The Doom of False Religion
WOULD you be happy if you knew that in a very short while there would be no false religion practiced upon the earth? Think of the unity and peace this would bring about! Today the various religions of the world are trying to unite; they are trying to find some common basis on which there can be unity, but have found none. If you are a student of history you well know that a great part of the bloodshed on the earth has been because of religion. Take, for example, the Crusades and the Thirty Years’ War. Consider also the suffering and torture of countless numbers of people, for instance, in the time of the Inquisition. These wars were not because of the true religion of God. Jesus stated the principle by which we can be sure of this: “By their fruits you will recognize them.” The works and results were not the peaceful fruitage of the spirit. The mere claim does not make one a follower of Christ, as he declared: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.”—Matt. 7:16, 21; Gal. 5:22, 23.
When the flood survivors, Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives, eight in all, stepped out of the ark, they were united in one religion, the true worship of Jehovah God. (Gen. 8:20, 21) They knew that Jehovah was the true God and the all-powerful One and also that he was the Preserver of their lives through the flood. False religion set in and got another hold more than a hundred years later with the building of the Tower of Babel, and the result of it was confusion of the people. (Gen. 11:4-9) So false religion has ever since that time caused confusion and strife and has turned people away from the principles of the true God and has caused the moral breakdown and the decline the world has suffered since that time. Noah and his faithful son Shem continued to observe the true religion of the worship of Jehovah. They stayed aloof from Babylon’s influence. But false religion spread over the earth and has assumed various forms and, at the present time, has brought about such confusion that unity among its various divisions is impossible.
But what about its doom? Well, in the sixteenth chapter of Revelation, God expresses what he will do in this time of the end when he manifests his anger at the various things that are causing the ills of this world. Among them is false religion. In the twelfth verse Re 16:12 he gives the apostle John a vision of the sixth of the seven angels pouring out the bowls of God’s anger, the plagues. John says: “And the sixth [angel] poured out his bowl upon the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, that the way might be prepared for the kings from the rising of the sun.”
EUPHRATES DRIED UP
The mention of the river Euphrates is significant. It was a very important river in ancient times and figured prominently in history. Its drying up has reference to one great event that history records, namely, the fall of Babylon to the Persian Cyrus the Great. So, while the name Babylon is not here mentioned, Babylon is no doubt meant. Babylon was the chief city located on the Euphrates River in ancient times. It was against God from its very beginning when built by Nimrod, a “mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.” (Gen. 10:9, 10) It was by means of practically drying up the riverbed that Babylon’s fall was accomplished.
The Bible mentions the Euphrates as where captives were located, for, as described in Revelation 9:13-15, the sixth trumpet was blown by an angel who was given the following command: “Untie the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates.” Babylon had taken God’s people into captivity in 607 B.C.E. and intended to keep them captives forever. It seemed that she would actually do so, for the city appeared impregnable, with her tremendous walls and great military force. It was in 539 B.C.E. when Cyrus the Persian, by practically drying up the riverbed, entered the city, conquered it, and released the Jewish exiles in the second year thereafter.
The pouring out of the sixth bowl of God’s anger discloses prophetically the destruction of Babylon the Great. As pointed out in previous issues of this magazine, Babylon the Great represents the world empire of false religion, pictured in Revelation, chapter 17, as an unclean woman and as a great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth. (Rev. 17:3-6, 18) Babylon the Great has held many people in captivity by her false doctrines and practices. She has even used the kingdoms of this world to force converts to her false form of religion. The pouring out of the sixth plague does not refer to the release of these captives from Babylon, for the drying up of the Euphrates River, not any revolt of the Jewish captives, was the thing that caused the fall of ancient Babylon. Her captives had no share in her fall, neither were they released at that time, but later, in 537 B.C.E., by Cyrus’ decree.
GREAT BABYLON’S FINAL FALL
Babylon the Great suffered a fall in the year 1919 C.E., as proclaimed by an angel in Revelation 14:8. In this fall her hold on her captives was loosened, but she remained to fight against true worship. Babylon the Great’s overthrow by the “kings from the rising of the sun,” in Revelation 16:12, is something else, just as Babylon’s destruction and desolation came years after her fall to Cyrus. Cyrus the Persian and his associate conqueror, kings from eastward of Babylon, pictured Jesus Christ and his Father, Jehovah God. While it was Cyrus of old who caused the diverting of the waters of the Euphrates in order to capture Babylon, it was really Jehovah who directed the matter according to the word that he had spoken by his prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Today it is Jehovah, together with his enthroned king Jesus Christ, who causes the fall and destruction of Babylon the Great. He is the “One saying to the watery deep, ‘Be evaporated; and all your [Babylon’s] rivers I shall dry up.’”—Isa. 44:27 to 45:5.
The tendency a person has is to be loyal to the religion in which he was brought up and to look to the elaborate and ornate buildings and to the colorful, glittering religious ceremonies as beautiful and therefore having merit in the eyes of God. But remember that Jehovah told the religious leaders of Jerusalem that they would fall like a desirable vessel, a valued vase. (Jer. 25:34; 19:11) And he decreed that Babylon, the beauty of the Chaldeans, would go into desolation. (Isa. 13:19) Neither should the antiquity of a religion nor its seeming security and firm position with the elements of this world be looked upon as something in which to put your trust and confidence. This fact also was pictured by Babylon of old. God’s decree brought her down in one night, finally to go into complete decay and desolation. So he has decreed regarding Babylon the Great.
SUPPORT AND DEFENSE GONE
The Euphrates River was depended upon by Babylon for defense. At Revelation 17:1, 15 we are told that Babylon the Great “sits on many waters,” which, the angel explains, “mean peoples and crowds and nations and tongues.” So, then, the drying up of the waters of the Euphrates would picture the removal of people from the support and defense of Babylon the Great, their turning away from her. It would not picture any turning from Babylon’s false religion to the true worship of Jehovah God, for in the case of literal Babylon the drying up of the literal waters of the Euphrates merely resulted in the fall of Babylon. The people who served Jehovah God left her by a direct decree of Cyrus about two years later. So the turning of the waters away from Babylon the Great means that people who formerly supported her will forsake her and will revolt against her, but not in favor of Jehovah.
It is too late for any to turn to Jehovah after Babylon the Great’s destruction begins, for although the people may revolt and do much damage to her, it is really Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, the kings from the east, who must destroy Babylon. Those deserting Babylon then would not do so of their own volition. This takes place when God’s bowl of anger against all who are in defense of and support of Babylon will be fully felt and it will be his judgment against them. The people forsaking her only because they see her going down may possibly want to turn to Jehovah God just to save their necks. Doubtless many sought refuge in the ark when the floodwaters began to fall, but the record says that, when Noah with his family entered, Jehovah shut the door behind him. (Gen. 7:16) Jehovah wants those who serve him to do so out of love for him and out of devotion to righteousness. They are given an opportunity to hear of the corruption of Babylon the Great and the righteousness of God’s government under Christ and they must come out before God strips Babylon naked and exposes her to her crashing doom. Now is the time when the people can hear the warning proclaimed by Jehovah’s witnesses: “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.” (Rev. 18:4) They can do this by learning of Jehovah God’s provision for safety and salvation, by putting themselves under the enthroned King Jesus Christ and by helping others to flee also with the hope of everlasting life in a paradise earth under God’s new order of things.
SIXTH PLAGUE ANNOUNCED
The sixth plague is announced mercifully beforehand by Jehovah God so that the people may hear and take heed. Jehovah’s witnesses are used as instruments in making this announcement. This announcement has been especially strong since Sunday, July 24, 1927, when an address was directed especially to people who were unwilling captives in bondage to Babylon the Great. The address was the leading feature of the general assembly of the International Bible Students at Toronto, Canada. It was spoken, not only to a visible audience of 15,000, but also to an invisible audience by means of 53 radio stations linked together from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and including radio station WBBR. After reading a resolution addressed “To the Peoples of Christendom,” President Rutherford spoke in favor of the resolution in his widely advertised speech, “Freedom for the Peoples.” When speaking of the hopeless state of Christendom, he said:
“ . . . With great pomp and glory that unholy system rides upon the backs of the peoples. Without the support of the common peoples that wicked system called ‘Christendom’ could not survive. When the peoples withdraw their support therefrom ‘organized Christianity,’ which is a part of Babylon or the Devil’s organization, will fall like a great millstone into the sea.
“ . . . But instead of heeding the message from the Word of God the rulers of the world, to wit, those constituting the unholy alliance, walk on in darkness and continue to oppress the peoples. The doom of ‘organized Christianity’ or Babylon is sealed! . . . ”—The Watch Tower, as of October 15, 1927, page 312.
This message was afterward put in booklet form in a number of languages and distributed world wide by the millions of copies. It served as further notice to the world that Babylon the Great was doomed and that this world empire of Babylonish religion was to be destroyed by the “kings from the rising of the sun.” Such notification of impending destruction has continued to be served on Babylon the Great in even sharper and clearer terms. It has been like a great plague or blow to those who support and defend her.
THE NEED TO BE ACTIVELY ALERT
Those who have been released from captivity to Babylon the Great must endure to maintain this freedom and God’s favor. Jesus Christ goes on, in Revelation, chapter 16, to describe events in connection with the sixth plague, which refers not only to the destruction of Babylon the Great but also to the battle of Armageddon that follows. He interjects a warning at Rev 16 verse 15: “Look! I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his shamefulness.”
To whom is he speaking? He is addressing the spirit-begotten Christians who are taking part in the proclaiming of the plagues, the same ones that he speaks to in the first three chapters 1-3 of Revelation as the seven congregations in Asia. There he repeatedly warns these congregations that he is coming suddenly to them for an inspection work, followed by due rewards or recompense. (Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:11) They are commanded to watch carefully that they do not fall away to the condemned Babylonish religion. They are heirs with Jesus of the heavenly kingdom, serving Jehovah God in his spiritual temple as his spiritual priesthood, a royal priesthood, clothed in Christ’s righteousness. As it was in the temple in Jerusalem during Jesus’ days on earth, if they go to sleep at their posts of duty and the temple inspector comes and finds them not watching over the safety and interests of the temple, they will be beaten and stripped of their priestly garments and be discharged. They will be put out of the temple as unfit workmen. This will be shameful for them and persons who look to them for priestly services will see them, as it were, in their nakedness, without the covering of Christ’s righteousness, as being no imitators of him.—1 Pet. 2:5-9; Ex. 20:25, 26.
Consequently, the temple priest who stays awake and keeps actively on the watch and who is found in this state when Jehovah’s High Priest arrives like a thief for inspection work will be happy for his faithfulness and reliability. He will retain his priestly garments and functions and not be stripped of them. He will have glory rather than suffer shame here with Babylon the Great.
HOW TO FIND REFUGE FROM THE PLAGUE
How can those who have not yet fled from worldly religion to serve in proclaiming God’s kingdom do so before it is too late? They must associate closely with these spirit-begotten Christians, God’s “royal priesthood,” to learn from them. These remaining ones of Christ’s spiritual brothers compose the “faithful and discreet slave” to whom Christ has committed all the Kingdom interests on earth. (Matt. 24:45-47) They are in charge of teaching the people and shepherding those who want to serve the Great Shepherd, Jehovah God, and his Fine Shepherd Jesus Christ.
Those being taught by the “faithful and discreet slave” are like the Nethinim, who were non-Israelites serving in the temple of Jehovah in the days of David and Solomon and who worked closely with the priests of Israel, keeping themselves religiously clean for temple service. Revelation 7:9 describes them as a “great crowd” out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues. God, on the throne, and the Lamb look favorably upon them. They have white robes, which they have washed in the blood of the Lamb, and they serve continually in God’s temple. (Rev. 7:9-17) In order to enjoy this favor with God this “great crowd,” now numbering nearly one million, share in announcing the warning message of false religion’s doom.
The “great crowd” have learned how Christ gave his human life as a sacrifice for mankind. They have found that the kingdom of God is a heavenly kingdom and will rule this earth forever, bringing peace and righteousness to a paradise earth, blessing people with everlasting life. They know that they will see many loved ones and friends come back to earth by a resurrection. Furthermore, through a study of the Bible they see that the Kingdom has already taken power in the heavens and moves swiftly toward the destruction of Babylon the Great. If you do not know these vital truths, you need to hear what Jehovah’s witnesses have to say, study, and then take a position in harmony with God’s pure Word of truth. When you do this you will be happy to learn of the fulfillment of the sixth plague, which points to the complete desolation of Babylon the Great and the resultant freedom and happiness that it means to all who serve Jehovah God.
But the mere destruction of Babylon the Great will not bring complete righteousness to the earth. The sixth plague covers also the battle of Armageddon, which will be considered in the next issue of this magazine.
For a discussion of all seven plagues of Revelation, chapter 16, see the book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules! by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, New York.