Revelation Lesson 50 - The Cradle is the Grave

Series: Revelation
Ref: Revelation 18:1–24

Throughout Scripture, Babylon represents man's rebellion against God. It is a city marked by humanism, atheism, existentialism, and hedonism. It is literally hell on earth--a city void of Christ. But in Revelation 18, God will finally destroy Babylon once and for all. Join Stephen now to discover how God will do it.

Transcript

The Cradle is The Grave

Revelation 18:1-24

Most of you have heard the phrase, “cradle of civilization”.  Your middle school teacher might have described it in your Geography or Social Studies class as the Tigris-Euphrates River valley where civilization began.

The first chapter of mankind’s history lay between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Whether or not your social studies teacher taught it or not, the Bible makes it even clearer. 

Geographical points of reference for the Garden of Eden provided in Genesis chapter 2 indicate the Garden’s location in this river valley, with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flowing past this beautiful sanctuary where Adam and Eve tended the garden and walked with God.

Because of the sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, they were expelled from the garden.  The human race began – and so did murder and every other form of depraved wickedness.

Eventually, humanity reached such perverted and blasphemous conditions that God judged the world by sending a universal flood, literally wiping the human race along with the animal kingdom off the face of the earth. 

However, God first provided mankind with an invitation of mercy and grace.  They were invited to come to the ark of Noah and be saved from God’s wrath to come. 

Noah preached and warned for 120 years.  Plenty of time for the news to travel the globe and respond; according to Genesis chapter 6, outside of Noah’s family, not one person responded.

The cradle became a grave.

After the flood, Noah and his family disembarked high above that same Euphrates river valley on the mountain of Ararat, according to Genesis 8.  It was the snow covered mountains that fed the Euphrates river.

Noah and all who would come through him were commanded to go out and populate the earth, enjoying worship and obedience with God again. (Genesis 9).

Noah’s great grandson rebelled and instead called all the people to gather together and defy God. 

The people gathered and built the first city after the flood – a city of rebellion against God.  Nimrod became its first Caesar.  

They also built their tower of Babel, dedicated to the stars, moon and sun – the Zodiac – which they originated.  The Babylonians would become world renowned in their designation of signs in the sky under which people were supposedly held captive – to find their destiny only by following their sign in the sky and the  movements of the stars. 

The Zodiac has been discovered in the remains of ancient ziggurats; copy cat towers tracing their roots to Babylon, with their ceilings and walls painted with stars and planets, dedicated in their worship of the heavens.

They had rejected the Creator and begun worshipping creation.

Genesis 11 reveals how God judged the human race again –this time by confusing their one language, separating them into a thousand different dialects which of course were not understandable to each other.

They scattered around the world.

But Babylon has never been completely abandoned.

It grew in size and significance century after century until a King named Nebuchadnezzar built it into its grandest state ever.

500 years before the birth of Christ, according to Herodotus the historian, which we will assume was telling the truth, the capital city of Babylon was an exact square of 15 miles on each side. 

Interestingly enough, it is exactly 25 times smaller than the New Jerusalem . . . a city also laid out in a square fashion though much larger than Babylon. 

This is, in my view, one more attempt by Satan to mimic Christ, by imitating Christ’s coming capital city.

And that’s really at the heart of human history; Babylon versus Jerusalem.  The rule of man versus the rule of God.

The heart of mankind, subtly directed by the fallen angel, desires to this day to bring mankind back to and under the power of Babylon.

There is little doubt that Satan believed Nebuchadnezzar was his Antichrist, with golden image and an edict that would wipe out the Jews.

But God thwarted the plans of this world ruler.

But Babylon was indeed magnificent.  Herodotus described this city – all 60 miles of it – surrounded by a brick wall 87 feet thick and 100 feet high with 250 towers reaching into the sky to intimidate every enemy army.

The Euphrates river ran through the city and the banks of this river were where it ran through the city were beautifully walled with steps leading down to the waters edge. 

The hanging gardens were created by Nebuchadnezzar to keep one of his wives from being so homesick.  Terraced patios with exotic plants were tended by laborers that worked 24 hours a day. These gardens became one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.

It may very well have been a subtle attempt by Satan to again mimic the Garden of Eden.  Perhaps it was his way of making of statement that once again, in the cradle of civilization, a garden has returned in the city of man. 

Babylon was laid out with 25 main avenues that traveled through the city in straight lines – these streets were 150 feet wide – about twice the width of this auditorium. 

At the end of each avenue were gates covered with brass plates and Herodotus said as they opened and closed in the rising or setting sun they were like leaves on fire.

One of those gates was named the Ishtar Gate – named in honor of Ishtar, their chief goddess they claimed was the queen of heaven and the virgin mother who bore a son they worshipped.

That very gate has been excavated and is on display in the Berlin Museum – and you can see pictures of it, stunning blue stone dragons painted in gold.

Nebuchadnezzar’s own inscription was excavated and he had written that these gates and this city was built so that man would stand in awe. / Wikipedia.com/Gate of Ishtar

Through these gates a young teenager entered the capital city of Babylon.  His name was Daniel.

If there was any doubt that Babylon was greater than Jerusalem, that moment erased from all the captured Jews any thought otherwise.

But Daniel and his three friends would not be intimidated by this empire city, dedicated to the worship of false gods, the Zodiac and mother earth.

Daniel would later prophesy of Babylon’s fall to the Medes and the Persians in Daniel chapter 2.

And that’s exactly what happened according to Daniel chapter 5.

After Darius defeated Babylon, it limped along, losing much of its grand reputation.

But then came Alexander the Great, the next world conqueror, who arrived in Babylon and decided to make it his capital city.

He dismantled Nebuchadnezzar’s centuries old palace and planned to rebuild it to its original glory, but died before he was able to finish.

Still later, Napoleon made plans to rebuild Babylon as he raced to conquer the Western world.

I have read that in the French Department of War in Paris, there are records of surveys and maps of Babylon made at his command.  Napoleon had intended to rebuild the ancient city, calling it New Babylon, making it his capital and the governmental and commercial center of the western world.

He too, failed.

Again, Babylon slipped off the radar of world attention.

But now there was another reason to desire control over Babylon.  In a word, oil.

Iraq sits on one of the world’s largest known crude oil reserves in the world.  Oil experts believe that Iraq’s potential could rival Saudi Arabia and become the world leading producer. 

One author wrote, Stabilizing Iraq and rebuilding the city of Babylon into a major economic center for the Middle East has Western Oil companies salivating. / John Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil and Terror (Tyndale, revised reprint 2007), p. 146

But then problems arose – namely in the form of tyrant who had visions of rebuilding Babylon and owning the world.

He even declared himself to be the new Nebuchadnezzar.  His name was Saddam Hussein.  He would spend millions of dollars rebuilding the palace of Nebuchadnezzar on the same plot of ground where the original palace had once stood.   / Stewart Custer, From Patmos to Paradise (BJU Press, 2004), p. 193

He rebuilt the gate of Ishtar, complete with blue stone and golden animals painted on the surface. 

The millions of bricks used to rebuild the ancient city all had his personal insignia stamped onto each brick as Nebuchadnezzar 2,500 years earlier. 

He offered 1.5 million to the designer who could capture the essence and beauty of Nebuchadnezzar’s hanging gardens.

Saddam even went so far as to mint coins that emphasized the connection between himself and ancient Babylon.

He claimed to have been given a vision to restore the once great empire and become the next Nebuchadnezzar.

Mark Hitchock, in his book entitled, The Second Coming of Babylon provided the religious motivation behind Saddam that never made it into ABC, NBC or even Fox News reports.

Saddam not only wanted to destroy the Jews, but Iran as well.  Why?  He hated Iranians as much as Jews, simply because Iranians were the descendants of the Persians who had originally conquered Babylon and his forefathers.

Saddam was taking on a personal quest to renew the honor of his forefathers by conquering Persia – now Iran – and the Jews.

In fact, before his fall from power, he had republished a pamphlet, authored by his uncle who was the governor of Baghdad entitled, “Three Whom God Should Not Have Created: Persians, Jews and Flies.” / Ibid, p. 128

Saddam wanted to rid the world of Iranians and Jews – I didn’t find any evidence that he tried to rid the world of flies – although that would have been commendable. 

But he had several obstacles in his way. 

One of them was his need for money.  His quest to rebuild Babylon created a need for more and more millions.  In fact, we now know that it was his need for money that he invaded Kuwait – he wanted to monopolize at least 10% of the world’s oil reserves and fund the rebuilding of Babylon.

But there was more to it than that . . . one author revealed that Saddam’s attempted to regain control over Kuwait because it was part of the original kingdom of Babylon and he considered it his property. / Mark Hitchcock, The Second Coming of Babylon (Multnomah, 2003), p. 127

But he failed to capture it; he failed in his attempt to control oil reserves.  He had failed his subjects too.

In that raw video smuggled out of Iraq where Saddam was surrounded by chaos and cursing – his own people put a noose around his neck and hung him until he died.

He was one more applicant for world ruler.  He was only one more hopeful King of Babylon.

And Satan is even now waiting and watching for another Nimrod – another who will rebuild Babylon.

Why would Satan, the enemy of God and God’s people, even  believe it possible to rebuild Babylon?

Because he has most certainly read the record of scripture!

He has read of Babylon’s return to world-wide significance and power in the pages of the prophets and in the Book of Revelation.

Satan has no doubt studied the Apostle John’s account of Antichrist’s rule and reign from the ancient, resurrected ruins of the city of Nimrod and Nebuchadnezzar.

Since Genesis 11, when Nimrod was overthrown and the people scattered, Satan has longed for and worked toward, manipulating the hearts of unbelieving world powers to ultimately return mankind to Babylon. 

The empire that will one day rise from the rubble will indeed rule over a one-world religion and a one-world government will once again build a tower so to speak against Creator God. 

This coming unified global order and global religion and global economic base and global political unity will bring about the finale of rebellion and defiance against God. 

And what I find utterly fascinating is that it will all center in and around the place where it all first started – in Babylon.

It fits the Biblical record of history and prophecy perfectly.

So unlike many supposed ministers and scholars and authors, Satan evidently believes the Bible.

Defiance to God began with planet earth’s first city – Babylon – in the cradle of civilization.  Earth’s final defiance against God will once again emanate from Babylon and in the Battle of Armageddon millions will die in defiance to God.

The cradle of civilization will become a graveyard.

You’ve heard the phrase, from the cradle to the grave.  Well, according to Biblical prophecy, the cradle is the grave.

The cradle of civilization will become the graveyard of civilization as man loses his final duel against God, and God brings final judgment to Babylon.

The Apostle John provides the details in Revelation chapter 18.

The Fall of Babylon is Predicted

Turn to the Book of Revelation and chapter 18.  John writes in verse 1.  After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.  2. And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!  She has becomea dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.  3.  For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.

This is basically a repetition of the verdict we’ve already studied in chapter 17.

The angel here however describes Babylon as a desolate city that is now a haunted region for demons and vultures perched everywhere, like some scene out of an Edgar Allen Poe short story.

Babylon was once the city of dreams . . . it is now the city of nightmares.

Is this really literal Babylon?  Could it be code for New York or Paris or Berlin or Rome?

If we answer that question by starting with the Old Testament, we discover that whenever the word Babylon appears, every time it shows up it refers to literal Babylon – that city in what is now modern Iraq. / Ibid

Whenever Revelation uses the name of a city, if the author wanted us to consider it something other than a literal city, it would add something to the text to make that clear.

For instance, in chapter 11, John refers to Jerusalem as Sodom and Egypt, but he prefaces that by writing, “the great city which is mystically is called Sodom and Egypt.”

It’s important to note that chapter 17 talks about Mystery Babylon – as the mother of all that is religiously corrupt.  However, here in chapter 18, the word mystery is dropped and the word, “city” is used. / Daymond R. Duck & Larry Richards, The Book of Revelation (Thomas Nelson, 2006), p. 263

John refers to numerous cities throughout Revelation and, unless he adds something to let us know that he’s using the name figuratively, we are to understand it literally.

Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Patmos, Armageddon and Babylon are all literal places, regions, or cities in the Middle East.

Furthermore, the city of Babylon on the Euphrates fits the criteria for this city described in Revelation 17 and 18. 

Henry Morris writes that apart from any prophetic intimations, Babylon is a prime prospect for rebuilding.  Not only is it in the beautiful and fertile Tigris-Euphrates plain, computer studies have shown that Babylon is very near the geographical center of all the earth’s land masses. It is within navigable distances to the Persian Gulf and is at the crossroads of the three great continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa.  There is no more ideal location anywhere for a world trade center, a world communications center, a world banking center, a world educational center, and a world capital.  The greatest historian of modern times, Arnold Toynbee – who by the way was the historian who said that America was great because she was good and if she ceases to be good she will cease being great” -  this same historian wrote that Babylon would be the best place in the world to build a future cultural metropolis.  Is it any stretch of the imagination that the future capital of the United Nations Kingdom –the ten-nation federation established at the beginning of the Tribulation should be established in Babylon? / Adapted from Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record(Tyndale, 1986), p. 34 

Now, as we have learned, the word Babylon represented both a city and the religious system that arose out of that same city. 

Babylon is a literal geographical location on the Euphrates River where its infamous ziggurat – the tower of Babel – became the polluted fountain head of false religion that glorified creation and the universe and defied the Creator.

The announcement here in verse 2 is made by the angel that Babylon is now fallen in judgment as the final bowl of judgment is poured out.

John now hears another voice from heaven in verse 4.  “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and reciefve of her plagues;  5. For her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

In other words, her judgment is justified because she has refused justification by God through Christ.

I want you to notice a word that appears several times in this chapter.  Her judgment will be delivered (verse 7) to the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously.

The only place in the entire New Testament that this word sensuously or sensuous appears is in this chapter.

The word comes from strenos (strhnoV) which literally refers to uninhibited sexual promiscuity coupled with excessive luxury. / Fritz Rienecker/Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 851

Babylon will create her own new class of perverted, unhinged, sexual deviants along with so much money to burn that they can support luxurious lifestyles beyond anyone’s imagination.

In other words, as bad as Rome became – as immoral as Corinth was – they were never quite immoral enough to be accused of this word – this perverted depth of sensuality.

The entire city will be a literal playground for the rich and famous and there will be no boundaries to their behavior.

And their pride and arrogance will have no boundaries as well.

Notice something that might be easy to miss – verse 7b.  For she says in her heart, ‘I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.”

This is a quote from Isaiah 47 where Babylon is challenged for believing she is a queen that is ruling forever; the phrase, “I am not a widow, refers to the fact that all the world’s kings are her consorts; and the phrase, “I will never mourn” – the verb for mourn is the kind of mourning and moaning that comes from suffering torment.  In other words, Babylon says in effect that she will never experience the tormenting judgment of God. / John MacArthur, Because the Time is Near (Moody Publications, 2007), p. 276

And who would ever believe that mighty Babylon would ever suffer anything?!  Who would imagine that the greatest empire to ever grace the surface of the earth was in danger of utter collapse?

I mean if mighty Babylon says, “I will never be defeated again” who would ever deny it?

And yet judgment falls and the world watches Babylon burn to the ground. 

The Fall of Babylon is Lamented

Three different categories of people are revealed as they weep in horror over the loss of economy, power, wealth, position, occupation.

The first category are the monarchs of the earth.  They lament the fall of Babylon in verses 9 and 10.  They’ve lost their power.

The second category are the merchants of the earth who also, verse 11 tells us, weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more.  They’ve lost their wealth.

The third category are the mariners.

Look down at verse 17.  For in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’  And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her bunring, saying, “What city is like the great city?”

In other words, Babylon had been the commercial center of the world.  She was the clearing house with her giant warehouses and markets and shopping centers which now go up in smoke.

Babylon had traded in every product imaginable, including slave trade – verse 13 – where they bartered for slaves – even human lives. / Kendell H. Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation (Holman Reference, 1998), p. 340

Life was cheap – life only mattered in so far as it advanced the kingdom of Babylon.  That’s the way Babylon has always operated.  Life is cheap.

And now, in a moment of time, Babylon has burst into flames.

One author writes, “The ships entering the Persian Gulf stand hastily back out to sea; giant convoys of ships, displaying the flags of a hundred nations ride at anchor far from the writhing center of fiery doom; telescopes are fixed to every eye as the astonished and frightened watch in horror the last agony of Babylon.  Vessels now choke the harbors of the world now that Babylon is gone forever.  The world’s trade is now in ruins.”   / John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Loizeaux Brothers, 1991),p 226

But monarchs, merchants and mariners – representing every class and occupation on the planet – are standing in their executive suites halfway around the world, watching on satellite television their world go up in smoke.  And they begin to weep and to wail. / Duck & Richards, p. 273

It’s not often that you see grown men weeping and wailing in public.

You might circle the repetition of judgment’s swift arrival.  The phrase, “one hour” appears in:

Verse 10 – in one hour your judgment has come.

Verse 17 – in one hour such great wealth has been lost!

Verse 19 – in one hour she has been laid waste!

All the millions . . . all the connections . . . all the power . . . all the pomp . . . all the extravagance . . . all that seemed to matter – lost!

When money is god, and God is gone, what is left but godless grief? / Ibid, p. 276

And what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul

This is Pearl Harbor, the stock market crash, the great depression, the bubonic plague and the Holocaust all rolled up into one hour. 

The Fall of Babylon is Predicted in verses 1-8

The Fall of Babylon is Lamented in verses 9-20

Finally, the Fall of Babylon is Completed

Verse 21.  Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.”

The next few verses reveal the complete and utter loss.

Music ceasesverse 22.  And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer.

All music is silenced . . . no more parties . . . no more revelry . . . no more singing.

Work ceases and careers end – John writes 22b, and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer;

Domestic life ceasesv. 22c.  and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer.

Every ancient home ground its own grain with a handheld millstone.  No one’s preparing food because no one is home. / Easley, p. 336

Notice also in verse 23 that the lamps are all gone out

Babylon is dark and uninhabited, except for demons bewailing their defeat and carrion birds swooping in to feed.

Marriages cease as well – John writes this as if to reinforce there is no hope of every rebuilding Babylon (23b) for the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer.

Music, work, marriage, domestic life, commerce, careers, everything imaginable, like a candle, is snuffed out by the judgment of God.  / Adapted from Mark W. Wilson, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Revelation (Zondervan, 2002), p. 110

The cradle of human civilization is the grave of civilization as Babylon orchestrates a global army to march upon God himself in the Battle of Armageddon.

With the return of Christ and one word of His power, the armies of the world are defeated and Babylon is reduced to rubble.

The defiance of Babylon against God in Genesis ends in Revelation with one final gasp of defiance. 

Are we headed there today?

Surely there is no interest in rebuilding Babylon now?!

Today the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is pumping millions of dollars into Babylon and several other historical sites in Iraq.

With the help of private donors the UN is hoping to turn Babylon in to a thriving center of tourism and commerce. Our own government has recently pledged nearly 1 million dollars of tax money – to help rebuild the city of Babylon.

I was invited to join a conference call this past Thursday with Joel Rosenberg, the author of a number of best-selling books that sift the news accounts in the Middle East through the lens of prophetic scripture. 

I joined about 25 other pastors and Christian ministry leaders on the phone as Joel talked about a number of current issues; the North Korean threat and their language of terror that mirrored Iran. 

He talked about the money flowing into Iraq and Iraq’s unique position in the coming days economically as it taps its vast oil reserves and develops systems to translate that product into billions of new dollars.

Someone had given me Rosenberg’s recent best seller, Epicenter, published by Tyndale.  I hadn’t read it and all my books at the office have been boxed up for some painting and expansion in our administration offices so I couldn’t find it before that phone call.

After he talked for some time, he asked if we had any questions.  I asked him if he believed in a future war between Jerusalem and a literal Babylon, and he said, “Absolutely!”  He said, “In fact, I wrote an entire chapter on that in my book, Epicenter”. 

I was obviously the only person on the phone with him who hadn’t read his book! 

He was kind about it though . . . he went on to say, “Everything’s moving toward that end.  I believe the ultimate showdown will be between Jerusalem and Babylon.”

I might not have read his book – but I have read this one . . . and I couldn’t agree more. 

I got a copy after my phone conversation . . . over the weekend I found it fascinating to read one incident that occurred after Saddam Hussein’s fall from power.  His newly constructed palace – on the same site as Nebuchadnezzar’s palace . . . if you can imagine it . . . the palace was covered throughout in multi-million dollar layers of marble and gold. 

After his fall from power, in his very throne room where he declared his claim as ruler of New Babylon, that same throne room was used in a matter of weeks for an evangelical church service where singing and preaching took place to the glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. / Adapted from Joel C. Rosenberg, Epicenter (Tyndale House, 2008), p. 177

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a small glimpse into the ultimate future. 

There is a final battle between the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God; a final duel between the Antichrist – the King of Babylon and Jesus Christ – the King who returns to Jerusalem.

And the King of Jerusalem wins.  And the battle is over and Babylon – the kingdom of man is fallen.

And the next chapter reveals the followers of Christ singing. 

The singers include you and me – singing in the Kingdom of Christ.

And the lyrics begin with. Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.

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