September 23, 2009

Mission of Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness

2009 1527 page13 capince the retirement of Tony Blair as prime minister of the United Kingdom (1997–2007), much has been said about his spiritual life. A 2008 issue of Time magazine offered this insight into Blair’s faith:

“Blair is deeply religious—the most openly devout political leader of Britain since William Ewart Gladstone more than 100 years ago. He handles questions about religion deftly. He doesn’t back down. His longtime press secretary and consigliere, Alastair Campbell, remembers Blair in 1996 at a school in Scotland where a gunman had killed 16 children and a teacher. In a bloodstained classroom, Campbell asked Blair, ‘What does your God make of this?’ Blair, says Campbell, stopped and replied, ‘Just because man is bad, it does not mean that God is not good.’”1
We don’t write off God’s goodness just because humans can be so evil. In spite of the seemingly inevitable moral, financial, and political collapse of the world today, there is a voice of hope that resounds from Seventh-day Adventist churches around the world. This voice reminds a desperate world of God’s goodness and our indomitable reason for hope.
When human systems fail, and they all will fail, look to Jesus and you will find reason for hope. We are reminded of this truth as we continue our study of the three angels’ messages in Revelation 14. Today we come to the second angel, who delivers this warning: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (verse 8, KJV). The fall of Babylon symbolizes the end-time collapse of false religious hopes and systems; however, the message of God’s end-time church affirms that someday all things will be set right. God’s kingdom will prevail.
Second Angel’s Message: What It Is
So what is the message of the second angel? It is a message that Babylon is fallen. What is the essence of Babylon? It is a spirit of self-sufficiency that dates back at least to the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9. In this story the people schemed, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves” (Gen. 11:4). Notice they did not wish to exalt God, but rather themselves.
2009 1527 page13In Revelation 17:5 Babylon is called “THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” Literally and symbolically, Babylon has been the enemy of God’s truth and people. It represents in a particular way all apostate religious organizations in these last days. To trust in Babylon is to put one’s faith and hope in the hands of civil and religious powers rather than in the power of God alone.
Historically, the glorious years of ancient Babylon occurred during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar when he rebuilt the city into one of beauty. He schemed to make his empire universal and eternal. The city boasted of 53 temples dedicated to important gods, 955 small sanctuaries, and 384 street altars. It had hanging gardens (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) that were irrigated by a system of pipes through which water was pumped up. Babylon was the site of so much building under Nebuchadnezzar that it takes 126 pages just to record the inscriptions that were carved into the buildings that he had constructed. From the roof of his palace, Nebuchadnezzar could see a double wall around his city. The outer wall was 56 miles long, and wide enough to turn a four-horse chariot around on. The historian Herodotus, in the fifth century B.C., claimed that Babylon surpassed in splendor any city in the known world.
No wonder Nebuchadnezzar could gloat in his prosperity. From the rooftop of his palace he mused to himself, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30).
This delusional king is not unlike the patient at a psychiatric institution. Every evening he would shout from his cell, “I am the king of the universe! I am the ruler of the world. Everyone will do as I say, for I am the supreme commander of the universe!”
One evening a doctor dropped in and confronted him. “Harry! Get down off your chair. Stop beating your chest. You’re disrupting people who are trying to sleep.”
“But I am the king of the universe.”
“Harry, you are not the king of the universe.”
“Yes, I am!” he cried all the louder.
“And just what makes you think you are the king of the universe?”
God told me I was the king of the universe!”
Just then a voice erupted from another cell down the hallway: “I did not!”
Like Nebuchadnezzar, many men have fancied themselves as God. This haughty spirit of Babylon is the same attitude that got Satan ousted from heaven. It’s the spirit that got Adam and Eve booted from the garden. It’s at the heart of the great controversy between good and evil—it is the rebellious spirit that seeks to be God. And let’s be clear: this spirit of Babylon ?continues to pollute our planet.
Listen to some of the teachings of popular leaders today:
• Casey Treat, founding pastor of the Christian Faith Center in Seattle, Washington, once preached: “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost had a conference and they said, ‘Let us make man an exact duplicate of us.’ Oh, I don’t know about you, but that does turn my crank! An exact duplicate of God! Say it out loud—‘I’m an exact duplicate of God!’”2 The congregation repeated it again and again, louder and louder; they chanted back and forth in a furious frenzy, “I’m an exact duplicate of God!”3
• Kenneth Copeland, a well-known televangelist, says, “You don’t have a god in you. You are one!”4
Can you see how these popular leaders talk like Christians? . . . look like Christians? . . . act like Christians? And yet they teach the very thing that got Satan kicked out of heaven—that we can become as God.
God alone is worthy of our worship. The teaching of Babylon is that we are gods—worthy of worship and free to redefine God’s law. So God calls a people in the last days to acknowledge His lordship. They will publicly dispel the deceit of the evil one and of his religious and political instrument and tell the truth: “Babylon is fallen!”
Prior to Christ’s return, the warning of the second angel will be heralded by God’s true followers. Their message will challenge people to come out of the phony religious movement of Babylon and follow the one and only true God.
In this light, the message of the second angel has great relevance for Christ’s followers today, for it begs the question Will you be wholly devoted to God or not? Asked another way: Will you worship your Savior or yourself?
Second Angel’s Message: Its Relevance Today
There is probably a Babylonian element in all of us, which, if not brought into subjection to Christ, could finally overcome us. We should be vigilant.
According to a parable, once there was a man who asked God, “Which do you think is harder, to be man or to be God?”
“Being God is much harder,” God answered. “I must look after the whole universe with its planets and galaxies. All you must worry about is your family and your job.”
“True enough,” the man sparred. “But you have infinite time and infinite power. The hard part is not doing the job, but doing it within the limits of human strength and the human life span.”
“You don’t know what you are talking about” God said. “It’s much harder to be God.”
The man replied, “How can you say that when you have never been human and I have never been God? What do you say we change places for just one second, so you can know the feeling of being man and I can know what it feels like ?to be God. Just one second, that’s all, and then we’ll change back.”
God didn’t like the idea, but the man kept begging until God relented. They changed places. Man became God and God became human.
As the story goes, once man sat on the divine throne, he refused to give God back His place. Ever since, man has ruled the world and God has been in exile.
A fable? Yes. A false picture? No.
Can you see the relevance of the second angel’s message for your life today? Is there an area in which you have dethroned God and perched yourself in His stead? Maybe it’s a financial issue in which you find it necessary to rob God of tithes and offerings in order to meet your obligations. So, will you trust God to be God when it comes to money matters? Maybe it’s a time issue and you want to carve out quality time each day to commune with God, but with the press of papers due and deadlines at work, you can’t find yourself clear to squeeze in devotions.
The real issue is this: Do you trust God to be God when it comes to the way you spend your time? Perhaps it’s an ingrained pattern of sin that feeds feelings of futility in life. By escaping into the shadows of compromise you temporarily find relief from your pain. I’m wondering: Do you trust God to be God when it comes to finding your ultimate value only in Him?
To place yourself on the throne that rightfully belongs to God alone is to live in the spirit of Babylon. As God’s remnant people with a special message in the last days, we are called to challenge the value system of the world and live in an intimate dependence upon God alone, for Babylon is fallen.
Consider the somber appeal of John the revelator: “After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted: ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.’ Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues’” (Rev. 18:1-4).
Here is Jesus’ final appeal to His followers who are members of “Babylon” churches. “Come out of her,” He pleads, “lest you share in her sins.” 
1Michael Elliott, “Tony Blair’s Leap of Faith,” Time (June 9, 2008), p. 34.
2Casey Treat, “Believing in Yourself,” audiotape from Seattle Christian Center; quoted in Marvin Moore, The Antichrist and the New World Order  (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1993), pp. 85, 86.
4Kenneth Copeland, “The Force of Love,” tape BCC-56 (Fort Worth, Tex.: Kenneth Copeland), on file with Christian Research Institute (CRI); quoted in Michael Horton, ed., The Agony of Deceit (Chicago: Moody Press, 1990), p. 92.

1. As a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is it possible for me to partake of the spirit of Babylon? How?
2. How is the ancient city of Babylon an apt illustration of the powers of fallen religion in the last days?