When a song wells up inside of you…well, I thought you would like to hear it too.
Be at peace dear church, God is sovereign.
When a song wells up inside of you…well, I thought you would like to hear it too.
Be at peace dear church, God is sovereign.
The New Jerusalem
There are many who have been taught that when Jesus comes back on the clouds of glory that He will establish a new Jerusalem; a literal, physical city, at a location somewhere on this earth. Some people believe that it will be at the location of the old Jerusalem, while others, particularly those in the LDS (Mormon) church, believe that it will be located in the United States, and, more specifically, in Independence, Missouri. Let’s see what the Bible has to say regarding this issue.
With regard to the possibility that this earth will even exist beyond Jesus’s second coming (Judgment Day), In 2 Peter 3:7, we read, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Further on in verse 10, we read, “But the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” God reiterates this point in verse 12 and finally in verse 13 we read, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
In Revelation 21:1, it reads, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
Regarding the new Jerusalem, however, in the very next verse we read, “and I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Later, at the end of verse 9, one of the seven angels told John, ” Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And in verse 10, “and he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain and shewed me that great city, holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” We can readily see that the city, the new Jerusalem is not some literal, physical, city, but rather the kingdom of God encompassing the body of all true believing Christians, the true eternal Church, which God looks upon as the bride of Christ!
To see that the new Jerusalem is a spiritual representation of the kingdom of God that is made up of the body of believers, we just have to turn to Revelation 3:12, where we read, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall no more go out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches.” This truth is also evident in Galatians 4, verses 25 and 26 which contrasts the earthly Jerusalem and her children (the Jews of national Israel), described as being in bondage (to the works of the law), with the heavenly spiritual “Jerusalem which is above is free (through the grace of God), which is the mother of us all (all true believing Christians).”
Additional support is found in Hebrews 12:22-23 , where we read, “But ye are come unto Mount Sion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,”.
As to the timing of the fulfillment of the coming of the new Jerusalem we are told in Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
The Holy Temple of God, Where is it Now?
This brings us to another problem. There are those in various religions today who claim to have access to a literal, physical, earthly holy temple of God. As was indicated above, the holy temple of God is a spiritual structure made up of true believing Christians (described as pillars in the temple) coincident with the new Jerusalem in heaven. This is entirely consistent with what we read in 1 Peter 2:5-8, where God equates the true believers to “lively stones” that are part of the spiritual temple of God of which Jesus Christ is the “Chief Cornerstone.” “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in scripture, (Found in Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22) behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he (The Lord Jesus Christ) is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (See also Isaiah 8:14, Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, and Romans 9:53)
So that there can be absolutely no doubt that the holy temple of God could never, ever, again be defined by physical stones and mortar (whether in Jerusalem; Salt Lake City, Utah; Independence, Missouri; or anywhere else for that matter), we read in Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
Finally, in 2 Corinthians 6:16, we read, “…Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said (see Ezekiel 37:26&27), I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
To more clearly understand why there could never again be any need for an earthly, physical temple of God following the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, we have only to search the scriptures to review what happened at the precise moment of His death. We read in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45 that, at that very moment, the veil of the temple was rent in twain (torn in two) from top to bottom.
The result was that the “Holiest of all,” (see Hebrews 9:3) the tabernacle altar of God (where only the high priest, alone, could venture once a year to make an atoning sacrifice of blood on the Day of Atonement) which had heretofore always been hidden from outside view by the veil, had now been fully exposed by God to show that the sign or figure that the “Holiest of all” of the temple represented had been perfectly fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; as He was both the sacrificial Lamb of God and the High Priest that offered the perfect atoning blood sacrifice. God was showing that the function of the earthly temple had come to an end! (Read all of Hebrews chapter 9 to see that this is so). Although the Jewish high priest (Caiaphas) no doubt rushed in to repair the torn veil, so that he, and the other Jewish high priests that followed him, could continue the yearly atonement sacrificial rite until the physical temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., the priestly action would have been pure vanity and rebellion against God. Those efforts could not have had any effect or substance so far as God’s plan of salvation was concerned. In fact, (according to Isaiah 66:1-4) they would have only been an abomination in God’s sight (because by carrying out those rites, the Jews were continuing to deny that Jesus Christ had come to fulfill the law of sacrifice, which had all along been the sole focal point of the blood sacrifices that were carried out in the temple before Christ died).
This is the most likely reason why God finally allowed the physical temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed for the third (and last) time (as prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24:1-2), and why he scattered National Israel, the Jews (until our day). Additionally, because God also subsequently allowed the Islamic Dome of the Rock to be built on the temple site in Jerusalem, the Jews have been prevented from rebuilding the temple ever again (despite the fact that the Jews in National Israel have had political sovereignty over Jerusalem since 1967).
In the month since I posted my blogs about prayer, our world and our lives have been turned on their heads. Many of us are having to self-quarantine due to Covid-19 (or the Coronavirus). This means except for shopping for essentials or walking by ourselves around the block, we are not going out. Most restaurants are closed, schools and colleges are closed, and even shopping malls and stores are closed.
Social distancing is a concept that many could not have articulated a month ago. Now, even grade school age children understand what this means. Many parents are now forced to be home, along with their children, because many work places are also shut-down. Many may no longer have a job and multiple businesses will close forever. The government is currently considering a massive stimulus package that will reimburse families and businesses for lost time and wages.
Everything that was normal is no longer normal.
On Monday of this week, I listened to the BBC News and heard the daily broadcast given by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A month ago, if the British people would have been told that police and government workers have the power to break up any gatherings of more than two people, they would have probably laughed and ridiculed you at the thought of such Draconian laws being put into place.
For those who have read or remember history, excessive or harsh laws were implemented in Europe and eventually the Jews were blamed for the problems of western Europe. Citizens were told that the laws were only temporary and in place for the “well-being” of all people. But I digress for that subject is for another day and another post.
However, the concern that I have is that the British government explicitly detailed what was to close. In the Prime Minister’s announcement, he specifically stated that all church gatherings are now banned!
Everything that was normal is no longer normal.
Local, state, and federal governments, here in America, have declared that we can no longer meet in groups larger than 10. Some are taking it even further and freedoms are being restricted beyond anything we could have imagined possible.
For almost half a century, I have read. I cannot begin to tell you how many books I have read in my lifetime, but I know they number in the thousands. From the Bible to classics to romance to modern day warfare to lawyer or military intrigue, turning pages in a book is a comfort to the soul. Yet, in all of my reading, what I see today seems like dystopian fiction come to life.
However, we in the western world now find ourselves at a crossroad. We are no longer allowed to meet for church in groups of more than 10, and some states in the USA have implemented emergency measures that allow for criminal prosecution for those breaking these new emergency laws.
This last Sunday was the first Sunday that the church where we serve closed down. We got up early and drove toward the building where our local assembly gathers. But, the services would not take place and so we turned around in a park. The day seemed to grow even more gray and dreary and I wondered aloud how much worse things could become. I realized afresh that —
Everything that was normal is no longer normal.
Yet, all that we see happening should not shock true believers. The apostle Paul wrote to a young man right before his own execution. In his short letter, he predicted that tough times would come. In fact, parts of this little epistle read as though Paul pulled his news directly from the front page headlines of 21st century newspapers.
2 Timothy 3:1-4 – “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
We who are true believers should remember that difficult or perilous times will come. The Bible is clear that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. I am not trying to predict that this is the final days before the time of great tribulation, but it is a possibility. What if through this time, a world leader should arise and promise to give the world a “happy ending?” What if that person were to bring prosperity, but at the cost of losing a few “freedoms”?
The truth is that the world deserves any and all judgment that may come at the hand of a holy and righteous God. We have rejected His ways and His commands for centuries and millennia. Even now in the 21st century, mankind thinks that he has been able to either destroy God or that he has re-created God is his own image.
The world mocks the remnant who have never bowed the knee to Baal. The world mocks those who proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He will return one day just as He promised.
There are even so-called evangelical churches that no longer believe that Jesus will literally return to this sin-cursed world. It is a world that Romans reminds us cries out for redemption, along with all those who have been redeemed and bought by the precious blood of Christ.
2 Peter 3:1-4 – “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”
Like the prophets and preachers of yesteryear, it is important that true Christians proclaim the message of the gospel. Like Paul did to Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, we must preach about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment.
Be not deceived, for God will not be mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, the same he will reap. We do not know when the day of judgment will arrive, but when it does, the current pandemic known as Covid-19 will not even be a distant memory to those who live through those terrible days.
Christians, we are called to be like a Bride who is making herself ready for her Bridegroom to appear. Jesus Christ is very much alive and He is coming again. It may be sooner than any of us think. And I know with 100% assurance that He is definitely coming back sooner than the world wishes to believe.
NO LONGER NORMAL should be the battle cry of every true child of God. Through every trial, every tragedy, every pandemic, every death that occurs in this world, and especially at times like we are currently experiencing in March 2020, we should be shouting to everybody who will listen that –
Life is no longer normal!
Whether through Covid-19, an earthquake, cancer, the flu, an accident, or some other tragedy, death is coming. True believers should rejoice that our punishment was born by Christ on the cross of Calvary and there is no fear of any condemnation. For those who are not, we again plead to you to bow the knee to King Jesus before it is too late!
Pastors, if you are not preparing the hearts of your people for the return of our glorious King, then repent and humble yourself before His Majesty. He is coming and we need to live and preach like we actually believe it again!
It is no longer time for us to try and remind God of how big we think our problems are in this world. The time has come for us to tell the world how big our God is and always has been!
Only one life
It will soon be past,
And only what’s done
For Christ will last!
The last two weeks have been extremely trying. The normal lives we thought we had, along with the comfort and ease, was cruelly crushed beyond recognition. This is particularly true to those in the Western world.
Yet, it may be at this time that the eyes of all true believers needs to be turned away from the cares of the world and refocused on Jesus Christ, who alone is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is our glory and we, the Bride, are His.
Sovereign Grace Music has another hymn entitled “Christ Our Glory” that I have never heard until the last month or so. These words resonate in light of what we are currently experiencing.
“Our rest is in heaven, our rest is not here
Then why should we tremble when trials draw near?
Be still and remember the worst that can come
But shortens our journey and hastens us home!”
“No hours should be wasted on seeking our joy
And placing our hope in what will be destroyed
We look for a city that hands have not raised
We long for a country that sin has not stained!”
I feel I can truly relate to Keith Green in this song. I feel cold, dry and hardened.
I wonder…if there’s anyone else in this world like me right now.
It seems this virus has slowed everything down to a snail’s pace, and now I have nothing but time on my hands.
I don’t have anymore work. All our contracts have cancelled on us. My wife teaches piano via the internet, and has some students still. But other than that, we are home and not sure how to spend our time.
Our children homeschool so they are still finishing their studies. I do have some work in the workshop to do so that keeps me from going ‘cabin-fever’ crazy, but I have noticed something strange. I am finding that since a lot of the distractions are gone, my thoughts have been drawn to my spiritual life. Or lack thereof anyway.
Anyone else feel the same drawing to things spiritual lately? Anyone else feel deep down that this time of quarantine and social distancing is actually a blessing where God can finally get through because the phone’s not busy?
Our finances will undoubtedly suffer through this trial, but since God is on control of every penny that flows through our life, He is well able to deal with this. We wear masks, wash our hands continually, and keep a safe distance from those around us, yet, all it takes is one lapse from one of us, and bang, we are infected. But yet God is controlling every cell and atom of everything in this world, so He’s also in control of that.
What do I have to worry about? Really…nothing. So my thoughts coast again toward my relationship with my Lord Jesus. This is a glorious time to really get back to that place where me and Jesus were inseparable. Where I yearned to be with Him and learned so much at His feet. Instead I find myself in the kitchen busy and burdened with much.
This period of trial for the human race will end one day. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Most of us have nothing better to do anyway. Shouldn’t God get our best instead of our leftovers? Give Him your attention and humbly submit yourself to His will. Curl up at His feet and give Him the time He deserves.
I’m sure you have run across those who claim Paul was speaking to us in the present tense in Galatians 3:24 when he wrote that the law was our nanny until we came to faith in Christ. There is a two-fold problem with this understanding: First, the context from the middle of chapter 2 through chapter 5 aligns with the passage in chapter 3 which provides explicit language to clarify Paul’s rhetorical question in verse 19 of chapter 3: why, then, the law? Second, a misunderstanding of the answer to this question can lead to believing just what Paul argued against in this letter.
First, does verse 24 in chapter 3 tell us the law was our nanny until we came to faith in Christ? Here’s how the KJV reads: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” In case the formatting doesn’t show up, the phrase “to bring us” is in italics, meaning it was added in by the translation team. Read the verse without that phrase: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The law did not, does not, bring anyone to Christ – the Spirit does that through the proclamation of the gospel! But that phrase was added to make it appear the law carried people to the Lord.
It is clear from the context that Paul is speaking of the Mosaic Law here. As is the case in all the New Covenant passages, the Mosaic Law is spoken of as a unit. We don’t read about this part or that division of the law. Simply the law. We read in Exodus that before Moses went up Mt Sinai to get the second set of tablets, he “came and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. … He then took the covenant scroll and read it aloud to the people.” (Ex 24:3 & 7) And in verse 12 we see YHWH telling Moses “Come up to Me on the mountain and stay there so that I may give you the stone tablets with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” All the law and commandments, not just the Decalogue nor everything other than the Decalogue; all the law and commandments. This is what Paul was referring to.
The word interpreted “schoolmaster” is the Greek word from which we get our word “pedagogue.” While modern definitions, such as used by the KJV, claim that word means tutor, the ancient definition referred to one who was a slave guardian of his master’s child, to make sure the child was where he needed to be, when he was supposed to be there. He was NOT a tutor or schoolmaster, but one charged with the safety of his charge.
Here’s how several other translations render that verse: “The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.” (HCSB) The law of Moses was “our guardian” – whose guardian? Go back to chapter 2 and verse 15: “We who are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners”” The law of Moses was a guardian for the Jews by birth – national, ethnic Israel, and not to “Gentile sinners.” Some of the folk in the assembly of saints at Galatia wanted to retreat from the milk of the gospel and embrace the heavy yoke that the council in Acts 15 would overthrow. These were called “foolish Galatians” (3:1), followed up by “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?” (vs 3) If the law brings people to Christ, why would Paul call people foolish who wanted to live under it?
This brings us to verse 19 and the question – Why, then the law? And the answer: “It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.” Even the KJV agrees with this. The law of Moses was given because of transgressions and only until the promised Seed came. Jesus came and did His work of redemption and is with the Father on high. The law as it was given to national Israel, as a binding legal code with sanctions for violations, was only until Christ came. Paul sums up the condition of his kinsmen of the flesh in verse 23: “Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.” Some translations do not have “this” before “faith.” No matter – the apostle is restating his message from verse 19, explaining why and when the law was given.
The law was added – had not been given before this, not to Adam, not to Abraham – to remain in place until the promised Seed came. And until faith came, for the law granted faith to nobody, Jews were in chains under the law. But when faith came, when the Messiah was glorified, verse 25 tells the good news to those who were in bondage – “we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (verse 26)
Now back to verse 22: “But the Scripture has imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” This verse does not say “the law has imprisoned everything under/in sin’s power” – it says Scripture has. Scripture tells us the entire creation was cursed when Adam fell. Scripture tells us there is no salvation except in Christ. Scripture tells us creation groans in anticipation of its new birth, when Christ returns to gather His saints on the new earth. We know that everything IS under sin’s power because of sin. Sickness and death stalk each of us. But the promise given to Abraham, that he would be the father of many nations, is incrementally consummated every time one of God’s elect is raised up to new life in Christ Jesus.
This message is given different views in chapters 4 & 5 but the message is the same: present day (in Paul’s day) Jerusalem represented the slavery of the Mosaic Law; freedom from sin comes only in Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem. The law was added until the promised Seed came. Hebrews tells us the religious rites given through Moses served as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things (Heb 8:5). When the fullness of time came, the promised Seed came and conquered sin and death and the shadows, those types found in the law, came to their end.
Why, then, the law? To show the nation of stiff-necked, loop-hole finding, law-loving Jews how wicked they were; to keep them as a nation to display God’s holiness to them and the pagan nations; to make sure they were around when the fullness of time came and the promised Seed arrived. The law was Israel’s guardian until faith came, because Israel could not keep itself. Their history shows that, if left themselves, they were every bit as wicked as the Syrians, or you and me before we were redeemed.
Once the promised Seed came, the guardian is no longer needed. Faith and the promise do not depend on fleshly procreation. By faith we become children of Abraham. Now that Christ has come, the Spirit keeps His people. The law fulfilled its role, its time is past. The covenant based on shadows and types, with fire and threats of punishment for violations of its law has ended. Faith has come in the person of the promised Seed. The law and all the other shadows of the Old Covenant no longer bind anyone with chains but, as the Spirit gives the light of understanding, serve to instruct us about our innate weakness and need for humility before God and fellow man. Just as we read with New Covenant clarity from Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John.
No need to “un-hitch” the Old Testament from our faith – all of it is from God for us. We belong to heavenly country which has different laws; given by the same God but intended for a people with hearts of flesh, not stone; people who, having been loved by God can and will love Him and one another. No need to tell one another, “know the Lord” for we all know Him. The Mosaic Law was chains for a people who needed to be told “know the Lord.” We in the New Covenant are not that people. We can see the law did not restrain national Israel from doing evil. So God gave His Spirit to will and equip us to do what is pleasing to Him.
Not under the yoke of law, which could not save nor can it lead us to Christ; it can only condemn. Therein is the danger of wrongly interpreting this passage.
New heart, new mediator, new priesthood, new covenant, new law from the new Lawgiver. That’s the difference being in the New Covenant makes.