False Religion Rides to Its Destruction!
IN ORDER to find out if this world’s religions are near their end, let us scrutinize one of the Bible’s most dramatic prophecies. It is about the mysterious symbolic woman described in the Bible’s last book, Revelation.
Can you visualize a woman who has reigned as a queen over the nations, influencing the lives of billions of people all through history—a wealthy woman who is gorgeously arrayed in purple and scarlet, richly adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls? On her forehead is written a long name, a mystery: “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” She is unmistakably marked by her tough, promiscuous life, having committed “fornication” with the rulers of the world. Her sins have piled up to heaven. She is riding on a monstrous, seven-headed, ten-horned, scarlet-colored wild beast.—Revelation 17:1-6; 18:5.
If you can visualize this woman, you have an idea of the principal character in the prophetic drama that Jesus’ apostle John saw in a vision given him through an angel. He vividly describes it in Revelation chapters 17 and 18. Read these chapters in your own Bible. You will be able to follow the sequence of events from the exposing of the identity of this mysterious woman to her fatal end.
Identifying the Harlot
A clue to understanding her identity is found in the two things on which the harlot-queen symbolically sits. At Revelation 17:18, she is described as “the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.” This allows her to sit on “many waters,” which mean “peoples and crowds and nations and tongues,” as shown at Revelation 17:1, 15. According to Re 17 verse 3 in the same chapter, she is also seen sitting on a seven-headed wild beast—beasts being commonly used in the Bible as symbols of worldly political powers, or organizations.
This indicates that the harlot, Babylon the Great, is the embodiment of an exalted empire, one that dominates other authorities and their subjects. This can only be the empire of the world’s false religions.
The influence of religious leaders on matters of state policy and politics is a well-known part of history. The World Book Encyclopedia states: “After the fall of the West Roman Empire [5th century], the pope had more authority than any other person in Europe. . . . The pope exercised political as well as spiritual authority. In 800, Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish ruler Charlemagne [Charles the Great] emperor of the Romans. . . . Leo III had established the pope’s right to make an emperor’s authority lawful.”
The authority that the Catholic Church and its “princes” wielded over rulers was further exemplified by cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1475?-1530). He is described as “the most powerful person in England for many years.” Under the rule of King Henry VIII, he “soon was the controlling figure in all matters of state. . . . He lived in royal splendor and reveled in his power.” The encyclopedia account continues: “Cardinal Wolsey spent his great abilities as a statesman and administrator mainly in managing England’s foreign affairs for Henry VIII.”
Another outstanding example of Catholic authority over secular matters of state is Cardinal Richelieu of France (1585-1642), who “for more than 18 years . . . was the actual ruler of France.” The previously quoted source states: “He was extremely ambitious and soon became impatient for higher office.” He was made a cardinal in 1622 “and soon became the leading influence in the French government.” Apparently, he was a man of action, for “he led the royal army in person at the siege of La Rochelle.” The article adds: “Richelieu’s greatest interest was in foreign affairs.”
The Vatican’s continued involvement with the political authorities is clearly seen by the constant announcements in the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano of foreign diplomats presenting their credentials to the sovereign pope. Evidently the Vatican has a network of loyal Catholics who can keep the pope informed on political and diplomatic developments worldwide.
Many more examples could be given to illustrate the powerful influence of religious leaders—both inside and outside Christendom—in the political affairs of this world. The fact that the symbolic harlot sits on all the “many waters” (representing “peoples and crowds and nations”) and on the wild beast (representing all political world powers) also suggests that her influence over peoples, nations, and powers is of a different, loftier nature than mere political dominion. Let us see what kind it is.
Part of the long name on her forehead was “Babylon the Great.” It is a reference to ancient Babylon, established some 4,000 years ago by Nimrod, who was “in opposition to Jehovah,” the true God. (Genesis 10:8-10) Her bearing this name indicates that she is a magnified image of ancient Babylon, with similar facets. What facets? Ancient Babylon was permeated with mystic religion, debased traditions, idol worship, magic, astrology, and superstition—all of which are condemned by Jehovah’s Word.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology says that in the 18th century B.C.E., Marduk was made “the city god of Babylon, and so the head of the Sumerian-Accad. pantheon of some 1300 deities. It brought all the religious traditions into one system. . . . In Gen. 11:1-9 the architecture of the giant temple of Babylon is stigmatized as the expression of human pride that wishes to storm heaven.”
Thus, ancient Babylon was the focal point of false religion, which in course of time infected the whole world. Babylonish religious practices, doctrines, traditions, and symbols have permeated all parts of the earth and are reflected in the hodgepodge of the world’s many thousands of religions. Political kingdoms and empires have risen and fallen, but Babylonish religion has survived them all.
Why Is Execution So Near?
As has been frequently explained in previous issues of this magazine, Bible prophecy and the world-shaking events since 1914 unmistakably indicate that we are now living in “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) This means that the end of the beastly world system is quickly drawing near, as is the end of the ten-horned “scarlet-colored wild beast,” on which the harlot is now riding. (Revelation 17:3) This beast evidently represents the political conglomerate of almost all the nations on earth—the United Nations. The foretold end means the elimination of divisive, ungodly political rule over mankind. But what about the harlot-queen riding on the beast?
God’s angel explains: “The ten horns that you saw, and the wild beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire. For God put it into their hearts to carry out his thought, even to carry out their one thought by giving their kingdom to the wild beast, until the words of God will have been accomplished.”—Revelation 17:16, 17.
Thus the prophecy shows that shortly before the political wild beast goes off into destruction, it will begin to hate its rider and turn against her. Why? Rulers and governments will evidently feel that their power and authority are being threatened by organized religion operating within their boundaries. Suddenly, urged by an impelling force, they will carry out God’s “thought,” his decision, by executing his judgment on the adulterous, bloodstained world empire of false religion.*—Compare Jeremiah 7:8-11, 34.
The end of this world’s false religions will come while they are still seemingly vigorous and influential. Yes, the prophecy shows that just before the harlot is destroyed, she will still be saying in her heart: “I sit a queen, and I am no widow, and I shall never see mourning.” (Revelation 18:7) However, her destruction will come as a surprise to her billions of subjects. It will be one of the most unexpected and catastrophic events in human history.
Ever since the emergence of ancient Babylon, false religions have exercised a tremendous influence on humanity through their leaders and supporters; their doctrines, traditions, and practices; their numerous imposing buildings for worship; and their incredible riches. They will certainly not disappear unnoticed. Therefore, the angel entrusted with conveying the message of judgment upon the harlot does not mince words when he declares: “In one day her plagues will come, death and mourning and famine, and she will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.” So Babylon the Great’s end will come like a bolt from the blue and will pass by quickly, as if “in one day.”—Revelation 18:8; Isaiah 47:8, 9, 11.
The angel’s strong words lead to the question, Will there be any religion left at all, and if so, which one and why? What does prophecy show? This will be dealt with in the next article.
For a detailed consideration of these prophecies, see Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!, chapter 33, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Christendom’s Bloodguilt in Africa
At Revelation 18:24, the Bible says that in Babylon the Great is found the blood of “all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” Think of the wars that have been fought because of religious differences and because of the failure of religious leaders to avert them. A recent example of this was evident in Rwanda’s genocide, in which some 500,000 people were murdered—one third of them children.
Canadian author Hugh McCullum reports from Rwanda: “A Hutu priest in Kigali [Rwanda] says the failure of the church to provide moral leadership is inexplicable. The position of the bishops in Rwandese society should have been enormously important. They knew of the impending disaster long before the killings were unleashed. Church pulpits could have provided an opportunity for almost the entire population to hear a strong message that could have prevented the genocide. Instead the leaders remained silent.”
After the worst massacre in 1994, Justin Hakizimana, a church elder, said at a small meeting held in a Presbyterian church in Kigali: “The church went hand-in-hand with the politics of Habyarimana [president of Rwanda]. We did not condemn what was going on because we were corrupted. None of our churches, especially the Catholics, has condemned the massacres.”
Aaron Mugemera, a church pastor, said at another meeting in Rwanda after the genocide: “The church is in shame. . . . We have had killings here since 1959. No one condemned them. . . . We did not speak out because we were afraid, and because we were comfortable.”
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This “harlot” affects the whole world
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