by David Jeremiah
In 1859 Charles Dickens wrote his famous A Tale of Two Cities, a novel featuring events occurring in late eighteenth-century Paris and London. It was the time of the French Revolution when Paris streets ran with blood spilled in the horrific reign of terror.
The Bible could also be termed a tale of two cities—Jerusalem and Babylon. Jerusalem, of course, we know as the historical capital of God’s chosen nation, Israel, and the future capital of His eternal kingdom. Babylon, on the other hand, is the city which the Bible uses as a running symbol for the worst of the world’s evils—extreme decadence, cruelty, ravenous power, and implacable contention against God.
Babylon began as Babel, the city established by the ambitious Nimrod in his attempt to organize the first worldwide government in opposition to God (Genesis 11:1-9). Centuries later it was the armies of Babylon that conquered Jerusalem, and it was the city of Babylon that held captive the exiled Jews.
Babylon fell more than five centuries before Christ, but its spirit has survived in subsequent world empires—including Rome, the decadent and cruel executioner of Christ and persecutor of the first Christians. The Roman Empire also fell. We know from biblical prophecy, however, that it will revive in the end times. But as Revelation makes clear, its spirit will be that of Babylon, because it will continue what Nimrod began—man’s attempt to usurp the authority of God.
The other city, Jerusalem, has fallen several times and has been occupied or oppressed throughout much of history. It might seem, therefore, that Babylon, the city of man, has been stronger than Jerusalem, the city of God. But that is not so. Yes, Jerusalem has been persecuted, but for a good reason: Its persecution has been a discipline designed to prepare it for its future role. Revelation makes it clear that in the history-long struggle between these two cities, Jerusalem will be the ultimate victor. It tells of Babylon’s final destruction and the ascendancy of Jerusalem as the permanent capital of God’s eternal kingdom.
The natural question, then, is why did I choose to write a book about an evil city that will eventually suffer an eternally crushing defeat? The answer is that we are living in a time when the spirit of Babylon is in ascendancy, and we know from biblical prophecy that it will continue to rise until it dominates the entire world. I wrote this book to help us prepare for that time, which I am convinced is close upon us.
Babylon from the Inside
Nowhere in the Bible do we get a clearer picture of the nature of Babylon than in the book of Daniel. The book bears the name of its author, one of the prominent exiles force-marched to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem almost six centuries before Christ. A study of Daniel is highly relevant today because it portrays a period of history that is much like what ours is fast becoming. In the first half of his book, Daniel gives us a picture of the kind of person we must be to hold strong in the face of the future God reveals to him in the last half.
I have chosen to frame this study of the book of Daniel around portraits of the personalities it presents to us. These are the “agents” of Babylon. In Daniel we meet two kinds of agents: First, we see strong characters of prayer and firm conviction that know who God is and refuse to compromise their faith by acceding to the demands of a corrupt and godless culture. Second, we see characters filled with pride, given to debauchery, and having no respect for any god but their own glory and appetites.
As we encounter these agents, we will be exposed to several prophetic visions described in the book of Daniel. These visions show us two futures: The first is a future that had not yet occurred when Daniel wrote of it but has now been explicitly fulfilled in history. It’s the story of four world empires that have risen and fallen exactly as Daniel predicted. The second future is one that is yet to come—a dark and foreboding future describing what we call the end times that will occur before the glory of Christ fills the world eternally. The explicit accuracy of the prophecies that have been fulfilled gives us absolute confidence in those that are yet to be fulfilled.
Both of these phases of Daniel’s prophecy have immense value to us today. They bring the cyclical nature of history out of the past and project it into the future to show us how we must live in the present to prepare ourselves for the time yet to come. In fact, the entire book of Daniel—both the personal portraits and the prophecies—demonstrates why the kind of courage, conviction, and devotion to prayer Daniel pictures are as critical today as they were in his time.
Daniel himself lived in a time of rampant godlessness in an empire that devastated God’s people and wallowed in opulence, debauchery, arrogance, blasphemy, and pleasure. And those with the discernment to read the signs of the times today (Matthew 16:2-3) know that the similarities we see between Daniel’s Babylon and today’s Western culture are signs that his dark prophetic visions loom close on our horizon. The only way to endure is to rely on God’s strength as Daniel did and commit ourselves to standing against this coming darkness—which may descend upon us much sooner than we think.
Years ago Francis Schaeffer, concerned about the increasing godlessness of Western culture, wrote a popular book titled How Should We Then Live? The vivid examples of high courage and strong conviction in Daniel answer that question perfectly.
Good men such as Daniel and his three godly associates did not prevent the fall of Babylon. That was not their purpose. But they did prevent the fall of themselves into the lure of compromise that would have swept them into perdition along with Babylon. Standing against Babylon was not easy. It took enormous courage, conviction, faith, endurance, and prayer. That’s what it will take today to save ourselves from an increasingly godless generation that is bent on following the way of Babylon into destruction.
The Structure of This Book
In my previous book Agents of the Apocalypse, I tried something new: I opened each chapter with a fictional narrative about the subject of the chapter and ended with an exposition of the Scripture behind the story. That structure was so successful that the publisher asked me to repeat it in this book.
For those of you who may not have read Agents of the Apocalypse, let me explain my rationale for this approach. The fictional section of each chapter is designed to whet readers’ appetites for scriptural truth by showing the drama and excitement inherent in biblical narratives. The second section is designed to separate fact from fiction and provide meaning and application relevant to readers’ lives. To put it another way, the fiction drives the truth into your heart, and the Scripture behind the fiction drives it into your mind. My prayer is that this book will accomplish both of these objectives in your life.