"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60:4).
THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
Lesson Number 32
THE FALL OF BABYLON
By Given O. Blakely
HER SINS REACHED INTO HEAVEN
"For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities." Again, the language is taken from Moses and the Prophets. This is a way of saying the time of judgment has come. It is also a way of saying the offenders have become so repulsive to God, He can no longer bear them. This is an aspect of the Lord that is unfamiliar to religious multitudes. They have been led to believe the longsuffering of God is endless. But they are wrong.
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because their sins had become "very grievous," coming up "unto" the Lord (Gen 18:20-21). Ezra fervently prayed for mercy from the Lord because he knew the "trespass" of Israel had "grown up into the heavens" (Ezra 9:6). The Lord sent Jonah to Nineveh because "their wickedness" had "come up before" Him (Jonah 1:2). This is another way of saying the cup of iniquity has become full (Gen 15:16). There came a time when the people in a plain in the land of Shinar went too far. They aspired to build a tower that reached into heaven, making a name for themselves. They thus pushed God's longsuffering to its limit, and He abruptly terminated their effort (Gen 11:1-8).
There Comes A Time
There does come a time when the longsuffering of an infinite God comes to an end. God is eternal, but His longsuffering is not! The Divine tolerance of sin and sinners by no means suggests they are acceptable. One aspect of the Lord's longsuffering is seen in His desire that all come to repentance. As it is written, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet 3:9). But this is NOT case with spiritual Babylon.
A word most appropriate for this situation is found in Romans 9:22-23. "What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory." The vessels of reference were not salvageable, yet were endured for the sake of "the vessels of mercy." It is the same principle revealed in the parable of the tares of the field. The tares, if removed prematurely, would cause the destruction of some wheat. At some point, the wheat and the tares were indistinguishable. So it is with "Babylon the great." There is a time when the people of God are scattered throughout the wicked city. But when the sin of Babylon reaches its fullness, and can no longer be endured by the Lord, her destruction will take place.
What, therefore, appears to be Divine toleration, is actually the filling of a cup of wrath by the unfaithful. The Lord is not kindly disposed toward Babylon at all, but only enduring her until her wicked ways reach their apex. This is precisely the circumstance Jesus described when He spoke of individuals who did not believe on Him. "He who does not believe is condemned already . . . He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:18,36). By saying the wrath of God "abides on him," the Lord means it hovers over the unbeliever like a storm cloud, ready to erupt at any moment. Some choose to identify that circumstance as God's love for the individual. Scripture rather represents it as the Divine toleration of the person. It is a subduing of the Divine nature which is offended and grieved by the very person endured. This is the circumstance with Babylon.
The Language of Jeremiah
The language of our text is couched in the language of the prophets. The prophesy of the fall of political Babylon is attended with language remarkably like that of our text. "We would have healed Babylon, But she is not healed. Forsake her, and let us go everyone to his own country; For her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies" (Jer 51:9). The children of Israel were held captives in Babylon, yet their circumstances remained somewhat tolerable. That captivity was not like the one they experienced in Egypt. Here, they were told to pray for the peace of the city in which they were held (Jer 29:7). The great prophet Daniel exercised remarkable influence during that captivity. Yet, with all of the prayers and influence, Babylon was not healed. It kept its gods, and maintained its godless ways.
Let it be clear, the failure of spiritual Babylon to be pleasing to God is not owing to a lack of exposure to truth. It is not because efforts have not been expended to change her, and infuse her with life. Countless multitudes of God's people cry out, "We would have healed Babylon!" The great Reformers would have healed her! Myriads within her institutional walls have sought her spiritual health. I doubt there has ever been a dead and lifeless church that has lacked a person burdened because of its condition. Both young and old, learned and unlearned, gifted and ungifted, have sought to heal Babylon. Yet it is as true with corrupt religion as it was with the corrupt government of Babylon of old: "SHE IS NOT HEALED!"
Now, after all of the effort spent on her healing, her judgment "reaches to heaven, and is lifted up to the skies." Her wickedness is confirmed by her failure to respond to those who would have healed her. The concerned were serious and fervent in their efforts. Their labors were extensive and prolonged, yet yielded no essential change in the institution for which they were concerned. Now God calls His people out of her. Judgment time has come! It cannot be circumvented, and no further labors will be allowed within Babylon. The time of Divine forbearance has come to a close!
An Unknown Kingdom Trait
This aspect of the Kingdom was affirmed by Jesus when He was among us. When He sent out the twelve he said, "And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!" (Matt 10:14). The same direction was given to the seventy. "But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you. But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city" (Lk 10:10-12). I do not believe there is any word of Scripture that suggests this is now inappropriate.
Paul also followed this procedure. In Antioch of Pisidia, Paul reasoned extensively with the Jews of a local synagogue concerning Christ. When they rejected his words, Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly. "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46). Later, when adversarial Jews stirred up devote women and the chief men of the city against Paul and Barnabas, they were expelled from the city. They did not seek to return. Rather, it is written, "they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium" (Acts 13:51).
Satan has persuaded some that modifying their message, reducing its power, will somehow produce conversion among sinners. Thus we hear of seeker-friendly churches and services. Some are audacious enough to remove any obvious reference to Christ and salvation in order to avoid offending the ungodly--those who are themselves an offense to God. In so doing, they have only identified themselves with Babylon the great. No such procedure has ever been followed by those sent by God. Moses, the holy Prophets, John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostles, are NEVER said to have adopted such a strategy. It is a human innovation.
It may be countered that Paul "became all things to all men" (1 Cor 9:22). In every case of record, however, this was done where the people already had a commitment to Christ, but were limited in their understanding. Paul shaved his head and took a temple vow to reach men who were already committed to the Lord, but lacked understanding (Acts 21:20-24). Neither Jesus nor Paul ever accommodated themselves to Pilate, Herod, or the Pharisees--even though they doubtless longed for their salvation.
Some Things Must Not Be Tolerated
Where religious corruption and a lack of devotion exist, no accommodation is allowed. Moses did not do it. The prophets did not do it. John the Baptist did not do it. Jesus did not do it. The Apostles did not do it. And, we must not do it. Our hearts long for the enlightenment and healing of Babylon. We are not content with its lifeless institutionalism and spiritual pretension. Yet it remains true, and we must acknowledge it, "she is not healed!" She has not changed, and has not improved. She remains unfaithful and corrupt.%%detect_both%%
"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately" (Lk. 12:35-36).