The Harlot Church System

by Chip Brogden
And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. (Rev. 18:4)

Here we have the call out of Babylon. Now, we’re going to discuss both the literal interpretation of this chapter as well as the spiritual interpretation. I believe that it is both (for reasons that we will discuss). But the first thing that we need to make note of is that it’s not totally literal, but the language to this section is, to me, very obviously symbolic.

When it says that Babylon has become “a dwelling place of demons” – that alone is spiritual. “A prison for every foul spirit” – that is a spiritual reference. And “a cage for every unclean and hated bird” – well, that’s symbolic as well. Demons, foul spirits, and unclean birds. All of this is figurative and symbolic language of the spiritual city of Babylon.

Also, it says that the city is a harlot. Remember, it is pictured as a harlot riding on top of a beast. We know that the beast is spiritual, but it represents a political system. So, in the same way, I’m not saying that Babylon is not literal. It certainly is literal. I believe it does represent Jerusalem, as we will see. But as we have learned time and time again in the Book of Revelation, just because something is and can be interpreted literally, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also have spiritual and prophetic significance. And just because it has spiritual and prophetic significance it does not indicate that it is not literal.  But in fact, over and over again, we see that it is usually a combination of things. God uses literal things to teach us spiritual lessons and also to foreshadow prophetically things that will come to pass.

The Babylon of Judaism

It’s been my belief for many years (and I have written about this extensively in my book The Irresistible Kingdom) that everything that happened to Jerusalem, to Judaism, to the nation of Israel, is repeating itself and is going to happen again to the Christian church.[1] The Jews failed to recognize the Messiah when He came; and for that, God says, “I will take the kingdom away from you and give it to another nation who will bring forth the fruits thereof.”[2]

But how would you sum up the Judaism that Jesus confronted in the first century – Judaism of Palestine? How would you characterize it? One way to characterize it would be to say that a religion about God became more important than a relationship with God, to the extent that the religion based on God brought people to such a condition that Jesus said, “You are like whitewashed tombs.[3] You look good on the outside. You claim to be disciples of Moses. You claim to be believers in God. You claim that Jerusalem is the city of God, and that the Messiah will come and rule over the nations from Jerusalem.” Yet they failed to recognize Christ Jesus Himself. They failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah; and not only did they fail to recognize Him, but they persecuted Him and eventually condemned Him to death, betrayed Him to the Romans, and saw to it that He was crucified.

I would suggest to you that that was a very literal thing. No one would say that was symbolic. That was literal – the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and His rejection by Israel and by the Jewish people. That was very literal.

The Babylon of “Churchianity”

But since these things are written to us as examples, I would suggest to you that everything that is in Scripture has a prophetic significance for us and a spiritual lesson for us.[4] What we see happening in the Christian religion is not very different from what we saw happening in the Jewish religion of Jesus’ day. The fact is that a religion about Jesus has eclipsed, overshadowed, led us away from the relationship with Jesus.

Actually, this is not surprising because when you study the parables of Jesus you find that all of this was foretold. “The Spirit speaks expressly,” Paul says that “in the latter times, some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.”[5] And we’ll see today that Babylon represents (among other things) something that through sorcery has deceived the nations. When we say “nations” we need to understand what it means. It’s not “nations” in a political sense. It’s not “nations” in a geographic sense. When Scripture talks about nations, it means the people. It’s deceived all the people of the world. So, Babylon, “by its sorcery has deceived the people of this world”[6] – and I would say it has deceived many of God’s people as well. By the mere fact that God has to call His people to “come out of her” proves that she has, through sorcery and seduction, deceived not only the world but deceived many of God’s people.

There is a literal fulfillment of this, I believe, in Jerusalem, in Judaism, in Israel of old. There’s a literal fulfillment of this; but it also points to a spiritual as well as to a prophetic foreshadowing of what I think is going to repeat itself here in the last days. This is the exodus out of Babylon. The fact is: God still has some of His people still there in Babylon. God has some of His people in Babylon and He calls them to come out of her!

Now, it’s interesting that He does not call them to stay in Babylon and repair it. He doesn’t call His people to stay in Babylon and reform it. He does not call His people to stay in Babylon and pray for revival, or hold meetings, or to say, “You know, Babylon is not perfect; but this is the only thing that we have, and so we should stay here and be a light!” These are all excuses that I have heard over the years when people reject the idea that God has called His people to come out of the harlot church system – or Institutional Christianity, or the religious system. Whatever nomenclature you use, whatever term you want to utilize to describe this Babylon of the end-times, as we have said, it is a synthesis, a cacophony, a bringing together of all different kinds of religious spirits and systems into this one very powerful, prophetic, spiritual symbol that we have studied at length going all the back to Genesis and the Tower of Babel.

And you understand now why when Paul says to the Corinthians, “I’m afraid for you, that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent, that you also would be led astray from the simplicity of Christ.”[7] And then the Spirit says expressly that that will happen: “Some will depart from the faith.”[8] We see it in the parables of Jesus, with the leaven that leavens the whole lump.[9] So by the time you come to the Book of Revelation, that has already begun to take place. You see people that are being “seduced by that woman Jezebel,”[10] for example; or, “the deeds of the Nicolaitans.”[11]

These are indications that the Body of Christ, the Ekklesia, is actually being infiltrated and contaminated by people who claim to know Jesus, people who claim to be believers in Jesus, but they do not know who He is and they do not represent His Will and His Kingdom here on the earth. A good portion of the letters of John are devoted to the idea that “they went out from us as if they were of us, but there were not of us.”[12]

So the truth of the matter is: God still has some of His people in Babylon. It would be incorrect to say that everyone who is joined to the church system is against God or doesn’t love the Lord. People will very often say, “How can there be anything wrong with this church or this group of people? They just love the Lord! They just love Jesus with all their heart! But they’re going to church and they’re doing all these things that you’re saying that they shouldn’t do!” First of all, I’m not the one saying that they shouldn’t do it. I’m simply saying what God is saying. I am repeating the warning that God gives to His people. It’s interesting to me that God has to call His people to come out of her. What’s the warning? That if you don’t, you’re going to end up sharing in her sins and receiving of her plagues. Babylon is under judgment. I have no doubt that people can love Jesus with all their heart and be completely deceived, be completely seduced, because it is a very seductive thing. It’s a very deceptive thing.

The fact is, many people, many of God’s people, are trapped in that system. They can’t imagine any kind of existence outside of church. Their faith is based on church. Their spiritual growth is based on church. Their spiritual direction and guidance is based on church. I’m saying it’s not based on the Lord. I’m saying that it’s very similar to the Jew of the first century who had the temple, who had the commandments, had the Scribes and the Pharisees to interpret the law, and yet failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

The Ekklesia: Called Out of Babylon

Now, God in His mercy calls us out – and in fact, He calls all of us out. That’s what the word ekklesia means, the Greek word translated as “church.” You understand there was no church in the first century, in the first three hundred years. There was no church. When Scripture refers to “church” it is interpreting the word ekklesia. Ekklesia means “a called-out assembly.” Ekklesia always refers to people. It doesn’t refer to buildings. It doesn’t refer to organizations. It doesn’t refer to sanctuaries, or steeples, or clergy. All of these things are inventions of man. When Jesus says, “I will build My church” – My Ekklesia is the word He is talking about – “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”[13] He’s not talking about building buildings. He’s talking about building people upon the foundation of Himself. He is not talking about a religion; He is talking about a relationship!

William Tyndale, upon whom a lot of the King James Version is based, tried to translate ekklesia as “assembly” or “congregation” – and King James, when he commissioned his King James translation (the King James Version of 1611), was very specific in saying that he wanted the translators to translate ekklesia as “church.” He wanted to make the King James Version as institutional as possible. Why? So that he could reinforce the authority of the Church of England![14]

We’re trying to do the opposite! We are trying to de-authorize and break down this false god of religiosity and institutionalism; and we are trying to emphasize that the Church of God, the Ekklesia, is a called-out assembly of people, a “spiritual house” of “living stones.”[15] A called-out people. But when you use that word “church” today, or when you read that word “church” in your Bibles, most people immediately equate the church that they attend as part of “the Church that Jesus built” – and it’s not. This forms the basis of the deception, the sorcery.

Ekklesia means “a called-out assembly” – but the truth of the matter is that just because all of us are called out doesn’t mean all of us have come out. It’s the called-out assembly, and God is calling them out. “Come out of her, My people! Come out her, My people! I’m calling you out of Babylon!” He has called all of us out, yet not all have come out. So here they are, still in Babylon. Led astray from the simplicity of Christ. Deceived by a religious system that takes the place of God in their life. That keeps them in a spiritual ghetto. That prevents them from growing and maturing in the full knowledge of Jesus.

There is judgment coming upon that. Now, this is nothing new. It has happened many times in Scripture and that’s why I said that all of these things are written to us as an example.[16] God called His people out of Sodom.[17] He called His people out of Egypt.[18] He called them out of Babylon after they were carried away in exile to Babylon.[19] Later on He called them out of Jerusalem.[20] These were all literal commands to come out, and they all point to a spiritual reality – but the lesson is it was never a smooth process, because God’s people loved where they came from more than where He wanted to take them. It was never a smooth process. It was always a fight. They had to physically drag Lot and his family out of Sodom! In the case of Egypt, God called them out – but it was very difficult for them to believe that Moses was truly going to lead them out, and they wanted to return to Egypt many times. It was difficult.

Then God called His people to come out of Babylon and go back and rebuild Jerusalem; but a majority of His people in Babylon stayed in Babylon, and that’s what Revelation 18 is referring to.[21] He called His people to come out. A remnant of people came out of Babylon, but the rest stayed in Babylon. Those that came out of Babylon rebuilt the temple, rebuilt Jerusalem, and restored that religious system – to the point that it failed to recognize the Lord Jesus when He came.[22] So, there was another judgment on that city, and God called them again. Jesus warned them to come out of Jerusalem because of its pending destruction.

All of these things are literal fulfillments of God calling His people out. But the point is: It was never a smooth process. It was always difficult. What made it difficult? Not because of the enemies, but because they loved where they were more than they loved God, more than they loved and wanted to be in the place that He was calling them out to. They loved where they came from more than where He wanted to take them.

Identifying Babylon Today

I would tell you, spiritually speaking and in a literal prophetic application to us today, this represents one of the biggest challenges of God’s people who are trapped in the religious system. Now, it doesn’t make any difference to me what the religious system calls itself. You say, “Is it Roman Catholicism?” The answer is yes. You say, “Is it Protestantism?” I say the answer is yes. “What about all of the Charismatic churches?” The answer is yes. “What about the Greek Orthodox churches?” The answer is yes. All of these things represent distractions and hindrances from a relationship with Jesus. To be sure, there’s some people in all of these churches, – I’m sure you can find them – that love God (or at least they say they love God) with all their heart. They really love Jesus. They really love the Word of God – and they are offended at the idea that they should come out of their religious system.

Yet, we learn three things from Revelation 18. First, we learn that God has people in Babylon. Secondly, God does not want them in Babylon. The third thing is: If they are not obedient to God then they are going to be destroyed right along with Babylon. So, for all the people who really love God with all their heart, and really love Jesus with all their heart, and love the Word of God, I’ve got a question for you: How long can you love God and refuse to obey the voice of God that says, “Come out?” Come out of her, My people! And these will be the very ones in the end of days that are not allowed into the Kingdom of God; and they say, “Lord, Lord, we taught and we prophesied in your Name. We did many marvelous things. We built big churches and cathedrals. We raised lots of money for Christian causes. We had lots of Christian ministries, and television, and radio, and everything else that we have done in Your Name!” And He says, “I don’t know who you are. Why do you call me Lord, Lord but you don’t do the things that I tell you to do?[23] I told you to come out of her. You didn’t come out of her! You shared in her sins, and now you’re going to suffer the consequences. You will receive of her plagues.”

This is a warning to you, and to me, and to all of God’s people that still may be clinging to Babylon. Or, maybe you’ve come out and you’re like Lot’s wife. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus said, “Remember Lot’s wife.”[24] What was the problem with Lot’s wife? Lot’s wife didn’t want to leave Sodom; and even in the process of leaving Sodom, she turned around and looked. And in that turning back, in that looking back, she was destroyed – because it revealed that Sodom had become an idol. The seduction of that city had become an idol. She was more concerned about what she was leaving behind than what God was calling her to.

He calls us out, but it doesn’t mean that all have come out. “Many are called, but few are chosen.”[25] All of us are called out, but God doesn’t choose those who are disobedient to His call. If He calls us out we must come out in order to be fully obedient to the Lord.

[1] See The Irresistible Kingdom and What About Israel? at TheSchoolOfChrist.Org/books.

[2] Mt. 21:43.

[3] Mt. 23:27.

[4] 1 Cor. 10:11.

[5] 1 Tim. 4:1.

[6] Rev. 18:23.

[7] 2 Cor. 11:3.

[8] 1 Tim. 4:1.

[9] Mt. 13:33.

[10] Rev. 2:20.

[11] Rev. 2:6; 2:15.

[12] 1 Jn. 2:19.

[13] Mt. 16:18.

[14] Alister McGrath, In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture (Anchor Books, 2002).

[15] 1 Pet. 2:5.

[16] 1 Cor. 10:11.

[17] Hos. 11:1.

[18] Gen. 19:12,13.

[19] Jer. 29:10.

[20] Lk. 21:20,21.

[21] Rev. 18:4.

[22] A comparison could be made to the Reformation, where many “came out” of the Roman Catholic Church, only to create a competing religious system of Protestantism.

[23] Lk. 6:46.

[24] Lk. 17:32.

[25] Mt. 20:16.

About the Author

CHIP BROGDEN is a best-selling author, teacher, and former pastor. His writings and teachings reach more than 135 nations with a simple, consistent, Christ-centered message focusing on relationship, not religion. Learn more »


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