The growing darkness and moral evil in the world today has at least one good effect on us: we are forced to choose. Where are we to go, for shelter from the storm? Where are we to stand, when we are called to declare who we are, and what we believe, and what we live for, and where we draw the line and say to this world, “No! – no further will I go with you – here our paths diverge, and here I make my stand.”
Compromises with the ways of the world often come incrementally, gradually, almost imperceptibly. Conscience suffers in the process, with the shades of gray that don’t seem so bad when taken in small steps, small doses, small denials of clarity and light. But evil can overplay its hand, in this satanic game of deceit. Evil can sometimes get presumptuous, thinking it has us, when it really doesn’t. Sometimes evil drops its masks completely, and its insane horror is so plain that it cannot be denied anymore. The human soul must shout in the face of it, No! No more. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh 24:15)
We need such clarity and insight into the simplicity of truth. All of us face a choice every day, to decide who we are, where we live, what “citizenship” do we hold. Are we members and citizens of the City of Man, or are we members and citizens of the City of God? Yes we must live in this world – but no we must not be of this world. Persons in Christ have citizenship beyond this passing world, in the eternal, where He is Lord and King. Persons in Christ are aliens and exiles as in a foreign land, in this passing world. Peter wrote for us:
1Pet 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1Pet 2:10 Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.
1Pet 2:11 Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul.
The radical jihadist group ISIS – now calling itself the Islamic State – is terrorizing Syria and Iraq, and explicitly threatening the U.S. as well. They are sending a chill into the hearts of innocents all around them, with a message – to convert or die – being broadcast with examples of beheadings, crucifixions and mass executions to horrify and terrify. Their hatred for Western civilization goes beyond a mere desire to replace it – they want to obliterate it. At this moment America seems to be stirring into action – but very, very reluctantly and half-heartedly: hardly a response that troubles or concerns such zealous and committed fanatics.
What is now known as Western civilization is no longer what it used to be. What was once a sanctuary for Christianity has morphed into its “post-Christian” phase. The West is no longer a friend of Christianity, but has become a secularist culture resentful of its Christian beginnings, detached from the moral anchor of its Judeo-Christian roots, whose tolerance of a truly Christian world-view has worn thin. Western culture has become “free” of God, and free to be whatever she chooses. And her choices are now made with no regard for or remembrance of the God of her fathers. She has become, in other words, unashamedly the City of Man.
The strange result we have, in these days, is this: Radical Islamism is the enemy of Western culture (the City of Man); the City of Man (modern secularism) is the enemy of the City of God. If “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” were to hold for Christians today, then a Christian might conclude that “the enemy (radical Islamism) of my enemy (the secularist City of Man, modern Western culture) would be my friend.” But ISIS is no friend of Christianity! ISIS seeks to obliterate Christianity along with Western culture.
The book of Revelation suggests an explanation for this strange alignment of hostilities and hatreds. To understand this chapter of Scripture, in this difficult book, we must understand the “great harlot” who has seduced kings and commoners with her pleasures – the harlot “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations” – as that City of Man that has opposed the City of God from the beginning of mankind outside of the Garden. The City of Man was given a name, in the Genesis account of the building of the Tower of Babel. (Gen 11:1-9) The City of Man thus has the name, through salvation history, as the city Babylon.
Rev 17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters,
Rev 17:2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”
Rev 17:3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.
Rev 17:4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication;
Rev 17:5 and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.”
Rev 17:6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her I marveled greatly.
Rev 17:7 But the angel said to me, “Why marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.
Rev 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition; and the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
Rev 17:9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: ….
Rev 17:12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.
Rev 17:13 These are of one mind and give over their power and authority to the beast;
Rev 17:14 they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
Rev 17:15 And he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
Rev 17:16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire,
Rev 17:17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Rev 17:18 And the woman that you saw is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth.”
The harlot city Babylon represents the seducer of mankind: man led to forsake his vocation to the City of God, to instead build a city for himself, glorifying himself – a city for man “free of God” – a secular and godless city. Secularism is the driving force of the West today, in this “enlightened, post-Christian” era.
One might think that the harlot Babylon – the secular West, the godless City of Man typified by such actual cities as New York City, Chicago, London or Amsterdam, for some examples – would be a great friend of satan! Secularism seduces men away from God! That ought to delight satan; he ought to be well-pleased to see the dominance of godless secularism over Christianity in the modern West! But Scripture reveals a different response, in the satanic “beast” on which Babylon rides – for this beast she rides upon is of the evil one. Scripture reveals this strange turn of events (and note the “horns” of the beast are particular leaders of the earth):
Evil leaders of men, in the spirit of satan, will turn against the secular city to hate it and to destroy it, because “God has put it into their hearts to carry out His purpose.” The beast will not destroy the Lamb! God will not abandon His people! But God has purposed to allow hatred into the hearts of evil leaders (“horns of the beast”), hatred for secular Babylon, the harlot enemy of God’s City. God has purposed to use the hatred and evil desires of agents of the evil one, to destroy the evil City, the harlot City Babylon. Thus the kingdom of evil will be divided against itself; thus will its kingdom fall. (Lk 11:17-18)
ISIS hates the West, the secular City of Man. The secular City of Man hates the call of God into His City of God. Is God now beginning the fulfillment of this prophecy of Rev. 17? Is God about to use ISIS, driven by their hatred, to destroy satan’s rider, the harlot city Babylon? Will He thus allow ISIS – or some equivalent group – to turn the secular West into a burning rubble – to “make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire”? In this nuclear age, it is physically possible.
But the literal destruction of the West is not inevitable! It is not necessary! Prophecy can predict what can happen, if man does not repent, and return to God. Can the secular West ever repent, and return to God? Is that possible? Yes it is possible! But before the West can repent, first the Church must do so. First the Church must find herself, she must come to herself, and must again know whose she is, and why she is, and rediscover her vocation in Christ.
We who are called into Christ are citizens of the City of God – and thus we are strangers and aliens in the culture of the secular West. We are outsiders, and we are not loved by them. But we have something that God wants them to see, and hear, and come to know. He has given us of Himself. He has given us His light, His truth, His love – for them! We must become who we are, and work and pray for the world. God does not delight in the death of any man, but desires the salvation of all. Church! Stop your slumbering, and taking of your ease! Wake up! The day is coming to its close.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the author’s blog, Renew the Church, and is republished here with kind permission.
image: Saint Qardakh The Martyr Church in Erbil, Iraq / Shutterstock