By Brad Hicks
I was invited by my friend, Edwin Daliya, a native of Mussoorie, India, to speak via Zoom to a group of Christians in India. Edwin heads a missions organization that plants churches throughout northern India. When I asked him who my audience would be and what the circumstances are that they’re currently facing, Edwin texted, “It’s pastors and lay leaders both, and many of them have great task of encouraging their sheep in tough time. These days jobs are lost, no churches, no offerings, and persecution; and also to grow and remain in the Lord is big question. Too many challenges of life.” The following is what I read and taught, with Edwin translating.
What I hope to challenge us with — and encourage us by — today, is twofold. First, I’d like to propose that, although there are about 200 countries in the world today, there are only two kingdoms — Babylon and Zion — one shrouded in deception and darkness, the other alight with truth and the glory of God. And second, I propose that all of mankind is in spiritual captivity to Babylon, unless and until we accept the one and only way of deliverance from bondage and are brought into a new citizenship — and even better, into being sons, daughters, and heirs — in Zion.
With that said: Greetings, friends in Christ Jesus and … my cousins in the flesh. Yes, we know that we’re related spiritually through Jesus’ blood (we’re all members of His body), but we forget that we’re related physically as well, not just by shared DNA; we are actually blood-related cousins going all the way back to … yes, Adam and Eve … but 2,000 years after the first biblically recorded humans … our more recent shared grandparents, Noah and his wife. These two, along with their three sons and their wives, were the only recorded persons left on the earth after the Great Flood which, we estimate, occurred around 6,000 years ago. The story is told in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament, of course, but the Apostle Peter wrote about Noah and the flood in his New Testament letters as well:
1 Peter 3:20 … in the days of Noah while the ark was being built; in it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.
2 Peter 2:5 … (God) did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others.
So, great (X200) grandpa and grandma Noah, and their sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and these fellows’ three wives, are your and my distant relatives. I probably descended from Japheth whose kin migrated northward into what became Greece and later into Europe. And you likely descended from Shem, whose descendants settled into eastern Persia and eventually the Indus River Valley and on eastward.
I tell you this story to set up a much larger story, a story that you likely already know. But I’d like to tell it in a way that you may have forgotten or maybe you’ve never heard before, from the viewpoint of biblical redemptive history. Those of us who’ve forgotten, we need to be reminded of the origins of our faith from time to time. And if you’ve never heard the story from the viewpoint of biblical redemptive history, hold on to your seat, it’s a wild ride, full of irony, unexpected twists and turns, unimaginable subplots, and a Protagonist who only the universe’s Author himself could have invented. Let’s pick up the story then … from Noah and the Great Flood.
This satanic Babylon personality gets more of the revelator’s attention than any other personality in the book other than the Lamb of God.
Before the mass global migration of the descendants of Noah’s offspring, something extremely significant happened — something that puts into motion everything that follows in the writings of the Hebrew Tanakh (the Old Testament) as well as the gospels and letters to the churches in the Christian New Testament. The event is recorded in Genesis 11:1-9, and it is of utmost importance to better understanding not only the scriptural account of God’s dealings with man in world history (more accurately world reality) but it can also help make better sense of the times we live in today. In what was called the Plain of Shinar, in the region of southern Mesopotamia (where Babylon was and still is located), the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth, and their wives decided that they wanted to build a tower to heaven (you know the story, the Tower of Babel). This treasonous scheme greatly displeased God — probably for the same reason that Satan and his rebellious angels were cast out of heaven and hurled to earth in a timeless age unknown to us (Revelation 12:9) — and God confused the language of these tower builders of Babylon so they couldn’t understand each other, then he scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Why is this event so important?
1. All of the fallen world since Adam, including Noah and his offspring, has been under the power of the devil and the spiritual forces of evil (Matthew 12:26, Ephesians 6:12, Hebrews 2:14-15, Revelation 12:9). This is still the spiritual reality in the world we live in today.
2. The banishment of the peoples at Babel was not a new beginning for the people of the earth. It was a complete disinheritance by God of all humanity. Noah’s sons and their children did not call on the name of the Lord after their dispersement. They were all idolaters from Babylon, serving and worshiping demonic deities, under the power of Satan, not following in the righteous footsteps of their father and grandfather, Noah. They were as wicked as the global population that God had just recently annihilated by water.
3. Man’s continued rebellion against him, of course, came as no surprise to the Most High. However, God loves all of humanity and does not take pleasure in the death of any person or the destruction of any people group. He had a plan for the complete redemption of all of his creation, restoring it to its intended, original ideal in Eden — the seeds of which were in the mind of God from before the creation of the world. It would begin to take root at the divine call of one of Shem’s descendants ten generations later, through Abraham, who was living in the Chaldean region of southern Babylonia called Ur, which is in modern-day Iran.
4. Thus, with Abraham and through his family, the Great Story of the redemption of mankind begins in epic biblical detail. All the stories, histories, laws, precepts, psalms, proverbs, laments, poetry, prophecies, genealogies, gospels, epistles, and prophecies in our Bibles are the telling of the cosmic war for the souls of Adam’s and Noah’s descendants held captive in the very real spiritual kingdom of Babylon. The entire narrative of scripture is simply this: Return, O man, to your Creator, your Father, the one true God — return to Him in earnest, by covenant, through the death and resurrection of the Protagonist, the Hero, the Champion of the Story — through faith in the Messiah and Christ, Jesus. Enter the gates of another kingdom — Enter Zion!
We are crossed over from death to life into a new kingdom, a heavenly one, into the realm of the rule and reign of our Lord and King Jesus, into a city and mountain that the scriptures call Zion.
Captivity in Babylon today
The prophet-scribe of the book of Revelation (likely the Apostle John) refers to this evil spiritual deceiver of the world as “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes, and of the Abominations of the Earth” (Revelation 17:5). At my count, there are at least nine satanically-influenced personalities in Revelation, one of the most notable being Babylon the Great, who I liken to a spiritual kingdom existing in the world that deceives and controls the peoples of all nations. This satanic Babylon personality gets more of the revelator’s attention than any other personality in the book other than the Lamb of God. Revelation chapters 16 through 18 are mostly dedicated to the worshipful, glorious, angelic proclamation of the destruction of Babylon the Great, which occurs at the second coming of Jesus to Earth. These passages from Revelation also give us a glimpse of how Babylon influences, deceives, and holds captive all who refuse to escape her.
How Babylon deceives and controls the nations
Revelation chapters 14-19 —
• Earth’s inhabitants are corrupted and intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.
• She’s drunk with the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, and the blood of those who bore the testimony of Jesus.
• She has dominion over all peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.
• She is the “great city” that rules over the kings of the earth.
• Kings of the earth commit adultery with her.
• Merchants of the earth grow rich from her excessive luxuries.
• Merchants gain their wealth from her and purchase her endless cargoes, merchandise, and products, including the purchase of human lives.
• The ships on the sea become rich through her wealth.
• Her merchants are the world’s most important people.
• By her magic spell all the nations are deceived.
• In her are found the blood of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.
O.T. prophets also describe how the “king of Babylon” enslaves the world
Isaiah 14 —
• In anger, he strikes down peoples with unceasing blows, and in fury subdues nations with relentless aggression.
• He shakes the earth and makes kingdoms tremble.
• He makes the world a wilderness and overthrows its cities.
• He does not let captives go home.
Jeremiah 51 —
• He makes the whole world drunk.
• Babylon is a destroying mountain who destroys the whole earth.
• He devours us and throws us into confusion.
• He swallows us like a serpent and fills his stomach with our delicacies, then spews us out.
• He does violence to our flesh.
• Nations stream to him.
• The slain of all the earth have fallen because of him.
Friends, Babylon the Great has caused the entire world to believe what Paul calls in 2 Thessalonians 2 “the lie … (that) deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie …” God’s word, the Bible, is the only record in all of mankind’s literature that explains the world’s true spiritual condition of enslavement, warning all people to flee and providing the only escape route from Babylon’s deception. Jeremiah 51:6 says, “Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins.” Revelation 18:4 warns, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.”
All thanks to God, by His grace and kindness, I am confident that you and I have, indeed, escaped, or, for some of us, perhaps, are in the process of escaping the delusion of spiritual Babylon. We have heard and are obeying our heavenly Father’s call to return to Him by way of repentance and trust. We have been saved through the blood covenant of Jesus; we’re being changed into his image daily through the Spirit that dwells in us; and we’re awaiting His coming. We are crossed over from death to life into a new kingdom, a heavenly one, into the realm of the rule and reign of our Lord and King Jesus, into a city and mountain that the scriptures call Zion. The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament proclaims that we who have, by faith, fixed our eyes on Jesus, “have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. (We) have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. (We) have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 12:22-24).
It may not feel like it, but in reality, with eyes of faith, we are in the Zion of God right now — no longer captive to the lies of Babylon.
Zion in the Bible
In most English translations of the Bible, the ancient Hebrew word Zion is mentioned about 170 times. It’s first mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:7, where it’s recorded that “David captured the fortress of Zion — which is the City of David.” In the Old Testament, Zion can refer to any of three places: the hill where the most ancient areas of Jerusalem stood, the city of Jerusalem itself, or the dwelling place of God. Some O.T. images of Zion from the Psalms are the Lord’s “holy mountain” (Psalm 2:6), the place where the Lord is “enthroned” (Psalm 9:11), and from where David yearns for salvation to emerge (Psalm 9:14). Verses from Isaiah claim, “Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy” (Isaiah 4:3), and “gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 18:7).
The New Testament writers usually quote what has already been written in the Old Testament when they speak of Zion. Paul in Romans used the image of Christ as a stone in Zion: “In Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame” (Romans 9:33). Peter in his first letter also wrote that this stone in Zion is Jesus, “a chosen and precious cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:6). And in his vision of end times, the revelator saw “on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1).
It may not feel like it, but in reality, with eyes of faith, we are in the Zion of God right now — no longer captive to the lies of Babylon. My friends, let us not return to our fear of death, to the love of money (the root of all kinds of evil, 1 Timothy 6:10), to sinful habits that so easily entangle us and cause us to feel far from God. Let us not isolate ourselves and forsake regularly meeting with other Christians. We need one another for encouragement; alone we will find it much harder to stand in times of trouble. Trust God and rely on the love of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. In these extremely difficult times of a worldwide pandemic, when businesses are closed and money is scarce; when churches are closed and offerings are not coming in; when we’re tasked with encouraging God’s sheep to keep the faith when our own faith is being tried and tested; and when persecution for following Christ is looming just outside our doors — let us remember: The Holy Spirit lives in us, He is always with us, and He is the Spirit of Jesus himself. He is guarding our hearts and He is protecting our minds from the lies and deception of our enemies. But we must join our will with His!
God’s faithful promises
God’s promises do not suggest that being a follower of Jesus is easy. Discipleship is a hard path. We are being called to change our natural way of thinking and our former way of life to the new way of the Spirit of holiness. Christianity is a choice fraught with a lifetime of trials and tests. We’re striving to allow God to set us apart in order to be used by him as a lamp for his glory — both in this life, about which our Lord has said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33); and the next, about which the Apostle Paul wrote, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind can conceive the things God has prepared for those who love him” (I Corinthians 2:9).
The promise is that Jesus will be intimately with us at all times; He is forever Emmanuel. The promise is that Jesus will see us through every hardship, and good will always spring from our trials when we trust Him. The promise is that because Jesus suffered more severely and innocently than any man or woman, He is able to understand and comfort us in our affliction. The promise is that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.