Jeremiah 50:1 begins a two-chapter prophecy of judgment against Babylon. Babylon was the dominant world power in Jeremiah's day, 600 years before Christ.
Clearly, these verses are placed in the time just ahead of us. Is it possible, then, that at least some of the judgments pronounced against Babylon in these two chapters also actually apply to our time? Could what occurred to Babylon when God carried out His threats in the sixth century BC have been only a type of far greater end-time fulfillments against a modern Babylon?
Verse 6 plainly pictures an end-time scenario. The Israelites are even called the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel. It is as if God is saying they have forgotten who they are, and the world does not know their location either. God says they are "turned . . . away on the mountains." Mountains are a biblical symbol of large nations, and hills, of smaller ones. This prophecy foretells Israel's long-term scattering among Gentile peoples worldwide, and so thoroughly accomplished is the scattering that Israel has forgotten she began in Canaan.
Revelation 13, 17, and 18 establish that there are a Beast and a Babylon at the end time. Even as the Beast is literally an amalgamation of many nations with a strong, persecuting, religious component, so also is Babylon a literal nation with a somewhat different religious component and with an attitude that is not as animalistic as the Beast.
Just as the term "beast" shows the spirit of a group of violent, warlike, anti-God nations, the term "Babylon" reveals the source of the spirit of prideful rebellion motivating the Woman, who represents the end-time nation God calls Babylon. This is similar to God using Sodom and Egypt to illustrate Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8.
However, some people want to turn Babylon into a mere religious organization with only mystical and spiritual influence. The original city and nation of Babylon have disappeared into the sands of Iraq because God's judgments against them in Isaiah and Jeremiah were fully carried out.
However, Revelation 17-18 describes the end-time Babylon, the Great Harlot, not as simply a religious organization, not even a system, but as a literal city and nation involved in massive, worldwide craftsmanship, manufacturing, entertainment, and commerce. It is a blockbuster political and economic powerhouse, exercising global influence, over which businessmen weep when it is destroyed. They feel its loss personally, even though they are not literally a part of it, only having done business with it.
If indeed we are in the prophesied end time—and all indications suggest that we are—the only nation on earth today that fits this description as both an economic powerhouse and a great harlot, because of its broken relationship with God, is Israel led by the Joseph tribes of Ephraim (Britain) and Manasseh (America). Israel is still Israel, but it epitomizes the spirit of Babylon at the end time.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Jeremiah 50:4: