The Mystery of Babylon
Whose heart is not stirred by the rapid rush of events which are carrying the Jews back to their ancient place among the nations of the earth? Who has not wondered why God still leaves us here when He seems to have raised the curtain on the next scene of earth's tragedy? Is not the long hushed clock of prophecy about to strike the hour of judgment? And judgment is not for us. Salvation by faith calls for nothing but favor.
For the little while we still linger here nothing in the great world upheavals which crowd upon each other, so that we scarcely note the fall of a crown or the formation of a new state, should distract our attention from the new figure which is about to take the center of the stage and dominate the history of the race throughout the ages to come. It may be, perhaps, the weakest and most insignificant of all as viewed by men, but to anointed eyes, it is the token that God is about to rise and take the reins of government out of human hands and give them to Him Whose right it is to reign. And He will administer the affairs of earth through the despised, downtrodden race.
The theme of Israel's restoration is a tempting one, but we must not forget that the mystery of Babylon deals which Israel's doom rather than the day of her return to Yahweh's favor. Before the faithful in Israel enter the kingdom they will pass through much affliction. They will find themselves in continual conflict with the nations. After the opening chapters, the book of Daniel is almost altogether occupied with this aspect of Israel's history in the period just before us. Through it all they come triumphant, for a handful of Jews with Yahweh are more than a match for the world, even when reinforced by the hosts of Satan.
But Babylon's history is the opposite of this. Spurning Yahweh's promises, they turn their back on Jerusalem and all its holy associations, and build a magnificent metropolis on the plains of Shinar. The success of this enterprise will exceed anything ever dreamed of before. It would indeed seem as if the orthodox zealots of Jerusalem were wrong, for all of earth's blessings which were promised to the faithful by the prophets, seem to find their way to Babylon, not Jerusalem.
It will be as though the millennium indeed had come, for the tribute of the nations will flow to them like a river and nothing that their soul desires will be withheld from them. Even the promised ascendancy over the nations is theirs, for the rule of riches is as potent as political power.
What could be more alluring to the Jewish heart than Babylon! Instead of being an outcast among the nations, seldom given civil privileges accorded to others, an object of scorn and hatred, he now becomes the envy of the world, and dictates the policies of distant realms. Nothing this world can afford is too good for the magnates of Babylon.
Thus, in the height of her opulence and power she is first seen by the apostle. No wonder that he marveled marvelously. The prosperity of the wicked is always a source of perplexity. But how, in the face of all that the prophets foretold, such a city as Babylon should be allowed to flourish seemed incomprehensible. And, indeed, it was a secret which the prophets did not disclose.
But, viewed by the light of prophecy the triumph of the lawless is very short indeed. Whether the rise and reign of Babylon extends over a period of seventy years, or forty, or only the seven definitely defined in the apocalyptic chronology, the longest of these periods is nothing compared which the reign of the faithful, not only for a thousand years, but doubtless for many thousands on the new earth.
Let us then be done with the short-lived luxury of Babylon and let us trace the judgments which fall upon her at the last. While the final catastrophe which blots her from the face of the earth is a sudden one, there seems good reason to believe that this was preceded by other visitations which prolonged the period of her destruction. Nature and man turn against her before God puts an end to her miserable existence.
THE DRYING OF THE EUPHRATES
The first intimation of disaster comes under the sixth bowl, which is poured out on the great river Euphrates. The avowed purpose of this is to prepare the road for the kings of the orient so that the nations may gather their hosts at Armageddon. But a little reflection will show what a dire calamity this will be for the golden city. The entire life of an eastern city depends on its water supply. More than this Babylon's commerce, too, was carried on by means of this river. The drying up of the Euphrates will cut off their commerce, dry up their gardens, and will introduce sufferings of such severity as only those living under a pitiless southern sun in an arid climate can comprehend.
THE TEN KINGS
In the figurative language of the text, the ten kings will "eat her flesh" and "burn her with fire," the double doom seems to imply two things: her total destruction by fire; yet in some way the nations feast on her substance.
If it be true that these ten horns are the military powers of the great western confederacy, and that the Jews of Babylon will get their wealth in great measure from these nations in the form of interest on their national debts, then it is not difficult to see how, in a figurative way they might "eat her flesh" before burning her with fire. In plain words, they will not only refuse to pay further interest but will loot the city of its ill gotten wealth before applying the torch.
THE GREAT EARTHQUAKE
The final work of destruction is graphically described by the mighty messenger who takes up a huge stone like a millstone and casts it into the sea, saying, "Thus, with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all." This final catastrophe, which concludes the career of Babylon, occurs under the seventh bowl, when the greatest earthquake in the history of mankind takes place. The cities of the nations fall. And with them great Babylon is given the cup of the rage of God's wrath.
For a modern city, nothing is so destructive as a severe earthquake. The writer was not far from San Francisco when, in a few moments time, a vast metropolis was turned into a burning mass of wreckage. When the dread news came the significance of this passage was powerfully impressed on my mind.
There had been much boasting over modern skyscrapers, the massive structures of concrete which were built to defy the elements and mock at the course of time. But one tremor of earth's thin crust is enough to wreck the strongest. The most destructive feature of the modern town is the system of electric wiring. In an earthquake the current which was the convenient source of light and power the instant before, becomes a terrific agent of destruction when the wires fall and cross and twist together. Fires are started everywhere and, in the fear and confusion of falling structures, in the face of broken water and gas mains, the flames leap forward until the city is a heap of ashy ruins.
Such is the scene that will be enacted in "the cities of the nations" when the earth shakes as it never did before. And in such a way will God blot base Babylon from the face of the earth.
An earthquake is peculiarly the judgment of God. Fires may be started by men, but when the solid ground beneath one's feet begins to rock and sway, there is an awful sense of the presence of One greater than man Who alone can make such mighty masses move. This, too, was vividly brought to the writer's consciousness in the midst of a quake of more than common force while writing this series on the mystery of Babylon.
It is as though God is jealous that no one should think that Babylon fell at the hands of the famine or at the hands of her treacherous friends, but that all know that she received her due from the hands of the God Whom she had forsaken and rejected. Strong is the Lord God Who judges her!
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