And another angel followed, saying, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." Revelation 14:8, NKJV
Last week we saw God's long-suffering and great mercy toward Nebuchadnezzar, the proud king of Babylon, and how he finally was able to be done with pride, to "praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down." Daniel 4:37
This week we have the lesson of what happens when the Word of God, His love and mercy are rejected or neglected. We have a type, in story form, of the final fall of Babylon, who "makes all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."
The Cup of Salvation
Babylonian false (self) worship has extended through all history since the fall of man, through accepting the lies of Satan regarding God. God's purpose in sending Jesus was that we would accept the truths of the close union of our humanity with divinity that has been restored through the immeasurable sacrifice of the incarnation, life and death of Christ. We have been shown that we are completely dependent on God for life and breath - doubly so by being rescued from the second death - such that all men have been "justified unto life" by the blood of Christ, His very life, represented by the unfermented wine of the Lord's supper. What has the Christian church done with this amazing gift, with the cup of salvation?
"To His people the Lord says, 'I am married unto you,' and, 'Thy Maker is thine husband.' Therefore, when they leave Him, and refuse to live any longer in right relationship with Him, He speaks of such conduct as fornication or adultery; and to lead His people into such a departure from Him is to cause them to commit fornication. When the church as a whole has thus separated from God, it is no longer regarded as a 'chaste virgin,' but as an impure woman, a harlot. And so the papacy, which claims to be the only true church, but which has in reality put man in the place of God, and the traditions of men in the place of the commandments of God, is represented under this symbol in the seventeenth chapter of Revelation. The influence of the example and teaching of the papacy in leading others to depart from obedience to the commandments of the true God is set forth in these words: 'They that dwell in the earth were made drunken with the wine of her fornication;''which did corrupt the earth with her fornication;' 'which hath made all the nations drink of the wine of her fornication.' Revelation 17:2; 19:2, 14:8." April 12, 1900 WWP, PTUK 230.
You Knew All This!
A great reformation came with the repentance of Nebuchadnezzar. But the reformation stalled. Evidently the gospel was shared, even with Belshazzar, who "knew all this," and yet refused to humble himself to admit that man is nothing, and God is everything. He came to the point of making a mockery of what the sanctuary teaches about the purifying, sanctifying power of this truth. The very vessels used in the worship of God were profaned in his great feast.
The Papacy mixed up the true gospel, adding the principles of self-exaltation and materialism found from head to toe in the image of Daniel 2, and has encouraged all the kingdoms of the world to drink this mind-numbing mixture. The life that God gives was corrupted and adulterated, the pure truths of the gospel fermented by self-interest and served up in the cup of ceremony and formalism. The Reformation gave opportunity for repentance, a turning away from this desolating, destructive mix.
"In the great reformation of the sixteenth century there was a coming out from this apostate church with 'the Bible only' as the watchword, and justification by faith as the platform. Those who thus received the true Gospel of the kingdom protested against the complete substitution of the human for the divine in all the worship and service of God, and so were called 'protestants.' Had the reform which was thus begun been consistently carried forward, it would have led to a complete return to the beliefs and experiences of the early Christian church, and a people would thus have been made ready for the coming of the Lord. But in the course of time the movement became crystallized around the reforms introduced by the leaders in this great work, and no further progress was made. And so, another movement was necessary to reform the reformers, and to do the work which they might have done in preparing a people for the coming of the Lord. Thus was inaugurated in 1830-40 the great advent message which is still being proclaimed, which is simply an appeal for the acceptance of the Word of God as it reads, a discarding of all the traditions of men, and a living faith in the fulness of the experience of justification by faith in Jesus Christ. But alas! the successors of the reformers of the sixteenth century as a body rejected the message, clung to the traditions of the past, and became 'protestants' only in name. They drank of the wine of her fornication, and while separated in name they really went over in principle to the ground held so long by the papacy, 'teaching for doctrines the commandments of man,' depending upon the past history of the church and upon the names of men whom God had need in the commencement of the work of reform. This has resulted in greatly increased worldliness in the church, in a loss of the old-time power, and in a general failure to recognize and to embrace the opportunity offered to preach this Gospel of the kingdom. And thus have the names and the forms of the house of God been used in professedly maintaining the principles of the kingdom, but in reality in exalting man above God, in substituting the traditions of men for the plain teaching of the Word of God.
"All this is acted out before us in the record of Belshazzar's feast. In the cups from the Lord's house was the wine of Babylon drunk, and under its influence the creations of the minds of men were put in the place of the Creator of all things, and right principles became 'confused.' Thus because of the fall of the man in Babylon the way was prepared for the fall of Babylon, and that too during a time of feasting and drunkenness.
"In our day this prophetic history is being repeated. The enemy of God and man is come down 'having great wrath,' and 'as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,' but instead of watching unto prayer, many are given over to 'surfeiting and drunkenness,' the wine of Babylon is drunk even in the cup of the Lord, and the true God, the King of heaven, is not glorified. And even now the darkness of the last night of the feasting is settling down upon the inhabitants of the world. Who will give the true Gospel message? Who will cry, 'Behold your God!'" W. W. PRESCOTT. April 12, 1900 WWP, PTUK 230-231.
The Prophetic Finger of God
The books of Daniel and Revelation contain the prophecies that are the "writing on the wall" for the world. The "finger of God" that casts out demons (Luke 11:20) also circumscribes the limits of evil in this world. His finger has pointed out, counted (MENE, MENE) the prophetic measure of the little horn's activity throughout history, and given the time when the end-time judgment (weighing - TEKEL) and cleansing of the sanctuary and its vessels would begin. Now the kingdom is to be divided (PERES) and given to the "kings of the east,", represented in this story by Medo Persia. Tidings are coming from the North (God rules) and East (Jesus reigns and is returning). The spiritual life of Babylon (the Euphrates) is drying up and the way is prepared for the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, relying on the Word of God alone, and rejecting the traditions of men.
"Babylon was a heathen city, exalting itself above God. As shown in Belshazzar's feast (Daniel 5), it represented a religion that defied God. The same spirit exists today, not simply in a certain society, but wherever men choose their own way in religion, rather than submit to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. God in His longsuffering and tender mercy is but waiting until His people, coming out of Babylon, and humbling themselves to walk with Him, shall preach this Gospel of the kingdom, with all the power of the kingdom, even the power of the world to come, 'in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.'
"That end will be the destruction of Babylon, just as spoken through Jeremiah; but as Babylon of old was an universal kingdom, and its real king, as shown in Isaiah 14, was Satan, the god of this world, so the destruction of Babylon is nothing less than the judgment of God on the whole earth, when He delivers His people. For now, read the words which 'Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations,' when he prophesied about the end of the Babylonian captivity: [Jeremiah 25:15-33 quoted)]
"This is the fearful doom to which all the nations of the earth are rushing. For that great battle they are all arming. Many of them are dreaming of federation and of universal dominion; but God has said of universal dominion on this earth, 'It shall be no more, till He come whose right it is, and I will give it Him.'
"All dreams of universal peace are destined to vanish in the smoke of battle. The idea of a millennium of peace on this present earth, to be brought about by alliances and confederations, whether religious or purely civil, is a delusion of Satan, to lull men to sleep concerning the coming destruction, that they may be swept away by it. People talk about crowning Christ as King of this earth, and look forward to a time when all nations shall own His sway; but all such teaching is simply a preparation for the general worship of anti-christ. When Christ assumes the authority over this earth, the first thing He will do will be to break the nations in pieces and to gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and all that do iniquity, and cast them into a furnace of fire; and then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. But before that time comes, Satan will appear as an angel of light, claiming to be Christ, and will receive the allegiance of all who have rejected the word of the Lord as to the manner of the coming of Christ. When men, assuming that the looked-for millennium has come, shall say, 'Peace and safety,' then sudden destruction shall come upon them, 'and they shall not escape.'" 1900 EJW, EVCO 489-491.
Walking in the Light or Lightweight?
"Then was the writing again placed on the wall, and these words appeared: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. The words themselves were not difficult. Anybody present could have pronounced them. Literally translated, they are, 'Numbered, Numbered, Weighed, Divided.' But what could they signify? 'God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.' Twice was this repeated, for emphasis. A most accurate account had been kept, and there was no mistake in the books. The end of the kingdom had come; it was about to fall to pieces by its own weakness. 'Thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting.' God weighs the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance (Isaiah 40:12), yet 'by Him actions are weighed.' 1 Samuel 2:3. His scales are wonderfully accurate, and are adapted to the greatest things as well as the least. Belshazzar had been placed in them, and had been found lighter than air. He weighed absolutely nothing. 'Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie; to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.' Psalm 62:9. That which men call 'gravitation' is but the power of the presence of God, to Whom alone power belongs; outside of Him there is no weight whatever; Belshazzar had rejected the Lord, and therefore when laid in the balances he went up like the fine dust." July 13, 1899 EJW, PTUK 434.
What's on Your Wall?
"The Handwriting on the Wall. - Did it ever occur to you that the hand that traced the mystic letters on the wall of Belshazzar's banqueting hall is still engaged in the work that God is doing in the earth? The Lord knows what is going on in your home or room, just as well as He knew the progress of the Babylonian festivities that night. If only we constantly bore in mind the fact that the presence of God is with us in our homes or places of business, and that the hand that wrote Belshazzar's doom might as easily outline our deeds and thoughts upon the wall, it would cause us oftentimes to repress the springing up of self and sin. We are being weighed in the balances every day, whether we realize it or not." June 7, 1894 EJW, PTUK 368.
Necessity of the Spirit of Prophecy
"From the way in which Daniel read the writing upon the wall it is evident that the same spirit of a prophet is required in order to read understandingly what God has written, or caused to be written, as is essential in the giving of prophecy. To the wise men of Babylon, the words on the wall meant nothing. Not being themselves in the current of God's revelation or familiar with His thoughts, and having no experience of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, they could not go beyond the letter of the writing; but when Daniel looked at the words on the wall he saw, through the Spirit of prophecy, the completed sentences from which these words were taken, and so he could read the writing, so as to make known the interpretation. It is just such readers and teachers of the handwriting of God that are needed today, those who are sufficient to be ministers of the new covenant, 'not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.' 'What is written in the law? how readest thou?'" May 3, 1900 WWP, PTUK 277.
To the World: Who will Proclaim the Infallible Word?
In the Council of Trent (1545-1563) the traditions of men were placed above the Word of God. The position here taken in response to the Reformation developed further, such that in 1870 the First Ecumenical Council of the Vatican declared the doctrine of papal infallibility. Belshazzar also had utmost faith in the belief that his kingdom could not fall, that it was "in-fall-ible," Even though God had said it would. But it was the very night of his magnificent feast that he and his kingdom fell to the Kings of the East.
"'I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake.' This was after 'the judgment was set, and the books were opened.' What an astonishing situation is revealed by these facts! At the very time when the conduct of men is being investigated and their character weighed in the balances of the sanctuary and tasted by the eternal law of God, the papacy, which had for centuries warred against the kingdom of God in the earth, and had poured out like water the blood of the subjects of that kingdom, and had even openly changed the law of the kingdom, by a formal, weighty decree claimed for its head an attribute which belongs only to 'God that cannot lie.' Was the name and the character of God even more openly blasphemed? On that last night in the history of Babylon of the Chaldees, Belshazzar exalted himself against God and offered insult to His face by using the vessels from the house of God in which to drink the wine of Babylon, while they praised the false gods. To do this after the knowledge of the true God had been revealed, and the Gospel of the kingdom had been proclaimed, sealed the fate of the king and his kingdom. To exalt himself then instead of glorifying 'the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways,' was a sufficient cause for the hand-writing on the wall. And so in adopting this dogma of infallibility, which renders impossible any repentance for the past and reform for the future, the papacy has sealed its own destruction. Individuals who now hold the teaching of the papacy may be saved through their personal repentance and faith, but this modern Babylon is doomed. And so the call is even now being sounded, 'Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.'" May 31, 1900 WWP, PTUK 339.