And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22:1 & 2
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God,[c] and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. Revelation 20:12
Assuming that you take Jesus at His word ( 'I am coming quickly' - first-century ), do you believe that our Heavenly Father operates the same way today, that He judges according to our works? If so, why? If not, why not?
If we are judged according to our works, wouldn't that mean that if our works are righteous that we are judged righteously ( that is, assuming you believe the judgment has yet to occur )? If we are yet to be judged according to our works, then that would mean that no one has been judged yet, we are still awaiting our redemption, and the dead are still awaiting their judgment in 'hell'!
Now, don't get me wrong here, I don't believe in any sort of traditional 'hell', a literal place of torment, where the wicked will burn 'for the ages of the ages'! I do believe in a 'hell on earth'; I believe that 'war is hell', that any sort of torment that we bow under is a sort of 'hell', but I don't believe the traditional doctrine of 'hell' holds water!
One should find most interesting the fact that when Scripture speaks of people being judged according to their work, it usually, if not always, in the context of the 'near' judgment ( Acts 24:15- 'about to be' ) that was to come ( and came ) in the first century. Interesting too, that the majority of those judged 'according to their works' were those whose works were evil, those who rejected their Messiah.
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy [ against ] the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Matthew 12:31
We do not, or did not merit our salvation; that is & was a Free Gift from our Heavenly Father! He sent His Only Begotten Son to die on the Cross that whoever believed in Him would never die! Many troubles have come about because this seems to be meriting those who believe in Him with eternal life, but on the other hand, there are numerous passages that seem to say almost the opposite; in fact, Jesus Himself said, 'No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him' ( John 6:44a )!
The institutional church has argued for centuries over the meritorious work of Christ; do men work out their own salvation, or is it a totally free gift? Some even argue about whether the work of Christ Himself was actually meritorious ( so I hear )!
Much of of the confusion can be laid at the feet of that nasty old individualism! If the individual will be ( or was ) judged on his ( or her ) own merits, then we would really have something to worry about! Thanks be to our Heavenly Father, though, for He provided the True Man, the Only One who would ever, by His own merits, be able even to save Himself, much less the rest of His People!
The Merits of Jesus the Christ were & are no doubt worthy of the salvation of His People, no question there! The question is, 'do those merits continue with the Body of Christ today?' If so, why? If not, why not?
The Judgment was passed on that generation ( first century )! It was rendered in favor of His People & against those who rejected Him, those who instead murdered Him! We are, individually, judged by our actions; if we do right, in time we will reap the fruits of the righteousness we have sown, and if we do wrong ( by failing to do right ) we will, on the other hand, be rewarded in kind!
It is well accepted that Jesus the Son of God ( God Himself ) came to die for our sins! If His Merits provided atonement for our sins, why do we still have to die?! Is it because we do not yet merit that Life Eternal, or is it because the Death that Jesus atoned for was not biological? Did He suffer separation from His Father ( for a time ) so that we, His People, would be able to live with Him eternally, AFTER we died, or did He go through all of that in order to restore His People to Communion with their Heavenly Father ( Himself )?
We might well ponder these questions, but we must realize that it is in Him alone that we have Peace! We may, according to our works in this biology, have peace, or endure a sort of 'hell, but if our mind is resting in Him, and we are trusting in the Merits which He worked almost two thousand years ago; then we have that Peace which is beyond our understanding & the Eternal Life He promised!
As individuals, we can never merit any thing that's truly lasting ( or can we? ), but as part of the Body of Christ, that same Son of God for whose merit we inherited Eternal Life, we have been found worthy to attain Life & Peace in His Presence! Oh, glorious Reality! With this Peace, we can endure anything this biology throws at us, including death & 'hell'!
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
The days were surely evil, the days in which Jesus, Paul & the apostles lived; the Land was occupied by heathen, pagan Rome, and even their neighbors on pretty much all sides had turned against the people of Israel! There were even divisions ( factions ) among the Jews themselves, some, to a greater or lesser extent, had accepted & even embraced their Captivity ( 'hell' ), while others, to whatever extent, were subversive & seditious towards it! Talk about 'evil' days; the day & age in which we currently doesn't see to be much better! Our own government is so full of corruption that it often feels like we are captives within our own freedom, and ecclesiastically, the number of denominations ( factions ) within the Institutional Church far outweighs anything that Jesus, Paul & the apostles ever experienced! Many are tempted to look at our current situation and think, 'how could this be the Kingdom of God, or Heaven'?! Truly, from a human standpoint, we would have to agree! If this was it, one would think that things like wars, murder, rape, and even pornography, the sex trade, child abuse, and the worst of them all, abortion, would not exist. We've heard over & over that 'God cannot dwell with sin'; therefore, He must not dwell on this corrupted earth, right? If this were God's Kingdom, or Heaven, and He was truly ruling & reigning, would sin be so rampant in this world, if it even existed at all? The thing is, we ( Christians ) are ruling & reigning with Him & He with us! Or, at least we're supposed to be! The problem is that many Christians have forgotten how to share the Love of God in Jesus Christ! Sure, we 'love one another' ( or do we? ), but HOW do we do that? Do we show love to everyone, or do we just show love to those who love us? Is the act of war against another nation, etc. showing love for our neighbor? Who then, IS our neighbor?! The most-quoted passage of Scripture, Joh n 3:16, tells us that 'God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should have eternal life'. He gave His Beloved Son for us, He sent Him to die that we might Live; what king of Love was that? What Grace, what Mercy, what Amazing Love! Is that the kind of Love we show for our neighbor, to say nothing of our wives & our families?! The alarming divorce rate that we see in this nation under God, even & especially among Christians, seems to say otherwise! ( I speak to myself here, as much as to others, being a divorcee ). The apostle Paul wrote ( Ephesians 5:25 ) that 'Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her', saying previously that this is why men should love their wives, our marriages being a representation of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, or Christ & the Church! The days are still evil, yes, but they are evil because we have not loved one another as He loved us! If we all truly loved our neighbor as ourselves, do you think we would hear of wars & rumors of wars, like we hear so often? If we all loved as He loved, would would crimes such as abortion, child abuse, the sex trade, etc even exist or happen? HELL NO, they wouldn't; there would be no room for them! We would be so full of Love for all things that this world would be a utopian paradise! The sad fact, though, is that we cannot ( individually ) love as He did; it's not within the human nature! Only as part of the ( corporate ) Body of Christ can we experience & share His Love! Only by Communing daily with Him ( in His Body ) will we ever be able to truly love as we are Loved, to do the works greater than His ( John 14:12 )! This IS our Father's world, there can be no doubt of that glorious fact; we live in the Kingdom of His Love, and His Love will never end, or fail! We ( individually ) fail very often to love as we should, and our love often comes to an end, dries up and blows away! As the ( corporate ) Body of Christ, though, our Love is His, our Strength, our Stamina & Endurance is His! In Him alone can we love one another as He loved us, in Him alone can we bring an end to the warring & other crimes ( sins ) that have plagued the People of God in the past and that continue to be a thorn in our flesh! Let us determine ( individually ) to act ( corporately ) as the Body of Christ, Loving & Living as He Loves & Live, for He alone IS our Life; He IS our ALL! Charles Haddon Shank
1. I believe and trust in the One, True, Eternal God, the great I AM.
1a. I believe that there was a separation of sorts within the God-head for the Eschatological Purpose of establishing the Church & judging Israel according to the flesh. 2. I believe that this One, True God created all things ( visible & invisible ), and that nothing in His creation happens without His all-powerful Hand. 3. I believe that the Father sent His only begotten Son to the Earth, when, as prophesied in Holy Scripture, the Spirit of the Holy God came upon the virgin, Mary, who bore, of her own flesh and body, our Lord Jesus, who was the Christ. 3a. I believe that God sent of Himself, became human, and dwelt among us, as a Promise of His Presence. He Himself placed His Seed within the Virgin of Israel in order to consummate, in a type, the marriage of Heaven & Earth. 4. I believe that this Seed, Jesus Christ, was born according to the flesh, and suffered a normal* human existence, until He was sacrificed as the propitiation for the sins of His people, who had broken covenant & so lost the Blessings of Relationship with Him. 5. I believe that this one, final sacrifice was sufficient to cleanse His people from all blood-guiltiness, and to transfer His people from the Ministry of Death & Hell into the Kingdom of Life & Heaven, and back into Blessed Relationship with Him.. 6. I believe that the Christ died, that He was forsaken by the Father, that His physical body was buried in the grave, and that after three days, He rose again, in His physical body* along with many of the saints who had fallen asleep, and ascended, in a cloud, to the Glory He had forsaken for a time. 7. I believe He returned to that same wicked generation, as the Scriptures prophesied, to judge apostate* Israel, and to open the way for the new and better covenant, through the destruction of the Jewish Temple and the changing of the covenant economy. 8. I believe in One Baptism; that of and by the Holy Spirit & with fire*. 8a. I believe that this Baptism, signified by a baptism of water during the transitional period*, was primarily of those Jews & Gentiles who accepted Jesus as the Son of God & their Messiah. 9. I believe in the Communion of the Saints ( the Body of Christ ), by means of fellowship & worship of the One, True God, in Spirit & in Truth. 10. I believe that the Marriage of Heaven & Earth was the End* of All Things. by God's Grace Charles Shank 2*. universe 4* common to all human beings. 6*. His human body, I believe was reanimated when He rose from the tomb, but shed when He ascended to the Father.* Luke 19:12-27 7*. their rejection of the Christ was the final "straw" ( read Josephus' "Antiquities" for more info ). 8*. trials, tribulation. 8a* This 'transitional period' occurred between the years ( approximately ) of AD30 & AD70, from the baptismal ministry of John & Jesus and the destruction of the Jewish Temple ( ie, Jesus' return in Judgment ). 10 * goal
Division is a good thing, right? Everything in its 'proper' place, and nothing out of order! 'Some people just don't know their place!' Sound familiar? It should; you might hear this phrase anywhere from the context of the armed forces to the institutional church, from bedrooms to boardrooms, so to speak!
In Scripture, we are given ( no argument there ) what seems to be instructions for Church Polity! The apostle Paul gave his son Timothy ( I Timothy 3:1-13 ) pretty clear instructions on how bishops or deacons were to be qualified for service. the interesting thing, though is, that these are really, as I noted to my wife's pastor ( at the time ); 'these are the qualifications for any good Christian'!
In his letter to Titus ( Titus 1:5-9 ), Paul gives pretty much the same instructions, though he added in this letter why he was ordering things thus. 'For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain'. These instructions seem to have been given specifically for the ordering of the Early Church, its Genesis, you might say!
There is some talk today, particularly in the 'fulfilled' camp ( those who believe in a Fulfilled Eschatology ) that the offices of the Church ( the elder or bishop ) are no long called for, that with the Advent ( first & second, so-called ) of Christ, these positions have ceased to be! There is no doubt, especially in today''s theological & ecclesiastical landscape, that these offices are needful, and even necessary.One might liken this 'need' to that of the average Americans need for a law that tells him not to drive when drunk, for a law to forbid him to go over a certain speed on a deer-infested highway, or to wear his seat-belt on the same highway; it's a matter of a lack of good common sense! We have all of these laws because many people don't have the common sense or responsibility to act safely. On the other hand, too many Christians have taken the 'sheep' metaphor Jesus used too far, and become prey to the 'wolves'!
Paul's instruction to Titus, then, being where we get much of our Church Polity, was given for a specific purpose! That purpose was to ensure that Titus, and other appointed Church Leaders would be able to sift out & destroy damning error within their specific congregation. While these specific errors, or the same damned group of nay-sayers ( Pharisees & Judaizers ) may no longer exist, there are still those who want to trouble the Church, those who feel the need, as did the Pharisees, to observe the Law given under that first ( covenant!
Christians, as they mature, should be able to sort out these errors for themselves, to refute it, and to rid themselves and the Body of it! Some can and do, but there are many more out there, for whatever reason, who cannot or simply refuse to do so; they are 'blown about by every wind of doctrine' ( Ephesians 4:14 ) However, all is not as ( we think ) it should be, so we have what we have; a Church ( for the most part ) still in its infancy, waiting for a Jesus to return that is already here!
Division, in the Scripture, was how our Heavenly Father ordered His Good Creation 'in the beginning', but that doesn't mean that He meant for it to remain that way! Sure, evil still still occurs in this world; as long as human beings exist, evil will be a clear & present danger, and there should be a clear distinction made between that which is good and that which is evil, but the wall of division has been brought down, to nothing!
The Greek ( New Testament ) Scriptures are full of the Language of Unity! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Galatia ( Galatians 3:28 ), 'we are all one in Christ Jesus'. Later, he encouraged the Church at Ephesus to 'keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace', 'till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, and to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' ( Ephesians 4:3 & 13 ) Paul encouraged the Church at Philippi to 'be of this same mind', sacrificing personal wants & desires for the needs of other in order to pursue unity within the Body of Christ!
The Rank & File of the Church then, as in many other aspects of Life, must remain in their ordained order! At least in most areas! In certain congregations, the need for overseers may not exist, with all men & women having exactly the Perfect Mind of Christ, and being able to rightly judge for themselves between right & wrong, have no more need for someone to tell them what to do! If such a congregation exists, though, I sure wish someone would tell me about it!
In the Storms of Life, there is One thing that we can always count on to be True! As Christians, we know that whatever hurdle we face ( no matter how 'hard' it may seem ), whatever trial or tribulation comes our way, no matter what temptation or difficulty we face, our Heavenly Father is Above it All, and will never let us fall!
The popular mantra, in such times is, 'God will never give us ( you? ) more than we ( you? ) can handle'! This is a true saying, and worthy of all acceptance, but some of us, for one reason or another, beg to differ ( especially those who are currently going through these struggles ). Another popular one, a bit more 'fluffy', but still as true, 'if He brings you to it, He'll bring you through it'. With all the support we need at our finger-tips, how can we fear or despair!
We are told by David, king of Israel, that 'He shall give His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone' ( Psalm 91:11 & 12 ) We are told by the apostle Paul that, 'God [ is ] faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear [ it ]' ( I Corinthians 10:13 ) From the apostle Paul's word we have taken that mantra 'God will never give you more than you can handle' When you quote that to someone who is in the midst of all kinds of suffering and pain, though, the temptation before them is often to slap you silly, because they, for whatever reason, feel that God HAS given them more than THEY can handle! The 'funny' thing is, both of the above passages are given in the context of the corporate Body, not just in an individual manner! The wisest king that Jerusalem ever held, and arguably the wisest man ever, Solomon, wrote these words, 'though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken' ( Ecclesiastes 4:12 ) To use another familiar phrase, 'no man is an island'! Without the necessary communion, man will die, both physically & spiritually! It is together, as the Corporate Body of Christ, that we are able to handle anything that Life ( life ) throws at us! Individually, we will stumble, will fall, but as a Perfect Picture of Unity, as a diverse yet whole structure, we stand strong! This may sound like a mantra from decades gone by, by, 'by standing strong together, we will weather any storm'. Not only will we weather it; we will come through it with flying colors! Because of the Strength Within, we can do it; the question is will we!? When one individual member ( Romans 12:5, I Corinthians 12:27 ) is hurting, or going through any given trial or tribulation, he or she quickly finds that he or she is not alone ( far from it! )! Our heavenly Father, as we read in I Corinthians 12:24-26, has composed the Body of Christ, the Church, so that 'if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it'. We can tell this from our human experience; if one of our many body parts is not functioning correctly, sooner or later, the rest of our body parts will take notice of it, and usually protest!
The question is, 'HOW we will weather the Storm'! Will we try to make it on our own, stubbornly refusing the proffered Hand ( up ); or will we stand in unity with the Body of Christ, accepting that We are One though diverse, that there is Unity in our Diversity ( 'it takes all kinds' )! Can we make it on our own, can we individually become stronger or more self-sufficient? There would seem to be some wisdom in the idea that we can or even should,. but is it the Wisdom from Above?! Our Heavenly Father has shown us that Communion is necessary to our very existence, He has shown us that, in order to function properly, just as our individual, biological body, all members of the Body ( of Christ ) must strive together, in their Diversity showing Unity!
As we hold each other up, standing strong through the Spirit within us, let us always remember that it is only through this Communion that we survive the Storms of Life, for it is through these struggles that the Body is strengthened, and finds its Reason for Living! Let us rejoice in this glorious fact, and together, Weather the Storm! Through the Grace & Mercy of our Heavenly Father, Amen & Amen!
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
In most of today's theological & political landscape, there is so much of a focus on the individual that The Story seems to have lost all relevance! There is definitely an individual aspect to life & living, but because we have put too much emphasis on individual accomplishment, The Story has, in many cases, been forgotten! If we are ever to get back to where we should be in this nation, we must remember that Story, our part in it, and learn from our past History!
Many Americans, including our exalted leaders, seem to want to 'turn the desert ( Middle-East ) into a sea of glass'! In other words, they think the easiest solution would be to 'bomb the hell out of 'em'! 'Kill 'em all, and let God sort 'em out', is another phrase that might be used here. Though these and like solutions may seem to be wise, at least in the minds of men, they are far from the Wisdom from above!
Much of the problem ( some would say 'the entire problem' ) in both today's theological & political landscapes stems from a false view of eschatology, or what is known as 'End-Times'! The Foreign Policy of the United States ( of America ), especially as regarding the Middle-East, is powered largely by the false belief that the current nation/state of Israel is still The Promised Land of God's Chosen People. This again, is powered by the notion that Jesus has not yet redeemed His People ( Israel ), and thus, we must wrest The Land from it's native ( Christian or not ) inhabitants, and return it to those who follow Judaism ( or at least claim to )!
The current president of the good ole U.S. of A. receives too much of the blame for the mess that this nation ( as well as other parts of the world ) finds itself in! The suffering that we are now in the midst of goes much further back than just the last 6 years or so! We can't even blame our problems on George Bush, Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Abraham Lincoln!
The decimation ( I use this term in a metaphorical way ) that many have noted in our political landscape is merely a symptom of our nation's theological desolation! Because the Church has forgotten the significance of Story, She has removed the importance of 'The Corporate Body', and focused instead on 'individualism'. This 'individualism', or focus on individual accomplishment, has leached out into the field of education, which has adversely influenced our very way of life!
Counting the Costs
The economy of this nation has been bankrupt for years, due in large part to the Foreign Policy of the U.S. Inc.! This nation has become, in many respects, morally bankrupt, and the Church, institutionally speaking, anyway, has become metaphorically bankrupt! We are hated by many nations because of our Foreign Policy, and have become a laughing-stock to many others because we, who used to be so lofty & exalted, have fallen so far!
Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Luke 14:28
Seemingly without consideration of future consequences, the leaders of this nation have committed acts of war that were not absolutely necessary, and for the most part, it has been our nation that has experienced the greatest suffering because of it! 9-11 is only the most recent & blatant example of this, though one could well argue that the recent wars in Iraq & Afghanistan have caused as much or more ( damage ) to our fighting forces & their families! The economic toll these needless wars have exacted on this nation are the least of our troubles!
The costs of the abomination that this nation has become are almost infinite! From the legalization of the murder of infants, to the rampancy & exaltation of the homosexual life-style ( 'death-style' might be a better word for it ), what a stench we must be, as a nation, in the nostrils of a Holy God?!
One might well wonder why He has not turned this country into 'a sea of glass'; then again, maybe He has!
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6, 7 NKJV)
'What is man', says the Psalmist, 'that You are mindful of him, and the son of man, that You visit him?' What are we, that we should be found worthy to experience the Love of God Outpoured? What have we done, and who are we, that He, the Creator of all, should stoop so low as to bestow His Precious Love upon us, mere finite human beings as we are?
We sure don't feel like we are worthy of the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father, what with our rebellious nature and our complete and utter failure to follow His instructions at all times! Even with our feeble & finite minds, the greatness of His Love for us is impossible to fully grasp, much less to realize & rest in! We can be sure of one thing, though; He does love us with the unconditional love of a father, and not just any father; He is our Creator!
We know, even with our feeble & finite minds, that the Advent of the Son of God, Jesus who was the Christ, was the Revelation & Personification of the Love of God, and we can even understand, to some extent, how it could be that our Father would separate Himself and reveal that Love to humanity by inhabiting a mortal body, just so He could have a relationship with His Creation! Can we fully grasp the Impetus of this Love, though? Do we need to?
We are His Creation, and He is our Father; that's really all we need to understand in order to realize the Love of God! Like any father, the Love that our Father holds for us includes chastening, times of trial & tribulation when it seems He has forsaken us, or forgotten us. We may be assured, though, as the People of God, that He has not, nor will ever: Jesus promised His disciples, 'I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. ( John 14:18 ) later, He promised that '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. ( John 14:23 )
This is not to say that He does not Love us when we fail to keep His Word ( perfectly ), or that Hee ceases to dwell with us ( forsakes ) us when we fail Him! As our Father, He does allow us to make our own mistakes and to pay the consequences for those mistakes, but only to a point; He protects us, as well, from making certain mistakes. Any earthly father, within reason, will teach his children, by experience if necessary, that this or that ( a hot stove, for instance ) will hurt you if you touch it, but he would never allow his child to jump in front of a speeding truck or other vehicle, and merely shrug his shoulders and say, 'he'll learn'! There are things which will harm & teach us, and there are things that will kill us!
If our Heavenly Father so Loves us, His Creation, should we not love one another with the same Love? We are but finite Creatures and He the Infinite One, but I believe, especially with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of Love that it is possible for us, mere human beings, to share the Love of God in like manner! Can we do this perfectly, as He does? Doubtless, we cannot! We are feeble & finite human beings and are made thus, but we can, through the Power within us, that is, within the Body of the Christ, where dwells the Infinite One, Love as we are Loved!
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (I John 4:7 NKJV)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22 & 23
The question was, is there any similarity or connection between 'The Beautitudes' and the 'Fruit of the Spirit'?' Without doubt, there is much similarity there, and a very strong connection; they are both Part of the Story! However, there is so much similarity in these writing, and such a strong connection, that it would take a book to do it justice! We have neither the time nor the space to do so ( this is not the place ). We will, though, try to make this short study as concise as possible! First of all, we might note the chiastic structure of 'The Beautitudes'! Jesus begins His little Benediction by saying, 'theirs is the kingdom of heaven', and ends it with the same phrase, using two very similar examples who are 'Blessed', again, ending with ''For theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. To gain a proper understanding of this Benediction, it is necessary to understand the historical context of Jesus' oration. To gather a hint of this, we need only read the end of His Benediction; 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake'. The Church was being persecuted most severely for the sake of Christ; rather than trusting in their own righteousness, as did the pharisaical Jews, they rested in the Righteousness of the Christ, their Messiah, and for this reason, they received much persecution, even to the death, from their adversaries! Note the natural progression in 'The Beatitudes towards the middle, where Jesus promises that such will 'be filled'. Jesus said later on in His Sermon ( on the Mount ), 'seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness'. It is His Righteousness which is both the focal point of both 'The Beautitudes' & 'The Fruit of the Spirit'! It is His Righteousness which enables us to exhibit this 'fruit'! As Jesus winds down His ( pre ) Benediction, He begins to reveal The Fruit of the Spirit, while at the same time, reiterating the first half! We see the conjunction between 'the merciful' & 'the meek', 'the pure in heart' & those who mourn' ( Isaiah 61:3 ), and between 'the peacemakers', 'those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake' & 'the poor in spirit'. Jesus elucidates those virtues which Paul later called 'the fruit of the spirit'! Paul, you may note, follows much the same structure in his letter to the Church in Galatia! He begins by extolling 'love', 'joy' & 'peace', which is naturally followed by 'long-suffering', and is worked out through 'kindness', 'faithfulness', 'gentleness' & 'self-control', which is equal to the 'meekness' exhibited by the 'sons of God'! To conclude this short study, we may note that both of the passages in question are best understood in their historical context! Both passages center on the Righteousness of God & both are revelations of the Fruit of the Spirit! Jesus told His followers that those who exhibited these fruits would 'inherit the earth', while Paul reminded the followers of Jesus what these 'fruits' were. Paul's readers were under-going the persecution that Jesus warned His followers of ( it had started already ), and were gently reminded by Paul that 'Against such there is no law'. Charles Haddon Shank
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy[h] Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light [ was ] like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are [ the names ] of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.
Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names[i] of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred [ and ] forty-four cubits, [ according ] to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.The construction of its wall was [ of ] jasper; and the city [ was ] pure gold, like clear glass.The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation [ was ] jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
What does the City of God look like? Well, since we know that John was describing a corporate entity ( 'Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife' ), and not an actual City; we can simply point to the People of God and say, 'this is what Zion looks like'! Can it really be that simple though; why would John go to such great lengths, as we see above, if it is that simple?
The first thing we must understand about The Revelation is when it was written and most importantly where it was written! ( to whom it was written is important too ) John wrote this letter to the Church ( significantly, 'the seven churches which are in Asia' ) over 2,000 years ago, and not only is this an ancient script, but it was written in the Near-East, in Greek, by an author who was well acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures & manner of writing. Also, he wrote this letter to an Ancient Near Eastern people, who would have been, to whatever extent, familiar with this certain literary style.
Beautiful in elevation,
The joy of the whole earth,
[ Is ] Mount Zion [ on ] the sides of the north,
The city of the great King.
David, King of Israel, had much to say in his psalms about this Zion! In II Samuel 5:7, we read that Zion was an actual city in Israel; it is recorded that David 'took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David)'. Much of what David writes about Zion, then, can be applied to his own reign, but ultimately, his Psalms point to the One True & Coming King, Jesus, who was the Christ!
Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old,
The tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed—
This Mount Zion where You have dwelt.
Unless one can understand, to some extent, anyway, the style of literature that the writers of Scripture employed, much confusion will result, particularly if that one approaches the Sacred Writings with the individualistic, modern-Western mindset that we have! While I am admittedly not a Hebrew scholar, and not all that familiar with the literary style of the Ancient Near East, I do do know that they had a different style of writing than we are usually familiar with. Some have likened its heavy use of metaphor & hyperbole to that of the modern cartoon strip!
John's use of architectural language to describe the New Jerusalem can & must be linked directly to the History of Israel, as we read it in the Hebrew Scriptures. Ezekiel's description of the Holy City, as we can read in Ezekiel 48, is almost directly quoted by John in the Revelation, but one can go all the way back to the book of Genesis ( 28:14 ), and see the very principle that John draws on. The ordering of the Camp of Israel, as we read in Numbers 2 & 3, will give us a clue as to the meaning of John's use of language in Revelation 21.
Yahweh's instructions to Solomon regarding the ordering of the Temple & its furniture are very significant as well! In I Kings 7:25, we read concerning the Sea ( significant of Gentiles ), that it 'stood on twelve oxen: three looking toward the north, three looking toward the west, three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east'. I Chronicles 9:25 tells us, concerning the ordering of Jerusalem ( often equated with Zion-Psalm 9:14, 48:11, 76:2, 87:2 & 5, 102:21 ), 'The gatekeepers were assigned to the four directions: the east, west, north, and south.'
Coming to Him [ as to ] a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God [ and ] precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
I Peter 2:4 & 5
As we come to the Greek Scriptures, we see this same literary style! The apostle Paul told the Church in Ephesus ( Ephesians 2:20-22 ), that they had been 'built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit'. In his letters to the Church at Corinth ( I Corinthians 3:9, II Corinthians 5:1 ), Paul wrote, 'For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, [ you are ] God’s building' & 'we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens'.
For the Lord shall build up Zion;
He shall appear in His glory.
The Architecture of Zion then, although based in History as actual 'wood, hay and stubble' ( so to speak ) is, simply put, the People, or Israel of God! We are those who, in the first-century writings & experience of the apostles were 'being built up a spiritual house'& 'a house not made with hands'. David spoke much of the Beauty & Glory of Zion in his Psalms; I encourage you to look up these Psalms ( 149:2, 146:10, 135:21, 132:13, 129:5, 125:1, 99:2, 97:8, 76:68, etc ) as well as those I've quoted. The reference to the City of Zion are throughout the Scriptures ( overwhelmingly so, in fact ), and can fairly easily be seen, even with our western mindset, to be referring to the People of God! We are the Temple of God, we are the City of God, we are Zion itself, that Holy City, the New Jerusalem; now, let's act like it!