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“Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips , and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5 [NASB]
God is transcendent. That is He exists outside of His Creation and He is not subject to its constraints. He is also holy. There is no sin in Him.
Just as He is infinitely above the caterpillar and the archangel, so He is infinitely above all sin. As much as food chains, corporate ladders, caste systems and authority hierarchies are leveled before Him, so every shade of sin stretches out to separate us from our God [Isaiah 59:2; 1 John 3:9].
Individual sins are indistinct from sin’s totality. The parts equal to the whole rather than the reverse.
As humans though, we tend to classify and, often times, justify sins by ranking them according to our perception of not-so-bad to absolutely-horrible. Lies are little and white, hence, not-so-bad. Murder, especially obsessive serial killings or mass genocides are absolutely-horrible. We don’t want to accept that while some sins seem harmless or invisible, only earning a human slap on the wrist, that they could in any way equate to unspeakable, violent crimes against humanity.
But in God’s eyes, sin is sin. Every act of moral disobedience that stems from the spirit of self-as-god–that foundational thought that says I am basically good, so therefore I should be allowed to choose all things for myself. [And, by the way, we are each allowed to choose all things for ourselves; Joshua 24:15. But therein lies the rub! Because everybody choosing for themselves leads to problems. No government would ever stand with such a willy-nilly system. There would be no end of conflict and no resolution either.] Every godless, irreverent, shake-a-fist-at-heaven or deny God’s existence defiance. Every perversion of His design for us–whether in word or deed, whether in body or in spirit, whether in self or in another–all is sin. Plain and simple.
All of it separates us from our holy God. All of it was pardoned by Christ’s blood shed on the cross.
But we have to recognize our distance from our Creator God. We have to understand that the gap between us is called sin. We have to know that all we like sheep have gone astray, everyone turning to their own ways [Isaiah 53:6]. That all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. That we are each born in sin, with the proclivity to do what is right in our own eyes [Judges 17:6 & 21:25].
For it is from the honest recognition of our true sinful station that we can understand our need for Christ and Him crucified [John 3:16].
Do you see sins in shades of grey? Ask the Holy Spirit to sharpen your focus on God’s holiness. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal divine transcendence to you in light of the truth of eternity.
“When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘You made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed one.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak Your word with great boldness.” Acts 4:24-28
Faith without free will is no faith at all. Love without free will is no love at all. And God desires both from the joyful submission of our free will to Him.
Here after Peter and John were released from prison, they prayed with fellow believers. And they acknowledged that, from the beginning, God knew exactly at which point in human chronology He would send Jesus. God sent His Son when the Roman-centric world would swallow up His chosen people, Israel, and both cultures would converge to crucify Him.
Because it was all a part of His plan to redeem His Creation.
Though–being all-knowing–He knew who would carry this out, God didn’t choose to villainize or destine people or force anyone to do the job. Everyone who denied, denounced and destroyed Jesus’ physical body did so of their own free will. Just as everyone who comes to Christ also does so of their own free will.
Faith is absolute certainty in what we hope for but cannot see. But it must stem from the free will of our intellect, for without faith it is impossible to please God [Hebrews 11:6]. So if God chooses who will have this faith and who will not, then it is no longer faith. It is coercion.
Love, by necessity, is a choice. No one can force someone else to truly love them. But each person comes to love another purely as an expression of their own free will. We each choose whom we desire and how to demonstrate that affection. So if God chooses who will love Him and who will not, then it is no longer love. It is coercion.
But God is self-sufficient–He needs no one. God does not show favoritism [Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11]. He sent His to die on the cross for whosoever would believe in Him [John 3:16] and He doesn’t want anyone to choose to perish in the lake of fire [2 Peter 3:9].
And even knowing what we will choose, He still acts mercifully with all of us. Indiscriminate of our ultimate decision to accept or deny Him. He still loves each and every one of us. He still lets us choose for ourselves whom we will serve [Joshua 24:15].
Whom have you chosen?
“And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’ Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'” Exodus 33:19-22
It is not permissible to see God’s being with our human eyes, because He wants us to live to tell about Him, and our sinfulness would altogether overwhelm us in His holy and glorious presence.
But Moses boldly petitioned to see God’s glory. And God, in His sovereign mercy and grace, granted that Moses see just His back. In fact, God covered Moses with His hand and only removed it at the first moment when it was safe for Moses to look upon Him.
Why would God not want everyone to see His face?
Can you imagine the world of trouble that human beings would cause creating and recreating the face of God? Painting. Sculpting. Duplicating. Publishing and posting. Especially in our very visual generation. The face of God would be reduced to an all too familiar, flawed representation that in no way compares to who He truly is. And people would come to replace the real God with a mere likeness.
Just the chapter before, the people of Israel demanded Aaron make them a golden calf to worship [Exodus 32]. They sang and made offerings to a piece of over-sized bovine jewelry!
The same danger existed with God showing His face to them. Wouldn’t these same hard-hearted people have desired to sculpt God’s portrait in gold and precious stones? But to whose glory and honor?
He didn’t want an empty self-portrait. He didn’t need their offerings or to enslave them in religious rituals, prostrating themselves before His image. He wanted their hearts full of love for Him. Just as He wants us to passionately pursue a personal relationship with Him.
In every other world religion, the false god has a face, an image that the followers associate with their worship–because they are no god at all, just an image made by human hands. But the One True God is high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1 & 57:15-17].
He is holy [Leviticus 19:2; Joshua 24:19; 1 Samuel 2:2; et al].
He is beyond understanding and compare [Exodus 15:11; 1 Kings 8:23; Job 36:26; et al].
And we will behold God when we stand redeemed before Him in heaven one day [1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2].
Are you living to see God face to face?
“Even while the people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.” 2 Kings 17:41
Hand-me-down faith happens when we base what we believe about God on what others tell us, rather than on what God tells us about Himself in His Word. One of the greatest dangers of this hand-me-down religion is seeing God wrongly.
When our faith–what we absolutely, certainly believe without being able to see–comes from people rather than the Word of God, we inherit a flawed understanding. Because we are all sinful and therefore have imperfect understanding–understanding that falls short of fully comprehending the glory of God [Romans 3:23].
Jesus warned that there will be those who believe they belong in heaven, that they have lived religious lives invoking His name, but they will not actually have known God–by experience and relationship–they will not have known and done God’s will [Matthew 7:21-23]. Why? Quite possibly because they didn’t get into His Word for themselves. They didn’t read the Scriptures with the intent of pursuing the knowledge of God.
Yet, there is certainly a place for instructing others in the truth. God commanded the Israelites to love God with all that was within them, and from this love to impress God’s Word on their children by talking about Him all day long in every situation [Deuteronomy 6:4-9]. They were to observe Sabbaths and holy days and be ready to answer their children’s questions about why they did such things [Exodus 12:26; Deuteronomy 6:20; Joshua 4:21].
But this instruction was meant to turn hearts to seek God in His Word, not substitute human instruction for God’s Word.
In the 2 Kings passage above, we see that well-meaning, religious, but still sinful people, easily mixed worldly ideas with the truth of God. They worshiped the Lord. But even while they did what should have been right, they served idols–a complete rebellion against God. More tragically, they handed this mixed faith–which was no faith at all–down through the generations of God’s chosen people.
But the youth did not have to accept the watered down truth they were given. King Josiah ruled not many years after these verses. When God’s Word was found in the Temple and read to him, he grieved that he had not fully known God, that understanding had been withheld from his generation. He returned to a right belief in God and endeavored to lead all Israel into a right understanding [2 Kings 22:8-13].
What is your understanding of God based on? Human interpretation or God’s Word? If human interpretation in any measure, turn back to God’s Word like King Josiah and seek to meet Him face to face for yourself.
“Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Exodus 3:13-14
‘Eh-yeh. The Hebrew word, translated I AM here also translates I have been/was [2 Samuel 15:34; Psalm 50:21] and I will be [Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 47:7; Hosea 14:5] in other scripture passages. Past, present and future. Eternally existent, in a word, is the Word through whom and by whom all things were created [John 1:1-3].
Remember that repetition was the biblical way to bold-type, italicize, highlight or otherwise emphasize an idea. So in giving His name to Moses, ‘Eh-yeh aser ‘eh-yeh, God emphasizes His existence. Not just the eternality, but the primacy or preeminence of Him. God was the first [Genesis 1:1; Revelation21:6 & 22:13]. All existence comes from Him alone, and without Him nothing and no one exists [John 1:1-3].
Not only so, but He created human beings in His image [Genesis 1:26-27]–our existence derived from His. So why is it that in 1637, French philosopher, Rene Descartes, coined the popular phrase, Cogito, ergo sum–I think, therefore I am? Satan’s perpetual lie to humankind is that we can somehow attain to God-status–or at least shed our need for Him–by attaining mere knowledge [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14].
Such thinking denies the truth of who God truly is. It tricks our finite minds into believing that we can reject His image in us and remake Him after our own image instead–that we can live, whether wholly or in part, of our own accord without any consideration that there is an infinite, sovereign God in heaven.
Through Asaph, the psalmist, God wrote that those who forget God are guilty of thinking that God, in His patient silence, is somehow like themselves [Psalm 50:21]. His quietude condoning their unrepentant sinfulness. But Paul says, they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator [Romans 1:25]. An offense for which we can be forgiven, but for which we need to wholeheartedly repent.
God is not like you or like me. He is God. If we are to rightly know Him, we must start by putting ourselves aside and learning to understand Him for who He truly is. We mustn’t shade or in anyway manipulate His person to ease our conscious. Rather, we must allow Him to shape us and to purify us from all the unrighteousness that weighs down our consciousness before Him, the Holy God [1 John 1:9].
Are you remaking God to fit your image of who you need/want Him to be? Or have you surrendered everything to the Divine Potter’s hand, allowing Him to form you once again in His image?
“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. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” Revelation 21:9-11
Recall that Revelation chapter 17 began this exact same way, one of the seven angels who held one of the bowls of God’s wrath at the very end and poured it out on all people, invited John to see an outtake from the overall End Times picture. In chapter 17, the Spirit takes John away to see what happened to Babylon–false religion personified as a woman [vs. 1-5]. Here in chapter 21, we see what becomes of those who hold firm to their faith in Jesus to the end–the bride of Christ.
Babylon meets her end in the desert [17:3], a dry and barren land despite her so called riches. But the bride of Christ descends from heaven, higher than the hilltop on which the earthly Jerusalem perched [Isaiah 10:32], higher than the mountaintops over which the floodwaters rose [Genesis 7:18-20], the most elevated position possible for this historical climax.
The Holy City is peopled by a royal priesthood, the chosen of God who themselves chose God, a holy nation [1 Peter 2:9] and carries the name the New Jerusalem.
First mentioned in Genesis 14:18, it was originally known as Salem where the priest Melchizedek collected the tithe from Abraham. Jerusalem was a Canaanite city conquered by the Israelites as they took the Promised Land [Joshua 10:1]. Jeru meant foundation or city and Salem comes from Shalem which was the name of a Canaanite god. The second part of the name, however, easily converted in Hebrew to Shalom meaning peace.
So then Jerusalem was the city/foundation of peace a double entendre for the city/foundation of the one true God [Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:14-18]. An allusion not lost on the writer of Hebrews who spoke of a glorious city that the ancients looked forward to receiving by faith [Hebrews 11:10].
This heavenly Jerusalem will shine with the glory of God Himself. In fact, the Day 4 Creation–sun, moon and stars–will no longer be necessary for governing light and marking time. All of these earthly restraints will pass away [Revelation 22:5]. Imagine 24-7 not having any meaning! Because the earth will not exist to rotate a 24-hour day in its orbit around an equally non-existent sun. Mind blowing, right?
Equally thought stretching is the image of crystal clear jasper. Most types of jasper stone are variegated and opaque. This scripture mention invokes, in my mind, the sunniest kind of day where everything seems to be surrounded with halos of clearish rainbows. What do you imagine when you read this description? That’s the beauty of heaven. Our earthly minds can only begin to imagine a rough sketch of what it might be like. But the real thing will be beyond compare.
Is Jesus your foundation of peace with God? Will you see heaven one day?
“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.’ Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” Revelation 16:12-16
The mighty Euphrates, fourth river of Eden [Genesis 2:14], covenanted border of the Promised Land [Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 1 Kings 4:21 & 24]. In modern times, the Euphrates appears to be nowhere near Israel’s borders, running instead from Turkey across Northern Syria and through Iraq. Only for a short time under the reigns of King David and his son Solomon did Israel’s territory extend all the way east to the great river [1 Kings 4:21; 1 Chronicles 18:3].
Still, it is significant that the river is removed altogether when the sixth bowl of wrath is poured out. With it, God’s covenanted Promised Land with the Israelites is without border, a border that delineated both divine protection and spiritual alignment in scriptures. Jacob fled from his father-in-law into the country of refuge across this river [Genesis 31:21], while enemy kings are noted as having come from beyond the river [1 Chronicles 19:16; Isaiah 7:20].
God’s hand of protection is removed from the earth along with his mercy [Isaiah 11:15; Jeremiah 46:6] to prepare for the final war–Armageddon. A demonic spirit comes out of Satan, his antichrist, and the false prophet, each one. The frog-like demons represent unclean spirits, since the frog was considered an unclean animal. They aid with the deception of the antichrist and the false prophet, and help unite the governments of the entire world against their Creator God.
Armageddon likely is a re-pronunciation/respelling of Har Mageddon, meaning the mountain of Megiddo. Throughout history, the plain of Megiddo, located in the main pass that runs northeast through the hill country between Sharon and Jezreel, was a frequent battleground because of its strategic location [i.e. Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22; and in modern times–1468 & 1917].
Just as Jesus’ return to rapture the church to heaven will be like a thief in the home of the unsuspecting [1 Thessalonians 5:2 & 4; 1 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3], so will his appearance at the last battle be like a thief to the earthly governments who have fallen asleep, those who have not only denied God, but forgotten Him. There is a difference. But Jesus is warning them that, Hey look, you’re going to be defeated by virtue of aligning yourselves with the unholy trinity, but you don’t have to shame yourselves in the process. Be ready.
This can also be taken as reminder to believers to be ready for His return. Jesus coming will only seem like a thief in the night to the unsuspecting. We not know the exact day or the hour [Matthew 24:36], but we can see the signs of the times, recognize that it is near, and be ready for His return [Matthew 24:1-35].
Do you know the signs of the end times? Study God’s word to understand them better. Do you see the signs all around? Is your heart prepared so that Jesus’ coming does not take you by surprise?