The Most Urgent Warning Ever Given
NO MATTER how well you like what you are doing, no matter how satisfied you are with your situation and no matter what your plans are, you will immediately leave all these and run to a place of safety if you are convinced that the danger of sudden death is staring you in the face.
Of course, the warning of such a thing, to be strong enough to motivate you to flight, would have to be from a reliable source and attended by other circumstances that would convince you that the warning was a true one. That is exactly the case with the warning that we speak of here, and there are reasons why it can truly be said to be the most urgent warning ever given. First, it is from God, who has given reliable warnings in the past; who, as man’s Creator, has a genuine interest in the people’s welfare. He himself considers it the most important warning ever sounded. Second, it is not confined to a locality or even to a nation, but it is worldwide. There is no means of escape aside from the one God provides. Third, it takes time to extricate yourself from the dangerous situation and to get to the place of safety, even if you heed the warning immediately, and, fourth, the peril of which it warns is so very near! Bible chronology and prophecy with the events piling up that demonstrate its nearness show that the warning must be given with the greatest urgency and acted on with all possible speed. It is to come within the generation that has already seen two world wars and it is only a few short years ahead of us.
The warning is found in the last book of the Bible. The apostle John had just been shown a vision of a harlot with the name of “Babylon the Great.” In recent articles in this magazine we have shown that this harlot represents an organization claiming to be divine and to represent true religion. She has been shown to represent the world empire of false religion, which has prostituted herself by having political aims and ambitions for power and has meddled in politics and governments of the world for centuries. Now here in the vision to John she is represented by a city. John writes:
THE ONE IN CHARGE OF THE PROCLAMATION
“After these things I saw another angel descending from heaven, with great authority; and the earth was lighted up from his glory. And he cried out with a strong voice, saying: ‘She has fallen! Babylon the great has fallen, and she has become a dwelling place of demons and a lurking place of every unclean exhalation and a lurking place of every unclean and hated bird! For because of the passion-arousing wine of her fornication all the nations have fallen victim, and the kings of the earth committed fornication with her, and the traveling merchants of the earth became rich due to the power of her shameless luxury.’”—Rev. 18:1-3.
The urgency of the warning is emphasized by the fact that the angelic announcer of Babylon’s fall and destruction has great authority and is used as the chief publicity agent for getting this warning declared. To identify him personally, he is actually none other than Jehovah’s archangel, the glorified Lord Jesus Christ. He occupies a position pictured by King Cyrus the Persian, who conquered ancient Babylon in 539 B.C.E., after which the city gradually declined until her complete destruction and desolation. Now for about forty-eight years, since as long ago as 1919 C.E., people have been fleeing from Babylonish false religion, for at that time she lost her power to maintain control over those in her who were deceived and held in a slavelike position by her false doctrines. Just as Cyrus conquered Babylon and she later went into decay, so the Greater Cyrus will see to it that Babylon the Great will be completely destroyed. As the archangel of God, his name in heaven is Michael, which means “Who Is like God?” This points him out as the vindicator of God’s name, the one to remove the reproach that has been brought by this great false religious empire upon God and upon true worship and those practicing true worship. “The earth was lighted up from his glory.” (Rev. 18:1) The destruction of Babylon the Great would immeasurably brighten the earthly situation for Jehovah’s people, his Christian witnesses, for they have been misrepresented, defamed and persecuted by the world empire of Babylonish religion.—Dan. 10:21; 12:1; Rev. 12:7; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17.
YOU MAY BE IN DANGER
If you are affiliated with a religious system of Christendom it would be a deliberate denial of your profession of Christianity to ignore the warning and fail to contemplate the ruin of worldly religion described here by Jehovah’s chief angel. It is not something to turn aside lightheartedly. Jehovah is serious and means to do what he says and kindly gives us an opportunity to escape what the great religious organization of this world is facing. He describes her as becoming like a ruined city without human inhabitant or domestic animal, a haunted ruin in whose desolation only wild animals, reminding one of demons, would make their dwelling place. He actually brought the ancient city of Babylon to this debased state. How closely Revelation’s language follows what Jehovah said to ancient Babylon and which came literally true in her case:
“And Babylon, the decoration of kingdoms, the beauty of the pride of the Chaldeans, must become as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited, nor will she reside for generation after generation. And there the Arab will not pitch his tent, and no shepherds will let their flocks lie down there. And there the haunters of waterless regions will certainly lie down, and their houses must be filled with eagle owls. And there the ostriches must reside, and goat-shaped demons themselves will go skipping about there. And jackals must howl in her dwelling towers, and the big snake will be in the palaces of exquisite delight. And the season for her is near to come, and her days themselves will not be postponed.”—Isa. 13:19-22.
THE REASON FOR FALSE RELIGION’S CALAMITY
Why is it that God so thoroughly ruins the world religious system? He answers: “For because of the passion-arousing wine of her fornication all the nations have fallen victim.” There is no question but that she has reveled in “shameless luxury,” keeping the people in awe. Luxuriously she hobnobs with the rulers to promote political power and monetary gain, at the same time keeping the people in ignorance. Look at the rich cathedrals ornamented with the finest of materials and precious things, while around many of them the people are in abject poverty and illiteracy. Her clergymen have lorded it over their parishioners like owners of the flock. They have demanded titles such as Reverend, Father, Right Reverend, Holy Father and All-Holiness. When Catholic and Protestant sects have gone into places where the people observe Babylonish religion of the pagan type, these so-called Christian organizations have been willing to let the people keep many of their pagan customs, ceremonies and moral standards in order to get them to become members of their churches. Actually, Babylon the Great has been carrying on a religious racket and has confused honest people, thereby bearing a great share of the responsibility for the wars, misery and suffering of the peoples of earth.
As proof that the vision of desolation here does apply to the false religious organization of the world, the angel specifies kings of the earth and merchants of the earth with whom Babylon has committed fornication and whom she has made rich. Notice, however, that no priests are mentioned, for Babylon the Great herself stands for the world empire of false religion with its priests, clergymen, monks, nuns, astrologers, spiritists and sorcerers. These are the ones that have prostituted their organizations to the kings and merchants of the earth. These are the ones who have advocated the union of religion and state and have encouraged the people to support the scarlet-colored beast, the man-made peace-and-security organization, the horns of which will turn on her and strip her naked.—Rev. 17:3-5, 16.
THE WISE THING TO DO
If you are connected with the religious organizations of this world and you see these things, what can you do? Does it mean that you must forsake all religion and be godless? Not at all. But if you see your religion doing the things Revelation describes, then act on the warning:
“And I heard another voice out of heaven say: ‘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. Render to her even as she herself rendered, and do to her twice as much, yes, twice the number of the things she did; in the cup in which she put a mixture put twice as much of the mixture for her. To the extent that she glorified herself and lived in shameless luxury, to that extent give her torment and mourning. For in her heart she keeps saying, “I sit a queen, and I am no widow, and I shall never see mourning.” That is why 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.’”—Rev. 18:4-8.
You can do just as the Israelites did back at ancient Babylon’s fall when they were warned: “Take your flight out of the midst of Babylon [to Mount Zion in Judah], and go forth even out of the land of the Chaldeans, and become like the leading animals before the flock. For here I am arousing and bringing up against Babylon a congregation of great nations from the land of the north, and they will certainly array themselves against her. From there she will be captured. One’s arrows are like those of a mighty man causing bereavement of children, who does not come back without results.” (Jer. 50:8, 9) Yes, God’s people in ancient Babylon were warned not to look longingly at any of the advantages that Babylon offered or let love of her ways hold them back, nor should they trust in her apparent strength. Some Jews enjoyed Babylon’s material things so much that they did not want to leave. But to stay with Babylon was dangerous. Of what benefit was material gain in view of the prophecy which proved true: “Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and provide escape each one for his own soul. Do not be rendered inanimate through her error. For it is the time of vengeance belonging to Jehovah. There is treatment that he is paying back to her.”—Jer. 51:6.
Thousands are obeying the warning to flee out of Babylon the Great today. Many of Jehovah’s witnesses were formerly members of these organizations. Especially since the year 1919 they have seen her doom coming upon her and have been obeying the divine command to get out of her. The reason for this is that Jesus Christ is invisibly present and is reigning from his throne in heaven. By the enlightenment that he has brought through revelation of Bible understanding and by angelic action, he has forced the gates of Babylon the Great open to release those who want to get out of her.
In other words, Babylon the Great fell in 1919, as far as being able to hold on to her captives is concerned. Her unclean doctrines and wicked practices are exposed so that she cannot continue to hold any honest members. Since that time Christ’s anointed followers on earth, known in the Bible as the remnant (remaining ones on earth) of the 144,000 Kingdom heirs, have vigorously carried out the command to preach everywhere the good news of God’s victorious kingdom. (Matt. 24:14) They are free people and have continued to maintain this freedom of speech regardless of the opposition that has been brought against them in every land. (John 8:31, 32) They have seen that God is now executing on the earth the symbolic seven last plagues described at Revelation 15:1 to 16:21, before the literal destructive plagues or blows to come, and they do not wish to receive part of these plagues by staying in Babylon the Great and sharing in her sins, for these plagues will culminate in her complete destruction.
God says that her sins have massed together clear up to heaven. These sins have been committed in the name of religion, which makes them immeasurably worse, for it is against Jehovah God that she has heaped up this mountain of sin and he cannot ignore it. (Jer. 50:14; 51:9) As the God of justice he cannot let her injustice continue or go on unpunished. One of the primary injustices that she has committed is her persecution of God’s people who have composed his spiritual temple and his spiritual Zion from the days of the apostles right down to our present day. So just as God executed vengeance in ancient times against Babylon for his temple in Jerusalem and vengeance for his city Zion, so he does in our day.—Jer. 50:28; 51:11, 35, 36.
Since Babylon has built up such a tremendous criminal record, the angel commands: “Render to her even as she herself rendered, and do to her twice as much, yes, twice the number of the things she did; in the cup in which she put a mixture put twice as much of the mixture for her.” (Rev. 18:6) He pays her back in his allotted short period of “one day” for all her sins against him and his witnesses over a four-thousand-year period. Therefore, his vengeance against her has to be greatly concentrated. That explains why he commands his executional forces to give her twice as much as she rendered to his people and make her drink a doubly intoxicating cup full of dazing, stupefying troubles, sorrows, miseries, pains and insults from the effects of which she will never regain consciousness.
Now, it may seem to some that Jehovah’s witnesses are unduly harsh in making this proclamation, but they have suffered much at Babylon’s hands. More than that, they are under divine command to declare in advance Jehovah’s coming vengeance upon her, helping many escape ruin with her, otherwise they would be bloodguilty. Consequently, they must do their warning work despite all her protests, objections and opposition to their proclaiming God’s day of vengeance.—Ezek. 33:2-6; Isa. 61:1, 2.
We should not feel that Jehovah’s vengeance is unrighteous or too much for Babylon the Great, neither should we be surprised at what God does to her nor feel sympathy for this heartless world empire of Babylonish religion. Remember as far as she is concerned, she would sit forever as a queen on her throne, continuing to oppress the people. But God, who is strong, judges her. She has despised and defied the God of Jehovah’s witnesses, thinking especially that such things could not come from him upon her. So God orders:
“To the extent that she glorified herself and lived in shameless luxury, to that extent give her torment and mourning. For in her heart she keeps saying, ‘I sit a queen, and I am no widow, and I shall never see mourning.’ That is why 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.”—Rev. 18:7, 8.
She has been revered and worshiped and has received the abject servitude of her subjects as a queen or mistress, an empress over a religious empire. But her prostitution and filthiness have made her completely unfit for such a position. She will become a widow, a person bereaved of her millions of religious subjects, especially her priests, clergy and other religious leaders. For all these she will have reason to mourn. Besides death and mourning, she will at last know famine herself, being deprived of all her means by which she lived in shameless luxury. Finally, that nothing of her may remain, she will be completely burned with fire in all-consuming destruction, “for our God is also a consuming fire.”—Heb. 12:29.
In spite of the fact that great Babylon has been such a sinner against God, she will have her mourners at the time of her fall into destruction. Who? They are some of those with whom she committed prostitution and who were able to make great gain out of her. Who they are is pointed out by the angel. He 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!’”—Rev. 18:9, 10.
Since the “ten kings” represented by the ten horns on the scarlet-colored beast turn upon the harlot and strip her naked and eat her flesh and burn her with fire, the mourning kings could hardly be identical in personality with the “ten kings” (ten horns) of the scarlet-colored wild beast. No, these are kings or political rulers who fornicated and enjoyed shameless luxury with her during her popularity and who have been taken by surprise at the sudden turn of events, because as they themselves mournfully say: ‘Jehovah’s execution of judgment upon her arrived in one hour.’ What fun they used to have with her, but when judgment comes like a thief they cannot help or preserve her for their further unclean pleasure. Afraid to interfere, they stand off in fear of sharing the fiery torment with her. Therefore, their time of mourning for her will be very brief. They too share responsibility for her crimes; so, next in order, they will inescapably suffer pain when God executes judgment upon them.
The archangel Michael, the glorified Jesus Christ, is in charge of the announcement of warning and he is giving the greatest possible publicity to great Babylon’s coming destruction. By the mouth of more than a million earthly proclaimers, the announcement is being made. It has been declared in 199 countries and 164 languages. It is not through the channels of the world’s news agencies but by earnest Bible students, Jehovah’s witnesses, who themselves have taken advantage of the warning to flee from Babylon the Great. However, only a minority will hear, that is, hear with belief enough to act on the warning. There was a similar situation in the days of Jesus and the apostles. They gave warning of the complete destruction of Jerusalem and, though this work was opposed by the entire Jewish organization, the people got to hear and be forewarned if they desired to take advantage of it. The majority scoffed at and ridiculed the proclaimers of the warning; but even when Cestus Gallus and his Roman legions withdrew from a siege of the city in 66 C.E., only the Christians residing there took advantage of Jesus’ warning: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her; because these are days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-22) Suddenly, shortly thereafter, the armies of General Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian, closed in on Jerusalem. During the siege those who had felt so safe in Jerusalem’s walls endured starvation and fear of destruction. Finally, the walls of Jerusalem were breached in the summer of 70 C.E. and the Roman armies poured in and slaughtered 1,100,000 and carried away 97,000 miserable captives to be sold in the slave markets throughout the Roman Empire.
Therefore, no matter what you may be doing, no matter how well you may like what you are doing or no matter how secure you may feel in your situation, do not fail to give attention to this worldwide warning from the Creator of the universe. Listen to it. Learn what steps to take to flee from Great Babylon and act at once, for her destruction is alarmingly imminent. It is not just a matter of escape, but release from religious bondage to a future of life in perfection in a new order under God’s kingdom. Jehovah’s witnesses will freely help you to get Bible understanding so that you can act quickly, with wisdom from God.