(Edited by Horace E. Wood)

We read the daily headlines through the prophetic word and observe that the statehood of the nation Israel, the profusion of wars, the threat of famine, the presence of earthquakes, the spread of the gospel, the increase of iniquity and the control of our economy all indicate that the coming of the Lord is very, very near. Through all the scriptures, the apostles, our Lord Jesus, and the Old Testa­ment prophets have given us well over twenty signs to observe, and the striking thing is that each one of those signs is in a state of fulfillment today. I would like to focus the spotlight on one further sign. It is so obvious, so significant that in my estimation it. stands second only to the statehood of the nation Israel as indi­cating that we are on the threshold of the rapture of the church and the coming of the Lord is at hand. That sign is, “The con­dition of the professing church today.”

In Revelation 17 and 18, we have depicted for us the condition of the professing church in the midst of the tribulation period. The question before us as we approach these chapters is this, How far removed from the condition of the professing church in the tribulation period is its condition today? I think we shall notice as we look at the professing church in America and the world today that we shall conclude that we are drawing very close to the con­dition that shall prevail in the early days of the tribulation period. Thus, we conclude we have a very direct sign indicating we are rapid­ly approaching the conclusion of the church age. The rapture of the church is upon us and the tribulation period shall immediately follow.

As we read a few of these verses of Rev. 17, watch for the characteristics of the professing church in the tribulation period. In this passage she, the church, is represented by a harlot whose name is Babylon, and this is a symbolic representation of the false church, the professing church in the tribulation period.

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, come hither: I will show unto thee the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: And I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. And upon her forehead was a name written, mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: And when I saw her, I wondered with great wonder. And the angel said unto me, wherefore didst thou wonder? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. -Rev. 17:1-7.


And in the next few verses the angel interprets the significance of the beast. In verse 15 he gives us the interpretation of the woman. “And he saith unto’ me, the waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sitteth, are peoples and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the harlot, and shall make her desolate and naked and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.” Verses 16 through 18 represent the destruction of the professing church in the middle of the tribulation period. You will notice that her destruction comes about through the instrumentality of the Beast and his under-king. These shall be used by God to destroy the professing church, thereby giving room for the worship of the Beast who shall establish his image and cause to prevail the worship of the Anti-Christ. That is what is presented in verse 17, “For God shall put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the word of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”


Three primary features of the professing church in the tribula­tion period attract our attention. The very first one is its unity and universality. I think that first all is implied in the name Babylon. In interpreting the scriptures there is a law called the law of first mention. The law of first mention simply teaches that in the first mention of a subject in the Bible the matter is presented to us in the germ form and in subsequent references to that subject through the Bible further details are given to us and further information is given to us in relation to that subject. The first reference to Babylon in the Bible is in Gen. 11 at the tower of Babel. Babel is the mother of Babylon. In Gen. 11 we read that what took place was for all the inhabitants of the earth; it was a universal movement. In verse 4, we read that it was motivated by a desire to unify the people, “lest we be separated.” So in its germ form Babylon in Gen. 11 is characterized ‘by universality and by unity. In its final form, Babylon in Rev. 17 shall be a counterfeit, false, religious system that is in opposition to God collectively, and it will be char­acterized by universality and unity. Now that, I think, is clearly stated for us in our passage as well, although we didn’t read it.

In chapter 18:3 we have further reference to this Babylon. “For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her. And the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.” The universality again is brought before us when we read at the end of Rev. 17: 1, that this great harlot “sitteth upon many waters,” and we have already noticed in verse 15 that those many waters represent peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. The picture in chapter 17 is very simply this, that there is going to be in the tribulation period a religious system that shall prevail across the face of the earth. One of the features of this system will be that it will be a universal religious system. This woman sits upon many waters and she encompasses all the nations of the earth, all of the multitudes and all of the people. There will be an element of unity that will characterize this universal religious system. It is mentioned for us in Rev. 17: 13, where we read, “These have one mind and shall give their power and strength unto the beast” who will be the support of this woman. So, in the tribulation period this religious system, the professing church, shall be characterized by universality and unity.

What we can expect then, as we approach the tribulation period, is a growing fusion of religions toward a universal church that will encompass all nations.

This is the full bloom of the ecumenical movement of 1972. The word ecumenical comes from the Greek word which is trans­lated fourteen times out of its fifteen times in the N. T. “world.” The ecumenical movement is the movement toward a world-wide church. It is the movement toward the establishment of one church that shall encompass all of the people of the world. That movement shall be successful. And the .full bloom of that movement will be seen in this professing church during the tribulation period. It was about the early part of the 20th century that church men across America and around the world became disillusioned with the splint­ered condition of Christendom, and began to be conscious of all the disadvantages of its divisions. That motivated what you and I have seen taking place during the last two or three decades and the amalgamation of denominations toward breaking down the divisions that exist within Christendom. The striking thing is that as the movement has developed it has reached out its tentacles to encompass not just denominations among Christendom but now the religions of the world at large.

Arnold Toynbee, the eminent British historian, in a lecture given at the University of Minnesota, spoke of the great necessity of the establishment of a single family, and he said that this was the only hope of survival in the world now that man has annihilated distance and has invented the atomic bomb. He said the alternative is mass suicide. The only alternative to the destruction of the human race is a world-wide social fusion of all tribes, nations, civilizations, and religions of man. And we are taking giant steps toward the accomplishment of this very thing. In 1971 in Beirut, Lebanon, the very first movement of the World Council of Churches toward the realization of this took place. For many years now dialogue has existed between the WCC and Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims and so on, but it was in March of 1971 at the initiation of the WCC that the first dialogue included the Muslims, the Hindus, and the Buddhists. We are seeing that this is a giant step toward the realization of what shall take place during the tribulation period in Rev. 17.

The government of Israel has already designated funds for the erection of a building that they are going to call “The House of the Bible.” In this building will be a one-million-volume library of all the artifacts and manuscripts that are available. The building will be dedicated to the study of the things related to the Bible by Muslims, Jews, and Christians. One could multiply illustrations in this fashion to demonstrate that you and I are seeing today a movement that is taking giant steps toward the realization of a world wide church, a church that will encompass all denominations and all religions. I see that the headlines are moving very quickly toward the realization of this situation.

Be well assured of this, my Christian friends, that before this world-wide church is reached, the true church shall be raptured­, removed from the earth. And as we see the movement in this direction we are impressed again with the fact that the coming of the Lord draws very, very near.

Now, what will be the characteristics of that world-wide church? The second great characteristic of this professing church in the tribulation period is apostasy. I think that is implied for us again in the title, Babylon. This church is called Babylon the great. We do not know a great deal about the tower of Babel, but not too far from its probable location another tower has been uncovered by the spade of the archaeologist. It is in Beer-nimrod and that tower suggests to us probably something of the structure and the purpose of the tower of Babel. That tower which can be visited by the sightseer stands 153 feet high. It has seven stages in recession, and in the top a room, on the walls of which there are the signs of the Zodiac and other astronomical figures and characters. Each stage of this tower is painted a different color to represent the differ­ent planets. And if that is what the tower was like, which is the most probable explanation, then there are several things that we know about that tower of Babel. Undoubtedly it was involved in the study of astronomy and in the worship of the stars. It certainly was a place of idolatrous worship. That is the background of Bab­ylon in Rev. 17.

The city of Babylon was the epitome of idolatry in the Old Testament era. In Old Testament literature idolatry was “the abomination.” So in the name Babylon we have an indication that this professing church will be an apostate church. It will be a counterfeit religious system, idolatrous, and in rebellion against the authority of God. The name Babylon suggests to us the apostasy of this church. I think the description also suggests it. She is a harlot, she is a prostitute. What dramatic contrast to the true church, described as a chaste virgin, espoused to Jesus Christ.


One thing is sure, in the tribulation period the universal pro­fessing church shall be based upon an apostate foundation. It shall be Babylon the great – a prostitute, an unfaithful representation of the people of God. We can certainly expect that as we draw close to the tribulation period we can expect apostasy to become increas­ingly evident. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians that the great apostasy shall come in those days, and I believe with all my heart that you and I are living in the twilight of that great apostasy. The signs are multiplying. One of the signs of the -great apostasy I suspect is the rise of false prophets about us.


There is Mary Baker Eddy of the Christian Science movement, father Antoine of Belgium, the celebrated Ludendorff who glorified himself as the anti-Christ, Joseph Smith the revealer of the Mormons, Herbert W. Armstrong, and many others. Armstrong presents him­self as the only true interpreter of the scriptures and the God-en­lightened prophet of the latter times. He says he represents the only true church, the Worldwide Church of God. He is the man who denies the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of Grace, and the immortality of the soul. He denies the possibility of any present salvation. He is a false teacher that is calling many hundreds of thousands of Americans to follow in his way. The prevalence of false teachers is one of the indications of the apostasy.


An advertisement in the Dallas Morning News not too long ago was entitled, “What should children be taught in Sunday school? That God created the world in six days, that man is not a creature of evolution, that Jesus was Virgin born? That He did miracles, that He was literally raised from the dead? That Jesus might come down from the sky just any day now? That only those who believe such assertions will be saved and everybody else be burned forever in hell? Or that creation should be studied from all the world’s religious views, plus the views of modern science. That man has evolved from a wonderful process of evolution and part of the product of nature. Jesus was most likely a good man who taught many good things and like many of the religious leaders of his day, that religion should deal in the here and now with complete trust in the forces that brought us into existence without morbid fear of death.” It concludes with this statement, “If you agree with us in teaching our children a broad view of religion, come visit us.” Then it stated the churches in Dallas where this is taught. There is no question about it. We are living in an age when the great fundamentals of the faith are being denied.


The inspiration and the inerrancy of the word of God are attacked on every hand: The Virgin birth of Jesus Christ, the Deity of our Lord Jesus, The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the second ad­vent of our Lord, are great fundamentals of the faith being denied on every hand. It is one of the signs that the apostasy is upon us.