We’re continuing where we left off last time in my series and still tackling the first question, “What does the Bible mean by “world?” If you haven’t read part one, I suggest you do so before continuing here.
Which “world” is not my home?
So we romanticize about flying away and leaving this dusty old earth behind, with buzz phrases we respond to with a hearty “amen!” like Pavlov’s dog…“This world is not my home” or “My home is in heaven. I’m just a traveling through this world,” which translates in our minds as my life on earth.
While I really appreciate the sentiment, and we do have heaven as our home now and when we die (see my 2013 post “Actually, this world is my home“), it’s not the “world” the New Testament writers told us not to love.
Notice how “world” has a different meaning in each of these two statements:
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17 *)
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15 *)
So, is John contradicting Jesus? Of course not. Jesus is simply referring to all humankind, while John is referring to “the human sociological realm that exist in estrangement from God” (see part one).
Where did we get the idea that the world we live in is evil and the goal is to leave it and “go to heaven when we die?” Well, we’re going to have to peel back some more layers.
How did we end up hating our bodies and the physical world?
Another biblical word we’re going to have to look at is the Greek word, sarx (σάρξ), which is often translated “flesh” in our English Bibles. Unfortunately, we can easily think that the New Testament writers were referring to our physical body. While it technically can mean that, it’s never negatively used that way in the New Testament.
When used negatively, sarx refers to the “self in its alienated mode…’fleshly’ or ‘carnal’ refers to a life that has abandoned the transcendent and become fixated on personal satisfactions.” **
In other words, the “flesh” is the individual living according to the human sociological construct alienated from God.
It’s Greek philosophy, not the Bible, that tells us at death the soul gets released from the “prison-house” of the body, as if the body was a bad thing. But this didn’t originate with the Greeks. It originated in Babylon.
In Scripture, Babylon symbolizes the counterfeit “seven mountain” construct we’ve been looking at…. Mystery, Babylon, the Mother of Harlots, and all the abominations on the earth.” It’s finally destroyed in Revelation (see Rev.17-18), but we first see this antichrist “Matrix” with the Tower of Babel, a place of worship where man defiantly said, “let us make a name for ourselves…” (see Gen.11:1-9).
Babylon is the main source for all religious mythology within the counterfeit seven mountain construct (called “this world” in Scripture).
For instance, there is the Babylonian creation myth, Enuma Elish (The Seven Tablets of Creation). Surviving versions are dated around 1250 BC, but the story’s much older. According to this myth, the gods Apsu and Tiamet bear Mummu, and various younger gods. Ea kills Apsu, and his wife Tiamet pledges revenge. Ea and the younger gods turn for salvation to their youngest, Marduk (found in Scripture in Jer.50:2). Marduk agrees to fight Tiamet as long as he’s given undisputed power. They agree, so Marduk violently kills and dismembers Tiamet, scatters her corpse, and from it creates the kosmos. According to Paul Ricoeur’s commentary***, in this scenario, creation was an act of violence and the origin of evil precedes the origin of all things. As we saw in part one, God says the opposite about His creation in Scripture.
It’s also instructive that Scripture tells us that Abraham leaves Babylon in response to God and becomes the father of our faith. Likewise, it’s this other “Babylon” that we are to come out of (Rev.18:4). Again, not to literally exit “this world” but to not be “of it”…to not embrace the counterfeit paradigm. We’ll talk about what that is when we answer the last question.
I hope you can see how deeply entrenched in mythology and world religion is the idea that the material world is evil. Unfortunately, these pagan paradigms have also crept into our Christian imagination when we talk about “this world.”
This theological rabbit hole goes much deeper and farther back than even the Babylonian myths, but we will have to wait to explore those next time.