Thursday, April 10, 2014

P3 Eternal Heavenly Glory - Revelation 21-22

Revelation 21:9-10 9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” The New Jerusalem
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

Introduction & Review
In yesterday's post we listed some observations about the New Heaven's and New Earth.  We first of all noted 15 things that will be absent in the Eternal Heavenly Glory of Revelation 21-22.  Next we considered how the New Heavens and Earth are described by a theme of "better than", noting that in comparison to Genesis 3, God's aim is to have a "better than paradise".  These thoughts led us to the third consideration of how the New Heaven will be better than the current third heaven where believers go to now to be with the Lord.  We chose to pick up with today's post in further explaining how the New Heavens and Earth, particularly - the New Jerusalem, aid us in seeing just how glorious the Eternal heavenly Glory will be.

Pausing and reflecting on how the promise of heaven keeps our faith firmly planted in the ground
One morning I had occasion to share the text of Colossians 3:1-3 with some people: "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." This text can be equally used in practically applying the truths of the current heaven and the New heavens and earth described here in Revelation 21-22.  Reflecting upon both yields the same fruit - assurance, hope, encouragement and strength for the journey. 

Dr. John Piper notes concerning how Jesus functions as the anchor for the soul in Heaven in Hebrews 6:18-20 - "Now here is the burning question for me. Is the anchor of my soul as firmly attached to my soul as it is to the altar of God? In other words is the picture here of an anchor with its hook and chain bound unbreakably to the altar of God in the holy of holies so that nothing could loose it from that end, but with the rope just hanging out of heaven in the air? Is the only point of this text to say "Take hold of the loose end of this rope and you will have safety and firmness and assurance?" Piper later writes: "When he says in verse 19 that we have an "anchor of the soul" I think he means that the anchor is firmly anchored in heaven, and the anchor is firmly attached to the Christian's soul."1

The City whose builder and maker is God
We know from other scriptures that the concept of Heaven being likened unto a city is found throughout the Biblical authors.  According to Hebrews 11:9-10, Abraham the patriarch had been in search of it through faith.  We as Christians are already designated a citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem above. (Galatians 4:26; Philippians 3:20) Presumably these references are talking about the "third heaven" where believers in the Lord go when they die in Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:5-6; 12:4). Jesus then told his disciples in John 14:1-3 that He is going away to "prepare a place" which we can presume to be the grand city described in Revelation 21 and 22. 2   Evidently by being with Jesus through His Kingdom age (compare Revelation 20:1-6), where He is, we will be, and thus the whole point of Revelation 21-22 is to demonstrate that God in Christ with His people has come to tabernacle, and thus Heaven will characterize earth and earth's physical nature will characterize Heaven in the Eternal glory of these chapters. 

A quick tour of the New Jerusalem
We first of all note it is a Heavenly city. (Revelation 21:10-11) This is most likely the same city spoken of by Jesus in John 14:1-3. As a heavenly city is secondly a costly city, composed of solid diamond gemstones (Revelation 21:12) and other costly materials such as gems and transparent gold. (21:15-20) Thirdly it is a promised city, as seen by the names of the patriarchs and apostles inscribed on its gates and foundations. (Revelation 21:13-14)

The fourth thing we can note about this city is its size: 1500 miles in each direction, with the same length characterizing its height.  Quite literally this is a cube that is the size of North America or most of Europe.  The height of this city has led many sound interpreters to conclude that the city may be composed of multiple stories and levels. To wonder if there would be enough space to live, some rough calculations yield that if the New Jerusalem, with all of its levels being a mile of distance from top to bottom (and this 1500 levels high) had tracts of space laid out for 8 billion people, each person would easily have 250 acres! What we must realize of course is that God is a big God and that the whole point of large proportions in any of His creations is to display His glory. (Compare Psalm 19:1-6) So in being a heavenly, costly and promised city that is quite grand in scope, we can notice yet another trait, fifthly that this city is a God-centered city. (21:22-25) In as much as its studded gemstones and unfathomable beauty describe the New Jerusalem, without God as the light and the Lamb as the light, this city would never shine, would never be precious and would never be grand. We can note yet another trait, number six, that this city will be a life giving city. (22:1-5) Notice how this city has a healing tree, a river of life and unending light.

So let us quickly review what we have noticed thus far about the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21:9-22:5
1. Heavenly City
2. Costly City
3. Promised City
4. Large city
5. God-centered City
6. Living City

But now understand dear friend, John has been shown this glorious New heavens and earth with the glorious new Jerusalem, however right now that city is unoccupied.  Henceforth there is one last trait we must notice that will be true of this city, namely that God and the Lamb desire it to be an occupied city.  All those chosen in grace and so inclined to receive the free offer of such grace by faith will be in that city. Is that you? Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? 

Tomorrow we will consider the grand appeal to come and be a present citizen and future occupant of Eternal Heavenly Glory.


2. Often in our songs of praise and even in our doctrines we tend to blend the truths of the third Heaven and the Jerusalem found here in Revelation 21:10-27 & 22:1-5. Clearly there are many similarities, however there are some differences to note as well.

P3 - Mary Magdalene: A mourner turned into a missionary - Life Applications

John 20:31 "but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name."
Introduction and Review:
Yesterday we considered how Mary Magdalene had went through a three phase process in relationship to the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
1. She was in a desparate situation that could be described by one word - mourning

2. She was directly encountered by the risen Christ

3. She had a dramatic change that resulted in her being changed from a mourner into a missionary.

Truly such an account is awesome and amazing to behold and read. With that said, we find the words from the Apostle John recorded above at the beginning of today's post in John 20:31.  Clearly such an account of the life changing power of Jesus Christ in the life of Mary Magdalene and the other disciples' encounters with the risen Savior was meant for the reader today. What life applications can we draw from her life? What relationship, if any, does Jesus' post-resurrection power have to do with you today? In reflecting upon what we have discovered in these last few posts, we can draw out the following life applications:

1). Salvation is described as an encounter with the post - resurrected Jesus
As one begins to explore the rest of the New Testament, it is clear how often salvation is connected with the resurrected power of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost says in Romans 8:11 "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."  1 Peter 1:3 notes - "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Peter wrote those words some 30 years after the events recorded in the Gospels. 1 Peter 1:21 states - "who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God." Such a salvation includes provisions for delivery from fear of death and intense grief. (Isaiah 53:4-6; Hebrews 2:14) So we see that quite literally, by the agency of the Holy Spirit of God, every Christian living today can say like Mary Magdalene: "I have seen the Lord!" But now let us notice a second life application, namely....

2). Sanctification includes the indwelling post-resurrected Jesus
There was something that radically was altered in both the humanity of our Lord and the humanity of his followers.  For Jesus, His resurrection from the dead enabled Him to walk through walls and defy gravity. (Luke 24:43; Acts 1:11) He remained physical (John 20:27) and could eat food (Luke 24:43) and yet He could alter His physical body in such a fashion as to pass through closed doors and appear in physical form to his disciples (John 20:19,26). 
Clearly people like Mary Magdalene walked differently and talked differently.  Not only was there a one time dramatic change but there was ever increasing ongoing change - whereby the disciples were becoming more and more like their master - a process we called "sanctification". 

What makes Christians today have even more remarkable experiences than the disciples is the fact that the living Christ is described as not being just brought to them (salvation) but being ever increasingly revealed in them (sanctification). Romans 8:10 states - "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness." The Holy Spirit says through Paul in Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." We then read in Ephesians 3:17 "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love". Colossians 1:27 records - "to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

What these passages indicate then is that because of Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead - all of the spiritual benefits won for us on the cross are transmitted by the Holy Spirit as a result of His resurrection.  His post-resurrected power necessarily leads to change in a person who has been both impacted and indwelt by it. Truly for those who struggle with mourning over their past or in the present, the same power that changed Mary Magdalene the mourner into Mary Magdalene the missionary is available in an even greater measure to you and I as Christians today.