Sabbath School Lesson for May 2o-26, 2023

Overview for Lesson 9, A City Called Confusion

Memory Text: ” ‘These make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.’ ” Revelation 17:14 NKJV

Topics studied this week include:

  • Sunday: Two Contrasting Systems–Who are the two women in Revelation 12 and 17?
  • Monday: The Wine of the Wrath–What does it mean to drink of the “wine of Babylon”?
  • Tuesday: Mystery, Babylon the Great–Why is Babylon used to represent false religious systems?
  • Wednesday: A Call to Commitment–In what way was Babylon a combination of church and state?
  • Thursday: Babylon, the Center of Idolatry–When and why were images introduced into the Christian church, and why are they harmful?

We now take up the study of the second angel’s message in Revelation 14. The cry now is “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 14:8).

To properly understand this urgent appeal, we must look before and after chapter 14 to identify who or what Babylon is. In chapter 12,  a pure woman, symbolizing the bride of Christ, is described as being clothed with the sun. In contrast, we find in chapter 17, a harlot dressed in purple and scarlet, which represents spiritual apostasy. They correspond with the holy city of God, Jerusalem, as opposed to the pagan city of Babylon, a place where idolatrous behavior  and spiritual confusion was the norm.

Sunday: Two Contrasting Systems

In Revelation 12:17 and 17:14 we find a spiritual war going on. Some power seems to fighting the Lamb, or Christ, but it also seeks to overcome the woman, or the church (Ephesians 5:23). These two opposing forces, good and evil, are as different as night and day. And yet, many seem to be deceived and don’t fully know whose side they are on. This confusion has been carefully strategized by Satan, who is an expert at blending truth with error, making it difficult to determine what is truth.

Although the ancient city of Babylon has long ago been destroyed, its pagan religious practices have become a symbol of false worship in the world. The woman in Revelation 17:1-6, dressed in purple and scarlet and riding on a scarlet beast, is called a harlot, because she has left her true Lover, Jesus Christ, and committed “fornication”, symbolic of the false doctrines and practices she promotes.

Bible Verses:

Revelation 14:8 and 17:1, 2, 15

  • What elements do these verses share?
  • What do waters mean and how does this reveal the worldwide following the harlot has?

Monday: The Wine of the Wrath

The pure juice of the grape, the wine that is symbolic of the blood of Christ, represents the truth of God’s word. But the “wine of the wrath of her fornication” is another kind of wine that has become tainted with sin. His word is mixed with false, human teachings by another woman, or church, that is described as a harlot. This harlot has been unfaithful to God and His word.

Revelation 17:2 says that kings and inhabitants of the earth are made drunk with this tainted wine. This confusing, false religious system, called  Babylon, not only has worldwide influence, but has infiltrated government agencies (“the kings of the earth”) to enforce its unholy gospel. Instead of looking to Jesus, the true Head of the church, this fallen church looks to the state for support and enforcement of its decrees.

The second angel’s message which warns us against Babylon is explained further in Revelation 18:4, which says, “Come out of her, my people.” This implies that God’s people are or had been associated with Babylon, and are called to leave it. Chapter 18 gives a full picture of who Babylon is and what its fall means.

The Holy Roman Empire, which ruled much of Europe during the Middle Ages, easily fits the description of this false church called Babylon. But caution of coming under its influence grows even greater as we near the end of earth’s history. Another power emerges then, which creates an image to the beast, also calling on the state to unite with the church and enforce its worship. See Revelation 13.

Bible Verses:

Revelation 17:4, 5

  • How would you describe the character of the scarlet woman?

Revelation 17:6

  • How does this verse support the Holy Roman Empire becoming Babylon? Who were the martyrs at that time?

Tuesday: Mystery, Babylon the Great

To uncover the mystery of how Babylon became so powerful, we must go back to the original site for the ancient city, the tower of Babel. Genesis 11 tells the story of how their pride got the better of them after the flood, and in order to “make a name” for themselves, and supposedly save themselves in the event of another flood (which God had promised would never happen, by the way), they went about building an enormously high tower. This led to a state of confusion, with their languages mysteriously becoming all mixed up. Without adequate communication going on, the building of the tower had to stop.

Spiritual Babylon, talked about in Revelation, therefore represents a religion based on human pride, leading to human ideas, beliefs, and traditions, rather than the word of God. As the name Babel and Babylon imply, this false religious system leads to confusion on a massive scale.

Instead of relying on the simple word of God, on Christ, the Head of the church, they rely on the traditions and false practices of the church. Satan must certainly be pleased that his deceptive devices have infiltrated God’s church so totally and easily, and people are left confused over what to believe.

Bible Verses:

Genesis 11:1-4, 9

  • Why do you think God allowed their languages to be confused, and why would He want them to scatter over the face of the earth?

Revelation 17:5

  • Why is the name Babylon associated with “mystery”? What is mysterious about Babylon?

Wednesday: A Call to Commitment

Since we are called on to stay away from this false church called Babylon, with all its confusing doctrines, we need to know as much about it as possible. One thing to keep in mind is how ancient Babylon was governed. It operated with a king who spoke for the gods. In other words, their government and religion were closely connected. Spiritual Babylon will operate similarly, with a spiritual leader claiming to speak for God, working closely with worldly governments to enforce its laws.

Christ’s true church, built on the Rock, has a solid foundation based on God’s word (as opposed to tradition) and is guided by the Holy Spirit (as opposed to a pope or any other human leader). We have been invited to commit our lives to Christ and follow His word only. Leaders are needed, but they are only human, as we are. Listening to God’s Spirit through His word, the Bible, will make our choice easier.

Bible Verses:

Matthew 16:18 and Revelation 17:14

  • Who will finally win the war and why?

2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4

  • What is it we should looking for when it comes to our spiritual leaders?

Thursday: Babylon, the Center of Idolatry

Jeremiah 50:38 refers to Babylon as a “land of carved images, and they are insane with their idols.” NKJV When King Nebuchadnezzar had a golden image created that replicated what he saw in a dream and told people to bow down to it, it came natural for most of the populace to obey his wishes. They were so accustomed to bowing down to idols that it didn’t seem out of the ordinary to them at all…except for three Hebrew friends of Daniel, who stood up and refused the king’s command. They knew the Ten Commandments forbade their worship of lifeless statues, and they almost lost their lives because of their steadfast commitment to follow the God of Israel.

Fast forward to another time in Christian church history, the fourth century, and we discover that images find their way into worship services. The Roman Catholic Church, in order to retain and attract pagan worshipers, began using carved images and encouraged people to bow down and pray before them, claiming that they were merely a teaching tool to represent stories and characters in the Bible. These images, rosaries, and holy relics, however, became so precious and loved that they unrightfully became objects of worship for the people.

Satan has devised many ways to divert our attention from worshiping the true God. People are indeed confused about what true worship looks like. But this confusion can all be laid to rest if one goes back to the first four commandments given to Moses, which spell out the kind of worship God desires from His followers.

Bible Verses:

Jeremiah 50:33-38 and 51:17, 47

  • Why is idolatry not tolerated by God?
  • How had God attempted to win their hearts to Him?
  • What consequences did Babylon suffer for such blatant disrespect for God?

Exodus 20:4-6

  • Why is God displeased with carved images?
  • Notice that this commandments about idols and the Sabbath commandment are the longest ones in the first four. Why do you think this is so?

Psalm 115:4-8

  • Why does God describe idols this way?

Friday: Final Thoughts

Three points we might consider as we study the religious system called Babylon in Revelation. They are…

  1. We should not restrict our understanding of Babylon’s identity as the Roman Catholic Church or the papacy alone. By focusing too much on what happens in Rome or on the actions of the pope today, we may be taking our eyes off  the final image to the beast. Protestantism must be watched as well. Anything that unites Christians and leads to attempts to sway governments to pass laws may be suspect. To support this view, we find in The Great Controversy, p. 383, “The message of Revelation 14, announcing the fall of Babylon must apply to religious bodies that were once pure and have become corrupt. Since this message follows the warning of the judgment, it must be given in the last days; therefore it cannot refer to the Roman Church alone, for that church has been in a fallen condition for many centuries.” ~Ellen G. White
  2. The wine cup offered to us by the scarlet woman is full of strange, confusing doctrines. Literal alcoholic wine intoxicates us, affecting our reasoning, judgment, and conscience. It even affects our behavior. Let’s remember then that more than mental confusion will be the result of drinking Babylonian wine. Our actions will also be changed as well.
  3. Worshiping idols boils down to substituting a man-made, carved image for the real God. In much the same way, many have been led to worship on Sunday, as a human substitute for the holy, seventh day given to us by God.

Next Week: Satan’s Final Deceptions

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