Babylon - The Great City of Revelation
Author: Joseph R. Balyeat
Book Review by Kenneth J. Davies
Babylon - The Great City of Revelation. Written by Joseph R. Balyeat. Sevierville, TN: Onward Press, 1991. Paperback, 233 pp.
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).