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Friday, July 18, 2014

The Architecture of Zion

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.
Revelation 21:10-21
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.

Psalm 48:2
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.

Psalm 74:2

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.

Psalm 102:16
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!
Charles Haddon Shank


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