"Discipling the Nations Series: Building the City of God"
by Dr. Patti Amsden
As was discussed in the last article, Genesis 1 through 11 introduces a story arc that began with a man and his wife and ended with a city. Adam and Eve, the first characters in the story failed in their dominion assignment to build an earthly culture that reflected heavenly realities. Because they obeyed the serpent and began to remake the earth after his fallen patterns and in alignment with their fallen nature, the culture bore the marks of estrangement from God, His holiness, and His life. Death, disease, and destruction plagued man and man’s earthly creations.
God examined the condition of the earth and the rebellion of mankind who had united with demonic forces. God’s evaluation and judgment manifested in the flood. God chose the son of Seth, who was God’s replacement son for the slain Abel, and Seth’s lineage to preserve a seed upon the earth. Noah was God’s choice to build an ark that would sustain human and animal life. Post flood, Noah and his sons were recommissioned with a dominion assignment that was much like the first mandate given to Adam and Eve (Gen. 9:1-17).
Apparently the practices of the pre-flood civilization lived on in at least one of Noah’s sons, Ham. Scripture outlines the rebellious and godless acts of Ham and the immoral deed that he perpetrated against his father. God placed a judgment on Ham’s seed. The first story arc ends in Genesis 11:9 with the building of a city called Babel, which was erected by the son of Adam, the son of Noah, the son of Ham, the son of Cush. Nimrod built a city of man. Fallen man’s culture building activities had reached critical mass in the city that attempted to cement man’s alienation from God. The garden had been transfigured into a city by the fallen seed line of Adam. God interrupted, ended the construction, and disinherited the builders from their little man-centered, utopia on the earth.
Gen 11:10 begins a new story arc. A new patriarch is introduced – a man named Abram along with his wife Sarai. Abram, whose name means high father, is revealed as the son of Adam, the son of Noah, the son of Shem. Shem’s genealogy is outlined until the reader is introduced to Abram. With a new main character, the metanarrative begins anew.
Just as the first lineage was traced from Adam to Noah to Ham through Nimrod’s culture building activities until it ended in city-building, the new narrative will trace the lineage of Adam to Noah to Shem through Abram until it, likewise, ends in city building. The first arc was fallen man’s triumph and tragedy. The second arc will also contain tragedy but will end in great triumph. Revelation 21 and 22 will bring the story to a victorious conclusion where the cultural works of Abram’s lineage – the household of faith – help in producing and eternally enjoying the city of God, the New Jerusalem.
In Babel, God scattered a people and created the nations; but in the New Jerusalem, God will gather a people out of every kindred, tribe and tongue. In Babel, man sought to secure his place on earth apart from God. In the New Jerusalem, God secures a place where man and God will dwell together on the earth. The second story arc ends in a city that bears the mark of harmony with God, His holiness, and His eternal life. Death, disease, and destruction are overcome, as is the enemy that introduced the first man to rebellion. Mankind, called to build a culture of heaven on the earth, is victorious in the New Jerusalem.
The conflict between the two seed lines and the two cities continues throughout both story arcs. From the fallen seed line of Adam, God calls various men and makes a covenant with those men, which, at least in covenantal terms, produces a new seed line. Although the fullness of each promised covenant does not find fulfilment until Jesus comes to earth, the faithful patriarchs believed God and lived faithfully to follow God as the only true deity. The fallen seed line sought independence from God through reliance and dependence upon other gods. Each seed line claimed the right to manage the earth and build earth’s culture. The culmination of culture-building activities is a city. Babel, the city of man that was disposed of and scattered at the end of the first story arc, is the foundation of Babylon that is thoroughly defeated and destroyed in Revelation 14:8, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city because she made all nations drink the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” The seed of Abram inherits the earth.