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The Book of Revelation
Chapter Eighteen
One Bahá'í's Concept

CONCEPT BOX

This chapter is often considered the most dramatic description of the final battle of Armageddon, with the destruction of the greatest city of our time (which is symbolized as Babylon).

While one may speculate upon the physical nature of the destruction it needs also to be understood in its spiritual sense. Those who dwell in Babylon, vacillate between pride, revelry, hilarity, and glee, on the one hand, and depression, terror, fear, and anger, on the other, in the midst of a plight that they comprehend neither as to its nature or source.

Nuclear holocaust, which it is easy to speculate will be the immediate symptom of the Great Catastrophe, will be attributed by many to the decisions made by the 'Christian' United States of America. They were not only its original developers and first users but established themselves as the primary nuclear power in the world seeking through non-proliferation policies to prevent "Third World" countries from obtaining these weapons while in the end decreeing for themselves the right for pre-emptive use.

One may well ask what role and response there was to this from the Christian Religion itself. The following excerpt from a well known Canadian writer perhaps states the situation as well as any.

    I have searched the newspapers following the first published news of the atomic explosions in Japan to try to find evidence that somebody of stature in the Christian Church called out against this national denial of the Christian message. There is very little, and most of what there is says very little. The Vatican's immediate comment was confined to a statement denying a published report that it had opposed the use of the bomb in Japan. The Primate of All Canada announced that 'history is working out the purpose of God', gave it as his opinion that the bomb would stop war - 'thus good is the ultimate result' (Toronto Daily Star, August 13, 1945) - and in a later statement he said that everyone needed some religion 'that would make sense out of the confusion.' (The Telegram (Toronto), August 13, 1945) Other individual ministers used the news of the bomb to call for a return to religion, but few if any attacked the use of the bomb itself or called for its abandonment as a weapon of war. Nor did any of the major churches.

    Undoubtedly Christian consciences were privately troubled. Canon John Collins tells me that he received a letter from the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, 'in which he said that it would absolutely outrage Christian conscience were these bombs to be developed after the war. But, alas, when the time came no such official voice was ever raised in protest, and the Church, as part of the 'Establishment,' has continued to sit on the fence, and so by implication support whatever government has been in power in its policy of nuclear armaments.'

    (Pierre Berton
    (The) Comfortable Pew,
    p.34-35)
    The multiplication, the diversity and the increasing destructive power of armaments to which both sides, in this world contest, caught in a whirlpool of fear, suspicion and hatred, are rapidly contributing; the outbreak of two successive bloody conflicts, entangling still further the American nation in the affairs of  a distracted world, entailing a considerable loss in blood and treasure, swelling the national budget and progressively depreciating the currency of the state; the confusion, the vacillation, the suspicions besetting the European and Asiatic nations in their attitude to the American nation; the overwhelming accretion of strength to the arch enemy of the system championed by the American Union in consequence of the re-alignment of the powers in the Asiatic continent and particularly in the Far East -- these have, moreover, contributed their share, in recent years, to the deterioration of a situation which, if not remedied, is bound to involve the American nation in a catastrophe of undreamed-of dimensions and of untold consequences to the social structure, the standard and conception of the American people and government.
    (Shoghi Effendi,
    Citadel of Faith,
    p. 125)
The inhabitants of Babylon (in a sense all the people of the world immersed in materialism) feel only a lack for more materially and have no comprehension of their great spiritual poverty, which is about to bring their ruin. Even in the midst of the catastrophe - they will only bemoan their material loss. However, the immensity of the catastrophe will surely awaken the survivors to recognize the horror of what is referred to in Daniel (although often interpreted in a different spiritual sense) as the 'Abomination that maketh desolate' or the 'Abomination of Desolation', an appellation that can surely be applied to nuclear weapons.

Bible Verses

[1] And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.

One Bahá'í's Concept

V.1 After all that had happened John saw another angel, with 'great power'. The earth was enlightened with His Glory. In the order of the religions, this is then the Angel of the Hindu Faith, but once again, being one of the earliest religions, what is said about it applies as well to the later religions.

As with all the religions, the Hindus expect the return of their Lord, (in their case Lord Krishna) and for them as for all the religions, Bahá'u'lláh is the fulfillment of that promise even in His very title because the word 'Bahá'u'lláh' means the 'Glory of God'.

    Praise be unto God, incomparable in majesty, power and beauty, peerless in glory, might and grandeur; too high is He for human imaginations to comprehend Him or for any peer or equal to be ascribed unto Him. He hath clearly set forth His straight Path in words and utterances of highest eloquence.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh,
    p.101)
[2] And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

V.2 He cried with a strong voice that Babylon had fallen. Babylon is also symbolized as a cage for those foul spirits, 'devils' out for material gain without thought of the outcome for others or their own spiritual advancement. Being full of selfishness, these are symbolized by unclean and hateful birds of materialism mired in the clay of the world and caged within the bars of self and passion.

    The country is the world of the soul,
    the city is the world of bodies.
    (Bahá'u'lláh
    as quoted by Adib Taherzadeh,
    The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh v 3,
    p. 416)
    CLIII. Suffer not your idle fancies, your evil passions, your insincerity and blindness of heart to dim the luster, or stain the sanctity, of so lofty a station. Ye are even as the bird which soareth, with the full force of its mighty wings and with complete and joyous confidence, through the immensity of the heavens, until, impelled to satisfy its hunger, it turneth longingly to the water and clay of the earth below it, and, having been entrapped in the mesh of its desire, findeth itself impotent to resume its flight to the realms whence it came. Powerless to shake off the burden weighing on its sullied wings, that bird, hitherto an inmate of the heavens, is now forced to seek a dwelling-place upon the dust. Wherefore, O My servants, defile not your wings with the clay of waywardness and vain desires, and suffer them not to be stained with the dust of envy and hate, that ye may not be hindered from soaring in the heavens of My divine knowledge.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh)
Symbolically, Babylon is many things. It symbolizes the Great Whore itself - the law of God profaned, materialism, immorality, racism, religionism, nationalism, greed, selfishness and so forth.

More specifically there is often singled out the premier city in the world that seems to symbolize these things and to be a hold, a central place of store of them. While a great many cities in the world equally contain the elements of the world's corruption - and may equally well suffer its fate - still New York stands in may people's eyes as the epitome of Babylon the Great. It has been so targeted, not only in the minds of its enemies, but in the actuality of their actions.

There is also the curious parallel, as noted with (Rev.16:3) that the Second Angel in these series is associated with both the Hindu Religion and Babylon bringing to thought the statement of Robert Oppenheimer, who is often called the father of the atomic bomb, as he watched the first man-made nuclear detonation and quoted the Bhagavad Gita,

    "Now I am become Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds".
[3] 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.

V.3 The city epitomized, in many people's minds, as Babylon the Great has been a center; perhaps one could say The Center, of world commerce. The world markets seem to radiate from it and all others seem to be satellites to it. Certainly, immense wealth has been accumulated by the merchants of the earth who are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.

Thus it can be said that all nations. and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and while it may well be that many of them will equally drink and taste "of the wine of the wrath" that befalls her, nevertheless, many see this as the destruction of a specific city that is so graphically described. However, we CANNOT BE CERTAIN about such specific details of prophecy until they have been fulfilled.

    The flames of hell have been made to blaze, and heaven hath been brought nigh; the celestial gardens are in flower, and fresh pools are brimming over, and paradise gleameth in beauty -- but the unaware are still mired down in their empty dreams.
    ('Abdu'l-Bahá,
    Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
    p. 14)
    C. Suffer not the hem of My sacred vesture to be smirched and mired with the things of this world, and follow not the promptings of your evil and corrupt desires.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh)

[4]And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

V.4 John heard another Voice from Heaven. This is not one of the "strong" or "loud" Voices and is here identified with the Jewish Religion. The Voice is saying to come out of the city and have no part of her sins and plagues. One must wonder if there are any people that have read The Book of Revelation, and this verse, who will have remained in Babylon the Great when the Great Catastrophe comes. A prominent theme among many Jews is that of Alilyah, their return to Israel.
    35:10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

    51:11 Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

    (King James Bible,
    Isaiah)
    If ye pay no heed unto the counsels which, in peerless and unequivocal language, We have revealed in this Tablet, Divine chastisement shall assail you from every direction, and the sentence of His justice shall be pronounced against you. On that day ye shall have no power to resist Him, and shall recognize your own impotence.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    The Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh,
    p. 9)

[5] For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

V.5 The sins of this city have reached heaven and God, which does not forget.
    O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH! Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I have pledged Myself not to forgive any man's injustice. This is My covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in the preserved tablet and sealed it with My seal of glory.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    Persian Hidden Word no.64)

[6] Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.

V.6 This city is to be rewarded double in chastisement, as it has filled the cup with iniquities.
    Collateral with this ominous laxity in morals, and this progressive stress laid on man's material pursuits and well-being, is the darkening of the political horizon, as witnessed by the widening of the gulf separating the protagonists of two antagonistic schools of thought which, however divergent in their ideologies, are to be commonly condemned by the upholders of the standard of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh for their materialistic philosophies and their neglect of those spiritual values and eternal verities on which alone a stable and flourishing civilization can be ultimately established.
    (Shoghi Effendi,
    Citadel of Faith,
    p. 125)

[7] How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.

V.7 This city glorifies herself, as it is rich in living a delicious material life, and brags that it is the queen of cities, and will see no sorrow.
    For a long time the religious world had been weakened and materialism had advanced; the spiritual forces of life were waning, moralities were becoming degraded, composure and peace had vanished from souls and satanic qualities were dominating hearts; strife and hatred overshadowed humanity, bloodshed and violence prevailed. God was neglected; the Sun of Reality seemed to have gone completely; deprivation of the bounties of heaven was a fact; and so the season of winter fell upon mankind.
    ('Abdu'l-Bahá,
    Bahá'í World Faith,
    p. 256)

[8] Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.

V.8 Physically, her plagues come in one day, suddenly. Physically, Babylon will utterly be burned with fire. There will be death, mourning, and famine as God judges this city (and others like it). But, these verses also have spiritual significance and spiritually the seven plagues that have taken over Babylon are described in chapter 16.

[9] And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,

V.9 The kings of the earth who have gained wealth from this city lament greatly for the extreme loss.
    It is . cancerous materialism, .which Bahá'u'lláh in unequivocal and emphatic language denounced in His Writings, comparing it to a devouring flame and regarding it as the chief factor in precipitating the dire ordeals and world-shaking crises that must necessarily involve the burning of cities and the spread of terror and consternation in the hearts of men. Indeed a foretaste of the devastation which this consuming fire will wreak upon the world, and with which it will lay waste the cities of the nations participating in this tragic world-engulfing contest, has been afforded by the last World War. in the global havoc which humanity, forgetful of its God and heedless of the clear warnings uttered by His appointed Messenger for this day, must, alas, inevitably experience.
    (Shoghi Effendi,
    Citadel of Faith,
    p. 125)

[10] Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.

V.10 At the time that John recorded these words it would have been impossible to imagine how such a giant city might have been destroyed in a hour in the manner described. Today it takes little imagination to think of people standing at a distance and viewing what has occurred.
    O YE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD!
    Know, verily, that an unforeseen calamity followeth you, and grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not that which ye have committed hath been effaced in My sight. By My beauty! All your doings hath My pen graven with open characters upon tablets of chrysolite.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    The Persian Hidden Words No. 63)
They stand back, in fear of the torment, saying 'alas', for it was a mighty city, and in one hour judgment had been served.

[11] And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:

V.11 The merchants of the world who have lost their trade, mourn and weep.
    These same fiery tribulations will not only firmly weld the American nation to its sister nations in both hemispheres, but will through their cleansing effect, purge it thoroughly of the accumulated dross which ingrained racial prejudice, rampant materialism, widespread ungodliness and moral laxity have combined, in the course of successive generations, to produce, and which have prevented her thus far from assuming the role of world spiritual leadership forecast by 'Abdu'l-Bahá's unerring pen -- a role which she is bound to fulfill through travail and sorrow.
    (Shoghi Effendi,
    Citadel of Faith,
    p. 126)

[12] The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,

V.12 The next three verses present a list of material things but the whole of the world, creation, and the Book of Revelation is filled with inner significances. Every color, sound, odor, texture as represented in physical objects has spiritual significance. Those of a material mind see only the external and do not recognize the internal.
    Beware lest ye scatter the pearls of inner significance before every barren, dumb one. Verily, the blind are deprived of witnessing the lights and are unable to distinguish between the stone and the holy, precious pearl.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    The Tablet of the Branch,
    in Bahá'í World Faith,
    p. 207)

[13] And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.

    Verily, wert thou to read the most mighty, wonderful verses to the stone for a thousand years, will it understand, or will they take any effect therein? No! by thy Lord, the merciful, the clement! If thou readest all the verses of God unto the deaf, will he hear a single letter? No! Verily, by the beauty, the mighty, the ancient!

    Thus have We delivered unto thee some of the jewels of wisdom and utterance, in order that thou mayest gaze unto the direction of thy Lord and be severed from all the creatures. May the spirit and glory rest upon thee, and upon those who dwell upon the plain of holiness and who remain in the Cause of their Lord in manifest steadfastness!

    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    The Tablet of the Branch,
    in Bahá'í World Faith,
    p. 207)

[14] And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.

V.14 As pointed out in the verses above the true goods of this world are actually fruits of the soul. The external objects are all that are recognized by those with materialistic minds.
    That the forces of a world catastrophe can alone precipitate such a new phase of human thought is, alas, becoming increasingly apparent. That nothing short of the fire of a severe ordeal, unparalleled in its intensity, can fuse and weld the discordant entities that constitute the elements of present-day civilization, into the integral components of the world commonwealth of the future, is a truth which future events will increasingly demonstrate.
    (Shoghi Effendi,
    The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh,
    p. 46)

[15] The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,

V.15 The merchants of all the finery, which have made both them and the city rich, stand far away in fear of this torment There is great weeping and wailing because of their loss. The chastisement is very great.
    LXXXV. Say: O ye that are bereft of understanding! A severe trial pursueth you, and will suddenly overtake you.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh)

[16] And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!

V.16 They are saying 'Alas, that great city, clothed in finery, and decked with precious stones, is gone. The purple and scarlet are the politics with religion, which in the past have supported each other, are gone. The finery and precious stones represented the material wealth of the few, which now is gone. The spiritual values of inner significances were completely lost to them.
    Fleeting are the riches of the world; all that perisheth and changeth is not, and hath never been, worthy of attention, except to a recognized measure.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh,
    p. 219)

[17] For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,

V.17 In one hour the great riches have come to naught. Today we can well envision the ships standing afar off and viewing the scene.
    'Hath the Hour come?' 'Nay, more; it hath passed, by Him Who is the Revealer of clear tokens! Verily, the Inevitable is come, and He, the True One, hath appeared with proof and testimony. The Plain is disclosed, and mankind is sore vexed and fearful. Earthquakes have broken loose, and the tribes have lamented, for fear of God, the Lord of Strength, the All-Compelling.' Say: 'The stunning trumpet blast hath been loudly raised, and the Day is God's, the One, the Unconstrained.' 'Hath the Catastrophe come to pass?' Say: 'Yea, by the Lord of Lords!'
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,
    p. 131)
In the Bahá'í Scriptures the inevitable is often spoken of as having already occurred. These verses also have a spiritual meaning and in the Divine, past, present, future are as One. (See Appendix at the end of Chapter Nine).
[18] And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!

V.18 And they cried when they saw the city burning, as they knew that there was no city like it. The greatest city of the world for trading destroyed. An unimaginable loss. Especially when we try to imagine it extended worldwide. In reading the verses we must remember that they also have a deeper spiritual meaning.
    The smoke of corruption hath enveloped the whole world in such wise that naught can be seen in any direction save regiments of soldiers and nothing is heard from any land but the clashing of swords. We beseech God, the True One, to strengthen the wielders of His power in that which will rehabilitate the world and bring tranquillity to the nations.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh,
    p. 39)

[19] And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.

V.19 Today, we can of course envision the possibility of the immediacy of the catastrophe and destruction.
    XVIII. The thing that must come hath come suddenly; behold how they flee from it! The inevitable hath come to pass; witness how they have cast it behind their backs! This is the Day whereon every man will fly from himself, how much more from his kindred, could ye but perceive it. Say: By God! The blast hath been blown on the trumpet, and lo, mankind hath swooned away before us! The Herald hath cried out, and the Summoner raised His voice saying: "The Kingdom is God's, the Most Powerful, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting."
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh)

[20] Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.

V.20 We are told to rejoice, as God has made way for a new world.
    Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth, and is the Knower of things unseen.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    The Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh,
    p. 121)

[21] And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.

V.21
    You will see how the world is upset with internal conflict, and many lands are dyed in human blood, - nay the earth is kneaded with gore. The flame of war is so ablaze that such terrible struggle finds no parallel in the war records of any of the middle or recent ages. Heads have become like grains and the war like millstones, - nay even worse. Flourishing lands are ruined, cities completely wrecked and thriving towns annihilated. Fathers have lost their sons, sons are made fatherless, and mothers have shed tears of blood over the death of their youthful sons. Children are made orphan, women are helpless, and the world of humanity is forced backward in all respects. The wailing cry of fatherless children is raised abroad, and mothers' pathetic lamentation reaches the high heaven.
    ('Abdu'l-Bahá,
    Letter to Martha Root,
    Dated: 28th of 2nd Kanoun (Feb?), 1920.
    Translated by Dr. Ali Kuli Kahn,
    August, 1935
    Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Wilmette)
A millstone is a large stone used mostly for grinding grain. The Mighty Angel (identified with the Báb) cast a stone 'like the millstone' into the sea, saying that with violence the great city symbolized as Babylon has been thrown down, and will never reappear.

[22] And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;

V.22 The voice of the musicians of that great city which was famous for its music, the arts, and great craftsmen is gone. No sound is heard.
    The source of all these catastrophes is racial fanaticism, patriotic fanaticism, religious fanaticism and political fanaticism. The source of these fanaticisms is ancient imitations, religious imitations, racial imitations, patriotic imitations, and political imitations. As long as following such imitations persists, the very foundation of humanity is wrecked and the world of man is in great jeopardy.
    ('Abdu'l-Bahá,
    Letter to Martha Root,
    Dated: 28th of 2nd Kanoun (Feb?), 1920.
    Translated by Dr. Ali Kuli Kahn,
    August, 1935
    Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Wilmette)

[23] And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.

V.23
    CXLIII. By My Self! The day is approaching when We will have rolled up the world and all that is therein, and spread out a new order in its stead. He, verily, is powerful over all things.
    (Bahá'u'lláh,
    Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh)
The light of the candle, meaning the spirituality of the city, will shine no more. The voice of the bride and bridegroom, those who stood for justice and equity, were no longer heard, for the great men and merchants of the city, by gaining power through their evil ways, deceived the nations of the world.

[24] And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.

V.24 The materialistic ways of men brought about the death of the Prophets and saints, those who God had sent to guide mankind toward a life of justice, honesty and love of mankind.

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