We’re all citizens and exiles of an unborn city that never was.
We look back at ancient cities and know mankind was meant to always build civilizations, from Babylon, Ur, Yinxu and Nineveh. But what we overlook is the mandate given by God in Genesis 1:28 to newly formed beings, Adam and Eve, in a garden in the east:
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
This command by God to multiply, cultivate and have dominion is known as the cultural mandate, and was the blueprint for God’s city. But before this plan was fulfilled something went wrong. Adam failed to exercise dominion, and he and Eve sought their own gain in eating from a forbidden tree. And that day they died spiritually and were exiled from Eden and from the tree of life which gave them eternal life.
An exile is someone alienated from their home with no hope of return, and this permanence is felt to this day in every hospice facility and emergency room and death bed. In every death we know this is not how it should be, that this is not home. And this exile was because of sin, the heart that reached for forbidden fruit and built cities in opposition to God.
The great city of Babylon began as Babel, a brick tower meant to make a name for a untied mankind. This building failed when God confused their languages but their rebellion barely missed a step. Other cities were founded but few as great (or as fallen) as Babylon in Mesopotamia.
While this city embodied rejection of God, another city was being born to the west. Jerusalem, most likely first ruled by the priest-king Melchizedek, would be established as the center of God’s redemptive work. On a mount near Abraham’s greatest act of sacrifice, a temple was built by Solomon to mark the dwelling place of God, a returning to the reality of Eden.
And it’s in Jerusalem exiles find redemption on a tree. While our present reality of death and sin began on a tree, so it would be undone on rough hewn timber. And on this cross would hang an Exile who chose to leave his home to subdue this world and fill it with God’s Spirit, a true and better Adam.
Jesus would lead a host of captives home, breaking the chains of sin and death. And not just back to Eden but Zion, the city Eden was always meant to be. From Eden to Babylon to Jerusalem to Zion, we find our story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration, as well as hope for exiles like you and me.
You were made to know and glorify God, and even though you’ve made choices to reject this Creator He has made a greater choice to save you. This world is not our home but through Jesus it is becoming just that, a place where God and men dwell together. Whenever death and sin claim something you love, remember we’re exiles but that our exile is coming to an end, if we claim the name of our great Exile and King, Jesus.
Fred Kingman is a pastor at LifePoint Church.