Babylon – The Great City of Revelation
Babylon – The Great City of Revelation
Author: Joseph R. Balyeat
Sevierville, TN: Onward Press, 1991. Paperback, 233 pp.
This book not only reveals the hidden meaning behind important symbols in the book of Revelation, but it discusses with gripping argumentation the serious implications of Revelation with regard to the proper role of the Christian in society today. Taking the preterist view, this book is intended to be a companion book to David Chilton’s The Great Tribulation and Kenneth Gentry’s The Beast of Revelation. 234 pages, paper, appendix, glossary, bibliography
Joseph Balyeat lives with his wife, Linda, and sons, Daniel and Matthew, outside Bozeman, Montana, where he is a certified public accountant. He is also an elder in his church, lay preacher, non-profit corporation director, teacher of evangelism, and political activist.
“Balyeat wrote this as a companion to David Chilton’s The Great Tribulation (1987), and Kenneth Gentry’s The Beast of Revelation (1989). In it, he debates what he calls the “real issues” (rather than what eschatological positions the Church Fathers held) of whether or not Revelation was fulfilled in the first century, and what the proper outlook on the future and role of Christians in society today should be (p.44). He shows that the eschatological view a person holds affects how he deals with society. If one believes (per premillennialism) that only a remnant will be faithful to “the end,” and that society will be wicked and ready to be taken over by the antichrist, it leads to a defeatist and fatalistic view of society and its possibilities. Even if one wanted to try to change things, premill leaders, such as Dave Hunt and David Wilkerson, say it is evil to do so!
Balyeat’s purpose in writing this book is to put “the final nail in the coffin of Christian pessimism. Proving the prophets of predestined pessimism are wrong on Revelation will be the final boost needed to usher in an era of postmillennial optimism and activism.” His desire is to see “evangelism of individuals, and Christian reconstruction of culture, with the whole Bible as a blueprint for both. If we can prove that what we thought was the future is really the past, it will free us up to deal with the present” (p.47).
In order to show the correspondence of “Babylon” with Jerusalem, Balyeat lists the names given to each (such as “the great city”), as well as their characteristics: “In her (Babylon) was found the blood of prophets and saints” and “surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem.” Also compared are the accounts of the Gospels, Revelation, and the historian Josephus. He lists eleven direct references in Scripture that were fulfilled during the Roman-Jewish War, such as: false christs and prophets, wars, earthquakes, and famine.
In Chapter 3, Balyeat studies Peter’s use of the name “Babylon” in his first epistle (5:13). Some consider this to represent Rome, of which Peter is traditionally held to have been the bishop, Balyeat argues convincingly against this position. Considering Paul’s letter to the Romans, he shows how inconceivable it would have been for Paul to completely ignore Peter in his greetings, as well as claim that he would not be “building on another’s foundation” if he came to minister to them (Rom. 15:20). This is strong evidence that the tradition of Peter in Rome is unfounded. On the other hand, it would have been fitting for Peter to call Jerusalem “Babylon,” since she had completely rejected her Messiah and her inhabitants had called for His blood to be avenged upon themselves and their children.
In Chapter 5, Balyeat looks at Babylon’s replacement: New Jerusalem. He points out that since Christ’s bride is called New Jerusalem, and is a spiritual city, it necessarily implies that it is a replacement for the physical city of Old Jerusalem. Since Revelation presents a contrast between New Jerusalem and “Babylon,” it argues strongly for “Babylon” being another name for Old Jerusalem (its name being indicative of its spiritual condition). Balyeat also gives Scriptural evidence showing that New Jerusalem is to be identified with the Church and that the Church is spiritual Israel (just as Old Jerusalem was the capital of physical Israel, New Jerusalem is the capital of spiritual Israel). As such, the Church has become heir to the blessings and promises of Israel. Balyeat points out that early premills such as Justin Martyr identified the Church as the true Israel and “the premillennial dispensational view that Israel and the Church are two separate entities” is of recent invention (p.131). He adds, “Such a distorted view necessitates that God has two bride people; a bigamous idea more akin to Mormonism than historic Christianity.”
Regarding the taking of dominion, Balyeat demonstrates that the Church, “as New Jerusalem inherits all the blessings… promises and profitable moral teaching” originally given to Israel, “so God continues to transfer His blessing and His mandate for stewardship and dominion over to those who faithfully walk in accordance with His Word” (p.134). The idea of taking dominion is completely foreign to most Christians who have been fed “the erroneous, short-termed, pessimistic, predestined, futurist view of Revelation.” Dominion, as defined by Balyeat, is “simply to maintain faithful stewardship over God’s world in accordance with the Biblical blueprints for success which God has given us in His Word. ….The ultimate goal of dominion is that the effects of God’s law/word would cover the earth even as the waters cover the sea” (pp.134-5). Referring to Mt.5:5, Balyeat says, “Being meekly submitted to God naturally results in ‘inheriting the earth’ — which clearly implies that we should not be entirely focused simply on heaven and the rapture” (emphases his).
In answer to those who say the world is getting worse with every passing day, Balyeat says, “Present-day pessimistic American Christians have failed to see [the] steady advance of the Kingdom of Christ simply because of [an] ego-centric view of both history and geography.” He points out that it is only due to the American Christian’s acceptance of a pessimistic eschatology (with its accompanying social and political inaction) that things in America are deteriorating socially and politically. For evil to triumph over the Kingdom of God is aberrational, and “even the present downward flight is not God’s will for defeat, but rather our willingness to retreat….God is not the problem here, we are” (p.139). The Christian should never view himself as merely “polishing brass on a sinking ship” when involved in social or political issues. As Balyeat is quick to say, the ship is NOT sinking! Even if it were, we are called to “plug the holes,” not sit idly by bemoaning its condition! That is what being salt and light are all about, after all. Even if the ship had sunk, there is no reason to conclude that God could not raise it again. “[P]remillennial cultural pietists fail to see that the present wave of unrighteousness in society is not a fulfillment of Bible prophecy, it is a fulfillment of self-fulfilling prophecy!” (p.149). While it is the contention of other futurists that “it is wrong for Christians to concentrate their resources and efforts on trying to reclaim…this world system for the Lord,” the postmillennialist (and for that matter the preterist) understands that “the worst is behind us.” Quoting Gary North and Kenneth Gentry, Balyeat affirms, “Heaven is for dead men in Christ. The earth is for living men in Christ. We must quit asking ‘Whatever Happened to Heaven’ [the title of a premill escapist book by Dave Hunt] and start asking ‘Whatever happened to the Great Commission and the Dominion Mandate?’ “
Balyeat shows that the dispensational fixation with escape to heaven is the same as that found in the builders of the Tower of Babel. Those people were supposed to spread throughout the earth and take dominion, as God had told them. Rather than following God’s command, they decided to stay put and seek to get to heaven. Did God applaud their efforts and congratulate them for being so spiritual? (Dave Hunt might have). No! God “scattered them over the face of the earth” (Gen.11:8-9) after He destroyed the system they were trying to use to get to heaven. While there are many futurist preachers that are urging us to “come out of Babylon” (meaning to withdraw from society), Balyeat says that what is necessary to withdraw from is “the Babylonian notion that autonomous, humanistic men — without the power and grace and Word of God — are meant to rule the world” (p.151).
Even though this book is mostly preterist in orientation, Balyeat still holds to some futurist ideas, in spite of texts such as Mt.24:27-28 (which he quotes on p.117): “For as lightning that comes from the east and is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” He recognizes that the “carcass” being alluded to is the dead “body of Moses,” the outdated Old Covenant system, which was soon to be replaced by the “body of Christ.” He readily admits that this took place in A.D.70 (p.119), yet, he cannot bring himself to conclude that this was also the Second Coming. Balyeat insists that this is yet to come “at the end of history, a ‘coming’ that will be visible across the whole sky — from East to West.” Isn’t this what Jesus said would happen in A.D.70? Christ was not comparing Himself to the vultures (as Balyeat suggests, if we interpret this as the parousia), He is the One who would be sending them. The word “vultures” should actually be translated “eagles,” an obvious reference to the Roman armies dispatched by the Lord (see: Mt.22:7).
Although Balyeat is a futurist, his warning needs to be heard: “If Christians in America continue to shirk their duty to be servants of light in [the political] arena (as well as the arenas of education, media, medicine, law, business, etc.) you can be assured that the spiritual light stored up in this nation by our Christian forefathers will soon run out, and we will surely be cast into outer darkness” (p.170). Hear the Word of the Lord: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked bears rule, the people mourn” (Prov.29:2).
Critique of Kingdom Counsel’s
Babylon – The Great City of Revelation
1. Thank you for publishing Ken Davies’ thoughtful review of my book Babylon: The Great City of Revelation. Of course, while Davies’ was in agreement with most of what I have written, he did take issue with the fact that I do not hold to a “full” preterist position. Certainly I make no bones about the fact that I do believe someday (perhaps as much as 34,000 years in the future) there will be a final physical resurrection and a Final Coming of Christ to a redeemed world.
2. However, I have also stated publicly that all biblical references which include “imminent” time references were fulfilled in A.D. 70. In fact, the highlight of my most recent editorial column read, “Every single New Testament reference to a ‘soon coming’ Day of the Lord was fully and remarkably fulfilled when our Lord came in judgment on apostate, Christ-rejecting Jerusalem in 70 A.D.”
Where I am at variance with the full preterist position is that I believe there are certain passages about a future final coming of Christ which do not include ‘near at hand’ time indicators, and which are most naturally interpreted as a literal rather than symbolic return of Christ.
While I do not disagree with Brother Davies’ analysis of my position, I do take issue with the “straw man” argument he builds for me, in direct contradiction to what I have said in the very sentence he quotes from my book. Davies states that I apply Matthew 24:27 to a future second coming. He writes: “Balyeat insists that this [Second Coming] is yet to come at the end of history, a ‘coming’ that will be visible across the whole sky – from East to West.” If he had quoted my entire sentence, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to see that I actually said exactly the opposite of what Davies claims:
I then proceed to point out that, contrary to this futurist interpretation, a more reasonable understanding of this passage is the preterist one. I paraphrased: “When you see lightning in the east, you know a storm will soon be here in the west. Even so, when I come in judgment on Jerusalem you will see armies approaching from the east. Then know that soon these foreign vultures will pick the carcass of Jerusalem clean.” In fact, I clearly state in numerous places throughout my book that “all of Matthew 24 is talking about first century events” (e.g., p. 215). Thus, it is unfortunate that Davies muddied the preterist waters by misquoting me and giving the impression that my rejection of “full” preterism was based on such flimsy and flawed Biblical exegesis.
To the contrary, my rejection of full preterism is based upon four arguments. First, as I have stated previously, certain passages alluding to a “Final Coming” of Christ do not include time indicators. While all those passages which do include “near at hand” time indicators are easily and most naturally applied to A.D. 70; it is interesting that the passages which do not include such time indicators can only be applied to A.D. 70 under the most strained, super-symbolic interpretations. For example, I simply cannot yet buy the extremely tenuous full preterist interpretation of 1 Thess. 4:13-18.
3. Nor can I yet accept the full preterist interpretation of the two resurrections depicted in Revelation 20; especially when this passage is compared with Jesus’ comments in John 5:24-29. Here Jesus seems to indicate clearly that the first resurrection is a spiritual one (i.e., when we are “born again” at conversion); and this is contrasted with a yet future bodily resurrection.
4. Likewise, I am in complete agreement with you that “the last days” (plural) spoken of in scripture are certainly the last days of first-century old covenant Israel and not the “wicked last days of the world” as so many doomsday prophets have misled us to believe. However, there are several other passages which speak of a great and final “Last Day” (singular) and which include statements about a bodily resurrection that can only be interpreted under the full preterist system if one is willing to “swallow a camel”. (e.g., see John 6:39-54, Jude 1:6).
5. Secondly, it seems to me that full preterism at times suffers from the same chronological blindness which preterists are so quick to criticize futurists for. I agree with you that it is quite ridiculous for futurists to claim that “soon” means 2,000 years and “the time is at hand” means 2 millennia. Yet, elsewhere in the book of Revelation (chapter 20), we read about events which were not to happen “soon”, but rather “at the end of 1,000 years”. These events include: the release of Satan for a short time to gather the remaining ungodly from the dark corners of the earth; the final judgment and second death of the wicked, etc. While I agree that the 1,000 years was not meant to be literal, it certainly does indicate a very long period of time. Yet the full preterist position argues that even these events were fulfilled in A.D. 70 or shortly thereafter (i.e., the Bar Kochba rebellion in A.D. 135). “Consistent” preterists become very in-consistent when they rail on futurists for saying “soon could mean 2,000 years”, while they themselves say “1,000 years could mean soon”. Are the time indicators relevant or aren’t they?
6. Thirdly, I cannot accept the “full” preterist interpretation of 1 Cor. 13:8-12. It is a “camel-swallowing” feat of great proportions to argue that the church saw and continues to see Christ “face-to-face” in A.D. 70 and the centuries that followed until today. In fact, I suspect that many of your readers do not realize the full “anti-miraculous” implications of full preterism when applied to this passage. If the “coming of perfection” spoken of here is applied to an A.D. 70 parousia instead of a future final “Great Day”, it would preclude any and all miraculous giftings in the church: whether healing, prophecy, or any other miracles; both today and throughout church history.
Yet we have many well-attested statements to the contrary – that miraculous giftings were evident in the Church well beyond A.D. 70. Church historian Eusebius quotes Justin Martyr (circa A.D. 150) stating that “right up to his own time prophetic gifts were a conspicuous feature of the Church.”
I first came to Christ through the charismatic movement, yet I sadly agree that much of what pass-es for the miraculous today (particularly “prophecy”) is nothing other than pure emotionalism and personal eschatological bias passed off on duped audiences as “Thus saith the Lord”. I am presently researching for a book on that subject, entitled, Pentecostal Prophecy and Predictions of Doomsday.
However, on the other hand I have personally witnessed and participated in many medically-attested miraculous healings and have also witnessed other miraculous gifts (including prophetic utterances). While full preterists might argue that I am letting my experience get in the way of sound scripture exegesis, I argue that your prior “anti-charismatic” bias is forcing you to adopt an extremely strained (and in my view faulty) interpretation of 1 Corinthians. To cover all the different facets of the “miraculous gifts” debate (e.g., Acts 2) would require another book (or two), so let us drop that subject and go on to my final argument.
7. Fourthly, I have not accepted “full” preterism because it appears to be inconsistent with the overwhelming majority of opinion in the early church. More specifically, I am alluding to the fact that the creeds of the early church all referred to a future second coming of Christ, even though they were written after A.D. 70.
However, at the same time, I do not agree with those who argue that full preterism should be rejected categorically as heresy simply because it doesn’t agree with the creeds. I am in general agreement with most of the arguments on this subject made by Edward Stevens in his excellent article recently in Kingdom Counsel, “Creeds and Preterist Orthodoxy.” I underlined his comments extensively.
Unfortunately, from my perspective there is a very wide gulf between “not heresy” and “correct”. Thus, while I do not go to the extreme of rejecting full preterism as heresy simply because of the creeds, I do believe that certainly some weight must be attached to the creeds, and when this is coupled with the exegetical problems I outlined above, I believe the partial preterist/postmillennial perspective is a more correct interpretation than “full” preterism.
8. As Christ continues to mold and shape His church, it is imperative that we within the church be able to discuss vital issues and important doctrinal differences with great grace; not quick to pin the “cult” and “heresy” labels on one another. Likewise, as we debate these issues, it is only proper that we represent each other’s views honestly and carefully. If you are interested in seeking truth (and I firmly believe you are), please consider publishing this letter and then address your arguments to my real concerns, not mis-representative “straw man” positions which I clearly do not hold to. Hopefully, in the interest of your readers, future issues will attempt to tackle some of the hard questions I have posited above, as you have already done so effectively in your article on the Creeds and Preterist Orthodoxy. Until then, despite re-reading and re-reading J. Stuart Russell and all the other prominent “full” and “consistent” preterists; I remain your faithful, partial preterist/postmillennial, partial charismatic, and (most importantly) “full” and “consistent” Christian friend.
Response to Balyeat’s Critique
By Kenneth J. Davies
In response to Mr. Balyeat’s critique of my review of his book, I would like to say that I am truly sorry if I have misrepresented him in any way. I feel that my review accurately presented his views, although I unfortunately chose a quotation that did not. He is quite right to call me to task in this matter.
When I said he insisted that the Second Coming was to be “at the end of history,” and that it would be “visible across the whole sky—from East to West” (p.117), I apparently misinterpreted what he was saying. Balyeat stated that Mt 24:27-28 is erroneously assumed to refer to Jesus’ “Second Coming at the end of history, a ‘coming’ that will be visible across the whole sky—from East to West.” It sounded to me as if he was saying that this could not have been speaking of the Second Coming, since that coming would be “at the end of history,” and have the characteristic of being “visible…from East to West.” Perhaps it is my own bias, but I believe this could be taken either way.
I was remiss, however, not to recall Mr. Balyeat’s statement on p. 118, where he says, “The comment about lightning in the East being visible in the West was simply to let [Jesus’] disciples know they would see the armies approaching (from the East) ahead of time, even as they see lightning in the East and know…that a storm will soon be there in the West!”
However, I stand by my representation of Mr. Balyeat’s view that Mt 24 does not refer to the Second Coming. As he states just prior to the above quotation, “The ‘coming’ of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 24:27-28 was not the Second Coming, but rather His coming in judgment on apostate Jerusalem.” As I said in my review, “He readily admits that this [coming in judgment] took place in AD 70…” (p. 119). How is this building a “straw man” argument? As you can see, I never said he applied these verses “to a future Second Coming,” nor did I claim that his rejection of a full preterist position was based on these verses. I hope this has cleared the “muddied waters,” and restored the reader’s faith in me as a “rocket scientist.”
All are free to critique and challenge my reviews at any time (remembering that I, like brother Balyeat has also said, am your brother in Christ). Let us never allow misunderstandings to further divide an already dismembered body of Christ. Let us rather concentrate on those things we have in common. We are all members of the same body of Christ.
What do YOU think ?