“This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable. . . .” — James 3:15-17 (NKJV)*
Babylon is cursed. Jerusalem is blessed. How do I know? Babylon, or Babel, is balal in Hebrew; it means “confusion, mixing, mingling.” Jerusalem, or Salem, is yerushalam in Hebrew; it means “teaching of peace” and possibly “division.” These two cities have always been in spiritual conflict. At the end of time, one will be the seat of Satan, the other the seat of Jesus Christ.
Nimrod, the son of Cush and grandson of Ham (younger son of Noah), built the kingdom of Babel in the land of Shinar (Genesis 10:8-10). This probably happened a few decades after the flood. Here on this flat turf, people decide to build the tower of Babel (11:2, 9). At first they just want to make bricks (11:3). Then they decide they want to reach heaven with this tower and “make a name for” themselves, to avoid dispersal (11:4). God doesn’t like this at all! So he “confuses their language,” just in order to scatter them (11:7-8).
What’s the lesson here? People had forgotten God’s name, Elohim. They had forgotten his judgment too, the flood. Worse, they wanted to elevate their names with God’s and reach his heavenly abode. Through Nimrod, these people united under the human banners of biology and culture so they wouldn’t be forgotten. God saw “one” people and “one language” – without Him (Genesis 11:6). So he broke up their playhouse and judged them with confusion and dispersal. Atheistic unity and name-seeking: sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Fast forward a few centuries. Babel is now Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 11:28). In the first ecclesia, God calls a holy remnant from Shem out of this wicked place – first the family of Terah and then a man named Abram – “to a land that I will show you” (12:1). He promises to bless Abram and his descendants, make him a “great nation,” and make his “name great” (12:2). God later changes his name to Abraham, “father of many nations” (17:5). This promise is the opposite of Babel! Unlike those wicked people, only God has the power to bring human names high and low so that we remember or forget them. Only God has the authority to change such names too.
Abram lives in the city of Haran for awhile (Genesis 11:31). Then he migrates to Canaan, the land of promise that is wicked like Babel (12:5). Abram eventually rescues his nephew Lot from a battle between nine kings – including those of Shinar, Sodom, and Gomorrah – near the Valley of Siddim that is now the Dead Sea (14:3, 8-9, 16). Most of these kings came from Ham, so this was a family battle on family turf. Lot, descended from Shem, shouldn’t have been there!
The important spot in Canaan is Jerusalem. It already existed as Salem. After the battle, Abram is greeted by Melchizedek king of Salem, the only priest of the Most High God (14:18). This king and priest is also a prophet, for he blesses Abram who is also of the “Most High God” and calls him the “possessor of heaven and earth” (14:19). Foreshadowing Jesus Christ, Melchizedek brings bread and wine while Abram gives him a tithe (14:18, 20).
A few decades later, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac in the land of Moriah, on a mountain near Salem (Genesis 22:2). After he obeys, God provides a sacrifice in a ram, a substitute for Isaac (22:12-14). He also blesses Abraham through the promise of descendants and the nations (22:17-18). Unlike Babel, Jerusalem is already a place of blessing, provisional sacrifice, holiness, and peaceful communion with God. Near this spot 2000 years later, Jesus will bring greater blessing, provisional sacrifice, holiness, and peaceful communion with God through his death on the cross.
Six hundred years after Abraham, Israel conquers most of Canaan after having been enslaved in Egypt (Joshua 6-11). However, they don’t conquer Jerusalem, the land of the Jebusites (15:63). That must wait another four hundred years, when King David makes it the royal city (2 Samuel 5:6-9). As with Abraham, God wants a certain spot. First, he leads David to sin with a census (2 Samuel 24:1). After the repentant king accepts God’s judgment of plague, the angel of the Lord stays his hand near the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (24:14-16). David buys the property in order to rear an altar to God so he will stop the plague (24:18-25).
This threshing floor is Mount Moriah, where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac (2 Chronicles 3:1). After making offerings, King David says that this property “is the house of the Lord God” and prepares the temple’s construction (1 Chronicles 22:1-5). God promises David that his son Solomon, whose name means “peaceful” in Hebrew, will be “a man of rest” and will build his temple of worship: “I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days” (22:9). Foreshadowing Jesus Christ, King Solomon is chosen to “build a house for my name” (22:10) – unlike the tower of Babel built in the name of the children of Nimrod, Cush, and Ham.
Sadly, in the days of many kings who follow Solomon, the temple built to God in Jerusalem is filled with heathen sacrifices. Israel herself forgets and then forsakes God, choosing to worship idols in groves. Jerusalem, the city of peace, becomes like Babel, the city of confusion. So in 586 BC, God judges his people and sends Israel packing to Babylon. Its king Nebuchadnezzar, whose name means “may Nebo protect the crown” in Chaldean, sacks Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:6-21, Daniel 1:1-2). Like Jehovah, he renames the young Hebrew captives – but according to his god and language (1:6-7). Nebo is the Babylonian “prince of gods” and “God of fire.”
Like Nimrod’s kingdom, Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon is a place of unity. “All peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him” (Daniel 5:19). Like Nimrod’s tower, the king’s “greatness reaches to the heavens” (4:22). This kingdom is God-ordained but ungodly. Nebuchadnezzar forgets who helped him create and expand Babylon, believing it was by his own “mighty power and … majesty” (4:30). So God humbles him by letting him live like a beast for seven years (4:33). Nebuchadnezzar then learns that “God rules in the kingdom of men and appoints over it whomever he chooses” (5:21). God’s dominion is “everlasting and his kingdom is from generation to generation” (4:34). Only through humility and faith is Nebuchadnezzar’s great kingdom of Babylon restored (5:36). God has shown him grace and mercy through the faithful witness of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (1-4). Unlike the idol Nebo, Jesus Christ is the “prince of gods” (Son of God) and “God of fire” (3:24-30).
What follows is a speedy repetition of Abraham. After seventy years in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11-2, Daniel 9:2), a holy remnant and second ecclesia returns to Jerusalem and rebuilds the temple of God (Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai). This is preparation for the promised Messiah, who “will suddenly come to his temple” (Malachi 3:1). The messenger John the Baptist prophesies that, in the last days, Jesus will “clean out his threshing floor,” gather the wheat, and burn the chaff in judgment (Matthew 3:12). This is one purpose of the final temple in Jerusalem, which will be built on Mount Moriah and the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite during the Millennium.
Jesus Christ arrives four hundred years later and is baptized in the Jordan River, possibly where Melchizedek blessed Abram (Matthew 3:13-17). The night before his death, Jesus communes with his disciples by sharing bread and wine (Matthew 26:26-29). The following evening, the veil of the temple in Jerusalem is ripped in half as the temple of Jesus’ own body expires (27:51, John 2:21).
During the Great Tribulation, the city of Satan will be “Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots, and of the abominations of the earth” (Revelation 17:5). Like Nimrod’s Babel and Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, it will be a place of atheistic unity through trade (18:11-17) and filled with “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” (17:15). The anti-Christ will force everyone to take the mark of the beast, a number instead of a name (13:16-18). Like Abram and Israel, a final holy remnant will “come out of her” (18:4). However, this final city will be destroyed (14:8, 18:2-24). The anti-Christ will find no divine mercy but will be cast into the lake of fire (19:20).
Satan’s chosen city is Babylon so he hates Jerusalem, the holy city of God. Once released from his thousand-year prison, Satan will deceive the nations to surround “the saints and the beloved city” of Jerusalem (Revelation 20:9). But he will be destroyed in the lake of fire (20:10). Then the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and God will dwell with his people forever (21:2-3). It will have no temple, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (21:22). The holy name of God, not those of man or Satan, will be in their foreheads (14:1, 22:4).
Babylon signifies spiritual mingling, confusion, death, and cursing. It will be judged for refusing God’s holiness. Jerusalem signifies spiritual separation or holiness, peace, life, and blessing. It will be shown God’s mercy. The great divine purpose in this 4500-year cosmic battle is worship. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we must worship Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24, 1 Corinthians 3:16). Let us the holy remnant flee Babylon and be saved!
* All Scripture verses are NKJV, unless otherwise noted.