By the Waters of Babylon
Psalm 137 paints a terrifying prophetic picture of a tragedy about to befall a great many of God’s people.

Our Church hymnal has a song, “By the Waters of Babylon,” which is taken from Psalm 137. This is a fascinating psalm of only nine verses.

It begins, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). Zion refers to God’s Church. In the end time, there is a righteous Zion and a rebellious Zion. Here the rebels remembered their recent history with righteous Zion before they rebelled. This is a prophecy about God’s Church.

The Psalms are filled with prophecy: They are mainly the work of David, who was a prophet (Acts 2:29-31). Jeremiah and Moses were also prophets who wrote some of the psalms.

Verse 8 of Psalm 137 also shows that this is prophecy: “O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.” Who is the “daughter of Babylon”? Anciently, God sent Jeremiah to Judah with a warning for the Jews that Babylon was coming. When he wrote his book, however, he didn’t address it to Judah—he addressed it to Israel. That is because his message is a prophecy for the end-time descendants of Israel. Babylon is coming again, but this time it is the daughter of Babylon.

This prophecy about “Zion” is for this end time. Specifically here, Zion refers to God’s Church in the modern day—the work of Herbert W. Armstrong and the Philadelphia Church of God.

This is talking specifically about people who remember Zion—the work of Mr. Armstrong—while they are enslaved by Babylon. They are captive in Germany, Saudi Arabia perhaps, and other countries like Turkey and Lebanon—and they are weeping! They are weeping in Babylon. They didn’t weep when they were in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Judah. They didn’t weep then, but they are weeping in captivity to Babylon!

There are people in God’s Church—the Laodiceans, in the last era of God’s Church before the Second Coming (Revelation 3:14-22)—who are about to go into captivity!

Why would God allow that? Many other scriptures refer to this captivity, and God says He put it in the minds of the modern-day Babylonians to punish Israel and the Laodiceans this way. What is God so upset about?

While in captivity, these people remember righteous Zion in—this must mean that they have forgotten righteous Zion today! Only the Laodiceans could ever remember loyal Zion. People who were never in that Church could remember the message of Zion, but only the Laodiceans could remember righteous Zion. In that future distress, they will remember Mr. Armstrong; they will remember the members of the Church; they will remember what happened in the past. How can you just blot it out of your mind? They will remember how we served God together—so, in captivity, they will weep and finally repent. But they won’t remember until they are in Babylonian captivity!

They become victims of God’s warning prophecies, which they had helped to proclaim before they rebelled!

This is a strong warning for all of us. The Laodiceans have to repent and sing these songs in a strange land. It will take a Babylonian captivity to wake up these people of God!

They have heard all these prophecies that are being fulfilled today. They knew the prophecies about the Holy Roman Empire. God has been so patient, giving them many years to repent! But they chose not to pay attention. They were just too puffed up in their vanity and human reasoning.

Finally, Repentance

Ezekiel 6:6-7 explain what is coming upon these lukewarm saints of God: “In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished. And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” They are going to watch as nuclear bombs are dropped on their cities that destroy every inhabitant! It takes a nuclear holocaust in their own nation to convert them!

After two thirds of the nation die in the riots and nuclear bombs, those who survive will be taken into captivity. It is horrifying to even think about this, but this is what it will take to get them to repent. What kind of an excuse can they offer God? He’s given them these prophecies all these years, and we struggle and work to get the message out, but the Laodiceans will not help. They are not interested in proclaiming God’s message, and God is full of wrath over that. How terrifying to realize the wrath God has!

We have to remind ourselves that this is not a fantasy or a movie. The formation of a political and religious beast power in Europe is real, and time is almost up!

Verse 8 talks about the Philadelphia Church of God: “Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries.” Only a little remnant of God’s people will be protected.

But notice the Laodiceans: “And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart …” (verse 9). God is broken up about what they have done! He is emotionally moved and stirred. He gave them so much truth and many other blessings, yet they went whoring after idols and the evil of this world!

Verse 9 concludes, “[A]nd they shall lothe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations.” They will come to loathe themselves—to hate what they did and what they became.

As a result, what they finally do is really a noble act. They finally decide to proclaim God’s message among the nations! These Gentiles ask them for a song of Zion (verse 3), and they finally say, OK, we’ll sing a song of Zion. We’ll sing for you—and tell you what it’s all about! And you’re not going to like it at all! What a witness!

“We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth [or joy], saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion” (Psalm 137:2‑3). “One of the songs” literally reads “from the songs of Zion.” What could they be talking about except the songbooks that we sing with on the Sabbath and the holy days? We use “the songs of Zion”; those are songs of God. These are songs we are familiar with, which, for the most part, are right out of the Psalms.

So many of these songs we have memorized, but how much do we understand them? God gave us those psalms and those songs.

2 Chronicles 29:27 talks about Judah having “the song of the Lord … also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel.” God’s Church has those songs today—we have songs ordained by David in our songbooks. Most of them are positive songs; some are very corrective.

Somehow God arranges for the Laodiceans to have some songbooks and some musical instruments in captivity. Their Gentile captors want to hear some of the songs of Zion that they’d heard so much about.

“How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:4). They’re wondering, Is it proper to take our songbooks and sing a hymn in Saudi Arabia? Or Germany? Is it proper to take God’s songs and sing to God in Turkey, in Russia or China, or wherever they’re enslaved? Is that proper? Well, just remember: These are God’s songs—songs of the God of the whole Earth and universe! It doesn’t make any difference where you are when you sing from that book: God is right there with you. If you are obedient to God, then you need to sing it wherever you are.

That is what the Laodiceans are going to learn to do. Here they expand their vision and realize: Sure, let’s go ahead and sing. What difference does it make what they do to us? They have really repented by this point, and they say to their captors, You want to understand our songs? We’ll tell you about Babylon and ‘By the Waters of Babylon.’ So the Laodiceans start singing the songs of Zion and explaining to these men what they mean.

Your Chief Joy

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:5-6). When the Laodiceans finally repent after all that suffering, they love Jerusalem more than their chief joy. This is talking about Jerusalem above, of course—Jerusalem, the mother of us all! (Galatians 4:26). What does Jerusalem below mean if you don’t know about Jerusalem above? They love Jerusalem and will never betray it again.

Do you prefer Jerusalem above your chief joy? Would you rather have this than any joy you can imagine? Is this the greatest joy you have? It’s important to God that we view it that way.

Mr. Armstrong wrote this in a May 6, 1985, co-worker letter: “My new book, Mystery of the Ages, is now in the hands of the printers. I finished the very last of writing it in Jerusalem the day before yesterday.” Do you think God might have worked out that he finished that book in Jerusalem? It seems appropriate, because, as he said, the God of Jerusalem above poured that truth into his mind—he was just a scribe writing it down. He finished that most important book in Jerusalem below, which is about to become the most beautiful city in the world for all eternity!

Children of Edom

Psalm 137 continues in verse 7: “Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it [or destroy it, destroy it], even to the foundation thereof.” The Hebrew for “rase” means to make it bare. Somebody wants Jerusalem and this teaching about Jerusalem above to be destroyed. Destroy it! Wipe it out totally!

What does this mean? Verse 8 talks about the “daughter of Babylon,” while verse 7 mentions “the children of Edom.” Why Edom? For the answer, look at the book of Malachi.

The book of Malachi is an end-time prophecy. The first verse refers to it as a “burden,” meaning a prophetic oracle. And it immediately begins talking about Edom.

“I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness” (Malachi 1:2-3). Jacob and Esau were twin brothers. This is a prophecy of a spiritual family division between Jacob, Esau (also referred to as Edom) and the people who are proclaiming Malachi’s prophecies to the world. My booklet Obadiah—The Most Terrifying Message in the Bible explains how prophecy divides the Laodiceans into two groups—the “Jacobites” and the “Edomites” (request a free copy).

“Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever” (verse 4). Those people who are fighting God, who sold their spiritual birthright for a bowl of soup, now want to destroy spiritual Jerusalem! So God says He will have indignation toward these Edomites forever!

As I wrote in Malachi’s Message, physically speaking, modern-day Edom is the nation of Turkey, and this prophecy applies to betrayals of modern-day Israel. There is duality here. Even in the last few years, Turkey has repeatedly betrayed the Jewish nation, which America and Britain have historically supported. But the primary fulfillment is spiritual, among the people of God in this end time. “Edom has a history of betraying the nations of Jacob, or Israel,” I wrote in my Obadiah booklet. “The historian Josephus records that 20,000 Edomites, or Idumeans, were accepted as defenders of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. Once inside, they betrayed the Jews by robbing and killing them ….” In the end time, we can expect to see this kind of betrayal by the Edomite Laodiceans.

This betrayal is spoken of in Obadiah’s prophecy. Obadiah 16 says that Esau drank upon God’s holy mountain, which places this prophecy in its obvious spiritual context. The Laodiceans learned all about the truth that Mr. Armstrong taught. Verses 9-10 specifically prophesy of this betrayal: “And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter. For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.” Even amid the horrors of the Tribulation, the spiritual Edomites are going to work against the repentant Laodiceans and betray them. They want to see God’s truth destroyed and these repentant people of God destroyed!

The Edomite Laodiceans have been absolutely devoured by the devil! And they will not repent! They are like the devil himself! Even during the Tribulation, they are fighting to destroy the truth of God, and still refuse to repent! What kind of madness is that? No wonder God is broken up! No wonder He’s so full of wrath. The Edomites were God’s people! Yet God is going to have indignation against them forever. They are almost finished forever!

Babylon Receives Same Treatment

“O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us” (Psalm 137:8). “Who art to be destroyed” literally means “who are destroyed.”

These repentant Laodiceans are singing songs telling their Babylonian captors, You’re already destroyed! It’s already written in the Bible’s prophecies that you’re all dead! You are doomed to destruction! That is why God is preparing the Russians and the Chinese. Don’t you see what they’re about to do to you? (You can learn about this prophecy of how the Tribulation will unfold in our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy.)

What a powerful message! That is not an easy message to receive, but it’s the message these saints will deliver as they repent.

The statement “happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us” literally means, “He that shall repay to you your deed which you did to us.” These Laodiceans are saying, You are about to receive the same barbaric treatment that you inflicted on us!

“Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones” (verse 9). Those Asian hordes are going to take your little children and smash their heads against stones and kill them—they won’t even waste a bullet on them. Do you think committing such atrocious acts is fun? It’s going to be done to you—and you will see how much you like it! You’re going to experience the very horrors you perpetrated. You are about to learn how wrathful God is toward you and your insane ways and your vile religion! You’re going to know God!

What a message those Laodiceans are going to deliver.

This is a prophecy of Asian soldiers being thrilled that they can take little babies and smash their heads against stones to destroy them! And that is just what the Europeans will have already done to the people of Israel. They are going to enjoy every minute of it—but they will begin to change their minds when they see it happen to their own children. Then they’ll get some perspective.

Verse 9 is truly horrifying. Think about it. Think about your little children and grandchildren. That is their future if we don’t have the great God to protect us!

What a sick, twisted world this is! It is ruled by Satan the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4). We ought to be sick of his way of life and have our stomachs turned by his ugliness and evil. Thank God that Satan’s rule is about to end!

When you look at some of the Gentile leaders, you see how super-arrogant they can become when they get power. They know how to intimidate and strike fear in people. But when God strips that power from them, they will become like terrified little children. We can never allow ourselves to fear any man! There is no reason to fear a man—fear God! He knows how to humble arrogant men! If He has to, He will put them out in the field and make them eat grass for seven years like Nebuchadnezzar, and they’ll come back far more humble! (Daniel 4). God knows how to deal with those men—and if we need His protection, He will protect us! We don’t have to fear those monsters as they open their big mouths and try to act like they’re God. They are nothing—just worms! And that is what the repentant Laodiceans are going to tell them.


When you consider all the suffering these saints are going to experience, it is easier to understand why God created angels first. As Mystery of the Ages explains (request your free copy), God initially enacted a plan for beautifying the universe using the angels, and it wasn’t until Lucifer’s rebellion that He turned to the plan involving human beings. Surely that was “Plan B” because it would require the sacrifice of His Son and the possibility that God could lose Him forever—that is all the reason you need. But I think there was another reason, much less significant but still important: God also foresaw all of the suffering that we must experience to become God!

God is re-creating Himself through mankind. We have to suffer to become Godknowing human nature, there isn’t any other way! The God of love went with the angel plan first because He understands what it takes to re-create Himself. He knows it is extremely difficult to do.

Take warning from this prophecy. Don’t wait until God sends captivity before you get right with God. Remember right­eous Zion today! Sing the songs of Zion today. Be sure that you are exalting Jerusalem above as your chief joy. What marvelous rewards God has in store for all those who do!