Showing posts with label New Jerusalem. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Jerusalem. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

All Nations Will Stream Into Zion

God’s purpose for Israel was never just about the ethnic descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob only but for all the nations and families of the earth, as the poets and prophets of the Old Testament well understood. This understanding was heightened considerably in the New Testament, to such an extent that Paul considered it a mystery revealed in the gospel.
May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. Then all nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed. (Psalm 72:17)

I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me — Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush — and will say, “This one was born in Zion.” (Psalm 87:4)

Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD. (Psalm 117)

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:2-3)

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:9-10)

The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:10)

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.’ And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.”

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” (Zechariah 8:20-23)

Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:10-11)

Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. (Romans 11:25-26)

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.” Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.” And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” (Romans 15:8-12, citing Psalm 18:49; Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 117:1; Isaiah 11:10)

I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness — the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:25-27)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:1-6)

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (Revelation 21:23-26)
In the end, the full number of the Gentiles will be grafted in and all Israel will be saved. All the world will know the salvation God brings, and God himself will say of each of us, “This one was born in Zion.”

Sunday, December 4, 2016

This One was Born in Zion
He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
The LORD loves the gates of Zion
    more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are said of you, city of God.
(Psalm 87:1-3)
The Lord loves the gates of Zion — the holy city of Jerusalem. Reading this through the New Testament revelation of Jesus the Messiah, that is, through the lens of Christ and the gospel, we understand Zion to be the new Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that is free, the Jerusalem that is above, the heavenly Jerusalem that comes down, joining heaven to earth (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2). It is, in a word, the Church, the body and bride of Christ (understanding that the Church in the New Testament is not a separate entity from Israel in the Old Testament).

The psalm writer sings the praises of the holy city and of God’s love for her. The Lord has founded it on the mountain he has chosen for himself; Christ has built his Church upon the rock of who he is (Matthew 16:18). The Lord loves Zion; Christ loves the Church and gave himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). It is no surprise that glorious things are said about the city of God. What is surprising, though, is how the psalm writer describes that glory:
“I will record Rahab and Babylon
    among those who acknowledge me —
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush —
    and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’” (v. 4)
Rahab? Babylon? Philistia? Tyre? Cush? These had all been troublesome, some even oppressive, for much of Israel’s history. Rahab is a reference to Egypt, who once held the children of Israel in bondage. Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and carried off the people into captivity. The Philistines had been foes of Israel in the days of Saul and David. Tyre, in the region of Philistia, and Cush represented other difficulties and temptations for Israel. Yet, God says of these that they are among those who know him and of whom he will say, “This one was born there.” Born where? In Zion, the city of which the psalm writer is counting the glories. So the NIV supplies “in Zion” where it is actually only implied — but then in the next verses it is made explicit:
Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
    “This one and that one were born in her,
    and the Most High himself will establish her.”
The LORD will write in the register of the peoples:
    “This one was born in Zion.” (vv. 5-6)
This is not a work wrought by any of those nations, not even by Israel. It is the work of God, a matter of divine love, mercy and grace. God has founded the holy city and established the peoples in her, for he never intended Israel to be a nation unto herself but a people for the sake of all nations, as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), and to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham that all the families and nations of the earth would be blessed through him and his descendants.

The Lord has founded Zion, and the psalm writer portrays him as recording the people in the registry of the city. Of each one, the Lord writes, “Born in Zion.” Though they have come from elsewhere, now they are record as belonging to Zion, fully accepted as rightful inhabitants, and heir to all the rights and privileges of the city. Here there is no dividing line between Jews and Gentiles, between Israel and the nations. Through faith, Gentiles are grafted into the promises along with faithful Israel. When all the Gentiles have come in, Paul says, then “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25). In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, he addresses the Gentile believers about how the boundaries have been obliterated in Christ and we have become “fellow citizens with God’s people.”
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-22)
The psalm writer, then, closes with this note of deep celebration, a song for all who know the blessing of Zion — of Christ.
As they make music they will sing,
    “All my fountains are in you.” (v. 7)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

After the Lake of Fire

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)
The three main views on the nature and function of hell each understand the “lake of fire” differently. All agree that anyone whose name is not found in the “book of life” is thrown into the lake, but the important question that separates them is, what comes next?
  • The Eternal Conscious Torment answer is that those who are cast into the lake of fire suffer eternal conscious torment.
  • The Annihilationist answer is that those who are cast into the lake of fire suffer for a time and are eventually destroyed.
  • The Restorationist answer is that those cast into the lake of fire suffer until they repent and call on the name of the Lord, and then, having done so, are reconciled to God through Christ.
One support used for ECT is Revelation 20:10, “The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” There is the “lake of fire” (or “burning sulfur”) and the words “torment” and “forever and ever” all neatly joined together.

But the book of Revelation is written in the apocalyptic genre, which is a very symbolic, stylistic and even hyperbolic, form of literature. The “lake of fire” is neither a literal lake nor a literal fire. The experience of torment is very real — the anguish of the soul — for those who oppose God. How long does it last? “Forever and ever,” English translations say, but the Greek words, tous aionas aionon, have to do with ages or eons. That may be a long time, although the length of an age in the Bible can vary considerably. But it is not the same as eternity or endlessness. If aionas actually meant “forever,” it would be unnecessary to add ton aionon, i.e., “and ever.” A literal rendering would be “to ages of ages,” but whether that indicates endlessness or eternity is a matter of interpretative opinion. (See also, Eternal Punishment, Eternal Destruction?)

The “lake of fire” comes up again in Revelation 21, which is about the new heaven and new earth, and the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven to earth, uniting them. It is the home of the faithful, who are called the victorious and who inherit the city. But in verse 8, we read of the wicked, who have no part in the city: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” That might seem to be the end of the matter — except that as we continue to read just a few verses later, an interesting development comes to light:
The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (Revelation 21:24-26)
Who are these nations? Earlier, they are shown being prophesied against (10:10-11), as the angry recipients of God's wrath (11:18), as drinking the “maddening wine” of Babylon the Great (14:8 and 18:3), as those whose cities collapsed in their war against God (16:19), as part of the waters upon which the Great Prostitute was seated (17:15), as led astray (18:23) and as struck down by the “sharp sword” coming out of the mouth of Christ (19:15). Yet, now they are seen walking by the light of the New Jerusalem. What has happened that accounts for this change?

And who are these kings of the earth? They, too, have been mentioned several times earlier in Revelation. They are chief among those who hid in caves and begged the mountains to fall on them, to hide them from the face of the Lord and the wrath of the Lamb (6:15-17). They are the ones who have “committed adultery” with the Great Prostitute, “intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries” (17:1-2). They “committed adultery” with her (18:3) and mourned over her destruction (18:9). Finally, they aligned with the “beast” and gathered their armies together to wage war against Christ and the saints, but they are defeated and dispatched, destroyed by the “sword” from the mouth of Christ.

These are not nice people, and we should not expect to see them again in Revelation, certainly not in the New Jerusalem — yet that is exactly what we find. They enter into the Holy City, bringing all their tribute with them to honor Christ. Again, what has happened that accounts for this change?

May I suggest that perhaps what has happened to them is the “lake of fire.” The nations and kings of the earth, as wicked as they were, would surely be cast there. But they are not destroyed or consumed by that experience — they are refined. Their anger and rebellion are burned away and they have turned to God and his Christ in repentance and faith. Elsewhere, we see that the judgment of God is for the purpose of correction, not retribution. So, too, the fire, brimstone and torment.

The nations and kings of the earth eventually returning to God in faith agrees with the purpose Paul attributes to God, that all things in heaven and on earth be reconciled to God through Christ (Colossians 1:19-20, Ephesians 1:10), that every knee bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:9-10) and that, in the end, God will be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). Whatever the “lake of fire” is or how it functions in the apocalyptic imagery of the book of Revelation, it does not ultimately prevent the reconciliation of all things to God through Christ and his cross.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Perfectly Joined Together

Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together. (Psalm 122:3)
Jerusalem is Zion, “the city of our God … the city of the Great King” (Psalm 48:1-2). It is where the “tribes of the Lord” go up to worship the Lord and give thanks (Psalm 122:4). It is the place of the “house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1).

The revelation of the New Testament is that there is a New Jerusalem, a heavenly city which will one day come down and join heaven and earth together as one — the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven. And all who believe on King Jesus the Messiah are now citizens of that city (see Praying With Zion).

The psalm writer says that “Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together.” One translation puts it this way: “Jerusalem is built as a city whose fellowship is complete” (this is Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint, which is an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament).

For the psalm writer, Jerusalem was more than a geographical location, it represented a relationship — the people of the Lord entering together into His presence. It is a fellowship that is complete, compacted together.

Paul writes about the Church in a similar way. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, he admonishes the Jesus believers at Corinth to be “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” He wanted their attitude and behavior to reflect what was actually already true about them. And in his Ephesians letter, he describes that truth about our relationship as the body of Christ, with Christ as the head,
from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:16)
Joined and knit together. A city that is compact together, whose fellowship is complete. That is the truth about the heavenly Jerusalem and the reality of our identity in Christ. Let us, then, be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. In this way we will manifest who we are in Christ, and the unity that we truly have in Him.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Praying with Zion

Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion! (Psalm 9:11)

Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. (Psalm 149:2)
There are many psalms that speak of Zion. It is where the LORD establishes His anointed Son as King over Israel and the nations1. It is the where He has chosen to dwell2. It is the place of the help, strength and salvation that comes from the LORD3. It is where the LORD establishes justice for His people and the whole earth4. It is where the people of the LORD appear before Him5. It is where the LORD shows His mercy and favor6. It is where the LORD is revealed in His glory7. It is where the LORD commands His blessing8.

Zion is Jerusalem, the city of God. For the psalm writers, there is no other place like it. It is “the joy of the whole earth” (Psalm 48:2). There we find the temple, revealing the presence of the Lord and the place where God rules and reigns over His people.
As we have heard, so we have seen
In the city of the LORD of hosts,
In the city of our God:
God will establish it forever. Selah.
We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness,
In the midst of Your temple.
(Psalm 48:8-9)
After the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah were carried off into exile, Jews began to believe that there must be a heavenly Jerusalem, just as the psalm writer spoke of a heavenly temple: “The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4). It is this heavenly city that endures forever and so fulfills the promise of Psalm 125:1, “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” So the prophets begin speaking of a new city and a glorious temple (for example, in Ezekiel 40-48, Isaiah 54:11-14 and Zechariah 2).

In the New Testament, we find this promise beginning to be fulfilled through King Jesus the Messiah and the new covenant He brings. By the end of the book, in Revelation 21, we see the New Jerusalem descending, joining heaven and earth together as one.
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. (Galatians 4:24-26)

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. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. (Revelation 3:12)

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 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. (Revelation 21:2, 10-11)
All who believe on King Jesus the Messiah, who belong to Him by faith, are a colony of heaven, citizens of that city that is above. We are not waiting to be airlifted out of the world but for the New Jerusalem to come down. And we ourselves are now the temple, the dwelling place of God on earth (see 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 1 Peter 2:5).

So now when I pray the psalms and come to the ones about Zion, I recognize my place in the New Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that is above and will one day be fully revealed on earth. The city “whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10), the “better” and “heavenly” city the Old Testament saints longed for (Hebrews 11:16), and which New Testament believers also earnestly desire and seek (Hebrews 13:14).

(1) Psalm 2; 149:2 (2) Psalm 9:11; 76:2; 132:13 (3) Psalm 14:7; 20:2; 53:6; 110:2 (4) Psalm 48:11; 50:1-4; 122:1-5 (5) Psalm 84:85-87 (6) Psalm 102:13 (7) Psalm 102:16 (8) Psalm 128:5; 133:3; 134:3

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Psalm 122 and the New Jerusalem

An Advent adaptation of Psalm 122 in light of Isaiah 2:2-5, Revelation 21 and the coming of King Jesus into the world. (See Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the LORD)
I was light and bright and full of joy
When they came and said to me,
“Let us go up to the house of Yahweh.”
Our feet shall stand within your gates, O Jerusalem,
The city of God come down
From heaven to earth.

It is a city built together,
Joining heaven and earth as one:
Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of Yahweh,
To fulfill the testimony of Israel,
And give thanks to the name of Yahweh.

For there He will set things right among the nations.
From the throne of the house of David,
Where King Jesus, the Anointed One,
Rules and reigns forever.

Pray for the peace of the new Jerusalem:
“They shall prosper who love you.
Shalom be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.
For the sake of my brothers and sisters,

For the sake of the nations,
I will say, even now, ‘Peace be with you.’
Because of the house of Yahweh our God
I will seek your good.”
Let us go up to the mountain of the LORD and walk in His light.

Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.