◦ from the warfare perspective, not a lamb is not very impressive or frightening
• but Jesus has never been concerned with his “image”
◦ real power doesn’t need to sell itself to the crowds
the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings (v. 14)
◦ this part of the vision ends with a full statement regarding Babylon
And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth Revelation 17:18

I am currently reading through the Psalms
– when I read Psalm 2 this week, I realized it how it is like an illustration of this chapter in Revelation
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed [Messiah], saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
. . . .
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all those who take refute in him (Ps. 2:1-3 & 10-12)
In my meditation I wrote: “The nations are world governments. The kings and rulers are the political powers that run the governments. What is this uproar about, this casting their cords from us? It’s the ancient demand for autonomy that runs through human history. It is civilizations’ ‘will to power.’ From the Tower of Babel to the present day, we have defiantly proclaimed, ‘Our will be done!’
I’m thinking we need to be cautious of every human institution. Power doesn’t corrupt; power is neutral. People corrupt the potential uses of power–even people who start out with the best and most benevolent
intentions. In this context, every church is also a human institution. The problem that haunts us is that no institution can be any more perfect that the people who run it–and every institution is run by people.”

I am going to share three thoughts from chapter 18, then read through it aloud
(It doesn’t require much explanation, and if you’re reading these notes online, you can read the chapter aloud for yourself–you will get the same feeling from it as hearing it read)

First, we are shown the wealth, glory and cultural riches of Babylon
– luxury goods, fine foods, musical entertainment
• but it appears in the context of its destruction, ruin, and loss
• both Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied of literal Babylon, that it would become a ghost town:
a heap of ruins, the haunt of jackals,
a horror and a hissing, without inhabitant (Jer.51:37)

Second, notice the professions of those who mourn the destruction of Babylon:
Kings — merchants — and “suppliers” (that is, those who store and ship commodities and goods around the world)
– so this is the institutions of government, commerce, and by implication, economies

Third, some voices are telling us it’s our duty is to be more involved in Babylonian politics
– but a voice from heaven is telling us,
“Come out of her, my people
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues” (v. 4)
• there are some things you cannot touch without getting dirty
God’s promise to his homeless pioneers of faith: He “has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16)
• we’re also told, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14)

(Now read all of chapter 18)

Conclusion: I have been trying to live with greater awareness

I take walks with the goal of looking, listening, feeling, paying attention to my senses
Then I try to stretch my awareness beyond my senses
As I walk, I talk with Jesus – and I will keep silent too, trying to listen
I want to be sensitive to the quiet whisper of the Spirit
But I also want to discern the black holes of the earthly city
If I don’t see them, the chances are greater that I’ll get sucked into one of them
and black holes never return what they take

My counsel for all of us is beware, because
your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8)

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