“Babylon the Great Has Fallen!”
1. What does the second angel announce, and who is Babylon the Great?
IT IS the hour of God’s judgment! Listen, then, to the divine message: “And another, a second angel, followed, saying: ‘She has fallen! Babylon the Great has fallen, she who made all the nations drink of the wine of the anger of her fornication!’” (Revelation 14:8) For the first time, but not the last, Revelation focuses attention on Babylon the Great. Later, chapter 17 will describe her as a voluptuous harlot. Who is she? As we shall see, she is a global empire, she is religious, and she is Satan’s counterfeit system that he uses in fighting against the seed of God’s woman. (Revelation 12:17) Babylon the Great is the entire world empire of false religion. She includes all religions that preserve the religious teachings and practices of ancient Babylon and that manifest her spirit.
2. (a) How was it that Babylonish religion was scattered to all parts of the earth? (b) What is the most prominent segment of Babylon the Great, and when did it emerge as a powerful organization?
2 It was at Babylon, more than 4,000 years ago, that Jehovah confused the tongues of the would-be builders of the Tower of Babel. The different language groups were scattered to the ends of the earth, taking with them the apostate beliefs and practices that are the basis of most religions to this day. (Genesis 11:1-9) Babylon the Great is the religious part of Satan’s organization. (Compare John 8:43-47.) Her most prominent segment today is apostate Christendom, which emerged as a powerful, lawless organization in the fourth century after Christ, with creeds and formalisms derived, not from the Bible, but largely from Babylonish religion.—2 Thessalonians 2:3-12.
3. How can it be said that Babylon the Great has fallen?
3 You may ask, ‘Since religion still exercises great influence in the earth, why does the angel announce that Babylon the Great has fallen?’ Well, what resulted after 539 B.C.E. when ancient Babylon fell? Why, Israel was freed to return to its homeland and restore true worship there! So the restoration of spiritual Israel in 1919 to a radiant spiritual prosperity, which continues and expands to this day, stands as evidence that Babylon the Great fell in that year. No longer does she have power of restraint over God’s people. Moreover, she has come into deep trouble within her own ranks. Since 1919 her corruption, dishonesty, and immorality have been widely exposed. In most of Europe, few people go to church anymore, and in some socialistic countries, religion is regarded as “the opium of the people.” Disgraced in the eyes of all lovers of God’s Word of truth, Babylon the Great now waits on death row, as it were, for the execution of Jehovah’s righteous judgment on her.
Babylon’s Disgraceful Fall
4-6. How is it that “Babylon the Great . . . made all the nations drink of the wine of the anger of her fornication”?
4 Let us examine in more detail the circumstances surrounding the disgraceful fall of Babylon the Great. The angel here tells us that “Babylon the Great . . . made all the nations drink of the wine of the anger of her fornication.” What does this mean? It relates to conquest. For example, Jehovah told Jeremiah: “Take this cup of the wine of rage out of my hand, and you must make all the nations to whom I am sending you drink it. And they must drink and shake back and forth and act like crazed men because of the sword that I am sending among them.” (Jeremiah 25:15, 16) In the sixth and seventh centuries B.C.E., Jehovah used ancient Babylon to pour out a symbolic cup of tribulation for many nations to drink, including apostate Judah, so that even his own people were taken into exile. Then, in her turn, Babylon fell because her king exalted himself against Jehovah, “the Lord of the heavens.”—Daniel 5:23.
5 Babylon the Great has also made conquests, but for the most part, these have been more subtle. She has “made all the nations drink” by using the wiles of a prostitute, committing religious fornication with them. She has enticed political rulers into alliances and friendships with her. Through religious allurements, she has schemed political, commercial, and economic oppression. She has fomented religious persecution and religious wars and crusades, as well as national wars, for purely political and commercial reasons. And she has sanctified these wars by saying they are God’s will.
6 Religion’s involvement in the wars and politics of the 20th century is common knowledge—as in Shinto Japan, Hindu India, Buddhist Vietnam, “Christian” Northern Ireland and Latin America, as well as others—not to overlook the army chaplains’ part on both sides of the two world wars in urging young men to slaughter one another. A classic example of the philandering of Babylon the Great is the share she had in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, in which at least 600,000 people were killed. This bloodspilling was provoked by supporters of the Catholic clergy and their allies, in part because the wealth and position of the church was threatened by Spain’s legal government.
7. Who has been the main target of Babylon the Great, and what methods has she used against this target?
7 Since Babylon the Great is the religious part of Satan’s seed, she has always made Jehovah’s “woman,” “Jerusalem above,” her main target. In the first century, the congregation of anointed Christians was clearly identified as the woman’s seed. (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 3:29; 4:26) Babylon the Great tried hard to conquer that chaste congregation by seducing it into committing religious fornication. The apostles Paul and Peter warned that many would succumb and a great apostasy would result. (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Peter 2:1-3) Jesus’ messages to the seven congregations indicated that toward the end of John’s life, Babylon the Great was making some progress in her efforts to corrupt. (Revelation 2:6, 14, 15, 20-23) But Jesus had already shown how far she would be permitted to go.
The Wheat and the Weeds
8, 9. (a) What did Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds indicate? (b) What happened “while men were sleeping”?
8 In his parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus spoke of a man who sowed fine seed in a field. But “while men were sleeping,” an enemy came and oversowed weeds. Hence, the wheat came to be obscured by the weeds. Jesus explained his parable in these words: “The sower of the fine seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; as for the fine seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one, and the enemy that sowed them is the Devil.” He then showed that the wheat and the weeds would be allowed to grow together until “the conclusion of the system of things,” when the angels would “collect out” the symbolic weeds.—Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.
9 What Jesus and the apostles Paul and Peter warned about happened. “While men were sleeping,” either after the apostles fell asleep in death or when Christian overseers became drowsy in guarding the flock of God, Babylonish apostasy sprouted right inside the congregation. (Acts 20:31) Soon the weeds greatly outnumbered the wheat and hid it from view. For a number of centuries, it might have appeared that the seed of the woman had been completely engulfed by the voluminous skirts of Babylon the Great.
10. What took place by the 1870’s, and how did Babylon the Great react to this?
10 By the 1870’s anointed Christians began to make determined efforts to disassociate themselves from the whorish ways of Babylon the Great. They abandoned false doctrines that Christendom had brought in from paganism and boldly used the Bible in preaching that the times of the Gentiles would end in 1914. The chief instrument of Babylon the Great, the clergy of Christendom, opposed these stirrings of restoration of true worship. During the first world war, they took advantage of wartime hysteria to try to stamp out that small group of faithful Christians. In 1918, when their activities were almost completely suppressed, it appeared that Babylon the Great had succeeded. She seemed to have triumphed over them.
11. What resulted from the fall of ancient Babylon?
11 As we previously noted, the proud city of Babylon experienced a disastrous fall from power in 539 B.C.E. Then the cry was heard: “She has fallen! Babylon has fallen!” The great seat of the world empire had fallen to the armies of Medo-Persia under Cyrus the Great. Although the city itself survived the conquest, her fall from power was real, and it resulted in the release of her Jewish captives. They returned to Jerusalem to reestablish pure worship there.—Isaiah 21:9; 2 Chronicles 36:22, 23; Jeremiah 51:7, 8.
12. (a) In our time, how can it be said that Babylon the Great has fallen? (b) What proves that Jehovah has utterly rejected Christendom?
12 In our time the cry that Babylon the Great has fallen has also been heard! Babylonish Christendom’s temporary success in 1918 was sharply reversed in 1919 when the remnant of anointed ones, the John class, was restored by a spiritual resurrection. Babylon the Great had fallen as far as having any captive hold on God’s people was concerned. Like locusts, Christ’s anointed brothers swarmed out of the abyss, ready for action. (Revelation 9:1-3; 11:11, 12) They were the modern “faithful and discreet slave,” and the Master appointed them over all his belongings on earth. (Matthew 24:45-47) Their being used in this way proved that Jehovah had utterly rejected Christendom despite her claim to be his representative on earth. Pure worship was reestablished, and the way was open to complete the work of sealing the remnant of the 144,000—the remaining ones of the seed of the woman, the age-old enemy of Babylon the Great. All of this signaled a crushing defeat for that satanic religious organization.
Endurance for the Holy Ones
13. (a) What does the third angel announce? (b) What judgment does Jehovah make of those who receive the mark of the wild beast?
13 Now the third angel speaks. Listen! “And another angel, a third, followed them, saying in a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the wild beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will also drink of the wine of the anger of God that is poured out undiluted into the cup of his wrath.’” (Revelation 14:9, 10a) At Revelation 13:16, 17, it was revealed that during the Lord’s day those who do not worship the image of the wild beast would suffer—even be killed. Now we learn that Jehovah has determined to bring to judgment those “having the mark, the name of the wild beast or the number of its name.” They will be forced to drink a bitter ‘cup of wrath’ of Jehovah’s anger. What will this mean for them? In 607 B.C.E., when Jehovah forced Jerusalem to drink “his cup of rage,” the city experienced “despoiling and breakdown, and hunger and sword” at the hands of the Babylonians. (Isaiah 51:17, 19) Similarly, when idolizers of earth’s political powers and their image, the United Nations, get to drink the cup of Jehovah’s wrath, the result will be a calamity for them. (Jeremiah 25:17, 32, 33) They will be utterly destroyed.
14. Even before the destruction of those who worship the wild beast and its image, what must such ones undergo, and how does John describe this?
14 Even before that happens, however, those with the mark of the beast have to undergo the tormenting effects of Jehovah’s disapproval. Speaking of the worshipper of the wild beast and its image, the angel informs John: “And he shall be tormented with fire and sulphur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever, and day and night they have no rest, those who worship the wild beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”—Revelation 14:10b, 11.
15, 16. What is the import of the words “fire and sulphur” at Revelation 14:10?
15 Some have viewed the mention here of fire and sulfur (“fire and brimstone,” King James Version) as a proof of the existence of a hellfire. But a brief look at a similar prophecy shows the real import of these words in this context. Back in the days of Isaiah, Jehovah warned the nation of Edom that they would be punished because of their enmity toward Israel. He said: “Her torrents must be changed into pitch, and her dust into sulphur; and her land must become as burning pitch. By night or by day it will not be extinguished; to time indefinite its smoke will keep ascending. From generation to generation she will be parched; forever and ever no one will be passing across her.”—Isaiah 34:9, 10.
16 Was Edom hurled into some mythical hellfire to burn forever? Of course not. Rather, the nation completely disappeared from the world scene as if she had been totally consumed with fire and sulfur. The final result of the punishment was not everlasting torment but “emptiness . . . wasteness . . . nothing.” (Isaiah 34:11, 12) The smoke ‘ascending to time indefinite’ vividly illustrates this. When a house burns down, smoke keeps coming from the ashes for some time after the flames have died down, providing onlookers with evidence that there has been a destructive conflagration. Even today God’s people remember the lesson to be learned from the destruction of Edom. In this way ‘the smoke of her burning’ is still ascending in a symbolic way.
17, 18. (a) What is the outcome for those who receive the mark of the wild beast? (b) In what way is it that worshippers of the wild beast are tormented? (c) How is it that “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever”?
17 Those who have the mark of the wild beast will also be destroyed completely, as if by fire. As the prophecy later reveals, their dead bodies will be left unburied for animals and birds to eat. (Revelation 19:17, 18) So, clearly, they are not being literally tortured forever! How are they “tormented with fire and sulphur”? In that the proclamation of truth exposes them and warns them of God’s coming judgment. Therefore they vilify God’s people and, where possible, slyly persuade the political wild beast to persecute and even kill Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a climax, these opposers will be destroyed as with fire and brimstone. Then “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever” in that God’s judgment of them will serve as a touchstone if ever again Jehovah’s rightful sovereignty is challenged. That issue will have been settled for all eternity.
18 Who deliver the tormenting message today? Remember, the symbolic locusts have authority to torment the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. (Revelation 9:5) Evidently, these ones under angelic direction are the tormentors. Such is the persistence of the symbolic locusts that “day and night they have no rest, those who worship the wild beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” And finally, after their destruction, the monumental evidence of that vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty, “the smoke of their torment,” will ascend forever and ever. May the John class endure until that vindication is complete! As the angel concludes: “Here is where it means endurance for the holy ones, those who observe the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”—Revelation 14:12.
19. Why is endurance required on the part of the holy ones, and what does John report that strengthens them?
19 Yes, “endurance for the holy ones” means their worshipping Jehovah in exclusive devotion through Jesus Christ. Their message is not popular. It leads to opposition, persecution, even martyrdom. But they are strengthened by what John next reports: “And I heard a voice out of heaven say: ‘Write: Happy are the dead who die in union with the Lord from this time onward. Yes, says the spirit, let them rest from their labors, for the things they did go right with them.’”—Revelation 14:13.
20. (a) How does the promise reported by John harmonize with Paul’s prophecy about Jesus’ presence? (b) Those of the anointed who die after Satan’s ouster from heaven are promised what special privilege?
20 This promise harmonizes well with Paul’s prophecy concerning Jesus’ presence: “Those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. Afterward we the living who are surviving [those of the anointed ones who survive into the Lord’s day] will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) After Satan’s ouster from heaven, those who were dead in union with Christ rose first. (Compare Revelation 6:9-11.) Afterward, those of the anointed ones who die during the Lord’s day are promised a special privilege. Their resurrection to spirit life in heaven is instantaneous, “in the twinkling of an eye.” (1 Corinthians 15:52) How marvelous this is! And their works of righteousness continue right on in the heavenly realm.
Harvest of the Earth
21. What does John tell us about “the harvest of the earth”?
21 Others are also to benefit in this day of judgment, as John goes on to tell us: “And I saw, and, look! a white cloud, and upon the cloud someone seated like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel [the fourth] emerged from the temple sanctuary, crying with a loud voice to the one seated on the cloud: ‘Put your sickle in and reap, because the hour has come to reap, for the harvest of the earth is thoroughly ripe.’ And the one seated on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.”—Revelation 14:14-16.
22. (a) Who is the one wearing a golden crown and seated upon the white cloud? (b) When does the climax of the harvesting take place, and how?
22 The identity of the one seated on the white cloud is not in doubt. Seated on a white cloud, resembling a son of man and with a golden crown, he is clearly Jesus, the Messianic King that Daniel also saw in vision. (Daniel 7:13, 14; Mark 14:61, 62) But what is the harvest here prophesied? While on earth, Jesus likened the discipling work to the harvesting of the world field of humanity. (Matthew 9:37, 38; John 4:35, 36) The climax of this harvesting comes in the Lord’s day, when Jesus is crowned as King and executes judgment on behalf of his Father. Thus, his time of ruling, since 1914, is also the joyful time for bringing in the harvest.—Compare Deuteronomy 16:13-15.
23. (a) From whom does the word to begin reaping come? (b) What harvesting has taken place from 1919 down till now?
23 Although he is a King and a Judge, Jesus waits for word from Jehovah his God before beginning to reap. That word comes from “the temple sanctuary” by means of an angel. Immediately, Jesus obeys. First, from 1919 on, he has his angels complete the harvesting of the 144,000. (Matthew 13:39, 43; John 15:1, 5, 16) Next, the harvest ingathering of the great crowd of other sheep takes place. (John 10:16; Revelation 7:9) History shows that between 1931 and 1935 a goodly number of these other sheep began to appear. In 1935 Jehovah opened to the understanding of the John class the real identity of the great crowd of Revelation 7:9-17. Thenceforth, much emphasis was placed on the ingathering of this crowd. By the year 2005, its number had exceeded the six million mark, and it is still increasing. Surely, the one like a son of man has reaped a bountiful, joyous harvest during this time of the end.—Compare Exodus 23:16; 34:22.
Treading the Vine of the Earth
24. What is in the hands of the fifth angel, and what does the sixth angel call out?
24 With the harvest of salvation completed, it is time for another harvest. John reports: “And still another angel [the fifth] emerged from the temple sanctuary that is in heaven, he, too, having a sharp sickle. And still another angel [the sixth] emerged from the altar and he had authority over the fire. And he called out with a loud voice to the one that had the sharp sickle, saying: ‘Put your sharp sickle in and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, because its grapes have become ripe.’” (Revelation 14:17, 18) The angelic hosts are entrusted with much harvesting during the Lord’s day, separating the good from the bad!
25. (a) What is indicated by the fact that the fifth angel came from the temple sanctuary? (b) Why is it fitting that the command to begin reaping comes from an angel who “emerged from the altar”?
25 The fifth angel comes from Jehovah’s presence in the temple sanctuary; hence, the final harvest also takes place according to Jehovah’s will. The angel is commanded to begin his work by a message relayed through another angel that “emerged from the altar.” This fact is most significant, since faithful souls underneath the altar had asked: “Until when, Sovereign Lord holy and true, are you refraining from judging and avenging our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9, 10) With the harvesting of the vine of the earth, this cry for vengeance will be satisfied.
26. What is “the vine of the earth”?
26 But what is “the vine of the earth”? In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jewish nation was spoken of as Jehovah’s vine. (Isaiah 5:7; Jeremiah 2:21) Similarly, Jesus Christ and those who will serve with him in God’s Kingdom are spoken of as a vine. (John 15:1-8) In this setting, the significant characteristic of a vine is that it produces fruit, and the true Christian vine has produced abundant fruit to Jehovah’s praise. (Matthew 21:43) “The vine of the earth,” therefore, must be, not this genuine vine, but Satan’s imitation of it, his corrupt visible system of government over mankind, with its various “clusters” of demonic fruitage produced over the centuries. Babylon the Great, in which apostate Christianity is so prominent, has exercised great influence over this poisonous vine.—Compare Deuteronomy 32:32-35.
27. (a) What takes place when the angel with the sickle gathers the vine of the earth? (b) What prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures indicate the extent of the harvest?
27 Judgment must be executed! “And the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and he hurled it into the great winepress of the anger of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress as high up as the bridles of the horses, for a distance of a thousand six hundred furlongs.” (Revelation 14:19, 20) Jehovah’s indignation against this vine has long since been announced. (Zephaniah 3:8) A prophecy in the book of Isaiah leaves no doubt that whole nations will be destroyed when the winepress is trampled. (Isaiah 63:3-6) Joel too prophesied that huge “crowds,” whole nations, would be trampled to destruction in “the winepress,” in “the low plain of the decision.” (Joel 3:12-14) Truly, a stupendous harvest the like of which will never again occur! According to John’s vision, not only are the grapes harvested but the whole symbolic vine is cut down and thrown into the winepress to be trampled. So the vine of the earth will be stamped out and will never be able to grow again.
28. Who do the treading of the vine of the earth, and what does it mean that the winepress is “trodden outside the city”?
28 The visionary treading is done by horses, for the blood trodden out from the vine reaches “the bridles of the horses.” Since the term “horses” usually refers to war operations, this must be a time of war. The armies of the heavens that follow Jesus into the final war against Satan’s system of things are said to tread “the winepress of the anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:11-16) These are clearly the ones that do the treading of the vine of the earth. The winepress is “trodden outside the city,” that is, outside heavenly Zion. Indeed, it is fitting that the vine of the earth should be trodden on earth. But it will also be “trodden outside the city” in that no harm will come to the remaining ones of the woman’s seed, who represent the heavenly Zion on earth. These together with the great crowd will be safely hidden within Jehovah’s earthly organizational arrangement.—Isaiah 26:20, 21.
29. How deep is the blood from the winepress, how far does it extend, and what does all of this indicate?
29 This vivid vision has a parallel in the crushing of the kingdoms of the earth by the Kingdom stone described at Daniel 2:34, 44. There will be an extermination. The river of blood from the winepress is very deep, up to the bridles of the horses, and it extends for a distance of 1,600 furlongs.a This huge figure, produced by multiplying the square of four by the square of ten (4 x 4 x 10 x 10), emphatically conveys the message that evidence of the destruction will involve all the earth. (Isaiah 66:15, 16) The destruction will be complete and irreversible. Never, no never again, will Satan’s vine of the earth take root!—Psalm 83:17, 18.
30. What are the fruits of Satan’s vine, and what should be our determination?
30 Living as we do deep in the time of the end, the vision of these two harvests is very meaningful. We have only to look around us to see the fruits of Satan’s vine. Abortions and other forms of murder; homosexuality, adultery, and other forms of immorality; dishonesty and lack of natural affection—all such things make this world vile in Jehovah’s eyes. Satan’s vine bears “the fruit of a poisonous plant and wormwood.” Its ruinous, idolatrous course dishonors mankind’s Grand Creator. (Deuteronomy 29:18; 32:5; Isaiah 42:5, 8) What a privilege it is to be actively associated with the John class in the harvest of wholesome fruitage that Jesus is bringing forth to Jehovah’s praise! (Luke 10:2) May all of us be determined that we will never be tainted by the vine of this world, and may we thus avoid being trampled with the vine of the earth when Jehovah’s adverse judgment is executed.
a 1,600 furlongs is about 300 kilometers, or 180 English miles.—Revelation 14:20, New World Translation Reference Bible, footnote.
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‘The Wine of Her Fornication’
A prominent part of Babylon the Great is the Roman Catholic Church. The church is governed by the pope in Rome and claims that each pope is a successor of the apostle Peter. Following are some published facts about these so-called successors:
Formosus (891-96): “Nine months after his death, Formosus’ body was disinterred from the papal crypt and arraigned for trial before a ‘cadaveric’ council, at which Stephen [the new pope] presided. The deceased pope was accused of inordinate ambition for the papal office and all his acts were declared invalid. . . . The corpse was stripped of pontifical robes; the fingers of the right hand were amputated.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
Stephen VI (896-97): “Within a few months [of the trial of Formosus’ corpse] a violent reaction ended the pontificate of Pope Stephen; he was deprived of the pontifical insignia, imprisoned, and strangled.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
Sergius III (904-11): “His two immediate predecessors . . . were strangled in prison. . . . In Rome he was supported by the Theophylactus family, by one of whose daughters, Marozia, he is supposed to have had a son (later Pope John XI).”—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
Stephen VII (928-31): “In the last years of his pontificate, Pope John X . . . had incurred the wrath of Marozia, the Donna Senatrix of Rome, and had been imprisoned and assassinated. Marozia then conferred the papacy on Pope Leo VI, who died after 6 1/2 months in office. Stephen VII succeeded him, probably through the influence of Marozia. . . . During his 2 years as Pope, he was powerless under the domination of Marozia.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
John XI (931-35): “Upon the death of Stephen VII . . . , Marozia, of the House of Theophylactus, obtained the papacy for her son John, a youth in his early 20s. . . . As pope, John was dominated by his mother.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
John XII (955-64): “He was hardly eighteen, and contemporary reports agree about his disinterest in spiritual things, addiction to boorish pleasures, and uninhibitedly debauched life.”—The Oxford Dictionary of Popes.
Benedict IX (1032-44; 1045; 1047-48): “He was notorious for selling the papacy to his godfather and then subsequently reclaiming the office twice.”—The New Encyclopædia Britannica.
Thus, rather than following the example of faithful Peter, these and other popes were an evil influence. They allowed bloodguilt and spiritual and physical fornication, as well as a Jezebel influence, to corrupt the church they ruled. (James 4:4) In 1917 the Bible Students’ book The Finished Mystery set out many of these facts in stark detail. This was one way that the Bible Students in those days ‘struck the earth with every sort of plague.’—Revelation 11:6; 14:8; 17:1, 2, 5.
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The enthroned Christ carries out judgment with angelic support
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After Babylon fell in 539 B.C.E., her prisoners were released