The Sins & Plagues of Babylon

“The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws… Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth…” (Is. 24:5-6).

God’s judgment is one of the main themes of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. God has always rewarded continual sin, hypocrisy and disregard of His moral laws with harsh judgment, in spite of whether the transgressors were His own people or heathen.

One of the most important considerations is that God is no respecter of persons in judgment. He has always been just, measuring out judgment to all transgressors of His word and commandments, regardless of nationality and creed. Despite what His people declare with their lips or display outwardly, it is sincere faith as manifested in lifestyle, their struggle for righteousness, and their stubborn resistance against the whims of society, coupled with His unmerited favour, that preserves the few in time of judgment.

There is no way around it. Continuous sin, blatant hypocrisy and moral backsliding bring the judgment of God upon the transgressors – religious or ungodly. As Christians, we acknowledge that God will draw a line and destroy the world, its ungodly systems and those that fall under its influence. That is not really debateable. The question is, on what side of the fence are we standing today?

After all, one of the saddest consequences would be for God’s children to be destroyed along with the ungodly when He unleashes His judgments on the nations.

Then and Now

Perhaps the most memorable occasion in Jewish history is the Exodus from Egypt. In leading up to this event, God established the Passover by telling Moses and Aaron that, “when I see the blood [upon the doorposts], I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 12:13). The land of Goshen was spared the plague of the death of all firstborn because of their simple obedience to God’s promise. Prior to that, in the days of Noah, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth”, and only Noah did He see righteous before Him “in this generation.” (Gen. 6:5, 7:1). As a result, Noah and his family were not destroyed with the evildoers. We can also make reference to Sodom and Gomorrah whose sin was “very grievous”, or the ups-and-downs of Israel during the times of the Judges and Kings when Israel was scattered time and time again because of their rebellion. But in every case, a handful of sincere believers were delivered.

Clearly, when sin becomes established as a way of life where people are blatant, unrepentant, rebellious and excited about evil, it is only a matter of time before God’s judgment will fall. This is a certainty. And yet it seems that for saint and sinner alike, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily… the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Eccl. 8:11).

Nevertheless, if we refuse to obey God and the habits of our daily lives continually take us out from “under the shadow of the Almighty”, then we too will suffer the same fate as the ungodly at the hands of the “destroyer”, whatever form it may take. (Ps 91:1, Ex. 12:23).

What does God see when He looks down upon the world today? Is there really any significant difference between Christians and the “children of disobedience” in terms of their ambitions, pleasures, desires, goals, dress, and overall spirit? Are we only talking about minute or external differences that make us happy in our religion, but still give us enough leverage to continue living according to the course of this world? If we walk as “other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of [our] mind” what can we expect in times of judgment but to suffer the same fate? (Eph. 2:2, 4:17).

We can be so bold and foolish to shout “Yes!” to the Lord Jesus’ question when He asked, “Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). For this is not a question to be answered, but more a caution to be considered in the face of apostasy in our day.

Remember that it is the general tendency of man to take the path of least resistance. Quite simply, if a shortcut can be found, most likely it will be taken. To think of oneself as a Christian while doing nothing to follow the Lord can be the ultimate conscience-soother. “Jesus loves me just as I am.” But in essence, this leaves you no better of than the man who completely shuns God in his life, for you have denied the Lord as well.

Abraham asked this question: “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen 18:23). From His response, we gain a little insight into the heart of God for His people when He declared, “I will not destroy [Sodom and Gomorrah] for ten’s sake.” (vs. 32). Did God still destroy these cities? Yes, because He did not see even one family living sincerely according to His ways. It was only God’s mercy and grace that Lot was barely able to escape by the skin of his teeth.

We should get the message loud and clear for our day. When the judgments of God are unleashed, the only thing that will save us is God’s mercy, our striving for righteousness, and our standing in His sight—as determined by our way of life and struggle against this world. Just as in the days of the first Passover, we must also be covered by the blood of the unblemished Lamb, Jesus Christ our Lord. The only difference is that in our case it is not as easy as only smearing a bit of blood on our doorpost. To be covered by His blood means to be found walking in His light, not simply declaring it with our lips while remaining in our worldly states.

If God is just, can we expect to escape the plagues that will fall on this Earth if we take part in the sins of this world? In other words, “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Prov. 6:27).

Come Out of What?

“…Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4). In the February-March 2003 issue of The Midnight Cry, Brother Singh outlined the fact that the reference to “my people” in this scripture is not pointing to an unidentified mass of people in the world, but to the children of God in the Body of Christ who are touched by—and in many cases immersed in—this present world (“God’s People in Babylon?”). In this case, the voice is not calling people into the Church, but rather calling the Church out of the world. It is we who are infected, along with the rest of mankind. Where they go many of us go. What they want many of us also want. What they aspire to, so do we, even if it does take a religious slant.

But what do we really mean when we refer to the ‘world’, or Babylon?’ This is an important question since it has a lot to do with our standing in the sight of God.

The ‘world’, or Babylon, is much more than false religion, commerce and politics. To paint it with such a broad brush leaves us dangerously open to the many tentacles tightening their grip on our everyday lives. While we console ourselves that we are not a part of mainstream religion, we are being bombarded from every other side, sometimes without our knowledge and other times with our permission.

The world is the present world-system that refers to the ‘order’ or ‘arrangement’ under which Satan has organized the masses of unbelieving mankind upon his principles of greed, selfishness, ambition and pleasure. This includes entertainment, fashion, pass-times, materialism, thought-patterns, our constant lust for new things, keeping up with others, our discontentment with what we have or who we are… The list goes on. There is no doubt about the fact that sin and worldliness can taste good in the mouth, but it is the long-term effects that should concern us. To identify where we stand today, we can ask ourselves a couple of simple questions to start:

· Where have we set our affections? On the things of this world, such as our home or job, or on the things which are to come? What do we embrace in our hearts? These are issues of the heart that determine the course of our feet, and we can discern this by examining our daily walk, for it will speak louder than our words in the sight of God.

· Are we in compromise or complicity with evil? Are you tired of battling? Have you let down your guard? What do we allow as normal? What are you now in agreement with that previously you would have had no part in? God does not require separation from contact with evil in the world or even in the Church, but from complicity with and conformity to it. This is what Jesus meant when He said: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John17:15). Jesus Himself was the perfect example in this regard. We are not to strive for the mechanical separation for which the Pharisees have earned such a reputation. For they had reduced ‘righteousness’ to mere ceremonialism. To be different only for ‘being different’s sake’ is complete—though often religious—folly.

Odd Man Out

Imagine God is telling His people that He is going to destroy an old house to replace it with a brand new one. They rejoice to hear it, tell others about it and look forward to this new day. The only problem is that when it’s time for the wrecking ball to drop, they are found under its roof. They have grown so attached to this old house that to leave it means tearing up too many roots. They can’t bear to leave. Sure they know about God, but just enough to soothe their collective conscience. Just like Lot, they call the other inhabitants of this house their“brethren”, dance to the same music, draw strength and pleasure from the same things, eat at the same table, drink from the same cup. The differences are not in character, but in shades and degrees – ever so slight, if at all. A sad case isn’t it?

This is why God requires sanctification and separation from this world. He is not interested in religious practice or sanctimonious service, but a genuine conversion and transformation. It is this struggle, like the butterfly who brushes death while emerging with hardly any strength from its cocoon, which determines if we truly “abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Ps. 91:1).

We ought not to be governed by the same constitution or set of rules as the world, which is under the influence of Satan, but by a higher principle – that of the Kingdom as depicted in the very life of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Matt. 5-7). But it is not easy.

Consider the Apostle John for a moment. This pillar of the faith, in bondage for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, upon glimpsing the environment we are presently living in “wondered with great admiration.” (Rev. 17:6). His jaw dropped to the floor when he saw the enticements we ourselves are entangled with today. From his reaction it is apparent that evil has drastically evolved from his time until now. The angel almost had to slap him in order to awake him from his momentary trance. How much more are we susceptible to the enticements and ways of this world, not only because we are not on the same level of John, but because we are actually living in it? After all, it’s always more difficult to see the reality of your present condition than it is to view the past or future.

There must be a difference between us and the world. Not a mechanical difference, but a difference that comes from within and burns brightly on the outside. There is no excuse. We are to shine as lights in the midst of a wicked and perverse world. Paul asked this question of the saints in Corinth: “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God… Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate… touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you…” (2 Cor. 16-18). God’s mercy and grace are so vast, and yet He hates to see His children casting Him off, along with His promises of life eternal, in favour of that which is temporary and that He knows He must one day destroy.

The Evidence of Birth Pains

Have you ever heard the term, ‘armchair politician?’ This is the guy who sits at home, watches the news or follows a political crisis from his living room. He can explain everything in terms of what those in authority should do, outline their mistakes and speculate as to what the outcome will be. There are only two problems. One, he’s operating from a poor perspective (his couch), and two, even if he is right about everything, he’s not about to do a thing about it. It’s just good conversation and debate material.

Many of us can also become hardened in this way when we look at scriptures unfolding before our eyes. Truly, our deeds can betray our profession of faith. (Tit. 1:16).

Nevertheless, recent occurrences in Canada and the United States, among many other countries worldwide, should cause us to become more alert. In Canada specifically, the deadly surprises just kept coming this year – West Nile virus, SARS, Hantavirus, E.Coli, Hurricane Isabel followed a week later by Hurricane Juan, out-of-character climate patterns…

In August 2003, Harvard University biologist Douglas Causey observed that, “Previously unknown diseases have surfaced at a pace without precedence in the annals of medicine.” Similarly, University of Toronto geography professor Kirsty Duncan, who is presently studying the re-emergence of malaria in Ontario, stated: “Since the 1970s, there have been 30-plus new diseases that have emerged. We also have old diseases that are reappearing where they’ve been eliminated or appearing where they’ve never been before.” The reason? Both point to global warming as the most likely cause.

As an example, Canada experienced 24 days above 30 C in the summer of 2001, compared with an average of 2 to 4 days from 1961 to 1990. Earth’s average temperatures have been rising for 150 years, particularly the last two decades, with nine of the warmest years occurring in the 1990s and 2000s, including the past six. This past summer saw the death of over 15,000 people in France and another 5,000 in Italy due to heat alone! Parts of Canada and America are still reeling from devastating and uncontrollable forest fires.

But there are more significant side effects to rising temperatures than what we see on the surface. ‘Vectors’ that transmit disease, such as mosquitoes, ticks and rodents, are highly sensitive to rising temperatures. And do you know what the world’s most deadly creature is? By far it is the mosquito. In the case of mosquitoes, acceleration in metabolic rate, biting rates, reproduction and feeding frequencies take place. Pathogens inside mosquitoes (for example, West Nile virus) are also sensitive to rising temperatures. Moreover, warmer nights and warmer winters extend the geographic range of mosquitoes, increasing their ability to spread disease. In the case of West Nile, considered to be “here to stay”, this previously unknown disease has now spread from one region to 44 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces in a few short years.

Aside from the spread of disease, other side effects of rising temperatures are drought, increasingly powerful hurricanes and tropical storms, and a number of other problems. Of course, we are also witnessing a dramatic increase in frequency for things like earthquakes over the past few decades, though unrelated to changing climates.

It’s as if the groundwork for judgment is patiently being laid by an unseen hand. Man’s effort to stop these events is like keeping back the tide with a broom.

If you honestly hold up your Bible up to the light of these simple facts which really only highlight rising temperatures, you will come to the conclusion that something definite is happening in our world, controlled by forces that man cannot explain fully. In Revelation 8, John recorded the trumpet plagues as they strike the “trees” (forest fires?), “sea” (marine life and pollution?), “rivers” and “fountains of waters” (our drinking supply). A simple commodity like drinking water has never been such a hot topic as it is today.

Where Do We Fall?

As we have already established, it is not what we declare, but what our lives reflect that determines our standing in the sight of God. Does this mean that we must be perfect and have everything under control? Of course not. But we must strive to eliminate those things that weigh us down, push God out of our lives and defeat us spiritually. (Is. 59:1-2). It is in the striving and the overcoming of those things that are within and without that fashion our character and reflect our true desires.

The world will be judged harshly and the plagues of the final judgment will be poured out on all ‘qualified’ participants of the sins of Babylon. None of us would like to come under the same reproach as the ungodly, but there is a price to be paid and decisions to be made.

Remember that God was able to miraculously spare the land of Goshen, at that time inhabited by His people, from the destructive plagues of Egypt. As children of the Lord, we do not have to suffer from the judgment of God when it is unleashed upon this world.

“…Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Tim. 2:19).