A Tale of Two Cities
Jerusalem and Babylon were two contemporary cities in the ancient world. Both are mentioned in the Book of Revelation as having modern counterparts – Babylon the Great and New Jerusalem. What do these cities represent? And how do these things impact on your life?
Jerusalem and Babylon were capital cities of two ancient kingdoms that were both influential centres of religion. They have been pictured in prophecy as physical representations of two opposing spiritual kingdoms. When we study what the prophets have written along with what the Apostle teach we can get a better perspective of what is happening in these ‘end-times’ and where our attention needs to be focused.
The ancient city of Jerusalem became the capital of the kingdom of Israel which God set up as a physical representation of His spiritual kingdom. We understand this because the tabernacle which was central to the religious culture of Israel was a shadow, patterned after heavenly things, “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.” (Hebrews 8:5). Later when Israel was in the promised land the temple in Jerusalem fulfilled the same role. It was built after the pattern David received through the Spirit of God, “Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof… … And the pattern of all that he had by the spirit, of the courts of the house of the LORD…” (I Chronicles 28:11-12).
Hundreds of years before Jerusalem became the capital of Israel the patriarch Abraham looked forward in faith to a city made by God, “For he (Abraham) looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10). We understand it was the spiritual city later described by the Apostle John, because ancient Jerusalem was a city made by men, not by God. John saw in a vision a New Jerusalem that was to come down from Heaven, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride…” (Revelation 21:2). A city that receives its power and glory from God, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” (Revelation 21:22-23). New Jerusalem is a spiritual city that symbolises the Kingdom of God.
Jesus Christ came to this earth preaching the Kingdom of God, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). He told those who would listen that the Kingdom would come with power in their life-time, “Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mark 9:1).
He indicated it would be a spiritual kingdom, not one they could see, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21). And fifty days after Christ was resurrected His Kingdom was established with power, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost (Spirit)…” (Acts 2:1-4).
The Kingdom of God earth was established by Christ through the Holy Spirit which He placed within His followers. Having the Spirit meant that their citizenship was now with the household, or Kingdom of God, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
They had in effect been granted citizenship in the New Jerusalem, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14). This citizenship is for those who by turning to God have overcome the ways of this world and are written in the ‘book of life’, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5).
Their citizenship is sealed with the Holy Spirit which is the promise, or down-payment of eternal life in God’s Kingdom, “…Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12-14).
The granting of citizenship will continue into the Millennium and the Great White Throne period as mention in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 20:1-15).
Finally when all those who have repented and turned to God are resurrected to spirit, Christ will deliver the Kingdom up to His Father, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (I Corinthians 15:24-28).
This is when the New Jerusalem will descend to a new, or renewed earth, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (Revelation 21:1-3).
In a prophecy Isaiah said that we will be called the city of God, “…and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 60:14). This is the city to which that Abraham looked forward.
The ancient city of Babylon, on the other hand, was the capital of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire. Nebuchadnezzar was a very ambitious king who was the arch-enemy of Israel. He conquered and ruled over many nations in the ancient world including Israel.
Isaiah prophesied against the king of Babylon, “That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!” (Isaiah 14:4). In that same prophecy he referred to the king of Babylon as Lucifer, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12). Because Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude and ambitions were similar to those of Satan his city was used in prophecy to typify Satan’s kingdom, “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Just as Nebuchadnezzar reigned from Babylon over the kings of the earth, Babylon’s counterpart in the later days is described as a great city reigning over the kings of the earth, “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:18 see also Revelation 14:8). It is pictured as a mother of harlots, “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Revelation 17:5).
The woman is riding on a beast, “…and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.” (Revelation 17:3). And that beast receives its power from Satan, “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” (Revelation 13:1-2).
It exercises power and authority over all the leaders and inhabitants of this world, “And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (Revelation 17:1-2). In other words they are all part of Satan’s kingdom.
The inhabitants over whom Satan has power are those who are not yet written in the ‘book of life, “And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast… …And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb…” (Revelation 13:4, 8).
He even had the audacity to offer the kingdoms of this world to Christ if He would worship him, “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9).
Just as Nebuchadnezzar wanted to invade and conquer the kingdom of Israel, Satan also wants to invade and conquer God’s Kingdom.
In the Book of Revelation we see two ancient cities used to typify two kingdoms that will play an important role in the later days. Both of these kingdoms receive their power and authority from spiritual sources confirming that they are spiritual kingdoms. Both are pictured as women who are completely opposite in character. One is described as a chaste bride that is spiritually pure symbolising those who are written in the ‘book of life’. The other is pictured as a harlot that is spiritually immoral symbolising the inhabitants of this earth who are not written in the ‘book of life’. One kingdom is of God, the other is of Satan.
The city of Babylon typifies Satan’s spiritual rule over the kings of the earth. And New Jerusalem typifies God’s eternal spiritual rule over the entire universe.
Kingdoms in Conflict
Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that the prophet Daniel interpreted, “Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:31-35).
He explained that the ‘great image’ symbolised a succession of worldly kingdoms starting with Babylon as the head of gold down to the latter days depicted by the toes of iron and clay. And that in the latter days a ‘stone’ will shatter the image and break it into pieces. According to the Apostle Peter, Christ is that stone, “…the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,” (I Peter 2:3-4).
In the process Satan’s kingdom will be broken in pieces and destroyed by Christ and replaced by Heavenly Kingdom that will last forever, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:44).
Come Out from Babylon
Those who have turned to God and have been given citizenship were once under the power of Satan in his kingdom, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 NKJV).
We were admonished to come out of Babylon (Satan’s kingdom) and to not partake of its sins, “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4).
God in His mercy has provided the way out and given us citizenship in His Kingdom, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Those who continue in sin are still in Satan’s kingdom, “Whosoever is born (begotten) of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God,” (I John 3:9-10).
This does not mean that we have to separate ourselves physically from the people of this world. It is talking about a spiritual separation whereby we refrain from the unrighteousness which is the way of this world. Although we have citizenship in God’s Kingdom we are to remain in this world much like an ambassador lives in a ‘foreign’ country, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (II Corinthians 5:20). We are to refrain from religious, cultural and political involvement in Satan’s kingdom. We are ambassadors for Christ living in a world that has become spiritually ‘foreign’ to us because we no longer behave in an unrighteous manner. That is what is meant by coming out of Babylon.
Our allegiance is now with Christ and His Father, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1). And our desire is for the things of their Kingdom rather than the things of this world, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2).
Although citizenship in God’s Kingdom has been made available and we have received an ‘earnest’, or down payment in the form of God’s Spirit we cannot just sit back and become complacent. God has provided the means for us to grow, “…Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13).
Things Known only in Part
There is a lot of prophecy that we don’t understand. And it can be confusing especially when there are so many interpretations being preached today.
Both the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation contain prophecies about kings, beasts and horns that culminate in end-time events. Throughout history there have been many self-proclaimed ‘experts’ who have had their own interpretations of these prophecies. They have produced numerous charts and graphics to support their theories and predictions of who and what. While there are many points of agreement among them there are also areas of disagreement. Have you ever wondered why?
Most have ignored the words of the Apostle Peter who said, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (II Peter 1:20). There were things revealed to Daniel that even he did not understand, “And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:8-9).
It was indicated to Daniel that the meanings of some prophecies may not be understood until they are about to happen, “…shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end:” (Daniel 12:4). It is not unusual for some prophecy to be understood only after the event. Such was the case with Christ’s disciples, “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.” (John 12:16).
Paul said that we only have partial knowledge of what is going to happen, “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.” (1 Corinthians 13:9). Some things revealed beforehand were not meant to be fully understood until the time of occurrence. We know Christ is coming but we don’t know exactly when, “…for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 25:13).
We have only been told in part because God does not want us to become complacent. He does not want us to neglect our spiritual preparation (Matthew 25:1-12). Our citizenship in New Jerusalem is guaranteed as long as we are spiritually prepared. This will happen regardless of how prophecies are interpreted.
Most of the prophecies concerning kings, beasts, horns, rams and goats etc fall into the category of what we know only in part. And majority of it is to do with Satan’s kingdom. If we are not meant to know exactly what they mean until they occur then any effort we expend in trying to interpret them has been made in vain.
Things Known for Certain
Rather than using our precious time in vain attempts to discover the things that we know only in part, most of which is concerning the history and fate of Satan’s kingdom, we are much better off focusing on the things that we do know for certain.
Peter has given us a list of things that we know for certain will guarantee our citizenship in God’s Kingdom, “…for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:10-11).
We are promised success if we diligently follow his advice, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:4-8).
He said that God’s grace is multiplied to us if we do these things that we do have knowledge of, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” (II Peter 1:2-3).
Nowhere in Peter’s formula for success does he mention anything about needing to understand the things we know only in part. He did not include prophecy in the list of things that are essential.
We need to be aware of what we need to know and not give priority to things we know only in part. Following those who think they have answers to what is known only in part just increases the opportunity for deception, “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matthew 24:23-24).
Studying the prophecies about the end-time counterparts of the two ancient cities, Jerusalem and Babylon, gives us a greater understanding of the two spiritual kingdoms that exist during these latter days. Understanding what these kingdoms are and the roles they will play helps focus our minds and effort on what we know for certain is essential for our salvation, rather than spending precious time on things we know only in part that are not essential for our salvation.