Dec 29: Job 39 | Mal 1 | Rev 17, 18
Reading 1 - Job 39; 40
Job 39; 40: These chapters illustrate a great principle of nature: The innocent (that is, the wild goat, kid) often suffer and die so that the cruel (ie, the lion, eagle) might live. God cares and provides for all His creatures.
God especially cares and provides for all men -- He is not willing that any should perish (2Pe 3:9; John 3:16,17). Sometimes the innocent (Job) must suffer, that others (the three friends, and perhaps "Satan") might learn and live. Job's experiences were but a shadow of Christ's sufferings on behalf of sinners (Jam 5:10,11; Acts 2:22-24; 8:13-15).
Also, contrast the present age (here) with the future kingdom -- when the lion and the lamb will be at peace together (Isa 11:6-9).
Reading 2 - Mal 1:13
"When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?" (Mal 1:13).
"God will have no regard for those who forget Him or neglect His commandments: those who sink into a state of self-service, who live exclusively for their own comfort and well-being, who let God slip from their practical recognitions; His word from their studies; His honour from their concern; His commandments from their lives, will awake to find that where life and death, and men, and angels, and heaven and earth, were powerless to interpose an obstacle between them and the friendly regard of the Almighty, their own folly has done it without further remedy. God is love; but our God is also a consuming fire. He will not be mocked; He will not be put off with fag-ends of our service. He demands the whole heart and the whole life; and he is not his own friend who refuses the call: for there will come a time when the man who has served himself will find he has served a master who can only pay him at last with tribulation, and anguish, and death; while the man who obeys the Divine call will at the same period discover that in making God his portion he has secured the joyful eternal inheritance of all things" (Robert Roberts, "Seasons of Comfort" 72).
Reading 3 - Rev 18:2
"With a mighty voice he shouted: 'Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!' " (Rev 18:2).
The whole prophetic narrative of the Bible is in many ways a tale of two cities: Babylon and Jerusalem. There are times when Babylon masquerades as Zion -- a false city of God with a false Messiah leading her. And there are times when Zion in her apostasy has appeared as Babylon. But in the final conflict of the last days, these two cities will be literally pitted against each other. Zion will briefly succumb under the might and pride of Babylon, to rise again in eternal glory. It was in Babylon where Nimrod first built the tower of Babel, the first organized rebellion against God; and it was there that God first entered into open judgment of flesh and humanity en masse. And it is here likewise that His purpose with sin and His true people will likewise be fulfilled. Babylon was also called Su-anna, "the holy city". Yet "the holy city" is Jerusalem, thus making Babylon a fake Zion. Herodotus says the city was square, just as new Jerusalem.
Unfulfilled Prophecies: "Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians' pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah" (Isa 13:19). And yet Babylon was never suddenly overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah in their fiery destruction. It was conquered by the Medes and Persians and fell into decline, but it was not violently destroyed. Likewise: "The Lord will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and settle them in their own land... They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors... On the day the Lord gives you relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended!... All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing" (Isa 14:1-4,7).
When Babylon is ultimately destroyed, Israel will finally be at Peace and will dwell in safety. Israel has been a nation since 1948, but not for one day has the nation of Israel known real peace or ease. It has never been able to claim all the lands God promised the Israelites, and Israel's Arab neighbors have been a constant threat and danger.
There is the assumption by many that all the OT prophecies about 'Babylon' were fulfilled in the overrunning of Babylon by the Medes. However, there are many details of those prophecies which did not have a total fulfillment, and thus what the Medes did as but a partial, incipient fulfillment of what is going to come in the last days. This also requires that 'Babylon' be understood as literal Babylon -- for it was against her that the prophecies were uttered in the first place. And quite clearly, the prophecies of Revelation against 'Babylon' are extensions of those of the Old Testament. We therefore are encouraged to see the 'Babylon' of Rev as the Babylon of the prophets -- ie literal Babylon.
Unfulfilled details, which require a latter day fulfillment:
Literal Babylon decayed due to the ravages of time, whereas Babylon was to fall "suddenly" in her prime (Jer 51:8; Rev 18: "one hour"). This must be future in its fulfillment. Rev. 18:22; 14:8 both speak of "Babylon is fallen" as applying to a latter day scenario. And yet these words come directly from Isa 21:9 and Jer 51:8, prophecies about literal Babylon being destroyed suddenly -- a destruction which is clearly future, seeing the city was never so suddenly destroyed in the past. The suddenness of the destruction is a keynote of these prophecies.
It is not true that Babylon has been uninhabited "forever". "The city of Babylon has never ceased to exist. Although its name was changed on two occasions, it has never been totally unpopulated. Hillah presently has 250,000 citizens and was built almost entirely of bricks from the parts of the old city of Babylon" (Joseph Chambers, A Palace For The Antichrist 146). Note too that the Babylonian Talmud was written by Jews living in Babylon in the 6th century AD. 1 Pet 5:13 implies there was even an ecclesia there in the first century.
"For the Lord will have mercy upon Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them [the Babylonians], and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors" (Isa 14:1,2). This passage has never been fulfilled yet. It will be in the last days; and at this time, as Is. 14 goes on to detail, Babylon [literal Babylon, in the context] will fall.
Other prophecies about the sudden destruction of literal Babylon -- which can only be latter day in their application -- are also the basis for the words of Rev about latter day Babylon. Consider: (a) "Thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me: I shall not sit a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children" (Isa 47:8), compared with: "How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously...for she hath said in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow" (Rev 18:7). (b) "But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood" (Isa 47:9), compared with: "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death and mourning" (Rev 18:8). (c) "Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up" (Isa 47:13), compared with: "For by thy sorceries..." (Rev 18:23).
The Babylon of Revelation is the Babylon of Jeremiah and Isaiah, literal Babylon, which awaits her full punishment. This conclusion is strengthened once it is appreciated how the harlot Babylon of Rev 17, loud, gaudy, decked with jewelry and painted face, is replete with reference to Semiramis, the goddess / mother of Nimrod, and one of the patron gods of literal Babylon.
The antichrist is a mimic of the true Christ; his kingdom is a parody of God's Kingdom. And the King of Babylon claiming "I am and none else beside me" are the very words of Yahweh -- the King of Babylon is clearly to be identified with the man of sin, who sits as God in God's temple (2Th 2). But the similarities run deeper. The Babylonian epic of creation is a parody of the Genesis account; the flood has its counterpart in the epic of Gilgamesh; and the Code of Hammurabi, an early ruler of Babylon, was clearly an anti-law of Moses. And Saddam Hussein's supporters greet him as the Messiah of the Arab world (Chambers 45). Now Saddam may pass off the scene, but the point is that a similar charismatic leader could arise and be the antichrist.
The accounts of the latter day invasion of Israel all feature a single charismatic individual, who will be destroyed personally by the Lord Jesus at His coming. This is Paul's "man of sin", Daniel's aggressive king of fierce countenance, Ezekiel's Gog, the chief prince. It is also the person referred to by Micah: "And this man [Messiah] shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land" (Mic 5:1,2). The Lord Jesus will save His people in the latter days from an "Assyrian". It has been shown that Assyria and Babylon are used almost interchangeably in Scripture. Gog was a Jew who apostasized and went to live in Assyria / Babylonia, according to 1Ch 5. This is why he has the appearance of spirituality; and he may even be an Arab Christian. 2Th 2 describes him as "the son of perdition", exactly the phrase used about Judas, the false disciple of Jesus. Notice how Tariq Aziz [Iraqi foreign minister at the time of writing] and other leading members of the Iraqi cabinet are in fact Arab Christians, not Muslims.