The Infamous Harlot—Her Fall
“She has fallen! Babylon the Great has fallen, she who made all the nations drink of the wine of the anger of her fornication!”—REVELATION 14:8.
This article and the one following made up the concluding talk of the symposium entitled “The Appointed Time Is Near,” presented during 1988 at the Divine Justice District Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses
1. Who is the infamous “harlot,” and why do we need to know about her?
THE infamous “harlot”—who is she? Why do we need to talk about her? Do not thriller novels, movies, TV, and videos serve up enough sickening doses of immorality? True! But this is no ordinary lady of the evening. She is, in fact, the most influential, the most notorious, the most murderous prostitute in all history. And she has been selling her favors for more than 4,000 years! We need to know about her for our protection. At Revelation 14:8, a heavenly angel calls this woman of ill repute “Babylon the Great” and describes her as a seducer of nations. Since she is that dangerous, we should be happy to know that Jehovah’s “appointed time is near” for executing judgment on her.—Revelation 1:3.
2. From where does this harlot get her name, and how did a world empire of false religion get started?
2 This harlot takes her name from ancient Babylon, the proud city established in Mesopotamia more than 4,000 years ago by Nimrod, the “mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.” When the Babylonians started to build a pagan religious tower, Jehovah confused their language and scattered them to the ends of the earth. They took their religion with them, and that is how a world empire of Babylonish religion got started. Truly, it is Babylon THE GREAT. (Genesis 10:8-10; 11:1-9) Down to our time, the mysteries of ancient Babylon are reflected in the beliefs and practices of the world’s religions. (Revelation 17:7) The Hebrew name for the city, Babel, means “Confusion,” a fitting label for today’s hodgepodge of false religion!
3. (a) For how long did Babylon hold God’s people captive, placing them in proximity with what? (b) When did Babylon suffer a disastrous fall, and why did her end not come at that time?
3 Ancient Babylon recovered from that first setback and, with the overthrow of Assyria in 632 B.C.E., became the third world power of Bible history. Her glory as such was short-lived—less than a hundred years—but for almost 70 of those years, she held God’s people Israel captive. This placed them in proximity to Babylon’s thousand temples and chapels, her triads of gods and triads of devils, her mother-and-son worship, and her astrology that idolized supposedly immortal gods. Thus, the captive Israelites were on hand at the world center of false religion when, in 539 B.C.E., the city of Babylon suffered a disastrous fall. But her end was not yet! Her conquerors continued to use her as a prestigious religious center.
A Global Religious Empire
4. (a) What did Jehovah’s prophets declare regarding Babylon, and what happened to Babylon? (b) What other Babylon lives on, to the detriment of the people of the earth?
4 Jehovah’s prophets had declared his judgment that Babylon must be swept “with the broom of annihilation”—“just as with God’s overthrow of Sodom and of Gomorrah.” Were those prophecies later fulfilled? Yes, to the last detail! In time, ancient Babylon became a pile of rubble—uninhabited except for reptiles and wild beasts—exactly as foretold! (Isaiah 13:9, 19-22; 14:23; Jeremiah 50:35, 38-40) However, that other Babylon, modern-day Babylon the Great, lives on. As the world empire of false religion, she perpetuates the original Babylon’s teachings and haughty spirit. She is Satan’s chief instrument for blinding the people to Jehovah’s Kingdom purposes.—2 Corinthians 4:3, 4.
5. (a) What religions developed while Babylon was at the zenith of her glory, but why did Satan not succeed in swamping the entire world with false religion? (b) How did Satan use false religion after the introduction of Christianity?
5 About the sixth century before Christ, when the world power Babylon was at the zenith of her glory, the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shintoism also came to the fore. But did Satan succeed in swamping the entire world with false religion? No, for a remnant of Jehovah’s ancient witnesses returned from Babylon to Jerusalem to reestablish Jehovah’s worship. Thus, faithful Jews were on hand there, six centuries later, to welcome the Messiah and become the first members of the Christian congregation. False religion brought about the martyrdom of God’s own Son and became Satan’s instrument for opposing true Christianity, just as Jesus and his apostles had warned.—Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Peter 2:1.
6. (a) How did Satan corrupt Christian teachings, and what God-dishonoring teachings developed? (b) What happened to thousands who preferred Bible truth to Babylonish dogma?
6 Particularly after the second destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., did Satan use false apostles to corrupt Christian teachings, fusing these with Babylonish mysticism and worldly Grecian philosophy. Thus, a ‘divine triune,’ the Trinity, was substituted for the Bible’s “one Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29; 1 Corinthians 8:5, 6) And the doctrine of the immortality of the human soul, as taught by the pagan philosopher Plato, was brought in to negate the precious Bible teachings of Christ’s ransom and the resurrection. This opened the way for belief in a fiery hell and a less fiery purgatory. (Psalm 89:48; Ezekiel 18:4, 20) Such God-dishonoring teachings that play upon people’s fears have helped to fill the coffers of the churches. Further, in the days of the Inquisition and of the Reformation, the clergy could not wait for flames of hellfire to do the tormenting. Thousands who preferred Bible truth to Babylonish dogma were burned alive at the stake by both Catholics and Protestants. But as we shall see, the harlotry of Babylon the Great extends far beyond promoting falsehood.
Jehovah’s Day of Judgment
7. (a) When and how did Jehovah begin to restore basic Bible truths and expose false, Babylonish teachings? (b) What basic Bible truths did the Bible Students restore?
7 Jehovah’s day of judgment of this harlot had to come! (Hebrews 10:30) There was a preparatory period, commencing in the 1870’s, when Jehovah sent his “messenger”—a sincere group of Bible students—to restore basic Bible truths and expose false Babylonish teachings. (Malachi 3:1a) This “messenger” group subscribed to the prophetic words of Revelation 4:11: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” The “messenger” also became a forthright advocate of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, God’s provision for redeeming mankind. Redeemed mankind would include, first, the “little flock” that is to rule with Jesus in his heavenly Kingdom and, later, the hundreds of millions who will live forever in the Paradise earth—most of whom will be resurrected from the dead. (Luke 12:32; 1 John 2:2; Acts 24:15) Yes, those Bible Students restored these fundamental truths, and in a figurative way, they even ‘turned the hose on hell and put out the fire’ of the Babylonish eternal-torment dogma!a
8. (a) How did the clergy of Christendom use World War I to try to destroy the Bible Students? (b) What happened to the judge who kept eight officials of the Watch Tower Society in prison by refusing bail?
8 For some 40 years the Bible Students boldly proclaimed that the year 1914 would mark the end of the Gentile Times. As expected, that year brought world-shaking events, not the least of these being the first world war. Oh, how the clergy of Christendom—the most prominent part of Babylon the Great—tried to use the world crisis to destroy those outspoken Bible Students! At last, in 1918, they had eight officials of the Watch Tower Society railroaded into prison on trumped-up charges of sedition. But these officials were released after nine months and were later exonerated. U.S. federal judge Martin T. Manton, who had kept these Bible Students in prison by refusing bail, was later decorated by Pope Pius XI, being made a “knight of the order of St. Gregory the Great.” However, his glory was short-lived, for in 1939 he was sentenced to two years in prison and a heavy fine. Why? Because he was found guilty of selling six court decisions for a total of $186,000 in bribes!
9. How did Malachi’s prophecy explain what was happening to Jehovah’s people, and so judgment began with whom?
9 As we have just noted, Jehovah’s people entered a period of severe testing in 1918. The prophet’s further words at Malachi 3:1-3 explain what was happening: “And suddenly there will come to His temple the true Lord [Jehovah], whom you people are seeking, and the messenger of the [Abrahamic] covenant”—Jesus. Yes, Jehovah came with his Christ for judgment. Jehovah then asks: “Who will be putting up with the day of his coming, and who will be the one standing when he appears? For he will be like the fire of a refiner and like the lye of laundrymen.” According to 1 Peter 4:17, judgment would start with those professing to be of “the house of God.” Thus, true Christians were refined and cleansed for Jehovah’s service.
“GET OUT OF . . . HER, O MY PEOPLE”!
10. What divine judgment came upon Christendom and on all false religion by 1919, resulting in what for Babylon the Great?
10 As an unrepentant part of Babylon the Great, Christendom’s clergy could not stand Jehovah’s judgment. They had sullied their garments terribly as participants in the carnage of the world war and as persecutors of true Christians. (Jeremiah 2:34) Instead of hailing Christ’s incoming heavenly Kingdom, they promoted a man-made League of Nations, which they came to describe as “the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth.” By 1919 it was apparent that Jehovah had passed judgment on Christendom—and indeed on all false religion. Babylon the Great had fallen, condemned to death! It was high time for all lovers of truth and righteousness to act on the prophetic command at Jeremiah 51:45: “Get out of the midst of her, O my people, and provide each one his soul with escape from the burning anger of Jehovah.”
11, 12. (a) What does an angel say at Revelation 17:1, 2 with regard to the judgment on Babylon the Great? (b) What are the “many waters” the great harlot sits on, and how has she made earth’s inhabitants “drunk with the wine of her fornication”?
11 Babylon the Great has fallen! But she is not yet destroyed. As a world empire of false religion, she will exist a short time longer as Satan’s masterpiece of deception. What is God’s final judgment on her? We are not left in doubt! Let us turn in our Bibles to Revelation 17:1, 2. Here an angel addresses the apostle John and, through him, students of prophecy today, saying: “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.” The term “many waters” refers to the turbulent masses of mankind, so long oppressed by the great harlot. And the prophecy states that “those who inhabit the earth” are made drunk with her wine. They imbibe the false teachings and worldly, immoral ways of Babylon the Great and are sent reeling, as though inebriated by cheap, illicit wine.
12 At James 4:4 we read: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God?” Twentieth-century religion is all too ready to curry favor with the world, and that is especially true of Christendom. Not only do her clergy fail to proclaim the good news of Jehovah’s incoming Kingdom but they water down the Bible’s moral teachings, condoning worldly permissiveness among church members. Even the clergy are not so innocent as to fleshly fornication, which was so roundly condemned by the apostle Paul when he said: “Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean.”—1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
“Rolling in the Mire”
13, 14. (a) What examples show that the modern-day clergy have not “been washed clean”? (b) What attitude did a synod of the Church of England take toward homosexual genital acts, and what did a news writer suggest that the church be renamed? (c) The apostate clergy well fit what words of the apostle Peter?
13 Have the modern-day clergy “been washed clean”? Well, as an example, note the situation in Britain, once a stronghold of Protestantism. In November 1987, when Britain’s prime minister was calling on the clergy to provide moral leadership, the rector of an Anglican church was saying: “Homosexuals have got as much right to sexual expression as everybody else; we should look for the good in it and encourage fidelity [among homosexuals].” A London newspaper reported: “The homosexual practices became so rampant in one Anglican theological college that students from another college had to be forbidden by staff to visit it.” One study calculated that “in one London district, the number of clergy with homosexual leanings may be more than half the total.” And at a church synod, 95 percent of the Church of England clergy supported a motion that labeled fornication and adultery as sins, but not homosexual genital acts; such homosexual acts were said merely to fall short of the ideal. Commenting on all of this, one news writer suggested that the Church of England might well be renamed Sodom and Gomorrah. Another London newspaper declared: “The British people are appalled as they contemplate the results of a generation of permissiveness.”
14 How well the apostate clergy over the years fit the apostle Peter’s words: “The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire’”!—2 Peter 2:22.
15. (a) What breakdown in moral values has taken place throughout Christendom? (b) Who must share responsibility for this woeful harvest?
15 Throughout Christendom, and indeed the whole world, there is a frightful breakdown in moral values. In some societies, marriage is now regarded as unnecessary, and those who are married think marital faithfulness is unfashionable. Fewer legalize their unions, and the divorce rate soars among those who do. In the United States, divorces have more than tripled over the past 25 years to well over one million each year. During the 20-year period from 1965, divorces in Britain quadrupled, from 41,000 to 175,000. Singles prefer to cohabit with singles of either sex, and many move from partner to partner. They lament the terrible sexually transmitted diseases, outstandingly AIDS, that proliferate as a result of their immoral life-style but continue to insist on their degrading sexual practices. Christendom’s clergy have not disciplined erring church members. To the extent that they have winked at immorality, they must share responsibility for this woeful harvest.—Jeremiah 5:29-31.
16. (a) What underscores the fact that Babylon the Great has fallen, and what angelic cry at Revelation 18:2 is appropriate? (b) All who want to survive the world’s end must do what?
16 The sorry moral state in the world empire of false religion also underscores the fact that Babylon the Great has fallen. God has judged her and has marked her for destruction. How appropriate, then, is the angel’s strong-voiced cry at Revelation 18:2: “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!” And how important that all who want to survive the world’s end act now in answering the call in Re 18 verse 4: “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”! Getting out of false religion is a vital step toward surviving “the great tribulation” just ahead. (Revelation 7:14) But more is required, as we shall see!
a On November 1, 1903, following the last of a series of debates at Carnegie Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., between Charles T. Russell and Dr. E. L. Eaton, one of the attending clergymen acknowledged Brother Russell’s victory, saying: “I am glad to see you turn the hose on hell and put out the fire.”
[Box on page 8]
“Hundreds of children molested by Catholic priests in the United States during the past five years have suffered severe emotional trauma, say parents, psychologists, police officers and attorneys involved in the cases.”—Akron Beacon Journal, January 3, 1988.
“The Roman Catholic Church in the United States has been forced to pay millions of dollars in damages to families who contend that their children have been sexually abused by priests. In spite of that, the problem has grown so severe that many lawyers and victims say the church ignores and covers up such cases.”—The Miami Herald, January 3, 1988.
[Pictures on page 6]
Images of triune gods—from ancient Egypt and from Christendom
Saint-Remi Museum collection, Reims, photo by J. Terrisse
Louvre Museum, Paris
[Picture on page 9]
The Bible likens immoral religious leaders to a bathed sow that returns to rolling in the mire