Monday, November 13, 2006

Babylon Land of the Chaldeans is not Mystery Babylon the Great

So I watched the History Channel's presentation of Decoding the Past: Prophecies of Iraq, and, of course, found the scholars confusing the Jeremiah 50-51 prophecy of Babylon's ultimate desolation with the description of the destruction of the "great harlot" -- MYSTERY Babylon the Great -- in Revelation 17-18. Simply, if Revelation 17-18 were talking about literal Babylon the nation, as Jeremiah 50-51 is, by name -- "Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans" (Jer. 50:1) -- there would be no "mystery" to the identification of who the "great harlot" is, for she would simply be Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans.

But John "wondered greatly" about her, and the angel said, "I shall tell you the mystery of the woman..." (Rev. 17:7). In other words, the angel is going to reveal what the actual literal thing the symbol of the "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots" represents. And so the angel tells John the actual identity of this "Babylon the Great," a previously unknown entity figuratively symbolized in the vision by a woman clothed in scarlet: "The woman whom you saw is [literally] the great city which reigns over the kings of the earth" (Rev. 17:18). The woman "sits on many waters," (Rev. 17:1) and the waters symbolize "peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues" (Rev. 17:15). In other words, this city "sits on" -- read that as dominates -- peoples and other nations and tells all the other kings of the earth what to do. And as one reads further, one finds the city dominates through her vast consumeristic commercial power.

Another angel comes to John, and throughout the entire chapter of 18 describes in effusive language the "city" the figure represents, so as to provide a clear identification of what "city" it is, at the time the events of the Revelation will be occurring. This city is whichever city fits the description at the time of the events that take place. She is the city whose destruction causes "the merchants of the eath (to) weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more" (Rev. 18:11). Great is this wailing, so that they were "crying out, and weeping and mourning, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth...'" (Rev. 18:19). (If the city existed at the time of John, the angel might even have told him what it was called.)

Even though this city "sits on" -- read, dominates -- the peoples of the world, still the kings of the earth "committed acts of immorality with her," (Rev. 17:1, 18:3), and her "merchants were the great men of the earth" (Rev. 18:23). Compared to the rest of the world, she "lived sensuously... (having) all things that were luxurious and splendid" (Rev. 18:9,14). She did not live and rule by military power, or even political power -- she ruled by her merchants and her commercial buying power.

When the bible says Jerusalem, it is talking about the capital city as representative for the nation, Judah (today, Israel). When the bible says Babylon, it is talking about the capital city as representative for the nation, Babylon (today, Iraq). When the bible says Damascus, it is talking about the capital city as representative for the nation, Assyria (today, Syria). And when the bible says "the great city which reigns over the kings of the earth," it is talking about the capital city as representative for the nation, the "great [nation] which reigns over the kings of the earth," dominating all peoples everywhere. And if that domination is through economic and commercial power, that capital city is the commercial capital of that nation.

Beside the fact that the two Babylons -- the one of Jeremiah 50-51 and the one of Revelation 17-18 -- are not the same thing at all in the first place, there is another reason to distinguish Jeremiah's destruction of the land of Babylon from the destruction of Mystery Babylon the Great; and that is the timing of the fulfillment of each prophecy. According to the angel, the timing of the events of the Revelation to John deal with the "great day of (the) wrath" (Rev. 6:17), the "great day of the wrath of the LORD" Isaiah talked about repeatedly throughout his book that comes immediately preceding the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. The Apostle Paul said that this "day of the LORD" could not come until the departure in the "gathering together" came first, and the son of lawlessness was revealed (2 Thess. 2:1-5). Since none of that has yet happened, the great day of the wrath of the LORD is still yet future.

On the other hand, the timing of Jeremiah's prophecy against the land of the Chaldeans is related to the return of the Jews to the land of Israel -- "In those days and at that time... the sons of Israel will come, both they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go, and it will be the LORD their God they will seek. They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction; they will come that they may join themselves to the LORD in (the) everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten" (Jer. 50:4-5).

That everlasting covenant is the promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that the land of Canaan would be given to them and their descendants as an "everlasting possession" (Gen. 17:7-8), and if the Jews were not yet back in the land, Jeremiah's prophecy of Babylon's destruction could not be occurring right now.

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