OCTOBER 16, 1996
Westlake Village, CA
Edited, October 7, 2008
"And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah" (Isaiah 13:19).
Chapter Four, Verse Four
According to my MacBible computer program, there are 256 references in the Bible to Babylon. The first one is in Genesis 10, where Babylon is identified as one of the cities founded by Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord (Gen. 10:1,6,8,9,10). And also, I was reminded that when God first called him, Abraham was dwelling in Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. 11:31-12:1), where Babylon was one of the major cities. From there, we don't hear much about it until the time of the kings of Israel. On one occasion, Isaiah prophesied to Hezekiah, King of Judah, that, "Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon; nothing shall be left, saith the Lord" (II Kings 20:17-18). And if that weren't bad enough, he was also told that his seed, his descendants would be carried away as well and made eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. Ouch!
This word of the Lord to Hezekiah was fulfilled in the days of King Jehoiakim, who did "evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done" (II Kings 23:36-37). During his reign, Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon, invaded the land of Judah and made Jehoiakim a vassal for three years, after which time this wicked king of Judah rebelled. At that point, the text says that "The LORD sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him. He sent them to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by His servants the prophets. Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD'S command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive" (II Kings 24:2-4, NIV).
This sad account ended up with the brightest and the best of the children of Israel, together with all the treasures in the Lord's house, being taken into Babylonian captivity for 70 long years. The important thing for me to remember as I read it is that it's very clear that the LORD did it all. The book of Jeremiah especially, is an account of how God moved those nations and kings around like chess pieces on a board, in order to show forth his power once and for all to his children who had perpetually rebelled against him.
However, Jeremiah said that the Chaldeans would not be rejoicing in their victory for long. The reason? "For lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country; and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken" (Jeremiah 50:9). Jeremiah further prophesied, "At the noise of the taking of Babylon, the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the nations" (50:46). To accomplish this purpose, Jeremiah says that the Lord raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes (51:11) and he thunders, "'And I will render unto Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight,' saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 51:24). The book of Daniel, chapter 5, relates how God sent the Medes and the Persians to wrest the great Kingdom of Babylon from Nebuchadnezzar's son, Belshazzar. In other words, when God says it, it happens.
So what does this have to do with us? After stating my disclaimers about not being either a theologian or a Bible historian, I'll just say that the story of Babylon, particularly the recital of the fall thereof, which fills two chapters in Revelation, has captured my imagination, my attention, my meditation and my intuition in recent months. I'm probably sailing into choppy seas here, all alone in my little rowboat with a hole in the bottom of it, but it won't be the first time. What I'm exploring in myself and in the Scriptures as well, is nothing less that the complete overthrowing of the world's systems. No, I'm not talking about civil war, revolution, overthrowing the government or anything like that, but rather how the world's systems pertain to Lenny and me as we walk with the Lord and seek his will for our lives. Right now, our life has so much trauma and stress, it feels like the Chaldeans are almost at the front door, with the Medes and Persians not far behind.
As I said in an earlier chapter, we have been more than moderately successful in real estate during the past years, and this has lead us to believe that we understand how things work, or at least, the principals of how business should be conducted, how clients are to be treated for repeat business, and how we can prosper today and maybe even put aside something for a rainy day. In recent years, the real estate trainers and gurus seemingly have no end of books, tapes, videos and seminars, proclaiming and explaining how to find the road to success, the way to achieve your life's goals, both personally and professionally. We have listened to the tapes and gone to the seminars, and like a lot of other people, thought this might be what we need to improve our business. Just today, I got a call from a cheery salesperson wanting to sell me an "in-depth" (meaning costly) seminar on how to plan for a secure retirement. I kind of chuckled and gave him a friend's phone number.
I pray that God Himself is our retirement, because at this moment, He's all there is. How do I explain that to the bank when they call wanting to know when I plan to make the house payment (actually, two)? I've been extremely interested in the lengthy account of the Fall of Babylon, described in the book of Revelation, especially after reading how God orchestrated the taking of His kids into captivity by the Chaldeans. It fascinates me that in Revelation's mystical, apocalyptic account, so much space is given to the earthly traffic and commerce, if you will, of this mysterious city. For example, in Rev. 18:10-11, it says, "Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buys their merchandise any more."
Whatever Babylon represents, the Apostle John took great pains to describe in elaborate detail her fiery end. He describes her as "the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication" (Rev. 19:2). The phrase "in one hour," is used over and over again to describe her fall (Rev. 18:10, 17,19). Her demise was quick and sure at the hand of almighty God. John said she had power to deceive all nations with her sorceries, "and in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth" (Rev. 18:23-24). Of course, many commentators have speculated that she represents the church, specifically the Catholic church because she is accused of fornication with the kings of the earth (Rev. 18:9). Without doubt, this is a metaphor depicting the church and state being "in bed" together, as was historically true in the affairs of the Catholic church. While I don't deny that the merger of church and state wherever it has occurred, has caused a great deal of corruption, wars, rumors of wars, and apostasy, nevertheless, I believe that mystery Babylon has a broader interpretation than that, with an intensely personal significance for us today.
For Lenny and me, this year has been fascinating and often frustrating, as we've watched the deterioration in our business life of all we once believed represented success in this world. This brings me back to those aforementioned real estate trainers, gurus, and seminar presenters, who have gone ever deeper into the "spiritual aspects" of planning our business and personal life, including, but not limited to (as they say in contracts), goal setting, visualization, meditation, giving to others, and forgiving others their faults. Though these and other tried and true means of achieving personal growth are usually found within the confines of the religious community, nevertheless, the current crop of real estate trainers say that if one will practice these principals in business, then one will find self awareness, actualize ones maximum potential, and of course, let us not forget the most important result: make money!
One trainer said something to the effect that "The Universe" (His euphemism for God), "doesn't care what you want. You just visualize it and the Universe will deliver it to you." You want a motor home? Tack a picture of that sucker on your wall, stare at it long enough, write down in your own handwriting daily that you own it (sorry, computers won't do), and sooner or later, you will. What a scary thought. Is that how the Unabomber got his ideas? Or how Timothy McVey thought of the method of blowing up the Oklahoma City Federal Building? Where does it end? Apparently, from what I get from Revelation 18-19, this kind of "power" thinking (soul power), sort of sneaks into every nook and cranny of life, and God considers it so abominable that "with violence," He threw that great city down. He judged her, and she was no more. "Alleluia, Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are his judgments; for he has judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and has avenged the blood of his servants at her hand" (Rev. 19:1-2).
I have come to the conclusion that almost everything which the world says is good, isn't; and almost everything which the world says will bring success, will not. Why? Because whoever or whatever exalts itself above the throne of God has to fail. God will smack it. Paul calls that spirit of rebellion, the "son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (II Thess. 2:3-4). Since Paul tells us that we are the temple of the living God, where He dwells and walks (II Cor. 6:16), it's a serious thing for me to find that the "son of perdition" is sitting in the temple right here inside of me. Paul called our body the "temple of the Holy Ghost," and therefore, he concludes, "you are not your own" (I Cor. 6:19-20).
What I see is that whatever success I may achieve because of some program or system I've been following, belongs to me, to my efforts. I get the glory because I applied myself and "did the deed" according to the plan. We are not the only ones nor the first who have succumbed to this radical sort of self-aggrandizement. Isaiah wrote, "How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, 'I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High'" (Isaiah 14:12-14).
What a grand plan Satan had when he told Eve to go ahead and eat the forbidden fruit because then she would be like God. What a wonderful visualization exercise. Did he write it down or just think about it? No matter, the end for all who exalt themselves above the throne of God is predictable: "Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see you shall narrowly look upon you, and consider you, saying, 'Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?"' (Vs. 15).
It may seem like I'm being fanciful at best, or hallucinating at worst, to have come to these conclusions, but God is grinding into both Lenny and me, that there is nothing, nothing, nothing outside of Him and His efforts, that He will allow to succeed in our lives. I have mentioned the man named Will from whom we need an easement signed in order to close an escrow. I have tried everything to move "that mountain," but all has failed. Lenny said to me last Friday, "You've got to see that you have to give it up. If God wants the escrow to close, it will. If He doesn't, then you are beating your head against a wall."
Giving up is not part of my nature, nor even in my vocabulary. I keep pushing until my body breaks down and I get sick. In our birth family, that was the only way to be excused from doing something which was clearly your duty to do. So, of course, I got sick with a sinus infection. My body is nothing if not predictable, and I wasn't even surprised when the symptoms began to manifest. I felt so bad Monday, that I spent most of the day in bed. All things do work together for good, however, and because I was sick, therefore, I could let it go, and when I let it go, I felt so much better emotionally that my body began to heal. What I gave up on was trying to control Will. I have turned him over to the tender mercies of God. So, I feel that his relief to be free of my calls, letters, and faxes, will be short lived in the end. I'm currently considering the easement problem from another angle, which if it works is from God, and will deliver me and the Buyer as well from being dependent upon this game playing man.
All last week, to keep myself occupied (off the street and out of bars, so to speak), I inputted into my computer, the California Association of Realtors' "Lot and Lands Deposit Receipt Form" (five pages, legal size, small type). I also inputted the "Residential Real Estate Deposit Receipt Form" (eight pages, legal size, small type). (The latter actually wouldn't fit on 8 pages because I didn't have small enough type; so in my computer, it became 9 pages.) Lenny asked, "Are you doing this for all the business you're expecting to get?" "Well, of course," I replied. "You never know" (Actually, I did it because Lenny had been negotiating an 18 acre parcel verbally between Buyer and Seller for a couple of weeks, and I thought maybe I could use it for that).
Sure enough, the Buyer for that parcel, who is one of our neighbors, called up and wanted to make yet another offer on this "piece of dirt," which happens to be, right next to his house. He wants to build a grand mansion up on top of the mountain so he can look down upon the "riffraff," no doubt. Since I had the Deposit Receipt right there in my computer, I quickly whipped out a contract on Sunday; Lenny took it to the Buyer for signature on Monday morning; I faxed it to the Seller for signature on Monday afternoon; and deposited the Buyer's money into escrow on Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoon about 5:30 P.M., the escrow officer called to say that the Buyer had canceled already. When Lenny called him, he said he had taken his architect out to the property and had learned that to build on top of the mountain where he wanted the house, it would cost him about $200,000.00 to develop a seismically safe building pad because he would have to drive pilasters 200 feet into the bedrock. Now, personally, I think this is another "game on the hoof," with the payoff being to get the price down to what he wanted to pay in the first place, but nevertheless, the escrow is canceled.
Since people who have "real jobs" get paid either by the hour, or by the task performed, it's difficult for them to understand that real estate brokers only get paid when an escrow closes. We often spend hours, days, and sometimes weeks in pursuit of transactions which may or may not materialize. ("Working for free," I often say, or perhaps "casting our bread upon the waters" might be a kinder description.) We have had three contracts canceled in the past thirty days, which if they had been consummated, and if escrow had closed, they would have earned us $30,000.00 in commission income. This perhaps helps to explain why we stay in this ridiculous and anxiety ridden pursuit known as real estate sales, or maybe not. I'm beginning to wonder.
When this last Buyer canceled, Lenny and I looked at each other and laughed. In fact, we roared. Last night, we sat in the spa and talked about it and laughed again. How can we laugh when we're two payments down on the house? Because, it is so clear that this is exactly where God wants us to be. We see plainly that everything which has happened to us in our real estate pursuits as well as in the rest of our life, is all ordained by God. He is teaching us that He alone is in charge. He is NOT trying to kill us, I still maintain, though parts of me (the ones who think they don't need God), are indeed, dying. He is molding us into His own image. He is chastening His sons. He is preparing us for whatever comes next. What is that? Beats me, though I did have a dream in which the Lord appeared to me and told me He was sending us to Jerusalem. "We can't go, Lord," I protested. "We don't have any money." He answered, "Don't worry. I've found you a free place to stay there."
I told Lenny about the dream the next morning and laughingly suggested that I call a business acquaintance named Loretta, whose husband's family lives in Jerusalem. Coincidentally, (if you believe in such), she called me later that same morning "out of the blue" looking for a phone number of a mutual acquaintance. In the course of that conversation, I told her about my dream and she said, "Well, we bought an apartment in Jerusalem." So much for that. Does it mean anything? I don't know. As Lenny said, Jerusalem (the holy city of God, not the one sacked by Nebuchadnezzar), is inside us along with Babylon, the temple of God, Armageddon, heaven, and other mystical, spiritual places.
Editor's note: In 2000 and again in 2005, my generous sister and brother-in-law took us to Israel, and we did have a place to stay free of charge to us. God never lies. J.A.
However, failure carries a price in the world's system, for when we fail, one of the bags from Babylon we carry around is shame. Since I dealt with that in chapter two, I'll just observe that shame is very insidious, and very cultural, and very predictable in its effects. Somewhere, we have concluded that we are not OK unless we have a nice house in a good neighborhood, drive a nice car, wear fashionable clothes, pay our bills on time, and have at least a few of the "toys" our society values so much. These include all the gadgets, gimcracks, and gewgaws which appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. All the finer things of the world, the costly things, the delicious things, were part of Babylon. John writes, "And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning" (Rev. 18:9).
Certainly, for most of us, wailing and lamenting are the first reactions we experience when God begins to strip away the creature comforts upon which we have come to depend and with which we surround ourselves in our daily lives. When we have no money to entertain ourselves, with whatever means we use to divert our mind from our troubles and distance ourselves from our emotional pain, Oh, my, how we scream; how we cry; how we protest. We are a society which panders to the flesh. I'm not necessarily speaking of sin and corruption here, though I will admit that when the "LA Times" quoted the rock star Madonna as saying, "When you call my name, it's like a little prayer," I wanted to throw up and send it to her in a bag. Then, the writer in me leapt up and said, "Well, aren't you writing about Babylon today? Here's the queen of Babylon herself, in the flesh. So, listen up."
Chapter 18 of the book of Revelation, records all the different strata of society that mourned and lamented the fall of Babylon: the kings, the merchants, the traders of gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, silk, and scarlet, vessels of ivory, wood, brass, iron and marble; those who traded in "cinnamon, odors, ointments, frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men," shipmasters, owners and sailors of ships, those that trade by sea; as well as musicians, harpers, pipers, and trumpeters. All were wiped out along with her. John wrote, "And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived, and in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth" (Rev. 18:23-24). I included this long list of Babylonian enterprises to show that Babylon includes the entire world's systems: from the government (kings) to those that buy and sell to get gain, as well as those who provide entertainment.
And most assuredly, and perhaps above all else, Babylon has come to represent religion to me. I said earlier that the Protestants say Babylon is the Catholic church. It wouldn't surprise me if the Catholics said it represented Protestantism. I include any and all kinds of organized, structured religion, where man's efforts are considered equal to God's, and where the form is more important than the substance. (For after all, what other substance could there be than God Himself?)
The book of Daniel relates this amazing man's struggles to serve the living God while being held in the midst of a powerful, pagan system where idol worship was not only prevalent, but commanded. That's how the Hebrew children ended up in the fiery furnace, after all (Chapter 1). They refused to fall down and worship the golden image the king had made of himself. Even though the religious situation appears rather different today, certainly less dramatic (if you don't include Pakistani or Afghanistan fundamentalists anyway), I can see that our present world is full of "golden images" that beckon us and seduce us to fall down and worship them. From football heroes, to Olympic athletes, to presidential or Congressional hopefuls, to political leaders and their programs, to financial schemes of every variety, we are encouraged everyday to look to something or someone other than God as our solution, our guide, our salvation in a given situation. Above all, we are told that everything depends on us. "God helps those who help themselves," was the axiom I grew up hearing. And it's just not so. Not even close!
When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, his answer to each of Satan's temptations was, "It is written" (Matt: 3:4-11). And so it still is. This, of course, brings me back to organized religion, with all its myriad types, flavors, and varieties. Jesus was the out raying or the outshining of the glory of God (II Cor. 4:6). He was kind and gracious to the sinners he encountered, but extremely harsh with the Pharisees, who represented organized religion, then as now. Why? Because in their slavish, self-righteous attempts to follow the rules and regulations of the law, hoping to get to God and "work their way to heaven" that way, they missed the mark a mile. They were the "Fighting Fundies" of their day. Jesus railed on them, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear, beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness" (Matt. 23:27). I think I've already made it clear that when I speak of organized religion, I'm not merely talking about the extant church.
I'm talking about every effort of man to create a god in his own image; and, about man's attempt to control the Divine and thus delineate his own destiny. This surely is another picture of Babylon. The Bible is replete with accounts of how man tried and failed on his own steam to please God, and how man chose his gods based on the results he saw rather than following the commandments of God. In fact, I was pondering the beast in Revelation 13, the one who has caused Christians so much terror and worry. The Apostle John tells us what it is, but we've been too invested in what fundamentalist preachers and Hollywood films have told us about it to get the meaning. John says, "This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six" (Rev. 13:18, RSV). Dare I say it? I think this is simply the number of man (six) in triplicate. It's a symbolic way to say, human effort (soul power).
I hesitate to get into this, but oh well, here I go. The whole thing about the beast has been blown so far out of proportion, it seems to me, and it's really sad for Christians to be afraid of this end time bogie man. Rev. 13:2 tells us that "to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority" (RSV). Who is the dragon? Why, the devil, of course. John tells us that in the previous chapter: "And the great dragon was cast out (of heaven), that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (12:9). Needless to say, this is the self same serpent who deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden, who by the time he gets to the book of Revelation, is all grown up and terrible to behold. But the great news here is that He has been defeated by "the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their (the brethren's) testimony" (12:10-11). The only ones who are at risk from the beast are those whose names are not written in the Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; 17:8). If you are tempted to worry about this, don't, for God Himself is "able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). The end of the beast is swift and sure. He goes into perdition, (17:11), along with everything else in man which exalts itself above the throne of God.
It does no good to run away and hide, for God calls on us to remain on the battleground rather than fleeing to what only seems to our fear gripped mind, to be a safer place. Jeremiah, Chapter 42, contains a great story which illustrates this point. There was a remnant left of the children of Israel after Nebuchadnezzar had taken the rest away to Babylon. Those in charge of this pitiful bunch asked Jeremiah the prophet to beseech the Lord on their behalf to see what they should do. They said, "You find out what the Lord wants, and we'll do it" (Jer. 42:2-4, Jan's paraphrase). After ten days, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah and said through him to this remnant, "If you will abide in this land, then I will build you and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the Lord; for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. And I will show mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land'" (Jeremiah 42:10-12).
God understood that the temptation for them would be to flee to Egypt where they would see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor suffer hunger, and because of that, they would want to live there. However, God's word to this motley crew, was that if they did not obey his command to stay in the land of Judah, but decided instead to go to Egypt, "Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which you feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine whereof you were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die.....For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; 'As mine anger and my fury has been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so shall my fury be poured forth upon you, when you shall enter into Egypt; and you shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and you shall see this place no more'" (Vs. 16, 18). Of course, typical of human kind, when Jeremiah told them something they did NOT want to hear, all these pip squeaks said to the prophet, "Get outta here! God did not say that. We're not going to do what you said, and you can't make us!" (Jeremiah 43:2, Jan's paraphrase. The King James refers to them as "proud men" but we know they were only duds because all the important ones had been hauled off to Babylon earlier.)
It was a tough deal to be a prophet in those days, for without phones, fax machines or E-mail, Jeremiah had to go where the people went in order to deliver God's messages to them. So, he went down to Egypt along with them. We also know that it's neither nice nor advisable to disobey God. Therefore, when they got to Egypt, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah to take great stones in his hand and hide them in the clay of the brick kiln, at the entry of Pharaoh's house, in the sight of the men of Judah. Then, he was to say unto them that "Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, my servant will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and shall spread his royal pavilion over them" (43:10).
The message here is very plain: "You can run. But you can't hide. Even your enemies are under my control. Repent or go up in smoke." The consequences? "Therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; 'Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah. And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine; they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine; and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach" (44:11-12). Just reading this sort of makes you shiver in fear, doesn't it?
And poor old Jeremiah. No wonder they called him "the weeping prophet." We'd all weep and wail too if we had his assignments. Having failed to stop the reverse Exodus, back to Egypt in spite of God's threats, his very next "mission impossible" from God was to remind all the Jews which were dwelling in Egypt at that time how they had provoked God to anger by burning incense, and serving other gods, and how as a result, God's fury and anger was poured forth so that, "None of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, for none shall return but such as shall escape" (44:14). Unfortunately, this crisp little reminder from God did no good at all, because they sneered, "We won't obey you; there's nothing you can do about it!" They further defied God by asserting that they were going back to burning "incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her" (44:17).
The reason for this "in your face behavior?" Very logical, and the same thing which drives presidential elections and religious leaders' meetings even to this day. These men of Judah reported that during the time they were worshipping this deity, they had plenty to eat. They were healthy and they saw no evil. "But," they complained bitterly, "when we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted (lacked) all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine" (Vs. 18). So there you have it. Baggage from Babylon: Big Time! To be effective for the masses, and profitable for the clergy, religion must please the people.
If you make them angry or uncomfortable, they'll quit sending in those checks. They'll quit supporting the church programs. Attendance will be down. Offerings will be low. The missionaries will starve. The bank will foreclose on the church building. The community will scoff. Sinners will be confused, and the congregation will be confounded. God might be disappointed, or even angry. The answer? Put on a show. Get singers and dancers, asses and camels, sheep and a real live baby for the manger scene, flying angels, trumpet players, professional musicians and singers. Choreograph "a really big shew;" make it emotional; sell expensive tickets to get in (Sorry, I got carried away).
Along these same lines, Ezekiel is another book weighed down with sin and consequences. It is truly a terrifying book in which God rails on Israel with dire threats of His wrath which He promises to bring upon them because of their many sins and transgressions. Yet, after something like 35 chapters of death, doom, destruction the likes of which the world has scarcely seen, He concludes, "And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries; according to their way and according to their doings I judged them" (Ezekiel 36:19-20). The end however, is glorious: "And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes" (Vs. 23). In Chapter 37, He gives the hope that we all live by, "And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land."
But, Ezekiel, we cry? What will be different this time? They, and we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God so many times. They, and we have failed and failed and failed again. How can this be? The answer is simple: "I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it" (36:36). To me, this is the lesson of Babylon in a nutshell. If I do "it" on my own steam, out of my own imagination, "it" is bound to fail. If He does "it," He will perform "it" and He will succeed! Does that mean I sit on a stump and do nothing? Probably not. I haven't worked out the fine points yet. It seems to have something to do with the intent of my heart, i.e., the determination to save myself, or the attitude which I've repented of and confessed to God as sin, which says, "Why bother God with this? Just get out of my way and let me do it myself."
The middle of the story appears totally bleak for Israel, of which we are a part, but the end is glorious for them and for us: Ezekiel promises: "And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land; And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all" (37:21-22). In light of all the gloom and doom I've quoted, it's appropriate here to note, that for me, the entirety of scripture points to God's everlasting plan for his creation. We missed the mark. We sinned. We rebelled, but He knew that we would and He made provision for the salvation of all even as He stoked the fires of hell.
The Apostle John begins the book of Revelation by saying that it "IS THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST" (Rev. 1:1). Therefore, I conclude that the destruction of Babylon related in Revelation 17 and 18, is a picture of Jesus Christ's redemptive work in my life. He's purging off the dross in me. The fire that burns for ever and ever, I believe, is the same fire which Paul says will reveal every man's work, burning up the wood, hay, and straw, leaving us with only gold and silver (I Cor. 3:11-15).
Every scary, fearful thing in the Bible, has good news attached to it when God opens our eyes to see it. The good news here is that Paul says, "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet SO AS BY FIRE" (Vs. 15). What does that mean? How can fire save us? Well, once again, fire is a description of God himself. He is a consuming fire! (Heb. 12:29); therefore, it is redemptive. The church I grew up in scared us to death with hell fire. While it kept us off the street and out of bars, no doubt, and possibly even away from sex sin (oh horrors), nevertheless, the fear kept me away from intimacy with God as well. But now that my spiritual eyes have been opened, and my ears unstopped, I believe hell fire has a divine purpose, and we don't have to wait until we die to get it.
Have you ever had the experience of reading the Bible and thinking you know the meaning of a certain passage, when suddenly, a phrase or word just leaps out at you in a whole new way? That just happened to me regarding a verse found in Revelation, which says, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death" (Rev. 20:13-14). Think about it, if even one person gets out of hell, there's hope for the rest of us! Again, I'm no theologian, but my spirit leaped for joy that this verse is confirmation of what I've long intuited, which is that hell is temporary, not forever and ever, as we've been taught.
There will come a time when those unfortunates who were sent there for the cleansing fire, will be delivered up, set free, and hell itself will be cast into the lake of fire. That's GOOD NEWS! I've long believed that God uses even hell for the purpose of redemption, and this verse confirms that when the work is done, those in hell are released. How this will be accomplished is yet to be revealed. If I need to know how, God will reveal it, but in the meantime, I rejoice to see the salvation of God which He has prepared before the face of all people (Luke 2:30-31).
It's enough for me to see that everything which separates us from God is being cast into the lake that burns with fire now, and is being burned up, now! Whatever is left will be of Him, built on the only foundation there is, which is Christ (I Corinthians 3:11). And better still, we won't be able to take any credit for it when He's finished, because He did it all, just like He has been doing all along, from the garden in Eden to the garden described in Revelation, which is a description of God Himself (And since He lives in us, the garden is therefore within us as well).
While it's true that God was very cross with Israel for all her iniquities, and poured out his wrath upon her through the prophets' words and the heathen nations' warfare, that's not the end of the story. In most cases, right after He had finished "cleaning their clock," through the thunderings of the prophets, He gave them hope that He would not turn His face away from His beloved forever.
In Jeremiah 50, we find this wonderful passage: "Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria has devoured him; and last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones. Therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; 'Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.' In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, 'the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah (shall be sought for), and they shall not be found; for I will PARDON THEM WHOM I RESERVE'" (Jeremiah 50:17-20). Isn't that glorious? Just the best news you ever heard? Why? because we are those very ones whom He reserved. We are the remnant of Judah, God's elect (Eph. 1:5-6). And that's how I know that He will not leave us forever in bondage to the baggage we brought with us from Babylon.
Good news! The "refiner's fire" and the "fullers' soap" (Mal. 3:2), are available for the mop up work. The sons of Levi are about to discover that when our baggage is hauled away and burned up, we will appear as gold and silver, an offering in righteousness unto the Lord (Mal. 3:3). He's come to take us home. I'm not sure what format that will take, but I've heard the seventh trumpet, sound (Rev. 10:7), and I look forward to the coming of the one who rides the white hose, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and on whose head are many crowns (Rev. 19:12), the One who will change the program according to His divine plan. Listen with your spiritual ears, and perhaps you too, will hear the voice of the seventh trumpet: "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever"' (Rev. 11:15). You'd have to have a heart of brass for that not to thrill you to your very core.
Come, let us join our voices with those which John heard in heaven after Babylon fell: "And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, 'Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God. For true and righteous are his judgments; for he has judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and has avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.' .... And a voice came out of the throne, saying, 'Praise our God, all you his servants, and you that fear him, both small and great.' And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, 'Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth'" (Rev. 19: 1,2,6). Let me see it, Lord, now and in this time.
Post Script: This poem reflects a major theme God has emphasized in our ministry: pointing out the difference between religion (Babylon, soul power) and life in the Spirit, which is Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Remember Babylon? here's a little relic to put into your trunk, to remind you why this city became gross piles of junk. So, when you see the smoke arise and hear the merchants scream and watch the traders running out, don't think it's just a dream.
You'll know the prophets, priests, and seers spoke the solemn truth when they said, "Flee this place! She's doomed, she's damned, forsooth!" For God has judged her sin and vice, her harlotry condemned Even though she may look quite nice, she's facing death's grim end.
And those seduced by her allure who coveted her desire, will find themselves in God's embrace in the lake that burns with fire; even there, they'll find that grace abounds to burn off all their dross, and everything they thought was good, they'll count as only loss.
So if you have the ears to hear, turn away from Babylon's fate. Enter into the garden of God; turn right at mercy's gate. Stroll beneath the tree of life on either side of the river, walk with God, and see His face,and hold His hand forever.
By Jan Austin Antonsson, October, 1996
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Forward to Faxes From The Fiery Furnace
Faxes From The Fiery Furnace, Chapter One
Shame From Shiloh, Chapter Two
E-Mail from Armageddon, Chapter Three
Just A Note From Job, Chapter Five
Joy From Jerusalem, Chapter Six
Memo From Moses, Chapter Seven
Dancing with the Devil, Chapter Eight
News From Neosho, Chapter Nine
The Glory Road
We would enjoy hearing from you!
This writing was uploaded to the web 8/24/05,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 12/04/08.