25 Burning of Temple

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and the City of Jerusalem

“And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, to Jerusalem; and he burnt the house of the Lord, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.”-2 KINGS, xxv. 8, 9.

THUS perished Jerusalem, the city of David, Solomon, and the prophets—the city of the temple of God, the divinely appointed type of the Church in every coming age—the city of Sacred Song—the beautiful capital of Judea. It had intrigued and coalesced with Babylon, and by Babylon it was destroyed. The house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem were given to the flames, were consumed by fire.

Babylon, which comes out so terribly before us in this passage as the polluter, and then the destroyer of Jerusalem, is much treated of in the Word of God. The city of Babylon was built on the river Euphrates, which flowed through the midst of it. It was the settlement of that class of mankind who were animated by the lust of making themselves great, and ruling over others through the means of perverted religious teaching.

The instincts of our religious nature are the deepest of all those gracious affections which our Creator has fixed within us. They are universal and everlasting. Men must worship: they will worship. He who will not worship the infinite and all-good Father of all, will worship a stick, a stone, a beast, or will offer in self-flattery secret worship to his own supreme excellence. Worship thus exists everywhere, and has existed in every age. Subtle seekers after power see this, and construct a religion by means of which this feeling of adoration may be associated with mysterious doctrines, of which they claim to be the only guardians and expounders, and in the name and by the authority of which they obtain influence, dominion, and wealth. Its mysteries overawe the vulgar, its splendours flatter the great. Where ignorance reigns, and the prestige of long ages exists, such a system continues firmly rooted. The fears of mankind, combined with intellectual sloth and a cowardly dread of danger in following the inquiry after truth, give a long life to Babylon. Yet the superstition, the delusion, the separation, and the persecution the system engenders, have been, and still are, among the world’s greatest errors and greatest miseries.

We first read of Babylon or Babel-for Babylon is only the Greek form of Babel–in the very early annals of mankind. The allegory of the building of the city and tower of Babel was the description of the development of the lust of spiritual domination and humanly contrived mysteries in the early world. The confusion this engendered in the place of the simplicity of clear Divine truth is indicated by the word Babel, which means confusion. Men before this time had been invited in a spirit of charity and of light. Their souls were simple, and they followed the simple truth. Nothing is more clear than truth to the soul which desires to obey it. Who so will do His will, our Lord said, shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God. “Let thine eye be single, and thy whole body shall be full of light.” True religion is itself light to the soul. Darkness is the condemnation of itself. It does not come from God, in whom there is no darkness at all.

The Babel builders, however, said, “Let us make us a city and a tower whose top shall reach to heaven, and which shall make us a name.” The bricks which they made for stone mean the artificial opinions they invented instead of Divine truths, the stones of which the Church is constructed; the slime which they had for mortar is the symbol of the impure lust of self-aggrandizement, by which they sought to hold their system together; and the thorough burning of the bricks represented the burning zeal by which they contrived and sought to spread the system of mystery and falsity they had thus unhappily introduced among men. That wondrous allegory unfolds the whole subject to the devout mind, and the division which happened from the Lord’s corning down, or when Divine Truth was brought home to them, intimates the disunion which ever distracts a community when each seeks selfishly and vehemently to intrude his own opinion upon others, instead of all cultivating the spirit of loving the truth and loving one another.

Such was the character of Babel as a system of pretended religion. Subsequently it embodied itself in an actual city and state, and became in power and magnificence the wonder of the ancient world. Its armies overrun the neighbouring nations. In the tune of Nebuchadnezzar it attained its greatest splendour and extent. Subsequently it descended into the lap of luxury and effeminacy, and after a long downward career, it ultimately perished by the attack of the enemies whom its arrogance had provoked. It became a heap of ruins. The wandering Arab passed by the mysterious mounds, and told stories of buried treasure and buried giants; but the name of Babylon had perished from the land of its ruin, and if its name and history had not been preserved by ancient historians and in the Bible, it would have passed altogether from the records of men.

Babylon was wonderful in its origin wonderful in its magnificence, wonderful in its fall, and wonderful in the insignificance into which it sank. The city of Babylon was placed on the great river Euphrates, and was admirably situated for commerce with the whole world. Eastward, it could easily reach India by the Persian Gulf and through the mountains of Armenia by land; while its power, exercised on the west by Tyre and Sidon, could communicate with every nation in Europe and on the coast of Africa then known. It was on the highway of intercourse between every civilized portion of the world and the enterprise of its inhabitants never failed to make the best use of their position. The manufactures of Babylonia attained to wonderful perfection very early. We read in Joshua of a goodly Babylonish garment being very highly prized, for Achan became a traitor to possess it. And the remains of jewelery which still exist, and the descriptions of ancient historians of the magnificent palaces and temples of Babylon, of the paintings and sculptures, confirmed by the wonderful specimens of vessels statues of men and animals, which recent excavations have brought to view, all disclose an advanced condition of society which gives ample room for reflection, as well as it fills the mind with astonishment. The city was square; the walls were fifteen miles on each side, making sixty miles in the entire circuit. A vast ditch surrounded the whole. There were twenty-five gates in brass, very majestic; on each side of the square. The walls were eighty-seven feet thick, three hundred and fifty feet high, and surrounded by two hundred and fifty towers. Certainly, no modern city is so strong against the modern appliances of warfare as Babylon was against the ancient ones; while we read also with surprise that a tunnel under a river-that triumph of modern engineering-was formed at Babylon under the Euphrates, which is there nearly two hundred yards wide.

Babylon became the emporium of the world, and a system of navigable canals united the Tigris and the Euphrates, and every important part of Chaldea together, with a regard to principle and convenience not surpassed by any modern country. Looking at this city, so vast, so splendid, so majestic in its might, the seat of an empire of unbounded wealth, ruling probably over twenty subject nations, an empire not only of physical might, but of intellectual grandeur and ancient prestige, it seemed destined to be perpetual. But no; it was founded on wrong principles. It became great on superstition, zealotry, ambition, and unprincipled magnificence, Its decay and death were certain to come. Nothing but truth, and virtue in accordance with truth, is everlasting. Where Babylon once stood, the land had returned to its ancient solitude three hundred years before Christ. It is at this day, as the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied, confused heaps and “pools of water.” The small town of Hillah, with its mud huts and scanty population, represents now a portion of the site; but all around is desolation anti wilderness, a land of marsh and misery, the home of the bittern and the cormorant. The words of the prophet Isaiah have been literally fulfilled: “Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” “Wild beasts of the desert shall dwell there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there” (Isa, xiii. 19, 21).

But what really was Babylon? It was the papacy of ancient times, Dr Hinks, who, with Colonel Rawlinson and others, have successfully deciphered the ancient inscriptions of Nineveh and Babylon, informs us that the title of the king of Babylon, constantly met with, means priest-king. The king of Babylon was the pope of those early ages, the spiritual despot of remote times. He had his hierarchy. The wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers, spoken of in Daniel (ii. 27), were just the various ranks which corresponded to the eminences, right reverends, and other great dignitaries with grandiose titles of modern days. Hence it is that Babylon has still its signification in Holy Writ. It was a religion of human mystery and mummery in the name of God. They cajoled and ruled over men in ancient times, and therefore, in the Word, their state became the symbol of a religion of that kind. So it is described by the prophet concerning Babylon: “Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven; I “will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (Isa. xiv. 13, 14). ” Thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever; so thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, NEITHER DIDST REMEMBER THE LATTER END OF IT. Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me : I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I see the loss of children.” “Thou hast trusted in thy wickedness, thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge perverted thee, and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it ariseth : mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know” (Isa. xlvii. 7, 8, 10,11).

In these astonishing descriptions and predictions we might be reading the character and fate of the modern Babylon, the papacy as developed in Christendom, and crumbling into dotage and destruction in our own days. In the book of Revelation, we have expressly delineated there a system which is called Babylon the great, the mother of harlots, and the abominations of the earth, as one that would be developed in Christendom. The form, spirit, extent, and fall of it, are exactly detailed in chapters 17 and 18. The church is represented by a majestic woman, the bride, who would become the Lamb’s wife. The rival system is represented by a woman, a harlot, having upon her forehead, “Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots, and the abominations of the earth” (v. 5).

Everyone knows that such a system did develop itself and grew and increased in the dark ages which supervened on the fall of the Roman Empire, and usurped the place of the Lord Jesus, ruling by the fears, ignorance, and superstitions of princes and people, until Christianity became but baptized heathenism, As many saints were worshipped as idols had been worshipped before; a queen of heaven was adored just as the Babylonians had their queen of heaven. Particular places and buildings were visited in pilgrimage for counsel, favour, and cure, just as the famous oracles of the heathen priests were thronged for their wonderments in older times. The pure wisdom and simple holy commands of the Gospel were entirely covered, and made of none effect, by relics and observances which are but stupid substitutes for the Kingdom of God, within an enlightened mind and a loving heart.

At length the whole of Christendom became a vast field of dense ignorance, of wild ambition, passion, and ferocity; very faintly, indeed, moderated by a few good men here and a few there. A remnant remained, watched over by the Lord, under every name, but captive and depressed by the darkness which covered the church, illumined only by the flashes of terrible struggle, of wild hate and defiance, in which the cruel of one class battled fiercely against the cruel of another; or in which the fiendish despot who would murder a nation not obsequious to his senseless tyranny and his stupid priest, was met by the fierce gallantry of heroes of liberty, and a people in arms. But where was Christianity in these awful times? Jerusalem had been set on fire and destroyed by Babylon. “What a marvelous view it gives us of the Word, and of the Lord’s Providence, when we comprehend the great lesson, that the record of the career of Jerusalem in the Old Testament is the prophetic delineation of the Christian Church, the Jerusalem which the Lord Jesus established. Yet it is manifestly so.

“Ye are come unto Mount Zion,” said the Apostle to the Christians, “and unto the city of the living God, THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly AND CHURCH OF THE FIRST-BORN” (Heb. xii. 22, 23). Again, he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly (Rom, ii. 28, 29). And still again, Jerusalem which is above (the earthly Jerusalem) is free, which is the mother of us all (Gal. iv, 26).

If, then, the Jerusalem of the Old Testament was a figure, a shadow going before of the Christian Church, the Jerusalem of the new, what will the degeneracy of Jerusalem, its courting communion with Babylon, and ultimately its destruction by Babylon, mean, but that the Christian Church would degenerate, would become corrupted by Babylonish intercourse, and ultimately be destroyed by Babylon? The consequence seems to be inevitable; there appears no escape from such a conclusion. The Christian Church, as the Lord Jesus founded it, and the Apostles spread it, was a city suffused and filled by this spirit of humility, love, and the wisdom of humility and love; it was the city set upon a hill, the Jerusalem which was holy, pure, and free. How came it then to become the church of contradictory mysteries, of violent antagonisms, of fierce struggles, and burning hates? How came its great men to become monstrous for their crimes and their cruelties? Whence came the Torquemadas, the Alvas, the inquisition, the centuries of persecution, of cruelty, and bloodshed in the name of the religion of the Prince of Peace? It was from Jerusalem shewing her treasures to Babylon, as in the days of good, but weak Hezekiah.

The Church having lost her first love, and manufactured the new creed of three divine persons, began to borrow showy rites and gaudy ceremonies from heathenism. Instead of kindling the fire of love in the hearts of men, she lighted plenty of candles; instead of holy truth, she provided holy water; Instead of taking up the daily cross of the Gospel-the cross of subduing evil tempers and unhallowed desires she put crosses on her buildings and into the hands of the people-rough crosses and dainty crosses-covered her priests with crosses in grand colours, quite as grand as those of the old priests of Thibet, or the priest of Egypt, which they flaunted in processions centuries before Christianity existed she made and blessed jewelled crosses for wicked men and women of princely position and high degree, who were a scandal not only to religion but to mankind; instead of removing sin, she pretended to forgive it and satisfy God by saying many hurried prayers with unchanged hearts, and living as wickedly as before. To preserve this masquerade of religion, she martyred the true children of Christ, and massacred nations. O Lord Jesus, Savior, infinite in purity, wisdom, charity, and holiness, was this Thy Church, for which Thou didst bow the heavens and come down? Was it for such a system as this Thou wert God manifest in the flesh, and didst suffer and die for men ? Assuredly not. Thy Jerusalem had mixed with Babylon, and at length Babylon had burnt and utterly destroyed it.

Nothing but the Word of God, loved and obeyed can change the human heart and mind: and the Word of Godwas closed from the people, and mysterious looking mummeries instituted instead; and so the fires of evil lust and passion, at one time smouldering in the heart, at another raging forth in cruel violence and battle, until J erusalem was entirely destroyed. ” Wickedness burneth as a fire” (Isa. ix. 18). “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks ye have kindled. This shall ye have at my hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow” (Isa. 1. 11). The so-called Christian nations sunk under Babylonish principles, did surely kindle enormous fires and did indeed lie down in sorrow.

The name Nebuchadnezzar is found so abundantly upon the broad bricks or tiles of Babylon, that not only is his extraordinary grandeur fully testified by the extensive remains of the wonderful palaces and other great structures he built, but scarcely any remains are found of the city as it was before his time. The Birs Nimroud, four miles from Hillah, which had been long supposed, without any evidence, to be the remains of the Tower of Babel, has on every inscribed brick which has been taken from it the name of Nebuchadnezzar.

But this king, great as he was, typified a principle far more terrible and powerful than he. The name Nebuchadnezzar means the anguish of Judgment; and the name of his general Nebuzaradan means the fruits of judgment, also the Winnowing of judgment.

When a church has lost its soul and life, and instead of its own nature and strength has borrowed from Babylon its influence and right to be, a time comes when even the appearance of it, the remains of it, will not be tolerated. All regard for gentleness, wisdom, justice, truth, and everything of the angelic character, will be thrown off, and it will stand out only what Nebuchadnezzar has made it, a ruin, a misery, and a desolation. His general, the winnower, will scatter everything inconsistent with Babylonish rule, and the Church will be judged by its own manifestation, a home for falsity, destitute of true goodness, true life, true wisdom, and true peace.

But, blessed be Infinite Mercy, Jerusalem was to be built again, and it was built again. The second temple was more glorious than the first. The Prince of Peace came and inhabited it in person; and in that house, as the prophets predicted, He gave peace (Haggai ii. 9).

Jerusalem was to be inhabited as “towns without walls, for the multitude of men and cattle therein.” The Lord declared He would be a wall of fire round about, and a glory in the midst of her (Zech. ii. 4, 5). And so it is once again. The New ]Jerusalem, THE SECOND SPIRITUAL JERUSALEM, the Church of great principles, revealing truths infinite in number and grandeur, and love extensive as heaven and earth, and embracing peoples, nations, languages, and tongues in all-encircling charities, now appears. The Lord is in her. His love surrounds her as a wall of fire. Come and see the bride, the Lamb’s wife, the city of the great King. Let us hail the glorious dwelling, and say, “This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it.”

Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)