January 18, 2014 on 4:45 pm | In REVELATION AND DANIEL | Comments Off on BABYLON VS. JERUSALEM

Some years ago, Saddam Hussein of Iraq envisioned the restoration of ancient Babylon, which would then become a symbol of his kingdom. We know how that ended. However, he wasn’t the first man to dream of Babylonian glory.

In the introduction to this series on Revelation, it was mentioned that understanding the book of Daniel would be very helpful in understanding the book of Revelation. So this category will begin that process. In Daniel 1:1, 2, a tale of two cities takes the stage, namely Babylon and Jerusalem. In Daniel 1 Jerusalem has been besieged and overcome by Nebuchadnezzar, who became the king of Babylon shortly thereafter. Many of the population were taken captive to Babylon along with treasure from the Jerusalem temple, which was then placed in the treasure house of the Babylonian gods. At this point in the story it looks like Babylon and its gods are triumphing, while Jerusalem and the Creator-God of heaven have lost out. Thus a great cosmic struggle is played out on the stage of earth, the controversy between good and evil, between Christ and Satan. If the idea of earth as a stage of sorts seems strange, the apostle Paul actually used the same analogy. In 1 Corinthians 4:9 he states that “we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” The Greek word for “spectacle” is better translated as “theater.” So this great controversy, this cosmic struggle, is apparently being intensely observed by beings outside our own world. To summarize, the two cities become symbols of this controversy and show up again in the book of Revelation in symbolic form.

Back in the book of Daniel, chapter two reveals that Babylon will be overthrown and followed by a succession of empires. Chapter 4 shows us Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, bragging on his great city, only to be p0ersonally humiliated by insanity. Chapter 5 portrays the literal fall of ancient Babylon by the Medes and Persians. Ultimately, Babylon ceases to exist as a viable city and today is only ruins for tourists to visit. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, rebuilt later by returning exiles during the time of the Medes and Persians, destroyed again by the Romans in A. D. 70 and finally rebuilt again until it is the city it is today in modern Israel. But it is certainly a far cry from the New Jerusalem revealed in Revelation 21, 22–that is still future (more about that another time) and is not an outgrowth or expansion of political Jerusalem of today. It is a heavenly city to become a reality much later when it comes down from heaven.

Babylon pops up in Revelation also, but since there is no longer a literal Babylon, it has to be a symbol for something, which is certainly understandable in a book of many symbols. Revelation reveals that in the end, the final manifestation of Babylon is destroyed (ch. 17-19) and Jerusalem becomes God’s capital city for his eternal kingdom (ch, 20-22).

But what is Babylon really all about, anyway? What does it really stand for and why? We go back into the Old Testament again to trace its roots and thus its true meaning. The first mention of Babylon is in Genesis 10:10 where it tells us Nimrod was “a mighty one on the earth” and “a mighty hunter.” He founded a kingdom consisting of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar. Those names pop up again in chapter 11:2, 9 in the story of the tower of Babel. One source says the population of Babel interpreted its name to mean “gate of the gods.” Maybe that’s what they thought, though soon that “gate” would fail and the gods would be seen to be impotent. The Bible says it was called Babel because God “confused the language of all the earth” (v.9), i.e. it means “confusion.” We can see that root in the meaning of such terms as a babbling brook, or a babble of voices, i.e. there is sound but it is confusing because no distinct words or messages can be distinguished. Confusion would be a part, then, of the final manifestation in Revelation, a confusion as a result of ignoring God’s plain words, promises, and commands. More about that another time.

Genesis 11 gives us some more vital clues regarding the nature of Babylon. First, we go back to Genesis 9. God made a specific promise to mankind along with a specific command, both of which were seemingly problematic for Babylon. The promise in Genesis 9:15 states that “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” This was part of His covenant with Noah and his descendents. There would be localized floods from time to time, but never a global one such as Noah and the other inhabitants of the earth experienced. Then there was a command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (v.1)

Now note how the Babylonians responded. Genesis 11:4 quotes them as saying “let us build ourselves….a tower whose top is in the heavens.” Apparently they planned an enormous skyscraper, perhaps dwarfing today’s wonders. But why? It suggests they didn’t believe God’s promise about never destroying the earth by a flood again. So they would build a tower, no doubt higher than the previous floodwaters, and thus save themselves. They didn’t trust or believe God’s word. Now, if you don’t trust Him, don’t believe His word, then why would you obey Him? Consequently they were also going to “build ourselves a city…lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” So they in essence disobeyed His command to replenish the earth. They wanted to “make a name for ourselves.” So we see here two basic principles of Babylonian philosophy, distrust leading to disobedience, disobedience being the logical outgrowth of distrust. These principles are self-centered and God is left out even if they say otherwise.

The next part of the story has God coming down to investigate the situation and He is not pleased. First He confuses their language so they can’t understand each other, making it impossible to continue construction on their tower. Have you ever played a group game where each one is given a card with an animal’s name on it (pig, dog, cat, cow, etc.) and everyone is to make the sound of the animal on the card and then they are to find others who are making the same sound (barking, oinking, etc) and form a group of same-sounding animals. It must have been something like that at Babel as they endeavored to find other people they could understand. Then the record states “from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth”–just exactly what they hadn’t wanted to do!

So what’s the point? Babylon is based on those two principles–distrust and the consequent disobedience. Organizations can be that way and so can individuals. Note how this played out in Eden. God told Adam and Eve if they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would die (Genesis 2:17). But the devil said in ch. 3:4 just the opposite–you won’t die. Jesus was right on target when He stated later (John 8:44) that Satan was the father of lies. But when Eve began to distrust God, to trust the devil’s word more than God’s word, she then logically disobeyed God by eating of the forbidden fruit. She became a participant in Babylonian philososphy–distrust and disobedience, and the results were catastrophic. The devil himself distrust God in heaven, wanted to do his own thing, which led to his rebellion/disobedience and
being cast out of heaven (see Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:13-15; Revelation 12:7-10).

When God’s people in Old Testament Jerusalem distrusted God and disobeyed (see 2 Chronicles 36:11-20), thus taking part in Babylonian philosophy, they became literal captives in literal Babylon. In the end time entire churches, countries and organizations will distrust God (not trust His word or promises, or believe it’s important). This will lead to disobeying His commands and God will have to intervene finally just as He did in Genesis 11 at the tower of Babel. More about that another time.

The good news is that ultimately the coalition forces and philosophy of Babylon will be eradicated, God’s kingdom of grace/glory will be set up with its headquarters in the New Jerusalem. God will then reign over a kingdom of peace which shall never end and His people will rejoice in Him and be with Him throughout eternity. (see Revelation 21:1-4)

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