"ON EAGLES’ WINGS MINISTRIES"
“DEFINING THE NEW JERUSALEM” JANUARY 2017, Part 1
John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of
heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with
them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them,
and be their God.” Revelation 21:2, 3.
As we walk through the threshold of a new year, for me, instead of making new resolutions, I find it to be much more rewarding to “count my blessings and to name them one by one—and in the process, I am totally surprised what the Lord has done. One of the beautiful things about the Lord’s blessings upon our lives is that it always involves other people. In many cases it is not large inexplicable things.
Rather, it is usually small things that can be easily missed or ignored all together. But if we slow down and be deliberate in our assessments, it will not take us long to see the many helping hands that God has used to add flavor and virtue to our lives. So, with this understanding, I thank you all for sharing your substance with me, and for keeping me in your prayers.
As we start a new year, it seems to be appropriate for us to take another look at the concept of heaven and the New Jerusalem. This is not a new subject for any Sunday school, weekend fellowship in a hotel conference room, or a midweek scheduled bible study at a local Assembly. Friends who have been receiving these writings for many years now, are well versed in the “present truths” to which we subscribe.
This subject is being examined and rehearsed for the benefit of the new friends who have joined this family not so long ago; and perhaps are not familiar with the bulk of our teachings. The concept of heaven is not new, neither is the idea and sustained and ongoing teachings about the New Jerusalem. Browsing through several song books or hymnals, it is interesting to note the dates for all the songs about going to heaven.
The dates alone reflect the vision, or understanding those song writers had back then. However, these songs about going to heaven remain popular among Christians at large, and are being utilized by many Christian groups, who perform on television with a “Country and Western” flavor. We are familiar with the rendition by George Beverley Shea, the song with the chorus that says: “He the pearly gates will open, so that I may enter in; for he purchased my redemption, and forgave me all my sin.” Take for instance this song!
“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be; when we all see Jesus, we will sing and shout the victory.” Some of the songs I used to sing as a teenager back in my country of birth, are, “I’ve got a mansion, just over the hilltop, in that fair land where we never more roam. And some day yonder, we’ll never more wander, but walk on streets of purest gold.”
Another song with the same theme is: “Somewhere beyond the blue, there’s a mansion for me. Somewhere beyond the blue, I’m longing to be. I’ll see my Savior’s face, and tell of saving grace: somewhere beyond the blue somewhere.” Another favorite that is still being sung worldwide by senior church choirs, and young people’s group alike, points us directly in the direction of heaven (usually upward.)
The chorus part of the song in question says: “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.” Let us consider another song that subscribe to the same theme. This one was written by Samuel Stennett in 1787, and is known as: On Jordan’s Stormy Banks.” It reads thus: “On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, and cast a wishful eye, To Canaan’s fair and happy land, where my possessions lie.
THE CHORUS: “I am bound for the promised land, I am bound for the promised land. O who will come and go with me? I am bound for the promised land. The entire song—all four verses is about going to heaven. And speaking of heaven the constant mantra that we hear from the entire church-world is what we have waiting for us in heaven.
The popular Negro Spiritual that is still alive and well today suggests: “You got robe, I got robe, everybody got robes. When I get to heaven, gonna put on my robe, and walk all over God’s heaven. One of our favorites in my country was this one. “I’m gonna walk on streets of glory by and by: I’m gonna walk on streets of glory by and by: I’m gonna walk on streets of glory, gonna tell redemption story, I’m gonna walk on streets of glory by and by.
On one of his albums, the late Hank Williams sang: “Lord build me just a cabin, in the corner of Gloryland: in the shade of his tree of life that it may ever stand; where I can hear the angels sing and shake Jesus’ hand: Lord build me just a cabin in the corner of Gloryland.” As we can see from the samples shown above, over the many centuries the concept of going to heaven has remained at the fore-front of Christian theology and has become the bedrock of the Christian faith.
Seemingly, the popular ministries today are committed to the doctrine of prosperity that God wants us to enjoy here on earth: and if we live right, at the end we will not lose our earthly wealth: it will simply shift to a heavenly wealth. Christians at large describe heaven based upon the teachings they receive in their local Assemblies. What we intend to do in this study, is to analyze the truths expressed most importantly in Revelation 21 and possibly a small part of chapter 22. My style of teaching out of my personal choice is to walk within the context of the written word. In my personal growth in Christ to become an effective minister of the gospel, I had to undo (unlearn) much of what I was taught and even preached when I became an active minister of the gospel.
Religious traditions, usually called “men’s vain traditions” continue to plague God’s people. Dating back even to the first century after Christ, while the original apostles were still alive, in the absence of true Divine inspiration, the sleeping church began to accommodate and even embrace the traditions of the elders that gradually seeped into the local congregations. This led to what is called “The Great Falling Away.” By the way, this great falling away is nothing due to happen in the future—it happened a long time ago and we are now living in a period of “Restoration and Reconciliation.”
Jesus, in a stern rebuke, outlined the thing that remains a plague among God’s people unto this day. He asked quite bluntly: “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? Thus have ye made the commandment of God of non-effect by your tradition.” Matthew 15: 3, 6. Based upon the traditions of the elders encased within the teachings of certain forms of doctrine, heaven is a place lined with walls of jasper, streets of gold, gates made of pearls, and the saints will be wearing white robes: some even added golden slippers.
Many have expressed the joy they will feel when David begins to play his harp. John, as a personal witness to God’s unfolding truth testified saying: “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” Rev.21: 2, 3. Let us be clear on this matter!
John did not describe heaven as multitudes believe and teach. He focused his attention upon the holy city. The next point of interest for us to accept, is that both God and the holy city came down to earth out of heaven: and God came for the sole purpose of dwelling with us. In John 14: 23 Jesus promised that he and his Father would come make their abode in us. And we are told: “As God hath said, I will dwell IN THEM, and walk IN THEM; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 2nd Corinthians 6: 16.
The new Jerusalem is called “the holy city” which begs the question, “How many cities God has?” Throughout scripture mentioned is always made to a single city, and not multiple cities. John was very clear in describing the city as a woman adorned for her husband. John saw it coming to earth, and the bride is in readiness to meet the bridegroom so that the marriage can proceed. He clearly announced: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people.” Rev.21: 3. Notice that John declared in the present tense , that the tabernacle of is with men.We must also bear in mind the fact that God himself came down to dwell with men: men did not go up to heaven to dwell with God. Since the bridegroom has made herself ready in John’s vision, we can bring the parable of Jesus as an integral part of the study. Jesus referred to this event in his parable! “And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.” Matthew 25: 10.
Ladies and Gentlemen! The bible does not teach that there is going to be a marriage supper in heaven—Jesus placed this major event right here upon the earth. What more can we learn about this holy city, before we describe all the moving parts and intricacies that tell its full story? Since God has only one holy city, why not let us visit the scene to be enthralled by what it consists of?
The writer of the book of Hebrews (we are not sure that Paul was the author) takes us up the mountain of God, and pulled the curtains back for us to see and behold glories that the human mind cannot easily comprehend. It is so wide we cannot wrap our arms around it! But it tells the full story that even includes our long departed loved ones.
Hebrews recounted the terrible scene at Mount Sinai when the presence of the Lord descended upon the mount causing earthquake and to touch the mountain meant instant death. Moses himself said: “I exceedingly fear and quake; But ye are come to mount Sion (meaning Zion) and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, (the same one that John saw coming down to earth) and to an innumerable company of angels,
To the general assembly and church of the first born (let us note the fact that we are talking about the church, called the city of the living God) which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect (or being made perfect.) And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Hebrews 12: 21-24.
This account covers all bases—as we say in the game of baseball. First of all we are told that we are come to Mount Zion, called the city of the living God. Mount Zion is also called the church of the firstborn, and there is God the judge of all, along with Jesus Christ the mediator. Along with uncountable numbers of angels, we find the spirits of just me, meaning our departed loved ones from across the great divide of centuries gone by.
This passage alone answers the questions of heaven, the new Jerusalem, and the city built four square. The passage above made it quite clear that Zion is the city of God; and it is the church of the firstborn. So when we go back to Revelation 21: 2, 3, we must conclude that the city in question is the bride of Christ, and that not only did the city come down to earth; but God himself accompanied the city to earth—and it was not a temporary visit by God himself—“And he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.” Rev.7:15.
However, when we look at the big picture, we quickly find that millions of saints (including the clergy) have gotten the new Jerusalem confused with the rest of heaven. The biblical narrative reads as follows: “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the city lieth four square, and the length is as large as the breath: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs.
The city is built four square (like an ice cube) and the total measurement is like travelling from New York to 50 miles east of Dallas, TX. In Rev.21: 21, we are told that the city had one street made of pure gold, as it were transparent glass. The two important facts that we need to consider is that it is impossible to envision such a large city with only one street. Secondly, the gold mentioned in this city is transparent—and gold as we know it to be is not transparent. This speaks of the nature of God.
This one street that is featured here reminds us of the words of an ancient prophet. “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up there on, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there.” Isaiah 35: 8, 9. This is a type of highway or street that John saw in the revelation. There can be no multiple streets because the walk with Jesus Christ is a SINGLE—TRANSPARENT walk with nothing to hide. Indeed, it is a way of holiness that is reserved for the redeemed of the Lord to walk thereon.
The angel gave John an idea of the measurements of the city. Thus, we read: “And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. Rev.21: 17. We are told that the wall of the city had twelve gates. “On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls (each gate was made of one pearl) every several gate was of one pearl. Revelation 21: 13, 21.
There is a vital point that we cannot afford to bypass or ignore. Each gate was made of a single pearl, and as we know a pearl is grown in the belly of an oyster, and its formation is a result of severe pressure. It is from within the tense pressure that the pearl is formed. What correlation is there between severe pressure and entering the kingdom of God?
We are told that Paul traveled Derbe making stops and ministering at Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14: 22. The city is new Jerusalem—which is a woman, and is the bride of Christ. But notice that there are twelve tribes of Israel, thus the twelve gates to the city. Twelve tribes and twelve gates equal the grand total of 144, 000 a group that is mentioned specifically.
To be continued...
Royce O. Kennedy
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