Mourning and Rejoicing at Babylon’s End
1. How will “the kings of the earth” react to the sudden destruction of Babylon the Great?
BABYLON’S end is good news for Jehovah’s people, but how do the nations view it? John tells us: “And the kings of the earth who committed fornication with her and lived in shameless luxury will weep and beat themselves in grief over her, when they look at the smoke from the burning of her, while they stand at a distance because of their fear of her torment and say, ‘Too bad, too bad, you great city, Babylon you strong city, because in one hour your judgment has arrived!’”—Revelation 18:9, 10.
2. (a) Since the symbolic ten horns of the scarlet-colored wild beast destroy Babylon the Great, why do “the kings of the earth” grieve over her end? (b) Why do the grief-stricken kings stand at a distance from the doomed city?
2 The nations’ reaction may seem surprising in view of the fact that Babylon was destroyed by the symbolic ten horns of the scarlet-colored wild beast. (Revelation 17:16) But when Babylon is gone, “the kings of the earth” will evidently realize how useful she was to them in keeping the people pacified and in subjection. The clergy have declared wars to be sacred, acted as recruiting agents, and preached the youth into the battle lines. Religion has provided a screen of holiness behind which corrupt rulers have operated in oppressing the common people. (Compare Jeremiah 5:30, 31; Matthew 23:27, 28.) Notice, however, that these grief-stricken kings now stand at a distance from the doomed city. They do not get close enough to come to her aid. They are sad to see her go but not sad enough to take risks in her behalf.
Merchants Weep and Mourn
3. Who else regret the passing of Babylon the Great, and what reasons for this does John give?
3 The kings of the earth are not the only ones to regret the passing of Babylon the Great. “Also, the traveling merchants of the earth are weeping and mourning over her, because there is no one to buy their full stock anymore, a full stock of gold and silver and precious stone and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet; and everything in scented wood and every sort of ivory object and every sort of object out of most precious wood and of copper and of iron and of marble; also cinnamon and Indian spice and incense and perfumed oil and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and horses and coaches and slaves and human souls. Yes, the fine fruit that your soul desired has departed from you [Babylon the Great], and all the dainty things and the gorgeous things have perished from you, and never again will people find them.”—Revelation 18:11-14.
4. Why do “the traveling merchants” weep and mourn over the end of Babylon the Great?
4 Yes, Babylon the Great was a close friend and a good customer of wealthy merchants. For example, the monasteries, nunneries, and churches in Christendom have over the centuries acquired huge amounts of gold, silver, precious stones, valuable woods, and other forms of material wealth. Further, religion’s blessing has been bestowed on the lavish buying sprees and drunken orgies that accompany the celebration of the Christ-dishonoring Christmas and other so-called holy days. Christendom’s missionaries have penetrated distant lands, opening up new markets for “the traveling merchants” of this world. In 17th-century Japan, Catholicism, which had come with the traders, even became involved in feudal warfare. Reporting on a decisive battle under the walls of Osaka castle, The Encyclopædia Britannica states: “The Tokugawa troops found themselves fighting against a foe whose banners were emblazoned with the cross and with images of the Saviour and St James, the patron saint of Spain.” The victorious faction persecuted and practically wiped out Catholicism in that land. The church’s participation in worldly affairs today will likewise bring her no blessing.
5. (a) How does the voice out of heaven further describe the mourning of “the traveling merchants”? (b) Why do the merchants also “stand at a distance”?
5 The voice out of heaven says further: “The traveling merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of their fear of her torment and will weep and mourn, saying, ‘Too bad, too bad—the great city, clothed with fine linen and purple and scarlet, and richly adorned with gold ornament and precious stone and pearl, because in one hour such great riches have been devastated!’” (Revelation 18:15-17a) With the destruction of Babylon the Great, the “merchants” mourn at the loss of that commercial partner. Truly, it is “too bad, too bad” for them. Notice, though, that their reasons for mourning are entirely selfish and that they—like the kings—“stand at a distance.” They do not get close enough to be of any help to Babylon the Great.
6. How does the voice out of heaven describe the mourning of ship captains and sailors, and why do they weep?
6 The account goes on: “And every ship captain and every man that voyages anywhere, and sailors and all those who make a living by the sea, stood at a distance and cried out as they looked at the smoke from the burning of her and said, ‘What city is like the great city?’ And they threw dust upon their heads and cried out, weeping and mourning, and said, ‘Too bad, too bad—the great city, in which all those having boats at sea became rich by reason of her costliness, because in one hour she has been devastated!’” (Revelation 18:17b-19) Ancient Babylon was a commercial city and had a great fleet of ships. Similarly, Babylon the Great does much business by the “many waters” of her people. This provides employment for many of her religious subjects. What an economic blow the destruction of Babylon the Great will be for these! There will never be another source of livelihood like her.
Rejoicing Over Her Annihilation
7, 8. How does the voice out of heaven climax its message regarding Babylon the Great, and who will respond to those words?
7 When ancient Babylon was overthrown by the Medes and the Persians, Jeremiah prophetically said: “And over Babylon the heavens and the earth and all that is in them will certainly cry out joyfully.” (Jeremiah 51:48) When Babylon the Great is destroyed, the voice out of heaven climaxes its message, saying of Babylon the Great: “Be glad over her, O heaven, also you holy ones and you apostles and you prophets, because God has judicially exacted punishment for you from her!” (Revelation 18:20) Jehovah and the angels will be delighted to see the annihilation of God’s ancient enemy, as will the apostles and early Christian prophets, who by now are resurrected and have taken their position in the 24-elders arrangement.—Compare Psalm 97:8-12.
8 Indeed, all the “holy ones”—whether resurrected to heaven or still surviving on earth—will cry out for joy, as will the associated great crowd of other sheep. In time, all the faithful men of old will be resurrected into the new system of things, and they too will join in the rejoicing. God’s people have not tried to avenge themselves on their false religious persecutors. They have remembered Jehovah’s words: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.” (Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35, 41-43) Well, Jehovah has now repaid. All the blood spilled by Babylon the Great will have been avenged.
Hurling a Great Millstone
9, 10. (a) What does a strong angel now do and say? (b) What act similar to that performed by the strong angel of Revelation 18:21 took place in Jeremiah’s time, and what did it guarantee? (c) What does the action taken by the strong angel seen by John guarantee?
9 What John next sees confirms that Jehovah’s judgment of Babylon the Great is final: “And a strong angel lifted up a stone like a great millstone and hurled it into the sea, saying: ‘Thus with a swift pitch will Babylon the great city be hurled down, and she will never be found again.’” (Revelation 18:21) In Jeremiah’s time, a similar act with powerful prophetic meaning was performed. Jeremiah was inspired to write in a book “all the calamity that would come upon Babylon.” He gave the book to Seraiah and told him to travel to Babylon. There, following Jeremiah’s instructions, Seraiah read a declaration against the city: “O Jehovah, you yourself have spoken against this place, in order to cut it off so that there may come to be in it no inhabitant, either man or even domestic animal, but that she may become mere desolate wastes to time indefinite.” Seraiah then tied a stone to the book and threw it into the river Euphrates, saying: “This is how Babylon will sink down and never rise up because of the calamity that I am bringing in upon her.”—Jeremiah 51:59-64.
10 The throwing of the book with the attached stone into the river was a guarantee that Babylon would plunge into oblivion, never to recover. The apostle John’s seeing a strong angel perform a similar act is likewise a powerful guarantee that Jehovah’s purpose toward Babylon the Great will be fulfilled. The completely ruined condition of ancient Babylon today testifies powerfully to what will befall false religion in the near future.
11, 12. (a) How does the strong angel now address Babylon the Great? (b) How did Jeremiah prophesy concerning apostate Jerusalem, and what did it signify for our day?
11 The strong angel now addresses Babylon the Great, saying: “And the sound of singers who accompany themselves on the harp and of musicians and of flutists and of trumpeters will never be heard in you again, and no craftsman of any trade will ever be found in you again, and no sound of a millstone will ever be heard in you again, and no light of a lamp will ever shine in you again, and no voice of a bridegroom and of a bride will ever be heard in you again; because your traveling merchants were the top-ranking men of the earth, for by your spiritistic practice all the nations were misled.”—Revelation 18:22, 23.
12 In comparable terms, Jeremiah prophesied concerning apostate Jerusalem: “I will destroy out of them the sound of exultation and the sound of rejoicing, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the hand mill and the light of the lamp. And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment.” (Jeremiah 25:10, 11) As the principal part of Babylon the Great, Christendom will become a lifeless ruin, as so vividly depicted by Jerusalem’s desolate condition after 607 B.C.E. The Christendom that once rejoiced lightheartedly and bustled with everyday noise will find herself conquered and abandoned.
13. What sudden change overtakes Babylon the Great, and what is the effect on her “traveling merchants”?
13 Indeed, as the angel here tells John, all of Babylon the Great will change from a powerful, international empire to an arid, desertlike wasteland. Her “traveling merchants,” including top-ranking millionaires, have used her religion for personal advantage or as a cover-up, and the clergy have found it profitable to share the limelight with them. But those merchants will no longer have Babylon the Great as their accomplice. No more will she be hoodwinking the nations of earth with her mystic religious practices.
An Appalling Bloodguilt
14. What reason does the strong angel give for the severity of Jehovah’s judgment, and what did Jesus similarly say when he was on the earth?
14 In conclusion, the strong angel tells why Jehovah judges Babylon the Great so severely. “Yes,” says the angel, “in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24) When on earth, Jesus told the religious leaders in Jerusalem that they were accountable for “all the righteous blood spilled on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel” onward. Accordingly, that crooked generation was destroyed in 70 C.E. (Matthew 23:35-38) Today, another generation of religionists bears bloodguilt for its persecution of God’s servants.
15. How was the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany bloodguilty on two counts?
15 In his book The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, Guenter Lewy writes: “When Jehovah’s Witnesses were suppressed in Bavaria on April 13  the Church even accepted the assignment given it by the Ministry of Education and Religion of reporting on any member of the sect still practicing the forbidden religion.” The Catholic Church thus shares responsibility for consigning thousands of Witnesses to concentration camps; its hands are stained by the lifeblood of hundreds of Witnesses who were executed. When young Witnesses, such as Wilhelm Kusserow, showed that they could die courageously by a firing squad, Hitler decided that the firing squad was too good for conscientious objectors; so Wilhelm’s brother Wolfgang, at 20 years of age, died by the guillotine. At the same time, the Catholic Church was encouraging young German Catholics to die in the army of the fatherland. The bloodguilt of the church is plain to see!
16, 17. (a) What bloodguilt must be charged to Babylon the Great, and how did the Vatican become bloodguilty regarding the Jews who died in Nazi pogroms? (b) What is one way in which false religion is to blame for the killing of millions of people in hundreds of wars in modern times?
16 However, the prophecy says that the blood of “all those who have been slaughtered on the earth” must be charged to Babylon the Great. That has certainly been true in modern times. For example, since Catholic intrigue helped to bring Hitler to power in Germany, the Vatican shares in a terrible bloodguilt with regard to the six million Jews that died in Nazi pogroms. Further, in our time, well over a hundred million people have been killed in hundreds of wars. Is false religion to blame in this connection? Yes, in two ways.
17 One way is that many wars are related to religious differences. For example, the violence in India between Muslims and Hindus in 1946-48 was religiously motivated. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost. The conflict between Iraq and Iran in the 1980’s was related to sectarian differences, with hundreds of thousands being killed. Violence between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland has taken thousands of lives. Surveying this field, columnist C. L. Sulzberger said in 1976: “It is a dismal truth that probably half or more of the wars now being fought around the world are either openly religious conflicts or involved with religious disputes.” Indeed, it has been so throughout the turbulent history of Babylon the Great.
18. What is the second way in which the world’s religions are bloodguilty?
18 What is the second way? From Jehovah’s viewpoint, the world’s religions are bloodguilty because they have not convincingly taught their followers the truth of Jehovah’s requirements for his servants. They have not convincingly taught people that God’s true worshippers must imitate Jesus Christ and show love toward others regardless of their national origin. (Micah 4:3, 5; John 13:34, 35; Acts 10:34, 35; 1 John 3:10-12) Because the religions making up Babylon the Great have not taught these things, their adherents have been drawn into the vortex of international warfare. How evident this was in the two world wars of the first half of the 20th century, both of which started in Christendom and resulted in fellow religionists’ slaughtering one another! If all who claimed to be Christians had adhered to Bible principles, those wars could never have taken place.
19. What appalling bloodguilt does Babylon the Great carry?
19 Jehovah lays the blame for all this bloodshed at the feet of Babylon the Great. Had the religious leaders, and particularly those in Christendom, taught their people Bible truth, such massive bloodshed would not have occurred. Truly, then, directly or indirectly, Babylon the Great—the great harlot and world empire of false religion—must answer to Jehovah not only for “the blood of prophets and of holy ones” whom she has persecuted and killed but for the blood “of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” Babylon the Great does indeed carry an appalling bloodguilt. Good riddance when her final destruction takes place!
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The Price of Compromise
Guenter Lewy writes in his book The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany: “Had German Catholicism from the start adhered to a policy of resolute opposition to the Nazi regime, world history might well have taken a different course. Even if this struggle had ultimately failed to defeat Hitler and prevent all of his many crimes, it would in this view have raised the moral prestige of the Church immeasurably. The human cost of such resistance would undeniably have been great, but these sacrifices would have been made for the greatest of all causes. With the home front unreliable, Hitler might not have dared going to war and literally millions of lives would have been saved. . . . When thousands of German anti-Nazis were tortured to death in Hitler’s concentration camps, when the Polish intelligentsia was slaughtered, when hundreds of thousands of Russians died as a result of being treated as Slavic Untermenschen [subhumans], and when 6,000,000 human beings were murdered for being ‘non-Aryan,’ Catholic Church officials in Germany bolstered the regime perpetrating these crimes. The Pope in Rome, the spiritual head and supreme moral teacher of the Roman Catholic Church, remained silent.”—Pages 320, 341.
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“Too bad, too bad,” say the rulers
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“Too bad, too bad,” say the merchants