Storm Over Babylon
The first Gulf War ended in 1991 at the time of the Jewish festival of Purim which commemorates the attempt to eliminate the Jewish people by a wicked ruler in the Persian Gulf region and God’s intervention to save them. On March 17th 2003 George W Bush announced the end of diplomacy, effectively opening up the second Gulf War. Three weeks later images and statues of Saddam Hussein were being torn down in Baghdad and Basra as his wicked regime crumbled under the onslaught of allied firepower and popular revolution. March 17th just happened to be the Jewish festival of Purim. A coincidence?
Iraq occupies the territory of ancient Babylon and Saddam Hussein had aspirations to be a second Nebuchadnezzar, dominating the lands of the ‘fertile crescent’ and taking Israel into captivity once again. He will be remembered as one of the world’s worst dictators who brought fear and misery on his people and war and destruction to the entire region.
In the Bible ‘Babylon’ has a significance going way beyond the physical region of the city that once dominated the Tigris – Euphrates region (modern Iraq). Its founder, Nimrod, (Genesis 10.8-10) was renowned as ‘the mighty hunter before the Lord’. His name in Hebrew is connected to the verb ‘marad’ – to rebel. In his days an idolatrous religious system was set up, the source of all false religion to this day. Babylon is the site of the first attempt at a unified political, economic and religious system in defiance of God, when the Tower of Babel (Babel, meaning confusion, is the word for Babylon in Hebrew) was built in the land of Shinar (Genesis 11). There God scattered the nations and confused their speech.
In Isaiah 14.12-14 it is revealed that the spiritual power behind Babylon is that of Lucifer / Satan whose pride and desire to take the place of God caused his downfall. Pride is the dominant spirit behind Babylon in the Bible. Speaking in accord with this spirit, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, said, ‘Is not this great Babylon that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honour of my majesty?’ (Daniel 4.30). Then God humbled him and brought him to acknowledge that God’s power is infinitely greater than any human power (Daniel 4.34-35).
In Revelation 18 Babylon becomes the title of the unified political, economic and religious system which gives power to the Antichrist who for a short time will achieve world government before coming to ruin at the end of this age. In this chapter Babylon is portrayed as a great trading system based also on pride and defiance of God infecting all nations with ‘the wine of the wrath of her fornication’ (Revelation 18.3-4). Babylon is also seen as the spiritual power behind all false religion: ‘Mystery Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth’ (Revelation 17.5). Babylon here means much more than the modern region of Iraq and points to the Antichrist political and religious system which will arise in the last days.
Taking all this together it is clear that Babylon in the prophetic scriptures means something more than the modern region of Iraq and points to the antichrist political and religious system which will arise in the last days of this age.
However the prophetic scriptures do also point to the geographic region of Babylon (i.e. Iraq) as having significance. In Isaiah 13 there is a prophecy about Babylon which deals primarily with events which were to come to pass with the fall of Babylon to the Medes in about 538BC. This prophecy also has an end time application with reference to the ‘Day of the Lord’ when the stars, sun and moon will not give their light and the Lord will punish the world for its evil (verses 10-11), all features in both Old and New Testament prophecy for the events surrounding the return of the Messiah. In this prophecy it speaks of an army being gathered for battle ‘from a far country’ (the Medes were next door to Babylon, so this implies a different event from the fall of Babylon in 538BC). In the book of Jeremiah we also read that ‘a great nation and many kings shall be raised up from the ends of the earth’ to do battle against Babylon (Jeremiah 50.41-2).
The Book of Zechariah was written after the return of the Jewish people from captivity in Babylon, so his prophecy could not be about its fall in 538BC. In Zechariah 12 there is a prophecy about the end times which says that Jerusalem will be the ‘burdensome stone’ for all nations. Right now the UN, has passed more resolutions on the status of Jerusalem in the context of the Arab Israeli conflict than any other. In Chapter 5 Zechariah sees a Woman sitting inside a basket with a lead cover over its mouth. The basket is said to represent ‘Wickedness’ and is carried to Babylon ‘to build a house for it in the land of Shinar’ (i.e. Babylon). Zechariah 5.11. So Zechariah sees both Jerusalem and Babylon having significance in the last days of this age.
One could say that the prophecy about Babylon has already been fulfilled with Saddam Hussein’s grandiose efforts to rebuild Babylon with bricks with his own name on them. It is hard to imagine anything more wicked than Saddam’s regime in Iraq. The basket with the lead disc could also be seen as a cover for his weapons of mass destruction. However it is more probable that this prophecy has a future application and one which links it into the other role of Babylon in scripture, namely the unified political, economic and religious system of the end times.
If one sees the UN and the emerging religious unification of the world as paving the way for Babylon as the one world system prophesied in Revelation 13-18, there are some very interesting things happening in the present crisis. Before the war it was being said that this crisis could cause the UN to disintegrate or become an irrelevance along with other organisations like NATO and the EU as bitter divisions are exposed between the USA, Britain and their allies on one hand and France, Germany and Russia and their allies on the other hand.
From the point of view of prophetic scripture it is highly unlikely that any of these organisations will collapse, although it is likely that their character may change quite dramatically. The major weakness of the UN is that although at times it looks like a world government with leaders gathering to debate on crucial issues, when it comes to the crunch it lacks the authority to enforce its will on nations which defy it. The Iraq crisis itself arose because Saddam Hussein defied 17 UN resolutions since the end of the Gulf War in 1991.
Iraq and the Middle East region have an immense significance in the world economic system because of the abundance of oil there. There is a finite amount of oil on the planet and without it the system we have built will grind to a halt. It is clear that a crisis regarding oil supply will hit the world sooner or later. Oil wells in the USA are long past their peak. North Sea oil is also now in decline. Other sources of oil around the world are threatened by political instability, falling supplies and difficulties of transportation. By far the cheapest and most plentiful supply of oil remains the vast oil fields of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia alone possesses 25% of the world’s oil reserves and the potential from Iraq is almost as big.
Currently the planet is consuming a billion barrels of oil every 12 days. As supplies dwindle there is a real prospect of collapse for societies which have based their whole infrastructure on the plentiful supply of oil. Therefore it is likely that strong nations will use their power to get access to oil. No nation has such a need for oil as the USA, currently the most powerful nation in the world. The leadership of the USA, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld are all oil men. They are also the architects of the ‘War on Terror’ which just happens to focus on countries linked to oil production.
If one analyses the wars that have been fought by the USA and the western nations over the past few years it is significant that all have had an oil connection. Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania lie along the path of a major oil pipeline being built by Anglo American oil companies to transport oil from the Caspian Sea to Western Europe via the Black Sea and the Balkans. Securing political stability and control of the route of this pipeline is vital for the project.
In July 2001, two months before the 9/11 attacks on America, the G8 summit of leading industrial nations discussed a strategy to topple the Taliban government in Afghanistan in order to build an oil and gas pipe line from Turkmenistan in Central Asia to the Pakistani coast for export to the Far East. The only practical route lay through Afghanistan, but it was impossible to build because of the instability in that country. On May 30th 2002, after the removal of the Taliban, Afghan leader Karzai met with Turkmenistan’s President Niyazov and Pakistani President Musharraf to sign a memorandum on the trans Afghanistan pipeline.
And now we have Iraq. Oil experts are quoted as saying that there is a desperate need to find another 80 million barrels a day to meet world demand. Apart from Iraq there is nowhere else where this demand can be met. Iraq’s oil industry has been hampered by UN sanctions and Iraqi mismanagement over the past decade. As a result there is a danger of some of its oil wells being permanently damaged by the intrusion of water. If the sanctions were removed and the oil infrastructure repaired it would compete with Saudi Arabia as the world’s number one supplier. There is fierce competition between oil companies for the development of this massive reserve. The Iraqi National Congress (opposition to Saddam) would most likely give those contracts to US and British companies. Saddam’s regime signed deals with companies from France, Russia and China. Note which countries were for and against the war.
On this issue it is worth thinking about the nature of oil itself. Evolutionists say oil was formed millions of years ago, but the creationist argument is that it was formed at the time of the Genesis Flood, when the waters deluged the earth suddenly crushing life forms and creating ‘fossil fuels’. The Flood was a time of judgement of the earth for its wickedness. Wars over oil could push the world towards the final conflict and the judgement of God for the wickedness of our generation.
From the point of view of the global economic and political system it is vital that Iraq does not descend into anarchy or to wars between neighbouring nations trying to carve up its territory. Every effort must be made to restore Iraq to its place as potentially wealthy trading nation revitalising the Middle East. This is not an impossible prospect, since Iraq used to be the economic hub of the region with a population who were less dominated by the stifling influence of Islamic fundamentalism than the people of other surrounding countries.
Successful regime change in Iraq could even strengthen the hand of the opposition to Islamic misrule in Iran and see the overthrow of the mullahs there and a more reasonable government emerging. The Saudi princes are secretly as terrified (or more terrified) of a democratic Iraq influencing their own population than a despotic Iraq threatening them with Scud missiles.
What about the other major issues facing the world, the European Union and Israel? Regarding Europe it is possible that Tony Blair could push for one of his other favoured projects, Britain’s entry into the Euro, in order to repair relations with the French and the Germans. This brings us back to the Tower of Babel, a symbol which the EU has used to speak of its attempt to unify many nations of different languages, traditions and religions into one. By May 2004 the EU will have a population of 450 million, dwarfing the USA, with a constitution planned for this summer that, once signed, will end its member states’ ability ever to leave, short of war.
The most likely candidate for dominating the coming beast kingdom of Revelation 13-18 is the leader of the EU backed by a global religion led by the Vatican. The EU acting as a link between the USA and Russia and the Middle East and Africa is likely to take a leading role in the UN and lead the nations into the unified political, economic and religious system of the last days of this age, Babylon the great.
What of Israel and the Palestinians? Once the situation in Iraq is dealt with the world powers have said they will turn their attention to Israel. George Bush and Tony Blair as well as politicians right across the political spectrum are united in calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state in order to resolve the Arab Israeli conflict. Seeking to resolve the bitter divisions within the Labour Party, Tony Blair insisted that there is no ‘other issue with the same power to re-unite the world community than progress on the issues of Israel and Palestine’. In other words the quickest way to mend the huge rifts that developed worldwide over the Iraqi threat is to impose a Palestinian state. George Bush has been holding out the carrot of a Palestinian state since October 2001 in order to get the Arabs on side for his ‘war on terror.’
The most likely scenario to bring this about goes something like this. Israel is pressured to withdraw its forces and ‘end the occupation’, dismantling settlements, including a commitment to hand over the Old City of Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon then calls on President Bush and pleads that Israel cannot accept demands which amount to rewarding terrorism. He reminds the president that the Palestinians’ end goal remains the destruction of Israel and that they are still not willing to take the necessary steps to root out terrorism.
Sharon fails to persuade Bush, and Israel once again assumes the role of sacrificial lamb. The US suspends economic aid and threatens to impose economic sanctions. The Europeans, with great delight, institute a total boycott. A Palestinian state is enthusiastically endorsed by the international community.
A little later Israel wakes up one morning and learns that hostile forces are massing on the borders. The world is on the road to Armageddon. As the armies of the world gather for the final battle over Jerusalem, not Babylon, the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) will return to the earth to bring all wars to an end (Isaiah 2, Zechariah 12-14, Revelation 16-20).
Only God knows for sure exactly how all these things will end out. But it is certain that we are on the road to the fulfilment of end time prophecy and the return of the Messiah Jesus.