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Shards of Heaven

“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. This first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:18-21

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Walls made of jasper–the stone of the tribe of Benjamin–meaning son of my right hand [Genesis 35:18], or honored son. The New Jerusalem is the city of God’s Son. A city of pure gold–His people refined in the fire [1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 3:18]. Pure as glass–transparent. Nothing sinful. Nothing hidden [Genesis 3:8 & 10].

The first foundation, also jasper–the last son of Jacob, the last Adam–Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:45]. Look at how the last shall be first [Matthew 20:16]–the tribe of Benjamin before all his brothers and Jesus Christ the Alpha and Omega before the first man Adam.

Each foundation stone representative of the tribes of Israel as was worn on the priestly ephod when they ministered before the Lord in the Tabernacle and the Temple [Exodus 28:17].

Reuben: carnelian [aka sardius or ruby]

Simeon: topaz/chrysolite [aka peridot, emerald or topaz]

Manasseh, Levi, Judah: beryl [aka carbuncle or emerald]

Judah, Zebulon: emerald [aka carbuncle or beryl or diamond]

Issachar: sapphire

Nephtali: jacinth [aka ligure]

Gad, Ephraim: chalcedony [aka agate or onyx]

Gad, Ephraim: chrysoprase [aka calcedony, agate or onyx]

Asher: amethyst

Ephraim: sardonyx [aka onyx alternated with sardius]

Benjamin: jasper

The book of Job tells about how we human beings plumb the depths of the earth for hidden riches [Job 28:1-19]. In the name of beauty, wealth and greatness, we ferret out every nugget of gold and precious gem the ground produces.

But before Adam and Eve ushered sin into the world, riches like these were abundant, even laying on the ground as commonplace as gravel or river rock [Genesis 2:12]. After sin, though, all of Creation was broken. The truth of eternity hidden from human understanding.

What does this have to do with the foundations of heaven? As aliens and strangers in this world [Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11], we are naturally drawn to the wonder, beauty and riches of our heavenly home. We dig into the earth seeking treasure to fill the need for something that we are missing. It is the natural response of the eternity in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. Yet because of sin, we do not recognize the shards of heaven when we find them. Rather they become the impetus for greed and the root of all kinds of evil [1 Timothy 6:10].

Beauty is fleeting [Proverbs 31:30]. Earthly wealth will pass away [Proverbs 13:22]. Greatness belongs to God alone [Psalm 145:3]. True wonder emanates from Him alone.

Do you search for God as for hidden treasure [Proverbs 2:4]? Do you seek Him while He may be found [Isaiah 55:6]?

KCS

 

 

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God’s Morality Check

“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

See the source imageBecause 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?

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

Are You Thirsty?

“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

See the source imageUnbelievable! 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?

KCS

The Path of No Return

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.” Revelation 19:17-21

See the source imageAn angel calls all of the scavenging birds to a great feast that contrasts to the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is the bitterness of sin juxtaposed to the sweetness of salvation–many will choose to perish. Kings who have become drunk on their own authority. Generals, their captains and their soldiers who fought for the things of earth in the name of the kings of the earth. And all people–regardless of social status–whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life [Revelation 13:8].

Unlike the mythological phoenix, new physical bodies will not regenerate from the ashes and dust to which we return [Genesis 3:19]. Only spiritual bodies will live in the new heaven and the new earth [1 Corinthians 15:42 & 52]. So flesh will be no more.

As we make choices in life, it is wise for us to remember that we are all appointed to die once and after that to face judgment [Hebrews 9:27]. The things of earth bring us much trouble and ultimately will pass away [Matthew 6:19; 1 Corinthians 3:12-13; 1 John 2:17]. Our physical bodies too will pass away [John 12:24; 1 Peter 1:24].

How much more dreadful for those who resist God to the end. Who stand against Him in the battle of Armageddon, siding with the enemy–Satan’s unholy trinity of self, antichrist and unholy prophet. Like the enemies of any bloody rebellion, there will be no peace in their passing, no body to return to mourning loved ones. Like the soldiers who fell in the No-Man’s-Land between the trenches of WWI, there will be no way to intercede and rescue those who wage war against God without also bringing death on oneself.

Armageddon will be a point of no return, a line that, once crossed, can never be undone.

But for many, they have already chosen a path of no surrender and, therefore, no return. Many have already decided that they would rather live this life denying and defying God, than to worry about the things to come [Revelation 1:19].

Refusal to acknowledge God is a choice. Surrender is a choice.

Which path have you chosen [Matthew 7:13-14]?

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

And So It Was, Is and Is to Come

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah!’ Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” Revelation 19:1-5

See the source imageAs in a refrain from a song, the praise we heard when we first entered the heavenly throne room repeats itself here. This time, the multitude [Revelation 5:12-13, 7:9-17 & 11:15] shouts the psalmist’s invitation for all to join in the praise–hallelujah!–most often translated, Praise the Lord.

And why is the multitude praising God?

For salvation, which is found by grace alone through faith alone in the person of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross [Ephesians 2:8; John 3:16].

For who He is, God. In Him alone is true glory–magnificence, true beauty, high renown and honor. In Him alone is true power–omniscience, omnipotence, all-seeing, wisdom and sovereignty–which he exercises in grace, mercy and love for us. He alone is truth. He alone is the just judge who will weigh the hearts of people [1 Samuel 16:7; Daniel 5:25-27; Hebrews 4:12]. He alone is able to stand against the false religion and systems of this world and bring them to naught, upholding the faith of those He has redeemed, those who have laid down their earthly lives for Him [Revelation 6:9-10].

We come full circle back to the throne room introduction [Revelation 4] where we were first introduced to the twenty-four elders–representative of Old and New Testament believers–and the four living creatures–the living and active throne of God Himself. At the praise of the multitudes, these who continually worship the Lord fall onto their faces more deeply humbled and thankful for all that God is and all that He has done.

And just as they exclaimed, Amen, when Jesus was found worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll, so here the exclaim, Amen, once again, confirming the right-hearted praise from God’s people. Amen. So be it. The English is bankrupt here, because so be it only renders a sense of future completion, where in actuality, the subject of this praise has already been accomplished from the very beginning. Amen should be better translated as three parts in our language to convey the fullest understanding–So has it been, So it is and So it will continually be–reflecting the true nature of God.

Then God’s throne itself echoes the call to praise to the multitude of God’s servants who are now in the new heaven and the new earth for all eternity.

When this day comes, will you be counted among the faithful servants around God’s throne?

KCS