World Parliament of Religions

Weighed In The Balances

Many years ago in ancient Babylon a dramatic scene was played out. A gala feast of the monarch Belshazzar was suddenly interrupted when a mysterious hand began writing a series of four strange words on the wall—Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin—number, number, weight, and divisions. The words made as little sense to the assembled Chaldeans as the English words do to our ears.

Daniel, an ancient Hebrew prophet, counselor to the realm for over 80 years, was called upon to interpret the strange phenomenon. He slowly read the words and gave the sense of the message:

"And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES [the singular of Upharsin]; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians."—Daniel 5:25-28

Under the dynamic leadership of Belshazzar’s grandfather Nebuchadnezzar the glory of Babylon had dominated the civilized world from India to Egypt for nearly a century. An informed public policy of drafting the best of subjected peoples into civil service provided for a wealth of innovative leadership. An organized educational system and an interest in the arts that was capped by the architectural splendor of the fabled hanging gardens of Babylon all attested to a true world empire.

Now the city was being besieged by the upstart Medes and Persians. Confident of victory, Belshazzar celebrated his feast in the very midst of the siege. No wonder that the mysterious message on the wall, especially after its interpretation by Daniel, struck fear into their hearts. It was a well-founded fear for that very night the armies of the Median general, Darius, entered the city and mighty Babylon itself became a vassal nation.

The Domino Effect

History has a way of repeating itself. Mighty Babylon was followed by a stronger and more durable Medo-Persian empire which gave way to a still stronger Grecian domination, overturned in its time by the mightiest power of history, the great Roman empire.

Only within the current century has the two-thousand year domination of that empire, with its hereditary ruling houses which controlled European life for centuries, fallen into decline. So dramatically did the events surrounding World War I terminate these ruling houses that the noted historian Barbara Tuchman wrote in her Guns of August, "A world came to an end."

The glue which held these mighty kingdoms together was a religio-political concept—The Divine Right of Kings. Much of the political power of these ruling houses came from their union with mighty monolithic churches which convinced their parishioners that these kings ruled by Divine Right and should not be opposed.

The resurgence of humanism and political philosophies under such gifted writers as Thomas Paine, Carlyle, Voltaire, and others so thoroughly undermined the dogmas of centuries, spawning such successful upheavals as the American and French Revolution. Labor unions challenged the developing capitalists born of the Industrial Revolution. Socialism and Communism contested entrenched political systems. Civil rights began beating the drums for racial and sexual equality. The laity began to resist the dictates of the clergy. Christendom—both its religious and civil branches—was being challenged and had its back against the wall.

World Parliament of Religions

In an attempt to regain its lost status, splintered Churchianity began to seek merger and reunification. Finally, in 1893—just one hundred years ago—a plan was put forward to have all world religions—non-Christian as well as Christian—meet together in a giant Parliament of World Religions.

This year (1993) a centennial conference commemorating this event was slated for Chicago’s prestigious Palmer House with an anticipated attendance of some 5,000 delegates.

Designed to foster understanding of world religions in a world growing constantly smaller and interfaith cooperation where possible, the original parliament proved to be, as one contemporary writer phrased it, "a grand compromise of Christianity with everything unchristian."

Christianity Indicted

In the 1893 conference the various non-Christian speakers who mounted the rostrum in succession had but one message to deliver—Christendom has been the problem, not the solution. The inconsistency of the lives of Christians with their claims brought charges of hypocrisy with evidence including the involvement of Christian nations in the opium traffic, the spread of alcoholism and the introduction of unknown diseases by the Christian missionary and the attendant business exploitations which so frequently followed.

The national governments of the Christian nations fared no better at the hands of these invited critics. The arms race, the stand of governments for the betterment of their economy rather than social justice for all, and the rush of monopolies for wealth at the cost of exploiting the poor of the world all came in for their share of condemnation.

Christendom, like Babylon of old, stood arraigned and convicted before the great court of world opinion. A detailed report of the 1893 Parliament, widely circulated both in its own day and up to now, is still available. This 656-page treatise, The Battle of Armageddon, is available ad can be ordered by e-mail to for only $2. Written in 1894, it connects the then current event of the Parliament with Scripture principles and prophecies.

100 Years Later

But that is ancient history. An entire century has passed since. The question is worthy of pursuit, "Has the past hundred years seen significant improvement in the performance of the Christian world?"

Such inter-Christian wars as that in Northern Ireland and the current conflict between the Croats and the Serbs [and both against the Muslim Bosnians] is surface evidence that there has been no great change. The economic gap between the wealthy and the poor in Central and South America, where Christianity is by far the dominant religion, continues as a black mark. The failure of the Christian missionary to make sizable gains in the quest for conversions shows there is a weakness in the message or the methods being pursued. The failure to become involved to stop a holocaust that claimed the lives of millions of Jews and Poles alike is hardly to her credit. The impotency of the ecumenical movement to achieve more than cosmetic unions and mergers remains de facto evidence that a malaise continues to plague the Christian nations.

To this can be added the repeatedly stagnated drive for true social equality between the races; the continued inability of the Christian powers to make strong stands for moral principles where they conflict with economic interests; and an exploding culture dominated by violence, sex, and drugs, fueled by television and the movie industry, as well as ear-deafening music with lyrics full of obscenity and violence—these all speak volumes of the need for change if this world will live up to the ideals of Christianity which Jesus taught in ancient Israel.

Your Days Are Numbered

In the book of Revelation, the Bible connects the name Babylon with decadent religion. This makes the comparison with the judgments of the handwriting on the wall even more relevant. Let us take a closer look at this mysterious cryptograph—these mysterious words with the inspired interpretation which Daniel gives.

MENE—"God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it."

God is a God of time. His plan operates precisely on time. The Bible is full of such terms as "when the due time was come." The first word suggests that God had allotted a given time for Babylon to reign. Such a prediction was in fact given twice (even as Mene is repeated twice on the wall) in both Jeremiah 25:11, 12 and again in Jeremiah 29:10. Daniel refers to these two prophecies when he finally is given their understanding (see Daniel 9:2, 24).

But not only was the literal government of Babylon given a specific time to dominate, but the same is true of the entire succession of gentile governments which followed. Notice the words of Luke 21:24:

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

The term times of the Gentiles implies a certain specific and set time given for gentile domination of Israel. This began when Nebuchadnezzar overthrew Jerusalem in 607 B.C. The last of these great empires, the Roman, began to collapse with the fall of the hereditary ruling houses of Europe as a result of World War I in 1914 A.D. The period between these two dates is exactly 2,520 years.

While space does not permit a thorough examination of this number, it is exactly equal in years to the length of seven years (Jewish years of 360 days each); a period prophesied for Jewish subjugation to gentile powers in both Leviticus 26:18-28 and Daniel 4:16-32.

Weighed in the Balances

TEKEL—"Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."

As the repeated first word on the wall stressed the time of domination, the second word gives the moral verdict. Babylon, for all its glory, was found wanting in producing true peace and happiness—the only legitimate goals of human government.

As the Parliaments of Religion have well demonstrated, the same is true of the moral indictment of Christendom—both civil and ecclesiastical. Reformers of all types—political, social and religious—have failed to correct the basic selfishness which has marred the idealism of Christ for the role of his church.

A Divided Kingdom

PERES—"Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and the Persians."

The final code word deals with the method of destruction—by division. It was a unified twin enemy—Medes and Persians—that were the downfall of literal Babylon.

In a prophetic vein, Jesus speaks of the same type of division that will bespeak the end of the current world system—the empire of Satan.

"And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end."—Mark 3:24-26

The failure of all attempts to unite the nations of the world or its religions, or to form a firm bond between the both, testifies to the fact that the world’s house—politically and religiously—is hopelessly divided.

As literal Babylon fell and was given to the Medes and the Persians, so its greater reality will also fall to another incoming world government: "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."—Revelation 11:15

A Deeper Code

The mysterious handwriting on the wall holds still another clue as to its meaning. Not only were the three words common ones in the Chaldaic language, but they also were words used to describe units of Babylonian money.

The base unit of their ancient monetary system was the gerah. Twenty of these gerahs formed one shekel [or, tekel]. One thousand gerahs made a Minah [or, Mena]. While there was no coin known as a Peres or Upharsin [the plural of Peres], the word meaning division was used as we use the world half in much the same manner as we refer to a half dollar. It referred to a half Minah, being equal to 500 gerahs.

Treating these words as monetary units, then, we find:

Mena 1000 gerahs
Mena 1000 gerahs
Tekel 20 gerahs
Upharsin 500 gerahs
Total 2520 gerahs

The handwriting on the wall once again confirmed the time designation of the word Mena —"God hath numbered [the days of] thy kingdom, and finished it."

A Happy Outcome

If all we had to look forward to was a certain fearful judgment of present systems for being found lacking in serving the intended purpose of government, our message would be bleak indeed.

But just as ancient Babylon was followed by Medo-Persia; so its reality, the Babylon of Christendom, will be replaced with a new government—the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. That kingdom will accomplish what all of the preceding kingdoms have failed to produce. Listen to the Bible’s litany of its accomplishments in just one of many passages extolling its beauty:

"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."—Revelation 21:2-4

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert."—Isaiah 35:5, 6

When that kingdom shall have completed its work and been weighed in the balances it will not be found wanting. Let us therefore continue our earnest prayer: "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).