“Flee out of the Midst of Babylon”
1. (a) How can we know what kind of worship is pleasing to God? (b) From what does God urge us to flee?
MANY persons have gone from one religion to another, searching for satisfying answers to their questions about life. They find certain similarities in beliefs and practices, also many differences. But it is only by using God’s own Word as the guide that anyone can be sure which answers are true and what practices are really pleasing to God. By means of the Bible, the Creator acquaints us with himself and his purpose. He also exposes to our view the roots of false worship. In so doing, he warns us against what he describes as “Babylon the Great” and urges us to “flee” out of the midst of her. Have you heeded that warning?—Revelation 18:4, 21; Jeremiah 51:6.
2. What is “Babylon the Great”?
2 What is “Babylon the Great”? Viewed collectively, all religions that advocate attitudes, beliefs or practices that have their roots in the religion of ancient Babylon make up Babylon the Great. Its identifying traits can therefore be determined by examining the origin and religion of ancient Babylon itself.
3. (a) How did ancient Babylon get its start, and what spirit did its founder encourage? (b) In what ways is that spirit reflected in religions today?
3 Well over a century after the Flood of Noah’s day, the city of Babel (later called Babylon) was built around a tower—a project evidently promoted by Nimrod. This Nimrod engendered in his associates a spirit of rebellion against Jehovah and a desire to seek prominence for themselves. (Genesis 10:9, 10; 11:1-9) Do you observe that spirit today—a disregard for God’s Word, even on the part of those claiming to be religious, and the use of religion to draw attention to self or even to gain prominence?
4. How has Babylonish religion distorted the truth about God himself?
4 Triads of gods were prominent in Babylonian religion. There was the triad made up of Anu, Bel and Ea; another included Sin, Shamash and Ishtar. Additionally, images filled Babylon’s places of worship. All of this diverted attention from the fact that there is only one true God, whose name is Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 4:39; John 17:3) The qualities and conduct attributed to their gods, together with the use of lifeless images, gave many people a distorted view of the Creator.—Jeremiah 10:10, 14; 50:1, 38; 1 Corinthians 10:14, 19-22.
5. (a) How was Babylonian belief about death really an embellishment of Satan’s lie to Eve? (b) To what other teachings has this led?
5 The Babylonians believed that death was merely passage to another kind of life, but this contradicted what God had told our first parents. Greek philosophers enlarged on this idea, saying that humans have an immortal soul. The Devil’s first lie was that if Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they ‘positively would not die’ in the flesh. Now people were being told that what lived forever was an inside part of them that they could not see. This false teaching led to belief in hellfire, purgatory, ancestor worship and much more.—Genesis 3:1-5; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Ezekiel 18:4.
6. (a) What other practices that are common today have their roots in Babylonian religion? (b) How serious is this?
6 Babylonian religion also included the practice of astrology, divination, magic and sorcery, by means of which people have sought supernatural guidance that could be used to enrich themselves and control others. (Daniel 2:27; Ezekiel 21:21) How common these practices are today, though all of them are warned against in the Bible! By engaging in them, people have played directly into the hands of demonic spirits, who exact a cruel price for the favors they grant.—Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Isaiah 8:19; Acts 16:16; Revelation 18:21, 23.
7. What evidence do you see that Babylon the Great (a) has illicit relations with political rulers? (b) has great riches? (c) is responsible for bloodshed?
7 Further identifying Babylon the Great, the Bible tells of her illicit relations with political rulers, her wealth and her responsibility for bloodshed, including that of God’s true servants. (Revelation 17:1-6; 18:24) The record of the world’s religions in these respects is well known.
HOW GREAT IS YOUR LOVE FOR TRUTH?
8. Who really is the god of Babylon the Great?
8 If a person belongs to any part of Babylon the Great, shares in her celebrations or imitates her ways, who is thus honored? Certainly not Jehovah. Instead, such a person is, in effect, bowing before “the god of this system of things,” the one who has blinded the minds of mankind.—2 Corinthians 4:4.
9. How has it been possible for Satan to mislead so many people religiously?
9 But how has it been possible for so many people to be misled in this manner? The Bible answers that they have fallen victim to Satan’s snare “because they did not accept the love of the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12) This should not surprise us. How many people do you know who always speak the truth—at home, in business, when confronted with their own shortcomings? When shown what the Bible, God’s word of truth, says, how many are willing to abandon their former beliefs or customs, even to change their life-style, to conform to it? Are you?
10. (a) For what kind of persons is Jehovah looking? (b) How can we show that we are that kind of person?
10 Jehovah is looking for people who have such love for the truth. He himself is “the God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5) The teachings of his Word are not imagination. They are the truth. To a woman in Samaria, Jesus said: “True worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) Is that the kind of person you want to be?
GOD’S PROVISION FOR LIBERATION
11. (a) What is foretold at Isaiah 49:8, 9? (b) When did that have its first fulfillment? (c) Why is it of interest to us?
11 To provide guidance for us, Jehovah long ago had recorded in the Bible a promise of deliverance from the oppressive control of Babylon. It had a fulfillment when Cyrus the Great liberated the Jews, as well as the non-Israelite Nethinim, so they could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of Jehovah. But that was not all there was to it. What took place then pointed to further deliverance through the Greater Cyrus, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our following his directions safeguards us against being misled by men who seek only prominence for themselves. To Jesus in particular applied the prophecy that says: “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘In a time of goodwill I have answered you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you; and I kept safeguarding you that I might give you as a covenant for the people, to rehabilitate the land, to bring about the repossessing of the desolated hereditary possessions, to say to the prisoners, “Come out!” to those who are in the darkness, “Reveal yourselves!”’” (Isaiah 49:8, 9) How was this fulfilled in Jesus?
12. (a) How was that prophecy fulfilled in Jesus? (Luke 4:16-18) (b) What encouragement is there in this for us?
12 Jehovah answered Jesus’ prayers. He did help and safeguard his Son as Jesus courageously exposed religious falsehood and made known ‘the truth that would set men free.’ (John 8:32) Despite satanic efforts to destroy Jesus, Jehovah preserved his Son until his work on earth was done. Then he raised Jesus to immortal life in heaven, there to continue his work of liberation. God gave him as a “covenant,” or pledge, that there would be a freeing of people from bondage to Babylon the Great. Just as surely as there is a resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ in heaven, so too it is certain that right-hearted people will be delivered from the religious darkness of Babylon the Great. Will you benefit from that deliverance?
13. From 36 C.E. onward, how did Jesus prove to be “a light of the nations”?
13 Regarding the extent of the liberation, Jehovah foretold: “I also have given you for a light of the nations, that my salvation may come to be to the extremity of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6) Hence, in 36 C.E. Gentiles, or people of non-Jewish nations, began to be brought into the congregation of spiritual Israel. The adding of Gentiles to the spirit-anointed Christian congregation, however, was not the full extent to which Jesus would serve as “a light of the nations.”
14. (a) For whom else from “the nations” was Jesus to be a light? (b) By what groups that left ancient Babylon were these foreshadowed? (c) What spiritual blessings do they already enjoy, in fulfillment of Isaiah 49:10?
14 Jesus knew that he would also gather “other sheep” who would enjoy eternal life on earth. (John 10:16) They were foreshadowed by the non-Israelite Nethinim and sons of the servants of Solomon who joined the Jews in 537 B.C.E. in their exodus from Babylon. (Ezra 2:1, 43-58) Already a great crowd of these in modern times have heeded the command to “come out” of Babylon the Great. These now enjoy the refreshing spiritual blessings foretold at Isaiah 49:10: “They will not go hungry, neither will they go thirsty, nor will parching heat or sun strike them. For the One who is having pity upon them will lead them, and by the springs of water he will conduct them.” At Revelation 7:9, 16, 17, these blessings are appropriately applied to the “great crowd” of “other sheep.”
“GET OUT OF HER, MY PEOPLE”
15. Why does the Bible urge those who would be God’s people to get out of Babylon the Great?
15 In an inspired vision the apostle John was shown what execution of God’s judgment would mean for Babylon the Great. In view of the certainty of it, an angel out of heaven, speaking for God, urged: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues. For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind.”—Revelation 18:4, 5.
16. What may indicate whether we have really heeded that command?
16 The members of spiritual Israel have heeded that command, and now they urge others to do the same. They know that if a person is mixing true worship with false, he cannot please God. If anyone associates with Jehovah’s Witnesses but still has not cut his ties with Babylon the Great, how can he say that he is no part of her? Even if he never attends her religious services, yet if he shares in her religious holidays at his place of employment or with his relatives, he is still touching what is unclean. (Isaiah 52:11) If he participates in family traditions that reflect belief in immortality of the soul or superstitious fear of evil spirits, he still is sharing in her sins. We cannot sit on the fence. If we believe that Jehovah is the true God, then we must serve only him.—1 Kings 18:21.
17. (a) As shown at Revelation 14:6, 7, what are people everywhere being invited to do? (b) To worship Jehovah acceptably, what other command must they obey?
17 To people of every nation and tribe and tongue the appealing invitation is being extended: Join in the worship of Jehovah, the only true God! (Revelation 14:6, 7) To do so, you must also imitate God’s ancient servants who heeded the command: “Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and provide escape each one for his own soul.”—Jeremiah 51:6.