Since the judgment of Babel was followed by the initiation of the circumcision, the impending end of the circumcision in AD70 explains the significance of the first century miracle of foreign tongues.
Except for a few Aramaic “teasers” in the book of Daniel, the Word of God was monolingual and His priesthood was monocultural. On the Day of Pentecost, the preaching of the apostles to Jews from across the empire in their native languages was a sign to the rulers of Jerusalem. The second witness in the legal case against them was the conferring of this same gift upon believing Gentiles. This temporary sign, which prefigured the translation of God’s Word into every language and its dissemination among all nations, brings us back to the significance of Babelic unity as the ultimate goal of Satan.
The failure to understand the Babelic context of Israel’s history results in a failure to understand the purpose of tongues in the New Testament, and a failure to understand the historical transition that took place between AD30 and 70. God judged Babel because if the people were united, nothing would be withheld from them (Genesis 11). Jesus prays that His people would be united, so that nothing will be withheld from us (John 17). It was necessary for Jewish and Gentile believers to overcome the Old Covenant bipolarity and be united, before the Gospel could really go forth in full power. After AD70, with Jew and Gentile united in one Church, nothing can be withheld from us, unless we choose by our sin to be disunited. After AD70, there is no longer any God-instituted historical disunity in operation. 1”
The strife was never a rivalry between priesthood and kingdom, since the kingdom of God on earth was always the goal. Contrary to the understanding of many Christians, empire per se is not a bad thing. In Daniel 7, the kingdom of Christ succeeds the bestial empires just as naturally as Adam was given dominion over the wild beasts in Genesis 2 and Noah in Genesis 7. Covenant history was always a feud between godless empire and godly empire.
From the beginning, Abraham’s seed had constituted God’s imperium, Yahweh’s challenge and alternative to Babel. Jesus simply announced its long-awaited fulfillment… This is the Gospel of Jesus, the good news of empire: The time has come for God to defeat the principalities and powers, take His throne, and deliver the dominion of the nations to the Son of Man—and His saints. 2
As discussed, the first Babel was priestly in nature, a unity of “lip,” a more mature rebellion than that before the Flood. However, just as the people of God continued to mature through various trials, so did the nature of the conspiracy. The second Babel was that of Nebuchadnezzar, kingly in nature, a gathering of nations under a king of kings. The final Babel, the “Babylon” of the Revelation, was prophetic in nature, more mature and thus far more subtle than its predecessors. This conspiracy was one of testimony, a claim which united confession, blood and soil as a satanic “anti-gospel.” It was a counterfeit of the prophetic ministry of the apostles, claiming that it was the Herodian dynasty and not Jesus who was the expected Davidic king, the promised “Abrahamic” blessing to all nations.
The Last Babel
Since Jesus had fulfilled Passover, the Judaizers denied that Christ had come in the flesh (1 John 4:1-3). Since Jesus had ascended as Firstfruits from the dead and sent His Spirit at Pentecost, the Herodian “prophets of Baal” called down fire from heaven, and performed signs intended to deceive (Revelation 13:13). Whereas the ministry of Paul the tentmaker was a miraculous stitching together of Jew and Gentile by the Spirit of God (Trumpets), the post-Pentecost “Babylon” of the Herods was an attempt to unite the nations in blasphemy against the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:29). 3Establishing a ministry of Temple idolatry like that condemned by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:1-15), they constructed an image of a beast which was unlike all previous idols. Whereas those were dumb (Psalm 115:5), this was an image which could speak (Revelation 13:14). As Balaam, a seer on the payroll of a king, Judaism now sought to corrupt and thus condemn the people of God, which is the ongoing ministry of Satan.
But according to the Law of Moses concerning legal executions, a second witness was required. In this case, it was the testimony of one with the power of capital punishment: the Roman state. The response to the twin testimonies of the Spirit upon Jew and Gentile was a Jew-Gentile conspiracy against the saints. Just as Herod and Pilate became friends over the execution of Christ, so the socio-political fusion of Jerusalem and Rome finally found its raison d’être in conspiracy against a common enemy, the Body of Christ. 4
After failing to destroy the fledgling Church through Jewish persecution from without and Jewish heresy from within, Satan turned to the nations (Zechariah 14:2), those under the rule of the fourth empire in Daniel’s prophecies. The devil stood on the sand of the sea shore and called up from it a Gentile “sea beast” (Revelation 12:17-13:1) which endorsed the Jewish “land beast” (Revelation 13:11-17). In AD64, Herod’s Temple was completed, “proving” that Jesus was a false prophet. In AD64, Nero blamed the burning of Rome upon the Christians, legally demarcating them from the Jews under Roman administration for the first time. This began the great tribulation, forty-two months of an empire-wide conspiracy, one which overturned that which the circumcision was designed to prevent: Jewish and Gentile kings assimilated, united and testifying against a fledgling Jew-Gentile priesthood.
What did the ascended Jesus do? He divided His enemies, setting them upon each other. As in the battle of Midian, He sent darkness and confusion upon them, a “strong delusion” that they should believe a lie (Matthew 6:22-23; 2 Thessalonians 2:11). Angry with the failure of Rome to intervene in a dispute between the Jews and the Greeks, and in protest against Roman taxes, the Jews revolted. After an initial victory which swelled nationalistic pride (blood and soil) and also encouraged a renewed assurance in their divine sanction (confession), Jerusalem was besieged for three and a half years. 5The Jewish zealots who had united against Rome began to slay one another inside the city. Jesus divided the rebels into ever smaller factions, and the conspiracy of nations was thwarted. Rome itself was also shaken and divided, AD69 famously being referred to as “The Year of the Four Emperors.” Jerusalem was finally destroyed in AD70. The Church not only survived, but conquered. Through perseverance, the saints overcame.
The Circumcision of Satan
Jesus told His disciples that the Church would never suffer such tribulation ever again (Matthew 24:21) and the Revelation tells us why. The end of the circumcision necessitated the binding of Satan that he might not unite the nations against the people of God, the New Covenant order of priest-kings (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 20:2-3).
The phrase “for a thousand years” does not refer to a literal millennium, since like everything else in the Revelation (including the number 666) it is a symbol or signifier which requires a knowledge of the Old Testament and some wisdom to interpret. The millennium is an allusion to the chronologies of God’s houses during the era of the circumcision. Israel worshiped God in nomadic tents – priestly houses of skin – for a thousand years, from the offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah to David’s purchase of the site for the Temple. Israel then worshiped God in established Temples – kingly “houses of cut stone” – for a thousand years, from the completion of Solomon’s Temple to the destruction of Herod’s Temple. Our current “spiritual temple,” a bridal city, one whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10), began its “millennial” administration when Jerusalem was destroyed.
Many commentators view the binding of Satan as a future event, yet it was predicted by Jesus Himself as something imminent. In Matthew 12:22-31, after Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons, He reveals that even when it comes to satanic conspiracy, unity is strength. Satan’s kingdom could not stand because it was being divided by the arrival of the kingdom of God.
Jesus speaks of binding the “strong man,” Satan, for the purpose of “plundering his goods.” As usual, His choice of words is significant, since they draw a huge haul of Old Testament allusion in their train.
Firstly, Christ’s reference to plunder reveals the historical depth of the devil’s earlier offer to Him of “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” Jesus could avoid the cross and still be a High Priest “in Eden, the Garden of God, covered in every precious stone… on the holy mountain of God, in the midst of the stones of fire” (Ezekiel 28:13-14), but He would be a High Priest who bowed the knee to Satan, an offer which the Jews under the Herods subsequently accepted. Thus, in the wilderness, the “Son of Adam” was asked to lead the nations in their idolatrous rebellion against the Father. If He had acquiesced, nothing could be withheld from Him. As the ultimate Cain, He could have grasped equality with the Father and succeeded. Instead, in John 17, as a true High Priest, a servant of the people, He prayed for a different kind of unity. As a result, nothing was withheld from Him, including the blessing of the Father. What the devil had offered to Jesus through rebellion He would instead inherit through obedience.
Secondly, the word “goods” literally means “vessels.” Satan is pictured as Pharaoh or Nebuchadnezzar, and his legal captives are priestly cups, bowls and basins.
Thirdly, the word “strong” in Greek is used in the Septuagint to translate many instances of “mighty men,” both good and evil, beginning with the conquerors in Genesis 6:4. This relates to the fact that in Revelation 20 Satan is bound not with a rope but with a “great chain.” Sacrifices were bound with cords, including human ones like Daniel’s three friends (Daniel 3:23-25). Political prisoners, including kings such as Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:11) and prophets such as Jeremiah (Jeremiah 40:1), Peter (Acts 12:6) and Paul (Acts 21:33), were instead bound with chains. Here is another symbolic contrast between priesthood and kingdom.
Fourthly, all binding in Scripture, whether by oath (confession) or cord (blood) or chain (soil) is for the purpose of loosing something else.6 The binding of Jesus as the true “Isaac” for all the world meant that God would not cut off “all flesh” in a global judgment. But the fulfillment of the circumcision in the death of Christ, the event which finally united true priesthood and true kingdom, also reversed the roles of protagonist and antagonist in Covenant history. Whereas the old people of God were always on the defensive, Pentecost moved the Church to the offensive. Whereas the circumcision prevented the cutting off of all flesh, the binding of Satan through the plundering of his house is the cutting off of all flesh from him. The ministry of the Church is the circumcision of Satan. What do I mean by this?
Satan was bound from deceiving the nations by the Spirit of Christ through the apostolic testimony (Acts 13:46; Revelation 20:3). The testimony of Jesus, a better Adam who speaks with “circumcised lips” (Exodus 6:12) silences the deceit of the devil and confuses his hosts. It is the nature of every false king to exalt himself as a replacement “head,” and throughout history Satan had continually attempted to gather the nations as his united “body,” a “totus diabolus” if you will. The binding of Satan is thus a palsy – a discoordination – of the body resulting from a wound to the head.
With the ascension of Christ and the sending of His Spirit, the Gospel of Jesus was now gathering all men to Him (Mark 2:1-5; John 12:32). This routing of the devil began with the unity of the firstfruits church and the subsequent cutting off of Jerusalem, a city cut around (circumcised) like Jericho, by a Roman trench. And like Jericho, “all flesh” within Jerusalem was put to the sword. Just as Jericho was the first victory in the conquest of the Land, so Jerusalem was the first victory in the conquest of the World, all nations under a better circumcision, that of the heart. Because of the cross, we no longer wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Like Jesus, although we bind ourselves by oath, self-discipline, self-sacrifice and prayer, ours is not a ministry of binding but of loosing (Matthew 18:18).
Mike Bull is a graphic designer in the Blue Mountains of Australia, and author, most recently, of Inquiétude.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||James B. Jordan, The Future of Israel Re-examined.|
|2.||↑||Peter J. Leithart, Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective, 35, 37.|
|3.||↑||For more discussion, see “The Last Sin” in Michael Bull, Inquiétude: Essays for a People Without Eyes.|
|4.||↑||For more discussion, see Michael Bull, Lightning from East to West.|
|5.||↑||Typologically-speaking, the tribulation of the saints and the subsequent siege of Jerusalem correspond to the two goats on the Day of Atonement. The first was bound but ascended to God as a fragrant offering. The second was loosed from priestly service but to destruction.|
|6.||↑||For more discussion, see Michael Bull, Binding and Loosing.|