CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

What We Are Really Up Against – Time To Get the Big Picture

May 3, 2019

Most people do not think ahead, do not look at the big picture, and do not consider the long-term. Most at best are only thinking ahead to what they will have for dinner, or what fun they will get up to on the weekend. Sadly many Christians can be included in this myopia and lack of vision. I already wrote about this in terms of the culture wars: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/04/18/big-picture-long-term/

Here I want to discuss this in terms of the mega-spiritual struggle we are all involved in. Most Christians are aware of the “world” and the “world-system” and how this opposes Christian values and beliefs. But when we turn to the book of Revelation we find a number of terms and concepts which also deal with all this.

We read about Babylon, or mystery Babylon, about various beasts, about various women, including Jezebel, about the great harlot, etc. Many evil individuals or forces are discussed. And recall that the book itself does NOT mention the Antichrist specifically (that term is only found in 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3 and 2 John 1:7).

By any standard the book of Revelation is admittedly very difficult to interpret, and it may be better to view these various evil creatures and beings as institutions instead of individuals, as empires as opposed to emperors. They are symbolic representations of evil powers and demonic realities.

Consider Babylon for example. Yes there was an actual Babel and its tower (Genesis 11); the Babylonian empire which God used to judge Israel; and the Roman empire which can be seen symbolically as a type of Babylon, etc. But just as Jerusalem can represent more than an actual city, but a whole way of life, so too Babylon.

As James Montgomery Boice wrote in his 1996 book, Foundations of God’s City:

In both the Old and New Testaments both Babylon and Jerusalem take on more than life-size dimensions and become symbols of two entirely different relationships to God and ways of life. Babylon stands for earthly relationships and an earthly way of life. Jerusalem stands for spiritual realities, and God is its life. This was true of the earthly Jerusalem only at its best and in part. But it becomes so in full measure when the new Jerusalem rises on the ruins of the old.

Or as William Dumbrell puts it:

Thus Babylon and the new Jerusalem represent the two alternatives for humankind. Babylon is the satanic dominated parody of the ideal city/civilization, the earthly counterpart of the new Jerusalem. . . . Babylon simply symbolises human lust for deification. Babylon is an idolatrous city-world, opposed to God, consumed with itself, and a ‘brothel’ for kings and merchants.

He further comments on the makeup of Babylon and its fall:

In a world controlled by divine order, it is inevitable that – given the pernicious nature of her influence through wealth and sensuality (18:3) – Babylon must fall. Babylon’s idolatrous and seductive social, economic, and moral actions will bring about her fall. Babylon’s blatant paganism will bring about her fall. And the leaders and peoples of Babylon’s world will fall with her. Indeed, all the Babylons throughout history must fall (cf. Isaiah 21:9). It is remarkable that divine patience permits the Babylons of history to endure until they collapse under the weight of their own excesses.

In his brand-new book on Revelation, Brian Tabb says this about Babylon and what it represents: “Babylon is not simply a cipher for Rome but is a rich biblical-theological symbol for the world’s idolatrous, seductive political economy – the archetypal godless city, which Rome symbolised in the first century. Babylon’s dramatic demise represents the culmination of God’s judgment on ungodly human society, beginning with Babel (Gen. 11:1-9).”

Thomas Torrance puts it this way:

Babylon always refers to world power closely tied up with the image of the beast. It is a power that is born of spiritual wickedness in high places, a power that flirts with all the rulers and kings and potentates of the earth, and that binds the nations of the world into one empire opposed to the Kingdom of God. Babylon is, in fact, an imitation Kingdom of God, based on the demonic trinity. Ostensibly, Babylon is a world-wide civilization and culture, magnificent in her science and arts and commerce, but it is drugged with pride and intoxicated with its enormous success. At the same time it is a strange mingling of world power and religion, of paganism and Christianity, which becomes the greatest hindrance to the Christian Gospel.

And G. K. Beale looks at the historical pattern here. He comments:

Babylon was the ungodly world power under which Israel had to live in captivity. While Israelite saints did not go along with Babylon’s religious practices, they were nevertheless tempted to compromise. When they remained loyal to their God, they underwent trial by their oppressors (see Daniel 1-6). The ungodly social, political, and economic system dominated by the Roman Empire placed believers in the same position as Israel was in under Babylon. Just as Babylon destroyed the first temple and sent Israel into exile, so Rome came to be called “Babylon” in some sectors of Judaism because it also destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and exiled Israel.

Therefore, here in the Apocalypse Rome and all wicked world systems take on the symbolic name “Babylon the Great.” Indeed, this symbolic interpretation of Babylon is assured beyond reasonable doubt by the prophecies of God’s judgment on historical Babylon, which foretold that Babylon “will be desolate forever” and “not rise again” (Jer. 28:39; 50:39-40; 51:24-26, 62-64; so also Is. 13:19-22).

And he points out the economic and commercial aspects of all this:

Many go along with the religious and idolatrous demands of the ungodly earthly order. This compliance is explained in the identification of Babylon as “she who made all the nations drink from the wine of the passion of her intercourse.”… The nations’ cooperation with Babylon ensures their material security (cf. 2:9, 13; 13:16-17). Without this cooperation security will be removed. Such security is a temptation too great to resist….

Babylon’s promise of prosperous earthly welfare for its willing subjects is an intoxication that the majority of the world’s inhabitants also want to imbibe. Once one imbibes, the intoxicating influence removes all desire to resist Babylon’s destructive influence, blinds one to Babylon’s own ultimate insecurity and to God as the source of real security, and numbs one against any fear of a coming judgment.

So what is my point in all this? Is it just more abstract speculation about end-time events? No, it is very practical and concrete truth about the culture we NOW live in. We ARE living in Babylon. The entire Western system, as good and great as it has been in the past, is quickly becoming everything we find being denounced in Revelation.

When we have most of the media, commerce, politics, culture, and entertainment all warring against Christian values and practices, and against the things that God so very highly values – such as the sanctity of human life, the importance of marriage and family and godly sexuality, etc. – then you know we are living in a Babylon culture.

And this is a culture that will be judged. It must be judged. We need to see the bigger picture here. It is not just that we have a few bad eggs in politics or in Hollywood or in Madison Avenue or in pop culture. It is not just a few secular left activist lobby groups we are dealing with. It is not just a materialistic and hedonistic culture that is battling against us.

This is much, much bigger. It is part and parcel of a mega-spiritual war taking place. And all the imagery and symbolism of Revelation perfectly depicts what is really going on here. I quite like what Dennis Johnson writes in his 2001 book, Triumph of the Lamb:

Revelation repeatedly reminds us that people and institutions are not as they appear to our eyes. We must look beyond the surface of the page to discern the realities that explain history’s events and our experience. Revelation calls the church, Jesus’ witness, to exercise wise discernment, lest we be taken in by an impressive image that marks an ugly and empty reality. . . . Revelation reminds us of the ugly underbelly of even the best of merely human institutions, and its visions call Christ’s servants to heed the psalmist’s wise counsel: “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation” (Ps. 146:3).

So when we see violence all around us, gross injustice, rampant drug abuse, human trafficking, the porn plague destroying so many lives, the trans war on children, the attack on marriage and family, the hyper-sexualisation of society, the attack on religious freedom – to name but a few modern realities – this is all part of a much bigger war.

They are all symptomatic of Babylon in our midst – the evil and demonic world system that is warring against the church and everything God and his people stand for. It really is a cosmic conflict. It is a life and death battle between good and evil, between God and the devil.

And as Beale pointed out, much of this seduction of Babylon has to do with social and economic security. If we bow down to this satanic counterfeit, we will be looked after. But if we resist, there will be very real penalties. How many times now have I documented cases of people losing their jobs or being fined or jailed for refusing to go along with the radical leftist agenda?

How often have I said that Christian schools and other religious bodies need to stop their dependency on government funding. So often those sucking on the government teat have compromised big time to keep the money coming. This is what Babylon is about, as Beale rightly explained.

See more on this matter here: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/04/27/godless-corporations-rampant-discrimination-blackmailing-christians/

And the biblical message is always the same, when it comes to Babylon. As William Hendriksen reminds us:

The admonition to leave Babylon is addressed to God’s people in all ages (cf. Is. 48:20; 52:11; Je.50:8, 41-44; Zech. 2:7). From this fact it appears that Babylon is not only the city of the end-time. It is the world, as the centre of seduction, in any age. To depart from Babylon means not to have fellowship with her sins and not to be ensnared by her allurements and enticements. Those who set their heart on the world shall also receive of her plagues.

Thankfully we know who wins in the end. And Revelation makes it clear that those who overcome with God’s help will enjoy the true city and what it represents, the new Jerusalem. The counterfeit city, imaging Satan and his values, will fall. And there will be rejoicing in heaven because of its fall (Rev. 19).

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18 Responses to What We Are Really Up Against – Time To Get the Big Picture

  • I woke up to the news this morning that a lot of the right wing pages have been banned from Facebook permanently. Some platforms are restricting or banning funds. Things seem to be escalating.

  • Thanks Bill, I needed to know this.
    John Abbott

  • There’s also the enemy within, the Laodecian church which loves compromise with all these forces that are railing against the invisible church.

  • Could it be that the most outrageous things in human affairs will soon become precisely those activities and their protagonists which the world, in its dubious wisdom, chooses to place in those “safe spaces” where everything is “above criticism” but far from “irreproachable”?…

  • Paul has good advice for us in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

    Another manifestation of the same spirit can be seen in how the nations of the world (and sadly, parts of the church) respond to the restoration of the Jews to the land of Israel, as God has promised repeatedly in scripture (e.g., Ezekiel 36 – 37).

    For example, in the UN General Assembly there are typically 21 resolutions condemning Israel each year (with New Zealand supporting all of them), but only 7 resolutions against all other nations combined. And from 2011 – 2016 when almost half a million people died in the Syrian conflict, Syria was condemned about 6 times in all UN institutions, while Israel was condemned 220 times!

  • Excellent article Bill, the Babylonian trick hidden in plain sight. I saw what was going on at Denver International Airport, last night, passers by we’re laughing. Sharing this piece is a must. Thank you Bill,
    Mark Bryant

  • On the children striking and rebelling for ‘climate change’. A Biblical, end-times prophesy:

    “I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them… the child will be insolent [rude, disrespectful, defiant] toward the elder, and the base toward the honorable… as for My people, children are their oppressors”

    (Isaiah 3:4, 5, 12).

  • What is absolutely beautiful is seeing prophecies people have struggled with for millennia suddenly becoming clear and plain as we see them unfolding before our eyes but, of course, the prophecies themselves predicted this:-

    Dan 12:9 And He said, Go, Daniel! For the words are closed up and sealed until the end-time.
    Dan 12:10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried. But the wicked shall do wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.
    (MKJV)

  • OF COURSE, WOW, GOT IT. I have been trying to work out why Christendom seems to give rise to all manner of immorality. As much as you may not like what I said, the fact, of the matter is what we see as abhorrent in its utter irrationality and fullness is only seen in Christian and post-Christian countries. For instance, are there more than two genders in Saudi Arabia? What about America? What about where you live Christian?

    To have a Babylon, you have to have a Christendom or more correctly the godly. To have Bad, you have to know what is good. To have immorality you have to have morality. Babylon only existed as it lacked something. It existed in the same way the poor exist on the bread line. Those on the bread line do not just need more bread; they needed not to just exist, as no one would choose just to exist. What people need is to flourish. Flourishing only exists in truth, since flourishing means bring to maturity. If you keep a child a child by keeping its dependence on you, that child only exists as its predominantly you and not itself. The purpose of parents- the godly and the ungodly is to raise children to be godly children they were not to Be another you. They were to be godly in their own right. Of course, children of Babylon lack, godly since the ungodly kept them immature to the things of God. What I missed was the wicked parents still had a responsibility to raise godly children, as their children were to lack nothing other than the ungodly. Babylon was not to be lacking, it was to be flourishing, and that is why I see such places as godlessness since I am seeing what is lacking, such places are not where you may vote God back. They are not places where immorality to extremes should surprise you its the other way around its what you should expect. Now, all we have to figure out is what part in Babalons destruction do we play. We can’t use one of those big heavy balls on the end of a crane, guns or force of any sort how do we know? Because Peter drew his Sword and cut the ear of ‘Babylon’, Jesus put it back on as Babylon wasn’t to have the excuse it didn’t hear- reason, logic or rationality. The Babylonians will claim to be tone deaf to such. Reason, logic and rationality are what sets us apart from animals, without those attributes maybe such are only vessels made for destruction. Mr M do not say we have to pray and wait, since surely prayers sister, is doing.

  • A reality check re the left of Australian politics:

    * Jessica Whelan, the disendorsed Liberal (Lyons) candidate, who on social media suggested there should be a referendum on Muslim immigration, is now receiving to “messages to kill my children and myself”. https://www.examiner.com.au/story/6104514/death-threats-made-against-former-candidate-children/

    * Luke Creasey, the disendorsed Labor (Melbourne) candidate, who on social media made derogatory remarks about lesbians, remains the co-convenor of ‘Rainbow Labor’. He is a High School teacher. https://www.theeducatoronline.com/k12/news/abolish-hateful-laws-teachers-and-students-join-rally/260158

  • John Miller,
    Some observations on a couple of those students – I was taking the train in to a meeting in Melbourne yesterday. Near me were 2 students with anti-coal / anti-fossil fuel placards. I got chatting with them (and a nearby passenger who turned out to be a bit of a left-winger/socialist).
    Both students were Year 9 from Frankston High School (which IIRC also had issues with Safe Schools a couple of years back). One didn’t know that coal was used from iron & steel production as well as power generation (so much for the quality of teaching at a school which prides itself on its VCE results!). They said that some teachers supported their ‘strike’ while other teachers disagreed.
    I was able to give them details of the website Electroverse (https://electroverse.net/ – highly recommended, it tells of the Sun’s influence on the Earth’s climate and looks at the earth getting *cooler*, not warmer, in the years to come).
    One of these students was also vegan, and had a vegan/greenie/socialist father. Their TV viewing was things like SBS, ABC, The Project & Q&A (no surprises!); along with socialist groups on the social media.
    The left-wing passenger actually thought people were getting more conservative (!), and thought my view on ‘socialists being hypocrites’ was a bit sweeping.

    On the topic of social media in general – yesterday morning over breakfast, there was a radio news report that the ‘Millennials’ who spend too much time on social media risk becoming ‘virtually autistic’ due to losing face-to-face communication skills.
    Why am I not surprised by this?

    Regards,
    John

  • John Cleverdon,

    More of the kiddies-on-strike:

    RELIGIOUS HYSTERIA OVERCOMES TEEN

    A lifetime of climate panic does strange things to the young folk. For example, today it turned one of them into a weeping, gasping, inconsolable wreck:

    Fourteen year old Estella Brasier is so terrified about climate change that she can’t even speak to a journalist about her fears without breaking down in tears.

    “We need to find new politics,” is all she can manage before dissolving into sobs and burying her head in her friend’s shoulder …

    “I just don’t understand why no one talks about it,” says Estella, when she recovers her composure. “Obviously now we’re having a change. But people are actually voting for people like Scott Morrison and it’s ridiculous because he’s a monster.”

    Keisha nods her head in vigorous agreement.

    https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/blogs/tim-blair/religious-hysteria-overcomes-teen/news-story/22a08a9aefa2abb93836cc5eb184aa59

  • I have noticed that there seems to be a big, sweeping agenda at work. “Gay marriage” has been legalised in Australia. Then before you could take a breath the transgender rights agenda started. There must be a larger agenda at work. I believe that it is Cultural Marxism. Also I have noticed that they started with gay marriage. Then gay marriage suddenly became marriage equality. Apparently this means that gay marriage is equal to “straight marriage”. I do NOT believe that “gay marriage” is equal to straight marriage. No one seems to have argued how gay marriage is equal to straight marriage. Also when marriage has been redefined then it can be redefined again. Why not have 3 or 4 people in a marriage? Why not marry an animal? If someone marries a horse where would you put the wedding ring? What if the horse ate the bridal bouquet before the ceremony? What if the horse ate the wedding cake and there was none left for your guests? Do you hide the cake from your bride or groom? What about carrying the bride over the threshold? If the husband is human how will he carry his horse bride over the threshold? A horse bride might be too heavy to carry over the threshold. Where will you have the honeymoon? Will it be in a hotel or a stable? Will there be special honeymoon places for human and animal weddings? After all “love is love”. You must not discriminate. All types of love are EQUAL remember. The situation will become bizarre. Please vote carefully in the coming election.

  • I have some problems with the way the book of Revelation is used here. Yes you acknowledge it is notoriously hard to understand…however one thing about it seems to limit the options and constrain vivid imaginations. It is that there are a number of time frame references in the book. Whatever it is talking about was to occur ‘soon’…in relation to when it was written. If soon means 2000 years or more, then word meanings go out the door…if I said I would pop over to your place soon, you would not expect me to turn up 10 years later…

  • Thanks Renton. Of course it all depends on one’s theological spin on the book. Almost everyone acknowledges the nature of apocalyptic language, which is so very rich in symbolism, including numbers and even ‘time frames’. So most folks allow for some room to move here, keeping in mind that one day is as a thousand years with the Lord, etc. Indeed, we have the same thing you raise with terms like the “last days” etc. They too were said to have begun with the first coming of Christ, so that also is a very long period of time, since we are still living in the last days. So this entire 2000 year period is seen as being the end times in a sense by the biblical writers.

    Obviously if your interpretative commitment is to the Preterist position, then you think most of what the book discusses was fulfilled back in the first century or so – in which case, it has much less to say to believers of the next 19 centuries! But there are other legitimate positions available on this. I discuss by way of introduction the various interpretive options here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2018/12/26/bible-study-helps-revelation/

  • A good wake-up call Bill. We have entered a dark age with Baphomet rising. Evermore people are enthralled by the deception of the Lawless One and the Babylonian mystery religion. George Orwell’s prediction that to speak the truth will become a revolutionary act has come to pass.

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