“It (Babylon) shall be inhabited no more forever, nor shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation” Jeremiah 50:39
Many of the prophecies in the Old Testament have an immediate fulfillment and a long term fulfillment. Jeremiah has recorded what the Lord revealed to him concerning Babylon’s destruction in this and the next chapter. After he made a copy he sent it to Babylon with Seraiah (51:59-64) commanding him to read it out after the events recorded took place. Israel would then know that the Lord would fulfill the other parts where He specifically promised to bring Israel back to the land He had given them. “I will bring back Israel to his home” says the Lord (50:19). This statement is made in various ways frequently in Jeremiah and other prophets.
When the Lord gives a short term fulfillment it is to affirm to His people that He will also fulfill the long term aspects of the prophecy. In earlier chapters of Jeremiah’s prophecy he warned Israel that in order to live they would have to defect to Nebuchadnezzar. Those who defected lived. Of the others only a few survived. The Lord told those few survivors that if they went to Egypt they would perish with the Egyptians. From their earlier experience you would expect that they would heed the words of the Lord through Jeremiah but they didn’t. They went to Egypt for protection and again the majority perished. The Lord graciously saved a few who had at last believed His word.
The destruction of the physical city of Babylonian and the empire is but the immediate fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy. Political, cultural, economic and spiritual Babylon still exists to this day but the New Testament has a word from the Lord on this matter. Daniel chapters two and seven also speak to this prophecy.
In Revelation chapters 17 and 18 we read Jesus’ own words concerning the ultimate fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy. God’s view of the world’s system can be seen in the words written on the forehead of the woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, “Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (17:5). Another angel will announce the final destruction of all that was Babylon, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen …” “… her plagues will come in one day – death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the lord God who judges her” (18:2, 8). The kings of the earth will lament its destruction (v 10) but without repentance.
Jeremiah records the reason for Babylon’s destruction this way, “I will bring judgment on the carved images of Babylon” (Jeremiah 51:47, 52). The Lord says it twice in the same context so that we may get it. The reason any nation is destroyed by the Lord is because they have created imaginary gods and rejected God’s word. The ten plagues of Egypt were judgments against the imaginary gods of Egypt. Only the Creator is God and He alone is able to answer our call and prayer. Idols only keep people from knowing the one true God. He does not want people to remain living futile lives when they could be enjoying His fellowship.
The example is there as witness to our generation. We have a choice whether to believe the word of the Lord or believe the imaginations of people. The consequences are spelled out for us in the Bible either way.