Why "mystery"? That Babylon, an ancient city whose ruins have been covered by the desert sands for at least 2300 years, should be mentioned so prominently in prophecies pertaining to the last days does indeed seem an enigma. It is popularly taught that the woman represents ancient Babylon revived. The fact that Iraq's sadistic ruler, Saddam Hussein, began its reconstruction some years ago is therefore seen as contributing to the fulfillment of this vision.
Ancient Babylon, however, even if it again becomes an inhabited and functioning city, could not possibly be the Babylon to which the writing on the woman's forehead refers. Saddam's rebuilt Babylon simply doesn't meet the criteria John sets forth. Those criteria, which we will be examining in detail, establish the woman's identity-and, as we shall see, she is not ancient Babylon.
Saddam imagines himself to be a modern Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps even the reincarnation of that emperor of ancient Babylon. What Saddam admires most about Nebuchadnezzar is that he destroyed Jerusalem and killed or carried away captive Israel's inhabitants into Babylon, leaving the land of Israel desolate. As the new Nebuchadnezzar, he dreams of wreaking the same destruction upon today's Israelis, whom he sees as his chief enemies. Of course, Babylon itself was then conquered by the Medes and Persians. For that depredation Saddam views Iran (the successor of ancient Persia) as his other great enemy and fought an eight-year war against her.
Saddam has proudly imprinted his name on every brick being used in the reconstruction of ancient Babylon. As much hated as feared by his own people, one day Saddam will be deposed, as eventually happens to all tyrants. It would not be surprising if the Iraqis, in order to erase the last vestige of Saddam's loathsome memory, thereafter bulldozed the proud structures he has erected at the site of ancient Babylon. Whether that happens or not, there is no way that this city, rebuilt after lying in ruins for more than 2000 years, could be mistaken for the Babylon which is the major subject of Revelation chapters 17 and 18.
The Babel Connection
There is, of course, a connection to ancient Babylon. The name on the woman's forehead establishes that fact. What could that name mean in the world of the "last days" just prior to the second coming of Christ? Obviously it must refer to a dominant feature common to all four world empires-a major element of the first empire, Babylon, which is still dominant in the fourth empire, Rome. A paramount feature common to all was the unity between throne and altar, between prince and priest. "Separation of church and state" was as yet unheard of; in fact, the opposite was true. The pagan priests-astrologers, magicians, sorcerers, soothsayers-were the emperor's close advisers and often the hidden influence controlling the empire. Thus a principle characteristic of this woman, who is both a city and a spiritual entity, will be her adulterous relationships with secular governments.
The unity of church and state persisted from the days of Babylon until beyond the ascendancy of Rome, the fourth world empire in Daniel's vision. As we have seen, Roman emperors, like other ancient rulers, headed the pagan priesthood and were worshiped as gods. Inasmuch as religion was the dominant factor in every empire, we do well to take a closer look at the religion of Babylon.
Tower to Heaven
Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon was built around the ruins of the Tower of Babel, which was erected shortly after the flood by the descendants of Noah under the leadership of Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-10; Micah 5:6). Its original purpose was clearly stated by its builders: "Let us build us a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:4).
The city was a political/civil union of earth's inhabitants at that time. The tower was clearly a religious enterprise, the means of reaching heaven. Babel thus represents the unity of state and church, involving the entire world in the attempt to elevate man to God's level. That this would be accomplished through a tower built by human genius and energy obviously represents man's religion of self-effort. Inasmuch as the entire world was united in this effort, we have the first example of world government and world religion joined as one. As man began in this unity, so he must end in it as well; such is the clear message on the woman's forehead.
The tower was the obsession of the city's inhabitants, the purpose of life that both united and enslaved. Thus religion dominated the partnership of church and state. That such will be the case in the new world order of Antichrist, at least for a time, is clearly depicted by the fact that the woman rides the beast.
Babel's tower stood in stark contrast to the way of salvation which God had consistently declared from Abel onward. The rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden had separated man from God by sin. No reconciliation to God and no entrance into heaven was possible apart from the full payment of sin's penalty. For man, a finite creature, payment of the infinite penalty demanded by God's infinite justice was impossible. One day, in mercy and grace, God Himself would come as a sinless, perfect man to die for the sins of the world in payment of the full penalty demanded by His own justice. He would be "the Lamb of God" (John 1:29,36), the only acceptable sacrifice. In anticipation of the coming Messiah, animals were to be sacrificed as types of that Holy One who would "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26).
The only interim approach to God that He approved had been stated clearly (Exodus 20:24-26). Animal sacrifices were to be offered upon an altar of earth. If the ground was too rocky to scrape sufficient earth together, the altar could be made of stones heaped up, but not carved or fashioned in any way by tools. Nor was it to be elevated so that one approached the altar by steps.
No human effort could play any part in man's salvation. It must be a gift from God, unmerited and unearned. Human pride, however, has always resisted God's grace. We see the clear violation of God's Word continuing today in the ornate cathedrals and gilded, elevated altars of both Protestants and Catholics as well as in the rituals and good works which man foolishly imagines will help to make him acceptable to God. It all began with Babel.
A Pattern Followed by Rome
The city and tower of Babel set the pattern of the unholy alliance between civil government and a religion of self-effort and ritual which continued for thousands of years and was exemplified both in pagan Rome and in "Christian" Rome following Constantine's "conversion." The "separation of church and state" is a concept of recent origin, largely since the Protestant Reformation, and one which the Roman Catholic Church, as the religious continuation of the Roman Empire, has consistently and even viciously opposed. Dr. Brownson, highly regarded nineteenth-century Catholic journalist, expressed Catholicism's position in the Brownson Quarterly journal:
No civil government, be it a monarchy, an aristocracy, a democracy. .. can be a wise, just, efficient, or durable government, governing for the good of the community, without the Catholic Church; and without the papacy there is and can be no Catholic Church.1
The Vatican has consistently fought every democratic advance from absolute monarchies toward government by the people, beginning with England's Magna Carta (June 15, 1215), "the mother of European Constitutions." That vital document was denounced immediately by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), who "pronounced it null and void and excommunicated the English barons who obtained it"2 and absolved the king of his oath to the barons.3 Encouraged by the pope, King John brought in foreign mercenaries to fight the barons, bringing great destruction upon the country. Subsequent popes did all in their power to help John's successor, Henry III, overturn the Magna Carta, impoverishing the country with papal taxes (salaries to the numerous imported Italian priests were three times the crown's annual revenue). Nevertheless, the barons finally prevailed.
Pope Leo XII reproved Louis XVIII for granting the "liberal" French Constitution, while Pope Gregory XVI denounced the Belgian Constitution of 1832. His outrageous encyclical, Mirari vos, of August 15, 1832 (which was later confirmed by Pope Pius IX in his 1864 Syllabus Errorum), condemned freedom of conscience as "an insane folly" and freedom of the press as "a pestiferous error, which cannot be sufficiently detested."4 He reasserted the right of the Church to use force and like countless popes before him demanded that civil authorities promptly imprison any non-Catholics who dared to preach and practice their faith. One eminent historian of the nineteenth century, commenting upon the Vatican's denunciation of the Bavarian and Austrian constitutions, paraphrased its attitude thus:
Our absolutist system, supported by the Inquisition, the strictest censorship, the suppression of all literature, the privileged exemption of the clergy, and arbitrary power of bishops, cannot endure any other than absolutist governments ...5
The history of Latin America has fully demonstrated the accuracy of that appraisal. In Catholic countries the popes' hatred of freedom and their partnership with oppressive regimes which they often succeeded in manipulating to their own ends is a matter of historical record. Whatever her true motives, history bears full witness to the fact that whenever she has been able to do so, the Roman Catholic Church has suppressed and openly condemned such basic human rights as freedom of the press, speech, religion, and even conscience.
Prior to the revolution led by Benito Juarez in 1861, Roman Catholicism had dominated the lives of the Mexican people and controlled the government for 350 years. It was the state religion and no other was allowed. As one author has stated after an exhaustive investigation of the records:
The oppression by Spain and the oppression by the Church of Rome were so intermeshed as to be indistinguishable by the people. The [Roman Catholic] hierarchy supported the Spanish regime and excommunicated, through its New World Inquisition, anyone resisting the power of the state.... The government in turn enforced Church laws and, as the "secular arm," functioned as disciplinarian and even as executioner for the Church.6
Consequences of a State Religion
After Napoleon III's French army defeated Juarez and installed Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico, the latter saw that there could be no return to the old totalitarian ways. Pope Pius IX was outraged and wrote indignantly to Maximilian demanding that "the Catholic religion must, above all things, continue to be the glory and the mainstay of the Mexican nation, to the exclusion of every other dissenting worship," that "instruction, whether public or private, should be directed and watched over by the [Roman Catholic] ecclesiastical authority," and that the Church must not be "subject to the arbitrary rule of the civil government."7
The poverty and instability that has plagued Latin America resulted from the union between church and state and the power over government which Rome, having enjoyed in Europe for centuries, brought to the new world in the name of Christ. The Roman clergy were like little gods lording it over the natives, who became their servants. The revolutions in Latin American countries have been in large measure created by the contrast between the poverty of the people and the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church and the evil dictatorships it supported. Liberation Theology was spawned in Latin America by radical Catholic priests and nuns whose aroused consciences could no longer justify the oppression of the masses by both Church and state.
Scores of other examples could be given but must be deferred until later. The point is that the roots of the unholy alliance between church and state, with the church in dominance, go back to Babel. Nimrod founded the first world empire; church and state were one. Such is the ideal empire which Roman Catholicism has always striven with all its might to establish and maintain whenever possible. As The Catholic World stated at the time of Vatican I:
While the state has some rights, she has them only in virtue and by permission of the superior authority ... [of] the Church ....8
The antipathy of Roman Catholicism to basic human freedoms later created unholy alliances with the totalitarian governments of Hitler and Mussolini, who were praised by the pope and other Church leaders as men chosen by God. Catholics were forbidden to oppose Mussolini and were urged to support him. The Church virtually put the Fascist dictator in office (as it would Hitler a few years later). In exchange, Mussolini (in the 1929 Concordat with the Vatican) made Roman Catholicism once again the official state religion, and any criticism of it was made a penal offense. The Church was granted other favors, including a vast sum in cash and bonds.
Roots of a Modern Delusion
Satan's promise to Eve that she could become one of the gods became the foundation of pagan religion worldwide. To achieve that goal man would have to assert himself and labor mightily. Thus was born the religion of self-effort. In fact, works instead of grace has always been and still is religion, of which Roman Catholicism is a prime example. The rising Tower of Babel seemed to give credence to the grandiose delusion that man could reach heaven by his own efforts. Nimrod was very likely the first emperor to be deified, and thus was a forerunner of Antichrist.
Babel (and the city of Babylon later constructed around her ruins) was the cradle of the belief in a "higher destiny" for all mankind. Later that dream would be limited to special races, such as the Aryans, a claim which Hitler's Nazism would pursue to the destruction of 6 million Jews. Echoing the serpent's lie, Hitler would say, "Man is becoming God.... We need free men who feel and know that God is in themselves." The Jews, however, were not men at all in Hitler's estimation, but Untermenschen (subhumans), whom he determined to exterminate for the good of the Aryan race.
Hitler's theory of the "purity of blood," which he sought to maintain through extermination of the Jews (unopposed by the Vatican), had its roots in ancient occultism involving a mythical Nordic Garden of Eden in the far North known as Hyperborea. There an Aryan race of god-men had allegedly been spawned by gods visiting earth. Nietzsche, whose writings heavily influenced Hitler, began his key work, Anti-Christ, with the sentence, "Let us see ourselves for what we are. We are Hyperboreans [gods] all." It was the lie of the serpent from the Garden of Eden once again.
Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Peter Viereck finds the roots of the Nazi dream of a master race of god-men ruling the world not only in Hegel and Nietzsche but in Wagner and a host of romantic writers who all echoed the serpent's lie to Eve. The following excerpt is from the 1940 conclusion of Viereck's remarkable book Meta-Politics: The Roots of the Nazi Mind-an ending which the original publisher refused to include as being too extreme, but which hindsight now reveals was amazingly accurate:
Mein Kampf was a best-seller long before the German people, voting uncoerced in the free Reichstag election of September 1930, increased the Nazi seats from 12 to 107 and made them the biggest party in Germany. By then, Hitler had said in Mein Kampf (to pick a typical threat at random): "If at the start [of World War I] we had held under poison twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew subverters of our people ... then the sacrifice of a million Germans at the front would not have been in vain.... The timely elimination of 12,000 bums...."
The German enigma is: just what kind of behavior could those millions of pro-Hitler voters, from 1930 on, expect of the monster-mentality that composes such "held under" threats? ... his book is no classified secret document ... millions of Germans own it ... a few must have browsed in it. These few must have included some of the cheering public and also some influential dignitaries with access to press, radio, and other means of warning the public....
Some day the same Germans, now cheering Hitler's strut into Paris, will say. .. "We did not know what went on...” and when that day of know-nothing comes, there will be laughter in hell.9
Adolf Hitler, Chosen by God?
Surely Mein Kampf must also have been known to many of the 30 million Roman Catholics in Germany as well as to the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church both there and in Rome. Yet the Church hierarchy praised Hitler, sometimes in the most extravagant terms. Pope Pius XI told Vice-Chancellor Fritz von Papen, himself a leading Catholic, "how pleased he was that the German Government now had at its head a man uncompromisingly opposed to Communism...."10 No word of reproof against the evil that Hitler had loosed upon Germany.
Bishop Berning published a book stressing the link between Catholicism and patriotism and sent a copy to Hitler "as a token of my devotion." Monsignor Hartz praised Hitler for having saved Germany from "the poison of Liberalism ... [and] the pest of Communism." Catholic publicist Franz Taeschner praised "the Fuehrer, gifted with genius" and declared that he had "been sent by providence in order to achieve the fulfillment of Catholic social ideas."11 I
Most German Catholics were in a state of euphoria after the 1933 concordat between Hitler and the Vatican was signed. Catholic young men were ordered "to raise their right arm in salute, and to display the swastika flag.... The Catholic Youth organization, Neudeutsche Jugend... called for the full and close cooperation between the totalitarian state and the totalitarian Church." The German bishops together pledged their solidarity with National Socialism. Addressing a gathering of Catholic youth in the Cathedral of Trier, Bishop Bornewasser declared, "With raised heads and firm step we have entered the new Reich and we are prepared to serve it with all the might of our body and soul."12
Bishop Vogt of Aachen in a congratulatory telegram promised Hitler that "diocese and Bishop will gladly participate in the building of the new Reich." Cardinal Faulhaber, in a handwritten note to Hitler, expressed the wish "coming from the bottom of our heart: May God preserve the Reich Chancellor for our people." A picture appeared in a German-American paper showing Vicar General Steinmann leading Catholic youth organizations in a parade past Hitler and returning the Fuehrer's raised arm salute. Replying to the criticism from outraged American Catholics, Steinmann declared that "German Catholics did indeed regard the government of Adolph Hitler as the God-given authority ' and that someday the world would "gratefully acknowledge that Germany ... erected a bulwark against Bolshevism...."13 What of Mein Kampf and the evil of Nazism?
University of Massachusetts Associate Professor of Government Guenter Lewy fled his native Germany as a boy of fifteen in 1939. He returned in 1960 to spend years researching official files. Lewy writes in The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany:
Pius XI in 1933 called the Chancellor of the German Reich [Hitler] the first statesman who, together with the Pope, had clearly recognized the Bolshevik danger... . Bishop Landersdorfer praised "the harmonious collaboration of Church and State [though the Nazis had already imprisoned many priests and nuns for `political' reasons]."
On March 29 , 45,453,691 Germans, or 99 per cent of those entitled to vote, went to the polls. Of these, 44,461,278, or 98.8 per cent of those voting, voiced their approval of Hitler's leadership. [The Catholic vote approving Hitler was virtually unanimous.]
A joint pastoral letter [from all the German bishops] was read from the pulpits ... January 3, 1937 [stating that] "the German bishops consider it their duty to support the head of the German Reich by all those means which the Church has at its disposal.... We must mobilize all the spiritual and moral forces of the Church in order to strengthen confidence in the Fuehrer."14
By this time no one could have been ignorant of Hitler's ruthlessness and of his real goals. Yet Catholic leaders (like most Protestant clergy) in Germany continued to heap praise upon their fellow Catholic. Two books on Reich and Kirche, published with ecclesiastical permission, called "deepening the understanding [of] the great work of German renewal to which the Fuehrer has summoned us" the "biggest spiritual task of contemporary German Catholicism." Karl Adam, world-renowned Catholic theologian, argued that National Socialism and Catholicism, far from being in conflict, "belonged together as nature and grace" and that in Adolf Hitler Germany had found at last "a true people's chancellor." 15
A minority of brave men (both Catholics and Protestants) opposed Hitler, some openly, others in secret plots. A few voices were raised in public protest. One belonged to a priest, a Fr. Muckermann, who dared to express his amazement and consternation that
...despite the inhuman brutalities perpetrated in the concentration camps ... despite the personal insults against individual princes of the Church, against the Holy Father and the entire Church ... the bishops find words of appreciation for what (next to Bolshevism) is their worst enemy.... 15
Answer to an Enigma
The enigma of Germany remains the enigma of Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Haiti, Yugoslavia, South Africa, and the entire world of our day. On the other hand, it is not an enigma at all if one accepts the testimony of Scripture. We find the answer in Babel-a tower which has never ceased to be under construction. Only the location and outward form change from time to time, but the perverted ambition, impossible dream that it is, remains steadfast.
The end result-the judgment of God that will come upon mankind-is foretold clearly in biblical prophecy. Make no mistake: We are hastening to that day. In the meantime, the woman who rides the beast, whose name is MYSTERY, BABYLON, has a key role to play. As a result she will taste God's judgment before the rest of the world knows its full and awesome power as well.
In his important analysis in 1940, Viereck warned that Nazism was a religion that had infected Germany's youth. It was pagan worship of nature, yet its claim to be "Christian" deceived millions (as is happening in the United States today by the same means). That perversion surfaced in the twisted thinking of Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, who admired Christ "as one of a long line of Aryan heroes, ranging from Wotan and Siegfried to Wagner and Hitler."116 The "shell game switch" was echoed by Dr. Ley, head of the Nazi Labor Front: "Our faith ... is National Socialism...!”17 Hans Kerrl, Nazi Minister of Church Affairs, furthered the lie that was embraced by the majority of both Catholics and Protestants: "True Christianity is represented by the Party ... the Fuehrer is the herald of a new revelation…”18
New? Vierech called Nazism a "new paganism." Actually, only the veneer was new, but underneath it was still Babel. John's vision of the woman on the beast makes that fact abundantly clear.
Religion of Self-Effort
God confounded the language of Babel's builders into numerous tongues so they couldn't understand one another and thus were scattered. But the proud religion of self-effort leading to deification of a master race persisted, evidenced by the ruins of similar towers, called ziggurats, found throughout that area of the world. None of the towers, however, attained great height with that day's primitive technology. Heaven was still beyond man's reach. So the ziggurats became occultic altars of every perversion. On their pinnacles astrology began, with the worship of heavenly bodies believed to have mystical power to control the destinies of men.
Far from dying out, Babel's religion of self-effort was institutionalized in Babylon and throughout its vast empire. This is paganism, the perennial world religion that persists to this day. It lives on not only among primitive peoples who worship nature spirits, but flourishes among university professors who attribute similar intelligence to nature's "forces."
Paganism has been characterized worldwide throughout the centuries by mysterious rituals celebrated around ornately carved and decorated altars atop structures such as the pyramids that one finds from Egypt to Central and South America. Though warned of God through His prophets against this evil, Israel also succumbed to pagan seduction. This corruption of the truth He had taught them eventually brought God's judgment upon His chosen people.
The Old Testament has many references to "high places" that were constructed in Israel. Violating the prohibition against "going up by steps" to God's altar, they became the centers of Jewish idolatry (Leviticus 26:30; Numbers 22:41; etc.). At times of repentance and revival these "high places," with their idols, were destroyed by godly kings and priests, but Israel never rid itself of this evil. Both Orthodox and Catholics and even some Protestants have embraced the same corruption by their stately structures, elevated and gilded altars, and ornate vestments and intricate liturgies, which presumably please God and help open the doors to heaven.
The bricks and mortar which were involved remind us that Babel was not only a religious and political enterprise but that it engaged the most advanced technology/science of its day. Today's science still represents an attempt to elevate man to godhood by conquering space, the atom, disease, and eventually death. 1
Babel/Babylon Is Alive and Well
At Babel, God scattered mankind and confounded their language so they could not communicate their evil designs to one another. On Mars Hill in Athens Paul declared that God separated races and nations so they could concentrate upon seeking Him (Acts 17:26,27). The consensus of opinion today is that we need just the opposite: The solution to mankind's ills will come about through unscrambling the languages and uniting all nations in scientific enterprises which will ultimately turn planet Earth into a paradise once again.
Such was the declaration of a recent Lockheed Corporation ad in Scientific American featuring an illustration of the ancient Tower of Babel. Touting Lockheed's technological accomplishments, the ad boasted that its scientific advancements were "undoing the Babel effect" by bringing mankind together and making it possible for all to speak one language. In other words, Lockheed was countering God, the One responsible for what it called "the Babel effect."
The Tower of Babel fills the official poster for the 12-nation United Europe (whose new currency depicts a woman riding a beast). Circling above the unfinished tower are 12 stars. Unlike those on the American flag, however, these are upside down, thus forming the pentagram of classic occultism. The pentagram, with its two "horns" pointing upward and its "beard" downward, is also known as the Goat of Mendes, or Baphomet, a symbol of Satan.
International Business Machines has also used an artist's depiction of the Tower of Babel in some of its ads, with modern high-rise buildings protruding from the half-finished structure. Why this nostalgic return to what most people today dismiss as a myth? There seems to be an innate sympathy with Babel, a recognition that modern man is carrying on where Babel left off and is pursuing the same ambition of achieving immortality by human effort.
God scattered the builders of Babel, but today's determination is the opposite: to unite all nations into one new world order. God confounded the languages, but today's technology is aimed at breaking down every language barrier. Soon there will be phones on the market which will allow English spoken into the receiver in Los Angeles to come out the other end in Tokyo as Japanese.
Dare we suggest that something is wrong? Why not encourage and enjoy what intellect and talent can accomplish? Even God acknowledged the limitless bounds of human capabilities when He said, "Whatever they imagine they will be able to perform."
God, however, had already declared that "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21). Thus human ingenuity, as God foresaw, would create ever-increasing evil until the very survival of mankind would hang in the balance. Surely today's threats to survival have all come from scientific genius. Honesty would also force us to admit that the rise of urbanization, even in ancient times, has contributed to the escalating tide of evil that threatens to engulf our world today.
John's vision indicates that Babel/Babylon will be very much alive in the last days. Emblazoned across the forehead of the woman riding the beast are the words "MYSTERY, BABYLON." That she represents revived paganism is clear.
Most interesting of all, however, is the fact that she embodies paganized Christianity. The woman represents a worldwide religious system which is based in Rome and claims to be Christian but which has its roots in Babel and Babylon. That conclusion will become unassailable as we examine further the vision John received.