Thursday, June 12, 2003

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Babylon

For those who would like to start at the very beginning of this series on the book of Revelation, click here.

If you have not followed this series from the beginning, I recommend that you visit this post about the structure of Revelation. The thesis of that post is that the structure of the book of Revelation, after the vision of the throne, consists of seven profiles of the future. Each profile tells the establishment of God's kingdom on earth, but each has its own time line and purpose.

Recap: 

  1. The seven seals told the story of the coming Kingdom of God from a natural point of view. It involved war, violence, famine, and martyrdom. Such things happen in the natural realm, although the intensity during the very end of this age might be markedly increased. 
  2. The trumpets told the story from a more supernatural view. The events that follow each blast of a trumpet were unlike anything that the world has seen. If the seven seals were about the end coming from the natural consequences of human activity and sin, then the trumpets were about the Lord applying pressure on mankind by providing a foretaste of the wrath that is coming. 
  3. The seven persons revealed the main players in the drama and the place that Satan has in motivating the kings of the earth against the saints. 
  4. The seven bowls describe the wrath of God poured on the earth and mankind.

The next profile examines, in some detail, the judgment of Babylon. The section is a great mystery and the number of associations through the centuries is very diverse. At a minimum, Babylon represents the world system at odds with the Lord. Its origins go back to the very early history of mankind shortly after the flood:

The whole earth had a common language and a common vocabulary. When the people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” (They had brick instead of stone and tar instead of mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise we will be scattered across the face of the entire earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people had started building. And the Lord said, “If as one people all sharing a common language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be beyond them. Come, let’s go down and confuse their language so they won’t be able to understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there across the face of the entire earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why its name was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the entire world, and from there the Lord scattered them across the face of the entire earth. (Genesis 11:1-9, The Net Bible)

Babylon derives its name from Babel. The plains of Shinar are where the ancient city of Babylon existed. The tower of Babel represents an early push of mankind to defy the commands of the Lord. Men wanted to build an independent name for themselves, and it seemed as if they had some power to do this, or the Lord would not have so quickly intervened. The story and the place also seems to have some connection to Nimrod:

Cush was the father of Nimrod; he began to be a valiant warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. That is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The primary regions of his kingdom were Babel, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen, which is between Nineveh and the great city Calah. (Genesis 10:8-12)

What I see from the above text is that Nimrod would have been the first of the empire builders on the earth after the flood. In his footsteps would follow the likes of Hammurabi, Sennecherib, Nebuchadnezzar, and Cyrus. The ancient story is illustrative and representative of the beast in Revelation.

It was from Ur of the Chaldeans, in the region of Shinar, that the Lord that Terah and his son Abram left to head for Canaan. Abram would complete the journey after Terah died, (Genesis 11:31-21:1).

From Daniel, we see the extraordinary occult connections to Babylon. The book of Daniel references: Sorcerers, magicians, astrologers, conjurers, and Chaldeans. The number of different terms indicates the strength of the occult within that culture.

There could be a future re-establishment of Babylon. The prophet Zechariah lived during the first generation after the Jews were permitted to return from the Babylonian exile. That he prophesied after the fall if Babylon is, therefore, significant in light of this prophecy of a future Babylon that has eerie connections to the passage in Revelation.

After this the angelic messenger who had been speaking to me went out and said, “Look, see what is leaving.” I asked, “What is it?” And he replied, “It is a basket for measuring grain that is moving away from here.” Moreover, he said, “This is their ‘eye’ throughout all the earth.” Then a round lead cover was raised up, revealing a woman sitting inside the basket. He then said, “This woman represents wickedness,” and he pushed her down into the basket and placed the lead cover on top. Then I looked again and saw two women going forth with the wind in their wings (they had wings like those of a stork) and they lifted up the basket between the earth and the sky. I asked the messenger who was speaking to me, “Where are they taking the basket?” He replied, “To build a temple for her in the land of Babylonia. When it is finished, she will be placed there in her own residence.” (Zechariah 5:5-11)

Note now the description in Revelation:

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke to me. “Come,” he said, “I will show you the condemnation and punishment of the great prostitute who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed sexual immorality and the earth’s inhabitants got drunk with the wine of her immorality.” So he carried me away in the Spirit to a wilderness, and there I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. Now the woman was dressed in purple and scarlet clothing, and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held in her hand a golden cup filled with detestable things and unclean things from her sexual immorality. On her forehead was written a name, a mystery: “Babylon the Great, the Mother of prostitutes and of the detestable things of the earth.” I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of those who testified to Jesus. I was greatly astounded when I saw her. (Revelation 17:1-6)

Whether Babylon is a future physical city and possible capital for the Beast and/or is representative of an underlying power and influence on the earth remains an interesting question. Nevertheless, here is the raw expression of those throughout history who have become drunk with power and delighted in violence and terror. During the Great Tribulation, this power will be directed against the saints for a season.

I wrote yesterday that tribulation can have a chastening effect, but God's wrath is designed to kill. In this section on Babylon, we see her final destruction. Here are the seven elements of Babylon's fall.

  1. Babylon is exposed as the woman riding the scarlet beast. Her sitting on the beast and on many waters could indicate that Babylon is a great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth.
  2. She has become a haunt of demons. Just as in Daniel's time, she is a place where the occult is rampant.
  3. There is a call for the people of God to leave the city, because her judgment is about to come. This is reminiscent of Lot's leaving Sodom or the inhabitants of Jerusalem leaving before either of the two destructions.
  4. The king's of the earth lament Babylon's fall.
  5. The merchant's of the earth lament Babylon's fall.
  6. Babylon is cursed by the strong angel.
  7. The multitude praise God for her destruction.

Each of the profiles, as I have indicated, has its own timeline. They all move to wrath followed by the establishment of the kingdom. The timeline of the persons is the longest, because it is measured in centuries. The timeline of Babylon's destruction is the shortest, being measured in days and possibly hours.

Babylon has a filthy face. She sits on the waters and the beast as one might sit on a horse. She steers with the lusts of men for sex, riches, power, and shedding blood. She is the enemy of God and His people. But it would seem as if the nations both love and hate her and this leads to her undoing. Lust is a bondage. One can hunger for its fulfillment and resent it at the same time. I read once where an adulterous affair will never end until the pain of the relationship exceeds the pleasure. Babylon is overthrown by the very kings and nations she enslaves:

Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw (where the prostitute is seated) are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. The ten horns that you saw, and the beast—these will hate the prostitute and make her desolate and naked. They will consume her flesh and burn her up with fire. For God has put into their minds to carry out his purpose by making a decision to give their royal power to the beast until the words of God are fulfilled. As for the woman you saw, she is the great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:15-18)

The Hallelujah Chorus, composed by Handel, is taken from the praises enjoined by the multitude following Babylon's fall.

Then I heard what sounded like the voice of a vast throng, like the roar of many waters and like loud crashes of thunder. They were shouting: “Hallelujah! For the Lord God, the All-Powerful, reigns! Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen” (for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints). Then the angel said to me, “Write the following: Blessed are those who are invited to the banquet at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” He also said to me, “These are the true words of God.” So I threw myself down at his feet to worship him, but he said, “Do not do this! I am only a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony about Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:6-10)

Friday: The Return of the King.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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