Background Scripture: Revelation 17
Focus Passage: "This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES, AND THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." (Rev. 17:5 NIV)
They just don't mix, do they? Oil and water, congressional spending and common sense, drinking and driving, water and gas tanks, cats and bathtubs, suits of armor and lightning storms, greenhouses and golf balls....the list goes on and on and they just don't belong together. The same of true of false religion and genuine faith. And yet, the urge or the temptation to mix them in whatever portions has always been around. Mahatma Gandhi was a smart man but at one instance he said, "I consider myself a Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, and Confucian." Now, with all due respect, any close examination of this ultimate attempt at syncretismwill reveal that it violatesthe law of non-contradictionall over the place. Perhaps instead of saying "Confucian" he should have used the word "confusion!"
And yet, false religion, that which attempts to replace God entirely or to mix Him with a little of this and a little of that has always been with us. A.W.Tozer articulated this very well when he said,"The whole world has been booby-trapped by the devil, and the deadliest trap of all is the religious one." With this in mind, perhaps it should not surprise us to learn that religious services will continue unabated during the Tribulation (I wonder which churches will not see their attendances affected by the Rapture). When we come to view Revelation 17, we see a world where religious polarization has reached its zenith. Either people are worshiping the religious system set up by the Antichrist (symbolized as the Great Harlot and The Beast respectively) or they are worshiping the one true God. No one is messing with mister in-between.
Alright, so our focus passage is probably not one used by AWANA or one that would be found in any scripture memorization programs, but then, the Bible is not "politically correct" and does not mince words when it comes to the enemy (as we are prone to do today). Chapter 17describes the end of religious Babylon; that one-world religious system set up by the Antichrist and his lackey the False Prophet. Although it is described as a "harlot" or "prostitute" (depending on your version) four times in our background chapter, it has nothing to do with sexual immorality except that false religions often include this. No, it is talking about apostasy in the Hosea 9:1sense.
Those who say that they have tried and tried but just cannot understand the symbolism of Revelation cause me to wonder if they have bothered to read it all. For example, when the angel tells the Apostle John that he is going to show him the punishment of the "Great Prostitute who sits on many waters (vs. 1 NIV)," he then goes on to reveal the meaning of this in verse 15. There the angel says,“The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages." So, there can be no doubt here that he is referring to latter-day false religion worldwide.
Not content with describing this grotesque scene, the angel then takes John to a wilderness where he is privy to a repulsive image. There the Apostle sees a woman (the apostate church) adorned with gold and jewelry and pearls and covered with scarlet, sitting on a beast (the Antichrist) which is full of blasphemy, and having seven heads and ten horns. This truly is the "Rodeo from Hell."
What is most frightening to me about this entire macabre scene is that, after the miracle of the rapture, after God demonstrates his sovereign power to judge the world in supernatural ways, after the witness of 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the two witnesses, and the testimony of countless Christian martyrs, people will still choose to worship the beast rather than God. The tendency for we who belong to the Body of Christ might be to dismiss this as just interesting facts about the future of the world after we are gone to be with the Lord.
However, we must beware!
The allure of the prostitute and the beast she represents is very powerful and the temptation to mix true worship with something else is seductive, indeed. That is why Vance Havner said, "Don't ever come to church without coming as though it were the first time, as though it could be the best time, and as though it might be the last time." We just never know when our next worship service will be in heaven and I, for one, would like to already be in a spirit of worship whenever it happens.
Keep and Defend the Faith,