1-5-4 " The kingdoms of this world"
Throughout Scripture, the opposition between the kingdoms of this world
and the Kingdom of God is highlighted. After the establishment of the
first ecclesia in Jerusalem, the Acts record seems to emphasize the pointed
conflict between the ecclesia and the world. Being " of one accord"
was a hallmark of the early brethren (Acts 1:14; 2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12; 15:25);
but the world were in " one accord" in their opposition to that
united ecclesia (Acts 7:57; 12:20; 18:12; 19:29). The two women of Proverbs
both have surface similarities; folly parodies wisdom. Thus the words
of the adulteress drip honey and oil (Prov. 5:3), just as those of wisdom
do (Prov. 16:24). Rabshakeh promised the Jews an Assyrian Kingdom where
everyone sat under their own vine and fig tree- consciously parodying
Micahís contemporary prophecies of Godís future Kingdom (Is. 36:16 cp.
Mic. 4:4). The Assyrian Kingdom was set up as a parody of Solomonís, which
was the Kingdom of God (1 Kings 4:25; 2 Chron. 9:8). A glance through
the descriptions of the beasts- the Kingdoms of this world- reveals that
they are all set up in terms of the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom. The opening
vision of Rev. 1 presents the Lord in His post-resurrection glory; but
elements of that description occur throughout Revelation in portraying
the beasts. The point is, they are all false-Christís. The Lord has a
voice as the sound of many waters (Rev. 1:15), but the serpent, on the
surface, speaks with just the same voice (Rev. 12:15). The four empire-beasts
of Dan. 7, the kingdoms of this world, are a parody of the four living
creatures of the cherubim (Rev. 4:6). The rejected man who built greater
barns, such was his blessing, would have thought that he was receiving
the blessings of righteousness (Prov. 3:10). There was a cruel and subtle
confusion between the wicked and righteous. Israel actually fell for this;
they came to describe the Egypt they had been called out from as the land
flowing with milk and honey (Num. 16:13). And so we have the same tendency
to be deceived into thinking that the kingdoms of this world, the world
around us, is effectively the Kingdom of God, the only thing worth striving
The dragon has Angels (Rev. 12:9)
He figuratively comes from heaven to earth (12:10)
Speaks of us day and night before God's throne (12:10)
Has a name in his forehead (13:2)
Given power, throne and authority (13:13)
Does great miracles and signs (13:13)
Faithful followers have mark in their hands and foreheads (13:17;
20:4) and are " sealed" (13:16)
All the world worships the beast (13:12)
Followers as numerous as sand on the sea shore (20:8)
Their followers have one mind (17:3), and are world-wide
The woman clothed with a blood red robe and a cup (17:4)
The beast is, was and will be (17:8-11); an allusion to the
Likewise Babylon is set up as a fake Christ and Kingdom of God:
Had proselytes and prophets (Jer. 50:36,37)
A mountain (Jer. 51:25)
A spreading tree giving much fruit to all who took refuge under
it (Dan. 4:21); these words are used by the contemporary prophet
Ezekiel (17:23) in describing the true Kingdom of God, as if
to point the choice available to Israel: a part in the Kingdom
of God, or that pseudo-Kingdom of this world.
" The golden city" (Is. 14:4) with a thick, embellished
wall (Jer. 51:58); springs and rivers within her (Jer. 51:36)
" He that ruled the nations" with an iron rod "
...that did shake kingdoms" (Is. 14:6,16)
The morning star (Is. 14:12)
ďThe praise of the whole earthĒ (Jer. 51:41)
Desired to be exalted above the Angels in Heaven (Is. 14:13)
" The king of Babylon, my servant" (Jer. 25:9)
" Whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive;
and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down"
The Kingdom of Babylon was a sight gazed at by all the earth
(Dan. 4:11), comprising people from every nation, language and
The laws of the kings of Babylon, Media and Persia altered
not (Heb. passed not, were eternal), Dan. 6:8.
Gave Israel a King they named 'Zedekiah'. 'Yahweh our righteousness'-
a false Christ, who is Israel's true " Yahweh our righteousness"
Babylon was " raised up" by God (Hab. 1:5,6)
Arrayed in fine linen (Rev. 18:16)
" Thou...that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else
beside me" (Is. 47:8)
Has the voice of harpers and trumpeters, as does Godís Kingdom
(Rev. 14:2 cp. 18:22)
The Lord Himself was surely aware of this theme when He spoke in His
model prayer of the Kingdom, power and glory being ascribed to His Father;
for these are the very terms in which Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon was
addressed by (Dan. 2:37). The Lord is taking that form address and applying
it solely to His Father- implying that Babylonís Kingdom was but a fake
replica of the one true Kingdom of the one true God.
The point is, there are two possible Kingdoms in which we can have
a part: the the kingdoms of this world, or the Kingdom of God. The
Lord presented the manifesto of His Kingdom in terms which consciously
parodied the Roman empire which surrounded Him. Augustus had used
the Greek word for Ďgospelí / good news, and applied it to the new
world order which his reign represented (2).
He declared himself a God and instituted rites of worship. But the
Lord offered citizenship in an altogether different Kingdom, defined
albeit in similar terms, where humility and self-crucifixion were
the signs of true leadership. His stress on the Kingdom of Heaven
or of God in itself set up what He was offering in conscious contradistinction
to the kingdoms of men. The world around us, especially through
the medium of advertising, presents this world as the true Kingdom.
If you buy this insurance policy, there will be true peace...if
you smoke this cigarette, there will be a truly blessed life.
We are pressurized more than we know to resign the true Kingdom
for the fake one all around us, the various the kingdoms of this
world. The wicked can even appear as the righteous, to the undiscerning.
Thus the man who had such blessings that he needed to build bigger
barns- for his barns overflowed- was experiencing apparently
the blessings of the righteous (Prov. 3:32 NIV). But
there is coming a time when the two worlds, the two Kingdoms, will
experience their inevitable collision in the return of Christ. The
stone will smite the image, and grind those kingdoms to powder.
Godís anger will come up in His face against this world (Joel 3:2,13,16;
Ez. 38:18-22; 39:17,20); and the world will be angry with God and
His people in an unsurpassed way. The nations will be angry, and
the wrath of God also will rise (Rev. 11:18). When their iniquity
has reached a certain level, then judgment will fall (cp. Sodom
and the Amorites, Gen. 15:16). This means that there will almost
certainly be some form of persecution of Godís people by the people
of this world in the very last days. The tension between the believer
and the world will rise. The final political conflict in the land
of Israel will be the ultimate and inevitable collision of flesh
and spirit, of the serpent and the woman. As the kingdoms of this
world will be gathered together to their day of threshing (Rev.
16:16), so will the responsible be (Mic. 4:12; Mt. 3:12). The burning
up of the nations will be the same punishment as the rejected believers
receive- they will in some sense go back into the world they never
separated from, and share itís destiny. This principle is clearly
enough taught (although how in reality it will be articulated at
the day of judgment is something that needs thinking about).
This should provide enough negative motivation to separate from the kingdoms
of this world, fast heading as it is to its final collision with Godís
Kingdom. But as we said at the start, we are separated more positively
unto Godís Kingdom. The separation which is being achieved in us is fundamentally
a separated, holy way of thinking. And yet there are times when the ways
of this world push themselves upon us. We are forced into situations where
we have no choice but to appear as members of the Kingdoms of men. Indeed,
the whole nature of being human means that we must live in this
world, although we are not of it. Consider how Danielís friends wore turbans
(Dan. 3:21 NIV), how Moses appeared externally to be an Egyptian (Ex.
2:19), and how the Lord Himself had strongly Jewish characteristics (Jn.
4:9). Or how Naaman bowed down in the idolís temple, helping his master
in worship (2 Kings 5:18). And imagine all the difficult situations Joseph
must have been in, as Prime Minister of Egypt, married to the daughter
of the pagan High Priest. Or John the Baptistís soldier converts, told
to do their jobs without using violence (Lk. 3:14); or Cornelius returning
to his post as Centurion. It seems almost certain that these men would
all have tried to engineer their way out of their positions. Think
of Daniel. He rose to be one of the leading ministers in Babylon; but
then, some years later, nobody seems to have heard of him. He is again
vastly promoted; and then some years later again, nobody seems to have
heard of him. Surely the point is that he got himself out of compromising
situations; he allowed himself to slip out of the limelight. And so for
the student invited to a doubtful party, the brother invited to go out
drinking at a family funeral, the office worker asked to do a shady cover-up
for a colleague, the wife whose unbelieving husband expects her to accompany
him into the dens of this world... somehow, seek the way of escape. Like
Daniel, slip away, whatever the career or apparent wealth you may forfeit.
Avoid compromising situations. Get yourself out of them. Visiting (in
the Hebrew sense of coming near to) the fatherless and widow in the ecclesia
is associated with being unspotted from the world; our closeness to the
world of the ecclesia in itself will keep us separate from the pull of
the kingdoms of this world (James 1:27).
And God will confirm you in this coming out from the world. He told His
people to flee from Babylon, to come out of her and return to His land
and Kingdom (Is. 48:20; 52:7; Jer. 50:8; Zech. 2:7). Babylon offered them
a secure life, wealth, a society which accepted them (Esther 8:17; 10:3),
houses which they had built for themselves (Jer. 29:5). And they were
asked to leave all this, and travel the uncertain wilderness road to the
ruins of Israel. They are cited in the NT as types of us in our exit from
this world (2 Cor. 6:17; Rev. 18:4). Those who decided to obey Godís command
and leave Babylon were confirmed in this by God: He raised up their spirit
to want to return and re-build Jerusalem, and He touched the heart of
Cyrus to make decrees which greatly helped them to do this (Ezra 1:2-5).
And so the same Lord God of Israel is waiting to confirm us in our every
act of separation from the kingdoms of this world, great or small; and
He waits not only to receive us, but to be a Father unto us, and to make
us His sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:18).
(1) David Bosch, Transforming Mission (New
York: Orbis, 1991) p. 25.
(2) C.S. Lewis,
God in The Dock: Essays On Theology And Ethics (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1972) p. 84.