The Demise of Milady Babylon

Friday, March 11, 2022

A piece in an art contest.

Milady Babylon’s days are numbered. 

Some will say that Milady Babylon’s days are long past, that yes, certainly, her days were once numbered; but those days have long since expired. They would contend that Milady Babylon is already deceased and that she has already passed from the historical scene. Milady Babylon’s days have already come and gone, they would argue. But… they would be wrong. Milady Babylon exists yet, for a while longer, at least.     

Now, to call Milady Babylon “milady” might be perceived as somewhat scandalous. After all, Milady Babylon is a woman of compromised virtue, to put things politely and mildly. Older English translations of the Bible use quite strong and rather corse language in reference to Milady Babylon and her preferred occupation. Milady Babylon, you see, debases and sells herself in exchange for money and gifts. If nothing else, Milady Babylon is a material girl.

A painting from an art museum in California.

But if you are at all inclined to think that Milady Babylon might be an actual person, I should quickly correct that. Milady Babylon has the surname Babylon because Babylon was once the seat of a glorious, spectacular empire. Historically, Babylon was a wealthy, beautiful city that oversaw a much wider empire. In the Book of Revelation Milady Babylon serves as a prototype, a pseudonym, and a cipher for another, similar city that was the capital of a much wider empire. That city was Rome. And of course Rome stood as both a city and a vast empire at the time the Book of Revelation was written. Incidentally, the Romans referred to Rome as Roma; and Roma was frequently depicted as a robust, fierce lady.

But that’s not all. Somehow Milady Babylon features quite prominently in the very section of Revelation wherein the Beast of the Abyss rises to power and prominence (i.e., chapters 16-19). This coincidence must not be missed.

According to Revelation 13:2, the Dragon (that is, Satan) empowers the Beast.

So who is this Beast from the Abyss? The Beast from the Abyss is one and the same as the Antichrist, although admittedly the Book of Revelation does not use that particular title. The Antichrist has various monikers in the New Testament, including the Beast, the Antichrist, and the Man of Lawlessness. But whatever his title, this individual (probably a totalitarian dictator) appears right before Jesus Christ’s triumphant final physical return to Earth. I should perhaps repeat that for emphasis. The Antichrist is on the scene when Jesus comes back. And somehow Milady Babylon persists (or perhaps reappears) long enough to see the Beast from the Abyss rise to power. If you doubt me here, please see Revelation 17:16, which says that “the Beast will hate the prostitute … and burn her with fire.”

So then, who or what is Milady Babylon? Revelation 18:21 clearly says that she is a city. Okay, if she is a city, which is she? Well, perhaps we need to recall that Babylon itself was a city and more than a city. It was an empire. Likewise, Rome was a city and more than a city. It was an empire. If a latter-day Babylon reappears at the end of history, can we thus expect it to be an empire or even a civilization?

Maybe, just maybe Milady Babylon represents a decadent, materialistic society or civilization.

If so, brace yourself, because Revelation 18:8 and 18:17 reveal that Milady Babylon goes up in flames “in a single hour.” Nuclear war, perhaps? I admit that I am inclined to see it that way.

Now, you can console yourself with the thought that maybe this is referring to Rome’s demise when it was sacked by the Visigoths many, many centuries ago. Or alternatively, you can read Revelation chapters 16-19 as a coherent sequential narrative, which would imply that Milady Babylon is an empire or a civilization that will meet its sudden fiery demise shortly before the final physical return of Jesus Christ to Earth. Either way, the Book of Revelation reveals that Milady Babylon’s decadent days are definitely numbered. 

Finally, this ugly scenario is one reason I personally hope the rapture occurs beforehand, regardless of how out-of-vogue the notion of the rapture may currently be.

Have a nice day. 🙂

The Mark

Monday, May 11th, 2020

The Mark of the Beast
The Mark, Audio Version

In January 250AD the newly-proclaimed Emperor Decius issued a do-or-die decree, an urgent edict. Decius decreed that everyone in the empire must make a patriotic public offering. Each and every inhabitant of the empire was required to appear in person before a local magistrate in order to make an offering to the gods, for the new emperor. The wording of the edict really matters here: the offering was to be made to the officially recognized gods, for the emperor. Anyone who refused to make the required offering could face the consequence of torture and execution. Only Jews were exempted from the edict, not Christians.

This posed a real dilemma for the empire’s Christians. To comply with an order to pray to their own God for the emperor — that they could do. To appear before a local magistrate and offer their patriotic service or support or money — that they probably could do. But to make a public offering to the pantheon of traditional gods — no, they could not do that, at least not in good conscience. It was a clear violation of a sacred command. God alone was to be worshiped. The emperor’s decree and God’s command were thus irreconcilable. They could obey the emperor or they could obey God; but they could not obey both in this. Christ is Lord, not Caesar, not Emperor Decius, nor his pantheon of officially-sanctioned gods. 

Was Decius Foretold? See Revelation 17:10-11.

Nonetheless, for fear of severe punishment and loss, some Christians reluctantly complied with Decius’s decree. They capitulated and made the required offering. Others, though, held fast to their convictions and refused to make the offering, knowing they were likely to be subjected to torture and execution. And many of them were indeed tortured and martyred, including Fabian, the Bishop of Rome. 

By Revelation’s reckoning, anyone who did comply with the edict thereby took the mark of the beast. Even if they made the offering reluctantly, they yielded to an early version, or prototype, of the mark of the beast. Was it forgivable? Probably so, at least back then. It might not be in the future.

Do recognize that my last paragraph makes a couple of very strong claims. To some of my readers, they may seem completely wrong, or at least too sweeping. How is making a coerced pagan sacrifice equal to taking the mark of the beast? That is a good question, and worth pursuing.

Those who made the sacrifice for the Emperor Decius were given an official certificate called a libellus. Copies of such certificates have survived through the centuries. Those who made the sacrifices would have kept their certificates on hand. They would not have literally kept the certificates strapped to one of their hands. But they would have kept the certificates with them, as a means of ready self-protection against accusation. They kept official certificates that notarized their participation in a pagan ritual where? They kept them on hand, in case they needed them.

Now, fast forward many centuries to the Third Reich and the Nazis. How were Germans taught to show their loyalty to their Führer? With their extended right hand. To avoid any suspicion and to show expected allegiance, they need only raise their right hand in salute of their leader and say two words. Was their salute actually the mark of the beast? Well, it leaned in that direction. It was not necessarily the mark of the beast for everyone who ever did it, because it did not require a deliberate choice against Christ. However, if someone did make a deliberate choice against Christ, such a salute might constitute something akin to the mark of the beast.

From my reading of the Book of Revelation and history, I submit that the ultimate mark of the beast is to be conveyed in a public ceremony, rite, ordeal, or trial. It indicates to all that the recipient has consciously and deliberately repudiated Christ and given his or her allegiance to another master — even if that decision is coerced and made in duress. The mark thus functions as an anti-baptism. It might involve a literal, physical brand or distinguishing mark of some sort, but not necessarily. Whatever form it takes, it is to be avoided absolutely, even if that means enduring a painful death. We see precursors of it now, whenever someone must officially repudiate faith in Christ in order to get ahead, stay afloat, or save their skin. Yes, the prospect of being in such a do-or-die situation is a scary thought. But Christians are called to count the cost, and stay faithful, even unto death.