Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Friday, 28 August 2009


By Jim Jordal

The 18th chapter of the Book of Revelation is considered by many Bible scholars to be a prophecy against a great end-time financial/commercial system named after and patterned on the same oppressive principles as the Babylonian Empire of antiquity.

Perhaps the best known passage (verses 12 and 13) from this chapter describes commercial Babylon as having the despicable value of placing money and fine consumer goods over the very bodies and souls of human beings. The chapter goes on to conclude that the great leaders of the earth have been victims of the system’s sorcery, which has down through the centuries persecuted the prophets and saints and taken the lives of vast numbers of people.

I’ve often pondered the meaning of Rev. 18:4-5, in which a voice from heaven, repeating the admonition given by the prophet Jeremiah many years earlier, cried: "Come out of her My people, lest you participate in her sins, and receive of her plagues." It’s clear that God’s people are somehow to separate themselves from the anti-human and failing world financial and commercial system, but it’s not too clear just how this is to be done. It’s always seemed to me as if to come out of Babylon would mean to withdraw from society into isolation and possible psychological depression, since one could hardly exist in modern society without access to the various commercial and financial institutions developed by the system.

But the Recession of 2008 has opened many eyes (including mine) to the possibility of alternatives to the system now being grievously shaken. If you think of a domination system as having many parts composed of institutions, values, and behaviors in many contexts—social, political, economic, religious, military, educational, informational, and others—you can understand that the parts may be in various stages of decadence and dysfunction—some more, some less. In other words, as the system develops it comes to increasingly represent the values of wealth, power, exploitation, and empire over those associated with the welfare of human beings and nurture of the earth.

The reason God’s people are to "come out of Babylon" is that the system finally reaches a point where it becomes so evil and anti-human that it can no longer be healed or patched up. As the prophet Jeremiah says in his diatribe against Babylon: "We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed. Forsake her, and let us go everyone to his own country, for her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies (Jer. 51:9).The edifice is collapsing and efforts to strengthen it no longer work effectively…so, the admonition to Come Out! But how can one do this without seriously damaging both life and welfare?


One way is to create alternatives to life under control of Babylon. Adversity creates motivation and innovation, and the present world turmoil as Babylon struggles to survive has provided massive opportunity to build alternatives to the system. Think of the home school movement as an early example. The public educational system came to be seen by many as inimitable to their religious and family values, so they created an alternative. The same for the micro-credit movement that built alternative structures to the commercial banking system. And the various community health programs creating alternatives to the profit-driven medical system. The list is virtually endless as almost every day brings new attempts to withdraw from the system characterized by the values of Wall Street into those exemplifying the values of Main Street.

Perhaps advice from the apostle Paul is also pertinent here. In advocating correct personal priorities to Corinthian believers he asserts that "those who buy should not behave as though they possessed," and that "those who use the world should not misuse it"(I Cor. 7:30-31). Paul appears to be speaking of "selective attention," or the idea that we become attached to those things upon which we choose to lavish our attention. Therefore, if we attend upon worldly values of greed and materialism we will come to value these things more than faith and loyalty. So if we selectively attend to things of God rather than things of Babylon, we become able to "possess without being possessed" and to "use without misusing."

So even if you cannot even think about coming seriously out of Babylonian cultural and economic captivity, perhaps you could begin to look at moderate alternative behaviors and also at ways of attending more to the things involving God’s vision for human welfare and less to those involving mammon.