Execution of the “Great Harlot” Nears
“These will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.”—Rev. 17:16.
1, 2. What information does God give his servants, and why?
THE Creator, Jehovah God, knows exactly what will take place in the future. He is “the One telling from the beginning the finale.” (Isa. 46:10) Being “perfect in knowledge,” he knows the details about the “finale” of this system of things at the coming “great tribulation.” (Job 37:16; Matt. 24:21) Because he is a God of love, he reveals enough of these details to those who serve him loyally that they can be properly informed, upbuilt and protected. The Bible states: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets.”—Amos 3:7.
2 Thus, God gives his humble servants special knowledge that others do not have. As the apostle Paul said: “This wisdom not one of the rulers of this system of things came to know . . . For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:8-10) Having advance knowledge from Jehovah, his servants are equipped—indeed, commissioned, by God—to herald throughout the world the warning of this system’s approaching end, along with the comforting message of the new order.—Matt. 24:14.
3. Will Jehovah’s servants know when the “great tribulation” actually has begun?
3 Since Jehovah provides his loyal servants with advance knowledge about this system’s end, does this include information that will enable them to discern when the “great tribulation” actually has begun? Yes. What is that evidence? It has to do with God’s execution of judgment against what the Bible calls “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” (Rev. 17:5) And already, yes, right now, events are taking place that are preparing the way for that execution!
4. Why is it helpful to know what happened to ancient Babylon?
4 Who is this symbolic harlot of the Scriptures? How can it be said that events leading to her destruction already are under way? We can learn much about these things by referring to another Babylon, that powerful world empire of over two thousand years ago. What happened to ancient Babylon is much more than just history. It is a remarkable prophetic parallel to what soon will befall the “great harlot” of our day.—Rev. 17:1.
ANCIENT “BABYLON THE GREAT”
5. Why did Nebuchadnezzar seem to have reason for boasting?
5 “Is not this Babylon the Great, that I myself have built for the royal house with the strength of my might and for the dignity of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30) Thus boasted Babylon’s king, Nebuchadnezzar, more than six centuries before the Common Era. Nebuchadnezzar seemed to have good reason for boasting, for Babylon was the mightiest city of her time, the capital of the most powerful empire the world had yet seen. The enormous city seemed impregnable, as it was surrounded by massive double walls. It also had an apparently secure water supply—the Euphrates River—running through the city. Along the river, inside the city, were huge walls with gates that could be shut to keep out any intruder.
6. For what was Babylon renowned?
6 While Babylon had great military might, she was more renowned for something else: She was the center of false religion in that ancient world. It is said that the remains of no less than 53 temples have been discovered in the city’s ruins. The World Book Encyclopedia says: “Babylonians never really rejected earlier gods, however, so the number of gods they worshiped grew into the thousands. There were patron gods and goddesses of each city-state as well as gods representing such things as the sun, moon, and stars, the weather, crops, rivers, and the land.” Babylon’s religious influence was so strong that in time it even affected Christendom. To this day, false religious beliefs and practices of post-Flood Babylon can be found in almost all the religions of this world.—Gen. 11:1-9.
7. (a) What was Babylon’s fatal flaw? (b) What would Jehovah do to her?
7 However, Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar’s day had a fatal flaw: She was a longtime, hard-set enemy of the true God, Jehovah, and of his people. Also, she was a shedder of much innocent blood. The Bible says: “Not only was Babylon the cause for the slain ones of Israel to fall but also at Babylon the slain ones of all the earth have fallen.” (Jer. 51:49) Because of this, Jehovah declared: “Babylon, the decoration of kingdoms, the beauty of the pride of the Chaldeans, must become as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. . . . the season for her is near to come, and her days themselves will not be postponed.” That prophecy was recorded by Isaiah around the year 732 B.C.E. (Isa. 13:19-22) About a century later, Jeremiah said: “Because of the indignation of Jehovah she will not be inhabited, and she must become a desolate waste in her entirety. As for anyone passing along by Babylon, he will stare in astonishment and whistle on account of all her plagues.” Yes, seemingly impregnable “Babylon the Great” would “become piles of stones, the lair of jackals, . . . without an inhabitant.”—Jer. 50:13; 51:37.
8. What details were given about how Babylon would fall?
8 Just how would Babylon fall? Jehovah gave Isaiah and Jeremiah some of the details. Isaiah wrote that Jehovah is “the One saying to the watery deep, ‘Be evaporated; and all your rivers I shall dry up.’” (Isa. 44:27) Further, Isaiah declared: “This is what Jehovah has said to his anointed one, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold of, to subdue before him nations, so that I may ungird even the hips of kings; to open before him the two-leaved doors, so that even the gates will not be shut.” (Isa. 45:1) Jeremiah foretold: “The mighty men of Babylon have ceased to fight. . . . Their mightiness has run dry. They have become women.” (Jer. 51:30) So Babylon’s protective river, the Euphrates, would “dry up”; a leader whom Jehovah named long before he was born, “Cyrus,” would be the conqueror; the gates along the river would “not be shut”; and Babylon’s soldiers would ‘cease to fight.’
9. Why was Belshazzar’s feast especially repugnant to Jehovah?
9 On October 5/6 in the year 539 B.C.E. those prophecies were precisely fulfilled. That night, the haughty Babylonian king Belshazzar held a feast for a thousand of his officials and others. Making a religious festival out of the occasion so that he could blaspheme Jehovah, he brought in the sacred vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had captured from Jerusalem’s temple in 607 B.C.E. Out of those vessels previously used by God’s people in the service of Jehovah, Belshazzar and the others, including the king’s wives and concubines, arrogantly drank toasts to their false gods.—Dan. 5:1-4.
10. What was the handwriting on the wall, and how did Belshazzar react?
10 However, Jehovah no longer would be mocked! The time had come for him to act! “At that moment the fingers of a man’s hand came forth and were writing . . . upon the plaster of the wall of the palace of the king, and the king was beholding the back of the hand that was writing.” (Dan. 5:5) Belshazzar became so terrified at this sight that “his very knees were knocking each other.” (Dan. 5:6) Boldly, Daniel interpreted the handwriting from God to the king, declaring: “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and has finished it. . . . you have been weighed in the balances and have been found deficient. . . . your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”—Dan. 5:26-28.
11. How was Bible prophecy regarding Babylon fulfilled in detail?
11 Outside Babylon’s walls, Persian armies led by Cyrus the Great, in cooperation with the Medes of Darius, surrounded the city. While the Babylonians were reveling in their blasphemous religious orgy, feeling secure in their gods and armed might, Cyrus was undertaking a brilliant strategy. To the north of Babylon, his engineers cut through the bank of the Euphrates River, diverting it so that its waters no longer flowed south through the city. Soon the water level of the river in and around Babylon began to fall. In a very short time, the water was shallow enough for the troops led by Cyrus to enter the riverbed from the north and the south and move along it toward the heart of Babylon. Amazingly, the gates along the river inside the city had been left open by the unsuspecting or drunken Babylonians. In overwhelming strength, Cyrus’ forces swarmed into Babylon. “In that very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed.” (Dan. 5:30) “Babylon the Great” had fallen—in just one night! What a shock that was, and not just to the Babylonians, but to all the nations around her! Her end had come exactly as Jehovah’s servants had foretold. And in time Babylon did become “piles of stones,” “a desolate waste,” “without an inhabitant.”
MEANING FOR OUR DAY
12. What does the apostle John say about “Babylon the Great” in Revelation chapter 17?
12 What meaning does that have for our day? A great deal. Over six centuries after Babylon’s fall, the apostle John was inspired to write the book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). In it he spoke of still another “Babylon the Great,” and described her as “the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” (Rev. 17:5) With her, John wrote, “the kings of the earth committed fornication, whereas those who inhabit the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”—Rev. 17:2.
13. (a) Why could modern “Babylon the Great” not be just another political power? (b) For what reason is the harlot named “Babylon the Great”?
13 Since kings were said to have immoral relations with her, it is clear that this “Babylon the Great” cannot be just another “king.” What it really represents is what ancient Babylon was famous for—false religion. That is why the modern harlot takes the same name as the ancient city. Indeed, many of the false doctrines and practices found in modern religious Babylon can be traced directly to ancient religious Babylon. Thus, the harlot “Babylon the Great” of our time represents the worldwide empire of false religion that has for centuries compromised herself in immoral intercourse with the world instead of chastely serving God. Too, giving another clue to her religious identity, Revelation says of her: “For by your spiritistic practice [false religion] all the nations were misled.”—Rev. 18:23.
14. What other similarity is there between the two Babylons?
14 Recall that ancient Babylon had been a hard-set enemy of God and his people, and was responsible for vast amounts of blood spilled in her many conquests. Similarly, of modern Babylon the Bible says: “In her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Rev. 18:24) This harlot has been a chief persecutor of Jehovah’s modern-day people, his witnesses. Also, by her support of the wars of the nations, encouraging people on all sides to kill one another, she is held responsible for the blood “of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.”
15. At whose hands will the harlot suffer destruction, and how long will it take?
15 Because “her sins have massed together clear up to heaven,” God’s execution of the harlot will come swiftly. (Rev. 18:5, 21) The Bible says that “in one day her plagues will come,” indeed, “in one hour”! (Rev. 18:8, 10) That will be similar to what happened to her counterpart, ancient Babylon, which fell in one night! And at whose hands will the harlot suffer destruction? Jehovah will allow the political elements that have carried on immoral intercourse with the harlot to be her destructive agents. “These will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.”—Rev. 17:16.
16. What are the “waters” on which modern Babylon sits, and what parallel is there in this with ancient Babylon?
16 Another similarity exists between ancient and modern Babylon, one having to do with the manner of their destruction. Ancient Babylon sat on waters, the literal waters of the Euphrates River. Modern Babylon also “sits on many waters,” says Revelation 17:1. What are these waters? God’s Word answers: “The waters that you saw, where the harlot is sitting, mean peoples and crowds and nations and tongues.” (Rev. 17:15) Note that the overthrow of ancient Babylon was immediately preceded by the dropping of the literal waters of the Euphrates River. Is there a similar dropping of the symbolic waters (humans) from underneath modern Babylon? Yes, there is, and it is taking place right before our very eyes!—Rev. 16:1, 12.
HOW THE “MANY WATERS” ARE DROPPING
17. In what way are the symbolic “waters” under the harlot dropping?
17 In what way are the symbolic “many waters” under modern Babylon dropping, diminishing? In that millions of persons, including tens of thousands of religious clergy and workers, have abandoned the support that they used to give their religions, seriously weakening them. This is particularly true in Christendom, which has greater guilt since she claims to serve both God and Christ. While at times there is mention of “revival” in a few religions, particularly the less orthodox ones, in most cases this is only superficial. With few exceptions, the overall trend is unmistakable and can be seen by comments in the world press, such as the following:
“Something has happened to Christendom. Every indication is that we have entered a long, long night and we’re not going to come out of it . . .
“The effective existence of Christianity and Roman Catholicism in the public structures has already disappeared. We are witnessing the death of a socially and politically structured Christianity.”—Prominent Catholic writer Malachi Martin, in the Providence “Sunday Journal,” February 17, 1980.
“The shortage of priests and nuns in the West is near the peril point in nation after nation.”—“Time,” August 21, 1978.
“Christianity [is] retreating rapidly . . . a picture of superstitious agnosticism, confusion, and ignorance. . . . It would be no exaggeration to say that almost all children have no idea what Christianity really is.”—London “Times,” September 25, 1978, commenting on a report from the Church of England Board of Education.
18, 19. Give additional evidence of the falling of these “waters.”
18 When Pope John Paul II visited France in May 1980, the New York Times (May 31) commented: “The influence of the church is rapidly declining in France. A recent poll disclosed that only 15 percent of the people are practicing Catholics, although 85 percent are baptized in the church.” In Brazil, Archbishop Luciano Cabral Duarte said: “Our Catholics are losing strength and are perishing from profound spiritual anemia.” (Veja, January 30, 1980) In Nigeria, a clergyman of the Presbyterian Church admitted: “Today the church seems to have lost its sense of identity like someone suffering from amnesia and is asking, ‘Who am I,’ and ‘What am I here for’?” (Daily Star, September 11, 1978) In Greece, a newspaper said the following about the once-respected Greek Orthodox Church:
“Today the Church, that is the clergy, especially the highest clergy, is very often a den of scandal, a source of foolishness and nonsense.
“So much so, that for some time now, the great majority of the Greek people look on most clergymen, not as a respectable, spiritual institution, but as a swarm of agitators and scandalmakers, radicals and exploiters, who rather than ‘guide their flock,’ amuse it with their prattle and deliria.”—“To Vima,” October 15, 1978.
19 Regarding the Eastern Orthodox Church’s most important center in Turkey, Time declares: “The historic see, once the center of half the Christian world, is dying.” American rabbi Alvin Reines says of the Jewish religion: ‘American Jewry is in a desperate state of crisis. The problem is that American Jews simply do not accept the teachings of traditional Judaism.’ In England, so many churches have closed in recent years due to dropping attendance that one commentator called them “an endangered species.” In Germany, a poll revealed that only 17 percent of Germans under 35 believe that God exists. In Japan, when people were asked, “Do you have a religion of some sort?” 60 percent answered “No” and 7 percent more did not answer. In country after country the situation with this world’s religions is as The Age of Melbourne, Australia, says—that all denominations “are suffering a fall in believers.” Since the “fall in believers,” the fall of the “many waters” upon which the harlot sits, is so obviously taking place now, can the forces of destruction be far behind? No.
20. What urgent counsel does God’s Word give to righteously inclined persons?
20 The diminishing support for the “great harlot” fits the description of Bible prophecy regarding these “last days” when it says that people would be “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” The same prophecy then counsels: “From these turn away.” (2 Tim. 3:4, 5) Similarly, the striking declaration addressed to righteously inclined persons still in modern “Babylon the Great” is: “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.
21. What final act causes Jehovah’s rage to come up, and with what result?
21 Very soon now, the “great harlot” will be executed as a judgment of God against her. As with ancient Babylon, modern Babylon’s speedy overthrow will prove to be a great shock to the world. (Rev. 18:9-19) Her destruction is the event that will mark the beginning of the “great tribulation.” Then, also, the anti-God elements will turn on Jehovah’s servants to try to crush them. (Ezek. 38:16) But Jehovah says to his loyal ones: “He that is touching you is touching my eyeball.” (Zech. 2:8) This causes an immediate reaction from God. Jehovah says: “And it must occur in that day . . . that my rage will come up into my nose. And in my ardor, in the fire of my fury, I shall have to speak.” (Ezek. 38:18, 19) Coming to the rescue of his loyal servants, God swiftly and with crushing force strikes the nations at the “war of the great day of God the Almighty,” Armageddon. The enemies of God and his people are thus annihilated, cleansing the earth of all wickedness.—Rev. 16:14, 16; Prov. 2:22.
22. How will those loyal to Jehovah be rewarded?
22 After Armageddon, the marvelous new order begins! The loyal ones who “come out of the great tribulation” are richly rewarded. “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Rev. 21:3, 4.
23. (a) Why should we take heart despite today’s difficult conditions? (b) What should we urge truth seekers to do?
23 So take heart, all you lovers of righteousness! Know that the days of the “great harlot,” and of the oppressive political rulers of this system of things, are numbered and that Jehovah will soon take them out of the way. Since God “cannot lie,” have confidence that he will fulfill your hope of living forever in a paradise new order where every day you will find “exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” (Titus 1:2; Ps. 37:11) In the meantime, avail yourself of Jehovah’s provisions to strengthen you spiritually for the difficult days immediately ahead. As you do so, lovingly consider others who may yet be “hungering and thirsting for righteousness.” Urge such ones to take to heart the Bible counsel: “Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be found. Call to him while he proves to be near.”—Matt. 5:6; Isa. 55:6.
[Picture on page 19]
Ancient Babylon sat astride the waters of the Euphrates River
[Pictures on page 21]
The dropping of the waters of the Euphrates River paved the way for enemy troops to enter Babylon and overthrow her
The dropping of the symbolic waters (people) from under Babylon the Great precedes her destruction