Goodnews Christian Ministry
"Sound the trumpet in Zion, give the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the country tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming, yes, it is near." ---Joel 2:1
"Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, king of the Jews, 'Listen to the word of God, 'The days are coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have amassed until now, will be carried off to Babylon. Not a thing will be left".
A symbolic name in the Bible, Babylon stands for worldliness and is identified with paganism. At the time of Christ the Jews considered Babylon to be Rome. But almost 3000 years ago it was a real country that stood in the exact same spot now occupied by Iraq -- in the Mesopotamian valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Its capitol was just a few miles south of what is now Baghdad. Running right through the middle of ancient Babylon just as it flows today through the center of modern Iraq was the Euphrates river. Then as now, this river stood as the biblical separation between east and the west.
All of the symbolism of Babylon revolves around a short Jewish captivity that occurred about 500 years before the birth of Christ. Led by King Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon conquered Jerusalem and forcibly marched the entire Judean nation to the banks of the Euphrates river where they were kept prisoner for 70 years.
After the 70 years had ended, a strange handwriting suddenly appeared on a wall in the king of Babylon's palace and he called in Daniel the prophet to decipher the words. Daniel told him that the words said that he (the king of Babylon) was going to die and Persia (now Iran) was going to take over his empire.
That very evening it happened just as Daniel had prophesied. The east regained its strength and conquered Babylon in one single night.
Since then, these events have become major themes in biblical symbolism: Babylon versus Jerusalem, the 70 year captivity, the rise to power of the east (Persia), its ultimate victory over Babylon, the handwriting on the wall that foretells that victory, and the Persian proclamation releasing the House of Israel from pagan captivity.
The original country of Babylon disappeared into time but it's name and the prophecies about it have remained firmly fixed in the scriptures showing that all these themes were meant for another time.
The captivity of the House of Israel in ancient Babylon points to our own captivity today to the sinfulness of this world, and the war between Babylon and Persia points to the coming termination of that captivity.
Our freedom from world captivity, then, is inevitably tied to a future recapitulation of that ancient war. For that reason, these two long forgotten kingdoms (Babylon and Persia) and the events surrounding them hold the prophetic key to the structure of the end of the world.
The final separation of the House of Israel from the grasp of this world's captivity will not occur until that echo sounds and the war between the future counterparts to these two kingdoms has taken place -- a war predicted in advance -- its major events carefully documented in God's sealed book.
Daniel's interpretation of the handwriting on the wall of Babylon (sealed since the day he first wrote it down) is finally becoming legible, and it shows that all these prophecies will come to pass in our own time -- a fact that can be seen in the words of Peter:
"Through events of their own time, the prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down their visions, but the words they used were symbols for another time and even though they spoke them and wrote them down, the prophets did not know what their own words meant. That is because their words were meant for us and not for themselves." (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Babylon had its beginning at the dawn of civilization thousands of years before Nebuchadnezzar was born. It was located at the very center of the fertile crescent, and because it was here that world civilization first came into being, history calls Babylon the 'cradle of civilization'.
It was given the name 'Mesopotamia' by the Greeks. The name means 'land between the rivers' and stems from the fact that both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers run through it.
Many consider the Garden of Eden to have been located very near to Babylon because the Bible says that these same two rivers also flowed into this garden. (Gn.2:14).
Babylon is the very first city mentioned in the Bible. (Gen.11:1-9).
Called 'Babel', this city represented the entire civilization of the world, for it was here in the plain of Babylon (Shinar) that all mankind had gathered into a single population to build a 'tower to heaven'. The intent to build this tower, in fact, is where the idea of a worldly city acting in opposition to God first appeared.
Watching them, God told those who were with Him that this tower would be just the start of humanity's undertakings and that nothing would be impossible for them to accomplish -- especially because they were a united people with a single language. (Gen.11:6).
To slow their progress down, God confused their language on the spot -- shattering it into thousands of dialects and tongues. Then He scattered the people of Babel to the ends of the earth.
This dispersion of Babel was the genesis of all the world's civilizations. With it the boundaries of Babylon became world-wide, stretching from the banks of the Euphrates to the four corners of the planet. (Gen.11:9).
The borders of Babel are important because scripture predicted that the House of Israel was destined to be uprooted from the Promised Land, exiled from it, and scattered to the farthest boundaries of civilization.
God's wholesale scattering of Babel at the beginning of history, then, meant that this dispersion would send the House of Israel into every language and people on earth -- not just to Iraq, but to the ends of the globe.
Babylon, then, is a mighty empire encompassing untold nations. But the prophets often refer to Babylon as a city. "The woman you saw is the great city which has authority over all the rulers on earth." (Rev.17:18).
Underlying this spiritual designation is the ruling power that it exerts over its population -- over all the people collected together and living within it's borders, like a mother with her children.
Essentially its borders are the boundaries of the earth itself.
In symbolic terms, Babylon stands for paganism, i.e., worldly behavior -- a violent and carnal lifestyle obsessed with the pleasures of this world and antagonistic to the commandments of God -- a way of life promoted by all who live independent of Jesus. (The only way out of Babylon is conversion into Christ).
It is termed a ruling city because everyone on earth is born into the lifestyle that it dictates.
Babylon, then, is worldliness itself -- the way mankind perpetually behaves and lives (and trains its children to live). Fighting, competing, chasing after riches and social status; filled with pride, unchastity, jealousy, anger, selfishness, greed, and obsessed with sex and debauchery -- all of the things that we, living in this world, have come to regard as 'normal' human behavior, and which Jesus has called us to deplore.
It is the kind of behavior our magazines and newspapers and television glorify with almost every word they print or speak.
From the very beginning -- from the day of the tower of Babel until now -- Babylon has stood for a way of life that is antagonistic to the laws and principles of God.
Because we have been born into this kind of a world, our presence here is spoken of in scripture as a 'captivity'.
The whole meaning of Babylon, then, is a secular world population that lives in defiant opposition to the holiness of Christ's Gospel and which holds God's people prisoner in the grasp of its ambitious lifestyle.
The captivity of God's people in Egypt in the old covenant manifested the template of this incarceration. The allegory of Egypt serving as proof that the Law of Moses was insufficient to effect the kind of rescue necessary to free God's children from the clutches of a life of sin.
Only Jesus had that kind of power.
Sending His Son into this captive community, God broke our bonds, and provided a sure road to lead us back to heaven in the perfection of an exodus that really worked -- the call of Jesus petitioning all people to leave the corruption of Babylon behind and take refuge in another city -- a city living in obedience to the spiritual righteousness of the Gospel.
Opposite Babylon in the scriptures, then, is the city of Jerusalem -- a city where the people of God are being gathered together in unity to worship and obey God's will.
Since there is no earthly city where this ingathering can take place, we must view Babylon and Jerusalem in spiritual terms. Both are cities of spiritual influence.
Our citizenship is determined by our relationship with Jesus Christ.
For many centuries the lifestyle of Babylon was neutralized by a powerful Christian Church. The rule of Christianity on earth was a mortal wound to Babylon because this seditious city dies wherever there is Christian conversion and repentance.
But now, in the separation of Church and state, that wound has begun to heal. Babylon has sprung back to life again, freed from the rule of the Church which had earlier countered its satanic reign.
That is why we see a once mortally wounded Babylon coming back to life in our time.
With the influence of the Church in guarded retreat on earth, the lifestyle of the Babylon it once counteracted has again clambered to the fore of public favor.
Behavior, then, is the key to both cities.
While the city of God is in heaven -- in a kingdom beyond the universe, those who leave Babylon to journey there, leave simply by changing their behavior.
"I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world..." (Jn.17:15-16).
With this statement, Jesus decreed that the two cities must live in the same place for now, one held captive inside the other; but when Christ returns, the two will be separated by a chasm so great it cannot be crossed.
When the Lord brought His people out of the captivity of Egypt and allowed them to settle in the Promised Land, God's holy city was thought to be located in Palestine, especially after the temple was constructed there. But the prophets decreed that such was not the case.
Jeremiah said that God could build and tear down temples at will (Jer.7), and Ezekiel predicted that the glory of God would abandon Jerusalem and take up residence with the exiles in Babylon. (Ez.10:18-11:23).
Even more to the point, Isaiah revealed that the Jerusalem in Palestine was not God's holy city at all, but was actually another part of Babylon. (Is.47:1). That is because the people of Jerusalem didn't behave any differently than the people in any other human city.
The people who ruled the city of Jerusalem had left the path that God had marked out for them, bringing the ways of Babylon into Jerusalem, and, even after repeated warnings, the city would not repent and return to the righteousness of its name. Jerusalem, then, was being spiritually governed by the same 'prostitute' as every other city on the planet.
This 'whoring' is the whole evidence of its captivity. (Ez.16).
It was obvious in these prophecies that the conduct of the people of Jerusalem in Palestine had evolved into the same kind of worldly behavior that had bewitched all the other people on earth.
When Jesus was about to be put into the hands of the leaders of this city, he underscored this fact by telling his disciples that he was being turned over into the hands of the prince of this world (the prince of Babylon).
This is why John, in the Book of Revelation referred to the Palestinian Jerusalem -- the city in which Jesus was crucified -- as 'Sodom' and 'Egypt'. (Rev.11:8). Isaiah called this Jerusalem a 'daughter' of Babylon (Is.47:1):
"Listen to this, House of Jacob...(you who swear by the name of God and invoke the God of Israel) -- though not in good faith or uprightness -- calling yourselves after the holy city. Down with you! Sit in the dust, virgin, daughter of Babylon.". (Is.48:1-2, 47:1).
Notice that in this prophecy, Isaiah states that the people who ruled Israel were calling themselves 'after' the holy city -- showing that God's true city was not really in Palestine even then -- not even at the height of Jerusalem's glory. Sin had cloaked this city in darkness, blinding it to the will of God.
So what the land of Israel and its city of Jerusalem in Palestine actually represented on earth was the nation of God defiled by sin. It was God's unrepentant nation living in the grip of Satan's lifestyle. It stood (and still stands today for that matter) as an allegory of us all before we were cleansed by Jesus.
It waits for the day of its conversion.
And as with us, it's conversion will not return it to Palestine, but will take what has been purified away from the earth completely -- rebuilding the city of God anew in heaven. That is why the world will end when this unrepentant city finally turns to Jesus.
The reason why Jerusalem in Palestine was thought of as God's holy city was because it had come to represent the rule of God under the Mosaic covenant. That city was the Mosaic covenant's reflection of God's sacred city. It was an earthly model made to show God's true city in another kingdom.
Despite its holy expectations, its rule had fallen into the hands of men who used it for their own ends. In the process they blinded the people of Jerusalem to God's true will.
That is why Isaiah announced that God intended to tear divine authority away from these Jewish leaders -- away from their city and away from the Pharisees and Sadducees who governed her -- and give that rule to other tenants instead:
"I was angry with my people, I had profaned my heritage. I had surrendered it into your hands, but you showed them no mercy...You said, 'forever I shall be sovereign lady'...so listen now, voluptuous woman... you shall be widowed and lose your children both on the same day." (Is.47:1-15).
Isaiah's claim that God had surrendered His people into Jerusalem's hands made it obvious that this city in Palestine was not God's favorite city at all. It was never destined to be a sovereign lady forever. Instead, Isaiah calls the city a 'voluptuous woman' who is about to be widowed.
This brings us to a major theme of scripture. The city of Jerusalem on earth represents the last refuge of the Father's creation (this world) -- a creation seduced by wickedness and firmly locked into that obsession by Satan.
Scripture designates this creation as the Father's wife -- a wife who has turned herself into a prostitute through sin. (Hos.1:2).
Jerusalem in Palestine abrogated her responsibility to lead the people into righteousness and instead, winked at the House of Israel's pursuit of evil. She has been widowed because God has terminated her covenant. (Hos.2:1-2).
This world is doomed and so is the city in Palestine (the 'voluptuous woman' Isaiah termed 'Babylon's daughter'). In her place a new wife is being built in the third heaven -- the city of the Son -- a city built in the image of the Father and free from Satan's grasp.
And that is why the prophets made such an issue of there being two spiritual cities. Every city on this planet (including Palestine's Jerusalem) is a participant in Babylon's sinful lifestyle. Changing that lifestyle by following the Gospel is the only thing that allows us to escape the captivity of Babylon.
Proof of this came from John when he wrote that God's new city of righteousness -- the Jerusalem of heaven -- is to be wrapped in white linen made out of the good deeds of the saints. (Rv.19:8).
These two cities were dedicated, each to their own covenant -- to their own law. The first has been dismissed because of wicked behavior -- a dismissal which will be made manifest when the world comes to an end. The second city is being built to take her place.
To show that the first wife had, in fact, been dismissed as predicted (i.e.,that the two covenants had actually been exchanged), God allowed the Israelites to be evicted from Palestine leaving Jerusalem desolate and empty in fulfillment of the prophecies.
Physically, the scattering of Israel to Babylon started soon after the death of Solomon and took centuries to occur. But spiritually -- in terms of the covenant itself -- it was instantaneous.
"Who has ever heard of such a thing, who ever saw anything like this? Is a country born in one day? Is a nation brought forth all at once, that Zion only just in labor should bring forth sons?" (Is.66:8).
When Jesus drove the money lenders out of the temple with a whip, the old covenant was immediately dissolved. That action was God changing the tenants. "Listen. An uproar from the city! A voice from the Temple! The voice of God bringing retribution on his enemies." (Is.66:6).
Just before he did this, Jesus spoke to the city, saying: "So be it! Your house will be left to you desolate, for, I promise, you shall not see me any more until you say: 'Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Mt.23:38).
Since the Jews have not yet invoked these words, the desolation decreed by Jesus continues to this very day -- a deprivation Moses predicted with these words:
"I will scatter you among the nations. I will unsheathe the sword against you to make your land a waste and your towns a ruin. Then the land will observe its sabbaths indeed, lying desolate there, while you are in the land of your enemies." (Lev.26:34).
Because of the wickedness that had enveloped Jerusalem, its covenant was rescinded and all of its citizens were exiled to Babylon. The city Satan corrupted could rule no more. (Hos.2:1-2). It died with the first covenant.
The Son's city was taking its place. "All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Mt.28:18).
"Moreover, I tell you that from this time onward you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Mt.26:64).
With the nation of Judah terminated by Rome and its entire population in exile, the new tenants appointed by God to rule over the House of Israel's reconstruction had to all come from Babylon under a new set of rules.
"Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time." (Mt.28:19-20).
From that day onward, God's Jerusalem became a city made visible on earth only when its chains were removed in Christian conversion.
Plunged into widowhood by the cancellation of the Father's covenant, the city of Jerusalem lost her children (Is. 47:8-9) when they were taken from her and exiled into the desert city called Babylon.
This event can be seen on two levels. Both of them bring the words of Moses to fulfillment: "I will scatter you among the nations. On that day I will call heaven and earth to witness against you; and at once you will vanish from the land which you are crossing the Jordan to possess. God will scatter you among the peoples, and only a small number of you will remain among the nations where God will have driven you." (Dt.4:26-27).
On one level of this prophecy, the House of Israel had to leave the 'Promised Land' of the Mosaic covenant and take up residence among the citizens of the world in the wilderness of Babylon.
"Writhe, cry out daughter of Zion, for now you have to leave the city and live in the open country. To Babylon you must go and there you will be rescued; There God will ransom you out of the power of your enemies." (Micah 4:10).
God did not destroy His creation when Satan infected it. Instead, He has taken us all out into the desert (the desert is scripture's alternate designation for Babylon) and rescued us in His Christ -- the Messiah which scripture had promised for the purpose.
The dispersement, then -- the historic exiles which tore the House of Israel out of the land of Palestine -- mirrors a greater exile that involves the entire world.
The word 'desert' in this prophecy relates to a lifeless environment. Therefore it images both the desert of space through which this oasis called earth must travel; and it also images the desert of godless behavior practiced by most of human civilization during that journey.
Once God implemented His decision to force the exile of His people into this hostile environment, no one was allowed to remain behind. Everyone had to go. Buried in the ways of sin, the people of God have been handed over to Satan to be sifted like wheat, and everyone -- the entire House of Israel -- has had to go into the exile of this sifting. (Lk.22:31).
On the historic level, those who tried to prevent the exile from taking place by trying to stay in Jerusalem (imaged by the Jews who tried to fight the Roman army) were destroyed for resisting the will of God.
This is why Jeremiah had said, "Look, I now set in front of you the way of life and the way of death. Those who stay in this city will die by sword, by famine, or by plague; but anyone who leaves it and surrenders to Babylon will escape with his life." (Jer.21:8-10).
These words have nothing to do with surrendering to pagan ways (Babylon's behavior). Instead, they refer to a covenant which had to be be abandoned because it had no power to destroy sin.
Jeremiah's words show that no one can be rescued by the old covenant -- everyone must come to God through Jesus Christ, because our rescue is from sin, not geography, and it is only Jesus who can forgive sin.
Moses, for all the authority he had been given by God, still had no power to forgive sin; so Satan still held the entire House of Israel in the grip of eternal death despite the Mosaic Law.
To break that grip, all twelve tribes were expelled from their homeland in Palestine (where the word of Jesus was forbidden) and were sent, instead, to a foreign land where Christ's preaching was promoted.
As a result, the House of Israel was carted off into Satan's kingdom where they were forced to live under the dominion of foreigners. "He handed them over to the pagans, those who hated them became their masters; their enemies tyrannized over them, crushing them under their rule." (Ps.106:41-42).
No matter where we are born on earth, we are all born into the captivity of this tyranny -- the captivity of Babylon's lifestyle. It is a tyranny harsher in some places than others, and it has become significantly worse in this last century.
Yet for everyone, no matter what part of Babylon we live in, the escape is the same. The only way the exile and captivity can end is when we repent our participation in the lifestyle of this world and convert our lives to live in the commandments of Jesus -- our new citizenship conferred by baptism.
We can see from this that the remainder of the twelve tribes of Israel continue to reside in Babylon to this very day. That is why we can be in places as diverse as Hong Kong or Idaho and still see ourselves as a true part of this scattering, and therefore as a true part of the House of Israel in Babylon.
We are not in Palestine, and most of us are not Jewish, but we are a true part of the House of Israel nonetheless. And the 'perverse generation' into which we have been scattered and from which Jesus has called us to leave is just as perverse in Hong Kong and Idaho as it is in Europe or Italy or in the land of Palestine.
The Bible promised that the people of Israel would not be left to die in Babylon but would be permitted to leave their captivity when they heard the call of the Son of David -- the ancient prophecies instructing them that in this name God would come and call each of them back from their exile -- one by one -- to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem.
For this reason, some of the words of scripture call for the people of God to leave Jerusalem while others exhort the people to return and rebuild her ruins. But the call back, as we have seen, is not to Palestine.
"Mine is not a kingdom of this world, if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind." (Jn.18:36).
When Jesus informed us that the city of God was not in this world, the true boundaries of Babylon should have become clear to everyone. There is no Promised Land on the earth. Babylon is this world and every city in this world is a part of Babylon. Therefore, the rebuilding of Jerusalem called for by scripture does not relate to any earthly city.
We can rebuild this city by our work on earth, but the city we rebuild does not exist on the earth. The city of God is spiritual and our rescue is spiritual.
"In the days to come the mountain of the temple of God shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. All the nations shall stream to it, peoples without number will come to it. They will say, 'Come, let us go to the mountain of God that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths." (Is.2:2-3).
Jesus has brought us to a city of ethics -- a city of righteous behavior that we have to obey to rebuild. "There is no eternal city for us in this life, but we look for one in the life to come." (Heb.13:14).
Thus the Zion of scripture is a spiritual mountain in a land that is invisible to us in this life. "What you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the angels have gathered for the festival with the whole Church, and in which everyone is a 'first-born son' and a citizen of heaven." (Heb.12:22-23).
When Jesus issued the call to return and rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem, the blueprint he gave for this reconstruction was the Gospel that he preached. These ruins were caused by immorality and they can only be rebuilt by conversion into righteousness. (Acts 5:32).
But it actually goes much deeper than that. In the metaphor of these two opposing spiritual cities, God has shown us that concepts of right and wrong can only be measured by the Gospel Jesus preached.
Babylon cannot tell us what is good or bad as far as God is concerned, because it is not 'good' or 'bad' in general that the Bible is about, but our journey to eternal life.
The Gospel is God's blueprint for eternal life -- that is why it has to be followed so closely. We must not be fooled. The Gospel does not tell us how to be good, because only God is good. The Gospel describes what we must do to escape eternal death.
And it's words warn us that the two most important moves we must make in this regard are to repent our past sins and become baptised into the way of Christ.
We must leave the violent and corrupt behavior that characterizes the lifestyle of this world (Babylon) and embrace the merciful and gentle behavior of God's commandments if we want to live forever in Christ's eternal city.
All the citizens of the world are being divided between these two cities by the Gospel of Christ, because Jesus is the only definition clarifying the boundary between the two.
We have seen that the prophets have described these two cities allegorically as two mothers, with their populations their respective children. The metaphor relates to how they raise their children to behave, and therefore to the kind of 'spirit' that each of them impart into those that they are raising.
When we are born on earth, we are all born citizens of this world's city (Babylon) which belongs to Satan. As children of Babylon the worldly spirit of Satan is imparted into us the moment we are born.
This can be seen clearly in the way we used to live before we discovered Christ. Listening to the world, we grew up one way, but when we discovered Jesus and his Gospel, our world view changed and our behavior became quite different.
This is because the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ had entered us and called us to repent our former lifestyle and to convert out of the ways of this world.
This conversion -- our conversion from the behavior of this world into the righteousness of Christ -- is our journey out of Babylon. This journey is an exodus out of sin. It is a road opened by baptism and traveled by Christ's commandments.
If we do not change our behavior -- if we continue to live sinful lives after we have been baptised, it means we have not left Babylon at all, but continue to live there in violation of God's command.
This separation is not easy. The call of the world is so strong that some people are unable to break free from it. We can see this in popular ministers who have publicly fallen from grace before our eyes.
The world laughs at them and says, "See -- they thought they were so haughty and look, inside they are no different than the rest of us in Babylon. So much for Jesus".
The world loves to expose the behavior of Babylon in fallen Christians because it gives them an excuse not to have to change, and it brings God into ridicule.
Yet, even so, because of God's mercy anyone in Christ who falls can stand up again if he wants to. "Though the virtuous man falls seven times, he stands up again." (Pr.24:16).
It is only those who remain fallen, refusing to get back up who are doomed, because everyone who remains a part of Babylon is coming to ruin. The catastrophe that is coming -- the end of the world that the prophets have been warning us about -- will destroy even those who are baptised if they refuse to leave their evil ways behind.
This is why anyone who falls must get back up and return to the path of safety. "If, by the Spirit, you put an end to the misdeeds of the body, you will live." (Rom.8:13). This means that each of us must turn away from sin and from the things which cause us to sin.
This turning away from sin is what leaving Babylon is all about. We were all born in Babylon, but when we were baptised in Jesus we became citizens of the spiritual city of Jerusalem in the kingdom of heaven, and the whole life that we live in Jesus thereafter is our journey from the one city to the other.
This shows that there is no physical destination that can save us. True Babylon is a Babylon of the heart, and true Jerusalem is the kingdom of heaven that we can reach only by a change of heart.
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