“Get Out from Among Them”
JEHOVAH GOD expects all who love and serve him to keep free from false worship. His Son Jesus Christ met this expectation. Of God’s Son, the Bible says: “You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness.” Because of this his Father has specially blessed him, exalting him as the king of God’s kingdom.—Heb. 1:9.
If you love truth and righteousness, then you will also hate and avoid what is false and displeasing to God. In this way you can find protection both now and during the coming execution of God’s judgment upon the wicked.—Prov. 1:28-33.
Long ago God foretold that he would have a people who would be his “special property,” and that observers would certainly see “the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.” (Mal. 3:17, 18) If you see this distinction, then you should act accordingly. Failure to do so would endanger your prospect of gaining eternal life.
What course should you take? God’s Word says very definitely: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what sharing do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols?” Because there can be no proper fellowship between those practicing righteousness and those practicing lawlessness, God commands: “Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves.”—2 Cor. 6:14-17.
GETTING OUT OF “BABYLON THE GREAT”
To those who were once his chosen people and who were in exile in ancient Babylon, Jehovah God spoke similar words. He said: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk. O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. . . . One’s name would not be cut off or be annihilated from before me. Go forth, you people, out of Babylon!”—Isa. 48:17-20.
By the conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C.E. Jehovah God made it possible for his people who were exiled there to leave Babylon as a free people. Jehovah thus acted for the benefit of those loving him. He did not deprive them of anything good.
Ancient Babylon, of course, has long since ceased to exist. Yet God speaks of another Babylon called “Babylon the Great.” And again he gives the command: “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) In the previous chapter of this Bible book of Revelation 14, Babylon the Great is described in symbol as an immoral woman. Note what the Bible says about her:
“‘Come, I will show you the judgment upon the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, whereas those who inhabit the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’ . . .
“And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and was adorned with gold and precious stone and pearls and had in her hand a golden cup that was full of disgusting things and the unclean things of her fornication. And upon her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.’ And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the holy ones and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. . . .
“‘The waters that you saw, where the harlot is sitting, mean peoples and crowds and nations and tongues. And the woman whom you saw means the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.’”—Rev. 17:1-6, 15, 18.
Since Babylon the Great has “a kingdom over the kings of the earth,” this means that Babylon the Great is an empire. But what kind of empire?
It could not be a political empire, for “the kings of the earth,” the political element, are said to ‘commit fornication’ with Babylon the Great. Is it, then, a commercial empire?
No, for when Babylon the Great is destroyed, the Bible book of Revelation goes on to say that “the traveling merchants . . . will stand at a distance . . . and will weep and mourn.” (Rev. 18:15) So from this it is clearly seen that Babylon the Great is not a commercial empire either.
Could she, then, be a religious empire? Yes, Babylon the Great fittingly represents the world empire of false religion! Religion has certainly had great influence over the political kingdoms, and its control does extend over peoples of all the earth. But why should this religious empire be pictured by a prostitute woman?
This is because it mixes religion and politics. As regards Christendom, the Bible shows that those who claim to serve God, but are unfaithful and enter into relations with the political powers, are viewed by God as spiritual prostitutes or adulteresses. The Bible says of such ones: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.”—Jas. 4:4; Ezek. 16:1, 2, 25-30.
THE SPREAD OF BABYLONISH FALSE RELIGION
It was shortly after the global flood of Noah’s day that false religion got its start in Babylon, where Nimrod exalted himself “in opposition to Jehovah.” However, Jehovah confused the people’s language and “scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth.” As they went, they took with them their Babylonish doctrines and practices.—Gen. 10:8-10; 11:4-9.
In harmony with this, the book The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria (by Professor Morris Jastrow, page 701) tells of “the profound impression made upon the ancient world by the remarkable manifestations of religious thought in Babylonia and by the religious activity that prevailed in that region.”
So, too, the book The Worship of the Dead (by Colonel J. Garnier, pages 3, 4, 8) shows that evidence has “indisputably proved the connection and identity of the religious systems of nations most remote from each other,” and that these “must have all derived their religious ideas from a common source and a common centre. Everywhere we find the most startling coincidences in rites, ceremonies, customs, traditions.”
Thus, although many persons are unaware of it, there are many doctrines and practices found in religions today that have a common origin in Babylon’s false religion. What are some of these?
Among the teachings prominent in ancient Babylon were: worship of a triad or trinity of gods, the belief that the human soul could not die, and the teaching that persons suffered after death in an underground world or “land of no return.” The use of images also played a large part in Babylonian worship. As has been shown frequently in the pages of this magazine, none of these things are taught in God’s Word, the Bible. However, do we see similar teachings and practices in the religious organizations around us today?
Along with the doctrines of the “Trinity,” the immortality of the human soul and a hellfire of torment, any other teaching or practice that goes contrary to God’s inspired Word marks a religion as false and labels it as part of Babylon the Great. A religion may claim to advocate worship of the true God of the Bible and it may use the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, but of what value is this if it is contaminated with Babylonish doctrines and practices?
The Bible principle applies: “A little leaven ferments the whole lump.” (Gal. 5:9) Whatever good may have been done is canceled by the contamination. Jesus Christ also showed this, when he explained: “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matt. 7:22, 23.
God has foretold that suddenly, “in one day,” plagues of “death and mourning and famine” will come upon Babylon the Great. So it is urgent and for our good that we completely separate ourselves now from that false religious empire.—Rev. 18:8.
TAKING THE NECESSARY STEPS TO SEPARATE YOURSELF
What does it mean to “get out from among them”? Is it enough for a person merely to recognize in his mind the falseness of Babylonish teachings, while still continuing to associate with a religious organization that holds to those teachings? Really, would this not be a course of hypocrisy? Would it not give visible support to something that God condemns? How could such a person truly consider himself obedient to God’s command to “get out from among them, and separate yourselves, . . . and quit touching the unclean thing”?—2 Cor. 6:17.
If we do not want to be like those people who gathered at the temple of Baal in Jehu’s time only to suffer destruction at God’s command, then we need to make a clean break from any and all organizations of Babylon the Great. We need to quit sharing in their activities. (2 Ki. 10:20-27) We need to serve notice on them that we are withdrawing from their organizations. By doing this we will not be “limping upon two different opinions,” trying to ‘partake of “the table of Jehovah” and the table of demons,’ and thereby “inciting Jehovah to jealousy.”—1 Ki. 18:21; 1 Cor. 10:21, 22.
But is not the getting together of religions in an interfaith or ecumenical movement a good thing? Well, how does Jehovah God view it? The Bible record shows that he allowed no interfaith with the Canaanites for the nation of Israel. God commanded the Israelites: “You must form no marriage alliance with them. Your daughter you must not give to his son, and his daughter you must not take for your son. For he will turn your son from following me, and they will certainly serve other gods.”—Deut. 7:3, 4.
And how did God’s Son view interfaith? Jesus Christ did not engage in interfaith activities with the various sects of Judaism while on earth. To the contrary, he roundly condemned the false religion of his day, and stated positively: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6; Matt. 23:13, 38.
FIRM STAND FOR TRUTH BRINGS BLESSINGS
Making a clean break from false worship may bring problems. Jesus showed that one’s relatives may oppose such a course. Yet, even though those opposing may be as near and dear as a member of one’s own family, Jesus said that this should make no difference in our decision. He explained: “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:32-37) It is a question, not of loving such ones less than formerly, but of how strong our love is for Jehovah and his Word of truth.
Actually, it is by taking a firm stand for the truth that one can really act for the lasting good of relatives who may at first oppose one’s right course. Yielding to pressure may only encourage these in their opposition to the truth. On the other hand, your faithful conduct in holding to the truth of God’s Word and living in harmony with it will bring you blessings and happiness; it will make a better person of you. Thus, in course of time, those close to you may come to recognize the wisdom and rightness of your course and be helped to see the truth as well. This is the hope the Bible encourages us to embrace and work for.—1 Cor. 7:12-16.
For example, Christian wives are urged to be in submission to their unbelieving husbands, in order that “they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives.” (1 Pet. 3:1, 2) True, it will call for patience, faith that God’s way is best, and, above all, love. But God himself lovingly assures you that he will support and strengthen you if you put him first in your life.—Rom. 8:38, 39.
Again, some may feel that they are now well along in years, and that it is too late to change their course. However, Jehovah God, who is himself called “the Ancient of Days,” invites old persons also, to join in praising him, saying: “You old men together with boys. Let them praise the name of Jehovah.”—Dan. 7:9; Ps. 148:12, 13.
God’s Word shows that old age will not excuse one if one fails to separate from what God condemns, but that “grayheadedness is a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Prov. 16:31; Ezek. 9:4-6) It is never too late in life to take a stand in harmony with what one knows to be the truth, thus setting one’s steps firmly on the way to eternal life. No matter how many years we may have misused in the past, these will seem few indeed when compared with the never-ending years of life to which we may attain in God’s new system.—Prov. 10:22.
If we now take positive action to get out from among those who practice false religion, we may enjoy a blessed, happy relationship with our God, Jehovah. (2 Cor. 6:17, 18) For the matter does not end with getting out from among those who teach and practice things contrary to God’s Word. God also gives the command that we should not ‘forsake the gathering of ourselves together,’ as Hebrews 10:24, 25 tells us.
With whom, then, are we to assemble? With those who worship God in spirit and in truth, practicing true Christianity, the religion of the Bible. Of such ones God says: “I shall reside among them and walk among them, and I shall be their God, and they will be my people.”—2 Cor. 6:16.
Those who make up the Christian organization of Jehovah’s witnesses are persons who have separated themselves from the many religions of both pagandom and Christendom. They have thus fled from Babylon the Great. By attending meetings at one of their Kingdom Halls, you can see for yourself the difference this has made. It is not just the meeting place and the fact that money collections are not taken, but primarily the meetings themselves and the attitude of the persons attending that mark Jehovah’s witnesses as distinct from other religions.
These meetings are real Bible studies, with emphasis on how Bible principles apply in our daily lives and also on how to teach God’s Word to others. There you will see persons who are sincerely ‘seeking first the kingdom and God’s righteousness,’ and who earnestly endeavor to produce the fruits of God’s spirit.—Matt. 6:33; Gal. 5:22, 23.
Attending once or twice may satisfy your curiosity, but for you to make genuine progress in God’s service you need to be like the early Christians. They really valued the truth, so they “continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles . . . And day after day they were in constant attendance at the temple with one accord.” (Acts 2:42, 46) Only by regularly sharing in these congregation meetings can you develop the faith that you need to gain God’s approval.
Although separating from modern Babylon the Great may cost you something in the way of previous associations, you will gain far more by your regular attendance at the meetings of Jehovah’s people. Like Jesus’ early disciples, who also left much in order to follow him, you will see fulfilled the promise to “get a hundredfold now in this period of time” in the way of brothers and sisters and homes where you will be gladly received. You will find that you have become part of a large family of Christian brothers, whose love and friendship are genuine and sincere. You will gain all this along with the hope of everlasting life “in the coming system of things.”—Mark 10:28-30; Ps. 27:10.
Jehovah God has a visible organization that he is using today to train and equip us for life in his righteous new system. After the present wicked system is gone, God’s way will prevail everywhere. His will be the only government left. (Dan. 2:44) His approved people will be the only ones remaining on earth with whom to associate. Only God’s standards of right and wrong will be allowed. There will be only one religion.
Therefore, the wise thing to do is to bring ourselves into line with God’s way of doing things now, taking full advantage of the training that God provides through His written Word the Holy Bible. In this way we prove that we really mean it when we say that we want eternal life in God’s righteous new system.—Ps. 86:10, 11; Prov. 4:10-13.