Reading 7 – Sabbath, December 15, 2007

By Branko Cholich, USA

Who is Babylon the great, out of whom God calls His people? For the prophet at Patmos, the term referred to the pagan religion that controlled the ancient Roman civil authority and severely persecuted Christians because of their preaching against idolatry. (All Roman religion was nothing but idolatry.) For Protestant churches after the great reformation in the 16th century, Babylon was the Roman Catholic Church. For Millerites, who expected the second coming of Christ in 1844, both Catholic and Protestant churches constituted Babylon.

Revelation 18, especially verse 24, gives the reason for the judgment of Babylon: “In her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.” This statement reveals that the spirit of Babylon originated at the time of Cain, the first one to persecute and kill his brother for righteousness’ sake. From that time to the end of the history of the world, Babylon has multiplied in number. Now, many religious denominations—Christian and non-Christian, all who do not keep the ten commandments of God—constitute Babylon the great. This confederacy is symbolized in Revelation 17 by the woman declared queen of all nations, who sits upon the scarlet-colored beast.

What are the sins of Babylon?
“In the New Testament, language very similar

[to that used with wanton Israel in the Old Testament] is addressed to professed Christians who seek the friendship of the world above the favor of God. Says the apostle James [in James 4:4]: ‘Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.’

“The woman (Babylon) of Revelation 17 is described as ‘arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness … and upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots.’ Says the prophet: ‘I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.’ Babylon is further declared to be ‘that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.’ Revelation 17:4–6, 18. The power that for so many centuries maintained despotic sway over the monarchs of Christendom is Rome. The purple and scarlet color, the gold and precious stones and pearls, vividly picture the magnificence and more than kingly pomp affected by the haughty see of Rome. And no other power could be so truly declared ‘drunken with the blood of the saints’ as that church which has so cruelly persecuted the followers of Christ. Babylon is also charged with the sin of unlawful connection with ‘the kings of the earth.’ It was by departure from the Lord, and alliance with the heathen, that the Jewish church became a harlot; and Rome, corrupting herself in like manner by seeking the support of worldly powers, receives a like condemnation.” —The Great Controversy, p. 382.

Who are called out of Babylon?
“Notwithstanding the spiritual darkness and alienation from God that exist in the churches which constitute Babylon, the great body of Christ’s true followers are still to be found in their communion. There are many of these who have never seen the special truths for this time. Not a few are dissatisfied with their present condition and are longing for clearer light. They look in vain for the image of Christ in the churches with which they are connected. As these bodies depart further and further from the truth, and ally themselves more closely with the world, the difference between the two classes will widen, and it will finally result in separation. The time will come when those who love God supremely can no longer remain in connection with such as are ‘lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof’ [2 Timothy 3:4, 5].

“Revelation 18 points to the time when, as the result of rejecting the threefold warning of Revelation 14:6–12, the church will have fully reached the condition foretold by the second angel, and the people of God still in Babylon will be called upon to separate from her communion. This message is the last that will ever be given to the world; and it will accomplish its work. When those that ‘believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (2 Thessalonians 2:12), shall be left to receive strong delusion and to believe a lie, then the light of truth will shine upon all whose hearts are open to receive it, and all the children of the Lord that remain in Babylon will heed the call: ‘Come out of her, My people’ (Revelation 18:4).” —Ibid., p. 390.

Culmination of her sins
“Of Babylon, at the time brought to view in this prophecy, it is declared: ‘Her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.’ Revelation 18:5. She has filled up the measure of her guilt, and destruction is about to fall upon her. But God still has a people in Babylon; and before the visitation of His judgments these faithful ones must be called out, that they partake not of her sins and ‘receive not of her plagues.’ Hence the movement symbolized by the angel coming down from heaven, lightening the earth with his glory and crying mightily with a strong voice, announcing the sins of Babylon. In connection with his message the call is heard: ‘Come out of her, My people.’ These announcements, uniting with the third angel’s message, constitute the final warning to be given to the inhabitants of the earth. “Fearful is the issue to which the world is to be brought. The powers of earth, uniting to war against the commandments of God, will decree that ‘all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond’ (Revelation 13:16), shall conform to the customs of the church by the observance of the false sabbath. All who refuse compliance will be visited with civil penalties, and it will finally be declared that they are deserving of death. On the other hand, the law of God enjoining the Creator’s rest day demands obedience and threatens wrath against all who transgress its precepts.” —Ibid., p. 604.

Comparison with ancient call
Like other books of the Bible, Revelation gives hope to God’s people. “No longer have the hosts of evil power to keep the church captive; for ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city,’ which hath ‘made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication’; and to spiritual Israel is given the message, ‘Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.’ Revelation 14:8; 18:4. [In ancient times, the prophet Jeremiah called Israel out of physical Babylon.] As the captive exiles heeded the message, ‘Flee out of the midst of Babylon’ (Jeremiah 51:6), and were restored to the Land of Promise, so those who fear God today are heeding the message to withdraw from spiritual Babylon, and soon they are to stand as trophies of divine grace in the earth made new, the heavenly Canaan.

“In Malachi’s day the mocking inquiry of the impenitent, ‘Where is the God of judgment?’ met with the solemn response: ‘The Lord … shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant.… But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.’ Malachi 2:17; 3:1–4.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 715.

In the time of Malachi, the priests were charged with many wrongdoings, but they always denied the charges. Although specifically addressed to the priests, the message cited above was the last one to the people of Israel. For four hundred years, God did not directly communicate with them through a prophet. Little by little, the time of mercy for the nation drew to a close.

The main reason for separation
“The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty, for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. While the observance of the false sabbath in compliance with the law of the state, contrary to the fourth commandment, will be an avowal of allegiance to a power that is in opposition to God, the keeping of the true Sabbath, in obedience to God’s law, is an evidence of loyalty to the Creator. While one class, by accepting the sign of submission to earthly powers, receive the mark of the beast, the other choosing the token of allegiance to divine authority, receive the seal of God.

“Heretofore those who presented the truths of the third angel’s message have often been regarded as mere alarmists. Their predictions that religious intolerance would gain control in the United States, that church and state would unite to persecute those who keep the commandments of God, have been pronounced groundless and absurd. It has been confidently declared that this land could never become other than what it has been—the defender of religious freedom. But as the question of enforcing Sunday observance is widely agitated, the event so long doubted and disbelieved is seen to be approaching, and the third message will produce an effect which it could not have had before.” —The Great Controversy, pp. 605, 606.

The result of this call
The best explanation for the result of the call to come out of Babylon follows: “As the controversy extends into new fields and the minds of the people are called to God’s downtrodden law, Satan is astir. The power attending the message will only madden those who oppose it. The clergy will put forth almost superhuman efforts to shut away the light lest it should shine upon their flocks. By every means at their command they will endeavor to suppress the discussion of these vital questions. The church appeals to the strong arm of civil power, and, in this work, papists and Protestants unite. As the movement for Sunday enforcement becomes more bold and decided, the law will be invoked against commandment keepers. They will be threatened with fines and imprisonment, and some will be offered positions of influence, and other rewards and advantages, as inducements to renounce their faith. But their steadfast answer is: ‘Show us from the word of God our error’—the same plea that was made by Luther under similar circumstances. Those who are arraigned before the courts make a strong vindication of the truth, and some who hear them are led to take their stand to keep all the commandments of God. Thus light will be brought before thousands who otherwise would know nothing of these truths.” —Ibid., p. 607.

Relationship of the third angel and Babylon
The messages of Revelation 14 and that of Revelation 18:4 are described by Ellen White in a chapter entitled “The Loud Cry”: “I saw angels hurrying to and fro in heaven, descending to the earth, and again ascending to heaven, preparing for the fulfillment of some important event. Then I saw another mighty angel commissioned to descend to the earth, to unite his voice with the third angel, and give power and force to his message. Great power and glory were imparted to the angel, and as he descended, the earth was lightened with his glory. The light which attended this angel penetrated everywhere, as he cried mightily, with a strong voice, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird’ [Revelation 18:2]. The message of the fall of Babylon, as given by the second angel, is repeated, with the additional mention of the corruptions which have been entering the churches since 1844. The work of this angel comes in at the right time to join in the last great work of the third angel’s message as it swells to a loud cry. And the people of God are thus prepared to stand in the hour of temptation, which they are soon to meet. I saw a great light resting upon them, and they united to fearlessly proclaim the third angel’s message.”—Early Writings, p. 277.

The message of Revelation 18:4 follows the three angels’ messages given in Revelation 14:6–12 and the outpouring of the latter rain when the Sunday law begins. As God’s people receive the power of the Holy Spirit, they will give the final call, “the loud cry,” to the fallen world. The message of this angel will enlighten the whole world. It will be more than sufficient to bring all God’s people out of the total darkness of the world. Then the sealing message will be completed, and the time of mercy will end. Revelation 22:11. Then begin the seven last plagues, the punishment of Babylon the great for the sins described in Revelation 18:5–24. Amen.