Babylon - The Great City of
Author: Joseph R. Balyeat
Book Review by Kenneth J.
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
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).