Babylon – Part 1

BabylonBabylon, I call her Babs for short, is a prostitute riding the beast and the main character in Revelation 17.  For those of you jumping onto this blog for the first time, the objective is to document my thoughts about Revelation since I suspect most people have never read it.  I’m reading it for the first time. It’s found at the end of the Bible and is believed to be a collection of visions experienced by John, an apostle of Jesus.  This week we started the third of his four visions.

Let me give you a quick synopsis.  In John’s first vision (Revelation 1-3), he sees Jesus in the clouds and relays information from Jesus to each of seven churches in the province of Asia.  They sound sort of like performance reviews.  If you’re interested in these messages through the mist, check out Peeking Under the Veil, Gems in Revelation, Monica is No Jezebel, and Discomfort and Safety.

The second vision has Jesus and his entourage in the throne room (Revelation 4) where he opens a scroll with seven seals (Revelation 5-8).  These seals are referred to by some as the seal judgments and are the first set of seven in a total of twenty-one cascading judgments throughout Revelation.  When the seventh seal is broken, it unleashes a second set of seven called the trumpet judgments (Revelation 8-11).  It is here that we are introduced to the Red Dragon, aka Satan, who is symbolic of the enemy in a war between good and evil (Revelation 12-15).  This vision wraps up with a final set of seven bowl judgments (Revelation 16).

The Throne Room, Seven Seals, Breaking the Seals, 144,000, Choose Joy, Not Anxiety, Christian Rock, The Beast-Part 1, The Beast-Part-2, What the Hell, and Bowl Judgments are my comments on John’s second vision (Revelation 4-16).

John’s third vision is a detailed look at the punishment released by the seventh bowl judgment at the time when good wins the war against evil.  It begins with a bedazzled prostitute named Babylon sitting on a scarlet beast in the wilderness.  The woman, Babylon, riding the beast, Satan, suggests a partnership.  As I mentioned in What the Hell, Babylon is code (common in apocalyptic writing) for Rome and/or a lifestyle Christians believed to be driven by evil.  Babs the prostitute represents all who are unfaithful to God: intoxicated by wine (unfaithful lifestyle) and committing adultery (idolatry).   The beast is described very much like the sea beast discussed in The Beast-Part 2 and the wilderness is, I believe, a metaphor for earth, the place where we are given the choice between good and evil.  The wilderness sharply contrasts John’s first two visions  of heaven (the kingdom of God).

Babs is dressed in purple and scarlet, glittering in gold, precious stones and pearls, and holding a golden cup. She is an icon of wealth and beauty.  However, her cup is filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.  Likewise, Babylon, the actual place, surpassed in splendor any city in the known world according to the Greek historian Herodotus in 450 BC. In fact, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  Sadly, there is nothing left of this city.  Babylon fell because her opulence was not sustainable.

There is a profound difference between internal, spiritual beauty that is able to grow over time and external seductive beauty that expires.   The internal versus external theme appears here on many levels.  The kingdom of God is within and the kingdom of Satan is without.  Anotherwords, a life full of materialism and self gratification leaves one empty.

Look for what can’t be seen; use discernment.  Never take anything at face value; we know so many idioms to express this concept.  Yet, I wonder, “Do I invest enough time on my inner life?  Do you?  How much money do we spend in a futile attempt to preserve our outer selves?”

I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. Revelation 17: 6

Babs is horrible, violent even, right?  This passage sounds like something right out of an Anne Rice novel.  Is Revelation the origin of vampire folklore?  Is Babs a vampire doomed to eternal death?  It does sort of counter God’s promise of eternal life to the redeemed.

People in metaphysical circles often refer to those who suck the life out of each other energy vampires, the depleted souls who are always miserable and exhausting to be around.  These are the people who need to love more and hate less and benefit greatly when they work on their spiritual selves.

John is astonished by Babs and in the second half of Revelation 17, an angel explains the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides to him. This would have been great if anyone could understand what the angel is actually communicating.  The seven heads on the beast represent seven hills and apparently Rome was built on seven hills. Okay, well this is nice validation for the people who believe the word Babylon is used as a substitute for Rome, but it is not definitive.  The number seven is ubiquitous throughout Revelation. Maybe the hills are meant to be obstacles or something.  Who knows?

Then the angel says the seven hills are seven kings.  There’s verbage about corrupt kings, some fallen and some yet to come.  Translations are abundant about who these leaders are, but again, who knows?  What does seem pretty clear is that the bad guys destroy each other in the pursuit of wealth and power.  Revelation 17 ends with the demise of Babylon.

After reading this chapter, I’m thinking it’s about perspective.  Matthew Kelly says, “We all think we have twenty-twenty vision in life, but we don’t.  We don’t see things as they really are.”   Fear and bias create blind spots that distort perceptions of self, our neighbors and the challenges of daily living.  Identifying and minimizing blind spots clarifies vision and improves discernment.  Am I skilled at seeing through packaging to uncover truth?  Are you?

I’d prefer to age into a wise, wrinkly old smiling lady than a cranky crone fluffed with Botox.  One woman has a joyful reality and the other does not.  From what perspective are we viewing what’s around us?  Do we have an internal or an external focus?

What’s inside might surprise you!

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