Babylon the Great—Her Execution
“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.’” “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.”—Revelation 17:5; 18:8.
WE HAVE a right to wonder about those words penned by the apostle John in the first century of our Common Era. Who is this ‘mother of harlots’? How has she offended God so much that he should judge her so severely? There is no doubt that God’s judgments against the mysterious harlot Babylon the Great are devastating. And this surely gives us reason to determine who this harlot is and how her destiny will affect us.—Revelation 18:21.
Whom or what does Babylon the Great symbolize? The Bible says that world rulers have committed fornication with her and that merchants have traded with her. (Revelation 18:3) Hence, she cannot represent politics or big business. But this leaves the third powerful element in the world as the only candidate for the title ‘mother of harlots.’ She is none other than Satan’s world empire of false religion!*
Now there remain these questions: Why, how, and when will Babylon the Great be executed? Or to put matters literally: Why, how, and when will false religion disappear from this earth?
Christendom’s Non-Christian Record
When we consider the record of false religion, we may well be reminded of the ancient prophetic utterance: “It is wind that they keep sowing, and a storm wind is what they will reap.” (Hosea 8:7) This agrees with the principle expressed by the Christian apostle Paul: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) So, what has false religion sown on a world scale? And what will it reap?
Jesus Christ taught that his followers should love not only their neighbors but also their enemies. (Matthew 5:43, 44) Quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures, Paul spelled out how Christians should treat their foes. He said: “‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals upon his head.’ Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Romans 12:20, 21.
Yet, the history of Christendom’s religions is one of hatred and bloodshed. Ancient and modern-day crusades involving pillage, rape, and death have been blessed and condoned. For instance, Fascist Italy’s rape of Abyssinia (1935) and Franco’s “crusade” in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) were blessed by dignitaries of the Catholic Church.
Theological differences have been settled by burning people at the stake. Bible translator William Tyndale was strangled at the stake and his body burned in 1536, after he published his translation of the “New Testament” in English. Earlier, at the behest of Pope Martin V, religious authorities, driven by a spirit of vengeance, dug up the bones of Bible translator Wycliffe 44 years after his death so as to have the pleasure of burning them. During the Catholic Inquisition, thousands of Jews and “heretics” were stripped of their possessions, tortured, and burned at the stake—all supposedly in the name of Christ! Spanish theologian Michael Servetus, who was persecuted by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike, was burned at the stake on the orders of Protestant John Calvin. In the two world wars of this century, armies have been blessed by “Christian” clergymen, and soldiers have been urged to kill by their nationalistic chaplains.
What a contrast to true Christianity! The apostle Paul wrote: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Colossians 3:12-14.
To Christians in Rome, Paul wrote: “Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men. If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” (Romans 12:17-19) In the light of Christian principles, then, Christendom has failed. She has sown hatred and hypocrisy and will reap destruction.
Non-Christian Religions—Their Record
But Babylon the Great consists of more than the religions of Christendom. All the major religions of this world share in that infamous harlot’s bloodguilt. For example, the Shinto religion of Japan must bear part of the blame for the fanatical and sadistic mentality evidenced by the Japanese military in World War II. Historian Paul Johnson holds that “to fortify themselves in a stern, competitive world” dominated by European standards of behavior, they found it necessary to invent “a state religion and a ruling morality, known as Shinto and bushido [the “way of the warrior”]. . . . Regular emperor-worship was established, especially in the armed forces, and from the 1920s onwards a national code of ethics, kokumin dotoku, was taught in all the schools.” What was the result? By 1941, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and thus entered World War II, “Shinto . . . was transformed from a primitive, obsolescent and minority cult into an endorsement of a modern, totalitarian state, and so by a peculiarly odious irony, religion, which should have served to resist the secular horrors of the age, was used to sanctify them.”
Concerning the partition of India in 1947, in which religious differences were a factor, historian Johnson says: “Some 5 to 6 million people ran for their lives in each direction. . . . Estimates of the dead at the time ranged from 1 to 2 million. More modern calculations are in the 200,000 to 600,000 range.” To this day, religiously motivated killing and humiliation take place in Hindu society. Often Harijans, or outcasts formerly called untouchables, are the victims of gang murder organized by rich landowners.
Hinduism is tied in with spiritistic practices. (Revelation 18:23) Indian writer Sudhir Kakar speaks of the “average Hindu’s fascination and respect for the occult and its practitioners” and adds: “Astrologers, soothsayers, clairvoyants as also sadhus [ascetic “holy” men], fakirs [Mendicants who perform feats of magic] and other godmen are profoundly esteemed for they are thought to be in intimate contact with the higher reality.”—India Today, April 30, 1988.
Additionally, there are constant conflicts among Hindus, Sikhs, and other Eastern religions. To these conflicts, each religion adds its share of hatred, strife, and murder. This is just another aspect of the fruitage of Babylon the Great.
Furthermore, the modern history of war, killings, and repression says little to recommend Judaism. The violence sometimes manifested by members of the Hasidic sect of Judaism toward adherents of other Jewish sects and of non-Jewish religions is hardly a recommendation in God’s sight.
When we study the history of the worldwide empire of religion, we can easily see why the Supreme Judge has a basis for the execution of Babylon the Great. “Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24) False religion’s complicity in regional and world wars has made her guilty in God’s sight for the blood of “all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.”
According to the Biblical indictment, Babylon the Great has been judged worthy of destruction by reason of her historical record of spiritual fornication with world rulers, her bloodguilt in wars, and her spiritistic practices. Therefore, Jehovah God has judicially determined that Satan’s world empire of false religion must be terminated.—Revelation 18:3, 23, 24.
How False Religion Will Perish
In highly symbolic language, the book of Revelation describes the destruction of Babylon the Great. At Revelation 17:16 we read: “The ten horns that you saw, and the wild beast, 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.” “The ten horns” symbolize all the political powers now on the world scene and that support the United Nations, the “scarlet-colored wild beast,” itself the image of the Devil’s bloodstained political system.—Revelation 16:2; 17:3.*
According to Bible prophecy, the political powers associated with the United Nations will turn against the world empire of false religion and devastate her. All false religions will be affected. Some political systems have already shown their impatience with false religion’s interference in political and social spheres. Some socialistic countries have taken a stand for atheism and have reduced religion to a virtual nonentity, as in Albania, or to a compliant handmaiden, as in Russia and China. Elsewhere, political rulers show strong resentment for the liberation theology of some Catholic priests in poorer countries. Yet others repress religions that get involved in racial matters. Even in so-called liberal countries, some politicians resent clerical meddling in politics and social issues.
It remains to be seen just what further issues will provoke the political elements worldwide to act against false religion. But one thing is certain—the execution of Babylon the Great by these elements will be not only their will but also the will of God. Revelation 17:17 states: “God put it into their hearts to carry out his thought, even to carry out their one thought by giving their kingdom to the wild beast, until the words of God will have been accomplished.”—Compare Jeremiah 51:12, 13.
Make no mistake. The execution of Babylon the Great will not simply be the expression of political enmity toward religious arrogance and interference. The political rulers will be God’s involuntary tools for the destruction of false worship worldwide. Yes, “her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind.”—Revelation 18:5.
Jehovah has decreed that proud false religion must be humbled. The prophecy states: “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.”—Revelation 18:7, 8.
That “one day,” or short time of swift execution, is now near. In fact, the destruction of Babylon the Great ushers in “the day of vengeance on the part of our God.” (Isaiah 61:2) Thereafter, God’s just war of Armageddon will be upon us. All the evidence of world events since 1914 indicates that time is running out for Satan’s system of things. Therefore, the rule of God’s Kingdom is at hand.—Luke 21:32-36; Revelation 16:14-16.
How will true worshipers react to the destruction of Babylon the Great? Says Revelation: “Be glad over her, O heaven, also you holy ones and you apostles and you prophets, because God has judicially exacted punishment for you from her!” (Revelation 18:20) There will be universal rejoicing as Jehovah’s purpose is carried out and his name is sanctified. The prophecy states: “After these things I heard what was as a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven. They said: ‘Praise Jah, you people! The salvation and the glory and the power belong to our God, because his judgments are true and righteous. For he has executed judgment upon the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged the blood of his slaves at her hand.’”—Revelation 19:1, 2.
The devastating of Babylon the Great, followed by God’s execution of the remaining elements of Satan’s system, will mean endless blessings for true worshipers of God, including many who will be resurrected here on earth. As Jesus promised all such: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:31, 32; Revelation 19:11-21.
True worshipers are already free of false religious teachings that have blasphemed God through the ages. In the promised new world of righteousness, they will be free to live without fear of death, for “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.” (Revelation 21:3, 4) The former things that will have passed away will include Babylon the Great, Satan’s world empire of false religion.
For more detailed proof identifying Babylon the Great, see The Watchtower of April 1, 1989.
For explanations of these and other symbols in Revelation, see the book Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Blurb on page 5]
“By a peculiarly odious irony, religion, which should have served to resist the secular horrors of the age, was used to sanctify them”
[Picture on page 4]
Wycliffe and Tyndale were persecuted for translating the Bible
From an old engraving in the Bibliothèque Nationale