affairs took place at the Tower of Babel. Does it, too, shed light on the coming apocalypse? Yes. Today's world has become, in many respects, similar to the world before Babel—the world that provoked God's intervention at that time.
Instead of scattering about to populate the whole planet as God intended, these offspring of Noah concentrated themselves in the plains of Shinar. Instead of forming an agrarian society on small family farms, they chose to build an urban society centered in the town or small city of Babel. And there they undertook building "a tower that reaches up to the heavens." (Genesis 11:4 NIV)
Likewise, over the past century much of mankind has left the farm and moved to cities centered around tall buildings. The shift from rural life to city life has been accompanied by the decay in morals the increase in violence that is called to mind by the very expression, 'the inner city.'
But the similarity to Babel does not end there. Before putting a stop to the building activity in that ancient city, God said, "as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this," and added that he was taking action because, otherwise, "nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them." (Genesis 11:6 NIV) How true! With the return to urban society in recent decades, mankind has split the atom, gone to the moon, and deciphered the human genome.
Will God allow his actions at Babel to be permanently undone by a re-united human society? Modern electronic techniques allow an Egyptian leader to speak to the world from a podium at the United Nations, while his audience listens to simultaneous translations in Russian, English, French, Chinese, and so on. No wonder we have again reached the stage where it seems 'nothing is impossible' that man may undertake to do. God intervened when that stage was reached at the Tower of Babel. Won't he do so again?
Jesus' disiples were familiar with the prophecies of the Old Testament. They knew that God's intervention was coming, and they were interested in knowing more about it. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all contain parallel accounts of the disciples asking Jesus for signs. They asked about when
Jerusalem's Temple would be destroyed, and what would be the sign of the end of the world, and of Christ's return. Jesus' response addressed all three issues.
"'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this [the destruction of the Temple] happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?' Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you...you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.'" (Matt. 24:3-14 NIV)
Then Jesus continued, giving new information as well as quoting earlier Hebrew prophecies: "'So when you see standing in the holy place "the abomination that causes desolation," spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. ... Immediately after the distress of those days "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken." At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. ... you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.'" (Matt 24:15-44 NIV)
Luke's account of the same sermon included these additional details: "'When you see Jerusalem