THE CLOCK OF GOD, Part 2, DISPERSION AND EXILE

Goodnews Christian Ministry

"To Babylon you must go and there you will be rescued; There God will ransom you out of the power of your enemies." ---Micah 4:10

CHAPTER 8

Seventy Years in Babylon

"I, Daniel, was perusing the scriptures, counting over the number of years
-- as revealed by God to the prophet Jeremiah -- before the successive
devastations of Jerusalem would come to an end,
namely seventy years."
Daniel 9:2

_____________

Captivity and escape to freedom are the two major themes around which all the metaphores of scripture revolve.

In the Old Testament the captivity was Egypt and the exodus was the journey Moses led across the wilderness of Sinai. In the New Testament the captivity is Babylon and the exodus is called 'the ingathering'.

Because they are metaphores, 'Egypt' and the 'Exodus' stand as code words in Bible prophecy. Their true meaning was captivity to wickedness and the divine escape from this bondage provided by God. For this reason, they are early templates of the concept of 'Babylon' and our Christian pilgrimmage away from this city of sin.

Moses and the prophets gave ample warning to the Hebrew tribes that the captivity of Egypt was only a forewarning of what lay in the future if the people of Israel refused to structure their lives in the righteous ways of God.

"Take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow. If you are willing to obey, you shall eat the good things of the earth. But if you persist in rebellion, the sword of the invader will eat you instead. The mouth of God has spoken." (Is.1:16-20).

Failing to build their lives in God's mandatory holy behavior, the people of Israel found themselves surrounded by prophets who were predicting a new and greater exile. "To Babylon you must go, and there you will be rescued; there God will ransom you out of the power of your enemies." (Hos.4:10).

The coming captivity, these seers announced, would take the House of Israel out of the Promised Land and carry them away in chains to a scattered incarceration that would stretch all across the pagan North -- throughout a great wilderness area called 'Babylon' -- where they would have to stay for 70 years.

It would be a long captivity, Jeremiah warned; they would have to build houses and settle down.

When Nebuchaddnezzar sacked and burned Jerusalem and carried the Jews to his own Babylon, all these prophecies seemed to suddenly crystallize. But the dispersion scripture decreed was much larger than that.

Israel's incredible 'Babylonian' exile has its roots in the great but passive civil war which divided the Jews from the other tribes just after the death of Solomon. It began when the 10 Israeli tribes of the North were conquered and carried away by Assyria, 200 years before Babylon.

And it cannot completely end until the Prince of Persia comes at the world's end and announces its conclusion.

The period of time from the Assyrian conquest of the House of Israel to the future appearance of the Prince of Persia is defined in metaphoric terms in scripture as encompassing '70 years'.

The only release from this 70-year captivity is a spiritual journey whose existance was first announced by the prophets, and later precisely defined by Jesus Christ. As the only Son of God, His footsteps mark the single survivable route through Babylon's wilderness. All other paths, Christ said, lead to death.

While he was being held captive in the Babylonian court, the prophet Daniel poured over Jeremiah's prophecies trying to determine just when the 70-year captivity would come to an end.

Daniel realized that he was a part of this great biblical incarceration, but he had no way of knowing his true position with respect to it. He thought it had begun just a few decades earlier and that it's end was close at hand. He petitioned the Lord for greater understanding.

While he was praying on Jeremiah's words, an angel of God appeared to him and explained the answers to his question.

It was not an answer Daniel could really fathom at the time, because it said nothing to him about the Jewish captivity at the banks of the Euphrates -- it described the true end of the 70 years -- the events of the last days.

Tying this period to Armageddon, the angel let Daniel know that the 70-years would not have its conclusion until the world, itself, ended.

This explanation proved that the short captivity of the Jews in which Daniel was involved and concerned about was only a foreshadow of something much greater. We can understand this far better now in light of the historic sequence that has since followed these events.

History has shown us an exile that has lasted for scores of centuries. It is a captivity that involves not just foreign nations, but also sin. And throughout this entire period, the only freedom from this exile has come from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Those who commit themselves to Christ and 'leave Babylon' by dying to their past lives, end their 70-year captivity to sin by following the righteous path of Jesus to the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus termed Babylon's seventy-year reign over the people of God, the 'age of the pagans'. (Lk.21:24). This tells us that the term 'Babylon' is actually a cryptogram for the entire pagan world. And the way it is used, it is a term that seems to encompass not only secularism, but every religion foreign to Christ as well.

The 70-years are greatly metaphoric because the House of Israel has been plagued by elements of this captivity for almost 3000 years. Ever since the death of Solomon, the holy city has been trampled down by an unceasing succession of foreign armies.

The prophets have catalogued for this period, eight major persecutions of the people of God. The most important of these as far as we are concerned are the last three because they encompass the era of the Christian Church.

Two of these have already occured and one is yet to come. In fact, it is beginning now.

Although Jeremiah assigned the name 'Babylon' to these persecuting nations, another code word for the country perpetuating this oppression was first heralded by Isaiah hundreds of years earlier under the pseudonym: 'Imperial Tyre'. (Is.23:15-18).

Historically, 'Tyre' was the capitol of Phoenecia -- a city on the Mediterranean seacoast just north of Galilee; but Isaiah's use of this name is prophecy, not history. Therefore, in his case it is a pseudonym; and in the context that it appears in this passage of scripture, it seems certain to be a code word for a specific aspect of Babylon.

This is mentioned here because Isaiah's title is reminiscent of 'Imperial Rome' -- the nation that brought all these visions to a focus at the time of Christ. Rome, in fact, turned out actually to be the sixth of the eight nations involved in the Babylonian persecutions and exile.

The difference between the names assigned by these two prophets to a seemingly identical subject is important, because where Jeremiah's predictions concern the entire pagan world (a Babylon encompassing every nation on earth), Isaiah's prophecies with respect to Tyre seem to be specifically directed toward the Roman empire itself -- pointing first to the pagan Rome of Caesar's time (Is.23:1-14), and next, to it's Italian Christian successor. (Is.23:17).

The common denominator which ties Isaiah's Tyre and Jeremiah's Babylon together is the 'seventy years'. This is the code term that tells us that these diverse prophecies are related.

The fact that Isaiah's prophecy speaks to us about the end of the 70 years (Is.23:15) reveals that it revolves around Christian conversion and escape from captivity. As we have seen, the Bible has shown us that the 70-year captivity comes to an end wherever there is conversion into Christ.

This is how we know Isaiah is talking to us about the two natures of the Roman government. In other words, on one side, pagan Rome and on the other, a Rome converted to Christ.

The 70 years are not just metaphoric. They have a profound literal basis as well, because underlying them is the measure of a human lifetime. (Ps.90:10). The seventy years defines the average life-span of a human being on earth.

It is written in the Psalms, "The length of our days is seventy years -- or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." (Ps.90:10). In this quotation, scripture ties the 70 years to the life of our physical body.

Thus the same measure that describes our own tenure on the planet is also used to define Israel's captivity to Babylon. Earth and flesh, then, are two aspects of the same captivity. And both are passing away, because flesh and blood, Paul said, cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

The fact that these diverse entities share a common number is not accidental. The Holy Spirit has fashioned this symmetry on purpose because both relate to the same captivity.

Babylon is this world. The captivity is our existance here -- our stay in the physical world.

The seventy years describes the spiritual time limit that God has given the people of Babylon (captives and citizens alike) to convert into the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And seventy symbolic years have been given to the planet as well.

At the end of our own seventy years (i.e., when we physically die), we are individually finished with respect to God's offer; and when the planet dies, the offer itself will be exhausted.

God has structured a divine food that keeps this planet from dying, and until the day that food is taken away, Christ's offer will remain in effect.

The tribes of Israel had to suffer the exile so that God could extend His offer of forgiveness to every person on the planet (and to make us understand our incarceration here).

We are all born into the captivity of Babylon and each of us must remain a prisoner in this foreign society until the day we make our escape by following Jesus Christ -- who is the only path that leads back to God's Jerusalem.

The kingdom of heaven is not on this planet, so we cannot enter it during our life in the flesh. But we must begin the journey here by allowing the word of God to take dominion over our heart.

The only way to reach God's Jerusalem is through spiritual conversion. We must leave sin behind and live according to the directives of God -- turning our lives over to the commandments taught by Jesus Christ.

Until we do that we have to remain captive to Babylon -- plying out the seventy years of our existence here under the dominion of forces which try persistently to separate us from the compassionate and loving ways commanded by God.

Reinforcing metaphor by circumstance, God has handed the tribes of Israel over to the pagan world, scattering them to its farthest ends.

As a part of this trampling of the House of Israel, the city of Jerusalem in Palestine has spent most of the last 2700 years in ruins and under foreign rule. "This Is how the word of God was fulfilled that he spoke through Jeremiah...until seventy years have gone by..." (2 Chron.36:21).

God, then, has created a single captivity with dual themes. And it exists on two levels. One, as we have seen, applies to each of us personally, and the other applies to the world in general. The first relates to our body and soul, and the other to the planet with all its cities and nations and rulers.

For the world in general the age of the pagans cannot end until Christ returns in glory, but in our own individual lives there is a process which brings it to an end much sooner and that process has been at work in the world since the day of the original Pentecost almost 2000 years ago.

Babylon began to dissolve the moment Jesus was first preached. Every conversion into Christ terminates a part of the 70-year exile.

While we tend to view Babylon only in terms of its world role, our escape from captivity always occurs on the smaller personal level of individual salvation -- a process virtually always completed within the framework of the seventy years prescribed by scripture.

Paul showed that our physical body dies as far as God is concerned the moment we are baptised. This is obviously the mechanism of our escape. Paul said that as soon as we are born into Jesus Christ, we die to our physical body by joining Jesus in his own death.

This action, in terminating the reign of our mortal body over our souls, ends the seventy years. Thus it terminates the reign of Babylon in our lives. That ends the exile individually -- a process that happens one by one (person by person).

The global end (Armageddon) -- is the end which captures the most attention. Not just because it heralds the moment of the entry of God's 'chosen people' into the kingdom of heaven, but also because of the gripping and fiery spectacle predicted to precede that procession.

The world's fiery climax will trumpet the return of Christ to this earth, bringing with Him the Last Judgment and the dramatic opening of the gates of the third heaven.

The gates of this new kingdom cannot be opened until Jesus returns in glory:"Only when the seventy years granted to Babylon are over, will I visit you and fulfill my promise in your favor by bringing you back to this place." (Jer.29:10).

Because the 70-year captivity applies both to the flesh and to the life of the world, Babylon can be seen in universal terms as well. Our sinful body was born into a world that has persisted in unrighteous behavior since the beginning of man.

Jesus ended this wicked history when He appeared in Galilee.

Seeing the captivity in these terms pushes the age of Babylon back to the dawn of human history -- back to the banks of the Euphrates where the people of Babel first gathered into civilized units and began to build their tower.

In this sense, 'Babylon' is a code word for earth itself, and 'Egypt' (the 'furnace of iron' -- Dt.4:20), is another code word which points back to the sun and the planets of iron that were produced in its solar birth, and to the immense fireball that earlier spawned all the galaxies of the universe.

It speaks to us in metaphore of a captivity within physical creation out of which the galaxy and its sun, like Moses, has brought us temporarily to life, but which, also like Moses, cannot sustain that life for very long.

In this sense, Moses not only led the Israelites to a 'promised land' -- a religious 'Eden' in the dark chaos of material existance -- his actions gave his people temporary relief from the captivity of Babylon as well.

Babylon's presence in the guise of Egypt was an invisible captivity that the Israelites were unaware of. Nor did they realize that the Egypt of Moses' days was actually the first of Babylon's kingdoms to actually pit itself against the developing House of Israel.

Instead of securing on earth a safe harbor in God out of the land they had been given, the Israelites began to convert it back into the substance of Babylon as soon as they arrived there. They could not overcome the stain Satan had painted across their souls. The rules of Moses were not powerful enough for them to resist his call to sin.

This invisible plunge back into the captivity of Babylon was forseen by God and so He had Moses warn the people of the consequence of their sins: "Yes, I will make such a desolation of the (Promised) land that your enemies will be appalled by it...and I will scatter you among the nations" (Lv.26:27-35).

All this happened so that God could show the House of Israel that the words of scripture are absolute and will all come true. Anyone can read Moses' words today and look back and see how powerfully God has fulfilled them. (See especially Lv.26:27-35; and Dt.28:15-68). We can expect the same degree of fulfillment from Christ's words as well.

While he was on the island of Patmos, John was shown in a vision that the age of the pagans (the seventy years of pagan dominion over Jerusalem) would be divided into three eras. (Rv.19:11-20:15).

Hundreds of years earlier, the angel who appeared to Daniel announced the same kind of division. (Dn.9:24-27).

While he was still in captivity to the original Babylon and wondering about his people's release from the '70 year' captivity which Jeremiah had written about, the angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel and explained this period to him in terms of 'weeks' of years. (i.e., seventy years multiplied seven times).

Adding this divine multiplier (7) implied multiple lifetimes, showing that the angel's explanation had its focus on the ultimate seventy years -- i.e., on the global end of the world.

Not only that, the term 'weeks' of years qualified the answer, showing that it was not the entire 70-year captivity, that was being discussed, but a facet of it, i.e., the time of its end. That is the question Daniel wanted answered. The angel focused the period on the reign of Christ, the time involved in the release from this captivity.

The angel divided the 70 weeks of years into three parts. All three relate to the world's rule of violence. And they apply to us today because we are still living in one of the times they describe.

Gabriel divided the seventy year pagan reign over Jerusalem into 3 eras based on the intensity of the violence associated with the periods.

There would be two very harsh battles between pagans and Christians, one at the beginning and the other at the end; and sandwiched between them, a long period of much milder hostility -- a period the angel termed, 'the time of trouble'.

True to this pattern, the Christian era began with lions and slaughter; then it passed into a long period of relative peace during which Church leaders took dominion over the earth.

At the world's conclusion the Christian era will once again be subjected to intense violence, coming to an end under the boot of the beast.

The three parts, then, can be seen in the events of our own time. We live today just before the dawn of the second war. This means that we are in the very last minutes of Daniel's sixty-ninth week.

In other words, it has been sixty-nine weeks of years since Pentecost, and we have about one week of years to go in the sequence of Daniel's prophecies. These numbers, the 'weeks of years', of course, are symbolic.

The three divisions Gabriel outlined for Daniel match identically the vision seen by John on Patmos which showed the last days consisting of two battles and between them, a period of Gospel rule called 'the millenium' (because it was scheduled to last for a thousand years).

The first of these three parts, according to John, is the first war -- a period described by Daniel as encompassing 'seven weeks'.

The 'thousand years' which John predicted would follow this first war is termed the 'sixty two weeks' in Daniel's prophecy; and then the third part which John describes as the second war -- one week.

So we have two different prophets in the company of angels, separated from each other by hundreds of years, and both are describing the very same event in two different ways.

In John's vision, it is the final week (the second war) that we are now approaching.


One thing is clear in the revelation Gabriel gave to Daniel: the tribulation (Daniel's seventieth and last week) is shorter by far than was the first war that launched the sequence (the first conflict lasted seven weeks).

This suggests that the Wrath will not last nearly as long as the Christian persecutions did which initiated the reign of the Church on earth. This is hopeful because those initial persecutions encompassed a span of at least 300 years.

Daniel's prophecies approach the captivity only from the point of view of its termination -- beginning with the handwriting on the wall which appeared just a few hours before Babylon's sudden and catastrophic end.

John's visions are the same as Daniel's, but his time-frame is different. He tells us that the '62 weeks' will last a thousand years.

Unlike Daniel, John gives no indication of the length of the two wars bordering the thousand years, but he does describe each war's key events.

For instance, of the first war he wrote, "Then I saw the beast, with all the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to fight the rider and his army. But the beast was taken prisoner, together with the false prophet...All the rest were killed by the sword of the rider, which came out of his mouth" (Rev.19:19-20).

It is clear in John's prophecy that the first battle of the end encompasses the violence and opposition of the Jews and Romans to the message preached by Jesus.

The establishment of Christianity in the world was far from easy. For over three hundred years -- the years following the crucifixion of Jesus -- thousands of Christian believers were crucified or fed to the lions.

But, as John saw in his vision, the word of God was a sword that overcame this opposition. The Holy Spirit defeated God's enemies, bringing the first war to an end -- and victory to the people of God. Satan was taken prisoner, removed from the earth and locked into the Abyss:

"Then I saw an angel come down from heaven with the key of the Abyss in his hand and an enormous chain. He overpowered the dragon, that primeval serpent which is the devil and Satan, and chained him up for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and shut the entrance and sealed it over him, to make sure he would not deceive the nations again until the thousand years had passed. At the end of that time he must be released, but only for a short while." (Rev.20:1-3, 2 Thes.2:6-7).

When God had Michael lock Satan in the Abyss, it brought the Christian world to a time of relative peace -- a peace, which although troubled, allowed the Gospel of Jesus to be preached across the entire world without the fierce power and opposition of the dragon to thwart it.

This action initiated the 'sixty-two weeks' -- John's era of a 'thousand years'. This period encompasses the reign of the Gospel on earth, and Satan's incarceration was vital in creating it.

During this era of Christian rule, many of the most powerful kings of the earth have promoted and encouraged the preaching of God's message to the populations of the world, making these days a time of shining light for all the people.

During its troubled term, the ruined 'squares and ramparts' of Jerusalem have been steadily "restored and rebuilt" in 'living stones' (person by person). (Dn.9:25, 1 Peter 2:5).

Although many people today in their new-found obsession with equanimity for pagan rights would not view the Christian rule of the past in such enlightened and glorified terms as those described above, God does.

While the world views itself on it's own terms -- God has a different perspective. As far as God is concerned the planet exists only to make Jesus known to the people.

In the absence of Christian proclamation and conversion, the world will end. This is the key to everything. This is the reason for the hydrogen bombs, the runaway violence and the dissolution of the protective layers in the sky. God is letting us know, when Christian conversion ends, the world ends with it.

The rule of Christ on earth received official recognition with the decree of Constantine, and it has lasted up until our own time.

This proves that Daniel's '62 weeks' (John's 'thousand years') is still in progress. It is drastically changing now because of the Revolt, but for almost 2000 years most of the dominant ruling powers of this world have also carried the banner of Christ.

That is why, during the reign of Jesus, the people of the western world have witnessed their own leaders bowing down in homage to the Lord, and usually commanding that every person in their respective kingdoms do likewise.

The result of this global commitment to Jesus has produced a time of strength for the Church of Jesus Christ on earth -- a time of strength described by Daniel as 'the power of the holy people'.

This world victory of Christ was clearly prophesied in advance: "See now, your king comes to you; he is victorious, he is triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will proclaim peace for the nations. His empire shall stretch from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth." (Zc.9:9-10).

Even though the time for the rebuilding of Jerusalem has been defined by the prophets, the numbers they have given us are essentially symbolic. The seventy years and the sixty-two weeks are not chronological descriptions.

Neither is the 'thousand years'.

As far as the actual calendar time of these events is concerned, Jesus said that no one on earth, not even himself, knew the times that God had set for these things to be accomplished.

Certainly if Jesus did not know the times, then no one on earth can presume to know them either. In fact, Jesus said that no person on earth shall ever know the dates and times of the end.

He said to his disciples, "It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by His own authority..." (Acts 1:7). This is a scriptural edict -- a divine decree.

Therefore anyone who says he knows any date is mistaken; and it proves again that the days and times and dates specified in scripture exist only in metaphore. God's time-line is open ended because God always structures mercy for repentance.

Like His warning to Nineveh. Hearing the testimony of Jonah, the people of Nineveh repented and so the terrible things that were destined for Nineveh did not happen.

The same is true for each of us, and for the nations, and even for the world itself. Repentance stretches out the time of mercy; but lack of repentance hastens the time of wrath.

NEXT
Clock of God, Chapter 9,
"Return from the North"

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