In “asleep and on fire!” Jefferson Vann talks about two contradictory symbols for final punishment revealed in a prophecy about Babylon.
Jeremiah 51:54-58 (JDV)
Jeremiah 51:54 A sound of a cry from Babylon! And a terrible collapse of the land of the Chaldeans!
Jeremiah 51:55 You see, Yahveh is going to devastate Babylon; he will silence her mighty voice. Their waves roar like a huge torrent; the tumult of their voice resounds,
Jeremiah 51:56 because a destroyer is coming against her, against Babylon. Her warriors will be captured, their bows shattered, because Yahveh is a God of retribution; he will certainly repay.
Jeremiah 51:57 I will make her princes and sages drunk, along with her governors, officials, and warriors. Then they will fall asleep permanently and not wake up. This is the King’s declaration; Yahveh of Armies is his name.
Jeremiah 51:58 This is what Yahveh of Armies says: Babylon’s thick walls will be totally demolished, and her high gates set ablaze. The peoples will have labored for nothing; the nations will worn themselves out only to feed the fire.
asleep and on fire!
Once again, Jeremiah declares to Babylon that a permanent sleep awaits them (see verse 39). But he also says that its people and nations will have worn itself out, only to feed the fire. Normally, we don’t talk about sleeping and fire at the same time. But in this case, both are symbols of the complete destruction that Babylon would experience. They would be annihilated as a result of God’s judgment for their sins.
The final judgment will be like that for all those who reject Jesus. There is only one hell, and is not a place where people will have the luxury of consciousness. It is a place where the torment is real, because those who experience it are being consumed by fire. Its result will be permanent destruction.
Lord, we cling to you, and trust your grace to keep us from Babylon’s fate.
For more on the final destruction of the wicked, see: