Spiritual Babylon introduced
We’ve been slowly going through the book of Daniel, and now we’re on Daniel 5 which contains the end of the Babylonian era. But, we’re going to take the opportunity to introduce the concept of spiritual Babylon in Revelation as well. Revelation has a lot of prophecy concerning Babylon, but since it was written hundreds of years after the fall of that empire, it obviously can’t be about the kingdom we’ve been discussing for the last few posts.
But, for now, let’s get through Daniel 5.
Nebuchadnezzar lives out his live, and a new king is in charge: Belshazzar. Now, it’s suspected that Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and that he was co-ruler with his father, Nabonidus, or perhaps the crown-prince (but liked to play king).
Belshazzar decides to throw a huge feast for a thousands of his lords, and in the course of events gets drunk and decides to have some fun at some of the conquered nation’s expense. He takes out the gold vessels that were brought from Jerusalem (way back in Chapter 1) that were used in God’s temple, and decides to drink from them himself, along with his guests, wives and concubines and used them to worship his own gods (Daniel 5:1-4). And here we see one of the patterns we’ll see repeated later on in spiritual Babylon. Belshazzar mixes something holy with something unholy to produce somethings blasphemous. We’ll see over and over again spiritual Babylon taking something that is of God, and twisting it into something that is not.
In the midst of this blasphemy, in the middle of the party, the fingers of a man’s hand appear and write on the wall in the king’s palace, in plain sight of Belshazzar. Belshazzar sobers up quickly and calls for his wise men to attend him, to figure out what the writing means. As you might expect, the wise men cannot interpret the writing (Daniel 5:5-9).
Then the queen hears of this incident. We’re not sure which queen this is. It’s possible this was Nebuchadnezzar’s wife, and so, very familiar with Daniel, because she tells Belshazzar of how much Nebuchadnezzar relied on him, and that Daniel could interpret the writing (Daniel 5:10-12).
Daniel comes and Belshazzar makes the same type of promises Nebuchadnezzar used to make. Interpret the writing, and you’ll have power, wealth, prestige. One interesting thing to note here: Belshazzar offers Daniel the third highest seat in the kingdom, not the second, like Nebuchadnezzar did. Some suggest this is because Belshazzar held the second (Nabonidus his father being first), and so could not give anything higher. Food for thought (Daniel 5:12-16).
Daniel tells Belshazzar to keep his gifts, that he will interpret the writing regardless. Daniel tells Belshazzar the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness, how he humbled himself before God, and that’s what made him a great ruler. Daniel reminds Belshazzar that he has not humbled himself, even though he knew about God. Not only that, but he defiled items used to worship God, using them to worship his own gods. For that, Belshazzar would die, his kingdom lost, that the Medes and Persians would conquer Babylon (remember Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?) (Daniel 5:17-28).
Belshazzar lives up to him promised, makes him third ruler in the kingdom, gives him a gold change and purple (royal) robes. But, that night, Babylon falls to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:29-31).
Now, we know from historical record how they took the city. The river Euphrates ran right through the city, proving water to it’s inhabitants. The city was surrounded by a great wall, considered impenetrable. What the Medes and Persians did was to redirect the river so that it ran dry in the city basically giving them a road to march right in. Since everyone was drunk from the partying, it made for a very easy take over.
What’s really interesting though is that when we look at Revelation 16:12-16, we see this being used in future prophecy. This isn’t about Daniel’s time, this is a prophecy about much later. We’re going to look at this more in a later post, but I wanted to point it out so you’ll remember the context later.
The old Babylon is not coming back. The city was razed, and there hasn’t been a city there since. There are no peoples calling themselves Babylonians, and it’s doubtful there ever will be. So these references in Revelation must be talking about something else. Not a nation, but a spiritual movement, but like Babylon of old, it shares a lot of characteristics. This spiritual Babylon will again be an oppressor of God’s people. It will again enslave God’s people, and it will again mix good, holy things with unholy things to create blasphemies. But, it won’t be as easy to point to, because it won’t be marching across a plain ready to make war physically. Instead, it will fight for your belief system and try to turn you away from God.
So, let’s take our first look at this spiritual Babylon.
We learn of who Babylon is represented by in Revelation 17. It starts with an angel telling John about this woman, a harlot (whore, prostitute), who sits on many waters (Revelation 17:1). Do you remember what waters represent in prophecy?
Well, it tells us in verse 15: “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.”
And the great sin that this harlot has committed is sleeping with all the kings of the earth and deceiving them all (Revelation 17:2). Now, we’re not talking about a real woman here, this is a spiritual relationship. This fornication, or adultery, speaks of an illicit relationship between parties that have no reason being together. This harlot has been sleeping with God’s bride, mixing worship with God with pagan practices, just like the Babylonians did.
Thus this woman gets a sign on her forehead to tell us who she is. In Revelation 17:5, it comes right out and says this woman is Babylon the Great, mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth. Revelation 18 goes on to tell us that Babylon has fallen (Revelation 18:2) because of these acts against God, just as Satan fell from heaven when he attempted to twist worship of God into worship of himself. But, just as Satan fell to earth and continues to deceive us, just as he’s not quite vanquished yet, Babylon, his tool, is also free yet to deceive. So far is this deception that “all the nations” have been coerced by her (Revelation 18:3). All nations. This includes the Christians. Argueably, especially the Christians. That’s why God calls out to them to come out of this deception (Revelation 18:4). Just as there were faithful people in Babylon at Daniel’s time, there are faithful people in this spiritual Babylon, oppressed and enslaved, but not by force. This time they are trapped by deception. God’s message to them is to wake up, to come out, break the deception and return to true worship.
Next post we’re going to go through Daniel in the lion’s den, and see why it’s so important to have a relationship with God as we live in these end times.