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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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Beyond Measure

“The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.” Revelation 21:15-17

See the source imageWhen the New Jerusalem descends, the angel who had poured out one of the seven bowls of God’s wrath continues to show John what will be. This time, he measures the city, as was done in the book of Ezekiel. Both books use human increments to report the measurements. Just like Genesis uses 7 human days to explain the Creation and Sabbath rest, throughout scriptures, God uses human terms to communicate His truth with us.

The angel, and therefore John, is very specific here. The New Jerusalem is a perfect cube, just like the Most Holy Place of both the earthly Temple and Tabernacle [1 Kings 6:19-20]. And the angel is measuring with human cubits–the length of a man’s fingertip to elbow–approximately 18 inches. He specifically states that he is using man’s measurement, because man is made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27]. So imagine how big God’s cubit would be!

Even in human terms, these dimensions equal a city with a base area of 1,960,000 miles²–that’s like India and Saudi Arabia put together–and a volume of 2,744,000,000 miles³. Besides the interior space this creates in the city, the wall is about 200 feet thick–that’s about the width of a football field plus its sidelines.

Imagine the city wall apartments and skyscraper mansions a city of this dimension would hold, not to mention the wide open spaces. And this is just the city of New Jerusalem, the center of God’s eternal presence with us. *Brain explosion*

Can you imagine? Will you stop only at imagination? Or will you lay hold of heaven with your life?

KCS

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

The Foundation of Peace

“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

See the source imageRecall 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?

See the source imageEqually 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?

KCS

 

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

The Old Made New

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5

See the source imageFrom the moment sin entered Creation, God laid the foundations for the new heaven and the new earth [Genesis 3:15 & 21-24; Isaiah 65:17]. The land masses of the first earth were surrounded and divided by seas since Day 3 of the Creation, and in Babel’s day, God divided the people over the face of the whole earth so that they wouldn’t influence one another for evil [Genesis 11:8-9]. But there will not be a need for such a separation in heaven. There believers will be of one heart for Jesus, they will be of one accord in praise [2 Peter 3:13; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 3:12].

The New Jerusalem will be a heavenly city, a true dwelling for God among the redeemed [Hebrews 12:22]. A dwelling that God Most High prepared for us like a bride prepares for her wedding [John 14:2; Hebrews 11:10]. Like the Temple was an earthly wonder to behold, the heavenly Jerusalem will be like nothing we can imagine.

But it isn’t for the New city that we hope, it is for the restored relationship with God. That we will once again be the people that He created us to be with reverence for God restored to our hearts. Though Jesus was God with us on earth for a short time, when we are restored as God’s people, He will be with us for eternity. He will undo all that sin that we have done–no more tears and no more pain [Genesis 3:16-18; Isaiah 65:19; Revelation 7:17], no more death and no more mourning the dead [Genesis 3:19; Isaiah 35:10; 1 Corinthians 15:26].

We live in the old world. It is lost and dying and it will pass away. While we are here, we live in our old bodies, which will also pass away. We can choose to allow God to make us new in this life. Our old bodies will still pass away, but our new soul man will live on.

This is a truth you can take to the bank. It is absolutely trustworthy, unlike the promises of this world.

Are you a new creation in Christ? Has your relationship with God been restored?

KCS