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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

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With Eyes on Eternity

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)” Revelation 20:4-5a

See the source imageThese judges’ thrones were prophesied since the time of Daniel [Daniel 7:9]. Though all authority in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus [Matthew 28:18], He gives the authority to sit in judgment over Satan, his antichrist and his unholy prophet, to those martyred for their faith [Revelation 6:9 & 20:4]. Like a jury for the Holy Judge, those who hold true to their faith even to the point of death, show themselves worthy to render this final verdict with Christ [Daniel 7:26-27].

They did not give in to the threat of physical death, because they understood the bigger picture of eternity.

The millennial reign of Christ mentioned here is the same duration of Satan’s prison sentence, locked in the Abyss, before his final doom in the lake of burning sulfur.

According to this passage, only martyrs get the blessing of being raised to rule and reign with Christ during this millennium. It seems to clearly state here that other believers who have died will remain dead until after this time has passed. However, scripture often indicates that when we die, we go straight to heaven–to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord [Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8]. So is this an inconsistency in scripture?

Not at all.

This seems to be an example where the English translation misconstrues the meaning of the original language. In the Greek, the conjunction kaiand–comes between the phrases describing the martyrs and those resisting the beast. Meaning that this is a list of more than one group of people, not a continuing description attributed to only the martyrs.

The church of Smyrna was encouraged to hold on–through testing and suffering, imprisonment, persecution and even martyrdom–and they would not be affected by this second death, the lake of fire [Revelation 2:10-11 & 20:14]. Not everyone would be martyred, but the victorious–everyone who held firm to their faith through whatever trials came their way–would be counted with those who gave their lives as the ultimate expression of faith.

Are you living victoriously by standing firm in your faith? Do you live with your eyes fixed on eternity?

KCS

Thanksgiving Alive

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17

See the source imageYesterday’s scripture, Philippians 4:4-7, instructed us how to operate in our daily lives by faith.

Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. Receive peace. Repeat in all things.

Luke 6:45 tells us that from the overflow of our heart the mouth speaks–that is to say that the condition of our heart dictates our response to life.

So if our heart is full of God and full of rejoicing, bent towards prayer and thanksgiving, and therefore full of peace, then the daily walking out of our faith flows from heart to mouth to eternal-life affirming deeds.

Conversely, if our heart is not full of God, if there is little or no rejoicing, prayer or thanksgiving, and therefore much anxiety or even fear, then our faith is either sick or dying.

Because as James 2:17 above says, faith without action is dead. So believing in what we hope for but cannot see without actively giving thanks is like dragging around a dead weight in our heart. Like a seed that will never grow into the plant it was meant to be is faith that doesn’t rejoice, faith that doesn’t pray, and faith that doesn’t give thanks and receive peace.

But how can one be forgiven a lifetime of sins, gain eternal life, and not be moved to give thanks [Luke 7:47]? Does the thanks you give equal the faith you profess to have?

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

 

Do You?

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:11-16

See the source imageJohn, still looking into the wide open vision of heaven saw, once again, the rider on the white horse [Revelation 6:2]. If there was any question of His personage in the earlier reference, this passage should clear it up.

Revelation 3:14 agrees that this is the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Isaiah 11:4 speaks of His righteous justice–an attribute that scoffers hold as oxymoronic, because we live in a time where what God calls wrong, the world calls right and what God calls right, the world calls wrong [Isaiah 5:20].

Here again we see his eyes of fire, his crowns and bloodied robe [Revelation 1:14, 5:6, 6:2, 11:15 and 12:10].

Here again we see the unknown name inscribed as on the invitation stones [Revelation 2:17]–new names fitting of a new Creation. Yet His name is the Word of God [John 1:1]. He is the living Word. He is truth. He is the way, the truth and the life [John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6]. Son of the I am that I am [Exodus 3:14]. Through Him all things were created [John 1:1] and have their being [Colossians 1:16-17].

He leads the faithful–made righteous by the forgiveness of sins–as the victorious army over the sins that once held them captive.

The sword of His mouth is the truth of eternity [Revelation 1:16 and 17:14]–the bittersweet, double-edged sword that falls in judgment. Though He does not desire any to choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9], all who deny the truth of His kingship, all who refuse to accept the forgiveness of His lordship in their lives will receive the eternal wage of their own sin [Psalm 2:9; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 2:27].

Vengeance belongs to Him alone [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19], for He alone will step into the winepress to tread out the harvest [Isaiah 63:2-3; Revelation 14:20]. For He alone is the King above every king that has ever ruled, is now ruling and will ever rule on earth. He alone is Lord–sovereign authority–above every scientific law and government issued decree, statue, law, ordinance, rule, et al.

If He tells the sun to stand still or reverse in the sky, then it obeys [Joshua 10; 2 Kings 20:8-11]. If He commands the wind and the waves, they obey [Matthew 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:22-25]. The sick are healed, the lame walk, the blind see, the dead are raised, demons cast out [Matthew 10:8 and 11:5]–by one name alone. Jesus.

All of Creation obeys its Creator. Every authority will confess that He alone is Lord God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:11]. Do you?

KCS

On Earth as It Is in Heaven

“Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ‘ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’ At this I fell at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus, Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:9-10

See the source imageBlessed–extremely joyful–are we faithful who will one day sit to banquet with Jesus in heaven [Luke 14:15].  Again, the angel commands John to write, for this message was to go out to all the churches in Asia Minor and, of course, in posterity to every church in the world ever. But he also emphasized the fact that this statement of blessing was an actual quote from the living God.

Woah!

So either John took that to mean that God was standing in front of him in this angelic form, or John was supremely amazed to be in the presence of one who himself had been in the presence of God. In antiquity, this was believed an impossibility–to stand before God and live to tell about it. Either way, John gladly humbled himself before the angel. For in his day, it showed the utmost respect to fall at someone’s feet in awe.

Not to mention, the angel had just confirmed something incredible–prophecy, like God, was not dead. Many of John’s contemporaries believed it to be so. Since Jesus was the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies they knew so well, then surely there was no need for any further prophecy.

But the angel said, No way! Wait! Stop! I am not God that you should bow in worship to me. Don’t ever give God’s worship to anyone but Him alone.

Did you catch it? The spirit of God in His faithful? The righting of wrong?

Back in the beginning, Satan lied to everyone–people and angels alike–telling them they could be their own god [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. One-third of the angels in heaven followed after that belief and were cast out with him [Revelation 12:4]. If John had bowed to any of these fallen, they would have let him, because it would have been the fulfillment of the lie they had bought into. It would, to them, have been usurping God’s worship for themselves.

But God’s angels, the faithful in heaven [Acts10:25-26; Revelation 22:8-9]–just as the faithful people on earth ought [Matthew 6:10]–redirect all praise and worship to Him who alone is worthy, God. And we do so in the knowledge that the spirit of prophecy–that pneuma mentioned 160 times in the New Testament, occasionally rendered as wind, ghost or life breath, but most often as the Holy Spirit–that spirit lives in the testimony of Jesus for which many will be persecuted and even lay down their lives [Revelation 12:17].

Jesus’ messianic prophecy wasn’t finished at the cross. The truth of His revelation isn’t done until it is done. Until the faithful stand before the Father in heaven while Babylon lies in a smoking ruin. When sin has been removed and eternal life bestowed on all who believed. Then, and only then, will the prophecy cease [1 Corinthians 13:8-10]. Because then, and only then, will every bit of it be fulfilled.

Do you give God’s worship to anyone or anything other than Him? Do you allow others to praise you for the things that God has accomplished in and through you? Do you testify to Jesus until He comes?

KCS

From the Students Question Board: Are Ghosts Real?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your mind? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:37-39

Image result for flashlight faceAfter Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples–alive! And not just alive, but in bodily form–flesh, blood, hair, fingernails, you name it. But the disciples couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t wrap their understanding around Jesus’ appearance. He didn’t come through the door, He simply stood before them. A dead man. Standing before them. Not even a little bit dead. With all the same human body features that they themselves had. It blew their minds.

The English translation here is problematic in our culture, because the Greek word pneuma or spirit is rendered as ghost. To be clear, there is a spiritual world all around us–angels and demons at war for our souls. Sometimes we can see this spiritual dimension. But ghosts, the supposed spirits of deceased humans, are not a part of it. It’s kind of like the popular myth that when people die they become angels. Like humankind, Angels are uniquely created beings [Hebrews 2:7]. So when we die, though we go to heaven, we do not morph from human to angel. The saints will still be the saints and the angels will still be the angels in heaven [Revelation 7:9-11]. Similarly, when people die, our spirits do not join the spiritual warfare of the angels and the demons, nor we do not haunt those still living.

Rather, just as Jesus told the thief on the cross–who acknowledged Him as Lord–that he would be in heaven with Jesus that same day they died [Luke 23:43], so we believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And for those who are not believers, their souls sleep with their bodies in the ground until the judgment [Revelation 20:11-15].

Christians are often spiritually sensitive, even from a young age, sensing the spiritual battles around us. But we do not need to be afraid. God reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light [Job 12:22]. He is our lamp that turns our darkness into light [2 Samuel 22:29]. Where He is, darkness cannot be because darkness cannot stand in the presence of light [John 1:5]. That is, darkness cannot overcome or overtake the light.

When spiritual fears and worldly superstitions threaten to overwhelm our senses, we need only to call on the name of Jesus. If we remain in Him, He is with us. His authority will drive out every demonic spirit that tries to come against us [Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 1:21-34 & 5:1-17] and, at the same time, He will fill us with a peace that beyond anything we could understand [Philippians 4:7].

Is the Lord your lamp? Does the truth of His word light your way [Psalm 119:105]?