Ancient cities were surrounded by huge and extensive walls to assure the safety of the inhabitants. Gates permitted residents to leave by day. The king could dispatch envoys or armies to carry out his plans by day. Caravans, merchants, traders and pilgrims could come and go by day, showing their papers at the Gates. At night gates were closed and barred, while Watchmen patrolled the walls. Outside the city various travelers wait--especially at night. Among them were thieves, robbers, enemies of the king, crooks, condemned prisoners, drug dealers and prostitutes. Some of them could slip into the city unnoticed during the day, but at night the term “outside the gate” was pejorative. To this day, sewage treatment plants and garbage dumps are traditionally outside of town. Life outside the city gate then (and now) was perilous.
During the day, when the gates are open, City Fathers would often sit in the gate to be more accessible to visitors and citizens alike. This gate Presence was often for show and PR purposes —as seen in Lot’s sitting in the gate at Sodom (Genesis 15) and Absalom’s protocol during the reign of his father King David. (2 Chronicles 15)
Big cities had multiple gates. Best known are Jerusalem’s gates, both old and new. See for example, Gates of Jerusalem.
Gates were weak points in the walls and had to be diligently guarded night and day but this was not always sufficient (Nahum 2:6, Daniel 5:30). Likewise watchmen on the walls and sentries at the gates were important from ancient times. Today banks and government agencies, military bases, and diamond mines are protected behind walls, security guards, passwords. (The examples given here regarding secure sites are primitive.)
The image of a walled city from antiquity recurs in the vivid descriptions of the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, which are found in the very last chapters of the Bible. New Jerusalem is large, 1500 miles on a side, or about 3.375 billion cubic miles in volume. Artists renderings sometimes show a cubical building of gold falling out of the sky or they draw a flat ordinary medieval city with no hidden splendor to speak of. Some have thought New Jerusalem is pyramidal. New Jerusalem is probably not merely three-dimensional, but most likely has many more than three or four dimensions. Even so, spatial gardens and “spacious” dwellings for 10 billion people are not difficult to envision. Twelve gates assures that God’s people will be able to traverse near and far from home, as the Spirit leads. The imagery of the city suggests it is the eternal home not only of the church but of all believers down through the ages. Entrance and egress from the City are suggested by the twelve gates, named after the twelve tribes of Israel. The City must be quite literal and not imaginary.
New Jerusalem shows up at the end of the Book Revelation— it is an Eternal City, now in existence. People trapped in linear time will have to wait until death to go there. But the followers of Jesus who pay attention to verb tenses in the New Testament will see immediately that we already live there now! The heavenly city is paired with the earthly city of Jerusalem in the Bible.
Two covenants are contrasted by the writer:
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written:
‘Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.’
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. (Galatians 4:21-31)
Without our new bodies we can’t look out the window at the splendor or smell the roses if we are living in New Jerusalem. But we can believe what God declares is true and walk by faith—as we have been instructed to do. Soon our new bodies will arrive in a cosmic time warp. We’ll be clothed upon by our new bodies and see that we are living in company with the redeemed of all ages. We do not need to wait around in linear time for the future. In reading the New Testament, pay attention to the verb tenses. Live here and now with Jesus and wait for your new body to be handed to you. Most everyone I know is trapped in time by their mortal bodies. But this present “earth suit” is not who I am, it’s merely my temporary home away from home. The real “you” is invisible.
Ray Stedman makes frequent mention of the difference between dwelling now in heaven versus being trapped in time on earth:
“It is important to see exactly the location where these 144,000 and the Lamb are seen. The opening sentence tells us they were "standing on Mount Zion" -- the temple mount in Jerusalem. This means that they were on earth, in Jerusalem, not in heaven. And they are seen together, the Lamb (Jesus). They are 144,000 male Jews chosen out of Israel -- "Christ's Commandos," as we called them earlier.
I want to try and put some loose ends together here. According to the promise of Jesus given to the seven churches in the opening chapters of this book, he told them in several places that he would take the church (i.e., the true believers of this present age), to be with him before this last seven-year period would begin upon the earth. This was accomplished, as Paul describes it in First Thessalonians 4, in what is called the "rapture" (or departure) of the church to be with Christ. The last word of that Thessalonians passage is, "so shall we ever be with the Lord," (1 Thessalonians 4:17b KJV).
The problem that people get into at that point is they think that being "with the Lord" in heaven means to be taken far off into space somewhere. We all have difficulty thinking of heaven as being right here on earth as well as off in space. In other words, heaven is another dimension of existence just beyond our present senses. You can be in heaven and still be on earth at the same time. As I read these prophetic passages I am more and more convinced that this will be the case -- the church is with the Lord, but the Lord is on earth during the whole last seven years. The church is with him, but invisible to the rest of the world, and ministering to this select group of 144,000 Jews as Jesus appears to them from time to time. If this is true, Jesus will be in exactly the same condition with them as he was with the eleven disciples after his resurrection, when for a period of 40 days he appeared from time to time to them. At different times and in different places he was with them, and yet he would not be with them; he would step back into the realm of invisibility after appearing in their midst. This seems to be the situation here. These are not only 12 disciples -- they are 12 times 12 times 1,000 -- all men of Israel chosen for a special work on earth during these last days. If you can put that scene into your imagination you will get a much clearer picture of what is going on in these scenes. Now let us look at the characteristics of these 144,000…” The Time of the Harvest
By simply trusting that what God says is true, and acting on it, it is readily possible for any follower experience real life now. Consider the vivid contrast between these two modes of existence,
“...But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:7-16)
The Apostles of the New Testament and the writer of Hebrews tell us (we who follow Jesus) that heaven is now not merely a far-away place we get to go when we die. We are already there in "heaven," but our old bodies don’t work very well.
“And you He made alive—(not “will make alive”)—who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest of mankind.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1-10)
“For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:18-24)
To go on in discussing invisible realities, back to New Jerusalem. The aged Apostle John looking ahead into the future was privileged to see things yet to happen in history.
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
New Jerusalem is pictured here as descending out of heaven. Since the eternal city exists now and has more than four-dimensions, the “invasion” will be an unprecedented “break through” for earth dwellers, an invasion from outer space long imagined by science fiction writers.
There are two ways of thinking about the descent of New Jerusalem into the linear, historical time domain. This is ordinarily thought to occur seven years after the Rapture at the Second Advent of Jesus Christ. This event will be completely public.
Behold, He is coming with the cloud (nephele), and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”(Revelation 1:7,8)
A “Second Opinion” (thinking in terms of linear time) is that the descent of the heavenly city to earth happens 1007+ years after the Rapture. I believe both views are true, paradoxically. The word millennium occurs three times in Revelation 20. That the thousand-year reign on earth is a linear-time reality is not in dispute as far as I am concerned. But the time period is linear and literal--apparently for an observer living on earth. In his commentary on Revelation, Ray distinguishes between “earth dwellers” and “heavenly dwellers.”
What is actually going on “upstairs” in heaven's time frame with us, while earth clocks “downstairs” tick out a thousand years in history? I stopped at this point in writing and listened again to my friend Chuck Missler teaching through Revelation 20. Many insights I believed in were brought vividly brought to my mind, wonderfully. Please stop and hear what Chuck has to say.
The saints appear openly at the Second Advent along with Jesus and we appear to play an active role in subsequent world affairs down below—with Jesus—from the Second Coming on, right through the Millennium. Do we serve in this capacity watching from “The Mezzanine,” at that time, or do we camp out down on the planet? Do we have viewing ports where we watch what Jesus is doing down below? Will we be briefed daily? Or do we participate in some way with Jesus from our heavenly nest? During the entire tribulation period (7 years) Jesus will then be involved in every unfolding event in history. At the Rapture Jesus comes and remains with his church. We are safe to be sure but not in some far off imaginary place. The Bride will be there and Jesus will be in charge. (Hence Chuck Missler’s phrase to the effect that "we will be watching from the Mezzanine.”) Will the Second Coming of Jesus (together with us) affect time as we experience it on earth? Yes! But it’s a difficult situation to analyze. If we who know Jesus (a few billion of us), safely ensconced in New Jerusalem for seven years, are sent back to earth with Jesus to earth for a thousand years, will this change history? Of course, radically so! Will we be bystanders or participants at the Campaign of Armageddon? Revelation chapter 19 suggests the latter.
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”
And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.”
In heaven and with us? Evidently. Is the New Jerusalem the headquarters where Jesus lives with His Bride? It seems possible, even likely.
“And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Revelation 19-20)
It’s important to consider those who time-traveled to New Jerusalem when they died, other believers “dwelling” in heaven now waiting for their new bodies, third, the “tribulation martyrs” waiting also for final vindication and new bodies, and fourth, saints who know Jesus but are not part of the Bride. These “citizens” will each reappear in earth history in God’s good time. Right now I assume that we all be comfortably housed in New Jerusalem. Heaven is vast and we have yet to given any official tours.
“…Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.” (Revelation 21:12)
Here in the walls and gates of New Jerusalem we can see our Jewish roots as gentiles. (Cities are feminine symbolically, by the way).
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)
“Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, 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 individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.
Chuck Missler studied the symbolic meaning of gems and precious stones in the Bible for many years. He noted that recovering original meanings was difficult but that each stone points to hidden splendors within God as a living Being, He is the source of everything of eternal worth and value.
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Digression: Water is probably the most remarkable substance known to man. Dr. Ed Boudreaux, a nuclear scientist, showed that all the elements of the periodic table could be generated in a matter of hours of days using H2O as a working substance, given temperatures and pressures thought to have existed during the six days of creation week. Water features prominently in Genesis as is well known. (http://www.ldolphin.org/Introgen.html, http://www.ldolphin.org/Early.html, http://www.ldolphin.org/genesis1.html). Living beings, like us, are water borne and can only survive in a very limited environment of temperatures, air composition, internal fluid balances, diet and sanitary conditions. Water molecules are polarized and can carry electric charge and ions causing a simple glass of water to be a miracle substance worthy of much investigation. How much more amazing is “living”water. The subject of water is so vast, physically and spiritually, that I can only suggest Wikipedia as an good place to start. But don’t miss http://ourrabbijesus.com/articles/living-water/. Also informative, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180813125244.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+Science+News%29
But let’s focus for a bit on “outside the city.” There, outside the walled city an exclusion zone is to be found. This “place” is reserved for outcasts, for those who have refused God’s mercy, grace and love.
God loves everyone who has ever lived. But few respond. The grand total number of people who have ever lived, could well total 100 billion people. (World Population). “Whosoever will may come” is an amazing offer.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:11-21)
The outcasts from life listed at the end of the Bible are not merely the rebellious or the disobedient or protestors against injustice, they are those who refuse to be made whole. Isaiah 56 describes people who were outcasts or derelicts, but who have given Jesus permission to be made whole,
Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come,
And My righteousness to be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
And the son of man who lays hold on it;
Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
Do not let the son of the foreigner
Who has joined himself to the Lord
“The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”;
Nor let the eunuch say,
“Here I am, a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant,
Even to them I will give in My house
And within My walls a place and a name
Better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
That shall not be cut off.
“Also the sons of the foreigner
Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him,
And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—
Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And holds fast My covenant—
Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says,
“Yet I will gather to him
Others besides those who are gathered to him.”
One sees tombstones everywhere today which memorialize the deceased. They all imply that the deceased is no longer with us, but “up yonder.” The loved one is out of touch with the left behind for now (until the Rapture, that is). We are not allowed to attempt communication with the dearly departed since demons and evil spirits are ready to impersonate and deceive. Even when the mourning family members know about time in heaven versus linear time, we are not able to communicate with those already in heaven. Once we have all crossed over and all living in new bodies, I expect we will be able to communicate freely with anyone. There may be no telephones in heaven, but something better. Who we talk to and how long we connect are under sovereign control so all we do and say in New Jerusalem will probably be orchestrated.
I suspect that we may each have our own personal Narnia in heaven with a wardrobe-like modest portal in the Heavenly Jerusalem. If our individual portal requires, say, 1000 cubic feet of space and the city has (1500x5280)^3, about 7 billion cubic feet, of three-dimensional space available, then accommodating 10 billion residents portals would be no big deal. We will surely enjoy and appreciate gardens and trees, forests and wilderness areas with none of the horrors of city traffic, tenements or impersonal cubicles. Birds and bees and pets and tame animals quite possibly.
Every human being who ever lived is unique. God don’t make no junk and no clones. Even “identical twins” are not carbon copies. When a man, woman or child receives Jesus as Lord, that person begins to build a unique personal legacy. Individuality is valued highly by our Creator. Think of your private Narnia to enjoy, an Eden of your own. Of course friends from near and far will be able to enjoy your unique garden. Most of all you can enjoy communion with Jesus. This is to be seen in the Song of Solomon,
A garden enclosed
Is my sister, my spouse,
A spring shut up,
A fountain sealed.
Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates
With pleasant fruits,
Fragrant henna with spikenard,
Spikenard and saffron,
Calamus and cinnamon,
With all trees of frankincense,
Myrrh and aloes,
With all the chief spices—
A fountain of gardens,
A well of living waters,
And streams from Lebanon.
Awake, O north wind,
And come, O south!
Blow upon my garden,
That its spices may flow out.
Let my beloved come to his garden
And eat its pleasant fruits.
New Jerusalem will evidently have multidimensional “private spaces,” each “land” a Narnia, (without an evil witch) — for all ~10 billion of us. New Jerusalem will probably also have vast “public spaces” for the gathering of families, clans and such. We are given the following details about City Center,
“…I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.
“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”
Central in the passage is Jesus. The same Jesus who created the universe, who came into the world is the heir of all things. We are supposed to be getting to know Him now in this present life.
The subjects of glory, glory land, and glorified need mentioning here.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)
“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.
And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-18)
You and I have not yet been “glorified” but this consummating experience is part of the package. Anticipated in the Old Testament, the character of God is vividly clear in the writings of the prophets of Israel. One can not earn points or favor with God through performance or self effort. God does not grade on the curve. He knows us through and through. We are never ”batch processed” or treated as if we were all alike. We were badly flawed, damaged beyond repair, and dead as a door nail, apart from the constant mercy and saving grace of Jesus. Consenting to be forgiven by Jesus anyone anywhere can be reborn and made part of “city living” in New Jerusalem. Why be left outside of town forever?
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates,
That the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in.
You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.
For He brings down those who dwell on high,
The lofty city;
He lays it low,
He lays it low to the ground,
He brings it down to the dust.
The foot shall tread it down—
The feet of the poor
And the steps of the needy.”
The way of the just is uprightness;
O Most Upright,
You weigh the path of the just.
Yes, in the way of Your judgments,
O Lord, we have waited for You;
The desire of our soul is for Your name
And for the remembrance of You.
With my soul I have desired You in the night,
Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early;
For when Your judgments are in the earth,
The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
Let grace be shown to the wicked,
Yet he will not learn righteousness;
In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly,
And will not behold the majesty of the Lord.
Lord, when Your hand is lifted up, they will not see.
But they will see and be ashamed
For their envy of people;
Yes, the fire of Your enemies shall devour them.
Lord, You will establish peace for us,
For You have also done all our works in us.
O Lord our God, masters besides You
Have had dominion over us;
But by You only we make mention of Your name.
They are dead, they will not live;
They are deceased, they will not rise.
Therefore You have punished and destroyed them,
And made all their memory to perish.
You have increased the nation, O Lord,
You have increased the nation;
You are glorified;
You have expanded all the borders of the land.
Lord, in trouble they have visited You,
They poured out a prayer when Your chastening was upon them.
As a woman with child
Is in pain and cries out in her pangs,
When she draws near the time of her delivery,
So have we been in Your sight, O Lord.
We have been with child, we have been in pain;
We have, as it were, brought forth wind;
We have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth,
Nor have the inhabitants of the world fallen.
Your dead shall live;
Together with my dead body they shall arise.
Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;
For your dew is like the dew of herbs,
And the earth shall cast out the dead.
Take Refuge from the Coming Judgment
Come, my people, enter your chambers,
And shut your doors behind you;
Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment,
Until the indignation is past.
For behold, the Lord comes out of His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
The earth will also disclose her blood,
And will no more cover her slain.
By Jessye Norman
By George Beverly Shea
Last night I lay asleeping
There came a dream so fair
I stood in old Jerusalem
Beside the temple there
I heard the children singing
And ever as they sang
Methought the voice of Angels
From Heaven in answer rang
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest.
Hosanna to your King!"
And then methought my dream was chang'd
The streets no longer rang
Hushed were the glad Hosannas
The little children sang
The sun grew dark with mystery
The morn was cold and chill
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill
Hark! How the Angels sing,
Hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna to your King!"
And once again the scene was changed
New earth there seemed to be
I saw the Holy City
Beside the tideless sea
The light of God was on its streets
The gates were open wide
And all who would might enter
And no one was denied
No need of moon or stars by night
Or sun to shine by day
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away
Sing for the night is o'er
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna for evermore!"
Direzione Generale, BOOSEY & HAWKES INC
Songwriters: Stephen Adams / F.E. WEATHERLY
The Holy City lyrics © S.I.A.E. Direzione Generale
October 27, 2018
December 31, 2018
July 2, 2019