Three Angels Messages Part 36

            Welcome again, as we continue to study the critically important messages of the three angels, found in Revelation 14. At this point, we’re looking at the message of the second angel, recorded in Revelation 14:8. “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” There are a number of words in this verse that require study and research, but first of all we’re asking the question, what does the term “Babylon” mean?
We know that we should take the Scripture as it reads, understanding its words and terms literally, unless compelled by context or reason to do otherwise. In this case, we find we must look for a figurative interpretation, because there was no literal Babylon when John wrote the book of Revelation. It must be understood for it symbolical value. But how do we discover what that is? We must look at the stories and references that are in the Scriptures and allow the Spirit to give us comprehension.
Last time, we found that the term Babylon comes from the same source as “Babel.” Indeed, they share similarity not only in the linguistic sense, but also in the geographical sense, in that the ancient city of Babylon was built on the very foundations of the ill-fated tower of Babel. We saw that the account of that experience, found in Genesis 11, informs us that the tower of Babel was constructed in unbelief and was essentially an attempt to “work your way to heaven.” It was legalistic, or an attempt to achieve favor with God through your own efforts and not a way of thinking that follows the Bible formula for acceptance by God, to receive His free gift and believe His promise.
The term “Babel” means “gate of the gods,” a term which is blasphemous and destructive. Jesus is the Gate, the Way, the Ladder to heaven. Any earthly attempt to make that claim is sinful, and echoes the sentiments of the great deceiver, who aspired to be like the Most High. Isaiah 14:12-14.
In this segment, we’re going to explore two more of the manifestations of the Babylon of ancient times; that which existed in the days of Abraham, and that which flourished in the times of Daniel. The Babylon of Abraham’s lifetime was ruled by one known by history as Hammurabi, the sixth ruler of that segment of Babylon, who reigned from 1792 BC to 1750 BC.
Of his kingdom, the Bible says little. However, many scholars identify the historical Hammurabi with the “Amraphel, king of Shinar,” of Genesis 14:1. We are told that the name “Hammurabi” means “The kinsman is a healer” (from ‘ammu, meaning “paternal kinsman,” and rapi, meaning “healer,” closely associated with the Hebrew rapa, “to heal”). Noting that Satan, the usurper, is the spiritual leader of Babylon, and he has always wanted to take the place of Jesus, we must point out that according to the Bible, Jesus is our Kinsman, the One Who brings healing to our souls.
When Abram was called to leave “Ur of the Chaldees,” we may safely assume that he would have known of, or perhaps even been acquainted with Hammurabi. They lived roughly at the same time. When we think of Hammurabi, we think of the 7-foot-plus diorite stele displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris, on which are inscribed the laws of his kingdom. It’s appropriately called the “Code of Hammurabi.” We’ve been privileged to see it firsthand, up close. It’s inspiring to stand in front of it and realize that you’re in the presence of nearly 4,000 years of history. We try to imagine the workmen who chiseled the precepts and statues into its surface, and wonder if they could have ever dreamed that someone would one day fly in a jet plane across a vast ocean to view their work 4 millennia later!
            Comparing the laws of Hammurabi with the laws given to Moses is interesting. Both sets of laws are quite thorough and in many respects quite similar. You can have a fascinating time researching on the Internet the various aspects of Hammurabi’s code, but overall, it can be argued that the code of Hammurabi is a bit harsher in its punishments than the Mosaic Law. From a wider perspective, with your “spiritual eyeglasses” in place, we note that the Babylon of Hammurabi had a law, and that law was written in stone. That law was the foundation of its government.
            Likewise, God’s kingdom, the antithesis of scriptural “Babylon,” also has a law, and it too was written in stone. It wasn’t chiseled by a mason’s tool; it was forged by the finger of Jehovah. Though the original of His law is not displayed in a museum as is the Code of Hammurabi, its tenets are most certainly valid and applicable to us today. It will be the law by which we will be judged. James 2:10-12. Till heaven and earth pass, not one jot nor one tittle will pass from it. Matthew 5:17-19. When we think of the Babylon of Hammurabi, we think of its law, similar, but not really identical to the law of God. File that thought in your mind as we continue to explore the characteristics of Babylon, and why God spoke against it.
The third “Babylon” was the one established by Nebopollassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar. He came to power in 626 B.C. and accomplished an astonishing amalgamation of what had before been some loosely held disorganized communities.  What he achieved was so remarkable that the prophet Habakkuk was told in 630 B.C., “Look among the nations and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you. For indeed, I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation.” Habakkuk 1:5, 6.
            Though this Babylon was rooted more than 2500 years ago, as strange as it may seem, historians refer to this kingdom as “neo-Babylon,” or “new-Babylon,” because it came after the Babylon of Hammurabi. The Babylon that Nebopollassar and his successors built was amazing. It featured the magnificent hanging gardens, constructed by Nebuchadnezzar for his wife, in case she might miss the forests and glades of her native Media. Moistened by an intricate internal irrigation system which dipped into the waters of the Euphrates, the river which ran through the city, it was touted as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.”
            Babylon was a city of gold, with tons of it stored in a “Fort Knox” penthouse on the top of the temple of Marduk, in the Esaglia, reputed to have been built on the very foundation of the ancient tower of Babel. The historian Herodotus reported that 800 talents of gold altogether were housed within its walls, including the gold that shimmered on the colossal statue of Marduk, one of their chief deities. If an ancient talent were 75 pounds, you can multiply 800 (talents) times 75 (pounds) times 14.58 (ounces troy per pound) times the value of gold per ounce in today's market to come up with a dollar value. It would be sure to be a big number!
The Scripture acknowledged this golden feature stating, “Take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say: ‘How the oppressor has ceased, the golden city ceased!’” Isaiah 14:4. “Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’s hand.” Jeremiah 51:7. Fittingly, in the statue dream of Daniel 2, the kingdom of Babylon was represented by the head of gold.
            The parallels and lessons concerning ancient and apocalyptic Babylon are numerous and to be exhaustive, would require an in-depth study of Isaiah 14, 40-50 and Jeremiah 50 and 51, as well as some other portions of Scripture. That would be too broad for our scope here. We will limit ourselves to some of the highlights. Babylon of old conceived itself as being an “eternal city,” aspiring to “be a lady forever.” Isaiah 47:7. Its defense systems gave her a sense of impregnability. Surrounded by walls thick enough to allow a 4-horse chariot to make a u-turn on its top, together with a moat between them which could be filled with water from the Euphrates, the security she felt inspired Belshazzar to call for a banquet when the forces of Cyrus prepared to attack. Babylon considered herself irreplaceable and indestructible. She said in her heart, “I am, and there is no one else besides me.” Isaiah 47:8.
            Yet prophecy had pronounced her doom a century and half before, even identifying Cyrus by name as being the instrument that God would use to accomplish His purpose, and the means by which he would gain entrance into the city. Isaiah 45:1, 2. Precisely fulfilling the prophecy, the engineers of Cyrus found a way to divert the waters of the mighty Euphrates which ran through the city. When they approached the iron gates which guarded the entrance, the troops were shocked to find them unlocked. Cyrus marched his army in and took the unsuspecting city without conflict. Belshazzar, who had raised his cup (one that came originally from the temple of Yahweh) in defiant blasphemy against the word of the Lord, was slain that very night. The judgment inscribed by the bloodless hand in letters of fire on the palace wall, interpreted by God’s prophet Daniel, was executed without delay.
            Babylon had been God’s tool for reform for Judah; she had been God’s “hammer” to administer discipline against Jerusalem. Jeremiah 50:23. It was God Who gave Judah into the hand of Babylon’s monarch. Daniel 1:2. She had been given prestigious opportunities, and if she had complied with the divine plan, who can say what her future might have been? Yet, despite the conversion of Nebuchadnezzar, as a whole she denied the Holy One of Israel and scoffed at God’s prophets. Refusing to recognize the authority of Jehovah, she imputed the success of her victories to her lifeless deities. Habakkuk 1:11. Thus her day of opportunity came to a close. Instead of being something God could use, she became doomed to destruction. Keep these ideas in mind when we consider what apocalyptic Babylon is all about.
            With our spiritual eyeglasses in place, we can also see ancient Babylon as being Satan’s substitute for God’s capitol. The devil has invented a counterfeit for everything that God has made! Babylon was the devil’s version of the New Jerusalem. Think of this: Babylon was a city built roughly in the shape of a square, with just a little “twist” to it; a city with a river running through it; a city of gold; a “paradise” with its verdant hanging gardens, a city reputed to be eternal. Do these features remind you of anything? Does the Bible say anything about Paradise, an eternal city of gold built four-square with a river running through it? These are the very descriptions of God’s city, His capitol, the city “built with foundations,” the city Jesus went to prepare after His ascension. The similarities may be worth noting, but the truth is that the two cities are vastly different. While the Babylon of old lies today in dust and decay, while her glory has faded like the parched leaves of autumn, God’s city will indeed last forever. The important question is, Of which city are you a “citizen”?
            God had to let ancient Babylon go because of her insolence and pride. Indeed, the pride of her kingdom so closely mirrored the pride of the one who first fell in heaven that the story of the king of Babylon is used as a backdrop to describe the fall of Lucifer. When you read the 14th chapter of Isaiah, you will see that it begins by addressing “king of Babylon,” but then passes quickly and seamlessly to discuss the one who stood behind him, the one who inspired him with the spirit of pride and self-seeking. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning?” Isaiah 14:12. The king of Babylon was made in the image of Satan, in whose character pride is a notable flaw.
            The proverb addresses the real monarch of “Babylon” as if trying to pry an answer as to his fall from glory. How could it be that sin would originate in the heart of one who was perfect in his ways from the day he was created? Ezekiel 28:15. Of course, there is no satisfactory answer as to the origin of sin. There is no reasonable explanation for the existence of iniquity. When we discuss the fall of Babylon, let us not forget the “fall” of the original king of “Babylon,” the one who was the “anointed covering cherub” who became the arch-enemy of God, the one who was the “light bearer” (the meaning of “Lucifer”) who became the prince of darkness. Lucifer’s mysterious fall is the proto-type of the later fall of apocalyptic Babylon.
            Another characteristic of ancient Babylon was her ruthless treatment of God’s people. It is true that Babylon was employed as the rod of discipline against the back-sliding Judah, but she overreached in her application of that ministry; she exercised excessive enthusiasm in her role, and God took notice. “You were glad,…you rejoiced, you destroyers of My heritage.” Jeremiah 50:11. “The children of Israel were oppressed, along with the children of Judah; all who took them captive have held them fast; they have refused to let them go.” Jeremiah 23:33.
For this ill-treatment of His children, God would hold them accountable. The horror of ancient war-time techniques brings a chill to the spine. “O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, happy shall he be who repays you as you have served us! Happy shall he be who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock.” Psalm 137:8, 9. For her pride, her arrogance, her cruelty, her attempt to take the place of God and to become “God;” for all of these things, ancient Babylon became the template for apocalyptic Babylon.
Next time, we’ll begin our study of the four other editions of Babylon, with the term being used not in a literal way, but a figurative way. Here’s what we need to know: God wants us to be a part of His kingdom, a citizen of His city, the New Jerusalem. If you find yourself in today’s “Babylon,” His invitation to you is, “Come our of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” Revelation 18:4.

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