Will Babylon be Rebuilt?
1925 article written by F.E. Marsh D.D, 1
edited for brevity by David Sielaff, October 2002
Read the accompanying Newsletter for October 2002
This writer believes Babylon—an actual city—will be rebuilt. We now give some reasons why we believe there will be a rebuilt Babylon. 2I. The Babylon of the past has never been devastated and destroyed, as Babylon of the future is predicted will be.
The clarion note of prophecy is clear, definite, and concise. The Spirit through Isaiah predicts:
"And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there: neither shall shepherds make their flocks to lie down there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and ostriches shall dwell there, and wild goats shall dance there. And wolves shall cry in their castles, and jackals in the pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged."
Isaiah 13:19–22, American Revised Version
In Jeremiah 51:8, 25–26, 58, 63–64, we read further of Babylon and its doom.
"Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: wail for her, take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed. ... 25 ‘Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain,’ saith Jehovah, ‘which destroyest all the earth; and I will stretch out My hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain. And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolate for ever,’ saith Jehovah. ... 58 Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: ‘The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly overthrown, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the peoples shall labor for vanity, and the nations for the fire; and they shall be weary.’ ... 63 And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates: And thou shalt say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise again because of the evil that I will bring upon her; and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.’"
When we turn to the New Testament we find the overthrow of Babylon equally emphatic.
"Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death and mourning and famine, and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is Jehovah who judgeth her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.’"
Revelation 18:8, 21
These statements of Holy Writ concisely proclaim the character of the judgment upon the City of Babylon.
This judgment will be direct in its act. Jehovah is the One Who acts. "Behold, I am against thee," He says, as He calls attention to what He is about to do. Then as to the certainty of His action, He declares, "I will stretch out My hand against thee," and "The evil that I will bring upon her." And lest any should think He is not able to perform, He proclaims, "For strong is Jehovah that judgeth her."
This judgment is specified as to time. The time when the judgment will be meted out is said to be "In the day of the Lord," which means the period of the Millennium, which is frequently said to begin with "wrath and fierce anger," and as a "destruction from the Almighty" (Isaiah 13:6, 9).
This judgment will be peculiar in its character. It is by the action of fire from Heaven. Babylon "shall be utterly burned with fire" (Revelation 18:8); and in this the city will be like to what came to Sodom and Gomorrah, for God will overthrow it as He did those cities (Isaiah 13:19); and the result will be, the city in its ruin will be like "a burnt mountain" (Jeremiah 51:25). ...
This judgment will be thorough in its consequence. Babylon is "never to be inhabited" again (Isaiah 13:20–22). It is to be "destroyed," "desolate for ever," "utterly broken," "shall not rise from the evil" brought upon it, "utterly burned," and like a stone dropped into the sea (Jeremiah 51:8, 26, 58, 62–64; Revelation 18:8, 21). Metaphorical language could not be more expressive, and words more explicit to denote the thoroughness of an action.
This judgment will be certain in its accomplishment. Evidently there will be an attempt to stay the ravages and the rage of the fire as the city is being consumed, for we read, "The peoples shall labor in vain, and the folk in the fire and they shall be weary" (Jeremiah 51:58). As the American Revised Version indicates, "the folk" are the nations, and "the peoples" denote a cosmopolitan city, but all their efforts will be futile, for "vanity" is the outcome of their labor, and they are "weary" to exhaustion to stay the conflagration.
This judgment will excite acuteness in feeling. The men of Babylon will be filled with fear, contorted with pain as a woman in birth pangs, they will be amazed, their faces fired as with flames, and acts of cruelty will be prevalent (Isaiah 13:7–8, 12, 14–16).
This judgment will be terrible in its carnage. A power will come against Babylon like the Medes which came and conquered the city in the past, but unlike the conquest of the past, for that victory was bloodless. The capture of Babylon by Cyrus was not attended by destruction, so far from this being the case, Alexander the Great, two hundred years after, intended to make the city the capital of his empire. In the future judgment, Jeremiah speaks of its complete destruction (Jeremiah 50:15), and it will be anything but bloodless, for the young men will be dashed in pieces, and children and babes will not be spared (Isaiah 13:17–18).
This judgment will be universal in influence. The whole land of Babylon was not destroyed in the past, but at that time Jehovah will come in His indignation to destroy the whole land, yea, the whole earth will feel the effects of this judgment, and the heavens themselves will be shaken, for Jehovah declares, "I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, ... in the day of His fierce anger" (Isaiah 13:13).
This judgment will be associated with the nation of Israel. The time when Jehovah will deal with Babylon is described as the period when He will deliver Jacob, and cause Judah and Israel to be one nation again. The restored nation will not be made captive to Babylon and Assyria, but shall take captive those who once took them captive (Isaiah 14:1–3).
This judgment is connected with a future monarchy of Babylon. The King of Babylon, who is yet to be destroyed, is a greater personage than ever in the past. He is coupled in his arrogance and pride with Satan, and so thorough is his overthrow that not even a relative of his is spared, but all are "cut off" (Isaiah 14:4, 12, 22). This King of Babylon is so inflated with pride, godlessness and blasphemy, that he assumes and assays to affront God to His face, which causes God to cast him down to the lowest hell, and causes all hell to give him a special ovation of derision and contempt (Isaiah 14:9–21). Further, the Lord is so moved with indignation, that He deals with the City of Babylon and its King, as He has never dealt with any city and king before (Isaiah 14:23–27).
This judgment will be sudden in its action. The judgment is summarized as follows, as the City comes under the scorching flame of God from heaven,
"Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death and mourning, and famine, and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God Who judgeth her. ... 18 In one hour so great riches is come to naught. ... 19 in one hour she is made desolate. ... 21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and cast it into the sea saying, thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all."
Revelation 18:8, 17, 19, 21
... This judgment must be future in its deed. In the past, Babylon was never utterly destroyed, and never has it been without inhabitant. B.W. Newton has tersely given us in his book on Babylon, the history of Babylon from the time of Isaiah’s prophecies till comparatively recent times.
... These unfulfilled prophecies and facts of history point to a city that is yet to be rebuilt and destroyed.
II. The time when Babylon is destroyed is associated with the restoration of Judah and Israel to Jehovah 3
That restoration has not taken place, and cannot be, until the day of the Lord is inaugurated. Through the Prophet Jeremiah, we have a wonderful and detailed prophecy about Babylon, and in looking forward to the time when the judgment will fall upon that city and Chaldea, we read,
"In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, ‘Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.’"
There are four things to recognize in the above scripture:
III. The physical phenomena described in Isaiah 13:10–13 have not been in any history of Babylon’s past, and as they take place at the time of its judgment, the city must be in existence, therefore it must have been rebuilt.
The phenomena is described as follows:
"For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and I will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold, even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger."
Like all the Word of God, the language here is emphatic, minute, and specific. This is seen in the two "shall nots," the two "shalls," and the five "I wills."
This is not the only passage where the time of the day of the Lord is accompanied by the reeling of the earth, the shaking of the heavens, and the sun, moon and stars being affected by God’s judgment. (Isaiah 24:16–23; Ezekiel 32:7–8; Joel 2:30–32; 3:15–16; Haggai 2:6) These Old Testament prophecies are confirmed by New Testament ones also. Christ, in Matthew 24:29, describes the same phenomena. ... Peter at Pentecost enunciates the same as a mark of the last days. (Acts 2:19–20) The Spirit in Hebrews 12:26–27 cites the shaking of the heavens and the earth as a future event; and in the Book of The Revelation we have in detail what takes place under the seventh seal. All this phenomena associated with the overthrow of the City of Babylon demonstrates that the city will be in existence, and therefore must be rebuilt. ... 4
V. The probability of Babylon being rebuilt is found in the fertility of the land of Shinar.
We have many modern evidences of the power of irrigation in Egypt, and on the Pacific Coast in the U.S.A. Modern travelers recognize the natural capabilities of the Land of Chaldea. Here are a few testimonies:—
"The soil is extremely fertile, producing great quantities of rice, dates, and grain of different kinds, although it is not cultivated to above half the degree of which it is susceptible."
"The soil is rich, not less bountiful than that on the Banks of the Egyptian Nile."
"Of all the countries with which we are acquainted," says Herodotus, "it is the most fruitful in grain, being 200 and 300 fold."
Strabo [a 1st century geographer] wrote,
"Five hundred years after the country produces barley on a scale not known elsewhere, for the return is said to be three hundredfold. All other wants are supplied by the palm, which furnishes, not only bread, but wine, vinegar, honey and meal."
... All that was said and is said of Babylon in its excellence for situation, in its wickedness, in its superstition, in its demonism, in its superficiality in its merchandise, in its traffic, and in its godlessness, finds its counterpart in the description of the Babylon of Revelation 18. If a modern City can arise and answer to the Divine Word in such a short space of time, why cannot a City on the Euphrates be built with up-to-date contrivances, in a less period. 5
The certainty of the rebuilding of Babylon is proclaimed in the sure Word of Prophecy, because we are therein told it will become a great commercial center. There is a wonderful and suggestive prophecy in Zechariah 5:5–11, in which we have the following sevenfold vision:
... We suggest what is meant by the different metaphors which are used, and would also draw attention to a correspondence found in 2 Thessalonians 2 in connected with lawlessness and the lawless one.
... That rebuilt city will be a combination of religiousness and lawlessness, of commercialism and demonism, of earthly glory mixed with hateful lust, of luxury and wantonness, of greed and gold, identified with the Name of God and yet devoid of vital godliness, and with a veneer of outward worship, and yet lacking the Christ Who alone can make life worth living.
[Professor] Seiss has summarized the whole situation in the following words,
"Zealous and earnest worship ... concentrated on the ephah and the talent; a worship which makes temples of banks, and warehouse, and exchanges, and pleasure-parks; a worship not of the sun, or moon, or stars, or emperors, or popes, but pounds, and francs, and piastres, and dollars; the worship of greed, epicurean luxury; the worship of mammon perfected, and over-riding and supplanting all other devotions; ... Covetousness is idolatry, and a form of it which is the root of all evil, and here will be covetousness, ... in the embracing arms of its god, and dazzling and defiling the world with the glory and grandeur of its abominations."
What is the practical lesson for us? Is it not to beware of the "wedge of gold" which may catch our eyes and heart, and the Babylonish garment of the world’s attractive livery, lest we should find the latter in its covering, like habit, eating into the vitals of our Christian experience and robbing us of the clothing of the Spirit’s power? Beware of the gold of earth’s commerce which diverts from the Christ Whom we are called to follow to His cross and selflessness. Babylon in its pride and arrogance warns us of the hatefulness of that lust which esteems itself so high, that no place is found for Him, Who is meek and lowly in heart. The Babylon of the world’s system we are to avoid, as the Holy Spirit commands, "Come out of her My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not her plagues" (Revelation 18:4).
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1 NOTE: I have not always put ellipses when I have cut the text. See the original for the full article. This article comes from The Millennial City & Temple and Will Babylon be Rebuilt?(London: Chas. J. Thynne & Jarvis, 1925). DWS
2 We assume that a difference is recognized between the mystical Babylon of Revelation 17 which represents a corrupt Christendom; and the City of Babylon which points to an actual cosmopolitan center. We recognize there is a close affiliation and association between the two. Satan is a great mimic. God’s realities are counterfeited by the god of this age. The Great Dragon mimics the Great God in His actions. The Antichrist is the Man of Sin, seeking to act in the place of the Man of Sorrows, the Christ of God. The reason of man with its satanic doubt, "Yea, hath God said," is exalted to the exclusion of God’s Word. The harlot of a corrupt and corrupting system as represented in the whore of a sin-impregnated woman, is the opposite of the true body of Christ, the Church, which is His body. The False Prophet, the second beast of Revelation 13 is the travesty of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The miracles, powers, and lying wonders which the Man of Sin performs by the power of Satan, is the imitation of the "miracles, powers, and wonders," which Christ performed by the power of the Holy Spirit; and the modern city of Babylon, built on the Euphrates, will be in opposition to the Jerusalem, which Jehovah has determined shall be a "Praise in the earth."
3 By "restoration" Marsh means repentance. DWS
4 Item IV. omitted. DWS
5 Marsh, "We have an illustration of the possibility and the probability of the rise of the city of Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast. Within living memory that city has arisen from the brush and sand to be a cosmopolitan city and the very garden of the Lord in its surroundings." [That is before 1925, when Marsh gave this presentation.]
6 Newton suggests that something was cast into the ephah with the woman, which he described as "wickedness" or lawlessness. "There is no doubt that lawlessness is identified with the woman as the text indicates, and is suggested by the Apostle [Paul] when he speaks of the mystery of iniquity or lawlessness seething in its working to a final issue."
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