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“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
The 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]?
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
Because the Word is double-edged [Hebrews 4:12], scriptures often list those who will not inherit the kingdom of God in contrast to those who will [i.e. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-25]. Just as light would not be understood without the contrast of darkness, the life that God desires for us is not always clear to the human mind without looking at that which is in opposition to God’s will.
Since God is holy–meaning no impurity or sin is in Him–and since He is the sovereign of heaven–the authority before whom we will stand judgment–it is imperative that we understand what God expects of us, both to do and not to do.
So why does cowardliness make the list? Remember that this letter of Revelation is being circulated among the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor. Jesus, through John’s writing, tells the churches that they were going to face persecution, hardship, imprisonment and even death for His name’s sake [Revelation 2:3 & 8, 9-11 & 13; 3:8-9]. In each instance, if they held boldly to their faith, if they did not cower from the physical, social and cultural threats of the world [Matthew 10:28], they would be called victorious and receive the inheritance of eternal life. We are not of those who shrink back from the world in fear, renouncing our faith to save our skin [Hebrews 10:39]. Rather we are to stand firm in our faith [1 Corinthians 6:13; Ephesians 6:11-14], boldly proclaiming salvation through Jesus Christ. The cowardly turn their back on God when times get tough. They do not acknowledge Jesus before others; in turn, they will not be acknowledged before God [Matthew 10:32-33].
Obviously, those who do not believe in God will not be saved. For it is, by grace we are saved through faith [Romans 1:5 & 5:2; Ephesians 2:8]. And even if we continue to struggle against sin we can experience God’s grace and, by faith, salvation in our lives. But if we do not have faith, then we will never see heaven.
Vile means morally corrupt. Since morals–standards of belief and behavior–are established by God who is holy, corrupted morals are anything that deviate from His norm. It makes sense then that those who buy into Satan’s lie that we can be our own God and make our own morals [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14], will never inherit the kingdom of God.
This corrupted moral system includes murdering, any sexual behavior that deviates from God’s plan of one man and one woman within the confines of marriage for life, trying to summon magical powers rather than rightly seeking the power of God, creating images of false gods and praying to/worshiping them, and telling lies. Many of these were addressed in the well-known 10-commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. All of these are natural desires of sinful people, but can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, and are completely forgiven us through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Who is God in your life? You or God? Not sure? Well, whose standard of right and wrong are you living by? Yours, the world’s or God’s?
“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
Less 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?
“He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” Revelation 21:6-7
Unbelievable! The entire book of Revelation John has been spoken to by angels, and heard the voice of God the Father and God the Son. But this time, God doesn’t relay His message. He speaks right to John.
And what does God Almighty say? Just as He announced–when the angel poured out the seventh and final bowl of God’s wrath–that sin had met its end [Revelation 16:17], so now He proclaims Gegonen again. Only this time, all of heaven and creation have been made new. The work of the New Creation is done.
It’s interesting to note that, In the beginning [Genesis 1:1], derives from a different word than the Beginning used here. This totally makes sense since God is eternal and His creation is not. Like the Alpha and Omega that begin and end the Greek alphabet–an alphabet which does not contain every possible phoneme, or sound-letter-representative–God is the Beginning and the End of all things, though He Himself does not have a beginning or an end. He exists outside of created time just as His Word–that Word which created all things–exists outside of the Greek alphabet, and every other alphabet ever conceived.
He gives John the same gospel message to share with the world as Jesus brought–living water [John 4:13-14]. Water is so essential to the creation. It was the foundation of the world on which God created everything [Genesis 1:2]. It flows through every living organism, and without it, nothing can live.
Jesus is that spring of eternal living water. His death paid the wages of our sins, while we can freely receive His gift of eternal life [Romans 6:23].
But if it’s that easy to be saved–and it is–then what does God mean that we must overcome? Just as He counseled Cain so long ago, we must overcome the crouching tiger of sin who is waiting around every corner to devour us [Genesis 4:7]. But not in the way that we must defeat sin of our own accord. We are not gladiators thrown into a ring of divine entertainment. Jesus overcame it all [John 16:33] and–by His Holy Spirit living in us–we can stand firm in the faith [Ephesians 6:10-18].
When we choose to will and to act in obedience with God’s commands, then, like Christ, we show ourselves to be overcomers of this world–we show ourselves to be conduits of living water. And we become children of God [Galatians 4:7] and co-heirs with Christ [Romans 8:17]. Our inheritance? Heaven for all eternity.
Are you thirsty?
“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. ” Revelation 20:1-3
Could this be another Christophanic angel [Revelation 10:1]? This one holds the keys to the Abyss–that death, hell and grave underworld where the fallen angels, aka demons, are holed up–the same keys that Jesus took when he conquered death in His resurrection [Revelation 1:18]. This one seizes Satan and binds him up for a thousand years, locking him up in that same Abyss. So it seems likely that either it is an angelic appearance of Jesus, or that since Jesus already conquered, the angel is able to act in His authority and strength to accomplish this.
And we too–when we have accepted Jesus as Lord and are indwelled by His Holy Spirit–we have His power in our lives. Jesus told the disciples at His ascension into heaven that because He had received authority over all of heaven and earth, therefore they [we] were to boldly go and make disciples across the planet, baptizing in the names of the triune Godhead and teaching obedience to His commands [Matthew 28:18-20]. His disciples could obey this command, holding onto Jesus’ promise that He Himself would be with them through the person of His Holy Spirit.
This commissioning comes on the heels of a ministry in which Jesus informed the disciples that, by faith, they would do greater things than He Himself had done on this earth [John 14:13]. During His earthly ministry, He cast out demons. Notably, He sent a whole legion of demons into a herd of pigs that rushed off a Cliffside and drown themselves [Matthew 8:28-34]. Greater still, He will see Satan bound and banished for all eternity.
God has given us who live by faith an incomparably great power–a power, the apostle Paul tells us, equivalent to the mighty strength of God worked through Jesus Christ to accomplish His will [Ephesians 1:18-21].
When we walk into a room, there is an authority shift that accompanies us. At the name of Jesus, darkness is routed, demons must flee, and spiritual discernment is made evident to all.
But so often, we let our sinful-nature–the ways of our old self–cling to us. We walk around with the name of Jesus on our lips, or in our prayer pocket just in case, but cower from or are enticed by the darkness, denying the true power of God in our lives [2 Timothy 3:5]. In so doing, we ourselves are deceived by Satan, even while we live for Christ.
Satan is already defeated though, and his lies will go with him down to the Abyss along with everyone who denied the truth of God in this life.
Do you boldly live as God’s light of salvation in this lost and dying world? Do you, by faith, walk in the power of the Most High? Are you growing in spiritual discernment?
“When the neighboring people bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.” Nehemiah 13:22
Christmas. Wait! We just put the turkey away. But that doesn’t matter so much in American culture. For years, people have commented on how Christmas gets earlier every year. How stores start putting up displays as soon as Halloween is done–seemingly skipping Thanksgiving altogether–or even as early as midsummer.
A few years ago, the Black Friday sales–so named because it is the day that carries most retail businesses out of the red of debt and into the black of profit for the year–were offering their sales at earlier and earlier morning hours, so that customers could extend their bargain shopping day. People camped out in parking lots and on sidewalks to be the first in the door to get a deal before stock disappeared.
Not long after that, early morning got backed up to midnight. So then people left their Thanksgiving celebration almost as soon as the turkey was cleared from the table to go wait in shopping lines. And this year, the sales are backing up again–some to the dinner hour of 5:00 or 6:00pm and some even earlier. If the trend continues, then it won’t be long before retailers forget about Black Friday and just overtake Thanksgiving Thursday entirely.
And people let them, because they keep showing up to shop at whatever hour the sale is held. Christians included.
In the book of Nehemiah, however, we see that the returning Israelites recommitted to honor the Lord’s commands about keeping Sabbaths, holy days and jubilee years the way God intended. They weren’t to work. And they weren’t to shop, which would cause other people to have to work on a day that was meant for human rest and giving God honor and thanks for His provision.
This is not to say that Christians should boycott the Black Friday shopping tradition. In Paul’s day, people were struggling to draw a line with their newfound freedom in Christ. We have the free will to do anything, they said, but, he reminded them, not all things are beneficial and we should not allow anything but Christ to master us [1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23].
Rather, in all things, we should participate out of a God-fearing heart, seeking His wisdom in how–and probably about when–we shop as well. For the sake of space, we’ll only mention two things here.
Remember to keep the appointed holy days holy. Separate. Special. Rest and relax with family and friends where possible. These times are so very important to our physical, spiritual and emotional well being. They are also important to our children and how they view life and the world. And many have turned the Black Friday shopping into a family event. So it can be an extension of a good time spent well together.
Debt. God does not look with favor on debt, because it binds us up, keeps us from being free to truly live, love and serve Him. But God does make allowances for debt in scripture, with the caveat that we pay back what we owe. And it is in our best interest to do so quickly. Keep short accounts with God and man. So if you are out Black Friday shopping, remember to stay within budget–and hopefully to create a budget to begin with that won’t break your bank for the year while you help retailers dig out of their debts.
Are you committed to observe God’s days God’s way? Do you live financially in ways that please God?
“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
Throughout 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?