Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 86, Conclusion

As we conclude our eighty-six day journey through the book of Revelation I'd like to thank everyone who joined in this adventure with me. The Lord promised us a blessing for reading and keeping the words of this book in our hearts, and He always does what He says He's going to do. I already feel blessed to have been a part of this study.

In our final segment of this book the Lord Jesus begins by saying: "Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:12-13) When the Bible began, the Lord was there, having existed throughout all eternity past. As we come to the end of the Bible, the Lord is there, and He is going to exist throughout all eternity future. There has never been any other Lord and Creator and there will never be another. Because of this, He is our only hope and source of mercy and salvation. As the He said to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah: "This is what the Lord says---Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6)

When the Lord Jesus says He is going to reward each person according to what they have done, He isn't preaching salvation through works. He's asking us, "Have you accepted Me---the first and the last, the only King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty?" Salvation has always been by faith and it always will be by faith. Of course we will naturally live holier lives and want to perform good works in the name of Christ after we give our hearts to Christ, but the only "work" that counts when it comes to salvation is whether or not we've made Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives. Do we believe He is the Son of God who came in the flesh and paid for our sins on the cross? Do we believe He died and rose from the dead? Do we believe He is with God the Father right now, making intercession continually for those who are His?

The Lord continues, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14) How are we washed clean? By the blood of the Lamb, by the blood of the One in whom we have placed our trust.

Who will not enjoy the beautiful eternity that the Lord has prepared for those who love Him? Those who have rejected His free pardon of sin. Those who preferred idolatry---be it the literal bowing down to false gods or the idolatry of the heart that says, "I will do what I want. I will answer to no one. I will be a 'god' to myself." The Lord makes this clear by speaking of those who sealed their eternal fate by choosing to serve anything and everything but Him. "Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." (Revelation 22:14-15)

The reference to "dogs" is not a reference to the furry creatures we know and love. In John's day this was a term the Jews would have used for pagan idolaters who lived in unclean ways. The Lord is saying that those who spent their lives doing the things described in verses 14 and 15, and who never repented of these things and turned to Him for salvation, won't be with Him and with His people in eternity. No one who preferred idolatry over serving the living God will be in His presence. Neither will those who chose to immerse themselves in occult practices. Neither will those who lived lives that served the flesh by engaging in any and all of the sexually immoral deeds that suited their carnal natures. Neither will those who lived lives of crime or who took the lives of others. Can idolaters, occultists, sexually immoral persons, and criminals receive salvation? Of course they can if, during their lifetime, they repent and turn to the Lord. But the Lord is speaking of those who never had any interest in repenting of their sins and in allowing Him to be their Redeemer and Lord.

"I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." (Revelation 22:16) The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee, pastor and author and the founder of the Thru The Bible Radio program, says of verse 16 in his book Revelation: Volume III: "Have you noticed that the bright and morning star always appears at the darkest time of the night? Its appearance indicates that the sun will be coming up shortly." When the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world in the flesh, it was after four hundred years of silence from God. During those four centuries no prophets were called by the Lord. No fresh word came from the Lord at all. That was a dark time, but sometimes silence achieves what words do not. Then suddenly, out of the silence and the darkness, the light appeared. The Messiah was born. Here at the end of the book of Revelation, after studying some very dark and dreadful things, the sun comes out. Night will never fall again, so the Lord refers to Himself as the morning star. The sun has come out and it's going to shine forever.

The Holy Spirit who dwells within us longs for the Lord's kingdom to come. Our spirits are in agreement with Him. We want see our Redeemer face to face, and we want the dark deeds of this world to come to an end, and we want the eternal kingdom of joy and peace to begin. "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let the one who hears say, 'Come!' Let the one who is thirsty come, and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life." (Revelation 22:17) The Holy Spirit and the spirit of each of us who has been redeemed add our "amens" to what the Lord is saying. He has said, "I am coming soon!" And in response to that we answer, "Amen! Yes, Lord! Come soon!"

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll." (Revelation 22:18-19) According to the way the original Greek text is written, the Apostle John appears to be the one who adds this warning, though some scholars disagree and feel the Lord is speaking these words. I think John is the author of this warning but that he is speaking on the authority of a minister of the word of God, for any word given by the Lord is to be taken exactly as it is, without alteration. From Genesis to Revelation, God has said exactly what He meant to say. If any extra words needed to be added to the holy Scriptures, God would have added them. No unnecessary words are contained in the holy Scriptures because if they didn't belong there God wouldn't have put them there. We are not to take His instructions and add rules and regulations that are of human opinion and origin. We are not to take the message of the Lord and start removing the parts we don't like or don't want to obey. Doing any of these things is capable of rendering the gospel message ineffective and hindering someone from coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Woe to anyone who hinders someone from coming to the Lord! Our job as believers (who have all been commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to share the gospel with the world), is to present the word of God exactly as it is, without adding manmade rules and laws to God's rules and laws and without taking anything away from the gospel message. Any doctrine that does not proclaim what the Bible actually says (that we are sinners, that we need a Savior, that salvation is obtainable only through Jesus Christ because He is the only way to the Father) is a false doctrine---and woe to the teachers of false doctrines. To them God will add the plagues described in Revelation and from them will be taken their share in the tree of life and in the Holy City.

"He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.'" (Revelation 22:21a) The Lord is so faithful to us and is so patient with our weaknesses! He knows we need to hear His promises repeated to us over and over again. He knows what it's like to live in this fallen world and to walk through this world in a human body that is prone to fear and doubt and discouragement. Over and over again throughout the Scriptures He speaks words of hope to us. Time and time again He encourages us to hold on.

What does our spirit say in response to His repeated promise that He is coming soon? "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:23b) Amen! Come soon, Lord Jesus! We can't wait to see the face of our Redeemer! We can't wait to be with the One who loved us so much that He took on mortal flesh and walked the dusty roads of this world, and who endured human hardships, and who experienced rejection and betrayal, and who died a torturous death on a cross while He literally became sin in our place and took our shame and punishment upon Himself. There is no greater love than this, and we long for the day when we will forever be with the One who loved us more than He loved the glory that was His in heaven and who loved us more than He loved His own life.

My spirit, which has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, joins with the Holy Spirit who dwells within me and says, "Amen! Come soon, Lord Jesus!" The bride wants nothing more than to be with her Bridegroom, and then for His eternal kingdom to come, and for the entire creation to be redeemed, and for all who belong to the Lord to dwell in peace with Him forever.

John concludes with this benediction: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen." (Revelation 22:21)

How do we obtain peace with our Creator? Through Christ alone. How do we obtain mercy, forgiveness, and the redemption of our souls? Through Christ alone. We close our study with the link below which is to a worship song that presents the gospel message to us, the message that salvation is found in Christ alone. There is no better time than today to make the Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of your life if you have not already done so. He is coming soon.
In Christ Alone

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 85, A Book For Our Times

The angel who has been speaking with John reminds him that we are living in the last days that are leading up to the last days. The Lord could call His church out of the world at any moment, and then the events of the Great Tribulation would commence. The book of Revelation is a book that is vitally important and relevant for our times.
"The angel said to me, 'These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place.'" (Revelation 22:6) The words contained in the book of Revelation are useful for instruction, for warning, for leading unbelievers to repentance, and for reassuring believers about our glorious eternal future with Christ.

The Lord Himself speaks now in agreement with the angel: "Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the prophecy written in this scroll." (Revelation 22:7) We were promised a blessing in Revelation 1:3 for reading the words of this prophecy and for keeping this message in our hearts. "Keeping" the message means believing in it and meditating upon it and allowing it to minister to us according to God's will. No time spent in any book of the Bible is ever wasted, but He promises a special blessing for reading and for keeping the message of Revelation in our hearts.

The angel has testified to the truth of the words of this book. The Lord Jesus has added His testimony to its truth. Now John adds his own testimony that he personally was told and was shown all the things contained in the book of Revelation. "I, John, am the one who saw and heard these things." (Revelation 22:8a) The law of Moses stated that anything accepted as fact in a court of law had to be "established by the testimony of two or three witnesses". (Deuteronomy 19:15) Here we have the ultimate authority, the Lord Jesus Christ, giving His testimony along with an angel of high rank and the Apostle John. If we can't believe the testimony of these three, then it's doubtful we could be convinced by anyone.

John finds himself overwhelmed with emotion due to everything he has seen and heard. As he did once before in Revelation, he falls to his knees. "And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, 'Don't do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!" (Revelation 22:8b-9) John knows this is an angel. He knows that human beings are to worship God alone, but I don't think he intends anything blasphemous or disrespectful when he bows before the angel. The angel is speaking to him on behalf of the Lord, and in John's mind I think that in bowing before the angel he is bowing (by association) before the Lord since it is the Lord's message the angel is relating to him. The angel, like all the angels who remained faithful to the Lord, points worship away from himself and toward the Lord. This angel serves the Lord and that makes him a fellow servant with John, so he's saying something like this: "Servants do not bow to fellow servants but only to the Master."

"Then he told me, 'Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near.'" (Revelation 22:10) We've studied the book of Revelation along with the prophecies from the book of Daniel regarding the end times. The book of Daniel, however, was sealed until after the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. The book of Daniel could be read and discussed, but it was difficult to make sense of it in its day. This is why it's said to be "sealed". It's not that the words couldn't be studied, but that many things had to come to pass after Daniel's lifetime before people could read about the visions he was given and be able to understand them. Daniel himself didn't understand them, for the Lord told him that the words were sealed until the end. But ever since Christ ascended to the Father we are living in an age when the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are relevant and timely. As the angel says, "The time is near." This could mean that Christ will call His church out of the world in our lifetime. Or it may be a hundred or more years in the future. But relatively speaking, in view of how long man has existed on the earth, the end is very near. Only a short time remains in which people can make a decision for Christ. While it's true that many will come to faith during the Great Tribulation, Christians will be persecuted like never before during those years. Wars, calamities, and famines are going to take place on the earth. No one in their right mind would want to endure the Great Tribulation. Making a decision for Christ now makes a person a part of the church, His bride, and Christ is going to take His bride out of the world before the darkest days ever known fall upon it.

A day will eventually come when a final choice has been made and there is no turning back. If a person dies without Christ, he faces the judgment without Christ as his Defender. The words the angel speaks next confirm the permanence of a decision for or against Christ. There are no "do-overs" after death. If we leave this mortal life having known about but having rejected the love and mercy and redemption of Christ, there remains no further sacrifice capable of redeeming us. There's nothing more that can be done for us than that which Christ has already done. So the angel concludes his speech by reminding us of the eternal consequences of our decisions. "Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy." (Revelation 22:11) There comes a point when the Lord says in regard to what we have chosen for ourselves, "So be it." The Lord has done everything that could possibly be done to demonstrate to us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. He provided the sacrifice---the only acceptable sacrifice---for our sins. If we reject everything He has said and done for us, nothing remains but for him to say, "Have it your way. So be it." In speaking of the judgment that awaits those who reject the Lord, the author of Hebrews asks, "How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3) Or as Dr. John Walvoord, one of the most highly respected scholars of Biblical prophecy puts it, "If the warnings of the book are not sufficient, there is no more that God has to say."

Monday, September 16, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 84, Eden Restored

After being shown the beautiful New Jerusalem in our passages of the last several days, John says, "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." (Revelation 22:1-2)

This river is going to contain the purest water man has ever drunk. These trees growing along the sides of the river will provide the finest food man has ever eaten. I don't think we will have to eat in eternity, but we will be able to eat just as Christ was able to eat in His resurrected body. (Luke 24:42) I don't know about you, but it comforts me to know we are still going to eat in eternity. Human beings tend to celebrate the things of life with food. This is one of the ways we observe holidays and birthdays and weddings, by gathering together for a meal. It seems fitting that we will still be able to gather together to eat and celebrate our perfect and eternal existence with the One who made all of this possible.

There was a tree of life in the Garden of Eden, but after Adam and Eve sinned against God, their access to the tree was blocked. Perhaps only the thing worse than being a sinner is being a sinner who lives forever in an unregenerated, unredeemed human body. The Lord cut off their access to this fruit and, although they lived a very long lifespan as did many of their early descendants (Adam lived to be 930 years old according to Genesis 5:5), eventually the effects of the fruit of the tree of life wore off. As the eternal kingdom begins, all of us who have put our faith in the Lord will have bodies like His, and I don't think we will have to eat in order to live. But we will be able to eat and enjoy it in a celebratory way.

John says the leaves of the trees are for the "healing" of the nations. The word translated into English is the Greek "therapeian" from which we derive the word "therapy" or "therapeutic". No one is going to be sick in the eternal kingdom; the Lord has already said so. If no one is sick, then no one needs to be healed, so the English translation of the word "therapeian" is a bit misleading. The leaves of the trees are going to be therapeutic for the nations of the world. Something about these leaves is going to enhance life on earth, and John doesn't explain to us how and why. Dr. John Walvoord, one of the leading experts on the book of Revelation, says of this passage: "The leaves of the tree promote the enjoyment of life in the New Jerusalem, and are not for correcting ills which do not exist." (From The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, page 330.)

The earth will be a perfect world, as if the entire planet has become a Garden of Eden, because the world won't be polluted by sin anymore. "No longer will there be any curse." (Revelation 22:3a) The ground was cursed because of Adam's sin. He introduced something into the environment that wasn't present before, and after his fall from grace he had to toil to make crops spring up from the ground. He had to work hard in order to eat and in order to provide food for his family. But here in Revelation 22 sin no longer exists. Where there is no sin there is no curse.

"The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him." (Revelation 22:3b) We won't have to work in order to eat but we will have things to do. When I was a child I used to worry about what eternity would be like because I could only imagine myself being bored if I had to sit forever on a cloud playing a harp. I'm not sure where I got the idea that that's what it would be like, but the idea didn't appeal to me. We are going to have duties to perform in eternity, but those duties will be pleasant. They will be a joy. We will take delight in serving our Lord. John doesn't describe for us what our duties will be, but we can be certain we won't ever feel like we sometimes do now when we drag ourselves out of bed on Monday morning to go to a job on an unrestored earth that is still under the curse of sin. Whatever our tasks will be, they will be enjoyable and we will feel honored to perform them.

"They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads." (Revelation 22:4) We have seen several instances in Revelation of people having names or seals on their foreheads. The Tribulation saints were given the seal pf God on their foreheads. The followers of the Antichrist could take his mark on their foreheads. We don't know what it means when John says we will have Christ's name displayed on us in this fashion, but in the Old Testament the priests wore a golden headband that said, "Holy to the Lord." This marked them as being consecrated for His service. Since we have been promised we will be a kingdom of priests for our God (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6) what is indicated here may be that we will be adorned with a beautiful headband that proclaims us to be forever consecrated for the Lord's service.

"There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 22:5) Night on the earth has so often been a lonely time or a frightening time. More crimes are committed during the night. Sick people are more likely to die during the night. The troubles of our lives seem worse during the night. No matter how difficult our problems are, we can get a better handle on them during the daylight hours. It's the nighttime hours that are the hardest to get through. In the kingdom of our Lord, night will never fall again. No dark deeds will ever be done. No one will ever again slip from life at the midnight hour. No lonely tears will ever fall again between sunset and dawn. We are going to be living in an eternal day on a world where nothing bad ever happens. This alone ought to make us want to give our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. As my pastor is fond of saying, it would be worth following Christ just to experience this paradise for two weeks. How much more will it be worth following Him to experience this for eternity?

John doesn't go into a lot of detail when he describes what eternity will be like for those who have placed their trust in Christ. I think he didn't have the words to describe what he saw. Have you ever had something so wonderful happen to you that you felt you couldn't tell someone about it in a way that could make them picture it? I think that's what has happened to the Apostle John. No words he can think of are able to do justice to what he's seen. He leaves a great deal of things "undescribed" because he simply can't describe them.

The Apostle Paul either had a vision of heaven or actually went to heaven after he was attacked in the city of Lystra and then dragged outside the gates and pelted with stones until he was either dead or near death. He himself said he wasn't sure if he actually died or just experienced a vision. I tend to believe he had what we refer to in our day as a "near death experience" in which his soul actually left his body for a few seconds or minutes. He never went into detail about what he saw and I think that's because he couldn't. He had no words capable of adequately describing it. Anything he said about heaven would have fallen so far short of what he actually experienced that instead of trying in vain to tell us what he saw, he said that the human mind can't conceive the things God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9) I'd be willing to bet John felt the same way when he observed Eden restored on the earth with the Lord ruling over the world. No human mind could picture the things he saw. No human tongue could put them into words. We can try to imagine what eternity with our Lord will be like, but it will be so much more than anything our minds can envision. After all, we are dealing with the One who "is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine". (Ephesians 3:20)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation, Day 83, The Light Of The World

The Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) Today we learn that not only will there be no temple in the New Jerusalem, there will also be no need for the light of the sun or the moon or electric bulbs, for the One who is the light of the world will our light.

"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." (Revelation 21:22) In the Old Testament the Lord instructed the people of Israel to construct the tabernacle so He would have a place to meet with them. He said to Moses, "Have them make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them." (Exodus 25:8) This tabernacle in the wilderness, and later the temple at Jerusalem, were a continual reminder to the people that God was holy and different and separate from them. They had to approach Him with repentance and offerings and sacrifices. At all times they were aware of God's perfect and righteous nature and their own fallen natures. They were thankful that God allowed them to come into His presence to have their sins forgiven and their prayers heard, but there was always a distance between them and the Lord.

Later, after Christ gave His life and rose from the dead, the Holy Spirit began to indwell believers, thus making the bodies of believers the "temple of God". (1 Corinthians 6:19) We are able to commune with Him more personally and intimately than anyone of Old Testament times ever could, and yet as long as we live in these mortal bodies we are still prone to making mistakes. And as long as we live in these physical bodies we don't see our Redeemer face to face. But someday there will be no barriers of any kind between us and our Redeemer. There will be no need for us to go to a temple to pray and bring offerings and ask for forgiveness. We will never sin again. Every sin we ever committed will be forgiven and put behind us forever. We will behold the face of our Redeemer for all eternity. Why have a temple when our God is right there in front of us?

A few days ago we discussed the fact that in the eternal kingdom we will no longer have hospitals, funeral homes, or cemeteries. It looks like we won't have electric bills either because the Lord Himself, who once spoke, "Let there be light!" into the darkness and nothingness that existed before the universe began, will be the light. "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there." (Revelation 21:23-25)

Some scholars take this passage to mean that the sun and moon won't exist anymore. The entire creation has been remade by this point, so there may not be a sun and moon, but John doesn't say that they no longer exist, just that their light is not needed. The light of our Lord is so bright that the sun and moon are put to shame. His glory eclipses all else. Throughout the ages there have been pagan religions whose followers worshiped false gods of the sun and moon. In the eternal kingdom no one will even notice the sun and moon anymore, so great will be the light of Christ. Throughout the ages there have been idolaters who fashioned false gods out of gold and silver and precious jewels, but as we learned yesterday, the streets of the New Jerusalem will be paved with gold and the foundations and walls of the city will be laid with the finest of gemstones. Objects that once were worshiped or considered precious will be as common as concrete and blocks and wood. Never again will anyone bow to a golden idol. Never again will anyone carve a gemstone into the shape of a false god. The Lord alone will be worshiped as He should be---as He always should have been.

Christ will reign over the world from the New Jerusalem. His bride (the church) will live there with Him. But the Old Testament saints, those who came to faith during the Great Tribulation, and those who came to faith during the Millennium, who are living all over the world, will be free to come and go from the beautiful city. "The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it." (Revelation 21:26) The New Jerusalem, the great city that is 1,400 miles long and 1,400 miles wide, will be the world capitol. It will be the holy city. Naturally every citizen of the earth will want to visit it whenever possible.

The Jerusalem that is in the world today has seen many wars. Blood has been shed on its streets. Cries of grief and despair have gone up from its dwellings. Prayers have been prayed in Jerusalem for deliverance from persecution and for vengeance upon enemies. Such things can't be said about the New Jerusalem. "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Revelation 21:27) John isn't suggesting that sin and shame still exist in the world. He's rejoicing in the fact that not only has the entire earth and its atmosphere been made new, but that the capitol city where our Lord is seated on the throne is a place that has never known sin or shame or death or despair. No blood was ever shed on its streets. No cry of alarm has ever been sounded from its walls. No bitter tears have ever fallen inside its dwellings in the night. None of these things will ever happen there. The gates won't ever be shut because no threat exists. No sin will ever enter the city because no sin exists. As the Lord said earlier in our chapter, "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4) Where there is no sin, there is no death, no disaster, and no despair. Sin is dead. Death is dead. But we will be alive with Christ forevermore. Amen!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 82, The New Jerusalem, Part Two

We are in the second half of John's description of the enormous eternal city that he refers to as the "New Jerusalem". Where will the New Jerusalem be located? The Bible doesn't say. To me it makes sense that it would be located where Jerusalem is now. The site of Jerusalem has had religious significance all the way back to the first book of the Bible. The Jerusalem we are familiar with is the Jerusalem that is connected with God's redemptive plan for mankind. It was in this area on Mount Moriah where Abraham intended to offer his son Isaac to the Lord in the belief that God would immediately resurrect Isaac from the dead. (See Genesis 22:1-19 along with Hebrews 11:17 while keeping in mind that God never intended for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac but that He was using this as an opportunity to increase Abraham's faith. Abraham needed his faith increased in order to become the father of a great nation and in order to increase his faith in the coming Redeemer---a faith he was then able to pass along to his descendants.)

The Lord Himself chose Jerusalem for the location of the temple. King David amassed much of the wealth and materials needed for his son Solomon to construct it. The presence of the temple made Jerusalem the religious capitol of the Jewish people.

Jerusalem is where the Son of God taught in the temple and it is where He was rejected, crucified, buried, and resurrected. It seems logical that the New Jerusalem would be located at the site of the city that is so closely connected with the Lord and with the eternal redemption we have through our faith in Him. Some scholars have suggested that the New Jerusalem is a planet that will come down and orbit the earth, since John said in our passage yesterday that he saw it "coming down out of heaven from God", and while this is an interesting theory I don't feel that it holds much merit. The Lord promised long ago that His Son would rule over the nations from the throne of David. I think this is a literal promise and that Christ will rule over the nations from a specific location in a world that has been restored and made perfect. The restoration of the earth is a promise that is literally coming true here in Revelation and I feel that all these other promises regarding the eternal kingdom are to be understood as taking place on the earth.

I can't help longing for the day Isaiah foresaw when he said of the holy government of Christ: "For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) We have a presidential election coming up next year and debates are already taking place among the candidates who are running for the nominations of their political parties. I rarely watch the debates because they tend to make me anxious and uneasy. The candidates often attack each other personally and they interrupt each other and talk over each other in a rude and irritating manner. Someday we won't have to deal with this anymore. We won't have to choose or elect any political candidate ever again. The One who chose us and left all the glory of heaven to offer His life for us will be our perfect and eternal King. The precious Son of God will be the head of the worldwide government. Everything He does will be absolutely right. We will joyfully submit to Him as our Lord and King because He has redeemed us from our sins and because He has granted us eternal life in His presence. We won't be bowing our knees to Him because we are forced to bow; we will be bowing our knees because of all He has been and forever will be to us: a wonderful Counselor, a mighty God who has done great things for us, a Father figure who loves us and wants the best for us, and the One who gives us peace in our hearts and peace with our holy Creator.

John goes on to describe what the beautiful city looks like: "The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass." (Revelation 21:18-21) In yesterday's passage we studied the measurements of the city and learned that the city is approximately 1,400 miles wide and 1,400 miles long. Imagine the tons of precious jewels it will take to lay the foundations of a city this large! Imagine how tall and deep these gates of pearl are! Imagine how much gold will be used to pave this many miles of streets! John is describing the New Jerusalem for us as best he can, but the beauty of this city is something we can't begin to comprehend until we see it for ourselves. In our current world system we place a lot of value on owning and wearing costly metals and precious stones. But in the Lord's world system those things are going to become basic building materials. The purest gold in existence is going to be under our feet because our joy won't be measured by material possessions. Our joy will be in at last beholding our Redeemer face to face in all His perfection and glory and holiness, and in living forever in a world where there will never again be sadness or sickness or death.

There is an enormous difference between the New Jerusalem and ancient Jerusalem. There will be no temple in it. Join us tomorrow to learn why.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 81, The New Jerusalem, Part One

We are studying a passage today and tomorrow that involves a beautiful eternal city called the "New Jerusalem". I'll tell you right off the bat that I am not certain exactly what the "New Jerusalem" is. This passage is apparently difficult for a lot of Bible scholars and theologians and evangelists to understand as well, because when I was doing my research on it I found a variety of theories. One thing most of them seem to agree on is that this holy city will be a heaven on earth. We've already seen the earth turning into a paradise now that Satan is banished forever and now that sin is no more. The New Jerusalem is going to be the capitol city of the perfect paradise that this world will be when Christ reigns over it eternally.

Here is what John says about this city: "One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God." (Revelation 21:9-10)

Up until now only the church has been called the bride of Christ, so we know that the New Jerusalem is very closely connected to the church---so closely connected to her that the term "bride" can be used interchangeably for both the church and for this new city. Most of the mainstream scholars whose commentaries I consulted agree that this city is identified with the bride of Christ because it is the city in which Christ's bride will dwell with Him forever. The Lord Jesus is going to reign over the world from this city, and since husbands and wives live together in the same home, the Lord Jesus and His bride the church are doing to live together here. Any man who loves his bride wants her to be with him, and the Lord loves His bride with an everlasting faithful love. Any man who loves his bride wants to provide her with a nice home, and the Lord is providing His bride with the most beautiful home any woman has ever lived in.

John describes the beauty of this city. "It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." (Revelation 21:11-14) The culmination of everything contained in the Old and New Testaments is symbolized here. Both the nation of Israel and the church are symbolized because all believers are of the same family. "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) There once was a great chasm between Jews and Gentiles because most Gentiles were idolatrous heathens before the advent of Christ. The two groups did not associate with each other. But after the advent of Christ, untold numbers of Gentiles came to believe in the one true God. In this way the Bible tells us that Christ "made the two groups one and destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility"/ (Ephesians 2:14) The church is made up of both Jews and Gentiles who have placed their trust in Christ.

Now John tells us the size of the city. "The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and as high as it is long. The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick." (Revelation 21:15-17) I didn't know the size of a stadia or a cubit so I needed some help figuring out how large this city is. According to several sources on the internet, 12,000 stadia would be just under 1,400 miles. So the New Jerusalem is a square city that is 1,400 miles wide and 1,400 miles long. For comparison, the United States measures about 1,582 miles from top to bottom and about 2,680 miles from side to side. (Please note I am not saying that the New Jerusalem will be in America. I do not think it will be. It makes sense that it would be located in the area of the world where Jerusalem is now, although some scholars have made other interesting suggestions that we'll look at tomorrow.) I am using the United States as an example because we are all familiar with what the map of the United States looks like. If we drew a square in the middle of the United States that is 1,400 miles in length and 1,400 miles width, it would almost completely cover the map of the United States vertically and over half of the map horizontally. This is an enormous amount of land mass! This is going to be the largest city ever to exist. One commentary stated that the dimensions of the New Jerusalem are comparable to the size of the moon. Imagine how many people could live on the moon if it had the same atmosphere and vegetation as the earth! This is how many people are going to be able to live in the New Jerusalem!

We are going to look at the remainder of John's description of the city, along with various theories about it, in tomorrow's study time because it is too much material to cover today. So join us tomorrow as we take a look at the city in which we--- the church---will live with our Redeemer forever.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 80, A New Heaven And A New Earth

The Lord promised through the prophet Isaiah, "See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind." (Isaiah 65:17) In today's passage this promise is fulfilled.

"Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." (Revelation 21:1) It is the Greek word "kainoj" which is translated as "new". According to Strong's Greek Concordance, this word means "fresh, of a new kind, unused". I don't know whether the earth as we now know it will be destroyed and remade or whether it will simply be transformed. Scholars are divided in their opinions on this.

The word John uses for "heaven" is the Greek "ouranoj" which is most often defined as "the sky", meaning the atmosphere that surrounds the earth. So now that sin is no more and death is no more, the world and the atmosphere around it become a paradise that resembles the Garden of Eden but is far superior because now the Lord dwells physically with His people forever, and His people live forever, and never again will a tempter enter paradise, and never again will mankind fall from grace.

This remaking of the earth includes the elimination of the oceans. The majority of the earth is currently covered in water, and the habitable land contains a population of 7.7 billion as of September 2019. But in the eternal kingdom the whole world turns into habitable land. As we discussed yesterday, all the graves are empty by this point in Revelation and another grave will never be dug, so now that sickness and death no longer exist there is no need for things like cemeteries, hospitals, nursing homes, doctor's offices, and pharmacies to take up space. If the amount of usable land we have today is supporting 7.7 billion people, just imagine how many redeemed saints of the Lord will eternally inhabit a world that contains nothing but good usable land.

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." (Revelation 21:2) We will discuss the new Jerusalem in further detail when John describes it later in Chapter 21. Since Christ returned to earth, He has been ruling over it from the old Jerusalem. The old Jerusalem is the city where He was rejected by most of the religious leaders of His day. The old Jerusalem is where He was put on trial, beaten and mocked, condemned to death, and nailed to a cross. The old Jerusalem is where He was placed in a borrowed tomb until He rose in victory early on Sunday morning. Christ isn't going to rule over the earth eternally from the old Jerusalem. He's going to be enthroned forever in a completely fresh and new Jerusalem where His blood was never shed and where no one ever blasphemed His name.

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and will be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4) The voice from the throne quotes a passage from Isaiah 25 where the Lord speaks of a new day in which He will rules over a world from which death has been abolished.

Have you ever cried or mourned? Have you ever been sick? Have you ever lost a loved one to death? Have you ever thought about or feared your own death? Well, imagine a world where these things don't exist. Imagine a world where such things never enter our minds. Imagine a world where we eternally behold the face of the One who loves us so much that He gave Himself for us so that we could be with Him forever in immortal bodies that are impervious to illness and death. Of course we won't shed any more tears; there will be nothing to cry about.

"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then He said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" (Revelation 21:5) This world we live in often feels like a weary wilderness filled with woes. Just yesterday in the United States we solemnly remembered all those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks. No wonder the Lord tells John, "Write this down," when He speaks of the day in which He will make all things new. He knows we need a hope to hold onto. He knows we need reassurance that things won't always be like they are today.

"He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be My children.'" (Revelation 21:6-7) What makes us victorious? Our faith in Christ. This is the only real victory there is. Faith in Christ gives us victory (forgiveness and mercy and redemption) over our sins. Faith in Christ gives us victory over death, for we who are His will live eternally with Him. Faith is what makes us the children of God and guarantees for us an awesome inheritance: "Now if we are children, then we are heirs---heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." (Romans 8:17a)

I don't fully understand how Christ is going to help us come to terms with the things in our lives that have hurt us, or how He will help us to forgive and forget everything that's gone wrong in this present world, or how He is going to make all things new and set everything right. But a family member posted the following quote sometime back and I saved it because it reminded me of Revelation 21. I'd like to close our passage today with this quote. The person who penned this quote doesn't understand how the Lord is going to do all the things He's promised, but he believes the Lord will do all these things, so he says: "I believe, like a child, that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage. In the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood they've shed, that it will make it not only possible to forgive, but to justify all that has happened with men." (From The Brothers Karamazov.)