About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Babylon And Jerusalem  


The cities of Babylon and Jerusalem are the two most mentioned cities in the Bible.  Babylon is mentioned 286 times in the KJV, 280 times in the NIV, and 283 times in the CSB.  It first appears in the Bible in Genesis 10:10 as Babel, and based on its Hebrew equivalent, means "confusion."  Jerusalem is mentioned 811 times in the KJV, 808 times in the NIV, and 801 times in the CSB.  It first appears in the Bible in Genesis 14:18 as Salem, and based on its Hebrew equivalent, means "city of peace."  The Hebrew meaning of the names of these two cities puts them in direct odds with each other - confusion and peace.  Nevertheless, both cities have significant theological relevance for us today.     


Babylon was a literal city and empire.  It once existed just beyond the city limits of present-day Baghdad, in Iraq.  Former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, started rebuilding Babylon as a tourist destination in the 1990's.   The Bible portrays all nations as Babylon.  This portrayal originated in Genesis 11:4 where it states that Babel (Babylon) was a product of man's desire to build a nation that would glorify himself instead of God.  Such attempts at nation building will end in God's judgment, as seen in Revelation 17 and 18.


Jerusalem was, and is, a literal city in Israel.  The New Testament also teaches that there is a heavenly Jerusalem.  Galatians 4:26 says:    


"But the Jerusalem that is above is free ... "


Hebrews 12:22 reads:


"But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,"


When we understand the Bible to portray all nations as Babylonian in nature and when we realize there is a heavenly Jerusalem, we have some things to consider. 


I am a citizen of the Babylonian oriented nation of Canada.  I am also a citizen of the heavenly city of Jerusalem.  As a dual citizen, my heavenly citizenship takes priority over my earthly citizenship.  That's because unlike the Babylonian state of Canada, the heavenly Jerusalem glorifies God and not man.  My ultimate allegiance is to the Jerusalem that is above, and when there is a conflict between my two citizenships, I stand on the side of the heavenly Jerusalem, as did the apostle Peter.  Acts 5:29 reads:


"Peter and the apostles replied, 'We must obey God rather than people.'"


I may have a home in Canada, but it's not my primary residence.  It's temporary.  I anticipate the heavenly Jerusalem's arrival on earth.  Hebrews 13:14 states: 


"For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come."


Revelation 21:1 says:         


"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God ..."


I cannot make the mistake that many have made over the centuries by attempting to Jerusalemize Babylon by humanistic means.  Such attempts always fail because they are not Biblical and they differ little from man-centered nation building seen in Genesis 11.  It is not my responsibility to Christianize the Babylonian nation of Canada.  It is not my job to bring Canada under the rule of Jesus.  Jesus will do that at His return.  My job, as an ambassador of the heavenly Jerusalem, and, as mandated by the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18, is to invite fellow citizens of my Babylonian nation to relocate their primary residence to the heavenly Jerusalem.             

Post Script


For clarity sake; I am not advocating a withdrawal from cultural involvement.  I am advocating placing our Biblical mandate to make disciples of people, not nations, at the top of our list of cultural priorities.  Failing to do this undermines our ambassadorial mission as Christians. 


If you have prioritized your life in Biblical terms, your individual rights of citizenship in a democracy permit your involvement in social/political concerns.  Like Paul, who used his Roman citizenship to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11), your democratic rights of citizenship allow you to make your appeal in the social arena.  That being said, your social/political appeal should be understood to be secondary to your primary calling as a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem.  

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