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 Works versus Faith (Part 15) – The Kingdom of Heaven (Part 4)

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PostSubject: Works versus Faith (Part 15) – The Kingdom of Heaven (Part 4)   Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:43 pm

Works versus Faith (Part 15) – The Kingdom of Heaven (Part 4)

We left off at Revelation 21:5.  It reads, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’  Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”  Some try to allegorize the book of Revelation.  This verse is saying that this stuff is not allegory.  It tells us to take these words literally because they are trustworthy and true.  God is literally going to make everything new.  We will likely have new plant and animal species (likely to go along with the ones we are familiar with).  There will likely be new fruits and vegetables.  The entire planet will be new (except for the Lake of Fire that was reserved from the beginning for the Devil and his angels according to Jesus (Matt 25:41)).  There’s a small conundrum in my mind because I love corn beef, burgers, and pork chops.  But if there will be no more death as the Bible declares, what does that mean of my favorite meals?  A close read of the book of Genesis reveals that mankind and all animals started off as vegetarians (see Genesis 9:1-3).  In the Millennium, the lion and the lamb will lie down together, and the lion will be a vegetarian (again) (Isaiah 11:6-7).

Revelation 21:6 says, “He said to me: ‘It is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.’”  Water satisfies thirst.  Water from a spring of “life” fully satisfies thirst by granting life.  God will satisfy those who thirst for Him for free, without cost.  But yet we read the next verse, which says, “He who overcomes will inherit all of this, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”  This next verse seems to contradict its predecessor—what’s that all about?  Verse 6 said that it is free without cost; and now verse 7 is saying that the overcomer will inherit all of this.  An overcomer must earn it, hence the name “overcomer.”  The overcomer must pay exertion, time, obedience, and righteousness to be an overcomer, hence the name “overcomer.”  It is similar to an employer who pays his or her employees for their time and effort.  The money earned is not a free handout.  The cost of inheriting the free drink from the Spring of the Water of Life is becoming an overcomer.  That sounds paradoxical doesn’t it?—the “cost” (or exertion of being an overcomer) of inheriting something that is “free.”  The Bible is very particular with its words.  We covered the overcomer in the Revelation series, regarding chapters 2 and 3.  The overcomer is rewarded for his or her obedience.  Salvation is free.  The word “inherit” means reward.  A reward is not free, but is granted based on certain predetermined standards and criteria.  The overcomer is rewarded for his or her works and obedience.  All Christians will be satisfied, but only the overcomer will inherit everything including the Spring of the Water of Life.  Recall Revelation 2:7b, which says, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of God.”  

Of course it possible (and easy) to merely interpret “the spring of the water of life” as a figurative clause.  But then again, as we just stated earlier, this entire section certainly bends towards a literal interpretation, not a figurative one.  I believe this to be a literal spring of water—something real that the overcomer is inheriting.  It doesn’t just say that the overcomer is inheriting life, but rather he or she will be inheriting a spring of water, and that water is life.  The Tree of Life that the overcomer is inheriting is certainly real and not figurative, so too I believe, this Water of Life Spring.  As we will soon see, the non-overcomer will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  Only the overcomer gets access to this spring of life water just as only the overcomer gets to eat from the Tree of Life.  The key to really understanding this verse is understanding the location of the Spring of the Water of Life—it is located inside the Kingdom City which only those Christians who are granted access into the Kingdom City are able to drink from this spring.  If you can get in, the water is free.  It is likely that this Spring of the Water of Life has similar properties to the Tree of Life, which we will cover in great detail soon.  It will satisfy the thirst of those who drink it.  This thirst that is mentioned is not a thirst for money, prestige, or a better life, but rather, it is referring to those who have a thirst for God.  Everyone who is within the Kingdom Gates are there because of the fact that they have been rewarded for living this current life with a thirst for God.  Access within the Kingdom Gates is a reward that we may or may not inherit—depending on how faithfully we have lived this life.  

Two quick side points:  Jesus gives every believer today the opportunity to sample or taste this water of life in this current lifetime.  John 4:13-14 says, “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”  Jesus has water that He says you need only drink one time and it will satisfy forever, and one’s satisfaction will even increase as time approaches eternity.  The key to drinking this water is to make sure that it is indeed authentic water from Jesus that you are actually drinking.  The world (and even the sadly, sometimes immature Christian Churches) offers up an imitation water passed off as water from Jesus.  Jesus must be “the” Jesus of the Bible, and you must serve Him in Truth, obedience, and love.  Many believers of Jesus don’t abide in Truth, but rather, they default to their opinion, and therefore they are not drinking unadulterated, pure water that Jesus gives, and hence, they are not being satisfied.  If you are not obeying Him, you are not drinking His water.  John 14:23 says, “Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’”  Jesus says that only those who obey Him are the ones God satisfies.        

For the second side point, please recall that story with the “stirring of the waters” in John chapter 5.  It was a hot spring named Bethesda, which in Greek has two meanings: it means “house of mercy” or “flowing water.”  This was a literal spring of water that had supernatural powers, but it was extremely limited.  We are told in John 5:4 that “ angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whosoever then first after the stirring of the waters stepped in was made whole, with whatsoever disease he had.”  Unfortunately for the majority, the supernatural powers of this water were good for only once “per season” and for only the first person in line at the correct moment of the occurrence of the stirring of the water.  This was not some figurative spring of water, but a literal one that a person literally had to have access to in order to reap its supernatural benefits.  This water gave the lucky seasonal first comer “life” as they were “made whole” just by being the first to step in just after the angel stirs it.  So if what we are reading in Revelation is a literal spring of water of life (which I believe it to be) then this spring at Bethesda is a precursor to it.  Nearly everything in “Heaven” has some precursor (that is, an antecedent prototype or example that represents it) elsewhere in the Bible.  

Back to Revelation: Revelation 21:8 is the reverse of Revelation 21:6-7.  Revelation 21:8 reads, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.” There are some interesting sins on this list, particularly “cowardly” and “all liars.”  Did you know that it is a sin to be cowardly?  (But specifically, this perhaps refers to those who were too coward to reject the mark of the beast.  The fate of those who refused the mark was beheading and/or starvation.)  The other thing we should note from this list is that all are guilty of something on this list.  Many have acted cowardly.  Peter denied Jesus because he was too cowardly to say that he was one of His disciples.  Even Christians are unbelieving at times, not truly believing God’s Word at every moment.  Who hasn’t lied, and even some consistently, throughout their lifetime?  Jesus said that if you hate a person in your heart, you are guilty of committing murder.  But verse 8 is just a synopsis of all sin.  As we said, even if someone deems themselves to be clean of the sins on this list (and other lists), all are guilty by default because all have inherited the sin of Adam, making us guilty of the things on this list.  On the reverse side of that, Jesus purifies all who put their faith in Him and His death and resurrection through the Cross.  Jesus imputes His own righteousness to us when we believe in Him through faith.

A quick aside: Murderers are cowards.  The proof of this is that after they commit the crime, they run and flee.  They prove this also by pulling a gun in the first place rather than engaging in a fist fight or standing up to their victim.  Or maybe they only physically take advantage of those who they know are weaker than themselves—bullies are cowards as they pick on only those who they believe to be physically weaker and do not pick on anyone their own size and greater.  A person who fears the law and judgment is a coward who only puts on a front of toughness.  If they were not a coward, then they would tell the truth and face their impending judgement for their crime instead of running away and lying about it.  They are too cowardly to accept the consequences.

Verse 9 reads, “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”  The Church is often referred to as the Bride, but in this rare instance, the Kingdom City, the New Jerusalem, is referred to as the Bride of Jesus.  The city does not become a Kingdom city until its future occupants inhabit it.  It is this city that is the reward or inheritance of Christians who live an obedient lifestyle.  It is good to know that this is one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls of the seven last plagues that spoke to John.  The 7th bowl was the end of the Great Tribulation and held the greatest of the curses and tribulation.  Our loving God also has wrath and judgment among His many attributes.  God blesses and curses.  After God unleashes His entire wrath, He uses the same angel that brought curses to show John the Christians’ blessing.  

Verse 10 says, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”  John saw this city in verse 2.  Here, John gets a replay and a closer vantage point so that he can more closely observe the city.  John is now standing on the New Earth via the power of the Holy Spirit.  Note that a great and high mountain is in close proximity to the New Jerusalem city.  Also important to understand: “Heaven” cannot come out of itself.  Again, “heaven” here means “sky” and it is the Holy City that most are really referring to when Christians speak of “Heaven.”  In actuality, the entire New Earth is “Heaven” as we often refer to Heaven.  As we stated several times, this Holy City is only a part of Heaven because the New Earth encompasses all of Heaven.  This Holy City is one of many cities on the New Earth.  Verse 11 says, “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”  The Holy City, New Jerusalem, will be extremely bright—so bright, as we will see, that it serves as the light for the entire world.  It has a sparkling radiance like a clear jasper or expensive jewel.  Recall Revelation 4:1-3, which reads, “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in Heaven with someone sitting on it.  And He one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian.  A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.”  So the New Jerusalem will have a similar radiance to God Himself.

Verse 12 continues: “It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates.  On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.”  This is a fortified city.  This city is not the same Jerusalem city as explained in Zechariah.  This city has a wall.  Zechariah’s city was stated to have no wall.  Zechariah 2:1 reads, “Then I looked up—and there before me was a man [really an angel] with a measuring line in his hand!  I asked, ‘Where are you going?’ He answered me, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.’  Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him and said to him: ‘Run, tell that young man (Zechariah), ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it.’”  What is explained here is the future state of the city Jerusalem, but it is not describing Jerusalem as on the New Earth; rather, this is Jerusalem during the Millennium our current Earth.  This is clearly distinct from the New Earth Jerusalem because of the wall reference.  Walls in Old Testament times meant fortification and protection.  Even though the Millennium Kingdom city will not have physical walls, God will be its walls.  The next verse in Zechariah reads, “‘And I (God) myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will be its glory within.’”  That will be a sight.  We can safely say that this will indeed be a fortified city because God in the form of fire will be its walls.  Finally, it is interesting to note the reason why the Millennium Jerusalem will be without walls: it says, “because of the great number of men and livestock in it.”  The Millennium city is the same Jerusalem that exists today.  The only difference is that sometime in the future, God will reside there and be a wall of fire around it and dwell within.  Can you imagine all of the people of the world who will want to go to Jerusalem to check it out?  It will be very overcrowded.  God will keep its doors open so that travelers can come and see.  Conversely, the New Jerusalem will not be overcrowded because it will be so huge (as we will soon see) and not everyone will be allowed to enter it anyway.    

Back to Revelation...we see that there are 12 gates that serve as the entrances inside this walled Kingdom city, and at each gate stands 12 angels.  To get a full grasp of what’s going on, it is important to link Scripture with Scripture to connect the dots.  Much of what we read in Revelation 21-22 regarding the Holy City was also in the Garden of Eden, including the Tree of Life, and the purity and blissfulness of the City.  One other thing that is the same is that there is an angel posted at the gate of the Garden of Eden and angels posted at the gates of the Eternal Kingdom City.  Genesis 3:24 says, “After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the Tree of Life.”  I think it is obvious why there are 12 angels posted at each of the 12 gates.  Genesis gives us the reason for the angel posted at the gate of the Garden of Eden: it was to guard the way to the Tree of Life.  This same Tree of Life shows up again in the New Jerusalem, Kingdom City.  Revelation 21:25 says, “On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.”  Outside the gates is not Hell.  That wouldn’t make sense anyway.  Why would Heaven have open gates to Hell?  So those inside of Heaven can pass by and look at those in Hell suffer?  Absolutely not!!  The open gates of the Kingdom simply lead to outside of the Holy City to the rest of the New Earth.  The angels are posted there to keep certain people out.  

Let’s review: Why was it necessary to keep Adam and Eve from reentering the Garden of Eden?  The Bible said that the reason was to guard them from having access to the Tree of Life.  Okay, then why was it important to prevent Adam and Eve from the Tree of Life?  Remember that they initially were free to eat from the Tree of Life.  God initially told them, “From all of the trees of the garden you may freely eat, but from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you may not eat...”  The only initial restriction was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The Tree of Life was there and at this time they could have eaten from it.  But once they disobeyed God by eating from the only tree they were told not to eat from, God protected them by kicking them out of the Garden.  Had Adam and Eve eaten from the Tree of Life in their sinful state, they would have been locked into their sin with no hope for a Messiah to save them.  God’s angels, for whatever reason, have been locked into their state after one third of them chose to follow Satan, where two thirds refused.  So a demon will not ever become a good angel in the future; nor will a good angel ever become a demon from the point that they became locked in sometime in the distant past—even though they were once all good angels.  The Kingdom City, New Jerusalem is a reward for the Christian or saved Jew (through Christ) who lived an obedient lifestyle and were overcomers here on this Earth in this lifetime.  Those who lived disobediently will be saved if they trusted in the Cross to pay their sin debt, but they will not be able to ever enter the Holy City nor eat of the fruit from the Tree of Life.  

Verse 12 also says, “...On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.”  I’m a little curious as to what these names will be.  Who exactly are the 12 tribes of Israel?  If we look at the 12 tribes of Israel as listed in Revelation chapter 7, regarding the 144,000 Jews, we see that the tribe of Dan is missing.  The 12 tribes of Israel are listed 29 times in the Bible and it is often a different list each time listed.  The last list of them all is in Revelation 7, but as mentioned, the Tribe of Dan is omitted.  Judges 18:25-31 records how Dan (the tribe) was hot-tempered, had shed blood, and were idolaters.  Yet, Dan is included in the list in Ezekiel 48, which describes the Millennium Kingdom.  The original list of the tribes of Israel is recorded in Genesis 35:23-26.  We’ll study the Tribes of Israel more in depth when I get to chapter 7 in my Revelation series.  But the final consensus, the names that are written on the walls of the Eternal Kingdom City, has not been disclosed.  We’ll have to find out the final list of names when we get there.  

The city is laid out as a square.  Revelation 21:13-14 reads:
"There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south, and three on the west.  The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."  The names of the 12 tribes of Israel are listed on the 12 gates and the names of the 12 Apostles are written on the 12 foundations of the city.  Paul was an apostle, but he was not one of the original twelve.  To be an official apostle of the 12, according to Peter in Acts 1:21, one had to have been physically in Jesus’ presence as His disciple.  Peter says there: “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us.  For one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”  Recall that Paul was in the presence of Jesus when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, but that was after Jesus’ Resurrection, which does not qualify him as the original 12.  Judas was an apostle, but because of his apostate and betrayal of Jesus, his name was replaced by Matthias.  In Acts chapter 1, Matthias was chosen by prayer and the casting of lots to be Judas’ replacement.  Matthias therefore, was qualified because he had accompanied the 11 disciples of Jesus between Jesus’ baptism and resurrection.  It will be Matthias’ name in replacement of Judas’ that will represent one of the 12 foundations of the Holy Kingdom City.  Interestingly, there were two other qualified candidates, but the lot cast to Matthias.  

There will be an abundant gold in the Holy City.  Verse 15 says, “The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.”  Even the little things of the Kingdom like a mearing rod will have “value.”  There will be abundant gold on the new planet, and for sure, in the Holy City.  The future city will be huge.  Verse 16 says, “The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide.  He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.”  One stadion is 607 feet.  Twelve thousand stadia is 1,380 miles.  Let’s play with these numbers.  From California to Rhode Island is about 3,000 miles.  That is about half of the size of the US longitudinally.  Comparing it to the U.S. latitudinally, 1,380 miles is equivalent to measuring from the far north of North Dakota to Batesville Texas.  Please keep in mind that this Kingdom City that is the size of many American states is just a city, and not a state or a country.  The current country of Israel as delineated on our maps today can fit inside Florida (this, however is not God’s borders for Israel).  It is sufficed to say that the current Jerusalem city will receive a massive overhaul on the New Earth.  But that’s not all—because we see that it is a square city which means that it is also standing 1,380 miles tall.  This is proof that the New Earth itself will be much more massive than this one.  The New Earth will have a different atmosphere than this Earth.  For this current Earth, there are 5 spheres to our atmosphere.  There is the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere.  The troposphere includes the ground level up to 7 miles into the sky; this includes where most clouds are: that is, the cirrus and cumulous clouds.  The stratosphere is the next level up, starting from 7 miles into the sky to up to 31 miles.  This includes where the nacreous clouds are and also the ozone layer and above that.  We see meteor showers at this level.  The next highest is the mesosphere.  This is from 31 to 50 miles above ground level.  This has noctiluscent clouds and meteors burn up in this layer.  The next highest level is the thermosphere, which is 50 miles to 440 miles above ground level.  The International Space Station orbits at this level.  We are well into outer space at this level, and this is only 440 miles high.  Finally, is the exosphere, which is 440 miles to 6,200 miles above ground level.  This is way beyond outer space.  At this level, molecules escape Earth’s gravitational pull.  The New Jerusalem falls within this level in its height, which is well above where our International Space Station is orbiting.  Obviously, the New Earth’s atmosphere will be different than ours, and moreover, the New Earth itself will have to be extremely huge in order to be contained within its new atmosphere.  Can you imagine?  Outside this huge city are many nations.  

Why is this city so high?  Why does it stand well beyond the height of where we currently have our space station?  The New Jerusalem City will be a layered city—a city with many floor levels.  And since the Bible says that our resurrected bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrected body, there will not be a need for elevators because just as Jesus ascended into Heaven by floating up to the sky, our new bodies will likely have His abilities.  We will be able to simply float up to the next floor level.  These are real measurements, and not some angelic, unknown measurement.  Revelation 21:17 says, “He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.”  144 cubits is about 200 feet.  I like how the Bible asserts that the angel was using man’s measurements.  The Holy City will really be that wide and tall.  I quoted the NIV for verse 17, but left out the word “thick,” as in cubits thick because that word is not in the original manuscript.  The original doesn’t say either “width” or “height” with that number.  It just says that the wall is 144 cubits.  However, I think that the NIV gets it right by inserting the word “thick.”  The square city will be 1,380 miles high with only a 200 foot tall wall?  That doesn’t make much sense.  I believe that the angel did record only the thickness of the wall of the city rather than its height.  We are probably to assume that the wall is as high as the City itself.  Remember, the Millennial Kingdom will have no wall, according to Zechariah, but God will be its wall in the form of fire all around the city.  It is possible that could be the case for the New Holy City as well.  If the wall is only 200 feet tall, God Himself might be the rest of its wall in height in the form of fire, but no Scripture tells us that.  We will pick up next time where we left off here.  

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