Babylon: please explain

What happens after the seven bowls of judgment?

John pauses in his narrative in the book of Revelation to consider the plight of Babylon – after the Day of the Lord.

The Whore of Babylon
I would like you to experience the absolute befuddlement I encountered when I first read the vision in Zechariah 5:5-11. It was not just the problem of trying to penetrate the meaning of the symbolism used. It was more that I could not even begin to comprehend what was being said. So, have a go. See if you can decipher it…
Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me, "Lift your eyes, and see what this is that goes forth." 
And I said, "What is it?" He said, "This is the ephah that goes forth." And he said, "This is their iniquity in all the land." 
And behold, the leaden cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting in the ephah! 
And he said, "This is Wickedness." And he thrust her back into the ephah, and thrust down the leaden weight upon its mouth. 
Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings; they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between earth and heaven. 
Then I said to the angel who talked with me, "Where are they taking the ephah?" 
He said to me, "To the land of Shinar, to build a house for it; and when this is prepared, they will set the ephah down there on its base."
I had to have the passage deciphered by an old bible commentary.
The ephah was a weights measure, presumably, covered with a lead coating. If it was tampered with, the trader could cheat his customers. This would be wickedness.
The land of Shinar is a reference to Babylon (Genesis 10 and 11). The people of Israel were in the process of repatriation from Babylon, where they had been sent in judgment for their wickedness. 

And the occasion of evil is depicted as two women (not just one as in the Garden of Eden)
There are a couple of ways this could be interpreted, but try this one. 
The wickedness that had led to the Jews deportation to Babylon was to be expunged from their midst. It was to be taken to Babylon, which itself was about to be judged for its own wickedness. 
So what's this got to do with the Book of Revelation?
Chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation are devoted to the judgment of Babylon.
Babylon is represented as a whore who has led the world into sin.
Chapter 17 seems to be speaking of Babylon as a metaphor for the practice of religion
Chapter 18 seems to be speaking of Babylon as a metaphor for trade and commerce.
It is important to establish one point very clearly here and now.
Neither religion nor commerce is essentially evil. 
In fact, if carried out in an enlightened manner, both can be productive of great good. (That's that way it promises to be in the Millennium, the thousand years of peace, prosperity and righteousness that follows the Day of the Lord, when the kingdom of heaven is established on earth) 
However history teaches that both tend to be corrupted in practice and lead to the degradation, rather than the elevation, of mankind. 
Is it just earthly Babylon, as a symbol for all the kingdoms of the world, which is being suggested here?
Isaiah 14:22 likens the king of Babylon to the day star which has fallen from heaven. Bible teachers have suggested that the Day Star is a reference to Satan, and this passage provides a clue as to how Satan (the dragon) was dispatched from heaven.
Dante has produced an interesting metaphor for Babylon as corrupter of the church. Dante was a very earnest believer in the Catholic religion but had problems with the way it had been corrupted by its quest for wealth and power. 

He traces the beginnings of this corruption back to the removal of its status as an outlawed organisation by the emperor Constantine. The ‘gift of Constantine‘, the provision of protection, and grants of financial assistance by the state led to the corruption of the church that Dante loved.  

From that point on, the church turned its back on the statement by Jesus to his Roman judge, Pontius Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:33-37).
He discusses this idea in his Divine Comedy, at the point at which he has just passed through the waters of the river of Lethe (forgetfulness of past sins - redemption) and Eunoe (remembrance of past sins – atonement). 

(Purgatory Canto 28) "The water, thou behold'st, springs not from vein,
As stream, that intermittently repairs
And spends his pulse of life, but issues forth
From fountain, solid, undecaying, sure;
And by the will omnific, full supply
Feeds whatsoe'er On either side it pours;
On this devolv'd with power to take away
Remembrance of offence, on that to bring
Remembrance back of every good deed done.
From whence its name of Lethe on this part;
On th' other Eunoe: both of which must first
Be tasted ere it work; the last exceeding
All flavours else.

(Purgatory Canto 31) The blessed shore approaching then was heard
So sweetly, "Tu asperges me," that I
May not remember, much less tell the sound.
The beauteous dame, her arms expanding, clasp'd
My temples, and immerg'd me, where 't was fit
The wave should drench me: and thence raising up,
Within the fourfold dance of lovely nymphs
Presented me so lav'd, and with their arm
They each did cover me.
He has seen the procession referred to earlier in this work as the books of the bible bearing God’s Wisdom in a cart pulled by a gryphon (half lion – half eagle) (Purgatory Canto 29).
Dante goes on to reveal that the gryphon is an image of Jesus and the pole by which he pulls the cart that carries the embodiment of God’s wisdom is the cross on which he was killed.
Dante depicts the idea of redemption as the gryphon (Jesus) taking his cross to the denuded tree of knowledge of good and evil, the fruit of which Adam and Eve ate in disobedience to God’s command.

Once the cross (the pole that pulls the cart carrying the embodiment of God’s wisdom) has made contact with the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the tree bursts into flowering fruit.
Dante goes into a swoon. When he awakes, he is shown a vision of what happened to the church after the death and resurrection of Jesus. 
Dante has so much of value to teach his readers about the idea of atonement that it is worth just ignoring what I consider to be his misguided views about the church of Rome’s election to replace the people of Israel as recipients of God’s favour.
But you will see that Dante was not blind to the corruption of the church he loved so much if you read on. His condemnation of the visible aspects of that body is as vicious as that of John in the book of Revelation.

As I beheld the bird of Jove descending
Pounce on the tree, and, as he rush'd, the rind,
(The bird of Jove is the Roman Empire that persecutes the early Christian church)
(Purgatory Canto 32) . 
Disparting crush beneath him, buds much more
And leaflets.  On the car with all his might
He struck, whence, staggering like a ship, it reel'd,
At random driv'n, to starboard now, o'ercome,
And now to larboard, by the vaulting waves.

The Roman Empire is joined by another evil force - this time it is the danger from within – heretics. 

They might be the Gnostics, who sought alternative, often pagan ways of interpreting (and writing their own) scriptures

Or they might be the Nicolaitans – the leaders of the church who were more interested in exercising power over other people than they were in Moses’ Law, the Prophets and Jesus fulfilment of their words (Revelation 2:6 and 2:15). 

They are like hungry foxes seeking prey, but the wisdom symbolised by Beatrice (Dante’s femme fatale who embodies the graces of love and mercy), drives them away

     Next springing up into the chariot's womb
A fox I saw, with hunger seeming pin'd
Of all good food.  But, for his ugly sins
The saintly maid rebuking him, away
Scamp'ring he turn'd, fast as his hide-bound corpse
Would bear him.  

The Catholic Church has now takes over the redeemed tree of knowledge of good and evil, now transformed into the wisdom of God by the redemption of Christ’s blood. But this is a church that has been corrupted by the wealth and power it has obtained under the patronage of emperors such as Constantine.

Next, from whence before he came,
I saw the eagle dart into the hull
O' th' car, and leave it with his feathers lin'd;
And then a voice, like that which issues forth
From heart with sorrow riv'd, did issue forth
From heav'n, and, "O poor bark of mine!" it cried,
"How badly art thou freighted!"  

Now the Catholic Church became the pawn of the Dragon encountered in Revelation 12:3 – Satan. He infiltrates the church and destroys it from within, leaving only the trappings of wealth it had accrued, and continued to accrue, by wheeling and dealing with the powers of this world....
with the powers of this world....
Then, it seem'd,
That the earth open'd between either wheel,
And I beheld a dragon issue thence,
That through the chariot fix'd his forked train;
And like a wasp that draggeth back the sting,
So drawing forth his baleful train, he dragg'd
Part of the bottom forth, and went his way
Exulting.  What remain'd, as lively turf
With green herb, so did clothe itself with plumes,
Which haply had with purpose chaste and kind
Been offer'd; and therewith were cloth'd the wheels,
Both one and other, and the beam, so quickly
A sigh were not breath'd sooner.  

Next, the Catholic Church transforms itself into the beast from Revelation 17:3, with 7 heads and 10 horns. The church is just another state involved in acquiring wealth and power.
Thus transform'd,
The holy structure, through its several parts,
Did put forth heads, three on the beam, and one
On every side; the first like oxen horn'd,
But with a single horn upon their front
The four.  Like monster sight hath never seen.

The Catholic Church has become the whore of Babylon, deluding itself that it sits atop the kingdoms of the world, whereas it is loathed and despised by them as a harlot who can pander to the desires of the general population it needs to govern

 O'er it methought there sat, secure as rock
On mountain's lofty top, a shameless whore,
Whose ken rov'd loosely round her.  At her side,
As 't were that none might bear her off, I saw
A giant stand; and ever, and anon
They mingled kisses.

Dante reveals his sense of humour – the whore gives him a wink, prompting the beast to express his real contempt for her - Revelation 17:16
But, her lustful eyes
Chancing on me to wander, that fell minion
Scourg'd her from head to foot all o'er; then full
Of jealousy, and fierce with rage, unloos'd
The monster, and dragg'd on, so far across
The forest, that from me its shades alone
Shielded the harlot and the new-form'd brute.

In chapter 18, the fallen Babylon is depicted as the headquarters of commerce. All those concerned in trade and commerce mourn her fall.

Chapter 19 contains a poetic description of the Day of the Lord, when the messiah rescues the people of Israel from destruction and sets up his own kingdom on earth  for a thousand years.
Dan he met the Harlot Queen and the seven kings within her thrall
She was seated on the scarlet beast; it was some time before the fall.

She asked him was he staying long or maybe just passing through?
He said, 'I've lived here all my life, is there nothing I can do?'
Majesty, I’ve lived in this fair city of yours
I've bathed in your clear waters, knocked on all your closed doors.
And they do say when the east wind blows, 
It can sap the life out of you, suck the soul from out of your clothes
But if you make it to the river, if you make it to the coast
You can feel the sea breeze blowing, just like the Holy Ghost.
There were times I sought such comforts. There were times I laid me down
But now I feel the urge to pack my bags and quit this town.
And I'm not going back. No, I'm not going back; no I'm not going back to Babylon

Them's that’s got will get', quoth she, 'Or would you fain protest?'
'A Jesuitic notion, M'am', cried Dan, the most unblessed
'Majesty, do you only measure worth in terms of gold?
And must it them be valueless that is not bought and sold?
There's a rock I know on a mountain side,
Rubbing shoulders with the trees.
You can gaze out through the foliage to the Brindabellas,
You can let the kids run free.
When the winter's sun, subjects the snow chilled breezes
To it's life affirming rays.
You can bask yourself in those rocky ramparts,
There will be no dues to pay.'

And I'm not going back. No, I'm not going back; no I'm not going back to Babylon

Mr Eugenides will subscribe a sum in gold, 
To fund the grand state funeral for Babylon’s queen of old.
He really doesn't give a damn about such lofty schemes
It just it pays to contribute when one has got the means
Mr Euginides seen that queen come tumbling down
And its woe to all the merchants now she’s fallen to the ground
But when the sun sinks low, like a cask of gold, in a Brindabella sky
Dan can drift away into the mauve and crimson – he won’t need wings to fly
And when the leaden sky of a winter's morn wraps the mountain in a shroud
He can climb up to the summit on a snow gum track
He can walk above the clouds

And he’s not going back. No, he’s not going back; he’s not going back to Babylon


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