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Particulars of Christianity:
314 End Times Prophecy (Eschatology)

Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 3)

Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 1)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 2)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 3)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 4)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 5)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 6)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 7)

Articles 7-12
Articles 13-18
Articles 19-25
Articles 26-29

We will skip Greece momentarily to cover two final Biblical passages, which display the existence of these wise men even in the time of the Roman empire.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

This passage from Matthew provides us with the story of the Three Magi, the three wise men from the east who come seeking the birth of the King of the Jews. What we can gather from these events is further confirmation of two aspects of these wise men. First, as we have seen earlier they were astrologers who used the stars to divine the future. Second, this passage is conclusive confirmation that these men did indeed "know the times" and the changing of one kingdom to the next. This knowledge was apparently so precise that they knew at least within a few years, but perhaps immediately, when the King of the Jews was born. And we see that these men existed in the days of the Roman empire.

Additionally, the Apostle Peter, in his first epistle, writes of "the church that is at Babylon" (1 Peter 5:13).

1 Peter 5:12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. 13 The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son. 14 Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

What is interesting note in this verse is just what Peter is indicating by Babylon. It is possible that Peter is referring to some church that was in actual Babylon. But because it seems that Peter was giving salutations from the church where he himself was, this is unlikely. It is likely, that Peter was writing from the church in Rome. In this case Peter would be metaphorically ascribing the name Babylon to Rome, Italy. This will become relevant later in our study. With regard to this section, however, we see that it is possible that the early church related Rome with Babylon in some sense, that may portray its idolatry and sinfulness in the same manner as Revelation 17 and 18 portray the woman who rides the beast.

One last bit of information that helps us tie all of these groups from these different empires together is the words, which are used to refer to these men to whom the kings turned for guidance, the revelation of mysteries, and knowledge of the future and the changing of kingdoms.

They are referred to as magicians in Genesis 41, Exodus 7-8, and Daniel 1, 2, 4, and 5. In all of these cases, whether they are in Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon, two similar words are used. In Genesis, Exodus, and Daniel 1 and 2 the word "chartom" is used. This Hebrew word (Strong's No. 2748) means "diviner, magician, astrologer, writer in the sense of one possessed of occult knowledge." In Daniel chapters 2, 4, and 5 the Aramaic word "chartom" (Strong's No. 2748) is used, which also means "magician, astrologer."

Obviously these words are related. The spelling is the same, the meaning overlaps. The only difference is that one word is Hebrew and the other is Aramaic. They are even used interchangeably in Daniel 2, where verse 2 uses the Hebrew form and verse 27 uses the Aramaic form to refer to the same group of people who could not interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Some lexicons will even tell you that these are actually the same word.

The word wise men is used in Genesis 41, Exodus 7, Esther 1 and 6, Daniel 2, and Matthew 2 to refer to these men. In each of the Old Testament cases except in the Book of Daniel the same word "chakam" (Strong's 2450) is used. In Daniel the Aramaic word "chakkiym" (2445) is used. Again, notice the similarity between the Hebrew and Aramaic. The primitive root of this Aramaic word is even "chakam" (2449), which is identical to and the root of the Hebrew word "chakam" (2450), which is used in the other Old Testament passages.

In Matthew 2 the word "magos" is used. This word is related to the word magi, which we use when we refer to the Three Magi. The Greek definition for this word is worth noting.

3097 magos {mag'-os}
of foreign origin 07248; TDNT - 4:356,547; n m
AV - wise man 4, sorcerer 2; 6
1) a magus
1a) the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.
1b) the oriental wise men (astrologers) who, having discovered by the rising of a remarkable star that the Messiah had just been born, came to Jerusalem to worship him
1c) a false prophet and sorcerer

Notice that the main definition of this word is a Babylonian, Media-Persian sorcerer and/or astrologer. This is the same group of people that we first encountered in Daniel, the Chaldeans. It is derived from the Hebrew word "Rab-Mag," (7248) which means soothsayer or magician. It is also the proper name of one chief soothsayer of Babylon, who was a chief of the princes and officials of Babylon (Jeremiah 39:3 and 13).

These men are referred to as astrologers in Daniel 2, 4, and 5. The word that is used is the Aramaic word "ashshaph" (826). It means "a conjurer, enchanter, or necromancer," (which is a type of sorcerer).

We could continue, but the point is clear from the overlapping words that are consistently used to describe them. These men shared a common trade - their sorcery, practice of magic, divination, and occult arts. Though the Bible has more to say about such things we will now turn to some additional reference materials in order to get a fuller understanding of these people and to help fill in the gaps regarding their significance in both Greece and Rome, the fifth and sixth empires.

We will begin with a few relevant quotes about these wise men and the mystery religions, which they practiced.

"Mysteries - in Greek and Roman religion, some important secret cults...Individuals sought a more emotional religion that would fulfill their desires for personal salvation and immortality. Secret societies were formed, usually headed by a priest or a hierophant. By the 5th cent. B.C. mysteries were an important part of the fabric of Hellenic life. Although the mystic rites were kept secret, it was known that they required elaborate initiations, including purification rites, beholding sacred objects, accepting occult knowledge, and acting out a sacred drama. Some mysteries were of foreign origin, such as the Middle Eastern cults of Cybele, Isis, and Mithra;...The popularity of mystery cults spread in the Hellenistic age and still more widely in Roman times." - encyclopedia.com

Notice that encyclopedia.com corroborates what we found in the scripture, that many of the popular mystery cults started in the Middle East and then passed to the Greeks and Romans. Among those Middle Eastern mysteries that passed to the Greeks and Romans were those involving Cybele, Isis, and Mithra. Here are some facts about those false deities, as described in the book Dictionary of Ancient Dieties by Patricia Turner and Charles Russell Coulter, copyright 2000, and published by Oxford University Press. (And as a footnote, this book is extremely exhaustive. It contains 525 pages of information on the ancient deities, myths, and heroes around the world.)

"Mitra - (...Babylonia, India, Persia, Greece, Rome)...Also known as: Mithra, Mithras...Sun god. Fertility god. Corn god. Mitra is a Babylonian sun and fertility deity...as a Vedic sun god and Hindu solar deity...In Zoroastrianism, Mitra is known as Mithra...India adopted Mithra as Mitra and in later times, he was worshiped in Rome...Reliefs of a young god attired in Persian costume and wearing a conical hat were found in Mithraic sanctuaries...the Mithraic Mysteries excluded women but permitted men from all economic stratas to become members. Though prevalent in Greece, it was far more popular in Rome where it was established in approximately 67 B.C.E. The worship of Mithra in Rome became extremely important and valued for its mystery and its ethical system." (Page 325.)

It seems that mystery cults involving Mithra existed not only in Babylon, but also India, Persia (Zoroastrianism originated in Persia), Greece, and Rome. Coincidently (or perhaps not coincidentally), this covers four of the kingdoms found in the succession of empires depicted in Daniel 2, 7, and 8.

But let's continue with our brief survey. Cybele was also mentioned as one of the Middle Eastern gods associated chiefly with mystery cults, which passed to Greece and Rome. Here are some relevant excerpts from Dictionary of Ancient Dieties.

"Cybele - (Greek, Phrygian)...(Asia Minor, known as "Great Mother," then to Greece and Rome...) Earth goddess. Healer. Builder of cities...Worship of Cybele traveled to Greece and Rome." (Page 137.)

Notice that Cybele was known as "Great Mother" and the similarity of that title to Revelation 17:5's "mother of harlots and abominations of the earth."

Next and last on the list was Isis.

"Isis - (Egypt; also worshipped in Pompeii, approx. 360 B.C.)... Patroness of loving wives and mothers. Goddess of the earth, protector of the dead...The Greeks called her Isis Pharia, the protector of seamen. She assimilated the functions of many other goddesses...She was worshiped in Rome and Greece, and came to be identified with the goddess Demeter. She is also identified with Venus (Roman), Astarte (Phoenicia), Ishtar (Babylon)...and Minerva of Athens. Compare Isis to Ishtar (Assyro-Babylonian), Marduk (Babylonian, who also used magic)..." (Page 243.)

There are several interesting points about Isis. First, she "assimilated the function of many other goddesses" and so she represents the central and essential mother goddess. And not only was Isis worshiped in Rome, Babylon, and Athens, which are three of the kingdoms mentioned in the succession depicted in Daniel, but she was also worshipped in Assyria and originated in Egypt. Assyria and Egypt are the other two kingdoms we've identified as part of the succession of 7 empires represented by the seven-headed beast of Revelation 13 and 17. Also worthy of note is the description that Isis was "the protector of seamen." This parallels the description of Babylon the Great from Revelation 18:17-19, which we covered earlier wherein it was stated that the demise of this great city is mourned by the shipmasters and sailors of the world.

What is important to learn from our survey of these three ancient deities is that they involve five key elements of the description of the woman found in Revelation 17.

1. They involve Babylon.
2. They involve mysteries and secret mystery cults.
3. They were popular in Rome.
4. And they involve mother earth goddesses.
5. Their collective popularity spans the entire range of the kingdoms identified in the Biblical succession of kingdoms: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

What's important is that these "secret societies" were an "important part" of Rome and Greek cultures, which involved "mystic rites," which were "kept secret" and "involved accepting occult knowledge." But no survey of mystery cults would be complete without a mention of what is perhaps the most significant mystery cult of the Christian era, Gnosticism.

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