Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Future for an Ancient City?

There are those who see the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy every time somebody butters their toast or orders a cup of tea somewhere in the Middle East. I'm not one of those people. However, I do believe that the Scriptures have a lot to say about the end times, and that the Bible means what it says.

Take Babylon, for example.

It would be difficult not to notice the fact that the city of Babylon is mentioned very prominently in the book of Revelation. Actually, it is mentioned 6 times: Rev. 14:8; Rev. 16:19; Rev 17:5; Rev. 18:2; Rev 18:10; & Rev. 18:21. Each verse foretells Babylon's destruction, and portrays it as a world power beforehand. Clearly, for the prophecies to be true, Babylon must first become great again, before it can be destroyed for good.

Could an ancient empire like Babylon once again become prominent in world events?

Yes it could, and there is an interesting parallel in recent history and that is the rebirth of Israel as a nation.

In the late 1800's, when Fundamentalism and Dispensationalism were in their early formative years, there was a series of Bible conferences held across North America, the most famous of which were the Niagara Bible Conferences, held annually from 1876 to 1897. The focus of these conferences was not primarily the study of prophecy, but papers on prophecy were presented. Some of those papers concluded that, since Israel plays such a large part in end-times prophecies, God would cause the nation of Israel to somehow be reborn.

The authors of those papers received scorn and ridicule. Israel hadn't been a nation since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, and burned the Temple, in 70 AD. No nation, lost to history for such a long time, had ever been reestablished. But in the face of such criticism, these men just pointed to the Bible, and what it said. They were shown to be right when an amazing thing happened; in the wake of WWII and the Holocaust, Israel was reborn as a nation.
(Note: I need help documenting this. I've read some of these papers, I've read the critical reviews that they received. Do you think I could find any of them? Of course not! If someone could help me out, I'd be most grateful. Thanks! ~Squirrel)

Like the men 100 or so years ago, there have been those who have looked at what the Bible had to say, and reached the conclusion that Babylon, too, must be reborn. And, now it seems that Babylon has been in the news. And, guess what? The news says that the city of Babylon is being rebuilt!

For now, Babylon seems like nothing more then an Iraqi version of Williamsburg, Virginia, a place for tourists to see what life was like in ancient times. The Bible says that Babylon will be a center of commerce, religion, and politics at the time of it's destruction. Given Iraq's oil wealth, all it would take would be a few years of free enterprise, and the political will to re-establish Babylon as a modern city, and it could easily become a brand new very old major city.

Also, we should not loose sight of the fact that Babylon was an nation-state and an empire, not just a city. Babylon isn't all that far from Baghdad, the capital of modern Iraq, as this map shows, so it isn't inconceivable to consider that Iraq, in a sense, is Babylon! It is also not inconceivable to imagine a new, modern city of Babylon arising next to the ancient ruins.

I read what the Bible has to say, and I think, "Well, it certainly says Babylon." But often I'm told, "Yes, but it doesn't really mean Babylon." Many people see "Babylon" as a code word for something else. But what?

Throughout church history, Babylon in Revelation 17 & 18 has been interpreted to mean different things. Preterists usually equate the destruction of Babylon in Revelation with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, while most amillennialists follow Luther in identifying Babylon with Rome, and the Antichrist with the Pope. Others see "Babylon" as symbolic of all ungodliness that opposes Christianity. The problem with the whole "code word" idea is that nobody knows the key to the code, so everybody's got their own ideas of what the code means.

Well, here's a novel idea. Look, "Bethlehem" meant "Bethlehem" in Micah 5:2, right? And, in Jeremiah 25:11, "seventy years" meant "seventy years," correct? What if the Bible means what it says? What if, when the Bible says, "Babylon," it means, "Babylon"? Just a thought.

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