1-6-4 Worlds In Collision
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
Micah’s contemporary prophecies of God’s future Kingdom (Is. 36:16 cp.
Mic. 4:4). The Assyrian Kingdom was set up as a parody of Solomon’s, 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-Christ’s. Their
worlds are in collision with God's. 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 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
world around us is effectively the Kingdom of God, the only thing worth
The dragon has Angels (Rev. 12:9)
He figuratively comes from heaven to
Speaks of us day and night before God's
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"
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 Yahweh Name
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 the 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.
The morning star (Is. 14:12)
“The praise of the whole earth” (Jer. 51:41)
Desired to be exalted above the Angels
in Heaven (Is. 14:13)
" The king of Babylon, my servant"
" 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" (Dan. 5:19)
The Kingdom of Babylon was a sight gazed
at by all the earth (Dan. 4:11), comprising people from every
nation, language and tongue (4:1)
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" (Jer. 23:6)
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 God’s Kingdom
(Rev. 14:2 cp. 18:22)
Clearly this is all a case of worlds in collision. 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 Babylon’s 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 Kingdoms of men, or 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 ‘gospel’ / good news,
and applied it to the new world order which his reign represented (1).
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 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. God’s 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 God’s 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 nations 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 it’s 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 concept of worlds in collision should provide enough negative motivation
to separate from the Kingdom of men, fast heading as it is to its final
collision with God’s Kingdom. But as we said at the start, we are separated
more positively unto God’s 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 Daniel’s 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 idol’s 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 Baptist’s 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 world (James
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 God’s 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 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). Time and again, God's servants were asked to do what was not worldly-wise in their relationships with their surrounding world. It seems from Jer. 51:59-64 that Zedekiah made a visit to Babylon, along with his entourage, presumably to make some peace with Nebuchadnezzar before the final invasion. And yet Jeremiah takes the opportunity to send a prophecy of the doom of Babylon along with Seraiah, one of Zedekiah's officers who accompanied him. This was scarcely politically expedient; indeed, the whole message of Babylon's impending destruction must have been extremely hard to distribute at that time, for a whole number of reasons. Jeremiah later had to do the same kind of thing when he and the refugee Jews arrived in Egypt. When refugees arrive in a host country, totally at the peoples' mercy, they scarcely start condemning the people. But Jeremiah had to inform Egypt that Nebuchadnezzar would soon "pick clean the land of Egypt like a shepherd picking lice from his clothing and then depart unmolested" (Jer. 43:12). Our position with this world, and our message to it, is no different in essence.
Paul appeared to lay the law down to the Corinthians about separation
from the world- and they complained. His comment is that their sense of
'limitation' or being 'cramped' [Gk.] was not due to what he'd said, but
more because of their own consciences as believers: "You are not cramped in
us, but you are cramped by your own hearts... be you also enlarged! Be not
unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship has
righteousness with unrighteousness?" (2 Cor. 6:12-14). He's saying that the
apparent 'cramping' or 'limitation' of being separate from the ways of the
world is actually not a cramping at all- it's an enlargement of the heart's
horizons. And this fits in admirably with the above examples of 'holiness'.
Separation from sin is actually a separation unto so much more.
C.S. Lewis, God in The Dock: Essays On Theology And Ethics
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972) p. 84.