It is quite clear when we consider man and the way that God has made him, that he must make himself part of a world. No one is content to live as an animal, simply to eat and to drink, to sleep and to die. Man is so made that he needs to be part of a system of things. Even the so–called primitive races of mankind have the instincts of a world. They do not live like animals—they have a chief, some kind of rule of law, and always, without exception, a religion. And though the world of the Australian aborigine may seem far removed from the world of the American tycoon, they are, in reality, merely different aspects of one and the same system. The Scriptures tells us plainly that “the whole world lies in the wicked [one]” (1 John 5: 19)—uncivilised and civilised, sophisticated and unsophisticated.
The Scriptures also tell us, however, that “the world is passing, and its lust” (1 John 2: 17). It is not that it has passed or will pass, but that it is passing. It is on the way out now. Man likes to think that he is building towards some golden age. God declares that “this world” (John 12: 31), like Belshazzar’s doomed kingdom of long ago, had been “numbered” and “finished” (Daniel 5: 26). Thus the days in which we live are exceedingly solemn. Of course few believe that this world is judged, as few believed a kindred message in the world of Noah’s day—not, at least, “till the flood came and took all away” (Matt. 24: 39). “Thus also”, adds the Lord in words pregnant with meaning, “shall be the coming of the Son of man”.
Yet if there is a world that is passing, then there is also a world that is coming. The writer to the Hebrews alludes to it (see Heb. 2: 5), and John writing in the Revelation anticipates its arrival: “The kingdom of the world of our Lord and of his Christ is come, and he shall reign to the ages of ages” (Rev. 11: 15). Of that kingdom “there shall not be an end” (Luke 1: 33). God’s thought for man is to take him out of the world that is passing, and to put him in the new world that will stand forever. It is not here yet, but it is coming, and as Christians we live in the light of that coming world even now, for God “has delivered us from the authority of darkness, and translated [us] into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Col. 1: 13).
Both the world that is passing and the world that is coming have their objects of worship. Thus Paul speaks of “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4: 4)—Satan himself. Men scoff at this ‘superstitious nonsense’, and boast of their progress to a post–religious world, but Scripture tells us that the Devil “has blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving”. Instead of being wise, they are fools, and instead of being the masters of their own destiny, they are the dupes of the arch deceiver. Just as the pagans of Paul’s day unwittingly sacrificed “to demons” (1 Cor. 10: 20), so the modern atheist is deluded into prostrating himself before the Devil. He may not be aware of it—for Satan hides behind ten thousand things—but he is his worshipper no less. Men must give their devotion to something and the Devil is more than happy to cultivate such devotion.
The object of worship in that other world is Christ. Just as the sun is the centre of the solar system, so He is the centre of the world to come: “And it shall come to pass from new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, saith Jehovah” (Isaiah. 66: 23). As the writer of the Hebrew epistle says: “And let all God’s angels worship him. And as to the angels he says, Who makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire; but as to the Son, Thy throne, O God, [is] to the age of the age, and a sceptre of uprightness [is] the sceptre of thy kingdom” (Heb. 1: 6–8). When the man born blind “did him homage” (John 9: 38) he entered into the occupation of that other world to which he had, in spirit, been introduced. In Satan’s world he no longer had a place and so “they cast him out” (v34).
Each world has its ruler. The supreme prince of this present evil world is the devil (see John 14: 30; 16: 11). He is the one who leads the whole system. Presidents and Prime Ministers delude themselves that they wield the levers of power, but, as the book of Daniel reveals, they are but the instruments of a higher authority (see Dan. 10: 11 – 21). As the physical earth is at the mercy of the conditions in the heavens in which it sits, so “the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2: 2) exercises complete control over the world of men. His rule is not a happy one. Men walk “according to the age of this world … doing what the flesh and the thoughts willed to do” and are “children, by nature, of wrath” (vs 2, 3). We hardly need to open a newspaper to see the sickening effects of Satan’s dominion.
God’s world also has its prince. Indeed, by right, He is “the blessed and only Ruler” (1 Tim. 6: 15). Who is it? The Lord Jesus! He is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah. 9: 6), and “Of the increase of his government … there shall be no end” (v7). He is the ruler that God has appointed to rule. God has “highly exalted him, and granted him a name, that which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord to God [the] Father’s glory” (Phil. 2: 9–11). God will see to it that all will bow then, but the question is, is He your prince now? Every man and woman is led by someone, either by the prince of this world—Satan—or by the Prince of God’s world—the Lord Jesus Christ. Men like to be neutral, they want to take a middle course or position, but we are either in this world in our hearts and under Satan, or we are in God’s world and under Christ.
Each world has a river. Just as Egypt’s water supply came not from rain but from it’s river, so the life of Satan’s world is bound up not with what is heavenly, but what Peter calls a “sink of corruption” (1 Pet. 4: 4). Men “run” to gulp down its vile contents in a vain attempt to satisfy their hearts. You see it everywhere. Whether in trashy entertainment or the highest culture, whether in politics and power or money and greed, whether in what ministers to the mind, or what ministers to the body, all and more form part of the rubbish that flows in Satan’s stinking river. There is no taste it does not cater for and no desire it does not claim to meet—and yet this filthy water makes man only sicker.
There is another river, a “river of water of life, bright as crystal, going out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev. 22: 1). What a river that is! It is a living stream of pure water, clear as crystal, with not a trace of corruption in it. Do you ask how you can get it? A poor woman said that once. She had drunk of this world’s river, and found that it could never satisfy her heart. But then she met One who offered her “living water” (John 4: 10)! And He is still offering it. His last message from heaven is “And let him that is athirst come; he that will, let him take [the] water of life freely” (Rev. 22: 17). There and there only is true refreshment found for the soul.
No world would be complete without its city. There must be a seat of government and of administration, a city where the king can live and where his throne is set. God tells us the character of this world’s city in Revelation 11: 8. There we read of a “great city, which is called spiritually Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified”. What marked Sodom? Corruption! Is this not like the world around us, where moral standards change with the fashion of the day? What about Egypt? It was marked by independence of God. What did Pharaoh say? “Who is Jehovah, to whose voice I am to hearken to let Israel go?” (Ex. 5: 2). Again, is not this the attitude we find all around us? Finally, despite the veneer that men put on it, this city is actually the place “where also their Lord was crucified”! In the inscription on the Cross, the religious, cultural and legal minds of man’s civilisation all combined to openly put to shame the Son of God, for it was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin (see John 19: 20).
God’s world has a city: “[the] city of [the] living God, heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12: 22). Is it marked by corruption like Sodom? Oh no, for “nothing common, nor that maketh an abomination and a lie, shall at all enter into it; but those only who [are] written in the book of life of the Lamb” (Rev. 21: 27). Does it walk, as Babylon in independence of God? Never, for “the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon, that they should shine for it; for the glory of God has enlightened it, and the lamp thereof [is] the Lamb” (v23). The Lamb! The One who was once put to shame and crucified—how does He stand in relation to this city? We see not a cross but a throne, for “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face; and his name [is] on their foreheads” (Rev. 22: 3, 4).
These then, are just a few of the contrasting characteristics of these two worlds. So what is it for you? This world or the next? A servant of the Lord, much used in the ministry of the Word, was once chided for not using his undeniable talents to make his fortune. His reply was short, and ended the discussion: “For which world?” What would your answer be? May you be among those who confess that they are “strangers and sojourners on the earth. For they who say such things shew clearly that they seek [their] country … wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11: 13, 14, 16).