BABYLON, IN ONE SENSE, IS YET TO BE DESTROYED!
There is no reason to assume that the two principal cities of Biblical history, Babylon and Jerusalem demand two different kinds of interpretation, a metaphoric one for Babylon - a symbolic Babylon - and a literal one for Jerusalem. If prophecy has to do with Jerusalem as a literal city, it addresses Babylon as a literal city also.
Biblical prophecy refers to two literal, geographical cities. On the other hand, since cities have representative functions, the literal and the spiritual meaning are intrinsically linked together. ["Washington" stands for the United States Government. In that sense every country's capital stands for its own centre of power and authority. Names of capitals have meaning that transcend their geographical designation.] Bullinger who wrote a hundred years ago (see below) sees the confrontation of the two cities, Jerusalem - "the joy of the whole earth," and Babylon - "the curse of the whole earth."
The meaning of Babylon is dependant on different contexts: religious, commercial, political. Its name may designate the city or the empire of Babylonia. Babylon itself may be a mystery in that its meaning needs to be interpreted but the Revelation of Jesus to John the apostle uses the term 'mystery' for the name itself. The mysterious name that is written on the forehead of the woman riding the scarlet beast in Rev 17:5 is BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. This prophetic imagery reminds us of the fact that for the Hebrew prophets harlotry has to do with the cause of a broken relationship between God and his people (see for instance Hosea), between God and mankind. Such unfaithfulness leads to idolatry and idolatry is associated with immorality.The metaphor of the mother refers to origin or source. The forehead is the seat of the mind that controls the action. God's enemies according to the book of Revelation carry the 'mark of the beast' on their forehead just as the Lord's people carry His seal or His name on their foreheads. (See Ezekiel 9:4, lit. Hebr. 'tav'. In ancient Hebrew this last letter of the alphabet was written as a cross, see Ancient-Hebrew and its chart but in Babylonian captivity the Hebrews adopted the Aramaic script that no longer wrote 'tav' with the two cross sticks. Due to lacking original manuscripts one cannot be sure whether Ezekiel used the ancient or the Aramaic alphabet). It is obvious that the name Babylon also represents the mentality or mindset of the ancient city whose origin of satanic rebellion contrasts with Jerusalem, the city of divine peace and all that Jerusalem stands for. Babylon must be associated with the main stronghold of the kingdom of darkness as opposed to Jerusalem the throne of God. [also see E.W. Bullinger, The Apocalypse: "BABYLON THE GREAT," the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth.]
If the prophetically predicted destruction of geographical Babylon can be archaeologically proven to have taken place in the past, it will most likely not be repeated in future. Herodot's The Histories has been questioned as there seems to be evidence that he never visited the city himself and since there are discrepancies when compared to some of the archaeological evidence. (Click here.) If the destruction did not match that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon will have to be reconstructed to be 'correctly' destroyed in the end. Obviously, the question as to whether the city will have to be rebuilt or not is less important than understanding what it represents in biblical language.
Babylon in the light of its history represents the demonic system of the end-time. According to apocalyptic language it will serve as the headquarters of a One-World government, a One-World religion and a One-World economy in rebellion against the God of Israel, whose geographical throne will be in Jerusalem once Jesus as the Messiah will have returned to his city as the King of the Jews, the King of the Universe. Jerusalem with its designation as the throne of God on earth will also be the 'earth-link' for the spiritual Jerusalem coming from heaven.
Since there is neither biblical nor extrabiblical historic evidence that Babylon's ruins are the result of a catastrophic destruction as the Bible predicts, there is a good possibility that it will be built up again to assume its international, global functions before its cataclysmic destruction will take place. Nobody has been able to explain when or how the ancient city of Babylon was turned into an archaeological building site after it had been reconstructed under the Assyrians (Nebuchadnezzar II around 609 BC). Iraq before the second Gulf War in 2003 had plans to continue raising up the ancient ruins and since its ties with Germany to restore the city have merely been interrupted, it is not unlikely that work on the city will be resumed as part of the post-war reconstruction efforts before long. (The 14th annual Babylonian Festival was held in Babylon in 2002 with German help. Its pictures can be seen on the Internet.)
We have been given the two most powerful signs for the reliability of prophetic Scripture in the first Coming of Jesus as the Suffering servant and in the beginning of the return of the Jews into their own land. The third visible sign before His second Coming - the literal reconstruction of Babylon - may not be given before the very last moment before the end. This may be one of the reasons why Babylon is part of the mysterious name on the forehead of the woman riding the scarlet beast. (According to some interpreters God's faithful people may even have been removed from the earth by that time.)
If in God's view the destruction of ancient Babylon has been fulfilled, Biblical prophecy refers to another city or cities destined for God's judgment in the end-time. The four angels of judgment in Revelation 9 that are going to be released from the Euphrates river would indicate that Babylon at least in the sense of the nation (present-day Iraq) still plays a prophetic role. If Babylon will be its future capital again, its judgment is likely to be the same for all the cities on earth that share its characteristics.
Today's process of building a new world order and the conflict between two civilizations provide enough reasons to interpret Babylon in the sense of its profoundly spiritual meaning. In that case, the sign of the approaching end is going to be the preparations that will lead to the total collapse and catastrophic destruction of the pride and power of the world centres of commerce - including pagan religion - of which the destruction of the WTC on 9-11 was but a forewarning.
Since Babylon's fall has to do with the climax of God's judgment it is likely that seductive manipulations and interpretations will seek to mislead many messianic believers- not least by means of the Internet. Many Biblical interpreters argue in favour of a Babylon that must be rebuilt (Walvoord, Ice and Demy, Lightner, Fruchtenbaum, Dyer, etc.). One of the most recent ones is Mark Hitchcock in his book "The Second Coming of Babylon" (2003) arguing that neither the Persians and the Medes nor Alexander the Great destroyed Babylon and that the Mongols destroyed it either. Hulagu Khan's destruction concerned Baghdad, not Babylon. [His book contains a useful chronological table]. Since Babylon seems to have been decaying gradually, its destruction does not yet meet the requirements that would fulfil its specific Biblical prophecies. For Hitchcock turning the present ruins of the city of Babylon into a fully functioning world centre again would not take longer than some other artificially grown capitals have taken. He cites Dubai Internet City that mushroomed out of the desert within 12 months (see the Internet).
Others opt for a metaphorical interpretation. Its metaphysical abstractions open the door to historic conjectures that may have more to do with worldview studies and the application of hermeneutics than with Biblical exegesis. Ralph Woodrow, The Babylon Connection, 1997 (there are older publications that Woodrow withdrew from the Internet - see his own explanations ), comments on the classic interpretation by Alexander Hislop of 1853, expanded 1858, The Two Babylons (meaning Mesopotamian Babylon and Rome - e-book downloadable free of charge from Philologos.org) that Hislop was not a reliable historian and that his '"history" was often only mythology.' Woodrow seems to have served Pieter Bos (The Nations Called, Sovereign Word: 2002) as a platform for an analysis of the kind of religion that was practiced in ancient Babylon. Bos understands Babylon as the origin of the cult of the "Queen of Heaven" (Semiramis) "i.e. the ruler over heaven and all the world; this expresses her claim to spiritual and territorial power." He enumerates the characteristics of Babylon's Sumerian Culture and its mother-child-cult and traces connections to many other religions including Baal, the Church and the moon-goddess of occult Islam right up to the present with its 'New Age' Mother Earth cult of environmentalists and of the One World Government and its capital city Babylon who is called the 'great prostitute who sits on many waters' (Revelation 17:1,7). Suffice it to say that Bos summarizes: "From the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Babylon was not just a city, but a spiritual system symbolizing self-will, self-willed unity and striving for power as cultural patterns." (187) One has every reason to look forward to Pieter Bos' second and third volume of his important trilogy to understand better what that 'demonically-inspired international system of perverted reasoning', his 'Babylon cluster' (Isaiah 47; Jeremiah 50,51; Revelation 17-18) stands for (pp 181-211). [See Pieter Bos, and for background on 'The gods of the nations' click here.
His second volume and third volume are expected to appear on his website. The third one will deal with Israel and should be up by mid 2010. Meanwhile he has written a website article entitled "RE-MYTHOLOGISATION OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS
." Bos will need to deal with the Book of Daniel and the vision of Zechariah: the basket with the woman called 'Wickedness' that is being placed in the land of Chinéar = Babylon. (Zech 5:5-11)
Jeremiah Ginsberg who calls himself a prophet in his daring book 'While the Fiddler Played the world came to an end' (1998) categorically states: ".So God must have some other place in mind when speaking of Mystery Babylon;. a totally different and unheard of place; that's why it's called a "Mystery:" America, the Harlot." (p. 203) For Ginsberg, the harlot city is not Rome but New York City. He shows the parallels between Babylon and New York. If America had read his warnings of judgment it might have been prepared for 9-11 to come. Ginsberg's book in spite of its overemphasis on personal revelations is worth examining. Click here for sample chapters and details.
Another author following the same metaphorical interpretation is Jan Willem van der Hoeven (Babylon or Jerusalem? ICEJ 1993). Based on the Genesis 11 account Babylon symbolizes man's trust in his own efforts in the sense that if we unite ourselves we can build a better world, Babel. Jerusalem in contrast symbolizes man's trust in and dependence on God. He presupposes that his readers are familiar with the metaphorical meaning of Babylon whose people wanted to make themselves a name. In Van der Hoeven's view languages and nationalities are God's punishment for mankind's attempt to unite itself and be independent of God while Satan is trying to overcome this diversity and create unity in order to control mankind. This is the traditional interpretation of Babel. We, on the contrary, would want to look at the Genesis account as God's punishment for man's refusal to obey the creation mandate to multiply and to scatter all over the earth (Gen 1:28). Languages and nations according to Acts 17:26-27 are not to be seen as a punishment but the result of God's creative provision for man's benefit. Nations will even be part of God's new humanity: Rev 21:24-27. They are part of His plan to chose one nation (Israel) and to use it as an object lesson for all nations in order that through Israel the nations may come to a knowledge of Him. Thus Van der Hoeven sees Babel as the satanic attempt to overcome divine diversity by creating a man-made unity best seen today in the modern "One World" mentality. Van der Hoeven's book seeks to show how man tries to find the solutions to the multiple and gigantic problems confronting mankind on every level. Following Herbert Kah's En Route to Global Occupation, The New Age Movement, The United Nations and all its institutions and driving organizations as well as the Church in its apostasy and the ideology of anti-Semitism as found in Islam are aspects of Babylon. The Church that cooperates with the Government is a prostitute sitting on the beast.
The above three authors have in common that they apply the meaning of a symbol - Babylon and Babylon riding the beast - with the One World Government, the UN and its many affiliates and parallel structures like the G8, including the religio-political power of Islam. Pieter Bos does so on the basis of hermeneutics, Jeremiah Ginsberg on the basis of personal prophetic revelation and Van der Hoeven on the basis of the traditional interpretation of the two symbols quoting from a number of Zionist authors.
We would like to recommend the most thorough exegesis of Babylon. According to our observation it is found in E.W. Bullinger's Apocalypse.
Also see the detailed and insightful exegesis, astonishingly far ahead compared with some of today's publications: The Apocalypse or the Day of the Lord by E.W. Bullinger (1837-1913) Download here or consult it online.
Here are some excerpts to save you downloading the whole book: (E.W. Bullinger, an Anglican clergyman and serious Bible scholar who wrote ten books and numerous booklets, 100 years ago believed in the possibility of a reconstructed Babylon, for "Babylon itself was never "suddenly" destroyed, as this city will be." He also foresaw the rebirth of a Jewish State called Israel.)
These mountains, then, are no mere heaps of earth or rocks, but "kings." The word "mountain" is often used as a Figure (Symbol, or Metaphor, or Metonymy) for a kingdom. It is used of Babylon itself in Jer. li. 25, and of Messiah's kingdom in Dan. ii. 35. For interpreters to take these literally as "mountains," in the midst of a context which the same interpreters take to be symbolic; and in the face of the interpretation actually given by the angel that "they are seven kings," is to play fast and loose with the word of prophecy. It says here that "they are seven kings," and we believe what is said. The seven heads do not belong to any one of the world-Powers; for each kingdom had many such "heads" or kings.
They necessarily belong to all of them, and are viewed as one Beast, so that they may be seen as belonging to, and forming part of, the whole. That is why this Beast in chap. xiii. 2 is like unto a "leopard" (the third, Greece), and his feet as the feet of a "bear" (the second, Persia), and his mouth as a "lion" (the first, Babylon). He combines in himself the symbolic marks of the others. The woman (i.e., that great city, verse 18) sitteth on many waters (i.e., reigneth over peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues, verse 15), and is seen seated on a scarlet coloured beast (i.e., carried and supported by all the kings and all the members which make up the body of the Beast. This will be the condition of things at the point of view referred to in the Vision. In this 9th verse we have a description of what will be at an early part of the first 3 1/2 years. It is the present tense, "IS SITTING," and is prophetic of what is now still future. It does not say has sat or did sit, but is now sitting, i.e., not at the moment when the Angel was interpreting it to John, but the moment when it will be actually taking place in "the day of the Lord." It is the woman (i.e., that great city, verse 18), upon which our attention is concentrated in this verse, and the support afforded to her at that time. All are contemporary with each other; joined together as the metals are joined to make up the figure of a man.
We have more than once referred to and spoken of the revival and rebuilding of Babylon. Many laugh at the very idea. But if they will not listen to the clear teachings of the word of God, will they listen to what man says? If they deem this revival as unlikely or impossible, judging by the standard of their own imagination, what will they say to the following, from The Daily Express (London), Jan. 28, 1902? It is not speculation, but news, which is given us under the heading of "Germany's Great Railroad": and the sub-title "Some facts about the grand Mesopotamian railway scheme," by William Durban. He says,
"An immense revolution is likely to be brought about in the Near East within the next decade. The shriek of the locomotive will in a few years be heard echoing over the salt marshes, bituminous plains, and magnificent higher and more fertile tracts, which make the vast Mesopotamian plain between the Euphrates and the Tigris the most curious mosaic of landscape in the world.
"It is startling to think of this coming raid of the engineers into the cradle of the world's most ancient civilisation. Abraham's native country is to be invaded by horded of navvies, and all along the western bank of the mighty historic Tigris will gleam the twin steel riband which will bring the whole length of the effete Empire within the grip of European influence.
"A Resurrection of Babylon."
"The Kaiser has undoubtedly scored. When in December, 1899, it was announced that the German Anatolian Railway Company had received a concession from Adbul Hamid for the construction of a railway from Konieh to Bagdad, it was generally felt that the scheme would hang in the air for at least a generation. But the German Emperor is a model man of business, who has posed of late as the Sultan's 'only friend.' He did not for nothing organize, by means of a splendid squad of military officers, that Turkish army which crumpled up the Greek legions at Domoko and everywhere on the Thessalian plains. The new Irade settles the affair.
"It is a favourite thesis with the people who ponder over prophetic mysteries that both Babylon and Nineveh are to be resuscitated in more than the ancient glories of Nebuchadnezzar and Sennacherib. Who can tell? It is certain that the Kaiser entertains the dream of founding a magnificent empire in the Near East. He is going to work in the way which is like to follow up his sermon at Jerusalem by practical results...
"Few people realise the magnitude of the Sultan's Asiatic dominions. They form the most important section of the earth's surface in connection with the international political situation of the near future. The Eastern Question only sleeps, and its slumbers are very uneasy."
With this comes the news that this Railway is to be begun at once (1902), in five different places: and that Edison has invented a new cement which will enable houses to be built in three or four days!
For ourselves, we need no evidence of this kind; but it clearly shows that what we regard as certain, from God's Word, is not altogether impossible from man's point of view.
Rome Papal cannot be meant, as it never had seven regal powers. Rome Christian cannot be meant, as it never had any regal powers at all. Rome Pagan cannot be meant, as no seven kings can be agreed upon by commentators; and it is to be destroyed by the stone of Dan. ii. 35, 45. See also Dan. vii. 26, 27. So here, in xvii. 5, 6, the woman's name is a secret sign; and refers to something much deeper than the name itself could convey. The name was the name, not of a woman, but of a city, "that great city," even Babylon. But it signified not merely the material city as such, but the vast system of idolatry connected with it. That is why the explanation of the secret sign follows "the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth." Not merely of Rome, or even Babylon (as a city), but "of the earth": i.e., the mother, or fountain-head of all the systems of idolatry which have since flooded "the earth" from that one great source; and of which Romanism is only a part..
The picture of the woman, as described, may be regarded as the "drop-curtain." But the initiated are those who will be admitted behind it, and learn "the depths of Satan:" and, behind the scenes in his own great theatre, will learn what Satan's religion means as they "worship the Dragon."
The uninitiated will see only the curtain- the wonderful city. Compare Prov. ix. 13-18, where both are shown and may well be applied to the passage here.
Idolatry was no mere sin into which people gradually sunk; but it was the creation, by Satanic wisdom, of a mighty system, which he intended to us, and to lead up to his own worship.
Nimrod was used as the great founder of this marvellous scheme of Satan. Babylon was his city (Gen. x. 10). Would not Cain's city before the flood answer to the people of that day, the same end as Babylon did afterwards (Gen. iv. 17)? Each would be the capital of their respective idolatrous systems. The words "Cain went out from the presence of the Lord" are very significant. So is the name of Cain's city. He called it "Enoch," which means initiated.* The corruption of mankind spoken of in Gen. vi. must have led to abnormal forms, which would account for the half-human, or super-human beings, which became the Nephilim, the Rephaim, and Anakim of Scripture; the Titans of the Greeks. It would account for the worship of Ishtar, Isis, Ashtaroth, and all the abominations of spiritual harlotry.
* From the root (...) (chahnak), to initiate, to dedicate.
We thus see how "that great city," Babylon, founded by Nimrod, was the source of all idolatry.
This is not true of Rome. Pagan Rome itself was only one system; one of the polluted streams from that corrupt source. Papal Rome is only another single stream. It is not possible that a part can be the whole! It is not possible that one of many streams can be the fountain-head of all streams. Was there no idolatry before Pagan Rome? Whence then came the worship of "Moloch" and "Remphan," and "Chium," in the wilderness (Acts vii. 43. Amos v. 25, 26); and the worship of Ashtoreth, the abomination (i.e., idol) of the Zidonians, and Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites, and Milcom, the abomination of the children of Ammon, which were introduced by Solomon (1 Kings xi. 5. 2 Kings xxiii. 11)? Was Rome the mother of these? The description here goes back to the origin of all the abominations of heathen idolatry. Rome's place in history makes this an absolute impossibility. It would be just as absurd to say that the Zionist movement of to-day was the source or the mother of the Jewish nation!
Just as impossible was it for the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar's day; and for the same reason. It does not date back far enough. We must go farther back, and find it in Gen. x. 8-10 and xi. 9. There we find it in the land of Shinar. Under Nimrod began the work in the spirit of Anti-christ; his object being to build a city, and make for his People a name, so that they might not be scattered. Babylon was founded in rebellion against God. Nimrod was "a mighty one on the earth" (Gen. x. 8). He called his city Bab-El.* Some take this to mean the court or gate of God; for he, like his antitype, would fain thus exalt himself (2 Thess. ii. 4).
It is equally impossible to interpret the words of Rome - and to say that this woman made "the inhabitants of the earth drunk with the wine of her fornication," i.e., made the whole earth partake of her idolatrous system. Neither of Rome, papal or pagan, can this be said. They both drank of her cup; but it is a perversion of all known history, to say that either of them was the tutor of all the nations; and an insult to common sense to apply this to "the inhabitants of the earth for more that 3,000 years before Rome was dreamt of." As Dr. Seiss well puts it, this wine "was already bottled and labelled before the first dispersion. [Gen. xi.]. It went with that dispersion into every country and nation under heaven. As a matter of fact we find it to this day among all the nations of the earth; affecting, if not controlling their thinking, their politics, their faith, and their worship. Not less than two-thirds of the population of the earth at this hour are Pagan idolators, drivilling under the same old intoxication which came forth from Nimrod and Babylon; whilst the great body of the other third is either Mohammedan, Catholic, Jewish, Infidel, or adherents of some tainted and anti-christian faith and worship. Nor is there a kingdom or government on the face of the whole earth at this hour which does not embody and exhibit more of the spirit of Nimrod than of the spirit, commandments, and inculcations of God. All the kings of the earth, and all the governments under heaven, have more or less joined in the uncleanness of that same old Babylonian Harlot who had defiled every spot and nook of the whole inhabited world, notwithstanding that God from the beginning set His seal of wrath upon it. The Jewish whoredoms, and the Papal whoredoms, and the Mohammedan whoredoms, and the whoredoms of all perverted Christian religionists, though not entirely letting go the confession of one only God, are still, in essence, the same old harlotry which first found place and embodiment on the banks of the Euphrates. It is the same old Babylon, and her harlot daughters, bearing rule or kingdom upon the dominions of the earth, and intoxicating the inhabitants thereof out of the wine of her fornication."*
*Dr. Seiss's Lectures on The Apocalypse, vol. iii., pp. 121-2.
Now, when the Vision is a "Woman"; and God tells us that He means by the woman "that great city," Is it legitimate for us to treat this again as another symbol, and say it is not the city He says it is, but another?
There is no limit to such a process as that. We may go on to say that Rome means London, and that London means some other place. Why not be content with the explanation which God has Himself given? instead of taking the solemn responsibility of saying that His explanation is no explanation at all; and that it means something else. We are not saying there are no symbols: We are not saying that Jerusalem is not called Sodom. It is; but God leaves us in no doubt as to what He says and what He means. That is one thing: but it is quite another thing when we treat His own interpretation of a symbol, as though it were only another symbol which is left for us to interpret.
It is not that we wish in any degree to minimise the awful abominations of Romanism. None can have a greater abhorrence of them than we have. We see in it one of the most filthy of all the streams that have flowed from Babylon; but we do try to rise above the level of "a Local Board" when we are dealing with God's account of how He is going to close His great controversy with Jew and Gentile, with Earth and Hell. Our survey must extend beyond the Tiber. We must see something beyond Protestantism and Romanism. These do not make up the whole history of the Universe, either in time or extent.
There are many other absurdities connected with the current interpretations, which we shall notice as we proceed further into this chapter, and consider the Divine interpretation there given of the Vision as a whole. There is one point, however, to be referred to here, and that is "the cup." It is "golden"; and hence, beautiful and attractive in appearance. The cup is one. This tells us that the corrupt streams which flow from this one fountain-head are all one in essence, and character, and effect. It is the religion originally instituted at Babylon, by Nimrod, at the instigation of Satan. (See Appendix).
The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."
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