The Last Tower of Babel

by Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: The Empire State Building in New York City, which was completed in 1931, was known for many years as the tallest building in the world. It is 1,250 feet tall and boasts 102 stories of office space. Several structures in the United States and in Asia now surpass the Empire State Building in height, yet many of the records that were set during its construction have never been broken. For example, because the building was made of prefabricated blocks, it was completed in less than two years. In fact, one 14-floor section was erected in less than a week!

The first time the word "kingdom" is mentioned in the Bible is in connection with Babel (Genesis 10:8-10). The founder of this ancient city was Nimrod, a man whose very name means "we shall rebel." Throughout the Scriptures, Babel-which is also the Hebrew word for "Babylon"-becomes a symbol of rebellion to God.

On the other hand, the first time the word "kingdom" appears in the New Testament is referring to God's kingdom. John the Baptist declared, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:2.

From cover to cover in the Bible one can see a vivid contrast between these two opposing kingdoms, with the conflict reaching its culmination in the last book of the Bible. In Revelation, the Babylonian kingdom is identified as the final power that will worship the beast and war against God's people. To clearly understand these future events and this final struggle, we must first look back to the birth of Babel.

 

Old Babylon

"Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, 'Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.' They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.' But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, 'Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.' So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth." Genesis 11:1-9, NKJV.

Soon after the Flood, the human race began to rapidly multiply. In those days men's lives were still measured by centuries, so many were born and few died. After only a few brief generations, thousands of descendants of Noah and his sons were swarming around the foothills of Ararat.

Evidently Nimrod and some of the patriarchs suggested that they explore the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which had once been occupied by the garden of God. As they journeyed from the East, they were attracted to the lush climate and fertile soil in the plain of Shinar. Nimrod and the leaders believed their safety, strength, and power would be in their numbers. So to prevent the people from diffusing around the world, they devised a plan to create a capital city for the planet and to centralize power in this new metropolis. Furthermore, they planned to inaugurate a new form of religion with a tower reaching to the heavens at the center of their kingdom.

Before the Flood, the patriarchs would present their sacrificial offerings to the Lord at the entrance of the Garden of Eden. But it is believed that God, in order to preserve the Garden from destruction, raptured it up to heaven before the Flood began. First of all, Revelation tells us that the tree of life which was in the midst of the Garden (Genesis 2:9) is still intact in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 2:7; 22:2). Secondly, it makes sense that if God can bring the new Jerusalem down from heaven at the end of the world, He could also have taken the Garden of Eden up to heaven at the beginning of the world. In any event, the builders of Babel decided, without consulting God, to dedicate this tower as the new place of worship and sacrifice.

 

Sun Worship

Keep in mind that prior to the Flood, it had never rained, and the sky would have had a different visual appearance. An even layer of moisture surrounded the planet, which polarized the rays of the sun and provided a uniform, mild temperature all around the world. This is why today we find thousands of tropical fern fossils in the freezing polar regions. Genesis 1:7 records, "And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so."

The Bible says that when the Flood came, "the windows of heaven were opened." Genesis 7:11.

The first rainbow was one of many evidences that the Flood had drastically changed the earth. For the first time in history, man could look directly into the blazing glory of the sun and feel its burning power. People recognized that the sun had helped to dry the earth after the Flood and bring back the vegetation. So instead of worshiping the God who made the sun, the builders of Babel were the first ones to consider the sun as an object of worship itself.

Today all around the world can be seen towers, pyramids, and ziggurats (step-towers) with altars dedicated to sun worship that can no doubt be traced back to Babel.

 

Determined Builders

As nearly as we can calculate, construction on the tower of Babel ceased about 100 years after the Flood, or approximately 2200 B.C. This date is based on Genesis 10:25, which says, "Unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided." This means that around the time Peleg was born, the union of Babel was divided and the tribes that would later grow into the nations of the world were dispersed. (The number of years between the Flood and the birth of Peleg is given in Genesis 11:10-16.)

Because righteous Noah lived for another 350 years after the Flood, and Shem for 502 years, it is safe to assume that not everyone alive at the time was in favor of the plans for a city and tower of Babel. The followers of God believed His promise that "the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh." Genesis 9:15. But the builders of Babel charged that God could not be trusted. Quite likely those who advised against the project were severely ridiculed, persecuted, and made to appear as legalistic enemies of the common good. But in spite of their objections, the plan was agreed upon and they commenced building.

The deluge had provided a new construction material. Bitumen tar, or asphalt, was in abundance as a result of the distillation of massive peat fields, forests, and other organic materials covered by sediment during the Flood. In addition, clay that could be baked into enduring bricks was also suddenly in great supply. Many hands make short work, and soon the massive tower began to rise toward the heavens. God is very patient and longsuffering, but there is a limit to His forbearance. Genesis 11:5 says, "And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded." This passage does not mean that God was unaware of what they were doing before He came down. Rather, this expression is the old Hebrew way of saying that God was ready to take action. The Lord uses the same phrase just before destroying Sodom (Genesis 18:21). God waited until the project was nearly completed, then He came down and took action.

Because of the tower's mounting height, it became necessary for the builders to transfer messages and orders for materials up and down its lofty walls with a relay system. But one day, without warning, the unbroken progress was abruptly halted. A mason called for a load of bricks but received a basket of straw instead. As the day wore on, the chaotic phenomena grew worse until the workers could no longer understand one another's speech.

"The builders were wholly unable to account for the strange misunderstandings among them, and in their rage and disappointment they reproached one another. Their confederacy ended in strife and bloodshed. Lightnings from heaven, as an evidence of God's displeasure, broke off the upper portion of the tower and cast it to the ground. Men were made to feel that there is a God who ruleth in the heavens."1

In humiliation and dismay, the people began to band together in small groups that could comprehend one another's speech. Gradually these groups migrated away from the doomed project and dispersed throughout the world. The babblings of Babel formed the parent languages of the earth, from which all other languages and dialects (now totalling more than 3,000) have developed.

The Hebrew word for Babel and Babylon is "babel" (pronounced baw-bel'), meaning confusion. It is from this word that we get the modern term "babbling." In Revelation, Babylon is a symbol for spiritual confusion. Some might be thinking, "Doesn't the Bible teach that God is not the author of confusion?" It is true that God's Spirit will never bring confusion into His worship (1 Corinthians 14:33), but there are many examples in Scripture where God has confused those who fight against Him (2 Kings 6:18; 7:6; 1 Corinthians 1:27).

 

The Old Tower's History

According to ancient history, there were several attempts in the next 1,400 years to repair the ruins of the tower. The last major effort was by Nebuchadnezzar II, who said that he received a command from his god Marduk to build it so that "its top might rival heaven." He called his temple tower, which stood in the sacred compound of the Marduk temple, Etemenanki, meaning "the foundation stone of heaven and earth." The ancient historian Herodotus wrote in 440 B.C. that "the tower of Babel was a furlong, or 660 feet, in length and breadth." According to the Greek historian Strabo, it rose to the same height, making it more than 200 feet taller than the great pyramid of Khufu.

The tower of Babel was likewise a pyramidal form, consisting of eight square towers, gradually decreasing in breadth. A winding ascent along the outside was so very broad as to allow horses and carriages to pass each other, and even to turn. At the apex was an altar where sacrifices were offered to the sun god.

This infamous monument to rebellion was later destroyed by the Persian king Xerxes. After Alexander the Great conquered the Persians, he too planned to rebuild the tower. In fact, most of the debris had been removed in preparation for its reconstruction when death took him.

Some have mistakenly thought that the references to Babylon in the New Testament prove that old Babylon will someday be rebuilt. In reality, all the prophecies in Revelation regarding Babylon refer not to the literal kingdom by the Euphrates river, but rather to modern or spiritual Babylon. The Lord plainly foretold that ancient Babylon would be utterly destroyed and never rebuilt. "And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, 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 the shepherds make their fold there." Isaiah 13:19, 20.

It is true that under the direction of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, archeologists restored some of the ruins for tourists to view, but this in no way contradicts Isaiah's prophecy. In fact, Saddam had extensive plans to rebuild portions of the city for habitation to defy the Jewish prophecy. However, his plans had to be abandoned due to the Gulf War and the following economic sanctions, thus ratifying God's Word.

 

A Monument to False Religions

There are at least six ways in which the tower of Babel was a pattern for all succeeding manmade religons.

  1. The tower was a monument to salvation by works.

    The people who built the tower were not all atheists; their great-grandparents had survived the Flood just 100 years before! Their basic plan was to build a tower from earth to heaven, and they labored under the pretense of wanting to be closer to God. The devil designed that this tower should be a subtle substitute for Jesus, who is the ladder from heaven to earth (John 1:51). Every false religion has in its root the error of Babel-that man can save himself by working from earth upward. But in reality, salvation is the result of God's initiative. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." And in Ephesians 2:8, 9, the Bible declares: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

  2. The tower was a monument to human pride.

    The primary objective for the true Christian should be to bring glory to God's name. Jesus told His disciples, "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name." Matthew 6:9. In contrast, the people's declared purpose for the tower was "let us make a name for ourselves." Genesis 11:4, NKJV. The very word "denomination" means to unite under a name, and we know that many church denominations were brought into existence so leaders could "make a name" for themselves. The Bible tells us, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18. Pride was where both the devil and the Babel builders fell.

  3. It was a monument to mankind's disobedience and defiance of God's will.

    Immediately after the Flood, "God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." Genesis 9:1. They had clearly been commanded to disperse throughout the world and repopulate the earth. The confederacy at Babel was founded in rebellion to God's specific command. The people believed that there was strength in numbers and resisted God's plan because it would have weakened their power. God had placed the first family in a garden, but the Babel builders, like Cain (Genesis 4:17), chose to build a city. Like many today, they did not believe that God is very particular regarding obedience.

  4. It was a monument to human achievement.

    The wisdom, technology, and techniques employed in the construction of this colossal edifice were state of the art for the day. When completed, it was hoped the majestic tower would be dazzling to behold and thus bring glory and attention to the designers and engineers. In other words, they sought to direct people's attention away from God's creation to the works of man. Even today, many are willing to overlook the false teachings and glaring inconsistencies of a religion because they are attracted to the magnificent temples, churches, and cathedrals that house them.

  5. It was a monument to disbelief in God and His word.

    God had given a clear, binding covenant and had sealed it with a rainbow, saying, "The waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh." Genesis 9:15. But the Babel builders doubted God's word. One objective in the construction of the tower was to build higher than the prior flood level and to provide a retreat in the event that God would renege on His promise and once again flood the world. Rather than trusting God to protect, provide, and preserve them, they put their trust in a tower, in Nimrod, and in city walls.

  6. It was a monument to heaven on earth.

Time and time again man has sought to create a kingdom on earth that does away with God and the need to turn from sin. By the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the city of Babylon had grown into a full-blown earthly counterfeit for God's new Jerusalem. It had great walls, a square design, hanging gardens in the center to mimic Eden's glory, a dazzling abundance of gold, and an immense river flowing through its center. Babel (and later Babylon) was mankind's feeble attempt to duplicate heaven and enjoy the new Jerusalem on earth without forsaking his sins.

In contrast, God's children "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Hebrews 11:10.

 

The Last Tower of Babel

At Babel, God confused man's language so the people could not unite in their rebellion against Him. In these last days, the devil is using every means possible to once again unite humans in this rebellion. The information superhighway, high-speed travel, and instant communication are all helping to lay the foundation for this final tower to man's glory.

The Bible predicts that at the end we will see more and more natural disasters, moral decay, and economic and political turmoil. Just as men tried to save themselves from God's judgment at the tower of Babel, they will again unite at the end in an attempt to escape the final judgments from God.

Revelation speaks of this new Babylon as a threefold union that will unite to form the world's final stronghold of manmade religion. The apostle John writes: "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Revelation 16:13, 14.

These powers represent the great churches of the world, coming together to rally the nations for a common cause. Catholic, Protestant, charasmatic, and other churches will unite on major issues, but not on the truths found in the Scriptures.

For those who think this could never happen, keep in mind the following sobering facts:

  • Jesus said to His disciples (including you and me) that "the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." John 16:2.
  • While Christ was on earth, His disciples and followers were all faithful church members, but so were the Jewish leaders who killed Him! Furthermore, it was one of His closest companions who betrayed Jesus into their hands.
  • The churches of the world are already uniting! Every day we hear of another group claiming that "doctrines are no longer important as long as we agree on a few basic things." Look at how mainline Protestant churches have grasped the hand of Catholicism in order to "fight for the common good" on issues such as abortion and crime. Yes, these issues need to be dealt with, but not at the expense of forfeiting the teachings of the Bible.

At first this threefold alliance will use pious, convincing arguments to urge all to join their movement and work together. Next, economic sanctions will be leveled against those who do not comply. "That no man might buy or sell save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Revelation 13:17. All will have to decide whether to obey the commandments of God or the laws of men. Most will be persuaded to compromise, but even the most severe measures won't shake the faithful from their solid foundation. Eventually this religious-political power will set a date for the death penalty, "and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." Revelation 13:15.

But as in the days of Esther, when a decree was made to exterminate God's faithful people, He will once again confound their plans at the last moment and turn the tables on the wicked. Just before Jesus comes, those who have rebelled against the Lord will turn upon one another as they did at Babel, and their union will dissolve in strife. Revelation 16:19 says, "Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God."

 

Out of Babylon

With the imminent collapse and ruin of spiritual Babylon just ahead, we should not be surprised that God gives such a passionate appeal to those who are in danger of being destroyed along with it. Revelation 18:2-4 proclaims: "And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen. ... And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."

A great number of God's true followers are still in the communion of the churches that have been doctrinally deceived by Babel. Jesus said, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." John 10:16.

A fascinating parallel to this calling-out process also took place in the days of the Old Testament patriarchs. First Abraham brought his wife Sarah out of Mesopotamia (the region of Babylon) and into the promised land. Then later, when looking for a wife for his beloved son Isaac, Abraham sent his servant back across the Euphrates to bring Rebekah out of the land of Babylon and into Canaan. Jacob again made the same journey east to find a wife from among his mother's kindred. Much later, after the children of Israel had been captives in Babylon for 70 years, God called His people out of Babylon and back to the land of Israel (Jeremiah 29:10).

Even more so today, God longs to bring His people out of the confusing, counterfeit religions of spiritual Babylon and into the truth of Canaan. The Bible makes it clear that in the last days there will be only two groups of people. Those who remain in spiritual Babylon will follow the beast, receive its mark, and finally be destroyed. Then there will also be the faithful who keep the commandments of God, receive the seal of God, and follow the Lamb to glory. Revelation 14:12 identifies the key characteristics of this second group: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."

Living in Babylon can be convenient and comfortable, but only those who are willing to brave the opposition, deny self, and follow Jesus to the promised land will be spared from the final plagues that will fall upon Babylon. The rewards of heaven will infinitely outweigh any sacrifice. I invite you to follow Him now.

Perhaps you are wondering where you stand. Refusing to be be part of any church is just as dangerous as being in Babylon. If you are questioning the doctrinal foundation of your church and are hearing the Master say, "Come out of her My people," but you don't know where to go, write to Amazing Facts today. Ask for a free copy of our booklet entitled Search for the True Church, which explains how to use the Bible to identify God's true people.

1Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 120.

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