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Monday, June 27, 2016

Each of Us to Give An Account (and other devotionals)

Revelation 20:12-13

(12) And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, 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. (13) The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

  Romans 14:11-12

(11) For it is written:
"As I live, says the LORD,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God." (12) So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
New King James Version   
Since all are to be judged according to their works, what if one claiming to be Christian has no works to show whenGod clearly expects them? James 2:19-20 clinches the argument: "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?"
This entire issue is actually quite simple. No amount of works can justify us before God. Justification by faith in Christ's atoning blood makes one legally free to access God and to begin a relationship with Him. However, from that point on, works are absolutely required for sanctification unto holiness - to the extent that, not only is one's reward contingent upon them, but also salvation itself. Will God reward one who can show no works at all, or provide salvation to one whose faith is so weak it produces bad works? Such a person would be totally out of place, unfit for living eternally in the Kingdom of God.
Ephesians 2:8-10 makes this reality even stronger. Even though we are saved by grace through faith, the very reason we are created is for good works that God Himself prepared beforehand for us to walk in. The gospel of theKingdom of God provides the reasons for which works are required - the major one being to prepare us for living in God's Kingdom.
God intended Israel's forty-year journey through the wilderness to prepare them for living in the Promised Land. However, even though Israel had the gospel preached to them and had godly leadership provided by the likes ofMoses, Aaron, and Joshua, in their stiff-necked unbelief they refused to submit in obedience to God's commands. They thus failed to receive the necessary preparation for using the Promised Land rightly, becoming an eternal example of why works of preparation are needed (Hebrews 4:1-2).
Can we learn a lesson from their examples? When God brings us out of spiritual Egypt, He is not done with us yet. In fact, a great deal of spiritual creating within us remains to be accomplished before we will be fit to live and occupy a working position in God's Kingdom. We are being created in Christ Jesus, created in His image. Can we honestly say we are already in His image when we are merely legally cleared of sin? Absolutely not! As great as this is, it is not the end of God's creative process. God is not merely "saving" us. His purpose is far greater than that.

~John W. Ritenbaugh~
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Today's ReadingGenesis 16Matthew 5:27-28

Today's Thoughts: Fall on your Face

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly."  Then Abram fell on his faceand God talked with him. Genesis 17:1-3 

Notice what the last verse says: "Then Abram fell on his face." The Lord has appeared to Abram and has begun to speak to him. As soon as Abram hears the Lord, he falls on his face. It does not say that he knelt down or bowed to the ground. It says he "fell on his face." We are not told from the Scriptures how the Lord appeared to Abram or how He spoke to him, but we can assume that Abram recognized the appearance and voice of God Almighty. At that moment, Abram lost all composure. Then, God talked with him some more. As the chapter continues, God continues to speak to Abram. What an awesome experience to be in the presence of God!
How do you react to the presence of God? When was the last time you fell on your face before the Lord? Many Christians today have never heard the Lord speak to them and have no idea of what it means to be in God's presence. Just saying you heard the Lord speak at all can bring raised eyebrows and concerned looks from other believers. Does the Lord still speak to His people? Can we really be in His presence and know it is Him? The answers are yes and yes. Yes, we can fall on our faces in the presence of holy God and yes, He will talk to us. 
We wrote and taught a study called "Practicing the Presence of God," and in the study we included two sections on how to Practice the Presence of Hearing God's Voice. The response from Christians was enlightening and encouraging. Those who had never experienced an intimacy with the Lord learned how to worship and pray. Those who were not sure how to know if they were hearing God's voice learned how to find confirmation in the Word as well as other ways that God confirms His message to us. Most of all, we learned how to fall on our face in worship, how to come to His throne in reverence, and how to know His presence.
Today, find time to fall on your face and worship the Lord. Ask Him to speak to you through His Word and to confirm His message to you through His Spirit. Your day will be blessed and nothing else will matter as much as it once did.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~
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Evangelize or Fossilize

They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared meals with great joy and generosity--all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of the people. And the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

—Acts 2:46–47

If you've ever gone to Disneyland with only adults, then you know it's kind of boring. First they'll complain about how much it costs. Then they'll complain about how the lines are too long. Then, after one or two rides, they'll say, "Where can we go to eat?"

On the other hand, when you go to Disneyland with children, they want to go on the fastest or coolest ride. Then they're ready to go on the next one, and then the next, and then the next. Experiencing it through a child's eyes makes it more meaningful for you as well.

The same is true when it comes to someone who is new to the faith. When more mature believers take new believers into their lives and see them discover the truths of God for the first time, they rediscover those truths for themselves. A new believer gets excited about the fact that God has forgiven his or her sin, while a mature believer may have taken that for granted. A new believer gets excited about the fact that Christ could return at any moment, while a mature believer maybe has forgotten about the urgency of the Lord's return. That is why mature believers need younger believers.

The problem with mature believers is they can start to stagnate. As a result, sometimes the best thing for them is to have new believers in their lives who ask them the hard questions.

Show me a church that doesn't have a constant flow of new believers coming in, and I will show you a church that is stagnating. With the church of the first century, "each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). The church of today has a choice: either we evangelize or we fossilize.
~Greg Laurie~
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WWJD

(Charles Spurgeon,  "The Fair Portrait of a Saint")

"My feet have closely followed His steps--I have kept to His way without turning aside." Job 23:11

A very beautiful motto is hung up in our classroom at the Stockwell Orphanage, "What would Jesus do?" Not only may children take it as their guide, but all of us may do the same, whatever our age.

"What would Jesus do?"


If you desire to know what you ought to do under any circumstances, imagine Jesus to be in that position and then think, "What would Jesus do? For what Jesus would do--that ought I to do."

This principle unties the knot of all moral difficulty in the most practical way, and does it so simply that no great wit or wisdom will be needed.
"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." John 13:15

"Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

"Whoever claims to live in Him, must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6
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Far better that the serpent should be discovered and brought out into the light of day!

(George Everard, "Bitten by Four Rattlesnakes!")

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles--and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us!" Hebrews 12:1 
What has been your own besetting sin? 


Has it been pride or self-will? 
Has it been some form of self-indulgence that you know is wrong?
Has it been the neglect of some duty?
Has it been the lack of genuine piety? 
Has it been evil-speaking, or envy, or a bitter, revengeful spirit against someone whom you think has wronged you?

Track your sin to its hiding-place! Search it out and look it in the face. Far better that the serpentshould be discovered and brought out into the light of day--than hidden in your bosom or in some secret corner of your heart! Out with it, however deadly, however strong, yes, however enticing! Out with it, and bring it into Christ's presence, that He may slay your enemy and save your soul alive.

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5 


Friday, June 24, 2016

Daily Clothing

Daily Clothing

George Everard



Love of dress 
. . .
is a snare of the Devil;
is a fruitful source of evil;
fosters vanity and pride;
opens a door to flattery;
paves the way for the rain and disgrace of many a young person;
and robs the Lord's treasury.
Professors of religion, who can find but a paltry driblet for Christian charity, will spend in a year many pounds in needless dress and show.
In persons of slender means, it often leads also to other mischief. Debts are contracted which remain long unpaid, or even fraud and actual dishonesty are resorted to, that the craving for dress may be satisfied. The counsel of Peter to the women of his day, needs to be often repeated in our own. "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4
The fable of the crane and the peacock is in point. When the peacock was priding itself upon its gaudy array of plumage, the crane suggested, that surely it were a nobler thing to be able to mount upwards to the clouds, than to strut about and to be gazed at by fools.
The application is left to the reader.
Besides, also, be it remembered that beneath the coarsest clothing, there often beats a heart endued with heavenly love. While beneath mirthful attire, the eye that searches all things may discern it to be far otherwise. John the Baptist had his clothing of camel's hair — while Herod, within his palace, wore his royal robes. The beggar, beloved of God, sits at the gate in his rags — while within, the rich man is clothed in purple and fine linen.
There is better clothing, however, than what earth affords, and of this I would speak. Amidst every variety of condition and of climate, there is clothing common to the whole household of faith. It is worn alike by the poorest peasant, and the wealthiest noble. It suits equally well the polished European, and the hitherto degraded African. Hearken to the joyful language of the Church, "I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels!" Isaiah 61:10
What is this glorious clothing in which the Church is attired? In one word, it is Christ; as the Apostle has written it, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 13.14.) It is Christ in the spotless perfection of His righteousness, and in the beauty of His holy character. It is that righteousness wrought out for us in His life and death, and by which every blemish and defect in us is covered and hidden. It is the covering of His Spirit, transforming us into His image evermore, until we become like Him, when we see Him as He is. Here is "the fine linen" in which saints are clothed. Here is the beauty and the adorning, which God puts upon His chosen ones.
We must daily, by faith, put on the righteousness of Christ for our justification before God. In our pilgrimage to Zion, the ground of our acceptance ought never to be left out of sight. What single thing in us or from us is there, upon which we can build our hope? What plea can we draw from any feelings, purposes, efforts, or works of ours — by which we could expect, in any degree, to propitiate the favor of the Most High God? In strict justice, what is the value of any goodness we have to boast? In a few short words may we sum up all that belongs to us: "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Our righteousnesses cannot clothe us for they are rags; they themselves need cleansing for they are filthy rags.
Beveridge has truly echoed these words of the old Prophet: "Our very repentance," he writes, "needs to be repented of; and our prayers and tears to be washed in the blood of Christ."
In a similar spirit is the confession of one, whose touching strains of Christian psalmody waken many a response in the heart of the believer.
My God, how perfect are Your ways,
But mine polluted are;
Sin twines itself about my praise,
And glides into my prayer.
I cannot tell what You have done
To save me from my sin;
I cannot make Your mercies known,
But self-applause creeps in.
Where then can we turn? Only unto Him who is named Jehovah Tsidkenu, "The Lord our Righteousness." None otherwise can we hope to be accepted than that proud Pharisee Saul was, who aforetime had gloried in his own blamelessness and obedience to the law. Like him must we "count all things loss that we may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having our own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
We must also daily put on, through the grace of the Spirit, the holy character of the Son of man. Our justification in Christ must be manifested by our conformity to His likeness. If His righteousness is upon us — then the grace of His Spirit will be in us. All that is unlike Him, all that is contrary to the example which He left, must be cast aside. The grave-clothes of our sinful state must be put off — sloth, selfishness, strife, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, a restless ambition, an absorbing love of money, and a carnal mind — these must be renounced. We must ever be looking upon Christ, that we may discern wherein we may walk as He did on earth. "Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Christ was clad with the garment of devout prayerfulness. It was "praying," Luke tells us, that He went down into the water at His baptism. It was "while He prayed" on the mount that He was transfigured, and His clothing became white and glistening. "Rising up a great while before it was yet day," did He, on one occasion, depart into a solitary place to pray. At another season, before setting apart the twelve, "He continued all night in prayer to God." From the garden where Christ often resorted with His disciples, did the agonizing prayer thrice ascend to His Father in Heaven. On that tree of life, the cross of our salvation, three times at least, did Jesus pray. Right through the earthly pilgrimage of the Man of Sorrows, His strength, His consolation, was to pour out His heart to Him, with whom from eternity He had ever been.
Christian pilgrim, follow Christ continually to the mount of prayer. Learn of Jesus Christ to pray. He has commanded you, He has invited you, He has promised to hear you, He has gone before you in the path.
Christ was clad with the cloak of zeal, coupled with a meek and humble spirit. "He was clad with zeal as a cloak." In His youth He could say, "Don't you know that I must be about My Father's business?" With a scourge of small cords in His hand, did He drive out the buyers and sellers from the temple, so that His disciples remembered the words, "Zeal for Your house has consumed Me!" When by His word spoken to the Samaritan woman He had recalled her to the fold, He could say, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work."
Yet, likewise, what marvelous meekness shone forth in all that He did! Willingly does He go down to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph, and remain subject to them. When the Samaritan villagers shut their doors against Him, tired and wearied as He was with His journey, He refuses to call down fire upon them, and quietly travels on to another village, declaring that the Son of man was not "come to destroy men's lives but to save them." He takes the lowest office of the lowest slave. Girt with a towel, He stoops down to wash the feet of those He loved. "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats." 1 Peter 2:23. "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth."
Herein also let us follow the Master.
Boldness and zeal for the honor of God and His truth in the world are not to be despised. It is a grace to be earnestly coveted, especially in the days in which we live. Around the ark of God, perils not few nor small may plainly be discerned. Low views of the authority of Scripture, departures in various directions from the Divine simplicity of the Gospel of Christ, everywhere abound.
We need zeal and courage to stand alone, if it may be so, wisely and yet boldly to maintain the old landmarks. It was a noble saying of Athanasius, "Athanasius against the world — and the world against Athanasius." It was also a brave word of Luther, when summoned to stand as a witness for Scripture truth against the corruptions of Romanism: "Though there were as many devils at Worms as tiles upon the housetops, I would go through them all in the name of the Lord."

But zeal must be tempered with meekness. "Be clothed with humility." No self-sufficiency, no self-wisdom, no despising others who do not receive the truth as we receive it — ought to characterize a disciple of Christ.
Too often spiritual pride lurks beneath an apparent zeal for religion. Do we not find those, who seem to imagine that by some means they are wiser Christians than any who have gone before them? Hearken to the loud and confident tone in which they will run on for half-an-hour, without paying the least heed to anything that may be urged on the other side. Mark how they will propound some new interpretation, some new view of doctrine, or of a passage in Scripture, and then quietly put down any doubt or difficulty suggested, by saying, "If you are a child of God, you will be taught this."
Oh, for more of the spirit of a little child! Oh, for more of the meekness that will make men "swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to become angry!" When shall we be willing to own, and to act upon it, that the most enlightened Christian in this world can obtain but very partial views of the truth, and that on every side he is apt to err? "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12
Learn here, also, to covet the spirit of quiet, effective power — rather than the noisy vociferation and excited manner, which by some is deemed necessary for success in dealing with souls. Look at the ministry of Christ. There was a power and reality about it which made the people marvel — but there was little noise. "His voice was not heard in the streets." But twice, I believe, are we told that Christ spoke "with a loud voice," and in neither case was it in preaching. At the tomb of Bethany, with a loud voice, He cried, "Lazarus, come forth!" Also, in His hour of bitter agony, Jesus "cried with a loud voice — My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me!"
It is true, doubtless, that in some cases the loud, noisy tongue may arrest attention to the things of God, for the Spirit can employ any means He chooses; but there is a mighty effect in a gentle, earnest address, spoken under an unction from the Holy One. It may produce less apparent response, but usually it tells more in the end.
Of course in public speaking, animation and life are very necessary, and to this a fair amount of action will usually contribute. I speak not against this, but against the unnatural tone, and the boisterous style, by which an attempt is so often made to work upon the feelings of the hearers.
In a dock-yard in the South of England, where ships are plated with iron, I have watched the working of various pieces of mechanism employed. It is interesting to notice the iron-cutter — the blade descending so quietly, that to a bystander it would seem that it could scarcely hurt an infant's finger, and yet so mighty is the hydraulic pressure, that thick plates of solid iron in a moment are cut in twain. So effectual may be "the still small voice" of the worker for God, under the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christ was arrayed with unsullied purity, coupled with tender compassion toward the erring and the fallen. The spotless purity of His life, none can forget. At every turn was He meeting with sin and mingling with sinners. For thirty years He lived in a spot which was a very byword for evil. "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" He went in and out among Publicans, as well as Pharisees. Yet, who could lay a charge of sin at His door? No thought of iniquity ever lodged within His breast. No unrighteous action ever defiled those hands, which so constantly were stretched out to bless. Like as a ray of the glorious sun may enter the darkest abode of misery and vice, and still remain in itself as pure as before — so He, who was the very Sun of Righteousness, was holy, harmless, and undefiled — though continually in contact with the iniquity that on all sides abounded.
Yet, Christ was reckoned the Friend of sinners, and He was so. He stood not aloof from any, if only He might win their souls. He touched the leper, to show that He abhors no sinner that comes to Him. In the house of Levi, He sat down amidst such as had sunk deepest in the mire. The taunt thrown out against Him, that "He received sinners, and ate with them!" was acknowledged to be true. He thereupon spoke of Himself as the Good Shepherd, tracking the footsteps of the lost ones on the mountains. Over the city which rejected Him, He let fall burning tears of tender pity. Even in His last agony, does He rescue yet another perishing one from the grasp of the destroyer, and bears him along with Himself, safe to Paradise.
The same spirit becomes the servant as the Master. The garment of holiness must cover us. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Rest not until each plague spot of sin is gone. Whensoever evil thoughts arise, be watchful at once to resist them — and, as soon as possible, to cast them off.
On the Lake of Geneva, I once observed a servant on board the steamer frequently shaking the canvas over the deck, with a long rod which he held in his hand. I inquired the purpose of his doing so. In reply, he answered, that he was shaking off the sparks from the fire, before they settled and could do injury. Let the Christian act in a similar way. With the rod of a holy determination and of prayer for help, cast off as they arise, sinful thoughts and imaginations. Don't let them settle. Don't give them time to leave their mark behind.
But while, after the example of Christ, sin in every shape is abhorred — be very compassionate towards those who have gone astray. Trample not upon the drunkard or the fallen one. Stretch out the hand to lift up any within your reach. Make it an important part of your business in life to win souls for Christ and His kingdom. Who can tell the good that may be effected, even where the instrument may be very feeble?
The tear of a little girl fell upon her father's cheek, as he was carrying her with him to one of those haunts of evil which abound in the metropolis. It touched his heart, broke the spell of former habits, and saved a soul from death.
Harlan Page, the joiner, before his death, could count by hundreds, those to whom the Spirit had blessed his words.
A deaf and dumb painter in Brussels longed for the welfare of those afflicted like himself. By his means, eight or nine such were led to Christ; and while the ordinary congregation were assembled in the Church, he would gather his converts in the school-room beneath, and there would instruct them, and lead them with him to the mercy-seat, in silent yet hearty worship.
It is written, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever!" Daniel 12:3
In Christ is a marvelous combination of all that is lovely and beautiful. It is written of the Most High, "He covered Himself with light, as with a garment." It is well known that in one single ray of light, there is the combination of rays of various hues. Christ, as the only begotten of the Father, was also clad with light, and in this was there such a wondrous variety of heavenly graces. Whatever virtue or grace was ever witnessed in another — was fully, preeminently in Him.
The faith of Abraham,
the godly fear of Isaac,
the meekness of Moses,
the patience of Job,
the holiness of Isaiah,
the devout prayerfulness of David,
the integrity of Daniel,
the sincerity of Nathanael,
the fervency of Peter,
the zeal of Paul,
the tenderness of John —
all these, in their brightest colors, shone forth in Him, who was full of grace and truth.
In our measure, let us follow Christ in this beautiful harmony of Christian graces. Let no part of His character be left out of sight. This coat of many colors, and yet these blending into one, which was worn by our Joseph — may be also upon us His brethren. The Spirit of God can reveal to us where we fall short, and then endue us with that which is lacking.
Mark how an Apostle calls upon us to put on, not one grace only, but all. "Make every effort to . . .
add to your faith goodness;
and to goodness, knowledge;
and to knowledge, self-control;
and to self-control, perseverance;
and to perseverance, godliness;
and to godliness, brotherly kindness;
and to brotherly kindness, love.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!" 2 Peter 1:5-8
Without this putting on of Christ here on earth, there can be no abiding in His presence hereafter.
A feast is provided. The guests are invited. Not a few are gathered together. Good and bad, the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind, are there assembled. At length, the King comes in. He regards not what may have been their condition or their character in bygone days, but He does regard what clothing is upon them now. "He saw there, a man that had not on a wedding garment." Upon that one His look is fixed. To him the question is put, "Friend, how did you get in here, not having on a wedding-garment?" "He was speechless." He cannot plead his ignorance; for he knew, as did the other guests, what clothing was befitting such a Presence. He cannot plead his poverty; for the fitting garment, as also the rich provisions of the feast, were granted freely through the royal bounty of the King. Then, shut out forever from that feast, was the man who thus cast contempt upon Him who spread it.

Within the professing Church of Christ are to be found those who shall stand in the same position. Apparently they have accepted the gracious call of the Gospel, but in truth they are despising and rejecting it. The solemn inquiry which must one day be met is this, "Is your soul clothed with Christ? Does the robe of His righteousness cover your unrighteousness? Do you stand evermore before God, relying solely upon His merits, His obedience, His finished work on Calvary? Together with this, do you daily, through His Spirit, strive after conformity to Him? Do you pray to be endued with His perfect character, His lowliness, His zeal, His tender love, His purity of heart and life?"
If otherwise, that day will reveal it. Each individual soul, who in this is found lacking, must answer for it to the King. It matters not what other clothing may be upon you. It may be the fair garment of a virtuous exterior, and a life of kindliness and integrity among your fellow men. It may be the garment of a most devout religious ritualism — the unfailing observance of hours and seasons for worship; yet, if it is not Christ, it avails nothing. He alone is made of God to the sinner, "Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." 
 
A CHRISTIAN'S PRAYER.
My God, in me Your mighty power exert!
Enlighten, comfort, sanctify my heart;
Sweeten my temper, and subdue my will,
Make me like Jesus, with Your Spirit fill.
I want to live on earth a life of faith,
I want to credit all the Bible says;
I want to imitate my Savior's life,
Avoiding lightness, gloom, and sinful strife.
I want to bring poor sinners to Your throne,
I want to love and honor Christ alone;
I want to feel the Spirit's inward power,
And stand prepared for death's important hour.
I want a meek, a gentle, quiet frame,
A heart that glows with love to Jesus' name;
I want a living sacrifice to be,
To Him who died a sacrifice for me.
I want to do whatever God requires;
I want a heart to burn with pure desires;
I want to be what Christ my Lord commands,
And leave myself, my all, in His dear hands.
O Lord, pour out Your spirit on my soul!
My will, my temper, and my tongue control;
Lead me through life to glorify Your grace,
And after death to see You face to face!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Daniel's 70 Weeks of Years


Daniel's 70 Weeks  Of  Years

When did it start? Has it ended, or is there a gap in it?

Dr. David R. Reagan


One of the most remarkable and important prophecies in the Bible is found in Daniel 9:24-27. It is the cornerstone of Messianic prophecy because it establishes the timing of both the First and Second Advents of the Messiah.
The prophecy is usually referred to as "The 70 Weeks of Years." This name derives from the opening words of most English translations: "Seventy weeks have been decreed" (Daniel 9:24). In the Hebrew, the word translated "weeks" is actually the word "sevens." So, the text actually says, "Seventy sevens have been decreed . . ."
Just as the English word "dozen" can refer to a dozen of anything, the Hebrew word shavuim, meaning "sevens," can refer to seven of anything. Its exact meaning is dependent upon the context. In this key passage from Daniel, the context makes it clear that he is speaking of years  — seventy sevens of years, which would be a total of 490 years. It is therefore appropriate to refer to the prophecy as "The 70 Weeks of Years" even though those exact words are not found in the passage itself.

 The Jewish Context and Goals

Another important thing to keep in mind about the context of the passage is that it is directed to the Jewish people. The opening words of the prophecy make this clear: "Seventy weeks have been declared for your people and your holy city . . ." (Daniel 9:24, emphasis added). The focus of the prophecy is the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.
The prophecy begins by stating that six things will be accomplished regarding the Jewish people during a period of 490 years:
    • "Finish the transgression"
    • "Make an end of sin"
    • "Make atonement for iniquity"
    • "Bring in everlasting righteousness"
    • "Seal up vision and prophecy"
    • "Anoint the most holy place"
Let's take a moment to consider the meaning of these six prophecies. The first, "finish the transgression," refers to the Jew's rejection of God. The Hebrew word translated "transgression" connotes the idea of rebellion, and the rebellion of the Jewish people is their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. Jesus said He would not return until the Jewish people are willing to say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:37-39). The Jews will open their hearts to their Messiah before Daniel's 490 year period ends.
 The period will also witness an "end of sin" for the Jews. The word translated "sin" refers to the sins of daily life — sins of dishonesty and immorality. This end of sin will occur at the time the Jews accept their Messiah and His earthly reign of righteousness begins.
An atonement for Israel's sins is the third thing that will happen during Daniel's 70 weeks of years. This atonement occurred, of course, when Jesus shed His blood on the Cross for the sins of the world. But that atonement will not actually be applied to the Jews until they appropriate it by accepting Jesus as their Messiah.
The 490 year period will also 'bring in everlasting righteousness." This undoubtedly refers to the establishment of the Messiah's earthly reign when the earth will be flooded with peace, righteousness and justice as the waters cover the sea.
The fifth achievement will be the fulfillment of all prophecy concerning the Messiah. The Apostle Peter referred to two types of Messianic prophecy — those related to "the sufferings of Christ" and those concerning "the glories to follow"  (1 Peter 1:11).  The  suffering  prophecies  were all fulfilled at the Cross. The prophecies concerning "the glories to follow" are yet to be fulfilled. Just as Jesus was humiliated in history, He is going to be glorified in history. This will occur when the Jews accept Him, and He returns to reign over the world from Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.
The final goal to be achieved at the end of the 70 weeks of years is "the anointing of the most holy." Most English translations say "the most holy place." The Hebrew simply says, "the most holy." Commentators therefore differ as to whether this is a reference to the anointing of the Messiah as King of kings or whether it is talking about the anointing of the Millennial Temple described in Ezekiel 40-48. Either way the anointing will not take place until the Lord returns in response to the national repentance of the Jews.

 

The Starting Point

Daniel says all these spiritual goals will be accomplished within a special period of 490 years. When did that period begin, and when did it end? It is when Daniel addresses these questions that he begins to give clues as to the timing of the First and Second Advents of the Messiah.
The prophecy says that the starting point of the 70 weeks of years will be "the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" (Daniel 9:25). Keep in mind that this prophecy was given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel during the time of Israel's exile in Babylon. The approximate date was 538 B.C., shortly before the first remnant of Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem in 536 B.C. under Zerubbabel. Jerusalem was in ruins at this time, having been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar 70 years earlier in 586 B.C. (The captivity had begun in 605 B.C., before the destruction of Jerusalem, when Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel and other "youths" to Babylon as hostages — Daniel 1:1- 4.)
The crucial question relates to when the decree was issued "to restore and rebuild Jerusalem." There are three possible dates:
 • 538 B.C. — Cyrus, King of Persia, issued a decree to Zerubbabel to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-3; and Ezra 6:1-5).
• 457 B.C. — Artaxerxes, King of Persia, issued a decree to Ezra authorizing him to reinstitute the Temple services, appoint judges and magistrates, and teach the Law (Ezra 7:11-26).
• 445 B.C. — Artaxerxes issued a decree to Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-8).
On the surface, the third decree, the one issued to Nehemiah, seems to be the most obvious candidate for the starting date of the prophecy, for it is the only one that specifically relates to the rebuilding of the city. For that reason, most commentators have selected it as the beginning of the 70 weeks of years.

 

The Events of the 70 Weeks of Years

Daniel's prophecy next states that the 490 years will be divided into three periods as follows: seven weeks (49 years) plus sixty-two weeks (434 years) plus one week (7 years). He states that at the end of the first two periods (69 weeks or 483 years), the Messiah will be "cut off," a seemingly clear reference to the crucifixion. He then states that both Jerusalem and the Temple will be destroyed.
The prophecy concludes by focusing on the last week of years. It says that following the death of the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem, "the prince who is to come" will make a covenant with the Jewish people that will enable them to reinstitute their sacrificial system. This prince will come from the same people who destroyed the Temple (the Romans).
We know from 2 Thessalonians 2 that this ''prince who is to come" is the Antichrist, the "man of lawlessness" who is "the son of destruction." The same passage makes it clear that his covenant will enable the Jews to rebuild their Temple.
Both passages — Daniel 9 and 2 Thessalonians 2 — establish the fact that in the middle of this 70th week (3½ years into it) this "prince who is to come" will double cross the Jewish people. He will march into the rebuilt Temple and declare himself to be God. He will stop the sacrifices and he will erect "an abomination of desolation," most likely an idol of himself. The book of Revelation specifies that the Messiah will return to earth 3½ years after this desolation of the Temple takes place.
Now  we have the timing of the two advents of the Messiah. He will come the first time at the end of 483 years and will be "cut off" before the Temple is destroyed. He will return the second time at the end of a seven year period that will begin with a treaty that allows the Jews to rebuild their Temple and reinstitute the Mosaic system of sacrifices.

 

Calculating Dates

The first person in modern history to calculate the 483 years to the "cutting off" of the Messiah was Sir Robert Anderson in his book, The Coming Prince (1894). Using the decree to Nehemiah issued in 445 B.C. as his starting point, and using what he called "the 360 day prophetic year," Anderson calculated that it was exactly 173,880 days or 483 lunar years from the day the edict was issued to the day Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. His calculations placed the crucifixion in the spring of 32 A.D.
These calculations have remained almost sacred in Christian thinking for the past one hundred years. But they need to be examined carefully because the fact of the matter is that there are two serious problems with Anderson's calculations.

 

The Prophetic Year Problem

The first is his assumption that the years in the prophecy are lunar years of 360 days. That assumption is based upon the fact that the book of Revelation defines the 70th week of Daniel as lasting a total of 2,520 days (Revelation 11:3 and 12:6). The only way that can translate into seven years is by using lunar years of 360 days.
Now, on the surface, it seems logical to apply this Revelation principle to Daniel. If the years of the final week of Daniel's prophecy are lunar years, then surely the first 483 years must also be lunar years.
But there is a flaw in this logic. Daniel's prophecy was written to the people of his time to give them, among other things, an insight as to when the Messiah would come. And the fact of the matter is that Daniel does not even so much as hint that he is speaking of anything other than regular solar years.
Some would counter by saying that the Jews used a lunar calendar and therefore thought only in lunar terms when calculating time. But that simply is not true. The Jews have never relied on a pure lunar calendar, like the Muslims do. The Jews have always used a lunar/solar calendar. Their months are 30 days long, but they insert what is called an intercalary month every so often to make adjustments for the true solar calendar.
For the Jews this is an absolute necessity because their major festivals (Passover, Harvest and Tabernacles) are all directly related to the agricultural cycle. If they did not make the solar adjustments, their festivals would migrate around the calendar, resulting in harvest festivals falling during seed planting times! This is exactly the case with the Muslim calendar which is a pure lunar calendar. And thus, the sacred festival of Ramadan circulates around the year. One year it will be in August, the next in September, and the next in October.
The point is that the Jews in Daniel's time did not think in terms of 360 day years. Nor did Daniel. If you will look at Daniel 9:1-2 you will see that shortly before he was given the 70 Weeks of Years prophecy by Gabriel, he discovered Jeremiah's prophecy that the Babylonian captivity would last 70 years. He realized immediately that he was very near the end of those 70 years.
 The indication of this passage is that Daniel interpreted Jeremiah's prophecy of 70 years to be 70 regular years as defined by the Jewish lunar/solar calendar. And again, if his subsequent prophecy about the 70 weeks of years was to have any meaning to the Jewish people, it had to be understood in terms of regular years, not "prophetic years" of 360 days each.
Why then would there be a difference between the first 483 years and the last seven? I suspect it may relate to a statement made by Jesus in Matthew 24. He said the 70th week of Daniel will be "cut short" lest all life on earth be destroyed during that terrible period of tribulation (Matthew 24:22).

 The Terminus Problem

The second problem with Anderson's calculations is their terminus date of 32 A.D. This just simply is not an acceptable year for the death of Jesus since it would place the crucifixion on either Sunday or Monday. Even Anderson recognized this problem, and as one author has put it, Anderson engaged in some "mathematical gymnastics" to arrive at a Friday crucifixion.
In his book, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Harold Hoehner of Dallas Theological Seminary shifts the date of Nehemiah's decree from 445 to 444 B.C. and then calculates the 173,880 days to the spring of 33 A.D., when the crucifixion would have fallen on a Friday. But this creates more problems than it solves. The 444 B.C. date is suspect and the 33 A.D. date is very late. Luke 3:23 says Jesus was "about 30 years of age" when He began His ministry. His ministry lasted 3½ years. Hoehner's chronology would make Jesus 32 years old at the start of His ministry and 35 at the time of his death.

 An Alternative Viewpoint

I believe a better solution is to interpret Daniel's prophecy as speaking of lunar years adjusted periodically and thus amounting to regular years. I also believe that the best starting point for the prophecy is the decree issued to Ezra in 457 B.C.
I have already explained why I believe regular years should be used. Let me now explain why I think the decree issued to Ezra should be used as the starting point for the calculation of the first two periods totaling 483 years.
The decree given to Zerubbabel authorized the rebuilding of the Temple. The decree issued to Nehemiah concerned the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Ezra's decree was more general in nature, covering a variety of subjects. But we know from Scripture that he interpreted it to mean that the Jews were authorized to launch a general rebuilding campaign that included the temple, the city, and the walls. His interpretation is stated in Ezra 9:9 — "God has not forsaken us, but has extended loving kindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us reviving to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem" (Ezra 9:9).
 Now, using Ezra's decree as the staring point (457 B.C.), if we count forward 483 years we will arrive at 27 A.D. (There is only one year between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D.) According to the translator of Josephus, the Jewish new year that began in the fall of 27 A.D. marked the beginning of the last Jubilee Year that the Jews enjoyed in the land before their worldwide dispersal by the Romans in 70 A.D. This is most likely the year that Jesus began His public ministry. This is hinted at in Luke 4 where it says that when Jesus launched His ministry at the synagogue in Nazareth, He did so by reading a passage from Isaiah 61 about the way in which the Messiah would fulfill the spiritual essence of the Jubilee. After finishing the reading, Jesus proclaimed, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21).

 The Relationship of the Resurrection

Further evidence that this date is correct is the fact that it would place the end of Jesus' 3½ year ministry in the spring of 31 A.D. And that happens to be the most likely year of the crucifixion.
Most scholars have tried to place the crucifixion in either 30 or 33 A.D. because these are the only two years in the time frame of Jesus' death when Passover fell on Friday. The belief that Jesus was crucified on a Passover that fell on Friday is based on a statement in Mark 15:22 which says the crucifixion took place on "the day of preparation before the Sabbath."
But this statement does not necessarily mean that the crucifixion took place on a Friday. Such an assumption is rooted in Gentile ignorance about Jewish feast days. What the Gentile church has failed to recognize over the centuries is that the first day after Passover is a feast day, or "High Sabbath," because it is the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is considered to be a Sabbath regardless of what day of the week it falls on (Numbers 28:16-18).
The Gospels make it clear that the crucifixion week had two Sabbaths. Mark 16:1 says a group of  women bought spices to anoint the body of Jesus after the Sabbath was over. But in Luke 23:56 it says they bought the spices before the Sabbath and then rested on the Sabbath before proceeding to the tomb.
In the year 31 A.D. Passover fell on Wednesday. Jesus was crucified that morning and buried that evening. The next day, Thursday, was a High Sabbath. On Friday, after the High Sabbath, the women bought the spices and then rested on the regular Sabbath (Saturday) before going to the tomb on Sunday morning.

 Further Collaboration

The time span I am proposing from 457 B.C. to 27 A.D. is also supported by another amazing piece of evidence. Do you remember how Daniel divided the first 483 years into two periods of time, first 49 years and then 434 years? Why did he do that? Go back and re-read Daniel 9:25 and notice that he makes specific reference to the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. Did he divide the period into two parts to indicate that the rebuilding of the city would occupy the first 49 years?
In a recent booklet entitled "The Daniel Papers," a publication of the Radio Bible Class, the author, Herb Vander Lugt, notes:
       According to Barnes and several other trustworthy Bible commentators, the historian Prideaux declared Nehemiah's last action in rebuilding the city occurred in the 15th year of the Persian ruler Darius Nothus (423 - 404 B.C.). His 15th year was the 49th year from the 457 B.C. decree. Josephus seems to support this idea in his remarks about the death of Nehemiah.

 A Prophetic Gap

One puzzle remains about Daniel's prophecy. What about the 70th week? Is it past or future? I believe there is no doubt whatsoever that it is future. The reason for that conclusion is simple. The prophecy begins by stating that the 490 years will produce six consequences among the Jewish people.
I began this article by outlining those six prophetic events in detail. If you will look back at them, you will readily see that they are still unfulfilled. The Jews are still in rebellion against God, they are still caught up in their sins, they are still refusing to accept the atonement for their iniquity, everlasting righteousness has not come to the earth, all prophecy concerning the Messiah has not yet been fulfilled, and "the most holy" has not been anointed.
There must, therefore, be a gap in the prophecy. This may seem strange to the casual reader. But students of prophecy are familiar with prophetic gaps. They are very common in prophetic literature because of the peculiar nature of the prophetic perspective. God would show His prophets great future events and the prophets would present them as if they were happening in rapid succession because that's the way they appeared. The prophet was like a person looking down a mountain range seeing one mountain top after another, seemingly pressed up against each other, but in reality separated by great valleys which could not be seen.
Jesus Himself recognized this characteristic of prophecy when He read a prophecy from Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth. If you will check what He read (Luke 4:18- 19) against what Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 61:1-3), you will see that Jesus stopped reading in the middle of a sentence because the rest of the sentence had to do with His Second Coming.

 The Implications

For Christians, Daniel's prophecy should serve to underscore the supernatural origin of the Bible. It should also serve as confirmation that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah.
For Jews, the prophecy should be deeply disturbing for two reasons. First, it clearly teaches that the Messiah had to come before the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. That means that either God failed to keep His promise or else the Jews missed recognizing their Messiah. Second, the prophecy clearly teaches that a terrible time of tribulation for the Jews still lies ahead.
 Moses said it would be a time of "distress" that would occur in "the latter days" (Deuteronomy 4:30). Jeremiah called it "the time of Jacob's distress" (Jeremiah 30:7). Daniel characterized it as "a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time" (Daniel 12:1). Zechariah says two-thirds of the Jews will "be cut off and perish" during that terrible time (Zechariah 13:8).
The process will be horrible. But the result will be glorious, for the remaining remnant will at long last turn their hearts to God, accept their Messiah, and cry out, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"


    Recommended Reading:Archer, Jr., Gleason L., Daniel (Vol. 7 of The Expositor's Bible Commentary edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1985)
    Hoehner, Harold, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1977)
    Jeremiah, David with C.C. Carlson, The Handwriting on the Wall (Word, Dallas, Texas, 1992)
    Lugt, Herb Vander, The Daniel Papers: Daniel's Prophecy of 70 Weeks (Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994)
    McClain, Alva J., Daniel's Prophecy of the 70 Weeks (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1940)
    Showers, Renald, The Most High God (The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, West Collingswood, NJ, 1982)
    Wood, Leon, A Commentary on Daniel (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Worthy Sayings of Great Christians

A real Christian is an odd number. He feels supreme love for One he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to someone He cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declaredright, goes downin order to get up, isstrongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible and knows that which passeth knowledge.
~A. W. Tozer~
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Trusting the Lord and focusing on His purposes puts persecution into perspective.
~Charles Stanley~
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Without Christ, we're overwhelmed - with Him, we're overjoyed.
~David Jeremiah~
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Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you.
~J. C. Ryle~
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The vigor of our spiritual lives will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our lives and in our thoughts.
~A. W. Tozer~
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You can be as straight as a gun barrel theologically, and just as empty as one spiritually.
~A. W. Tozer~
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The Other Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity to stop beating myself for not doing things perfectly, the courage to forgive myself because I am working on doing better, and the wisdom to know that you already love me just the way I am. Amen
~Joe Sewell~
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The fact that our heart yearns for something earth can't supply is proof that heaven must be our home.
~C. S. Lewis~
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A happy heart doth good like a medicine.
~Proverbs 17:22~
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Life is a long lesson in humility.
~James Barrie~
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We need preachers who preach that hell is still hot, that heaven is still real, that sin is still wrong, that the Bible is God's Word and that Jesus is the only way of salvation.
~A. W. Tozer~
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Jesus Christ knows the worst about you. Nonetheless, He is the one who loves you most.
~A. W. Tozer~
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There is no Christian victory or blessing if we refuse to turn away from the things that God hates. Even if it is accepted in the whole social class and system of which you are a part, turn away from it. It is wrong and an offense to our holy and righteous Saviour.
~A. W. Tozer~

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Meaning of Heaven

The Meaning of Heaven:

An ethereal spirit world or a tangible new earth?
by Dr. David R. Reagan


For many years I had little desire to go to Heaven. My only interest in Heaven was prompted by a desire to avoid Hell. I just couldn't get excited about being a disembodied spirit residing in an ethereal world, floating around on a cloud playing a harp.
My interest in Heaven developed slowly over a long period of time. It became a passion, not as a result of my study of prophecy, but because of my growing relationship with the Lord. The more I came to know Him, the more I desired to be with Him.

The New Earth

The reason my study of prophecy did not play the key role in developing my interest in Heaven is because the Bible is strangely silent about the subject. The Bible tells us in great detail what the Millennium will be like, but it gives us almost no detailed information about the eternal state.
What it does tell us often comes as a great surprise to most Christians because the scriptures about Heaven have been so terribly spiritualized. For example, the Bible plainly says the Redeemed will spend eternity on a new earth.
Isaiah was the first to speak of this truth when he spoke of "the new heavens and the new earth" which will endure forever before the Lord (Isaiah 66:22). This truth is repeated in the book of Revelation where the apostle John says he was shown a new earth, "for the first heaven and the first earth passed away" (Revelation 21:1).
John goes on to describe the New Jerusalem descending to the new earth, "coming down out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:2). And then he states that God Himself will come to live on the new earth:
"Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them." — Revelation 21:3
This truth had already been revealed to the Old Testament prophets. While being taken on a prophetic tour of the millennial Temple, Ezekiel was told by his guide (the Lord Jesus in a pre-incarnate appearance): "Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever" (Ezekiel 43:7).
The Redeemed are going to dwell forever in new bodies on a new earth in a New Jerusalem in the presence of Almighty God and His Son, Jesus. Heaven will come to earth!

The New Jerusalem

The most detailed information which the Scriptures give about Heaven pertains to our eternal abode — the New Jerusalem. Twenty verses in Chapter 21 of Revelation are devoted to a description of it.
The information contained in Revelation 21 is not the first reference in the Bible to the New Jerusalem. It is mentioned in Hebrews 11:10 as a city "whose architect and builder is God." Jesus made a reference to it that is recorded in John 14:1-4. He called it His "Father's house," and He said He would prepare a place in it for His Church.
Jesus is currently expanding, embellishing, and beautifying this house which God the Father designed and built. Jesus is preparing it for His bride, just as in Old Testament times a bridegroom would add a room onto his father's house to accommodate himself and his bride.
The city is described in Revelation as beautifully decorated, like "a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2). Later, John actually refers to the city as the bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9), because the city contains the bride of Christ, His Church.
I believe this implies that at the end of the Millennium all the Redeemed will be taken off the earth and placed in the new Jerusalem which will most likely be suspended in the heavens. From that vantage point we will watch as God burns up this earth and reshapes it like a hot ball of wax into a new earth, a perfected earth like the one which God created in the beginning. Then, we will be lowered down to that new earth inside the new Jerusalem.
The city will be spectacular in both size and appearance. It will be in the form of a cube that is 1,500 miles in every direction! And it will reflect "the glory of God" (Revelation 21:11,16).

The Size of the City

The incredible size means the city would stretch from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic coast of America to Colorado. It would also extend 1,500 miles into the atmosphere.
This tremendous extension of the city vertically into the air is a clue that the new earth may be considerably larger than the current earth. Otherwise, the city would not be proportional to its surroundings.
Would such a city be able to adequately accommodate all the Redeemed? That's a good question. The best answer I have ever run across is the one provided by Dr. Henry Morris in his book The Revelation Record.
Dr. Morris postulates the total number of Redeemed might be as many as 20 billion. He further guesses that approximately 75 percent of the new Jerusalem might be devoted to streets, parks and public buildings. Can 20 billion people be squeezed into only 25 percent of the space of this city?
The answer is yes! In fact, it can be done easily. Each person would have a cubical block with about 75 acres of surface on each face. We are talking about an immense city!
This assumes, of course, that our new glorified bodies will be immune to the current law of gravity, as are the bodies of angels. This is a safe assumption, for Philippians 3:2 says that our glorified bodies will be like the body of Jesus after His resurrection, and His body was not subject to gravity, as evidenced by His ascension into Heaven.
This is the reason the city will be so tall. We will be able to utilize and enjoy all levels of it. There will be vertical streets as well as horizontal ones.

The Beauty of the City

And what streets they will be! The Bible says they will be "pure gold, like transparent glass" (Revelation 21:21). In fact, the whole city will be made of pure gold with the appearance of clear glass (Revelation 21:18).
The city will sit on a foundation made of 12 layers of precious stones (Revelation 21:19-20). Each layer will feature the name of one of the 12 apostles (Revelation 21:14). The city will be surrounded by a jasper wall over 200 feet high (Revelation 21:17). There will be 12 gates, three on each side, and each one will be named for one of the tribes of Israel (Revelation 21: 12).
And yes, the gates will be "pearly gates," each one consisting of one huge pearl (Revelation 21:21).
Best of all, God the Father and Jesus will both reside in the city with us (Revelation 21:22). The Shekinah glory of God will illuminate the city constantly, and thus there will be no night nor will there ever be any need for any type of artificial light or the light of the sun (Revelation 22:5).
The throne of God and His Son will be in the city, and "a river of the water of life, clear as crystal" will flow down the middle of the city's main street with the tree of life growing on both sides of the river, yielding 12 kinds of fruit — a different fruit each month (Revelation 22:1-2).
That's it. God's Word only gives us a glimpse of Heaven. But what a tantalizing glimpse it is! It's a glimpse of perfect peace and joy and beauty.

The Activities of Heaven

What will we do for eternity? Again, the Word is strangely silent. All it says is that we "shall serve Him" ( Revelation 22:3).
I have fantasized a lot about our Heavenly activities. I can imagine us spending a great deal of our time in worship, singing the psalms of King David, with him directing us. I think it is likely that our talents will be magnified, and we will be able to sing or paint or write with a majesty and scope we never imagined possible — and all to the glory of God!
Surely we will spend considerable time in the study of God's Word. Think of studying the gospel of John with the apostle John as the teacher! I thrill to the thought of Jesus teaching the Old Testament, even as He did to His disciples following His resurrection (Luke 24:44-45). The Word of God is infinite in its depth, and I believe we will continue learning from it forever.
As we study the Word, I believe we will grow in spiritual maturity in the likeness of Jesus. And since God is infinite, no matter how much we grow in His likeness, there will just be that much more growing ahead of us. In this regard, I suspect that our spiritual growth will pick up where it left off in this life.
Sometimes, I really get far out in my thinking about Heaven. For example, I can imagine the Lord giving us the opportunity to see "instant video replays" of great events in Bible history. I hope so. I would like to see the dividing of the Red Sea, the destruction of Jericho, and the resurrection of Lazarus.
And what about tours of the universe? Surely we will be able to travel through space in our glorified bodies and see the miracles of God's creation up close. Imagine visiting all the planets in our galaxy as well as touring thousands of other galaxies!
But what does it mean in Revelation 22:3 where it says we will serve God as His "bond-servants"? I'm not sure. I suppose it means we will be given productive work to do. What that work will be I can't say for sure. But there is a hint in Revelation 22:5 where it says we will reign with the Lord "forever and ever."
To reign implies, of necessity, that we must reign over someone. Who will that be? Again, there is a intriguing clue. Revelation 21:24-27 refers to "nations" that will live on the new earth outside the New Jerusalem. Revelation 22:2 indicates that the people composing these nations will be in fleshly bodies, for it says that the leaves of the tree of life will be used for "the healing of the nations."
Who are these "nations"? This is one of the greatest mysteries of Bible prophecy. There are as many different guesses as there are commentaries on the book of Revelation.
Could they be the Redeemed who accept Jesus during the Millennium? Nothing is said about the ultimate destiny of those who are saved during the Millennium. No promises are made to them of glorified bodies.
I don't know the answer. It is one of those areas where we look into a dimly lit mirror and will not understand fully until we stand "face to face" with the Lord (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Heavenly Fellowship

This brings me to the greatest blessing of Heaven. Revelation 22:4 says we shall see the face of God!
The Word says in Exodus 33:20 that no man has ever seen the face of God. But we will be given that privilege when we fellowship with Him in Heaven.
And that is really what Heaven is all about. We will experience an intimacy with the Lord that transcends anything possible in this life. We were created for fellowship with God (John 4:23), and that purpose will reach its zenith in the eternal state as we live in God's presence.
That is why Paul wrote, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). He went on to explain that to continue living in the flesh meant the opportunity for fruitful labor in the Lord's kingdom. But he still had a desire to depart this life, for that departure would open the door for sweet, intimate, personal fellowship with the Lord (Philippians 1:22-23).
What about you? Are you clinging to this world, or do you yearn for Heaven?
The more you come to know the Lord, the more you will love Him. And the more you love Him, the more You will desire to be with Him.
That's only natural. We always desire to be with those whom we love.

Longing for Heaven

I love my wife dearly. We have been married for more than thirty years. I have to travel a lot. I call her every night I'm on the road to tell her that I love her. I send her mushy love cards. And when I have to be gone for an extended period, I send her gifts like bouquets of flowers.
I love to talk with my wife by phone. I love to send her love notes. I love to surprise her with gifts. But none of these are substitutes for being with her! When you love someone you want to be with them.
In like manner, I love to fellowship with the Lord in worship, in Bible study, and in prayer. But these spiritual activities are no substitute for actually being with the Lord.
Because I love Him, I want to be with Him. Personal, intimate fellowship with the Lord — that is the essence of Heaven. May it become a reality very soon!