Babylon functions as a negative type in the biblical storyline, one that is important to notice and understand as you read through Scripture.
In Genesis 11, the secular spirit of Babylon is introduced; it continues through the Old Testament, as the nation-state of Babylon arises and opposes God’s people; and finally in the New Testament, Babylon’s reach extends beyond the Fertile Crescent to engulf Rome and all those nations who oppose the City of God. According to Revelation 18, the Babylonian harlot seduces men and women to drink her intoxicating liquor. The final result is destruction of Babylon, but today that great spiritual city continues to proliferate.
In his book, The Progress of Redemption, Willem Van Gemeren gives a helpful synopsis of the negative type of Babylon.
“Babel/Babylon becomes in the Bible a symbol of self-restraint, imperialistic secularism: control without accountability to the Creator. The spirit of secularism can coexist with religions and deities, but not with the absolutism of the Creator-God. Humanism and secularism are bound to run counter to theism. Isaiah saw this spirit in the imperial ambitions of Assyria and Babylon (10:7-11; 14:4-6; 47:5-7, 10). John the apostle symbolically speaks of the Roman Empire and all kingdoms to follow as Babylon the Great. Babylon, the seducer of nations, kings, and merchants will fall (Rev. 18)” (Van Gemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 90).
Thankfully, Christ has defeated every work of the devil (1 John 3:8), and has successfully delivered the death blow to the serpent and his city. Yet, until Christ returns the spirit of Babel will plague society, inviting human ingenuity and progress to appear more powerful and appealing than the wisdom of a crucified Jew. Yet, God’s wisdom will prove true in the end.
Trust that Christ is preparing his city, and on that final day, he will return to sweep aside Babylon and establish the New Jerusalem. Which city are you looking forward to?
May we turn away from Babel and all it offers, and turn towards the city whose architect and builder is God.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss