This is the word the Lord spoke through Jeremiah the prophet concerning Babylon and the land of the Babylonians: “Announce and proclaim among the nations, lift up a banner and proclaim it; keep nothing back, but say, “Babylon will be captured; Bel will be put to shame, Marduk filled with terror. Her images will be put to shame and her idols filled with terror.””(Jeremiah 50:1-2)
Chapters 50 and 51, two of the longest in the book, are devoted to the destruction and overthrow of Babylon. Everywhere in Scripture Babylon is a symbol of the great enemy of God, especially as the devil uses false religious authority to claim earthly standing, prestige, and power.
Do you remember where Babylon began? In the tower of Babel, after the Flood. Why did men erect the tower of Babel? They erected a tower to ascend into the heavens and become like God. Under Nimrod it became the mother of harlots and the abominations of the earth. It became the fountainhead of idolatry and began to export these ideas all throughout the world. It was so that they might make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). Babylonianism is the attempt to gain some prestige or status in the eyes of the world by religious authority. Every religion in the world seeks that. Whole systems of religion have been seized and these systems seek to gain great authority, to be known as princes and kings and powers in the world today. It all began with the tower of Babel.
Just as Babylon itself was the great destructive power against Judah, so Babylon’s turn must come. Out of the north, the Medes and the Persians would come against Babylon and overthrow this great kingdom. Despite its tremendous walls, its vast palaces, its ornate hanging gardens, its huge size, and its great armies — the greatest power of the world of that day — at the very height of its power God declares that it shall be totally lost.
There are many who say that Babylon must be built again because of the prophecies in the book of Revelation that refer to Babylon. But the reference there is to “Mystery Babylon the great,” (Revelation 17:5 KJV). So this is not the actual, literal city, but that for which Babylon stands — the idolatrous practices and the blasphemous assumption of power by religious authority. That is what is going to be destroyed, as the book of Revelation says. Yet here in Chapter 51, we are given a description of the destruction of this actual city, which is picked up and used again in Revelation.
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Babylon symbolizes the enemy arrayed against us — the devil — and the two channels through which he attacks us — the world, and the flesh. These are forces with great power, bringing to pass all the terrible things recorded in our daily newspapers. God is adequate for all of them. Jesus speaks of these troubles in the world, assuring us, “But take heart. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Faith in a living God can overcome the power of the world, can beat back the deceitfulness of the flesh, and can overcome the roaring, lion-like qualities of the devil in our life, so that we can stand free in the midst of the bondage of this age. Babylon shall sink and never rise again.
Thank you, Lord, for the promise that you will defeat the forces that are arrayed against me, symbolized forever by Babylon. Help me to walk by faith in the victory you have promised, and have given me in Christ.
What evil worldly power is symbolized by Babylon? Have we learned to identify this power as we encounter media reports of worldwide terror and suffering? To whom do we turn for personal deliverance and ultimate worldly triumph?