1 Corinthians 15:35-49
Isn’t it amazing that Christians would have ever doubted the resurrection? Some did in Corinth. Paul shows that witnesses to resurrection are all around.
The plant kingdom proclaims resurrection. A seed is ugly and bare, dry and dead. But plant it in the ground and a miracle happens! Something beautiful and living, lush and looming is born. How could something so alive, so complex, and so wonderful come from something so dead, so simple, so dull? How? “God gives it a body just as He wished.” He does it every day in the plant kingdom. He will do the same with man.
The animal kingdom declares resurrection. Beasts are fitted for roaming the earth, birds for sailing the skies, and fish for swimming the oceans. Man is fitted to subdue the earth. “All flesh is not the same flesh.” If God can make different flesh suited for different realms, can He not fit man’s body for an incorruptible state? He certainly can.
The celestial bodies preach resurrection. The bodies that occupy the heavens are very different from the bodies of man and beast upon the earth. Just as there are “earthly bodies”, there are surely “heavenly” ones. Sun, moon, and stars have a glory all their own. God has in this present order fitted bodies for earth and bodies for heaven that differ in glory. Can He not then take man’s body fashioned for earthly residence and fit it for heaven?
God has left witnesses to His power to raise the dead everywhere. It is the hope of the Christian. Live like it today.
John was not the first to see the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, though he saw it best.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob confessed “that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13)? Why is that? Because they desired “a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:16).
Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees and lived as an alien in a foreign land, dwelling in tents because “he was looking for a city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).
Moses considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26).
Some unnamed saints of old “were stoned, sawn in two, tempted, put to death with the sword, went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated… wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (Heb. 11:37-38). Why would men suffer such tragedies and endure such afflictions. Because they were looking for a city.
We see so much more than they did, and have paid so little for the view. God help us not to lay up our treasure in this land. This world is not our home either. We’re just passing through.
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10
Man longs for something permanent in his life. He yearns for perfection. He looks forward to the righting of wrongs, to the absence of debts, to the annihilation of corruption and decay. Paul focuses our attention on the answer to our quest.
For the Christian, there is something permanent. Our earthly habitation, our mortal body, is just a tent. It offers no protection from the severest weather. It promises no real comforts. It must constantly be mended and refastened and repositioned. And in due season it gets beyond repair and we must abandon it to the elements. But when the tent of the godly pulls up stakes, there is a permanent habitation that is promised.
It’s a building. No more camping. No more roughing it on the storms of life. Here’s a permanent place to call home.
It’s a building from God. It’s a gift of His love. It’s the product of His grace. If His gifts were innumerable before, how much more with this treasure!
It’s a house not made with hands. No leaks. No creaky boards. Everything will be plumb in the city foursquare. Contentment will be realized.
It’s a home eternal in the heavens. No one to take it away. No note to be paid off. But what really makes it home, is the One who’s there to make it possible.
1 Corinthians 15:51-58
Resurrection is a mystery. It contradicts all that we perceive with our senses. Around us we see corruption. We grow old. The house falls apart. The car breaks down. When mortal bodies are planted in the grave, decay is accelerated not hindered, much less reversed!
But the resurrection is true, regardless of our earthly experience. We shall not all sleep the sleep of death, but we shall all be changed. The change of the ashes of the dead back into living and incorruptible beings will be fantastic. And the transformation of the living from dying, mortal creatures to heavenly, immortal beings will be a no less miraculous sight to behold.
It will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Just how fast is an eye twinkle? Can you calculate it? In that split second, time will cease because time is an element of corruption. And time will be swallowed up in eternity.
Will a trumpet really sound? I don’t know. But it will be a moment worthy of a trumpet blare. And whether a trumpet sounds or not, the attention of all the world will be arrested by the glorious, global metamorphosis of the redeemed of all the ages.
Then will come about the saying, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” O glorious day, come quickly! O Lord who gives the victory come take us home! Amen.
As a boy, I didn’t much care for my middle name. It’s “Fredrick.” I always thought it a bit stuffy. I like it now because it’s also my Dad’s middle name and was the first name of Papa Moore, my grandfather.
When the Book of Life is opened and both small and great stand before the throne, and the names of the redeemed are read one by one—it won’t matter to me if the Lord should call me by my middle name. Whether He calls me by my last name the way teachers did in school, makes me no difference. If He should call me “J” the way my sisters do or my close friends will be of no matter. If He should point into the crowd and say to me, “Hey you, get in here!” That too, would be just fine. I just know one thing—I want my name written there.
Don’t you know that the audience on that occasion will stand with rapt attention? There will be no stirring in the crowd. No one will yawn. No one will tire of the proceedings. Many names will be read that will be unfamiliar to us. Some that we couldn’t pronounce. Others will be familiar. But He will know them all, and will pronounce them perfectly. And we will suppose that our eyes had been made just to view that scene, and our ears made just to hear that voice, and our hearts made just to adore Him who sits on the throne and who knows our name.
Revelation 21:3-7; 22:3-4
The children of Israel in the Old Testament were not just children of Jacob, but children of God. He adopted them as His own. “Out of Egypt, I have called my son” was first spoken of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.
To us who live in the last days, Paul wrote, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). By the blood of Christ, we have been born again into the family of God. We are adopted sons. God is our Father, Christ our elder Brother.
In the City of God all of us prodigal sons, from the patriarchs of old to us in these last days, will at last embrace the loving Father. What has been a hopeful parable of returning home to the Father after being away so long in this far country will there be a reality. “He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son” (21:7).
The name “son” is special in any language. Any son who has a father knows my meaning. But never has the name “son” sparked as great a thrill or as warm a feeling as it will in that city when it is spoken by that Father. Our hearts will burn. And no more will we pray “Our Father who art in heaven.” We will simply say, “Our Father” because He will be among us. We will say it, not pray it, or maybe we’ll sing it, because “we shall see His face.” And He’ll say, “I know you.”
In the city foursquare, we’re told that “there shall no longer be any curse.”
Our dictionary will have to be rewritten in that city, because so much of our language is tainted by the curse. Words like “serve,” “work,” “labor,” even “rest” will require new definitions in the City of God.
All earthly work and retirement has been contaminated by futility. Our work is never done, and what we call “done” is never done to perfection. There’s always holes in it, always imperfections. Before long, we have to do it over.
Not so in that city. In the New Jerusalem there will be service without sweat, labor without toil, work without weariness, occupation without boredom, rest without restlessness. Everything that turns a job into a chore, a task into a burden, a plan into a worry, and an investment into a loss will be no more in that city. There will no longer be any curse. Thorns and thistles will be extinct.
In the land with no curse, we’re told that “His bond-servants shall serve Him.” I don’t know what our occupations will be. But He does and so they will be perfect. Our yokes will fit us splendidly. Every job will produce the desired effect, be motored by the right attitude, and the fruit of our labor will be glorious. Our Master will be so pleased with us, and we with Him. Works for me.
In the City of God, the names of the twelve apostles are etched into its twelve foundation stones and each of the dozen gates granting entrance to the city are named for one of Jacob’s sons. That God has named the districts and avenues of His city after such humble persons will be a matter of great pride to its citizens.
But even more celebration will be derived from the name etched, not on the city, but on the citizens themselves. We’re told, “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads” (22:4). What is this? What are we to picture? Is it a tattoo? Is it a brand of some sort? I suspect something more natural. Perhaps we should imagine a prominent birthmark that they will all have in common.
I know this. In the City of God, every citizen shall know in his heart of hearts that he is a child of the King. Every person will know who he is. No one will try to be somebody else. Nobody will try to impress or compete or upstage. No one will be unhappy about their lot, their talent, their station or their appearance. Everyone will like his name. Here is a city where everyone belongs. Nobody is left out. Everyone is a friend of the Mayor in this city. Everyone has connections. Everyone knows, “I belong here because I belong to Him.”
You don’t think that will change the way a man looks or the expression on his face? You watch and see.
The City of God is the city of Light. There are no veils or mysteries here. Nothing is hidden any longer. Everything is open and undisclosed.
Did you see that everything in this city seems to be transparent? The river is clear as crystal. Who would expect to find that in the city? Both the city and the street are of pure gold—but like transparent glass. The wall is jasper (possibly diamond) but crystal clear. The gates are pearl. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re transparent, but no matter, because they’re always open.)
Is it that the materials of this city—the gold, the gems, the precious stones—are so different or is it rather that everything in this city is seen in a different light? “And the city has no need of the sun or the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light” (21:23-24).
The most frequently heard words in the City of God, may be, “Aah, I see.” Because we will see through things there. Things that we never saw through here will be transparent in the light of that city. Everything that clouded our view here below will no longer plague our vision. Every truth will be brought to light. Every myth dispelled. Everything will be clear in that city. Will we see it all it once, or bit by bit? I don’t know, but we’ll see.
Farther along, we’ll know all about it. Farther along, we’ll understand why. We’ll understand it all by and by.
Several things are curiously absent in the City of God. Did you notice?
Sun and moon will no longer be necessary as bearers of light. The glory of God will illumine this city and its lamp is the Lamb. And with their constant presence in the midst of this city, there will be no night there. Every day is a yellow day in this city. There are always blue skies and sunshine.
The sun, moon and stars are not only unnecessary as luminaries, but also as markers of time. They were appointed for signs and seasons in the first creation—for days, for weeks, for months, for years. But who needs a watch, a calendar, a day planner, or a palm pilot in the land of endless day? Time is an element of corruption. In the City of God, time will be a fossil. Clocks and calendars will be antiques.
Nothing runs out or runs down in this city. There is always sufficient daylight. There is always enough time. There are no energy crises, no black outs, no fuel shortages. There are no deadlines, no late fees, no expiration dates. Light and time are in abundant supply. No hurries. No worries.
What will we do with all that time? What time? Hard to fathom isn’t it? How do you fill up eternity? How do you spend a day that never runs out? You don’t. It just gets better, and brighter, and fuller, and richer. And it never stops.
We’re told that in heaven the most precious goods are common so that building materials are made of gold, angels are doormen, and the tree of life is always in bloom. If that is so, then will not precious deeds be common also? Will not love be the rule in that city? Will not kindness be the norm? Will not service be habitual? Will not truth be on every tongue?
Yes, indeed. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). All the things that make city life contemptible are absent from this city. All the vices that make civilization so uncivilized are no more.
However, the City of God will not just be noted for the absence of vice, but for the abundance of virtue present. May I suggest for your serious reflection that if you are not practiced in virtue, if holiness is not your habit, if love is not your motive, if truth is not characteristic of your thoughts and your speech, if service is not your first love—you’ll not like this city. Because I’m pleased to tell you that in the City of God, not only are the streets golden, but so are the hearts of its people.
Look closely at the foundations stones of the City of God. Did you notice that there are names written there? Curious names.
There are many ancient Greek and Roman monuments that bear the names and likenesses of noble persons. Yet in all of ancient Rome and Athens there is not one that mentions Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the Less, Simon, Thaddeus or Matthias. These men were not honored by the societies in which they lived. But their names are etched into the foundation stones of the City of God.
Other names are written there: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, Benjamin. One of these brothers rose to greatness—Joseph was Pharaoh’s prime minister. But there is no sphinx that bears his likeness. No hieroglyphics record the account of how he saved Egypt from famine. But Joseph and his brothers have a gate named after them in the heavenly city, etched in pearl by the finger of God.
All the names on the foundations and on the gates of the City of God are the names of sinners. They are the names of imperfect men who sought perfect foundations. Here is a city for sinners, redeemed sinners. And those who walk on these foundations and enter these gates will draw courage from the sight of those names. Here is a city where all prodigals can come home.
Revelation 21:21; 22:1-8
Learning how to get around in a big city is a daunting task. Not all streets run North-South and East-West. Even numbered streets are not always sequential. Main street is not always, in fact, not often the main street. It’s easy to get lost in the city.
Look at the street of the heavenly city. There are not streets. There is a street, the street. How can there be one street but twelve gates? Perhaps there is only the street because every street in the New Jerusalem ends at the same place. You see, in the City of God every street leads home. To get home all you do is walk upstream. Because the stream of the water of life flows from the throne in a channel down the middle of every street. So every street leads home because every street leads to the throne. And the saints are at home around the throne in the City of God.
What does that mean? That means, friends, that no one gets lost in the City of God. (Not even the men.) Did you hear me? No one gets lost. No one loses their way in this town. Nobody gets off track. No one wanders from the path. No need for street signs and compasses and road maps. The Strait Way is Broadway in this city. It is the only way. And won’t it be fine?
The new creation is centered round a city. In the beginning, God planted a garden for man. In the new beginning, God has built a city. But it’s more than a city.
It’s a city that is a garden. It’s a garden that is a bride. And a bride that is a tabernacle. It’s a tabernacle that is a mountain, a mountain that is a family, and a family that is a kingdom which stands forever. If a picture is worth a thousand words, John could not find pictures enough to suggest all the words that might describe his vision of heaven.
The pictures he shows us are familiar, but sharper and brighter than we used to know them. Man dwelt with God in a garden in the beginning; paradise that was lost is regained. The church is the bride of Christ. She has been waiting for His return. The bridegroom has come, the procession begins. God tented with Israel in the wilderness, but the people had their own tents. Now Israel lives in God’s tent, God’s temple. The old Jerusalem was built on Mount Zion, but it is dwarfed by the New Jerusalem atop the real Mount Zion which is more majestic than ever. We are sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus, but within this mountain fortress all of us prodigals will see the Father’s face. And we shall not only dwell as sons, but reign as kings. The kingdom, or reign of God, will be consummate and all enemies vanquished.
Heaven. The opulence of a city, the beauty of a garden, the joy of a marriage, the holiness of a temple, the security of a mountain, the embrace of a father, the majesty of a kingdom. And so much more. Can you see it yet?
By faith, Abraham lived in tents because “he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). It is the Apostle John who gives a picture of the city that Abraham sought. It is indeed a city with foundations—massive foundations.
If the dimensions were literal, the City of God is 12,000 furlongs by 12,000 furlongs or 1500 miles wide and 1500 miles deep. That’s 2 million 250 thousand square miles. I take the measurement of its height to mean that it is a city set on a hill, a mountain fortress that is 1500 miles high. It’s surrounded by walls 72 yards or over 20 stories tall.
Again, if the dimensions were literal the heavenly Jerusalem is a city over 270 times higher than Mt. Everest and covering 8.5 times more territory than Texas. But mind you, this is not a state, not a country, not a continent—this is a city.
The Lord wants us to understand the magnitude, the reality, the concreteness of this city. We tend to think of heaven, its surroundings, and its citizens as floating in clouds in a kind of ghostly existence. Heaven is real. More real than anything you’ve ever experienced. It is denser. It is larger. It is higher. It is wider. It is richer. It is brighter. It is fuller. We live presently in the land of shadows. But this is the real city. A city with real foundations that are never shaken.
Cities are the height of human civilization. Here, more than anywhere else, man fulfills his charge to subdue the earth.
Cities are the height of human cooperation. They are the result of a common vision and a common effort on a grand scale.
Cities are the ultimate expression and sustainer of human ingenuity. Their architecture, museums, and monuments preserve the story of human achievement, and inspire future progress.
However, cities not only embody what’s right, but all that’s wrong with man. Every city has gone the way of Babel, the first city. Rather than subduing the world, they becomes slave to it. Rather than cooperating in righteousness, her citizens conspire in folly. Rather than exercising ingenuity in well-doing they waste their creativity in evildoing. Like Babel of old, they push God from their thoughts, and look to make a name for themselves. The city which promises such hope with its tall buildings, its broad streets, and its bright lights only disappoints.
Aah, but there is a new city that will break the mold of Babel. This is the city “whose builder and maker is God.” Here, at last, is the intended destiny of mankind. Here is civilization at its peak. Here God’s initial charge to subdue the earth will be fulfilled. Here human cooperation in well-doing will be realized. There have been many great cities. This is the holy city, the New Jerusalem. Welcome!
Revelation 21:18-21; 22:1-2
In the City of God the most precious goods are common. The most precious materials in this world are common building materials in the next.
Paving stones are made of gold.
Foundations are not poured; they are hewn of diamonds and gems, precious stones of every color—red sardius, yellow topaz, emerald green, sapphire blue, amethyst purple—a dozen total. The City of God is a city built on a rainbow. Isn’t fitting that the city foundations should also remind us of the faithfulness of God?
Entire gates are made of a single pearl.
Angels, not men, are the gate keepers there.
The river of the water of life flows in a channel or an aqueduct down the middle of the street.
Trees, but not just any trees—the tree of life bears fruit every month. It grows on every bank found in the midst of every street.
Here are eternal pathways—streets of gold. Here are real foundations—hewn of gems in a rainbow of color. Here is real access—pearly gates. Here is real security—gates guarded by angels. Here is real refreshment—the water of life in abundance. Here is real nourishment—the tree of life in every season. Here is the ultimate of all realities. Here is real life. Here is real life forever.
The Apostle John was not the first to speak of a “new heavens and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). Isaiah spoke first of the new creation. John took up Isaiah’s theme, as later prophets often did with the word of earlier prophets before them, and shed further light.
The creation of a new heavens and new earth was initiated by the resurrection of Christ. His heavenly reign brought a new order into effect. Sin’s shackles were broken, death’s reign crushed. Isaiah describes the new creation as the undoing of sin’s curse. Look again at the passage and compare it with the curse of Genesis 3. Jesus undid the curse, so it can now be said, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
But not all is finished. We understand that “new things have come,” but we do so by faith. We do not yet see the final reality. We believe that it exists, but it has not yet been uncovered. We wait and all creation “waits eagerly” (Rom. 8:19) with us. The new creation which Isaiah saw, and John saw better, is a work in progress. The first creation was done from the outside in; God made the world, then made man.
The new creation is taking place from the inside out. God is making the people first, starting with their hearts. After that, He’ll give them a new body, and finally a new home. The first creation was the work of six days. The new creation takes much longer—if it’s to be done right. In fact, it took the first creation to make the second. I can’t wait to see the finished product. Can you?
The Bible opens with a beginning and it ends with a beginning. It commences with a narrative, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). It closes with a declaration, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5). It opens with the story of creation. It ends with an announcement of the new creation. It opens with a beginning and ends with a beginning.
No mortal was an eyewitness to the first creation so God gave a day-by-day account of it to Moses. But every eye shall witness the new beginning, when all things are made new. The Apostle John was given a glimpse of it. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth,” he writes. Moses took two chapters to describe the account of the first creation. John takes only one verse. I could wish for two chapters. But isn’t that the point?
Will it take six days to complete this creation, or will preparations be immediate? Will it be anything at all like the present creation, or something entirely foreign to our experience and imagination? John shows us a little. There’s so much more I’d like to see. And isn’t that the point again? Our questions make us thirsty. For now, we long, we wonder, we ask, we wait and watch expectantly for the end… or rather the beginning.
The Bible story opens with a beginning, and ends with a beginning. And, may I add, the best is yet to begin. I can’t wait.