The Writing on the Wall, Rembrandt
In scripture Babylon plays a prominent role, first in the story of the tower of Babel, and later again when the Babylonian Empire conquered Judea, destroyed the temple, and took the Jews into exile. All of these historical events which happened to the Jews are symbolic of future events which would happen to the Christian church. In the book of Revelation, it is known that a spiritual Babylon would rise again (see Rev. 17-18), which is called "MYSTERY BABYLON." So what does Babylon signify? In the spiritual sense, Babylon signifies those who use religion to favour the love of self or their own selfish ego. In Heavenly Arcana Swedenborg shows that this is the case by analyzing the spiritual sense of the Tower of Babel, which refers to an ancient priesthood of Babylon that used religion to gain control over the people. Such a religion appears holy to those people who belong to it, but if the love of self is at the center it is internally profane. Here are a couple of quotes that sums up Swedenborg's conclusion on the meaning of Babylon:
"...by Babylon are signified those who have turned aside all worship of the Lord to the worship of self, and who are thus in a profane internal while they are in a holy external" (Heavenly Arcana, 4748.5)Here is another quote:
"There are in the world two religious systems which are from self-intelligence, — one in which the love of self and of the world is everything, which religion is that which is called in the Word Babel; it is inwardly profane from the love of self and of the world, and outwardly holy from the Word which has been applied to confirm. The other system of religion is that in which the light of nature is everything; they who are in it acknowledge nothing for truth which they do not apprehend." (Heavenly Arcana, 8941.3)Thus one should be wary of religion that makes a human priesthood the center of all authority. In Apocalypse Revealed and Apocalypse Explained, it was revealed to Swedenborg in vision that MYSTERY BABYLON is the false doctrines of the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church. Anyone who looks at history can see that the Catholic Church made use of religion in order to obtain political control. Even now, they put the authority of the church and priesthood above that of scripture. This does not of course apply to all Catholics, as scripture urges God's people to come out of her:
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Rev. 18:4-5)
Within the Catholic Church there are many truths of Christianity that are true. But there are many falsehoods and invented traditions of man. The Papacy is said to be the Vicar of Christ, priests are said to forgive sins, and prayer is directed to Mary and the saints instead of Jesus Christ. The theology surrounding the virgin Mary also obscures the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Thus truth is mixed with falsehood, and as most Catholics don't read the Bible they don't know any better. The profaning of truth by falsifying is represented in scripture as blood. This profanation of the truth is mentioned in the following verse:
And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth. (Rev. 18:24)Prophets are those who teach the truth, saints are those who have sanctified their lives by the truth. When truth is profaned or falsified, it loses its effect to reform one's life. Truth, when profaned, leads to spiritual death and religion becomes one of external worship only. It become a fake facade.
So to repeat, Mystery Babylon in the book of Revelation is a profaned Christian religion, and refers to the false doctrines and traditions of the Catholic Church, and to any teaching which elevates the priesthood above that of the Lord or scripture. Early Protestant reformers recognized this, and the visions of Swedenborg confirm it. Even within the Catholic Church they have been given private Marian revelations, when the angel has told Catholics that Satan has entered the Vatican. In the spiritual sense, Satan simply means falsehood. Mystery Babylon does not refer to a political kingdom in the Middle East. Mystery Babylon does not refer to an economic financial system. These are falsehoods that I have seen come up in other interpretations of prophecies.
THE SEVENTY YEARS OF BABYLON ARE PROPHETIC
The Babylonian Empire ruled for about 70 years, from the fall of Assyria in 609 B.C. to the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. During this time period, the kingdom of Judah was destroyed and the Jews were taken into captivity. As with all historical events that happened to the Jews, this event is prophetic. The number seven and its multiples signify a complete time period, the Jews are symbolic of the Christian Church, to be taken into captivity is to become overcome and captivated by falsehoods, and the seventy year period of exile is prophetic of the time period in which Christianity would be dominated by the doctrines of the Catholic Church over a period of several centuries. Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem and taking the treasures of the Jewish temple into Babylon (see Dan. 1:1-2) is symbolic of how the knowledges of good and truth within scripture would be subverted by Rome, and made use to elevate their political control over others.
SWEDENBORG'S VISION OF THE LAST JUDGMENT UPON SPIRITUAL BABYLON
For a time, the Catholic Church held dominion over the doctrines and truths of Christianity. Many were externally religious but internally in love of their own self and power. Swedenborg was given a grand vision in which he saw many who died over the centuries began to occupy a spiritual region between heaven and hell. These began to dominate and influence people's thoughts, to not think spiritually about Christianity but depend on religious authority. In 1757, Swedenborg then saw a last judgment take place in the spiritual world, where all were judged and either taken to heaven or cast down to hell. Many of those in this middle region were externally religious, but internally were not so. Last judgments do not take place in the physical world, but rather in the spiritual world where everyone's thoughts can be explored. Many who have died and went through a Near Death Experience have experienced this in terms of a "life review" which last for an instant, in which one can see the impact of one's actions and thoughts on others. Although after death many immediately are judged and to heaven or hell, there are also many who remain in a spiritual world in between awaiting judgment. This occurs especially among those who externally acted one way, but internally thought differently.
Swedenborg detailed the vision of what he saw took place in 1757 in two works, The Final Judgment and The Final Judgment Continued. He gives a very rational explanation of how this fulfilled many prophecies concerning the last judgment in scripture. Those who were externally religious, but internally were evil, were judged first. Judgment first began on the Protestants, and outwardly from there then on the Catholics, and lastly on Muslims. Here I want to focus on one item: the Divine judgment that occurred upon the Catholics. Swedenborg saw this as a judgment that occurred upon spiritual Babylon in the spiritual world:
"...here now follows how it was effected on the Papists, who are those meant by Babylon, so much treated of in the Apocalypse, and its destruction in particular in the eighteenth chapter, which is thus described: An angel cried with a mighty voice . . . Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and is become a habitation of devils, and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird (ver. 2). But before it is told how this destruction was effected, I shall premise:Swedenborg again describes the spiritual nature of those who belong to Babylon:
I. What is meant by Babylon, and what is its quality.
II. What they are in the other life who are of Babylon.
III. Where their dwellings have hitherto been [in the spiritual world].
IV. Why they were tolerated there until the day of the final judgment." (The Final Judgment, n. 53)
"By Babylon are meant all who wish to rule by means of religion. To rule by religion is to rule over men's souls, thus over their very spiritual life, and to use the Divine things of religion as the means. All those who have dominion for an end, and religion as the means, are in general Babylon. They are called Babylon, because such dominion commenced in ancient times, but it was destroyed in its beginning. Its commencement is described by the city, and by the tower, whose head was to be in heaven; and its destruction by the confusion of lips; whence its name Babel (Gen. xi. 1-9). What is meant by all these particulars in the internal or spiritual sense of the Word, may be seen unfolded in the "Heavenly Arcana" (n. 1283-1328)." (The Final Judgment, n. 54.1)For more information on the final judgment that occurred in the spiritual world in 1757, both works The Final Judgment and The Final Judgment Continued can be found in The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem. Or go here, to read it online for free: Sacred Texts: Emanuel Swedenborg.
THE 2300 YEAR PROPHECY
In the previous blog post The New Church Prophecy of the 2300 Days, or the Cleansing of the Sanctuary, I discussed the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel 8, and showed evidence that it began in 539 B.C. with the fall of the literal kingdom of Babylon, and ended in the year 1762 A.D. This is because the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. is a symbolic representation of the fall of spiritual Babylon in the last judgment of 1757 A.D. Historically, we see that the Catholic Church began to lose its power in the 18th century, beginning with the disbanding of the Jesuits in 1759, followed by the French Revolution. For skeptics, it should be noted that Swedenborg published his vision in 1758 before these events had occurred.
In 539 B.C., the night Babylon fell, Belshazzar the king of Babylon profaned the articles of the Jewish temple by using them in a religious ceremony to praise Babylonian gods. Swedenborg states this also represents the religious dominion of the Catholic Church:
"Moreover that: such dominion commenced and was instituted in Babel, is evident in Daniel, where it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, that he set up an image which all were to adore (chap. iii.); and is also meant by Belshazzar and his princes drinking out of the gold and silver vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from the temple of Jerusalem, and by his worshipping at the same time gods of gold, silver, copper, and iron, wherefore it was written on the wall, He hath numbered, He hath weighed, He hath divided; and the same night the king himself was slain (chap. v.). By the vessels of gold and of silver of the temple of Jerusalem, are signified the goods and truths of the church; by drinking from them, and at the same time worshipping the gods of gold, silver, copper, and iron, is signified profanation; by the writing on the wall, and by the death of the king, is signified visitation and destruction, denounced against those who have used Divine goods and truths as means." (The Final Judgment, n. 54.2)Here is another passage, in which Swedenborg explains the spiritual significance of the writing on the wall at Belshazzar's feast:
"The gold and silver vessels belonging to the temple at Jerusalem," signify the good and truth of heaven and the church, "gold" meaning good, and "silver" truth; and "praising the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone," signifies idolatrous worship of every kind, thus external worship without any internal, such as is with those who are meant by Babylon. That there is no church at all with such, because there is nothing of the good and nothing of the truth of the church in them, is signified by the writing from heaven; for "numbered, numbered," signifies exploration in respect to good and in respect to truth; "weighed in the balance," signifies estimation in accordance with their quality, and judgment; "divided," signifies dispersion and expulsion from the good and truth of the church and separation therefrom; and "kingdom" signifies the church; from which it is clear that "weighed in the scale or balance," signifies estimation in accordance with their quality." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 373.3)The 70 years of Babylon which ended in 539 B.C. is thus representative of the longer period in which the Papacy and the Catholic Church dominated the Christian church. This spiritual domination ended with the last judgment of 1757 A.D., and was immediately followed by historical events in which the nations of Europe turned against the authority of the Papacy.
THE PROPHECY OF THE WRITING ON THE WALL
The Divine judgment that took place in the year 1757 A.D. is described in a symbolic manner by the writing on the wall at Belshazzar's feast in 539 B.C. For the prophecy of the 2300 days in Daniel 8 (see The New Church Prophecy of the 2300 Days, or the Cleansing of the Sanctuary - read first before reading the rest of this post) I gave other reasons as to why the year 539 B.C. should be used as a start date for a 2300 year period. This was when Babylon fell, but I want to here point out another item of interest - the writing on the wall that appeared at Belshazzar's feast. The prophet Daniel is called in, who then gives the following interpretation:
And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God has numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.TEKEL; You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting.PERES; Your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.And Darius the Median took the kingdom (Dan. 5:25-31)The words MENE, MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN is given in Aramaic, but these are actually specific words that refer to weights. MENE is a mina, TEKEL is a shekel, and UPHARSIN or PERES means "half." Several interpreters have suggested that the value of these weights have a specific meaning, that when added up refer to a prophetic period beginning in 539 B.C. This caught my attention - could there be something in the value of these weights that specifies a prophetic number of years? Various suggestions have been made, but unfortunately many of these did not have the proper value for the weights and thus came out with the wrong answer.
The weight of a mina was known in both ancient Babylonia and Phoenicia, it generally had a weight of 60 shekels. Some have suggested 50 shekels, but Ezek. 45:12 confirms that during the Babylonian period a mina had a value of 60 shekels:
The shekel shall be twenty gerahs; twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels shall be your mina. (Eze. 45:12)Here a shekel is given a value of 20 gerahs. That a Hebrew shekel had a value of 20 gerahs is confirmed in several other passages of scripture (see Ex. 30:13, Lev. 27:25, Num 3:47, 18:16).
It should be noted that in the Jewish Talmud, a mina was given a value of 50 shekels (see Weights, Measures & Coins of the Biblical & Talmudic Periods). There seem to have been 2 different weight systems: Babylon had a shekel of 24 gerahs, while the Jews had a shekel of 20 gerahs. But in both Babylon and in Eze. 45:12 a mina has a value of 60 shekels. For an interesting discussion by Jehovah's Witnesses on the matter, see Daniel 5:25 NWT-Cross Reference Why Half Shekel? Not half mene? Here we are restricting ourselves to the weights as given in scripture.
So in the literal sense, the writing on the wall at the feast of Belshazzar literally says this:
MINA, MINA, SHEKEL, HALF.
In Hebrew it would look like this:
But probably cuneiform was used.
We know the value of the mina and shekel. Half means half of something, but what? Some have suggested it means half a mina. It depends on context, the word can also mean half a zuz, an even smaller unit than the gerah (see Weights, Measures & Coins of the Biblical & Talmudic Periods). Another Biblical scholar Otto Eissfeldt proposed that it is not a half mina, but half a shekel. This would make sense as the weights are given from big units to small units. However there is another reason why half a shekel is probably correct, and this comes from another passage on the importance of half a shekel in numbering the people of Israel:
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, When you take the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when you number them; that there be no plague among them, when you number them. This they shall give, every one that passes among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) a half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD. Every one that passes among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. (Ex. 30:11-14)In the writing on the wall Daniel declares that God has "numbered" the kingdom of Babylon; likewise when the children of Israel were numbered in a census they were to each give a half shekel in order to not suffer from a plague. Which is a very odd ritual which no one can explain unless one knows the spiritual symbolism of it (Swedenborg explains it in detail in Heavenly Arcana). But half probably means a half shekel, it is given to the Medes and Persians, who thus do not suffer judgment. This half shekel was an offering to the sanctuary, and Belshazzar had just profaned the articles of the sanctuary by praising idols.
In the ritual of the census, a shekel of 20 gerahs is associated with all men who have reached an age of 20 years (in the spiritual sense half a number signifies the same as a whole). This implies that one gerah is equivalent to one year. So let us convert each weight to its value in gerahs:
Mina = 60 shekels = 1200 gerahs
Mina = 60 shekels = 1200 gerahs
Shekel = 20 gerahs
Half shekel = 10 gerahs
Now, lets go through the handwriting on the wall, line by line:
MENE; God has numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. (Dan. 5:26)
TEKEL; You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting. (Dan. 5:27)
PERES; Your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Dan. 5:28)
A gerah represents a year. 2370 gerahs is thus 2370 years. This represents the kingdom of Babylon, which began in 609 B.C. with the fall of Assyria. 2370 years is equal to 70 + 2300 years. Thus we have the following:
609 - 539 B.C. = 70 years of Babylonian rule (Jer. 25:11-12, Dan. 9:2)
539 B.C. - 1762 A.D. = 2300 years (see Dan. 8:13-14)
The number 2300 in Dan. 8:13-14 has puzzled many, but I think it is now explained. Not only that, but the starting date to the 2300 years was there all along. The writing was on the wall. The year 1762 A.D. was when it was revealed that Jesus is Jehovah in human form, which was explained in the little book of Rev. 10, The Doctrine of the Lord. (see The Mystery of the Book of Seven Thunders Explained)
Perhaps in a future post, God willing, I will explain that the 70 years of Babylonian rule represents a future longer period of 1260 years, also described as a "time, times and half a time" (Dan. 7:25, 12:7). Note that a 70 year period is equivalent to 70 gerahs, which of course is three and a half shekels. This time period is also represented by the three and a half days of the 2 witnesses (Rev. 11:9-11).
As always, comments welcome:
The "Catholic" church did not become an organized body with political power until the early 300s A.D. long after Revelation was written. If Babylon was a reference to the Catholic Church, then the book of Revelation would not have been understood by its first readers.ReplyDelete
We could probably apply this metaphor by extension to, for example, the corrupt corporate church of the Middle Ages. It did have some characteristics that are described under the "Babylon the Great" symbol. But there is no biblical evidence to back up the 19th century Protestant claim that vilified the Catholic Church as the harlot of Revelation, chapter 17.
The book of Revelation is not understood by most readers even today. It is prophetic, and it describes the last state of the Christian Church. I should mention, Rev. 8-16 in a prophetic sense describes the end state of the Protestant churches, while Rev. 17-18 are focused on the Roman Catholic Church. And by that, we are only talking about those who used their religious position as a means of gaining control over others. A lot of this religious power has been destroyed by now, for example, the printing press got the Bible back into the hands of the public, and the Inquisition is long gone.Delete
As for evidence of this, it can be demonstrated from the prophecies of Daniel that scripture predicted the rise of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, the Roman Empire, and then a false religious power rising out of the Roman Empire. So there is actually Biblical support for this identification. Moreover, Swedenborg goes into Rev. 17-18 word by word in "Apocalypse Revealed" and "Apocalypse Explained" to show that it indeed refers to the abuses of the clergy of the Catholic Church.
So although the political religious power is destroyed, the theology of the Catholic Church, to the surprise of many, still actually rules over the Protestant churches. This is why the woman rides upon the beast of 10 horns. Areas of theological rule of the Catholic Church include dividing God into three persons and the doctrine of vicarious atonement, among others. Swedenborg showed the theology of the two branches are essentially the same in his work "Summary Exposition" (also known as "Brief Exposition."