According to Pattern

“According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all the furnishings, just so you shall make it,” Exodus 25:9 (NKJV).

The tabernacle wasn’t a ramshackle affair.  It wasn’t something made up as they went along, but every part of it, down to the clasps which held the sides to the frame, was set forth and described.  There were no revisions, no “TabernaclePlan.02”  It was complete as it came from the mind of God to the hand of Moses.

That’s equally true of everything in creation.  Many may believe that this world came into being as the result of a chance event, but someone has calculated the odds of such a thing happening as 1 in 40 to the tenth power, or as 1 followed by 40 zeroes.  That is a lot of zeroes: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.  We probably don’t even have a name for such a number.  It seems to me that it’s a lot easier to believe Genesis 1-3 than it is to believe in such a throwing of the dice, as it were.  Of course, that does get rid of God and any obligation mankind might have to obey Him.  We think we’re so smart, but all things considered in perspective, an amoeba may be smarter than us.

The truth is, God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, or order, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33.  While Paul wrote primarily to correct some serious problems in the Corinthian church, what he wrote is applicable in a lot of places.  No matter where one looks, whether through a microscope or a telescope, he sees order and design.  Even in the so-called random movement of atoms, there is a discernible pattern.

This is true also of life.  He has not left us on our own, as it were, but has given us instructions about pretty much every area of life.  Whether individually, in our church, in our family, our neighborhood, our city, our country or our nation, there are principles and practices either commanded or forbidden, the doing of which in either case will have discernible results.  We do reap what we sow.

55 years ago, a woman decided we should ignore what God says, so she went to court.  We see the results around us today.  True, she wasn’t the first publicly to oppose God, but she was the most outspoken and successful.  I’m old enough to remember “back then,” what it was like before Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her atheism permeated society.  People left their front doors unlocked.  Cars were left unlocked – we can see this in the old TV programs.  Women could walk down the street at night without worrying about it.  I’ve mentioned this several times before, but the high school I attended was in a “tough” neighborhood.  I hate to think what it’s like today, 59 years after I graduated.  This “tough” school had a rifle range in the basement, with rifles and live ammunition.  I qualified as a marksman on that range.  People today get all upset at the very ideas of “guns” at all, let alone around or in schools, but there was never any problem at that school.  Young men carried rifles in a rack in the back window of their pickup trucks.  No one thought anything about it.  Was there crime?  To be sure.  But nothing at all compared to today.

But now….

To paraphrase Hosea 8:7, “We have sowed the wind and have reaped the whirlwind.”  Or, in the immortal words of Pogo, for you “old-timers:”  “We have found the enemy and they is us.”  I don’t mean to minimize the problem or make fun of it, or to imply that Walt Kelly, the author of Pogo, would agree with my views.  He probably wouldn’t.  But he was right in this case, whether he meant it as I take it or not.

“We” are the enemy.  Having decided that we’re too sophisticated for those old-fashioned “Puritan” ideas, we’ve thrown them all out in the name of “freedom.”

Having rejected “order,” we have opened the door to “confusion”.

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Daniel 7:9-18: Your Throne, O God, Is Forever And Ever

In the first 8 verses of this chapter, Daniel was given a preview of the four world empires which have impacted, or will yet impact, Israel.  This part of his vision reminds us of what he told Nebuchadnezzar in 2:28.  Kingdoms come and go; they may go on a rampage for a while and ravage the earth, but watching over all things on earth, there is a God in heaven.  This is a theme Scripture never tires of.  Further, there is a kingdom coming which shall not pass away, and…which shall not be destroyed, v. 14.  The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream introduced us to this kingdom, 2:44.  This vision expands on that vision.  In the first part of this vision, there are three scenes:

1. There is a scene of unimaginable solemnity, vs. 9, 10.

From the confused mayhem on earth, we are suddenly transported into the measured order of a courtroom:  “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated,” v. 9.

This isn’t a throne of fellowship, such as described in Exodus 24:9-11,

Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel.  And there was under His feet a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.  But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand.  So they saw God, and they did eat and drink. 

Israel had not yet rebelled against God and broken the Mosaic Covenant; once that happened, we read of no further such “fellowship.”  In fact, they were shut out from the presence of God and had to come before Him through an intermediary – the tabernacle and the sons of Aaron and the priesthood.

Nor is it the throne of grace, such as is now available to the children of God for them to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16.    It isn’t the throne of God’s providence, which Ezekiel saw, Ezekiel 1:26-28, nor of His glory, which Isaiah saw, Isaiah 6:1-3.

It’s a throne of judgment:  the books were opened.

This description reminds us of a similar description in Revelation 20:12, where John records,

“I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things written in the books,” emphasis added.

In our apostate day, with its unScriptural and humanistic views of the “love” of God, we have forgotten the other side of Paul’s admonition in Romans 11:22, …consider the goodness and severity of God.  People give no thought at all to the fact that they will stand before God and give an account of everything they’ve ever said, done or thought in their lives.  Every bout of drunkenness, every act of immorality or perversion, every tiny lie or twisting of the truth “just a little bit,” every act of greed or injustice.  Every commission, where they’ve done something they shouldn’t; every omission, where they didn’t do something they should have.  Every secret thing.  Every single thing….

Even Christians will give an account to God, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.  Some seem to have the attitude that, since God has forgiven them because of what Christ did on the Cross, it doesn’t matter what they do.  They can live like the world and do what the world does, and it’s ok.  I was working next to such a group of people one day.  Their conversation was about the filthiest things imaginable.  In the midst of this verbal sewage, somehow the conversation got around to religion and the grace of God, and one of them said, “God loves us unconditionally.”  This is undeniably true, but I don’t think she meant it as the Scripture means it.  There is most certainly nothing in us that can cause God to love us, no “condition” we can meet.  The “reason” He loves us is always found in Him, never in us!  At the same time, when we are taught by the Spirit that we are objects of His love, that knowledge makes us want to please Him, not ourselves.  One of the other workers mentioned her enjoyment of a certain “gospel concert.”  It’s a terribly sad, terribly frightening commentary on the state of modern Christianity that professed Christians can wallow in moral filth in one breath and talk about “the love of God” in the next breath and see no inconsistency.

The froth and frivolity of much of what passes for “church” in our day – the “mega-churches,” the “mega-personalities” – would disappear in an instant if we could but get a vision of that One who sits on an eternal throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah 6:1.

On the other side of the ledger, there will be the revelation of and reward for the good things the saints have done, the sacrifices, the service to God which are often ignored, ridiculed or forbidden in this world.  Peter wrote to some people that believers have a living hope, not in this world, but in the fact that there is an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven….ready to be revealed in the last time, I Peter 1:3-5.  Along this same line, Paul wrote that even the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now, Romans 8:21, 22.

Not forever, and, we believe, not much longer, will this world thumb its nose at its Creator God and His Christ, even as Daniel shows us in the next verses.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

2. There is a scene of unimpeachable severity, vs. 11, 12.

This is a continuation of the scene of judgment.  The beast, certainly a man of great presence and power, has set himself against heaven, speaking pompous words, about which more will be said in a minute.  For now, all his braggadocio will come a halt, and he himself is slain, and [his] body destroyed and given to the burning flame.  He had been able to conquer some of his fellows, and had spoken great and proud things, but could not stand against the Ancient of Days.

3. There is a scene of indescribable majesty, v. 13, 14.

In my opinion, these verses form one of the most wonderful passages in the Old Testament.

a. The approach of One like the Son of Man, v. 13.

In contrast to the “beasts” of the earlier part of the vision, here we have One who bears the image of humanity.  We have the advantage over Daniel here, because we know that this One is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Son of Man” was one of His favorite titles, used by Himself of Himself many times during His earthy sojourn.  It’s a phrase which means so much more than just “human.”  It carries with it a hint of the Divine.  And of a truth, the Son of Man is also the Son of God.  He is the God-Man, God manifested in humanity.

b. The ascendancy of One like the Son of Man, v. 14.

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  What the “beasts” fought over and killed for will be freely given to the Lord Jesus in order that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  Universal dominion is granted Him, something coveted by the “beasts,” but never really attained.  Not only will this kingdom be universal; it will be eternal.  It’ll never disappear nor be taken away, as were the preceding kingdoms described by Daniel.

“To Boldly Go…”

I’ve been a fan of science fiction all my life.  The adventures of John Carter on Mars from the pen of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the writings of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, the imagination of Hugo Gernsback with his Ralph 124C41, written in the early 1900s, yet foreshadowing many ideas which have actually happened.  I realize that most sf is indeed fiction and much of it has little “science” behind it.  Indeed, it’s all written from an evolutionary standpoint.  If life evolved on this planet, then no doubt it also evolved on numerous other planets, and so we have the pronouncements of a Jean Luc Picard opening the TV show “Star Trek, The Next Generation,” saying, “These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.  Her mission is to seek out new cultures and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before….”

As for any idea of “God,” in another show, Picard, in great anger, says that mankind got ride of that superstition (his word) a long time ago.  For all his ability and ingenuity, man is still “a fool,” Psalm 14:1.

Another show has the opening line, “Space, the final frontier….

I doubt that man will ever be able to really enter the frontier of space, let alone “cross” it.  Man may have left his footprint on the moon, and yes, I believe he did, but Scripture says that the heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s, but the earth He has given to the children of men, Psalm 115:16, emphasis added.  The moon may be within our reach, and even, in some yet unforeseeable way, the solar system or parts of it, but the nearest star, not counting our own Sun, is 4 light years away. Sf shows talk about some place in space as being 3 or 4 or so light years away, as if that’s nothing – just a couple of hours or days away – but that doesn’t really show the enormous distances involved.  A light year –  the distance a ray of light travel is said to travel in a year – is a little over 4 trillion miles.  That means the nearest star is 24 trillion miles away or 39 trillion kilometers! 

I used to drive for a living and figure I drove about 600,000 miles.  Counting all the years that I’ve been driving, or was simply a passenger in a car, train or plane, perhaps I’ve traveled close to one million miles.  But even that great distance is “only” 1/1000th of a billion, which itself is “only” 1/1000th of a trillion.  So, to look at it another way, I’ve “traveled” 1/1,000,000th of 1,000,000,000,000 miles.  At that rate, I’d have to live 1,848,000 years to get to the nearest star.  In computing space travel, we’re dealing with distances which are so vast that they are nothing we can relate to.  We have no yardstick to measure them.

But space isn’t really “the final frontier” men and women face.

In my reading the other morning, I read Ecclesiastes 8:8, There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war, (KJV).

Many folks have a document that says that they served in a particular branch of the Armed Forces.  It’s their “discharge”.

Until the Lord comes back, there is no such “discharge” in the “battle” of life.

According to Hebrews 2:15, part of the reason the Lord came the first time was to release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

What “fear”?  What “bondage”?

Hebrews 9:27, And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.

There is an innate knowledge that death is not the end of everything, that there is something beyond, something Hebrews calls “judgment”.  I grant that our “modern” culture has pretty much thrown out such “outmoded” ideas as God and salvation and judgment to come.  We worship “science,” not the Savior.  We see the evidence and result of such thinking every day in the newscasts on TV.

Nevertheless, death is an irrefutable “fact of life” and Scripture tells us that it is not the end of our existence, merely the turning of a page, as it were.

Our Lord came to prepare us for that event, that change.

How did He do that?

First, He came as a Substitute.  In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the Israelite would bring an animal to the door of the Tabernacle or to the Temple.  He would place his hand on the head of that animal, thus signifying that he himself deserved to die, but the animal was taking his place.  This was only a temporary arrangement and the countless animals that died during the centuries before our Lord bore eloquent testimony that they could never take away sin, Hebrews 10:4.

Second, He came as a Sacrifice.  Hebrews 10:11 says, This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of God.

“One sacrifice for sin forever.”

One sacrifice.

Sin must be paid for.  Either you and I will pay for our sins with an eternity in hell, because we could never even ever pay for one sin, let alone the countless multitude we are guilty of, or someone must pay it for us.

That Someone is the Lord Jesus Christ.

His life and death are the only ones God will accept, because He is the only one whose life and death meet the requirements of a holy, righteous and just God.  His are the only ones without sin.

Those who receive Him as Lord and Savior escape final judgment for their sins because the Lord Jesus took their place as their Sacrifice.  I say, “final judgment,” because sin does have consequences.  God may forgive adultery without restoring the marriage that was destroyed by it.  He might forgive drunkenness without restoring the bodily damage that was done by it.  Sin does have consequences.  For the true believer, though he will give an account to God for the sins he committed in this life, and there might be consequences in this life, he can never be lost because of them.  Jesus took his place.

John 1:12 says, As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.  There is only one Name God will accept, only one life and death, only one way into heaven.  Contrary to a lot of modern thought, not everybody is going to a “better place.”  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me, John 14:6.

“No one.”

There is only one way into heaven and that is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Oh, friend, have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?  Do you trust Him as the payment for your sins?

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.

Acts 5:40-42: Shame.

40] And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  41] So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.  42] And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.  (NKJV)

Though there is a lot in these verses, we want to focus on the middle verse in this post.

For a while, I didn’t really know how to approach these verses. The Bible does have a lot to say on the subject of “shame”, how the wicked don’t have any or that they revel in things they ought to be ashamed of, and many other things as well.

In my reading the other day, I came across Mark 8:38, where our Lord says, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels,” also Luke 9:26.

This got me to thinking.  This led me to Hebrews 12:1, 2,Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great of cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

“despising the shame.”

In our superficial and sentimental Christianity, we have such a sanitized and inadequate view of the death of Christ on the cross.  Our pictures and icons show pretty much a bloodless Christ, modestly covered.  The real thing was far different.  Without meaning to minimize the horror of that event, our Lord was a bloody mess.  Scripture tells us His face was almost unrecognizable, Isaiah 52:14.  He had been whipped with a Roman flagellum, a thing made of leather cords in which were embedded bits of bone.  Contemporary accounts of such things tell us that the ribs became visible and that many died from this alone, before they ever got to a cross.  If they did make it that far, there was no modest covering.

No, my friends, it is not without meaning that Hebrews tells us that the Lord Jesus endured the Cross.  We cannot even begin to imagine what He suffered for those for whom He died.  And this doesn’t count what He suffered on account of sin as the wrath of God was poured out on Him.  We read of no cry for His physical suffering, only for His abandonment by the Father:  “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”  – “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?”  There was no profanity in that cry, as it is too often when we use God’s name.  That was the cry of One who had never ever before experienced separation from the Father. 

That cry should echo and reverbrate through our beings to remind us of the agony the Savior was willing to endure to rescue people like us from our sins.

But Scripture also tells us He “despised” the shame of hanging there open to view.  I don’t even really know how to write about that.  The shame of public exposure, of being condemned as a criminal, of being executed – though He died of His own will, not that of the Romans.

But there is something else of which Scripture tells us that the Lord Jesus will be ashamed.  We quoted the verse earlier in this post:  “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels,” emphasis added.

I don’t want to minimize this in any way, but perhaps the word carries an idea of “embarrassment.”  We think of the Return of Christ as a joyous time, a time of being reunited with our loved ones, of meeting other brothers and sisters in Christ, of being done with this wicked world and our own lives, which are too often marred by failure and heartache, of seeing our Lord.  And those things will be true, far more than we can realize.  We will be able to worship and serve Him as He deserves – without the hindrances of our fallen natures.

But there will also be a time of judgment,  Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10.

In 2 Corinthians 5:11, Paul used the word “phobos,” which the NKJV translates as “terror,” in describing how we should view standing before the judgment seat of Christ.  We get our word “phobia” from that word.  I don’t think that Paul had our definition in mind when he wrote, but perhaps it ought to make us stop and think a little about the idea of standing before the holy and righteous Creator of the universe to give an account of the years He gives us on this planet.

Acts 4:1-4, The First, But Not the Last.

1] Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2] being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.  3] And they laid hands on them, and put them into custody until the next day, for it was already evening.  4] However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

The chapter continues from chapter 3 and gives a second result of the Peter’s sermon beside the conversion of about five thousand men:  he and the disciples get arrested.  The chapter may be divided into three sections:  their detention, vs. 1-4, their defense, vs. 5-20, and their dismissal, vs. 21-23.
The title of the post refers to the arrest described in our verses.  It was the first arrest in the history of the church, but it certainly was not the last.

1. The Captors, the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees, v. 1.
The priests were responsible for procedures for the offerings and sacrifices brought into the Temple.  The captain of the temple was what we might call “the head of security.”  The Sadducees were the liberal wing of Israel’s leadership and, as Matthew 22:23 and Acts 23:8 tell us, say there is no resurrection – and no angel or spirit.  The Pharisees were the conservatives and believed in both the resurrection and angels.  Paul turned that difference to his advantage in one of his trials, Acts 23:6.  There was a third party, “the Herodians,” who, to one degree or another, allied themselves with Rome.  Perhaps they thought, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

2. The Controversy, v. 2.
There were two things which bothered these officials:
a. they taught the people.
This may seem strange to us, but we shouldn’t overlook it.  The attitude of these leaders, along with the Pharisees, was one of disdain and contempt for the “little people,” John 7:45-49, as well as any idea that any but themselves should “teach the people.”  They were the spiritual leaders of the nation.  The common people might listen to this interloper into the spiritual affairs of the nation, but they themselves were far above such things.  It’s interesting that while we do read of Pharisees who came to the Lord, Paul being the notable example, there is no record of any Sadducee doing so.
Sadly, that attitude is still around.  In my own experience, I’ve heard a seminary graduate lament that “you can’t really teach much at the ‘Sunday School’ level,” and another brother, looking forward to teaching in a “Bible Institute,” rejoiced that now he would really have to study for “those” people because the folks in the church he was pastoring didn’t require much study or preparation(!)  And, yes, I really did hear these men make those statements.
I recognize the need for advance training for some, to counter the unbelief and skepticism of so-called “higher education” in our day, although the early church did alright without it, and do not necessarily say that we should do away with seminaries and such.  I do deny that “the church” is in any way inferior to the seminary.  The local church was intended to be the center of evangelism, and  instruction, to raise up faithful men, who will be able to teach others also, 2 TImothy 2:2; Matthew 28:18-20.  There is no provision in Scripture for the numerous “para-church” organizations which have sprung up.  In fact, I believe that disregard of this Biblical principle has led to the deplorable and apostate condition of much of “Christianity” today.
b.  they preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
For the Sadducees, at least, this was the disciples’ main offense.  Not only were Peter and John teaching people these men thought to be incapable of learning, they were preaching heresy!  It seems from the phrasing that they weren’t just proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus, but through Him the resurrection of everyone, as Paul later taught 1 Corinthians 15.
The Resurrection of our Lord was the message of the early church, Acts 1:22; 2:31; 4:2, 33; 17:18, 32; 24:15, 21.  As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 15:17, 19, If Christ is not risen from the dead, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.  If there is no resurrection, the sin question has not been answered.  Scripture has firmly established that there is an “after” as far as death is concerned, that it is not the end of our existence, and that much of what happens in this life will not bear fruit until then:  Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later.  Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden, 1 Timothy 5:24-25.
Death might come as an interruption to this life, but really, it is only an intermission, as it were, between two acts:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  

Acts 2:1-13: Pentecost…Fully Come

1] When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  2] And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  3] Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5] And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.  6] And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in their own language.  7] Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?  8] And how is it that we hear, each one in our own language in which we were born?  9] Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoing Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  11] Cretans and Arabs – we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”  12] So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

13] Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” 

Acts 2 records a watershed event in the history of the church:  the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.  Unlike those instances in the OT where the Spirit came upon God’s people for a limited time and a specific task, for example, 2 Chronicles 15:1, the Spirit came upon these believers to indwell them permanently.  Like the Crucifixion, it was a one-time event.  Christ doesn’t have to die for each new generation and the Spirit doesn’t have to come in such an overt way for them.  Christ has died and the Spirit has come.  He indwells each believer as a guarantee of each believer’s final arrival in heaven and as the “firstfruits” of our relationship with God as His children:

2 Corinthians 1:22, who [God] also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 5:5, Now He who has prepared us for this very thing [the victory of eternal life over mortality, vs, 1-4] is God, who also has give us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Ephesians 1:14, who [the Spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

In these three verses, the KJV has “earnest” for “guarantee.”  I think I like this word better.  An “earnest” is a down-payment on something, or at least that’s what it used to be called.  At least to me “guarantee” doesn’t really have the same impact.  When my wife and I bought our present house, we had to give the owner some money to seal the deal, as it were.  It was our “earnest.”  This was our promise to buy the house, which we did.  It was also his promise to sell us the house.  By the grace of God, we now own it free and clear.

The Holy Spirit is God’s down payment, if you will, on the eternal blessings He has promised to His people.  But, unlike our lengthy time of paying for the house, the payment for our redemption was made all at once by the Lord Jesus on Calvary.  By the grace of God, salvation is ours, free and clear.

In the case of the house, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t “upkeep”.  I need to get out and mow the yard once more before winter gets here.  We recently had the house painted.  We’ve had the roof replaced and the sewer lines cleaned out.  But the house is ours.

So it is with salvation.  There is “upkeep”.  This does NOT mean that we have to “keep” it or else we might lose it.  It’s ours, free and clear.  But, as with the house, there are things to do as Christians:  prayer, Bible study, fellowshiping with other believers, faithfulness during the week and not just on Sunday.

On this first Pentecost, what happened to the believers?  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance, v. 4.

“Other tongues.”  What does this mean?  Was it just gibberish, or “angel tongues,” or something else?   Luke clearly tells us.  In v. 5, the crowd drawn by the sound of the “rushing mighty wind,” v. 2, heard them speak in their own language, v. 6.  Then Luke lists 17 languages understood by those who heard the disciples.

This astonished the crowd because it was evident that these disciples were Galileans, v. 7.  Galilee was in the northern part of Israel, next to Gentile territory.  In fact, it was called Galilee of the Gentiles, Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:15.  Galileans were considered uncouth and ignorant, without learning and speaking even their own language clumsily and without grace.  Yet here were these men, speaking foreign languages, and, we might imagine, doing so quite fluently, though Luke doesn’t specifically tell us that.

This brings us to what they were talking about: the wonderful works of God, v. 11.

“The wonderful works of God.”

We’re not told which of these works are included, but I think there’s a lesson here, nonetheless.  Our world and culture is awash with skepticism and unbelief.  We’re told that this world just happened, that it evolved from nothing into the wonder we see all around us.  There is no God, no rhyme or reason for anything, it just happens.  The Bible is just another religious book, subject to human wisdom and scholarship.  There are no absolutes (except that one!), everything is just what culture and society say and accept.  We see the results of that teaching in the degeneracy and violence all around us.

We need to return to a Biblically-based preaching and teaching.  This world didn’t just happen; in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, Genesis 1:1.  Man didn’t “evolve” from lesser creatures; he was created as a direct and unique act of God, Genesis 1:26, 27.  Death entered for no other reason than man sinned, Romans 5:12.  There are absolutes; man is accountable.  There are a heaven and a hell, and there’s only one way to enter the one and to escape the other:  faith in the Lord Jesus, Acts 4:12.

Some received the message, others mocked, saying, “These men are drunk!”

Lord willing, we’ll see Peter’s response to this jibe in our next post.  Continue reading

Revelation 21:9-27: The Eternal City.

9] 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.  10] 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, 11] having the glory of God.  Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  12] 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 twelves tribes of the children of Israel:  13] three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

14] Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  15] And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.  16] The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth.  And he measure the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs.  Its length, breadth, and height are equal.  17] Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.  18]The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.  19] 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, 20] 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.  21] The twelve gates were twelve pearls:  each individual gate was one pearl.  And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22] But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  23]  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.  24] 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.  25] Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).  26] And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.  27] But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes and abomination or a life, but only those are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (NKJV)

There is a city on this earth which claims to be eternal.  As we’ve seen in earlier posts, this claim will be shown to be incorrect.  Though it’s in a different context, something God said in the last part of Jeremiah 44:28 might apply here:  [They] shall know whose words will stand, Mine or theirs.  There is only one city which will endure into eternity.  That city is described in our text.

The city is almost beyond description, certainly beyond our ability to picture it.  The most important thing about it, though, is said right away.  It’s not it’s impressive size nor its unbelievable beauty.  The most important thing is – it has the glory of God, v. 11.  This is implied in the fact that the it’s called the holy Jerusalem, v. 10, but not everything that called holy in this world has the glory of God, and maybe not anything.  This city is not of this world.

John says her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  This is also the description of the wall surrounding the city, v. 18.  There’s some discussion about what this “jasper stone” is.  Some think it might have been green like an emerald, others think it is a diamond.  Whatever it is, the Shekinah glory of God shining through its crystalline structure will be breathtaking.  We’ve seen the beauty of light refracted through a diamond, or, for that matter, the beauty of light refracted through drops of rain in a rainbow.  I used to drive for a living.  One day, a storm had just passed and there was a rainbow, one end of which was right there on the hood of my truck.  It’s the only time I’ve experienced it, but that rainbow so close up was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  I can’t even begin to describe it.  I don’t know exactly what the city will look like, but earthly examples will pale into nothing compared to what we will see in the New Jerusalem.

In v. 16, John tells us the city is laid out as a square, 1500 miles to a side, and 1500 miles high.  This is certainly like no earthly city!  It appears to be a cube, though Ironside envisioned it as a triangle, with the apex being at the throne of God.  Others see it as a circle.  It’s surrounded by a wall 216 feet high, with three gates on each side attended by an angel, though it’s unclear what their function will be in a holy and righteous environment, v. 12.

The really interesting thing about these gates in v. 12 is that each gate is named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel.  We’ll come back to this in a moment.

In v. 14, John tells us that this wall had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Cf. Ephesians 2:20.

Let me turn aside for just a minute.  The Lord Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb” 26 times in Revelation.  I think there’s something here that we need to remember.  It’s so easy to get all wrapped up in the splendor of this city and of the prospect of streets of gold and of pearly gates that we forget one vital fact.  In 5:6, the first reference to Him, John saw a Lamb as it had been slain.

“as it had been slain.”

You see, much of this would not be possible, at least as far as we’re concerned, if the Lord Jesus had never been born of the virgin, lived a perfect and sinless life, died a substitutionary and atoning death on the Cross, and rose from the dead.  Heaven would still be heaven; we just wouldn’t be there.  We get so wrapped up in the blessings He bought for us that we tend to forget the price He paid for them.  But throughout eternity, He will be worshiped as the Lamb.

We should be doing that now.

John mentions our Lord’s twelve apostles as each being named on one of the city’s twelve foundations.  In v. 12, he mentions the twelve tribes of Israel.

What’s the significance of this?

There are a couple of major views of the place of Israel in God’s redemptive plan.  One view says that God is finished with Israel; she has no further place in God’s purpose.  When she crucified the Lord, she shut the door in His face – and in hers.  She’s done.  “The church” has taken her place and her blessings, though in a “spiritual” sense.  The OT prophecies will not be fulfilled “literally,” but spiritually, in the church.  A second view is that when Israel crucified her Messiah, God’s original plan was frustrated, and so He instituted “Plan B”: the church.  This is the view I was brought up with and held in the days of my youth.

Since then, though, I’ve come to look at this a different way.  The church is no “plan B”; how can a believer even have such a low view of God?  Sadly, too many do.  I don’t know about you, but if God had to change His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond plan B.  I know I’ve said that before, but it’s still true.  No wonder Christianity is in the mess it’s in!  Who wants to follow and serve such a feeble god?

No, no.  The Church is not some “Plan B”.  She is “Part B”.

The death of Christ didn’t catch God by surprise.  It didn’t throw a monkey wrench into the works.  That’s why our Lord came into the world in the first place – not just to live, but to die.  Israel’s rejection was just the means of accomplishing that.  And it’s through that death that she will ultimately be reconciled to her Lord, Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:26.

In Ephesians 3:6, Paul wrote that Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.  The early church had a lot of trouble with the idea that Gentiles could come to the Lord Jesus on their own without having to become Jews first.  This is what Acts 10 and 11 are all about: the extension of the Gospel and salvation to Gentiles.

In Ephesians 2:12, 13, Paul reminded the Christians at Ephesus, who were Gentile, about their pre-conversion state:  that at time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ, emphasis added.  In 2:14, he wrote that it was God’s purpose through the Lord Jesus, who Himself is our peace, then in v. 15, 16, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two,…and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, emphasis added.

The church isn’t a replacement for Israel.  She isn’t some spiritual version of Israel.  She is a “new man”, a new thing:  a body composed of both Jew and Gentile.  Ethnicity counts for nothing in the church – or it’s not supposed to – where there is neither Jew nor Greek, Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11.  I suppose in our day he might have written, “there is neither black nor white nor brown.”  He doesn’t deny our ethnicity or our gender or our economic status; it’s just that at the foot of the Cross, none of that matters.  It’s a shame that so much of our thinking even in the church is shaped by politics rather than by the plain teaching of the Word of God.

Though united in the holy city, Israel and the Church will never lose their distinctive identities.

Having said all that John has, still the wonder of the New Jerusalem isn’t its physical beauty or size.  As he mentioned in v. 3, where he said that God would dwell with men and do away with sorrow and suffering, here in vs. 22-26, he elaborates a little on that thought.  We won’t get into that so much because we have nothing to compare it with.  Our history and culture as a world has nothing like it.  It may be that things will be somewhat like they might have been had our first parents never sinned.  The important thing is that God will be there.  All else is insignificant.

In v. 27, John closes on a solemn note.  God will be there, but not every person will be there.  There are some who will be excluded, some things not permitted.  There shall by no means enter into anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. 

Once again, we get into this idea of being saved.  Oh, that we might understand this.  Not everyone is going to “a better place.”  The truth is, not a single one of us deserves to go to such a place.  We’re all sinners by birth and too often by choice.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, we live under God’s wrath and condemnation, John 3:18, 36.  Only through Him is there salvation from our sin and our condemnation.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, Acts16:31.