Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: New Jerusalem

Getting face time with God

I rarely get into long conversations via phone.  Since I live many states away from most of my family, I’m sure this drives them nuts.  Part of my hang up with phone conversations is how only hearing someone’s voice hinders our ability to communicate.  It can be hard to focus on the person we’re speaking with when they are not physically in front of us.  We lose out on seeing facial expressions and body language – both of which are significant contributors to how we communicate with each other.  It’s just not the same as face to face.

Prayer can sometimes feel similar, like an incomplete discussion or like we are have a one-way, long-distance conversation.  How much better would it be to sit on the couch and talk with Jesus than to sit on the couch and pray to Jesus?

In John’s final descriptions of the New Jerusalem, he tells us that

Revelation 22:3-5
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will worship Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever.

There are some special privileges listed here for those servants.  The first one to note is in verse 4 – They will see his face.

There were many key people that God partnered with in the ages, many who shared a close friendship with God and did great things for him.  One of God’s most intimate friendships was with a man named Moses.  God and Moses met together on numerous occasions, and God’s presence was constantly manifested with the nation of Israel during Moses’ leadership.  If you were looking to identify which individual in history has had the most direct interaction with God, it would be very difficult to argue against Moses being that guy.

On one occasion, Moses reverently asked God “Please, let me see Your glory.” (Exodus 33:18).  Check out God’s response:

Exodus 33:19-23
He said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you…” But He added, “You cannot see My face, for humans cannot see Me and live…you will see My back, but My face will not be seen.”

Although he was thisclose with God, Moses was unable to see God’s face.

Many years later, Paul – who had his own direct encounter with the glorified, risen Christ – wrote this to the believers in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.

How different is it talking to someone on speakerphone verses calling them on Skype?  How much more intimate is it to speak with someone face to face, rather than talking with them from separate rooms?  Seeing God’s face is a new level of intimacy with God that will be available in the New Jerusalem. 

And that is something to look forward to.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A tree and a curse

Because of how broken everything in this world is, I sometimes feel as if it will never end…that the downward spiral will just keep spinning until everything collapses.  But then I remember that Jesus promised He would come back and set everything right…so in the meantime, I really look forward to the day when the weight of this broken world is finally lifted.  Thankfully, we get a preview of what that future life will look like as John continues his description of what he sees inside New Jerusalem:

Revelation 22:1-2
The he
[the angel] showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s main street.

I love this scene.

God previously stated: I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life. (Revelation 21:6), and in a few verses, we’ll see the offer repeated: Let the one who is thirsty come.  Let the one who desires take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17). 

What the angel shows John at the beginning of Chapter 22 confirms God’s offer…that the river of the water of life flows from God.  The free gift isn’t something that we can earn, borrow, or purchase.  We cannot make ourselves worthy of the gift; we don’t add anything to it.  We aren’t responsible to maintain the river of the water of life.  This is a no-strings-attached offer from God to anyone who wants to take Him up on it.

Revelation 22:2-3
The tree of life was on each side of the river; bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse.

“The end” of the curse sounds like a great thing…but what, exactly, is “the curse”?  To answer that question, we’ll have to back to the beginning…

When God confronted Adam and Eve with their selfish, sinful choice to eat from the only forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, the consequences looked like this:

Genesis 3:16-19
He
[God] said to the woman:
              I will intensify your labor pains;
              you will bear children with painful effort.
              Your desire will be for your husband,
              yet he will rule over you.

And He said to the man, …
              The ground is cursed because of you.
              You will eat from it by means of painful labor
              all the days of your life.
              It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
              and you will eat the plants of the field.
              You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow
              until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it.
              For you are dust, and you will return to dust.

No wonder this is called “the curse”!  A woman’s relationships – both to her children and her husband – became significantly more difficult.  A man’s work also became significantly more difficult.  And at the end of all this difficulty was the inevitable return to useless dust. 

We saw before that the creation eagerly waits for the removal of the curse, and we’ve felt the same longing within ourselves (Romans 8:19-23).  In New Jerusalem, the quality of life we’ve longed for has finally arrived.

What will humanity be able to accomplish when sin no longer interferes with relationships – when you can fully trust everything you’re told, when there’s no agenda in the media, when you know you won’t be cheated, or taken advantage of, or abandoned?

What will humanity be able to accomplish when sin no longer interferes with work – when we can freely partner with God in the things He will do in eternity future…and not have to deal with the influences of selfishness, or ego, or greed?

This is where my heart beats faster in anticipation, and I begin to see how great our God is and how magnificent His amazing plan of history is…

There will no longer be any curse.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Does heaven really have pearly gates?

Ever wonder what heaven will be like?  If we were to believe the culture, we’d be wearing bath robes, floating on clouds, and strumming harps.  With lots of chubby babies around – for what reason, I’m not sure.

However, God does give us a description of His holy city.  God reveals this description to the Apostle John, who (fortunately for us) recorded what he saw.  In this part of John’s description, he details what he sees as the angel measures New Jerusalem:

Revelation 21:17-20
Then he measured its wall, 144 cubits according to human measurement, which the angel used.  The building material of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold clear as glass.  The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of jewel:

the first foundation is 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,
the twelfth amethyst.

Some of these stones we recognize, others we may not.  Remember, John is describing what he sees as best he can – relating his observations to things he is familiar with.  Interestingly enough, many of these precious “foundational” stones listed here were also in the breastplate of Israel’s High Priest. 

What we do know for sure is that the city is prepared like a bride adorned for her husband (21:2), and after unveiling the city, when God said “I am making everything new.” (21:5)…and He means it.  These descriptions of Heaven aren’t like the sleepy, harp-strumming, so-boring-I’m-going-to-gouge-my-eyes-out portrayals we get from modern culture. 

Just imagine seeing this as you walk into New Jerusalem:

Revelation 21:21
The twelve gates are twelve pearls; each individual gate was made of a single pearl.  The main street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.

The largest pearl found on earth is about 1 foot in diameter and is estimated to be worth about $130 million USD.  What kind of artistry goes into making entire city gates out of individual pearls?  Do they shine, do they glimmer?  How would these gates feel to the touch? 

The magnificence of New Jerusalem certainly overwhelms John.  When I let my imagination play with his descriptions, I can’t help but be filled with awe and wonder at the thought of just being there…

And then I remember what God previously announced to John, that the one who conquers will inherit these things (21:7)…being there, in the New Jerusalem, will be wonderful; however, we are invited to inherit it.  Since inheritance is conditional, our choices now determine if we are an conqueror or not.

What, exactly, can we inherit in the New Jerusalem?  We’re not told “exactly” what that will entail…however, given the overwhelming descriptions of New Jerusalem’s beauty, and God’s promises to those who are conquerors – it would be safe to say that living for Christ now, no matter what cost we pay in this life, has an eternal reward far beyond what we would call “good” or “worth it”.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Imagination, Bible reading, and seeing our new home

It’s easy to fall into the habit of just reading through our Bibles, looking for information or some direct word of encouragement.  If we take that approach, we’ll end up missing out on what God has in store for us. 

Imagination isn’t typically a skill that’s promoted when we are taught (if we are taught) how to study our Bibles.  Most preaching looks at the text for nuggets of truth that church-goers can somehow immediately apply to their lives.  However, God gave us powerful minds that can daydream up all sorts of ideas and thoughts.  So why shouldn’t we try and use that skill when we read our Bibles?

Let’s use our sanctified imaginations as John describes our future home in the New Jerusalem:

Revelation 21:15-16
The
[angel] who spoke with me had a golden measuring rod to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.  The city is laid out in a square; its length and width are the same.  He measured the city with the rod at 12,000 stadia.  Its length, width, and height are equal.

Verses like these are fairly simple to read over and keep moving.  Our first impression is probably something like:

Yeah, I’m sure it’s pretty big and impressive.  Jesus said something about there being many rooms in His Father’s house, right?  So, I’m sure New Jerusalem is a decent-sized city.

Let’s put this into a comparison we can relate to – the New York metro area is the largest urban area on the planet, covering about 3,350 square miles.  In comparison, New Jerusalem will cover over 1.9 million square miles…which is over 560 times the size of NYC!

If the boarders of New Jerusalem were placed over a map of the USA, the perimeter would extend from Buffalo, NY to the southern tip of Florida…with the opposite side extending from the Wyoming/Montana border down into Mexico. 

If that’s not amazing enough, New Jerusalem is laid out like a square, so it also extends nearly 1,400 miles up!  It truly boggles the mind to try and imagine how many people could fit in a place that large…and this is also the city that John just described as being prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

A city that size…decked out and beautiful beyond anything we can even imagine.  This is our future home, prepared by Christ for you, just as He promised:

John 14:1-3
“Don’t let your heart be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many rooms; if not, I would have told you.  I am going away to prepare a place for you.  If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.”

Just try and wrap your head around the sheer magnitude of what God is going to do…and the absolutely amazing fact that we believers are going to be a part of it.  Go ahead…imagine…and then marvel at the future God has planned…let these ideas simmer in your mind. 

Thoughts of a future home like this will certainly change our present perspective.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Our desire for peace, fulfilled

There is so much strife and turmoil in our world.  The nightly news is full of what went wrong during the day.  The internet is always ready to show you the ugliness that us human beings can manufacture.  We feel divided by every available category.  We want to see peace, but we just don’t see a way for it to happen.  And yet…our longing for peace suggests that somehow, it’s possible…

Now is the time to use our sanctified imagination.  Try to imagine what John is seeing:

Revelation 21:9-11
Then one of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed with God’s glory.  Her radiance was like a precious jewel, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

John was doing his best to describe to his readers what he was witnessing.  Jasper was a precious stone in Bible times.  As it is known today, jasper’s appearance is more opaque than clear.  Using today’s terms, we would probably refer the New Jerusalem as a brilliant diamond (a stone which was not known as a jewel in Bible times). 

John continues:

Revelation 21:12-14
The city had a massive high wall, with twelve gates.  Twelve angels were at the gates; the names of the twelve tribes of Israel’s sons were inscribed on the gates.  There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.  The city wall had twelve foundations, and the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb were on the foundations.

Interestingly enough, we see reference to both the Old and New Testament people of God…living in the same place, but yet they are still distinctly identified.  The Holy City will be a beautiful place of peace for those who love God, no matter what age they lived in. 

This is the ultimate fulfillment of what Paul explained to the believers in Ephesus:

Ephesians 2:11-3:6
So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh…at that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 
For He is our peace, who made both groups one…so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.  He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross…the Gentiles are
(now, together with believers from Israel) coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The distance from each other the and divide between us and God has been bridged because He is our peace.  The peace we want can only be found in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  That peace we can have right now, when we accept Jesus’ offer of eternal life.  Although we long to live in a peaceful society, we can take comfort knowing that our desire for a peaceful world will ultimately be fulfilled in the New Jerusalem.

For that, I am a very thankful Gentile…and I can’t wait to see Christ’s work of reconciliation and peace displayed in Eternity Future and the New Jerusalem.

Keep Pressing,
Ken