Goodnews Christian Ministry
"On him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship, and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants. His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire ever be destroyed." ---Daniel 7:14
"The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says this to all the exiles deported from Jerusalem to Babylon, 'Build houses, settle down;
plant gardens and eat what they produce...you must increase there and not decrease. Work for the good of the country to which I have exiled you;
pray to God on its behalf, since on its welfare yours depends. "
Throughout this book we have explored the Bible's intimation that history is not haphazard or serendipitous. Caught in the snare of God it lurches and grinds where God guides it. The pathway He has directed plows along in the footsteps of scripture's prophecy.
In the Book of Ezekiel, we read that 'the 'king of the Jews' made a treaty with the king of Babylon, submitting the entire House of Israel to an extended captivity among the countries of this world'.
As a prophet (one of the greatest in the history of Israel) the words of Ezekiel were meant for a people not of his time. More than that, the fulfillment of his vision mortally wounded pagan Babylon, converting a secular world into a Christian one. This created the millenium.
The king of Israel defined in this prophecy was not Zedekiah, a contemporary of Ezekiel, it was Jesus Christ, the great king of Israel's future. And the 'king of Babylon' with whom Jesus transacted scripture's treaty was the emperor of Rome, not Nebuchaddnezzar.
As we have seen, the treaty itself was Christ on the cross.
Since Rome acted on behalf of Babylon in the promulgation of this treaty, it's capitol city has since been viewed as Satan's throne on earth -- a fact that seems to have established Rome as the headquarters city of the prince of this world.
In an earlier chapter we explored the fact that the spiritual forces which drive human behavior are portrayed in scripture as emanating from two rival cities. On one side Jerusalem, the city of God, and on the other, Babylon, the principality of Satan.
The city of Satan governs ordinary human behavior on our planet. "The woman you saw is the great city which has authority over all the rulers on earth." (Rv.17:19). The city of God dictates obedience to the Gospel and rules all who submit themselves to that obedience.
Each city, then, has been created by spiritual forces that dictate the way its respective populations behave.
Although these two cities have been assigned specific geographic identities, Jesus' revelation that God's city did not exist on this planet but lay hidden in a kingdom in heaven proved that these geographic representations are essentially metaphoric.
The two cities depict opposing spiritual powers. Coming from heaven, God's force is the Holy Spirit. This is the power of Christ that encourages people to be good. The other -- the spiritual force emanating from Satan -- is the unseen power that urges everyone to be evil.
It is not an evil easily recognized, since it encompasses the traditional way the world behaves -- the kind of behavior we ourselves engaged in before we turned to God.
Both of these cities are portrayed in the Bible in the feminine gender. That image defines our birth.
Born into the flesh we started life on this planet as a child of 'mother nature' -- a child of Babylon -- a child doomed to die. Conversion into Christ transforms us from that doomed city into the residence of heaven and its city of eternal life.
Jesus was sent to find those who wanted to belong to God, free them, and take them to His own city in the third heaven.
The Roman Empire's personal role in this prophecy began to crystallize several hundred years after the original Babylon had disappeared into history.
Roman enslavement of the Israeli nation duplicated the internment of God's people in ancient Babylon, but replicated it on a world stage, expanding into aeons a second incarceration that now extends to the farthest reaches of the planet.
The captivity of the original Babylon had lasted only 70 years -- a mere blink of the eye by comparison, and had involved only one tribe.
The dispersion culminated by Rome not only proved far longer, it was much larger as well. All 12 tribes were (and continue to be), in one way or another, caught up in it.
History shows us that the dispersion which followed the crucifixion of Christ completed an exile from Palestine which had been taking place tribe by tribe for almost 800 years -- beginning just after the death of Solomon when the House of Israel split apart and broke into two hostile camps.
With the solidarity of the Hebrew nation erased by this split, the country was unable to defend itself against foreign invasions. Consequently, one after another, all of the tribes of Israel were carted away from their homes in Palestine.
In the end, even the Christians had to leave Jerusalem.
Peter and Paul both went to Italy and the Jerusalem Christian church once headed by James ended up by fading away and finally disappearing somewhere in the sands of the eastern desert.
One might have thought that the church in Jerusalem should have become the cornerstone of the entire Christian faith, but the Holy Spirit had other plans. Scripture was didactic. The conversion had to take place in Babylon. (Micah 4:10).
So the cornerstone and all its central pieces went to Rome in fulfillment of the prophecy. "...your king shall go into exile, he and his princes with him" (Amos 1:14-15).
"But in the country of their exile they will take all this to heart and acknowledge that I am the Lord their God. "
"They will sing my praises in the country of their exile, they will remember my name; they will not be stubborn anymore, but, remembering what became of their ancestors who sinned in the sight of the Lord, will turn from their evil deeds...I will make an everlasting covenant with them." (Baruch.2:30-35).
By the time the Roman Tenth Legion descended on the land of Palestine in 67 A.D. in preparation to destroy it, all of Christ's Apostles had long since departed the country, having joined the dispersion by heading north and west into a land symbolically called Babylon, building churches wherever the people would listen and believe.
Wherever they went, the Roman Empire was there as well -- holding almost the entire civilized world in its captive grasp. For this reason, Rome quickly became the nucleus of the House of Israel's dispersion.
This was clearly demonstrated by events which occurred in the first forty years of the Church. Peter, whom Jesus had appointed as the head of the Church, went to Rome and was crucified there by Nero. Paul, in chains, also went to Rome, and likewise died there.
Both of them victims of Nero's attack on the Christian church.
At the same moment this attack on the Church was taking place, the Jewish nation was being destroyed in Palestine by Nero's generals.
At the conclusion of this destruction, Jerusalem's survivors were led away into Roman slavery. This immense abduction was memorialized on Rome's Via Sacra with a massive arch -- the Arch of Titus -- a monument covered with frescoes portraying the enslavement of the Jewish nation.
The physical city of Rome, then, is intimately associated with the 'Babylon' into which scripture has commanded the House of Israel's captivity. (Jer.27:16-22).
This is especially true of its leadership. That is why the venue change which occurred within this city is so important.
Because it had refused to repent in His name, Jesus said that the Jewish nation would be stripped of its authority and leadership over the House of Israel, and that authority would be given to new tenants.
When the Jews rejected Jesus, the ecclesiastical power of Jerusalem in Palestine (the Jewish temple and its priesthood) disintegrated.
Both were destroyed in the Roman war and neither were seen again in the Jewish religion that unfolded during the exile.
Yet both reappeared in Rome under Christian leadership almost instantly.
The entire ecclesiastical power of the Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and the majesty that surrounded it -- everything that one could have seen in the temple in Jerusalem at the time of Christ is now in Rome under the management of Christian tenants.
This includes the high priest and even the liturgy of the sacrifice -- now centered, not in sheep and goats and doves, but in Jesus Christ.
The Vatican, therefore, images the priesthood and temple -- the most graphic reflections of Judaism's authority -- held in the bondage of Babylon, and now under the management of the new tenants that Jesus predicted for it.
While this image represents the head, the dominion of Christianity over Babylon is a spiritual relationship that is shared equally by all the churches. God has no favorites. (Eph.6:9).
Babylon stands not just for Rome, but for the whole world, and the true Church of Christ includes every church on earth that accepts Jesus Christ as its Lord and Savior.
The world's physical grasp on the House of Israel could not be broken physically. It had to be dissolved spiritually. That is because the true captivity is internal. Our real captor is sin. And here the prophecy is absolute.
The only mechanism scripture has defined for the breaking of this treaty (for shattering the treaty of Christ on the cross) is the decree of the 'Prince of Persia'. (2 Chron.36:19-21).
That edict will accompany the 'Abomination of Desolation' described by the prophet Daniel.
For this reason, the bondage of God's people in Babylon -- the bondage that initiated the scattering -- is still widely evident in the Christian and Jewish dispersion throughout the world today.
For centuries, the perpetuation of this exile has been clearly evidenced by a decaying Jerusalem lying in squalor and disconnected from both Jesus and Moses for almost 2000 years.
Several times during this period the physical restoration of Palestine has been attempted, but most tries have failed.
The Christians were not able to free Jerusalem for very long, and the Jews who are trying to do so today gained a foothold in Israel only about 45 years ago.
This latest attempt has encountered formidable resistance.
When the Jewish settlers returned to Palestine in 1948 to rebuild what they had lost, even though they were able to secure a portion of their lost lands, they found their rock on the temple mountain controlled by muslims -- people who will never willingly relinquish it.
And so the Jews are still locked out as far as their religion is concerned -- still victims of the dispersion to this very day.
A similar exclusion also applies to the Christian Church. And that is why we find a Christian Church headquartered in Rome, not Jerusalem.
It's presence in the pagan world's eternal city is both a symbol and the evidence of the dispersion.
The nucleus of the Church has been centered in Rome since the time of the Apostles -- since the moment Peter and Paul set up residence there in the earliest days of the Church.
The Vatican, Christianity's largest city, still sits in Rome as a representation of Israel's perpetual incarceration there -- a condition of the treaty Jesus made with this world on the cross.
And for almost two thousand years the only way out of our earthly imprisonment has been a change of behavior in the faith of Christ.
By keeping us all out of Palestine these many centuries, God has kept us locked in Babylon's exile so that we might see the imprisonment of our souls to the ways of sin.
While the twelve tribes have been able to make their spiritual escape by converting into the Gospel of Christ, scripture has decreed that on earth the physical exile to Babylon must continue until the day the Persian prince appears.
Thus we are faced with dual images. And these will persist until the very last day.
That is why, although the two cities on earth which represent these dual spiritual processes are metaphors, they must continue to play out their roles all the way to the end.
As they do so, we will begin to see the armies of this world coalesce in the mountains and valleys of Palestine, and witness the Rebel, when he appears, fully obsessed with occupying a throne in the city of Rome.
During the time that Jesus was preaching to them, the Jews were much more concerned with getting the Romans out of their country than in getting sin out of their hearts.
They saw Babylon as a national power (Rome) that had restricted their physical freedom and became so blinded by this obsession were unable to understand Christ's message about a spiritual power that had enslaved the freedom of their soul.
Jesus explained Babylon, not as a country, but as immorality.
Because they had become so worldly, the idea of a 'Babylon of the soul' was beyond the Jewish grasp.
Instead they viewed good and evil in a material way.
Rejecting the spiritual values of humility, compassion, forgiveness and generosity that Jesus said were most important to God, the Jewish leaders promoted a morality of nationalism and material images which focused on things of this world: temple buildings and stone walls, sacrifices, feasts, fasts and lustral washings for purification.
These human works had become the highest symbols of Jewish morality in the First Century. The result was a nationalistic and materialistic ethic called 'the Law' and it's legal principles became the ultimate measure of right and wrong in the Jewish mind.
So caught up in the material world were they that Jesus was condemned to death because he dared to say a word against the Jewish temple, and to equate himself with it.
This building, then, had become the ultimate manifestation of the Jewish god -- a collection of stones in Palestine. And to try to preserve these stones, the Hebrew leaders showed that they were prepared even to kill.
It was this obsession with things material that fed into the whole concept of a physical Babylon with a precise geographic focus -- a fixation that prevented the Jews from seeing sin itself as the real Babylon.
To break this preoccupation, one of the first things Jesus did when He sent His early prophets into this world was to show mankind that God was not pleased with the materialistic worship that had so captivated the sensibilities of the Jewish executives:
"I hate and despise your feasts, I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals...Let me have no more of the din of your chanting, no more of your strumming on harps. But let justice flow like water, and integrity like an unfailing stream." (Amos 5:21-24).
"What are your endless sacrifices to me? says God. I am sick of holocausts of rams and the fat of calves. The blood of bulls and of goats revolts me."
"When you come to present yourselves before me, who asked you to trample over my courts? Bring me your worthless offerings no more, the smoke of them fills me with disgust."
"Your hands are covered with blood, wash, make yourselves clean. Take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow...then, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..." (Is.1:11-18).
Through His messengers, God explained that He wanted us to be kind and gentle with each other and to take care of each other.
The physical stones worshipped in Jerusalem and the sacrifices bloodying the steps of the Jewish temple there had nothing to do with holiness as far as God was concerned.
"I posted look-outs for them, listen to the sound of the trumpet! But they answered, 'We will not listen'. Then hear, you nations, and know, assembly, what I will do to them. Hear, earth! I am bringing a disaster on this people: it is the fruit of their apostasy, since they have not listened to my words and, as for my Law, they have rejected that. "
"What do I care about incense imported from Sheba, or fragrant cane from a distant country? Your holocausts are not acceptable, your sacrifices do not please me." (Jer.6:17-20).
By rejecting God's rules of compassion and instituting religious practices He abhorred in their place, the Jews had perverted God's will. They deified practices which instead of being holy, worshipped the things of Babylon.
And so God deported them. Having become themselves the very Babylon they dreaded, the Jews were dispersed by God into the Roman empire to cleanse their minds and hearts and to make the spiritual conversion that would save their souls.
But this cleansing involved far more than just the Jews. The whole world was offered the opportunity of redemption in Jesus Christ.
Sent into exile Himself by the Sanhedrin (in one of their last official acts before their own exile), Jesus reached out into the farthest wilds of Babylon to extend His divine offer of freedom to anyone who wanted it.
It was an offer accepted.
And the proof of Christ's victory in the world was the conversion of Rome -- the empire that ruled the world.
The capitol of paganism fell to God, collapsing on its knees in worship to Jesus Christ.
Characterized by the Book of Revelation as the sixth head of the beast, the hated Roman Empire disappeared into the cross. This conversion was the 'mortal wound' of prophecy. Secular Babylon was replaced by the empires of Christianity.
The center of paganism had accepted Christ and set the stage for the world to follow in its footsteps.
And that is exactly what happened. All across the world the pagan idols and temples were torn down and churches for the worship of Jesus Christ were erected in their place.
The conversions mushroomed and soon the entire civilized world had re-navigated itself to follow in the path of God's holy Son.
Though Satan's forces tried to fight back, the power of God remained greater. And so, from Babylon, the Gospel was preached to the entire world, a preaching that has now allowed every person on earth to hear the voice of God's salvation.
Rome, for this reason, stands today as the bellweather of Christ's victory on earth. His strength in that city is the benchmark which defines the state of Christianity worldwide -- and not just the state of Christianity, but the state of the entire world.
"Then I saw a beast emerge form the sea: it had seven heads and ten horns...I saw that one of its heads seemed to have had a fatal wound but that this deadly injury had healed and, after that, the whole world had marvelled and followed the beast." (Rev.13:1-3).
The Book of Revelation has made the mortal wound the ultimate sign of the New Testament. For when this wound heals -- when paganism returns to Rome and drives Christianity back to the caves -- the doomed world will have accessed its ultimate End.
This passage in scripture proves that the world's future is in Christ alone, and that outside of Him there exists only catastrophic tribulation followed by eternal death.
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