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" While you have the light, believe in the light... "

- John 12:36a

Mystery: Babylon


The Book of Revelation is a quick read, but it’s full of images: Wine. Slaves. Merchants. Ships. Armies. Kings. The Mark of the Beast. The Woman that Rides the Beast. The Mystery of Babylon… They help us understand human experience. And all of it makes sense if we understand a few key principles.

“Thou shalt not covet” (see Exodus 20:17, Romans 7:7) is commonly misunderstood and dismissed. Though it’s one of the Ten Commandments, it's common to hear TV preachers brag about how they covet the highest-flying jets, the most luxurious homes and fastest cars. This sin causes so much pain that few people even feel it anymore, but God makes it obvious like a tattoo on someone’s face:

And on her forehead a mysterious name was written:

 

BABYLON THE GREAT,

THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES

AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

 

I could see that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and witnesses for Jesus

Revelation 17:5b-6a

It’s obvious that covetousness led to all her sins. But in God's court, no one will be able to say “Everybody does it!” Remember, Jesus said the least commandment will not pass away (Matthew 5:18), and neither will His strict interpretation of it (Matthew 24:35). He was reading from the same scriptures that we know now (see Dead Sea Scrolls). They warn us not to dismiss the opportunity to avoid the judgements that come at the end of the world.

Money isn’t evil, but the love of money is (1 Timothy 6:10). The lack of moral limits on Capitalism is called greed (Jude 1:11). It inevitably leads to slavery, and spiritual slavery is more real than physical slavery (Hebrews 3:16-4:2). When people talk about unrestrained Capitalism (Free Markets, laissez-faire, Libertarianism), anyone that values freedom should beware they don’t become enslaved in the spiritual system of wicked Babylon:

“Come out of her, My people!

Save your lives, each of you,

from the fierce anger of the LORD.” - Jeremiah 51:45

 

"Come out of her, my people, so you will not take part in her sins and so you will not receive her plagues, because her sins have piled up all the way to heaven and God has remembered her crimes... As much as she exalted herself and lived in sensual luxury, to this extent give her torment and grief because she said to herself, 'I rule as queen and am no widow; I will never experience grief!'” — Revelation 18:4b-7a

Both of these verses refer to spiritual Babylon, the Woman That Rides the Beast. Christians are meant to be in the world, but not of the world. Merchants can provide a wonderful service to people (like a corner store with fair prices), or they can squeeze money out of people and send them to an early grave (like a corner store with high prices). Cigarettes kill, yet they are still very popular today. Oil companies knew about Global Warming since at least 1959, but their ad campaigns  lead us to Armageddon. Politicians that claim to be Christian understand these injustices, but somehow get rich.

The rich think their money will keep them safe (Proverbs 18:11), but Revelation says that there will be no place to hide:

The sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the very important people, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand it?"

Revelation 6:14-17

When those that benefit understand their part in these sins, they can either quit or lose their soul (Revelation 18:11-14). When Israel was enslaved by wealthy rulers in Egypt, God freed them with many miracles (see the book of Exodus). God wanted to teach them a new and better life, but many rebelled and wanted to go back into slavery again. Likewise, many today prefer to be enslaved by money and the rich who control us (Numbers 11:5-6).

There’s nothing romantic about slavery. Take Jamaica. Bob Marley* wanted people to understand the reasons for all that evil, then overcome and get free (Behind Babylon. TIDAL Magazine. July 1, 2020). The Wailers sang “We're jammin' in the name of the LORD!” to help people to get closer to Jah (Jahweh, Jehovah). Although the Devil wants us to be greedy and brutal (and suffer for it), God encourages us to rise above all that.

Open your eyes!

(Look within)

Are you satisfied?

(With the life you're livin’?)

We know where we're going,

We know where we're from.

We're leaving Babylon,

We're going to our Father land.

Exodus! Movement of Jah people!

Bob Marley and the Wailers

Babylon is God's picture of an oppressive economy. The Romans were rich, powerful, and brutal. They worked millions of slaves to death with little concern. They looked the other way because they loved money and pride. The Book of Revelation was written when the Romans ruled, but God wants us to focus on the deeper, persistent problem, not the one on the surface that’s obvious. Earthly economies change, but Babylon keeps coming back.

In God’s economy, the Egyptians and the Romans were the real slaves. Those with power to respond are most responsible for the evil of this world, and most likely to be judged for it. The economic system we live in today is the same. Sinners need to confess their sin and repent if they want to be saved: “…unless you repent you will all perish as well!" (Luke 13:5b).

Greed leaves people misshapen and broken: Not only the victim, but the perpetrator too: “Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God." The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” (Matthew 19:24-25). Everybody gets trapped, but God can get us out. Many Egyptians and Romans left their sinful ways and followed God instead.

Imagine slavery as normal. It still is in some places today. Chains. Walls. Beatings. Fear. At some point, the Romans made enough enemies and their military tricks were learned, so Rome fell. Yesterday's barbarians are today's Economic Migrants. How could America stop hundreds of thousands of hungry people if they bum-rushed any wall? Shouldn't there be less difference between the rich world and the poor world?

Although the Western Roman Empire fell to barbarians in 476 AD, the Eastern Roman Empire (which was founded on Christianity) lasted until 1453. They remained civilized through Europe’s “Dark” ages and primed the advances of Islam and the Renaissance. Luther’s 95 Theses came just 64 years after that. But Babylon has existed in many cities since democracy began. God’s people have been always been fighting it.

There are many things we don’t clearly see. Can we rule out the possibility of unseen demons in our financial system? The Bible is credible, and it says there is a demon that plays the role of Mammon:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can't serve both God and Mammon.

Matthew 6:24

Some partner with that demon, despite the Bible’s strong warnings (e.g. James 2 & 5). I wish Democracy was more responsive to people’s needs, but more often it looks like Plutocracy (government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich). When the rich are powerful, they pretend they are good for democracy. But all too frequently, the rich abuse their knowledge of the government and intercept the money that could have gone to ordinary people (e.g. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_corruption).

Who doesn’t like nice things? Sleeping hungry on the hard ground without shelter makes us long for simple comforts. But soon our expectations grow: better bedding, coveted cars, krazy kitchens, voluptuous vacations, intense internet…

There are about 300 million people in America, and America is relatively rich, but billions of other human beings are at risk of starvation. Many are so poor they can’t go to school and have little opportunity for a brighter economic future. Many of the rich want to keep things the way they are, so the poor remain economic slaves. Human Trafficking exists all over the world, and the poor are far more likely to become enslaved literally - only the hope of survival and escape keeps them going.

So before you Chase After That Paycheck, Get Your Degree, Climb the Ladder, Grab the Brass Ring, Break the Glass Ceiling or Find The American Dream, consider your choices with a lot of prayer. If you are already knee-deep in debt and think you can never be free again, think again: God does miracles! As always, it’s best we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, because we don’t want to be slaves of Mammon in the Babylon system.

* Although Bob Marley did a lot of things that don’t seem Christian, the Bible says we should not judge whether he went to heaven or not. Though his lifestyle cannot be endorsed, we can learn from his insight into the Christian life.

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