The Final Destination – The Perfection
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – STUDY 18
Please look at the questions and discuss the answers. The case histories are designed to let you apply what theoretical knowledge you have gleaned from the study. There are intentionally many more questions and case histories than you can manage in one session but this is designed to cover the many and varied needs of the individuals in the church hence please pick and choose which ones to discuss as long as it gets people sharing and applying the Word to real life situations. Never feel obligated to finish all the questions The answers will be posted on the web the next day.
The popular misconception is that heaven is somewhere out above the clouds or in the clouds or in space and certainly not on earth again. The doctrine contradicts that misconception because it shows that the earth is important and our mandate to have responsibility over the earth and creation (which was an original mandate) still will apply in the new world. It moves us away from the concept of what we do in the world today does not matter as we will all be in the clouds up in heaven. It is a misconception that will result in a callous disregard of our fellow man and the earth, and we will minimise our responsibility to the environment, and our care for people will not be wholistic. We will care for their souls but not whether they have food in their stomachs or protection from their enemies. It moves us away from God’s prime directive to rule over creation which is a mandate which we should engage in even today.
The dimensions of the new Jerusalem are a perfect cube in the Old Testament and John describes a very oddly shaped city in the manner of a cube of 12,000 stadia or 1500miles in equal measure across all its dimensions mimicking the cube of the holly of Holies which would be a fact not easily lost to the early Jewish readers of the epistle. It tells us that this city will have the holy presence of God himself and its inhabitants will be in direct contact with God himself in his unshielded glory. There would not longer be the year long wait outside the holy of Holies before only a single high priest as the representative of his people could enter the holy of Holies. It would be the direct unimpeded entry of every single believer. The astronomical dimensions of the city of Jerusalem is meant to convey both the glory and enormity of God’s city and the fact that it will encompass the multitude nations which will stream into it. It will not be just the nation of Israel.
The recurring theme of the bible is the original creation intent where God creates a perfect world but man sins and does his own way and reaps disaster which is hurled upon the whole of creation. The singular act that brings all woe into the universe is the act of rebellion where Adam and Eve refuse to be His people and God to be their God because in taking the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil they are deciding to be their own God.
The Biblical story is the saga of how God used one man Abraham through faith and subsequently his progeny Israel to redeem mankind back to the original garden of Eden where man lived under submission to his God as His emissary and representative to rule over creation. The long road back is based on the promise that God again will be our God and we His people is when we come back in total obedience to Him reflecting His values, His behaviours and His actions and this is through His Son.
The presence of the 12 precious stones that make up the actual foundation of the wall is to reflect the origins of God’s people which is the chosen nation of Israel. The name of the 12 apostles on the foundations is to reflect that fact that the totality of God’s people and His church is built upon the foundation of the 12 apostles who are responsible for the Bible.
The combination of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles is important because it gives context to God’s plan of salvation, that it has its roots in Abraham and then the 12 tribes of Israel before culminating in the ultimate revelation of God in His Son Jesus who chose His 12 apostles whose writings form the foundation of faith for the church.
From the previous chapters like in Revelations 19 the symbol of the Bride is used for the Redeemed people of God. There are also other symbols like the 144,000 used in Rev 14. Now the imagery is a little more complex and has become a mixed metaphor. What is referred to as the bride is also the new Jerusalem. One symbol is that of an inanimate city and the other of a group of people and these metaphors communicate two things at the same time, that our ultimate destination would comprise of residing within an unimaginably glorious place as well as a perfect pure and beautiful redeemed community.
Rev 21:2 emphasised the preparation aspect of the city. Rev 21:2 “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The time, patience and elaborateness of preparation of a bride is reflected in the perfect city.
Rev 21:9 the city is directly the Bride, the wife of the Lamb which refers to the community of the redeemed by the Lamb. Hence the house is not a home until it is filled by people. So we are going to be in the midst of God’s people, holy, pure, faithful washed by the blood of the lamb. It emphasises the love, the camaraderie, the intimacy of the redeemed community which will likely exceed that between a husband and a wife hence there will be no marriage in heaven. What beauty of relationship bonding, joy and fellowship felt by the earthly marital couple is only going to be a foretaste of millions of such relationships between people of the redeemed community which will provide an eternity of friendship and fellowship and joy. A beautiful mansion to live in is nothing if the people you have to live with are an unsavoury lot hence the double imagery tells us it will be a beautiful wonderful house and a home where love reigns supreme.
The imagery of the new Jerusalem is supposed to portray the glory of a city. It’s like gazing at the skyline of a great city like KL or New York and being exhilarated by its dimensions, the tall sky scrapers and imposing structures. Cities in the ancient times are the same and what differentiated a city from a village or town is the presence of a city wall which provided protection from marauding brigands who would raid the villages. Walls are a symbol of security and the glory of the city hence the presence of the walls as part of the vision is to convey that sense. The gate being perpetually open gives a sense of security. There is no fear of evil coming in as it is such a safe community. Additionally there are angels at the gates standing guard and the nations are streaming in because of the glory of the new city and the presence of God.
The greatest blessing is to be able to see God’s face because we are made in His image and as such, our direct knowledge of Him in a face to face encounter is not only going to be beautiful and engaging but also transformative which is the same process we now undergo as seen in 2 Cor 3: 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Imagine if we are transformed by beholding the glory of God in a limited manner now because we cannot see Him and we can only behold him by faith and in the Words of Scripture which gives us a glimpse and yet we are transformed by the Spirit. Imagine what it will be like when the veil is removed and we are exposed to the full glare of the indescribable glory of God, how our hearts and minds will be captivated by His sheer beauty. It is only out of our interaction with Him, our awe inspired hearts will enable us to respond. Worship and service are intricately related because worship becomes the well spring and motivation for our service.
Look at Romans 12: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In Romans 1-8 Paul outlines the grand scheme of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ who died to redeem us. Hence when he says that he appeals to them by “the mercies of God,” Paul is laying out the implications of God’s merciful salvation to us. Our expected response is to reciprocate love with love and that is to worship. To worship is to present our minds and our bodies to serve Him, and to serve Him in a manner that is consistent with His will and His character, not an unfettered flurry of activities on our part. Worship entails action, a change in mind and lifestyle.
The original mandate of Adam and Eve was to be God’s image and that has a representative function in the created world. They were to have dominion over the world and serve as God’s viceroys reigning over the world on His behalf. This original mandate for mankind stated in Genesis 1 is not reinstated in Genesis 22
It would probably not be literal as we know the language of Revelations is symbolic. The main meaning that God and the Lamb will provide the light instead of the sun would be that no longer will the sun provide the light by which we will live under but it is the glory of God that provides the light and meaning to our existence.
There is no more night, means there is no more evil. We will live under the full glare of the glory of God. We will live under His watchful eye, pleasing Him, guided by Him, motivated by Him, relishing in His approval every single day of our eternal life.
The purpose of the temple in the Old Testament was to give us some approximation of His majesty and character and our relationship to Him. The sacrifices reminded us that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. The distance of the people from the holy of Holies as well as the intricate washing rituals before people or priest could approach the tabernacle or temple would reinforce the concept of the Holiness of God and our distance due to sin. The absence of the temple in the new Jerusalem would then indicate that the old temple has done its job. It had pointed people to the real presence of God which is in His Son Jesus. Hence in the new temple, it would be incongruous for there to be a symbol of God’s presence when there is the real tangible presence of God that makes any symbol entirely redundant.
The main problem we have in our community today is that we do not keep the concept of the new heaven and the new earth in the foreground of our teaching and our meditation. It becomes an irrelevant pie in the sky. It is an esoteric concept which is easily overwhelmed by the complexities and troubles of life. Other beautiful things, whether it be our own families or our careers or our cities capture our imaginations and our desires and when we focus on these things, the eternal hope recedes into the back ground and we tend to hold more dearly to our temporal hopes more than our eternal hopes.
Abraham provides us the best picture of faith. He lived in tents and as a foreigner or alien simply because he had placed his hope on the eternal city of Jerusalem which he could clearly see in his mind’s eye and when this is clearly kept in the horizon, it enabled him to live simply and not be tethered to the short term objectives and aspirations of this life.
What qualifies us is not that we have not engaged in sinful activities of the list stated in Rev 21:8 but that we are thirsty. We have insight of our great spiritual need, we are acutely aware, embarrassed, condemned by our sins which are not dissimilar to the list in Revelations 21: 8. We are aware of our need for righteousness to even approach the Holy God so in that sense, the physical metaphor of thirst adequately communicates this concept. It is the poor in spirit as Matthew writes in the sermon on the mount that are in the kingdom because they recognise their spiritual poverty or in this case, dehydration and then thirst for God’s righteousness provided by Jesus and it is received by faith.
Once we drink from the water provided by Jesus, we receive eternal life. We can enter the perfect city. This is an ongoing event. It is not a one time sinners prayer although it is inaugurated by the sinners prayer or conversion event. However it is an ongoing desire to be filled with the things of God and if there is a river flowing in our hearts, which is the metaphor of the eternal life of the Spirit flowing through our lives, then the presence of sin diminishes and we will not be like the ones who cannot enter the eternal city because they have instead satisfied their thirst by getting drunk with the wine of the harlot.
The slogan our best life is now indicates that what happens after we die will be much worse than what we have now. It is the total opposite of Abraham in Hebrews 11 because he deliberately did not live in the luxury of the city but roughed it out as an alien in a tent simply because he wanted his best life to begin after death in the new heavens and new earth. The danger of such teaching is we strengthen our bonds to the things of the world and take upon this short sighted view of life that would hinder our full commitment and diminish our capacity to sacrifice for Him and compromise with the world. Our best life now places the entire focus of living in the here and now. Hence we cannot live by faith, we live by sight.
The one who conquers is the one who is continually thirsty for the things of God. The one who is excited and treasures the things of God as foremost in his life. This is the secret to victorious Christian living. To be always hungry for the Word of God, for prayer, for living by faith in Jesus, living in the power of the Spirit, and ministering to the world. If we hunger and thirst and satisfy that thirst with our own passions, comforts and desires for our life now instead of for His purposes, we will likely not persevere in the face of temptation and trials. The end result is always defeat and ruin. Hence for the believer, the constant struggle with the thirst for more and more of God is the only sure way to ensure that we will conquer and be like Paul in the end who said that he had run the race:
1 Tim 4: 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.