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What is the Captivity of God's People in Babylon?

God gives significant attention in His word to an evil city that stands in direct opposition to His purpose with His people. This city’s name in Hebrew is Babel (Gen. 11:9) and its name in Greek is Babylon (Rev.17:5). Although the city possesses a prestigious reputation of strength and grandeur, the Scriptures reveal Babylon as a place that captures God’s elect and usurps their pure and single-hearted worship toward Him. For this reason God makes a call to His chosen ones, saying, “Come out of her, My people...for her sins have accumulated up to heaven” (Rev. 18:4-5). What does Babylon signify and how can we answer the Lord’s call to come out of her? The answer to these questions can be found by tracing Babylon’s development from its source in Genesis to its ultimate destruction in Revelation.

In Genesis 11, Babel had its beginning when the people of the earth said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower whose top is in the heavens; and let us make a name for ourselves” (Gen. 11:4). In their rebellion toward God, fallen mankind endeavored to build up something for self-exaltation. In doing so, they rejected God, made a name for themselves, and worshipped idols (Josh. 24:2).

Later, Babel was enlarged, becoming Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1:1). At that time, Babylon invaded Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, captured God’s people, and brought the vessels used for the worship of God into the idol temple (Dan. 1:2; 2 Kings 25:8-9, 14-15, 2 Chron. 36:6-7). This mixture of the things of God with the pagan and idolatrous things of man insulted God’s holiness. During this time God’s people were held in captivity and kept from worshipping God according to His intention.

Finally, what began in Genesis and developed in 2 Kings is consummated in Revelation where Babylon is called Babylon the Great. She is clothed in purple and scarlet and is gilded with gold, precious stone, and pearls, and she holds in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the unclean things of her fornication (Rev. 17:4). She has something of God in appearance, but within her are many sinful things. She is a mixture of the things of God with the heathen, sinful things of man, and for this God executes His judgment upon her (Rev. 18:8).

What then is Babylon? Babylon is a negative type of all man-made organizations and endeavors which, whether secular or religious, exalt man, reject God, and worship something other than God. Thus, to come out of Babylon is to come out of anything that bears the characteristics of self-exaltation and mixture in worship toward Him. When we, under the Lord’s merciful enlightenment, condemn everything within us that is halfway and not absolute toward God, we too come to hate all that Babylon represents. Eventually at Babylon’s destruction, voices from heaven will shout “Hallelujah!” (Rev. 19:1-4) for by His judgment God will destroy everything, which having the character of Babylon, frustrates God’s people in their pure and absolute worship toward Him.

For further reading on this subject, please see The Glorious Church by Watchman Nee and Truth Lessons, level 2, vol. 2, lesson 18; Life-study of Genesis, message 36; and Life-study of Revelation, message 53 by Witness Lee, published by Living Stream Ministry.

From Issue No. 27, July 2000

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