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Eternal Day

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need 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. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 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 21:22-27

See the source imageThe temple was the center of Jewish spiritual life. It was the place the Israelites came to draw near to God–and He to them–for them to worship and to offer sacrifice. In the Old Testament, God’s presence indwelled the Most Holy Place of both tabernacle and temple. The mercy seat therein resembled a glorious, ancient throne room. And the Most Holy Place itself was shaped as a perfect cube like the city of New Jerusalem–the heavenly Jerusalem.

All was just a copy and a shadow of that on which we are to truly set our hearts. The eternal throne  room of God, His Most Holy dwelling place among His faithful people in the New Jerusalem .

In heaven, we won’t need a temple to draw near to God. We will live in His presence. In heaven, we won’t need a temple to worship God. Like the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders and the angels, we will continually worship God Almighty [John 4:21-23]. In heaven, we won’t need a temple to make sacrifices to God. We will live eternally thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice once and for all for our sins.

So radiant is He that no lights outside His being will be necessary [Isaiah 24:23 & 60:19-20]. How inspired of the Spirit when the Psalmist said, your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path [Psalm 119:105].

No more will darkness reign upon the earth–the new creation [Matthew 4:26; John 1:5]. No more will corruption reign in government. No more will people trespass against one another [Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4].

The gates of the New Jerusalem will ever be open to the inhabitants of the new heaven and the new earth. Night will never fall. Safety and peace never compromised or threatened [Isaiah 52:1; Joel 3:17; Zechariah 14:11]. No more terror. Nothing contrary to the love of God will enter His gates. Only those who have received salvation by grace through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9].

Do you see by the sun or by the Holy One of Israel? Are your feet on the straight and narrow path to the New Jerusalem [Matthew 7:14]?

KCS

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Gates and Foundations

“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 the them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:12-14

See the source imageRecently exiled to Babylon, a prophet arose among the Israelites–Ezekiel. He had the distinct travail of bringing a message of destruction to his fellow expatriates. They would not be returning any time soon to their homeland as they had hoped. Rather they would hear of their sacred temple burning to the ground.

But Ezekiel was also given the message of eternal hope. Israel–and all the nations–would one day stand judgment before God. Their words and actions weighed in the heavenly balance [Daniel 5:27]. The faithful would see Jerusalem restored like never before and the temple refashioned in all its heavenly glory. In this, Ezekiel’s fourth and final vision [Ezekiel 48], we find a description of the New Jerusalem much like the one here in Revelation 21:12, with the primary difference being that of size.

The city of Ezekiel’s vision had walls totaling 18,000 cubits or 6 miles around, while John’s vision of the New Jerusalem has four walls each 12,000 stadia or 1,400 miles long. Which means that each wall will be about as long as the distance from New York City to Oklahoma City. And each wall is just as high as it is long. A giant cube!

Both Temple visions show us that there will be three gates on each of the four city walls. Maps of the original city, show anywhere from 8-12 gates, with the city being a somewhat long, skinny, misshapen oval–not unlike an upside down, mini-Israel. Jerusalem has gone through several different wall building stages in its history. Through the years, gate names included: Dung Gate, Fountain Gate, Water Gate, Horse Gate, East Gate, Master Gate, Sheep Gate, Fish Gate, Old Gate and Valley Gate. Probably so named for the main transport through each.

The New Jerusalem, however, will be a perfect square–perfect being the operative holy standard. Three gates on each wall, like the triune godhead. And the gates will be named for the 12 tribes of Israel, because people have always been the ones whom God intended to enter His gates. The twelve foundations each with an apostles’ name [Acts 1:13 & 26], again showing that heaven is not just for God’s chosen nation, Israel, but for the church as well [Revelation 4:4]. For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13], who believes on Jesus and Him crucified [John 3:16], whose name is found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 13:8, 20:15 & 21:27], the redeemed, the forgiven will be saved and enter these gates with thanksgiving [Psalm 100:4].

The wall will be high, speaking of the wealth and splendor and might of God. The gates attended by angels–those beings who never faltered in their reverence for and worship of the Most High. Just as everything was perfectly prepared in anticipation for our arrival nearly 6,000 years ago on Day 6 of the Creation [Genesis 1], so is heaven perfectly prepared and ready to receive us back into the arms of our loving Father God [Luke 15:20-24 & 32].

Have you been made new? Will you enter the gates of the New Jerusalem with eternal thanksgiving? Or the lake of fire with eternal lament?

KCS

For the Love of Jesus

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

See the source imageLess than 100 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the apostle John received the vision that we now know as the book of Revelation. It circulated among the churches of key cities in Asia Minor–a Greek province of the Roman Empire–which is modern-day Turkey.

About 150 years later in a port town of this same country, a little boy was born to wealthy, Christian parents. A little boy named Nicholas.

They raised him to know God and love Jesus. Nicholas was still young when his parents died, but believing God and obeying Jesus’ words in Mark 10:21 [and Matthew 19:21], Nicholas used his whole inheritance to help the needy, the sick and the suffering.

He sought to know God more, journeying to Israel so he could walk where Jesus walked and understand Jesus’ passion firsthand. He was a generous man who loved others with the selfless love of God. He was a praying man who saw God’s miracles in response to his prayers.

He went to prison for preaching the gospel and, when he got out, he met with the other church leaders of his day to ensure that Jesus and the Word of God weren’t being distorted or watered down in the churches in any way. Nicholas devoted his whole life to loving God and pointing others to do the same. He spent his whole life proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How sad he would be to know that in his death people turned their hearts to trust in him rather than in his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That people turned the stories of his faith into magical fictions that fill children’s hearts with disbelief in the one true God so that businesses can make a lot of money.

But this St. Nicholas Day, hear the message of the one we now know as Santa Claus, whispered across the ages–Look to the manger and know that Jesus alone is what makes Christmas real.

Are you following Jesus? Have you given everything to spread the gospel? Do you love everyone you meet with the love of the Lord?

KCS

Offering Thanksgiving–Part 2

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

See the source imageIn the Levitical sacrificial system, the thanksgiving fellowship offering required making a variety of breads to share with God [Leviticus 7:11-15]. It was a time of reconciling sinful man with our holy God in anticipation of the day when our sins would be forgiven and we could daily fellowship with Him for eternity–heaven.

It’s no coincidence then, that Jesus called Himself the bread of life [John 6:35] or that He referred to His crucified body as bread broken for us [1 Corinthians 11:24]. Jesus was prepared lovingly by the Father to be the bread God offered as the one true fellowship offering for all time.

Give thanks! God made us. He loves us. And He wants to restore our relationship to Him so that we can live for eternity the way He intended. He made the way through His son Jesus, and all we have to do is believe on Him [John 3:16].

God is actively pursuing the hearts of every man, woman and child at all times. But we should just as actively be pursuing the heart of God. Those who hunger and thirst for the things of God will be filled with them and be blessed by them [Matthew 5:6]. This is not a physical desire to eat and drink. This is referring to the appetite of the mind, emotion and soul.

When we hunger to know Jesus, the bread of life, He shows Himself to us. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them [1 John 1:9]. By faith in Him, we have eternal life [John 3:16]. He indwells us with His Holy Spirit so that we may live our lives in the power of God Most High [Acts 1:8]. When we thirst for eternal life, we ourselves do not rest until we take hold of it.

This drive for truth and righteousness results in finding them both. It is not a surface kind of hunger and thirst, it can only be satiated by digging deeper into the things of God, becoming more and more like Him with each passing day.

With Thanksgiving behind us and the celebration of the birth of Christ looming, hold on to an attitude of thanksgiving. Earnestly seek God. Hunger and thirst for more of Him each day. Get in His Word. Pray. Give thanks to Him in all things. Daily.

What desires drive your life? Do you recognize God pursuing your heart in your life? Are you persistently pursuing God’s heart?

KCS

Offering Thanksgiving–Part 1

“These are the regulations for the fellowship offering anyone may offer to the Lord: If they offer it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering they are to offer thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with olive oil, and thick loaves of the finest flour well-kneaded and with oil mixed in. Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. They are to bring one of each kind as an offering, a contribution to the Lord; it belongs to the priest who splashes the blood of the fellowship offering against the altar. The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving is to be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning.” Leviticus 7:11-15

See the source imageThroughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were bound up in a sacrificial system that was designed as a divine awareness campaign [Romans 7:7-8]. It is so easy, as sinful humans, to walk around believing that we are right and everyone else is wronging us. But under the Mosaic law each person had to analyze themselves, they had to consider their actions and their motives, then offer sacrifice according to the measure of their wrongdoing.

To be clear, the law and sacrificial system were never meant to provide forgiveness for sins, just to make people aware of themselves from an eternal perspective [Acts 13:39; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 10:4].

But there was also a sacrificial offering prescribed for those who wanted to give thanks to God. A variation on the fellowship offering–in which man could commune with the God from whom he was estranged–the thanksgiving offering required the making of bread. Yeast-free loaves both thick and thin. Thick yeasty loaves. Each with a variation on the use of olive oil. [It makes me imagine being in a French bakery!] Think of how wonderful all of this fresh baked bread smelled, all warm and crusty on the outside, soft and butter-melting on the inside–though they probably didn’t do the butter thing at that time.

The command is to prepare loaves–plural–but only to share one of each kind with the priest making the blood-offering at the altar. So where does the rest of the bread offering go? And what about the meat from the animal whose blood gets sprinkled?

Well, fellowship meant truly that. The people prepared their gifts to eat with God. He wasn’t-and still isn’t–aloft and untouchable, though He is holy and sovereign. To bring a fellowship offering was to share a meal with God. Though He Himself is not flesh and blood, so His representative, the priest, ate the thanksgiving meal in God’s stead.

In this way, the people were reminded of the guilt of their sin and how it separates them from God. They were also shown that God wanted to make an offering on their behalf–an offering to reconcile Him to them–so that, one day, all humans everywhere could fellowship with Him the way He intended from the Creation. It was a time of divine thanksgiving as well as for those who wanted to actively give thanks to God for His goodness in their lives. God rejoices when we, His beloved Creation, draw near to Him with thanksgiving.

The law and the sacrificial system no longer regulate our behavior, but God’s desire to reconcile and commune with His Creation is unchanging.

Have you an offering of thanksgiving for God? Will you draw near to Him during this time of corporate thanksgiving to fellowship with your heavenly Father?

KCS

The Heart of Thanksgiving

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

See the source imageIn Philippians, Paul speaks God’s truth into our culture. Rejoice in the Lord always! For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. They’re not just the words for wedding ceremonies. After all, the church is the bride of Christ. We are to live this life with Him as our beloved, rejoicing in Him in every situation.

And repeat.

When we can relax and rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ, we become a gentle people that show others the truth of God with us. If people deny His existence, it’s because we first have denied Him with how we live our lives. If people reject Him as Lord of all, it’s because we first have rejected His call to live and love this world as He does. Our faith needs to be evident to all, to the glory and honor of God.

When we are full of worry and doubt, stress, anxiety and tension, we are giving in to the attacks of sin on our lives. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world, but He also told us that He overcame all of it [John 16:33]. I don’t know about you, but that makes me incredibly thankful!

And since the mouth speaks what the heart is full of [Luke 6:45], then I can truly in every situation–for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health–give thanks to my Creator God. To my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To my comforter, the Holy Spirit.

No matter what comes our way, we can relax and pray a prayer of thanksgiving that Jesus has overcome. We can relax and petition God to act faithfully on our behalf, giving thanks that Jesus has overcome. We can relax and bring our requests straight to God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, giving thanks that Jesus opened the way for our direct communication with the Father.

Having a heart centered on giving thanks to God, guards us with peace. Our hearts and minds can relax in the peace of God. A peace that those who have denied His existence will never know.

When is the last time you felt genuinely thankful?

As Americans we live in a society where our needs are usually met and even many of the things we don’t need are available if not provided for us as well–by human hands. Most of us live in general comfort–which ironically leads to discontentment, even boredom, and a general spirit of ungratefulness for the things that we have and the people who provide them–though it should make us eternally grateful.

Does your heart overflow with thankfulness to God? Is this heart of thanksgiving evident to all? Do you rest thankfully in His peace?

KCS

 

The First Thanksgiving–By Faith

“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’ Then the people bowed and worshipped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.” Exodus 12:24-28

See the source imageThe Passover. But isn’t that right before Easter? As in not November?

Yes, it is. But Passover originated in a Thanksgiving feast eaten in faith that God would do what He said if the Israelites first obeyed what He said.

Now thankfulness to God and the act of giving thanks definitely occurred in scripture long before this first Passover–Abel’s offerings came from a heart of thankfulness and reverence [Genesis 4:4], Noah built an altar and sacrificed out of a thankful heart when he finally was able to leave the ark [Genesis 8:20]. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each gave thanks to God throughout their lifetimes. Joseph too. No doubt Moses’ mother and father gave God thanks for protecting their son from Pharaoh’s edict and for returning him to their care [Exodus 2:8-9; Hebrews 11:23].

And thankfulness is the natural response of the forgiven heart [Psalm 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:57].

The instruction to observe thankfulness was a lasting one. Not just a one and done. As God’s love endures forever, so our thankfulness should go on and on–on this earth just as it does in heaven [Revelation 4:8-9].

The Israelites ate a celebratory meal in anticipation of God’s faithfulness, of Him keeping His promise as spoken through Moses. By faith, they gave God thanks through obedience. They could only trust that God would do what He said.

This week, we as Americans will gather together with our loved ones to give thanks for all that God has already done for us. And to be sure, He has done great things [Psalm 107:8, et al]. We have much to be thankful for! But God calls us to live out thankfulness by faith–a life lived in thanksgiving for the things that He has yet to accomplish in our lives, things that He has promised but that we may never see come to fruition in our lifetime [Hebrews 11:39-40].

Can you imagine the power of such a statement?

I’m thankful that God will–heal, provide in every situation, move mountains, answer prayer, guide in His wisdom, accomplish His will–you name it!

I’m thankful that Jesus will acknowledge me before His Father one day [Matthew 10:32-33].

I’m thankful that my someday-spouse will love God and spiritually lead our home, that my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will know and love God–that they will impact their generation to the glory and honor of God.

What are you thankful for by faith? What has God spoken into your future? What has He promised that you may not live long enough to see? Are you seeking and giving thanks for that kind of spiritual legacy?

KCS