Dubai: Dry Run for the Land of Shinar
July 9th, 2008 by David Dansker
A long and protracted debate over a city of ancient antiquity exists among students of the Bible. It wasn’t until the last few years of the twentieth century, however, that significant events transpired which would seem to forever settle the argument. These developments, in conjunction with other pertinent points already established, overwhelmingly favor the group that, for lack of a better term, might best be referred to as the reconstructionists. It is the little Arab Emirate Dubia, one of seven in the Untied Arab Emirates (UAE), that reopens the examination with a fresh perspective. The UAE were united in 1972 and are located along the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. The climate of the area is desert, and the terrain is flat with sand dunes bordering a vast desert wasteland. While there is international attention on the area due to its strategic location along the Strait of Hormuz, there is another development taking place in the desert that attracts world interest. The small emirate of Dubai is rivaling New York and other Western cities when it comes to building new, innovative skyscrapers, and it’s not by their might alone.
With only four percent of its wealth coming from oil business, dry by petroleum standards, Dubai has become a real estate development giant in its own right “attacking billions in investment money that in the past would have gone to New York.”1 While Western nations are scaling down their large architectural projects due to skittish investors, Dubai is swimming in real estate investment capital form surrounding oil-rich nations, and attracting talented architects form the economically depressed West. They are building entire cities comprised of sports complexes, stadiums, and indoor ski resorts. There is luxury on a grand scale, and an avenue for every pleasure pursuit. A Media City will include virtual reality technology, surface projections, and holographic imaging, and Dubai will also soon own the honor of building the world’s tallest building which is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.2 There is no use in building the world’s newest and tallest empire, though, if no one can get there, so Dubai is acting to ensure travel to their booming empire from all around the world.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus rivals aerospace giant Boeing for passenger jetliners. The new Airbus A380, with its 550 passenger seats spread over two decks, is 30 percent larger than Boeing’s 747. Dubai is currently Airbus’ largest customer for the new luxury superjumbo jet, and is adding Los Angeles and San Francisco to its nonstop service that already includes New York and Houston Texas.3 Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, reported a 40 percent growth in July, 2008,4 and this at a time when US cities are fighting to keep airline service as carriers continue to downsize in response to rising fuel costs.5 The anecdotal aspect to Dubai’s mega growth that makes it practically interesting is that, other than the proximity to oil rich investors and a waterfront, it appears to be building for the sake of building. Motive, however, even ulterior ones, can always be found behind any course, and here even speculation is par for it.
There is a sort of Islamic nationalism coupled with secular Humanism operating almost as a combined effort to overtake Western Civilization and leave it behind in history. This does not mean a rejection of its technologies, but there is a palpable desire, evident even in some of the architecture, to expunge the residue of Christianity’s success that is seemingly emblematic in the once dominate skylines of the West. In a more general diagnosis of the human condition, there is an alluring power in the teaming construction of monumental edifices, with their polished surfaces and majestic cantilevers reaching towards the heavens, that naturally inspires the imagination, and attracts investors and tenants. Whatever the proportions are for the respective causes of this development, the phenomenon that is Dubai has implications in greater Arabia concerning Bible prophecy.
According to end time events foretold in the Bible, another emirate in the general area will also experience an explosion in unparalleled growth; surpassing even that of Dubai’s. On a plain in the land of Shinar, where the Tower of Babel was also constructed by a unified world populating seeking renown and divinity on their own terms, and then destroyed by God (Gen 10:10; 11:2-9); the great city of Babylon is prophesied to be rebuilt and become the world center for commerce and recreation. The Bible foretells that it will be a city trading in sensuality to the extent that “the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies” (Rev 18:3c). It will also become one of the capitals for the Antichrist, and it is to be destroyed by God during the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7), or the seven year tribulation period that is yet future.
The destruction of Babylon will be on the order as when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by raining fire and brimstone upon them (Isa 13:19; Jer 50:34-40), and the kings of the earth who were made rich by her will wail and morn over her demise:
For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! (Rev 18:17-18)
Skeptics have doubted in the past that such large scale construction could take place in such a short amount of time, holding to a traditional, though not necessarily scriptural, view of a seven year limit,6 and in so unlikely a place as ancient Babylon which is located in present day Iraq. Since that objection was raised, modern construction methods and materials have revolutionized the size of buildings and the time necessary to complete them,7 and until recently Dubai was just as unlikely to become a competing world class metropolis.
Some also doubt that the travel alluded to in Revelation could be accurate for a land-bound city. There are, however, both the Euphrates and Tigris rivers flowing nearby to Babylon, and as for the shipmasters in Revelation; airship captains are considered ship captains too. Further, all of ancient Babylonia extends to the Persian Gulf, a major shipping lane, and the city may be thus developed as the sea might also figure in its future destruction (Jer 51:13, 42). Indeed, an effort was made by Iraq in the last decade to expand their sea cost area on the Persian Gulf by forcefully annexing Kuwait. When Babylon does become the prestige of the modern world, force will not be necessary to subjugate admirers as surrounding countries vie for the honor of becoming a vassal of the world’s new affluent capital; probably comprised of several cities (Jer 50:32).
Another objection posed is that the prophecies concerning the destruction of Babylon (Jer 51:37; Rev 18: 21) have already been fulfilled by the Medo Persian empire conquering it during the Jewish captivity in 536 BC, and that it was then completed by the mechanism of gradually sliding into obscurity. This contention does not fit with the text on important points.
Firstly, Babylon is to be destroyed by an earthquake and then consumed in a blazing inferno (Rev 16:18-19; 18:8). Secondly, the destruction is to take place in one day; by a catastrophe witnessed by all the nations of the world (Rev 18:8), and thirdly it cannot be said thus far of Babylon that “Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness, a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby” (Jer 51:43). Babylon has been inhabited by various populations until this day.
The Apostle Peter wrote his Epistle from Babylon in AD 60 while he was working amongst the Jews left there from the captivity (1Pet 5:13). At the end of the fifth century, the culminating work of several Jewish Babylonian Academies brought forth the Babylonian Talmud, and those flourished there until about AD 1040. Many populations have alternately ebbed and flowed through the city since, and more recently it was occupied by the United States military. This brings Babylon into contemporary focus with international attention on Iraq with a multi-national force working to establish a long term peaceful nation there. There is another point. Unlike Dubai, Iraq is “a nation with some of the world’s largest petroleum reserves,” and on June 30, 2008, they opened international bidding for development on several of their oil felids.8 These can be tapped for cultural development on a grand scale.
There is also a specific time determined for Babylon’s total destruction. It will be at the beginning of the day of the Lord (Isa 13:9), known as the Messianic Kingdom of one thousand years duration, or the millennial reign of Christ, or Millennium (Rev 20:4), and will be unmistakable by its attendance of natural phenomenon such as has never before been seen on earth. “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine” (Isa 13:10). It will be a time of the outpouring of God’s wrath upon the earth to punish the world for their evil (Isa 13:11), and to bring about a national repentance of Israel (Isa 66:5-12; Zec 13); and so extreme will be His judgment that the earth may even be moved from its current axis, and perhaps its solar orbit (Jer 50:46). Then shall it come to pass what was prophesied; that, “Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues” (Jer 50:13).
Babylon is destined to become the financial and pleasure capital of the world. It will be the city of Antichrist who will control all commerce down to every purchase made by every individual (Rev 13:16-18). Just as Dubai is today building a residential city to house the thirty-two thousand full time construction workers it requires to serve the rich,9 so too Babylon will trade in the souls of men (Rev 18:13), and be the “hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Rev 18:2d). Many of the Jewish remnant (Rom 11) who will reject claim of Antichrist as their Messiah will go once more into Babylonian captivity as servants and slaves (Zec 14: 1,2; Lk 21:24; Rev 18:13). It will be horrible as Jacob is forced to pass under the rod (Eze 20:33-44), but they will be miraculously delivered before God destroys the city (Jer 51:44-45).
At the darkest hour, with their fellow brethren (Rev 6:9-11), made up also of believing Gentiles (Rev 7:9-17), being martyred in Jerusalem and all over the world (Rev 20:4); a command will be issued from heaven: “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev 18:4b). As Sodom could not be destroyed before righteous Lot was delivered out of it, so the remnant must be removed from Babylon in order for its destruction to take place (Jer 51:41-45). All of the world’s investors, the financiers, and the wealthy and the federation of rulers who have prostrated themselves before her will be devastated:
And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. (Rev 18:9-10)
Its end will be like the sinking of a millstone in a lake of burning asphalt (Jer 51:62-64; Rev 18: 21, 8), it will be no more forever, and God will have rendered His vengeance on her (Jer 51:1-8). At that time God will also cleanse His holy city Jerusalem, and regather His redeemed there (Isa 11:11-12). “As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth. Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still: remember the LORD afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind” (Jer 51:49-50).
It will be a complete regathering comprised of all the twelve tribes in Israel, as expressed by the mention of the land the ten tribes were originally taken captive when the kingdom was rent under Solomon’s son Rehoboam:
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem. (Isa 27:12-13)
This trumpet call assembling the tribes is not to be confused with the trump of God that calls the Church out to meet Christ in the air prior to these things unfolding (1Thess 4:16-17; 1Cor 15:51-58). It is the second of two trumpets foreshadowed in the book of Numbers 10: the first for the calling out of the assembly, the rapture; and the second for the journeying of the camps, the twelve tribes of Israel returning to worship Christ in Jerusalem (Mat 24:30-31). It will be no more trodden down by the Gentiles, by any such profane capital or edifice as the Dome of the Rock, as the times of the Gentiles will have been fulfilled (Luk 21:24). The Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David, will rule in Jerusalem (Isa 12; Zec 8:2-6; Zec 14:1-4).
The dry run for Babylon is almost over. Babylon is soon to follow. The Church of Jesus Christ, saved Jews and Gentiles who are the saints (Rom 8:27), will be gone, in a twinkling of an eye, probably before it is built or completed (1Cor 15:52; Rev 4:1-2). Then the elect of God (Rom 8:33; Mat 24:22), those of Israel who will have their blindness, that was in part,10 removed (Rom 11:25), will either be martyred for their faith in Messiah, or be preserved to the Revelation of Jesus Christ when they will look upon Him whom they have pierced (Rev 6:9-11; 7:3-8; 14:1-4; Jer 50:20; Zec 12:10). The Church is to be mindful of these events so that we can be ever conscious to redeem the time and to walk circumspectly, and that is why understanding Bible prophecy is so important. It is the light that shines forth into the dark place of future (2Pet 1:19). In the last book of prophecy the things that will take place just prior to, and which will accompany, the Lord’s return to earth are revealed. We are admonished by Him twice in its concluding chapter that His return is soon, and that “blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (Rev 22:7).11 The tone of the passage implies that by taking account of the coming events surrounding the revelation of Jesus Christ one guards against loss and injury (1Cor 3:8-15; 2Cor 5:10), and can act on the opportunities remaining to serve Him in faith. For unlike Dubai, ours is not a dry run (1Cor 9:24).
1. Ulrike Knöfel, Frank Hornig and Bernhard Zand, “The Battle for the World’s Skyline,” Spiegel Online International, June 6, 2008. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,558217,00.html
2. Breitbart.com, “‘Finishing touches’ delay world’s tallest building,” June 10, 2008.
3. Breitbart.com, “Emirates airline to launch first service to US with A380,” June9, 2008. http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=080609180003.ab3nayad&show_article=1
4. Gulfnews.com, “Etihad Airways records 40 per cent growth in passengers,” July 1, 2008. http://www.gulfnews.com/BUSINESS/Aviation/10225200.html
5. Micheline Maynar, “Deeper cuts to come in U.S. airline service,” Interational Herald Tribune, June 27, 2008. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/27/business/shrink.php
6. Some prophecy students suppose that the tribulation period will begin immediately after the rapture of the Church, but there is no requirement in the related prophecy to preclude an intervening time period of several months or even years, and it seems more likely that an interlude takes place when we consider that the Antichrist is introduced in the Revelation in his rise to power (Rev 6:2) , conquering by diplomacy; and that the seven year clock dose not start until he makes a treaty with Israel, which he breaks in the middle of the term (Dan 9:27). This then removes the reconstruction of Babylon as an impediment to the rapture of the church which must be unhindered by any such development to meet its qualification of imminency (Mat 24:42-44), and as the next event the Church is to look for (Lk 21:34-36).
7. The awesome speed and scale of the building in Dubai almost has to be seen to be comprehended. These video reports by Bruce Fenton, Entrepreneur, available on YouTube give the viewer an idea of the swiftness and grandeur of the construction: (1) “The Tallest Building in the World – Burj Dubai! Middle East,” YouTube Broadcast, directed by Bruce Fenton (June 8, 2007); ( 2) “Fenton Report Dubai: Fastest Growing City in the World! Middle East 2.0 – Dubai,” YouTube Broadcast, directed by Bruce Fenton (February 18, 2007). A stunning picture gallery of the growing pleasure metropolis as viewed from the air is available at: Gallery, Chopper Shoot Aerial Photography.
8. Sebastian Abbot, “Iraq opens bidding on 8 oil and natural gas fields,” Yahoo Finance, June 30, 20008.
9. AME, “Al Rayan Investments showcases innovative projects at Cityscape Abu Dhabi 2008,” May 8,m 2008.
10. This “blindness in part” (Rom 11:25) has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, or until all the Gentiles who are going to be saved are saved; and it also means that a part of Israel that the Lord reserves unto Himself as a remnant is kept by Him (1K 19:18; Acts 18:9-10), and that another part, as is probably expressed by the equations of sliver and dross in Zec 13: 8,9 covering the seven years preceding Christ’s return, are completely blind.
11. The Thayer definition for the Greek word translated “keepeth” (G5083) here is: 1) to attend to carefully, take care of; 1a) to guard, b) metaphorically to keep, one in the state in which he is, 1c) to observe. The Strong’s definition is: to guard (from loss or injury, properly by keeping the eye upon. The parenthetical scripture reference supplied here is of the judgment of reward which will take place for every Christian at the Bema seat of Christ (1Cor 3:8-15; 2Cor 5:10). Those works of ours that are built on the foundation of Christ, sharing the gospel and edifying the body, etc., will endure as silver, gold, and precious stones. But those works such as social projects and programs conducted for cultural enrichment or the betterment of society will be revealed as only worthless wood, hey, and stubble, and the Christian who amasses these works will suffer loss, “but he himself shall be saved” (1Cor 3:15b). As for injury, is it not true that when we take our eyes off the Lord and change our expectation from His return to instead expectations for our provisions in this life that we open ourselves to occasions of experiencing harm? We need only look back to the church in Corinth for, admittedly server, examples of this (e.g. 1Cor 5).