The “seven mountains of the culture” belong to Babylon, and God calls His children to come out of her before it is too late.
As a young Christian, I was taught rather consistently that disciples of Jesus must live “separate from the world,” not physically, but morally and spiritually. We are “in the world but not of it,” and our task is to call others to “save themselves from this crooked generation” while there was still time before Jesus returns to judge the world.
Since then, this teaching has served me well, and I have yet to find any reason to question its wisdom. Yet today, many voices are exhorting Christian to infiltrate the “seven mountains of society” to influence and change its ungodly cultures and institutions.
I’m not sure how they came up with “seven” rather than, say, five, ten, or twenty such “mountains.” But that gets to the problem. No such doctrine exists in the Bible; nowhere did Jesus or his apostles tell Christians to go out and take over the “mountains of society.”
Of course, the Bible does mention “seven mountains,” only, they are linked to Babylon, “the Great Whore, the mother of harlots and the abominations of the earth.” And not only does she “sit on many waters” and on the “scarlet-colored beast,” she also “sits on the seven mountains.”
Elsewhere, the “many waters” are identified as “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues,” and the “scarlet-colored beast” is none other than the “beast from the sea” that wages “war against the saints and conquers them.” And his red color identifies him with the “Dragon, the ancient serpent, the one who is called ‘Devil’ and ‘Satan’ and the deceive of the whole habitable earth.” And there’s the “Great Whore” sitting on top of the whole sorry lot running the show.
But in Revelation, the “seven mountains” do not represent the cultural institutions of society that the church is supposed to reform. Instead, they symbolize seven “kingdoms,” five of which had fallen already by the time John received his vision, one of which existed in his day, and the seventh was yet to come. Moreover, the final “mountain” is linked to the “beast that was and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he is going into perdition.” There is nothing positive here, nothing that is capable of being reformed, let alone redeemed. And again, the whole time, there’s the “Great Whore” riding the monster in its mad final dash toward the “lake of fire.”
And Revelation does have something to say about “Babylon.” After all, not only is she full of the “abominations of the earth,” but also stained red with the “lifeblood of prophets and of saints,” and all while drunk with the “blood of the martyrs” of Jesus. Her sins have “reached even to heaven,” therefore, “in one day shall her plagues come, death, and mourning, and famine, and she shall be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.” And we expect to be able to befriend that creature and thereby coax her into changing her evil ways? Well, good luck with that!
As for the saints infiltrating the “Great Whore,” instead, God urges them with the utmost urgency to “Come forth, my people, out of her, that you have no fellowship with her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues!!” You cannot play with fire and not get burned.
As Paul wrote, the forms and institutions of this age already “are passing away,” and disciples of Jesus must live accordingly. The present fallen age is a rudderless ship that already has run aground. It is a rickety old wooden shack being consumed by unquenchable flames, yet popular preaching is encouraging Christians to rush headlong into the flames and somehow put out this conflagration. There is no compromising with Satan, and the church cannot win the world by emulating its evil ways.
This is not a call to abandon the world, but instead, to engage with it using the biblical means, namely, gospel preaching, Christian witness, faith, prayer, death to self, and self-sacrificial service even when doing so means great personal loss. In other words, we become “lights set on a hill” by being everything that this fallen world is not, and by calling others to leave its darkness behind and follow Jesus.