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The Hour of Darkness 5. The Revival of Babylon
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The Reconstruction of a Pagan Centre
A development that is directly related to the tribulation period, is the rebuilding of the once renowned metropolis, Babylon, on the banks of the Euphrates River. As the birthplace of the Ancient World's pagan religion, this city must again emerge as the seat of a false universal religion. Babylon is in Iraqi territory, and since 1978 in a process of reconstruction. The first phase of the rebuilt city was inaugurated amid great festivity between September 22 and October 22, 1987. This festival has become an annual event, and is reported in the media as an international cultural festival.
Included in the first phase of the reconstruction of the old city, is the southern palace of King Nebuchadnezzar. This part of the palace includes the famous throne-room where the writing appeared on the wall during the last night of King Belshazzar's reign. Among the other reconstructed buildings is the gateway to the temple of Ishtar. Hotels and tourist facilities have also been erected on the outskirts of the city.
To correctly comprehend current events in Babylon, cognisance must be taken of the city's origin and the relentless anti-God tradition it has followed in ancient times. According to Genesis 10:8-10, Nimrod established a kingdom for himself in Babylon. Apart from the fact that it was a political kingdom, it also became a powerful pagan religious centre from where idolatry spread across the world.
As protagonist of the self-sufficiency of the human race, Nimrod took a firm stand against God. Not only did he offer himself as a king to the people, but also as a god. As a builder of fortified cities in the land of Shinar (one of the earliest names for Babylonia), he was honoured as the God of Forces. He was addressed as the Liberator and Crown Bearer, and regarded as the personification of the Sun-god the one who gives light and life. After him all Babylonian and Assyrian kings deified themselves. This tradition was imitated by the rulers of other world empires, especially in the Roman Empire. This is a pagan tradition that will be revived during the great tribulation when the Antichrist will declare himself as God and demand the worship of all men.
Form of Worship
Since its earliest existence, Babylon was the centre and symbol of an anti-God world power. This tradition is also reflected in the name Babylon, which means Gateway to the gods. (After God confounded their language, the name Babylon was also associated with confusion and disorder). The gateway to the gods consisted of a temple tower (ziggurat) in which the priests ascended to make contact with the gods. The top could be reached by means of a helical stairway that surrounded the tower. Up there the priests meditated to become one with the cosmic world. Observations with a view to horoscopy were also made from that look-out post.
The great tower of Babylon was part of the building complex known as the temple of Marduk. It comprised eight sections built one upon the other. At the pinnacle was a smaller temple with luxurious couches and a golden table. Marduk was the Babylonian city god. As paramount god in the Babylonian pantheon, he was accorded the title King of heaven and earth. The word Lord is Bel in Chaldee, and it is for this reason that Marduk is also called Bel, or Baal in other languages (Jer. 50:2, Is. 46:1). Hence the name tower of Baal or Bel.
The title of Baal with the general meaning of Lord, Protector god or Possessor was applied to various gods and further qualified by another name, e.g. Baal-Peor (the god of the mountain Peor), etc. Marduk was thus the Baal of Babylon. Close to him was the most important goddess, Ishtar (also called Astaroth, Ashtoreth or Astarte in other Middle East languages). In the plural form the term refers merely to the goddesses of the pagan nations. In this sense mention is often made in the Bible of the Baals and Ashtoreths of the heathens (see Judges 2:13 and 10:6).
Ishtar (Astaroth) occupied an extremely important position in the Babylonian and Assyrian religions. Temples and open-air places for worship were built for her in all the cities and towns. She is also known as the queen of heaven (Jer. 7:18, 44:19) and is the daughter of the moon-god, Sin. Her symbols are the crescent moon, the morning star (or battle star) and the evening star (the star of passionate love). As the mother goddess she expressed sadness and sympathy for her earthly children in their suffering, particularly when they were ill or struck by natural disasters. Healing rituals were carried out in her name.
She was also the goddess of fertility and love. Unbridled lust was such a strong characteristic on her part that her temples and places of worship became centres for immoral acts. In the service of Ishtar, women belied their chastity and became temple prostitutes. But to them it was a form of devotion to honour Ishtar and as a result they did not forfeit their esteem in society. Ishtar was also the Assyrian's goddess of war. She was so fearsome that the other armies trembled when the war-minded Assyrians sang her praises.
In the rebuilt part of Babylon the gate of Ishtar has been restored and people can move through it to the king's throne-room. Should Ishtar's cult be revived in Babylon, a period of growing idolatry, immorality and wars of conquest awaits that part of the world.
According to Babylonian mythology, Ishtar murdered her lover, Tammuz the god of spring. Because of this act she developed a sense of guilt and descended to the underworld where she found him and restored him to life. He is therefore the symbol of death and resurrection. A cross-shaped token representative of the T of Tammuz was customary in the pagan world as a symbol and decoration on garments and buildings. In mythological accounts Tammuz is sometimes depicted as the son of Semiramis, who is the personification of the queen of heaven. The religious concept of the Madonna and child in Roman Catholicism is clearly a perpetuation of this Babylonian tradition. The real motive behind the deification of Mary in 381 AD was to bring a 'Christian' queen of heaven and her child into being.
Another god of significance in the Assyro-Babylonian pantheon was Shamash, the sun-god. He despised darkness and evil, and was accredited as the giver of good laws. He was the head of the Babylonian diviners. The cult of sun-worship spread to many cultures and is still rampant in our day. The symbol of the sun-god is familiar in the Mormon Church, and in the Roman Catholic church the pope is often likened to the sun. In the New Age Movement, the sun with its rays of light is also a very common symbol.
The Fall of Babylon
Prophecies that deal with the fall of Babylon are so clearly defined and absolute that no period in the entire history of Babylon and Assyria can be found in which they have been exhaustively fulfilled. Consider the following statements:
"And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there" (Is. 13:19-20).
Jeremiah refers to the destruction of Babylon in these words:
"They shall not take from you a stone for a corner, nor a stone for a foundation, but you shall be desolate forever, says the LORD" (Jer. 51:26).
Dr. J. A. Seiss stated as far back as 1865 in his Letters on the Apocalypse that the city of Babylon will have to be rebuilt, in order that the Lord can finally destroy it like Sodom and Gomorrah, never to be inhabited again. This is clearly an end-time event that will, according to Isaiah 13:6, occur on the day of the Lord, probably coinciding with the battle of Armageddon at the end of the great tribulation. In 1918, Clarence Larkin indicated in his famous book Dispensational Truth that Babylon was never completely destroyed or uninhabited. Jeremiah's prophecy that after the final destruction no stones from the ruins of Babylon will be used, must yet be fulfilled. Various towns and cities have in fact been built with bricks recovered from the ruins of Babylon. Before the present rebuilding of Babylon started in 1978, thousands of bricks were removed by Iraqis for construction purposes. Since the official building program started, several impressive structures have risen on the foundations of ancient Babylon. These developments underscore the Biblical view that the great fall of the city is yet to occur.
In Revelation 17 and 18 respectively, John mentions two Babylons that will rise to prominence shortly before the advent of Christ. The one is mystical Babylon, referring to an evil ideology, or false system of religious worship, and the other one a commercial city with all kinds of worldly fun and immoral practices in it. Both these chapters in Revelation are based upon the supposition that there will be a reconstructed Babylon as an end-time manifestation of the ancient Babylonian empire, and also as a fitting centre of operations for the Babylonian world religion.
The one Babylon is called: "Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth" (Rev. 17:5). Because the city of Babylon is the place of origin of the pagan religions, the apostate end-time world religion with its unbiblical unification of all religions, is aptly described as mystery Babylon. It is opposed to Biblical Christianity and is already in the process of establishing an ecumenical body, or parent organisation, called the mother of harlots in Revelation 17:5. What appeared to be impossible a few decades ago, i.e. ecumenical ties between all the religions, has suddenly became common practice.
Present initiatives by interfaith movements such as the World Conference on Religion and Peace, enhance the possibility that the World Council of Churches (representative of apostate Protestantism) will enter into an agreement with the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern religions to give rise to a unified league of world religions. The establishing of a Parliament for World Religions in Chicago in 1993 may see the creation of a superstructure from which a universal religious leader, the false prophet, could emerge.
The traditional religious freedom in the West, in which only Christianity was officially recognised, is currently making way for a dispensation of religious equality. This means that all religions are regarded as of equal significance and standing, thereby denying the uniqueness of Christianity (Jn. 14:6). The universalistic premise that the same God is worshipped by followers of all the religions, is currently paving the way for even closer ties between the various religions. The ultimate objective of this movement is religious unity.
The united world religion of the near future will constitute a revival of the Babylonian religion, which was characterised by the following institutions and practices:
As part of the Babylonian reforms, a feminine principle is also introduced to the concept of God. Various New Age writers make mention of the Planetary Mother as a spiritual presence sensed at the birth of every child. Besides a physical body, the child is also said to have an astral body that makes him part of a cosmic community under the caring control of a heavenly deity, or Planetary Mother. Mention is also made of her as Our Lady.
This feminine principle of divinity existed in different religions under the titles of Isis, Venus, Ishtar and the virgin Mary. Isis is the Egyptian queen of nature, Venus is the goddess of love in the Roman mythology, Ishtar is the former mighty Babylonian queen of heaven whose sanctuary is in the process of being reconstructed in its ancient abode, and the deified Mary is the Christian replica of this communal mother of humanity.
The syncretistic religion of the great tribulation is symbolised by a woman who rides on the back of a beast (Rev. 17:3). This points to a marriage that will be concluded between religion and politics. The bride of the Antichrist will be the false world church. Her name is Mystery Babylon, the mother of harlots.
According to Revelation 17:9-10 and 18, this apostate woman had reigned over past world empires through the strong influence that the pagan religious system had over leaders and governments. Her influence is not to be underestimated, as her capacity to deceive humanity is enormous. She will persuade her millions of followers during the tribulation to associate with the Antichrist as global messiah, and to accept his number. According to Zechariah 5:5-11, her headquarters will be moved to Shinar, i.e. Babylon. Halfway through the tribulation, her position as a religious body will become redundant. The Antichrist will declare himself as God and demand that he alone be worshipped. The apostate church will then be abandoned and destroyed:
"And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire" (Rev. 17:16).
The Antichrist will order the execution of his 'wife' after an association of 3½ years. That will be the end of mystical Babylon who ruled over the kings of the earth. Only those members of the false world church who abandon their religious affiliation, worship the beast as God and accept his number, will escape the annihilation of the mother of harlots only to be eternally condemned after another 3½ years when Christ comes.
An International Centre
In its capacity as economic, political and entertainment centre the rebuilt Babylon will, according to Revelation 18, play an important part in the great tribulation. It can be expected that international organisations will rush to be accommodated in Babylon, and that large building projects will be undertaken and completed in a relatively short time. Very soon the city will assume a cosmopolitan character as the point of convergence for a variety of cultures and civilisations from all over the world. Here the nations were separated when their languages were confused. An attempt will soon be made to reunite them at the same place from where they dispersed 4500 years ago.
In the days of ancient Babylon, the first united nations conference on record was held on the plains of Shinar:
"Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth" (Gen. 11:4).
In modern times, a similar appeal may be as follows:
"Let's co-operate and build ourselves a city between the East and the West as a symbol of global unity and internationalism. Let's create a united league of world religions and develop our spiritual potential to ascend to greater divinity. Let's establish one monetary system, one government and a classless social order. Only then will we be united into a peaceful and harmonious society of planetary citizens that does not become separated into conflicting and self-centred national groups."
The ideology of the modern tower of Babylon is rapidly gaining ground in the world. Its final implementation will occur very rapidly. Zechariah says that the woman called wickedness will be transported to Babylon by two women who have the wind in their wings. A house will be built for her in the land of Shinar, which is Babylonia (Zech. 5:9-11).
Wherever the neo-Babylonian Parliament for World Religions may be initiated, an urgent decision will soon be taken about her new headquarters. Destination: Babylon!
Satanic Gaiety and Corruption
At the close of the great tribulation, the evils in the reconstructed city of Babylon will have no limits. Revelation 18 tells us that the sins of Babylon, like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, will reach unto heaven (Rev. 18:5). It will be a place of licentiousness and immoral parties (Rev. 18:7,9). Music will be an important aspect of the satanic gaiety of Babylon (Rev. 18:22).
The inauguration of the first part of the rebuilt city in Sept./Oct. 1987, was celebrated with an international music festival. It is obvious that modern rock music, which leads to enslavement to alcohol and drugs, sexual abuse, rebellion, Eastern cults, magic and Satan worship, will find a home in the new Babylon. No wonder the Bible says that these and other decadent forms of art will be destroyed along with Babylon. The noisy instruments of these musicians will become silent and the voices of the singers will no longer be heard (Rev. 18:22).
The Destruction of Babylon
The final fall of Babylon will occur at the end of the great tribulation (Rev. 14:8, 16:17-19, 18:2, 10, 21). From the Scriptures quoted above, it is evident that there won't be a gradual decay and decline of the city over a long period of time. The destruction of Babylon will occur in one hour. As with Sodom and Gomorrah, it will be consumed by fire (Rev. 18:8-10, 18; Is. 13:19, Jer. 50:40). At the same time a great earthquake with continuous thunder and lightning will occur, then the city will subside into a lake of fire, never to be restored or inhabited again (Rev. 16:17-19; 18:21). The smoke of her burning will form dark clouds across the plains of Shinar and be clearly visible from the ships in the Persian Gulf (Rev. 18:17-18). The merchants and the seamen will weep and mourn over the destruction of this city with its riches, pomp and glory.
Where Babylon once was, will be a desolate crater in which the remains of some of its buildings will still be visible. A frightening atmosphere will prevail midst the scene of destruction, and the silence will be ominous. During the millennium no one will want to stay or overnight in its vicinity (Is. 13:19-20). This is the destiny of a kingdom and a society that revolted against God and scorned His mercy.
God calls on His people to leave Babylon:
"Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues" (Rev. 18:4).
This command is not only meant for the people of God who may find themselves in the city of Babylon during the great tribulation, but also for those who are members of Babylonian-type churches and religions. Don't be influenced and led astray by churches that are participants in the building of a modern tower of Babel. Their compromise and spiritual blindness may have a severely detrimental effect on you. Through a subtle process of brainwashing they may succeed in deceiving and misleading you in this critical hour just prior to the coming of Jesus, the Head of the true church. Many people are the victims of false prophets!
The city of Babylon, its political and economic structures, its immoral life-styles and the religious system of mystery Babylon, are all well-planned traps by the great adversary of the people of God. Regard these unitary structures, evil practices and deceptive ideologies as out of bounds if you want to remain faithful to the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Babylon's fate is sealed and her days are numbered! Stay clear of her!
"Put Babylon and all it represents far behind you it is unclean to you" ( Is. 52:11 LB ).