Three Angels' Messages Part 21

            Thanks for joining us again, as we continue in our study of the Three Angels’ Messages, found in Revelation 14, God’s last appeal to the human race. We’ve seen in the first angel’s message the phrase, “The hour of His judgment has come,” and noted that the Bible clearly reveals that there is a judgment, and that one important phase of it starts and ends before Jesus returns. Because in this pre-advent judgment the determination is made as to who will be saved and who will be lost, we should learn everything we can about this critical topic!
            We saw last time how this principle, of God investigating before the sentence is imposed, of “taking a look” before He “takes action,” is demonstrated in the two stories of the Garden of Eden and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God didn’t need to do this, because He is omniscient and knows everything, but He does so to inspire us with confidence in the decisions made. He stoops to speak in a language that we’ll understand. He goes the “second mile,” doing what is not actually necessary, in His administration of divine justice.
The third example we’ll look at, illustrating this principle of investigation before action, involves the city of Babylon. Historians identify this kingdom as “neo-Babylon,” because technically there was a mighty kingdom of Babylon ruled by Hammurabi, a contemporary of Abraham, more than a millennium before this. The historical Babylon of which the Bible speaks was chiseled out by Nebopollassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar. This kingdom was given mighty privileges and was actually used as a tool of discipline against wayward Judah. God Himself said of the Babylonians, “They have worked for Me.” Ezekiel 29:20. The sudden rise of Babylon to power was the subject of a special prophecy given to Habakkuk. Habakkuk 1:5-11.
            Though given these lofty privileges, Babylon in the end refused to comply with the divine plan and forfeited her privileged position. This “fall of Babylon,” which occurred in the very literal sense, became the metaphor for Revelation’s description of the fall of the Church, both in the middle ages and in the post-reformation period.
            Babylon became the seat of Satan’s kingdom and his counterfeit of God’s capital the New Jerusalem.  Notice the comparison of ancient Babylon and God’s city. If you look at an architectural layout of Nebuchadnezzar’s capital, you will see that that it roughly comprises the shape of a square. It’s not a perfect square; it’s a little “skewed,” just a little “distorted.” God’s eternal city is described as being four-square. Revelation 21:16. Babylon was known as the “golden city.” Isaiah 14:4. Speaking of the New Jerusalem we’re told, “The city was pure gold, like clear glass.” Revelation 21:18. Its pavement is “pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:21.
            Ancient Babylon had a river running through it, the mighty Euphrates. God’s city has the river of life flowing through it. Ancient Babylon, though now nothing but dusty ruins, aspired to be eternal. “You said, ‘I shall be a lady forever.’” Isaiah 47:7. God’s city is the one that will last forever. Babylon ascribed to herself the position belonging to the Omnipotent One, saying in her heart, “I am and there is no one else besides me” (Isaiah 47:8), usurping the claim of the Lord Who declares, “I, even I, am the LORD, and beside Me there is no Savior. I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.” Isaiah 43:11; 44:6. Babylon’s king became the express image of Lucifer, as described in Isaiah 14.
            Babylon grew in her wickedness and became ripe for punishment. On the eve of her destruction, as the armies of Cyrus approached the fortified capital, King Belshazzar reveled in defiant mockery. He well knew of the dream of the metallic statue given to his grandfather, which described the march of the monarchies, the parade of nations. He knew that the “head of gold” was predicted to be followed by a “chest of silver.” Yet he denied the prophecy and the God Who spoke it. He made sport of the predictions of the God Whose sanctuary furniture and utensils were on display in his temple museum, evidence in his mind that Marduk was superior to Jehovah.
            Hearing reports of the advances of Cyrus’ troops, yet confident in his double walled citadel with its 20-year supply of food calculated to withstand the hardiest siege, Belshazzar called for the articles from Solomon’s temple to be brought and used as his goblets while he held a feast to his gods. In blasphemy beyond words he raised his cup, one taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and gave a toast to his deities. Boisterous laughter and unrestrained boasting flowed freely with the royal wine.
            Suddenly faces blanched and knees quaked as there was seen on the plastered wall letters of fire inscribed by a bloodless hand. A strained, tense silence reigned where moments before had been hilarity and jocularity. The Bible reports, “Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lamp stand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance changed and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other.” Daniel 5:3-6.
            No one could be found to decipher the cryptic inscription, “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.” All the king’s men were summoned; the wise men, the soothsayers, the philosophers, the magicians and the astrologers. No interpretation ventured from their lips. At last, the aged Daniel was sought and now nearing 90, this godly prophet entered the room. Politely waving aside the proffered reward for unraveling the mystery and surveying the surroundings, he proceeded to give meaning to the coded message.
            But before doing so, he had something to say to the haughty monarch. With words that must have chilled him to the bone, Daniel reminded Belshazzar of Nebuchadnezzar’s experience when “his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride.” Daniel 5:20. The prophet recounted how Nebuchadnezzar had been “driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys.” Verse 21. Bringing his brief sermon to a razor-sharp close Daniel said, “But you, his (grand)son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. And the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.” Daniel 5:22, 23. What an important comment and component to God’s system of justice is the phrase, “although you knew all this.” God’s process of judgment takes into account the knowledge (or, the opportunity to gain knowledge) that one possesses.
            Then Daniel turned to the fiery message on the wall and explained its meaning. “Mene: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it. Tekel: you have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting. Peres: your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”
The word translated “numbered” (mene) is given twice, being repeated for emphasis. It is an accounting term, implying that the moral ledger of Belshazzar and his kingdom had been under divine audit. It had been reviewed and double checked. The conclusion of “bankruptcy” had been reached.
The metaphor then turns from an accounting image to one of testing metal. “Tekel: you have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.” The concept of scales as a symbol of the operation of justice is well known and documented. Figuratively speaking, the ore had been examined and found to be worthless. How accurately the words of the LORD through Jeremiah applied to this heathen despot! “The bellows blow fiercely, the lead is consumed by the fire; the smelter refines in vain, for the wicked are not drawn off. People will call them rejected silver, because the LORD has rejected them.” Jeremiah 6:29, 30. The same grace exercised toward Nebuchadnezzar, resulting in his salvation, was offered to his grandson Belshazzar, but with the opposite reaction and result.
            Now, having announced that the inquiry and investigation have been accomplished, “God has numbered your kingdom; you have been weighed in the balances,” the sentence is pronounced. The kingdom will be broken and given into the hands of the Medes and Persians. That very night Belshazzar was slain and the prophecy became fulfilled. As pertains to our study, notice that the sequence of divine justice is clearly spelled out; the Lord specifically indicated that an investigation had been conducted before action was taken. There was inquiry before sentencing. God already knew the wickedness of Babylon, as He had know the evil of Sodom and the sin of Eden. But true to His character of stooping to use language that humans understand, He gave a “second look” before issuing the sentence. If this was His approach toward ancient Babylon, why would we expect it to be any different toward apocalyptic Babylon?
            There are other stories in the Scriptures that bear this principle out, but these three that are recounted satisfactorily emphasize the methodology of God's system of justice. There will be an “investigative judgment” that will conclude prior to His returning with His reward. “By the mouth of two or three witness the matter shall be established.” Deuteronomy 19:15. I pray that when my name comes before the divine tribunal, I may be “found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” Philippians 3:9. Please join us next time as we continue to explore the wonderful messages of Three Angels!

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