Guests: Brant Berglin and Mathilde Frey
Relevant Verses: Isaiah 19:18-25
Leading Question: Could Babylon repent?
One of the dangers of a strict historicist approach to Scripture is that is locks in both the innocent and guilty parties to their “prophetic” fate. One doesn’t have to baptize the beast. Beastly behavior is already amply documented in the history of the beast. But I see no good reason why the beast should have to retain loyalty to its beastly past. Let’s look at some examples
1. Egypt and Assyria. Pride of place has to go to Isaiah’s visionary prospects for two of Israel’s greatest enemies, Egypt and Assyria. These are the words from Isaiah 19:18-25:
Isaiah 19:18 On that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord of hosts. One of these will be called the City of the Sun.
19 On that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the center of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. 20 It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; when they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior, and will defend and deliver them. 21 The Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians will know the Lord on that day, and will worship with sacrifice and burnt offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. 22 The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing; they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their supplications and heal them.
23 On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.
24 On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.”
If both Egypt and Assyria can be seen as born-again nations, submissive to Yahweh, couldn’t there be hope for the beast?
2. Ninevah. The book of Jonah testifies to the fact that God can accept repentance from the most unlikely of subjects, namely, Ninevah, the capital of Assyria. In short, when the people of Ninevah repented, God repented. Here is the relevant section from Jonah 3:
Jonah 3:4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal,
no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. 8 Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
3. Ahab. After Jezebel arranged to kill Naboth so that Ahab could have a coveted vineyard, a remarkable dialogue ensued involving Ahab, Elijah, and Yahweh. Here it is, from 1 Kings 21:
1 Kings 21:15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” 16 As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: 18 Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 19 You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?” You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.”
20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, 21 I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin. 23 Also concerning Jezebel the Lord said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat.”
25 (Indeed, there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. 26 He acted most abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites.)
27 When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster on his house.”
Note: The Lord often postpones punishment rather than cancelling it completely. Josiah’s great reform of the Jerusalem temple earned a one generation reprieve (see 2 Kings 22:14-20), just like Ahab’s personal reform had done. The primary difference was that Josiah was one of Judah’s best kings; Ahab was one of Israel’s worst.
4. Adventists and Babylon. In the 1890s circumstances in Battle Creek had greatly deteriorated. It was Ellen White who make the comparison between Adventists and Rome. Here is her quote:
The present is a time of special peril. In 1890 and 1891 there was presented to me a view of dangers that would threaten the work because of a confederacy in the office of publication in Battle Creek. Propositions which to their authors appeared very wise would be introduced, looking to the formation of a confederacy that would make Battle Creek, like Rome, the great head of the work, and enable the office of publication there to swallow up everything in the publishing line among us. This is not God’s wisdom, but human wisdom. Those matters have been coming up again and again in different aspects, but this policy of consolidation would, if adopted, result in marring the work. God would have His work move firmly and solidly, but no one branch is to interfere with or absorb other branches of the same great work. – Lt 71, 1894 [Publishing Ministry, 144 (1983)]
Question: In the light of the above examples, could we not offer hope to Babylon?
Here is another quote from Ellen White, one in which she pointedly argues against the attack mode:
The Lord wants His people to follow other methods than that of condemning wrong, even though the condemnation be just. He wants us to do something more than to hurl at our adversaries charges that only drive them further from the truth. The work which Christ came to do in our world was not to erect barriers and constantly thrust upon the people the fact that they were wrong. (121/122)
He who expects to enlighten a deceived people must come near to them and labor for them in love. He must become a center of holy influence. – 6T 121-122