Come!

1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
    hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
    my steadfast, sure love for David.
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
    a leader and commander for the peoples.
Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
    and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has glorified you.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 “For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
    an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Isaiah 55:1-13 ESV

This chapter is an open invitation from God Almighty. In light of all that He has said He will do and the work His servant will accomplish on His behalf, God calls the people of Judah to return to Him. Five times in the first three verses, God invites them to “come!” And if they accept His invitation, they will experience the many benefits that accompany a restored relationship with Him. They will satisfy their thirst. And God is not talking about man’s physical need for water. As Jesus told the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14 ESV).

Like His Son, God the Father is offering a permanent solution to the spiritual drought that has plagued mankind since the fall. But this was not the first time God had offered to quench the thirst of His people. In fact, He had been a source of living water to the descendants of Abraham from the very beginning of His relationship with them. Yet, they had decided to seek substitute sources for that which God offered. And in the book of Jeremiah, we have God’s indictment against their actions.

“…my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” – Jeremiah 2:13 ESV

Now, in Isaiah 55, we see God responding to the stubbornness of His people with yet another invitation to come and drink. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” What exactly are these waters of which God speaks? Where are they? In the book of Revelation, the apostle John describes seeing the New Jerusalem, and in it, what he says was “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city” (Revelation 22:1 ESV). And growing along the banks of this river, John saw the tree of life – not one, but many – and these trees will yield 12 different kinds of fruit, and their leaves will bring healing to the nations.

The closing chapters of John’s apocryphal book describe the final days of the Tribulation, which will end with the return of Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom. And John records a message from the victorious Christ that offers one more promise to permanently quench mankind’s thirst for free.

“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” – Revelation 21:6 ESV

What God the Father and His Son are offering is absolutely free. It comes at no cost to those who are willing to accept it for what it is: A gracious gift. But it is not that the gift is without value. As the apostle Peter makes quite clear, it came at a high price.

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. – 1 Peter 1:18-19 ESV

And the apostle Paul further clarifies the value of this gift when he states, “God bought you with a high price” (1 Corinthians 6:20 NLT). The gift God offers has great value, but it costs the recipient absolutely nothing. And yet, the people of Judah were guilty of building cisterns, man-made religious systems, in a vain attempt to replicate what only God can offer. But their cisterns proved to be cracked and worthless. Here was God offering them the real thing for free, and they were busy wasting time, money and energy pursuing poor substitutes. And, exposing the absurdity of their actions, God asks, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2 ESV). He offers them everything they need, at no cost, but they seem intent on throwing their money away on that which cannot satisfy.

So, He invites them again to come to Him. He even offers to make with them a new covenant, an everlasting covenant. The prophet Jeremiah wrote about this new covenant.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…” – Jeremiah 31:31 ESV

And God describes the unique nature of this future covenant with His people.

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Jeremiah 31:33 ESV

This new covenant will reflect the kind of love God had for David. He prospered David and made him king over a great nation. And just as David conquered many nations and ruled over them, so will the people of Judah. This promise is particularly significant when you consider the current state of affairs in Judah when Isaiah penned these words. They were in a bad spot. They were surrounded by enemies. They were threatened with destruction and powerless to do anything about it. But, here was God promising, “You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey” (Isaiah 55:5 NLT). And it will all be the work of God.

But Isaiah warns the people to act. He calls them to take advantage of God’s gracious invitation.

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
    Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. – Isaiah 55:6-7 NLT

And, knowing that the people of Judah were going to find His offer hard to believe, God reminds them that He operates according to a different standard. His way of doing things was going to be alien to them. His methods were going to appear more like madness to them. But they needed to believe that His word, like the rain He sends from heaven, always accomplishes all that He intends. They may not understand or even like His methods, but they could not argue with the results. And God assures them that His word, like rain from heaven, “shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 ESV).

And God describes a future scene marked by great joy and celebration. These images picture a time of rejuvenation and restoration. And this is not the first time Isaiah has described this as-yet-unfulfilled day.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
    and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
    as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
    the splendor of our God. – Isaiah 35:1-2 NLT

I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus.
    I will give them fountains of water in the valleys.
I will fill the desert with pools of water.
    Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.
I will plant trees in the barren desert—
    cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine. – Isaiah 45:18-19 NLT

For I will pour out water to quench your thirst
    and to irrigate your parched fields.
And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants,
    and my blessing on your children. – Isaiah 44:3 NLT

God is inviting His rebellious people to accept His gracious invitation to return to Him so that they might one day enjoy the pleasures of both literal and living water. He wants them to experience the joy that will be found in the future kingdom He has planned, a place of abundant fruitfulness and unending fellowship with He and His Son.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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No Temple? No Problem.

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:9-27 ESV

At this point in his vision, John receives a close-up look at the recently-descended New Jerusalem and his personal tour guide happens to be one of the angels who poured out the bowl judgments on Babylon. The wicked city of Babylon had been destroyed by God. And, as we saw in chapter 18, Babylon had been powerful and beautiful. It had been a city of great influence, politically, economically and spiritually. It had been a city built by the hands of men and filled with the power of Satan, but in virtually no time at all, God had brought it to an end.

16 “Alas, alas, for the great city
    that was clothed in fine linen,
        in purple and scarlet,
    adorned with gold,
        with jewels, and with pearls!
17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” – Revelation 18:16-17 ESV

But the once great Babylon has been replaced with the city of God, the New Jerusalem. And John once again describes seeing it as “coming down out of heaven from God.” This is a repeat of the very same phrase used in verse 2. Unlike Babylon, this city has not been built by the hands of men, but by God. Perhaps, this is the very place to which Jesus was referring when He told His disciples:

2 “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  – John 14:2-3 NLT

We are not told when the New Jerusalem came into existence. It could be that it has always been there, but makes its earthly appearance at the end of the millennium. But the important thing to note are the many words and terms used to describe its uniqueness. It comes down from heaven. It is holy and called the bride of the Lamb. It contains the glory of God Himself and it is His glory that provides all the light needed for life. There is no night in the city and no presence of anything unclean, impure, immoral, sinful or unrighteousness. This is the ideal city. And it is fascinating to note the difference between what God provides and what mankind attempt to provide on its own. One can’t help but contrast the scene recorded in Genesis 11, when the people of earth chose to disobey God and, rather than spreading across the face of the earth, being fruitful and replenishing it, they chose to stay in one place, build a city and a great tower and make a name for themselves. Moses records that “the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built” (Genesis 11:5 ESV). They had been successful. They had turned their dream to “build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4 ESV) into a reality. Over and over again, we read their ambitious words, “let us make” and “let us build.” Notice that the creation of their city and its great tower were their doing. They built up. But God’s city came down. It descended from God and, as a result, it contained the glory of God.

As he has done so many times before, John attempts to provide us with a detailed description of all that he is seeing, but he’s constrained by the limits of human language and the inadequacy of earthly images as comparisons. The point of his description is not that we might have a detailed architectural rendering of the city, but that we might begin to grasp its sheer glory. This city is massive in size and magnificent in design. There is order to its every detail. There is meaning behind every aspect of its shape, size, and structure. But when it comes to the exact dimensions, it would seem that John is not trying to give us precise architectural measurements so that we might be able to recreate the city on a piece of paper. The whole chapter seems to suggest that this city is unable to be replicated by man. It is one-of-a-kind and divinely unique in nature and appearance. All the mention of gold and precious jewels are meant to provide us with some idea of just how beautiful and priceless this city will be. It will be massive in size and scope, and yet filled with precious metals and priceless stones, which happen to be used as construction materials, not simply adornments.

The other significant aspect of John’s description of the city is the inclusion of references to both the people of God, Israel, and the church. There will be 12 gates guarded by 12 angels, and above those gates will be engraved the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. And the wall of the city will have 12 foundations upon which will be written “the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14 ESV). Paul refers to this very same thing in his letter to the believers in Ephesus.

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. – Ephesians 2:20 NLT

The people of God and the church of Jesus Christ are represented in this city. And while it is referred to as “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9 ESV), that does not mean the city is a representation of the church. This is the city of God, and it will include all the people of God, including the remnant of His chosen people, the nation of Israel, as well as all those chosen or elect in Christ. And we are told that the nations of the earth will come in and out of the city, bringing their glory with them. This is not a reference to their own personal glory, but the glory they bring in order to honor God. The focus of the eternal state will be God and Him alone. No longer will men self-glorify or make much of creation. They won’t be tempted to magnify self or worship something other than God. Idolatry will have no place in the eternal state. There will be no false gods. The New Jerusalem and the new earth will be filled by all those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

And one of the most significant aspects of this new city is found in verse 22. In almost a flippant, throw-away sense, John simply states, “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” This is hugely significant. Both the tabernacle and the temple were primary structures in the religious mindset of the Israelites. These were the places where the people came to offer their sacrifices to God. The Holy of Holies contained the mercy seat, over which the glory of God hovered, and upon which the yearly atonement was made for the sins of the people. But in the New Jerusalem, there will be no temple. There will be no holy place or holy of holies. Because, as John states, its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. No longer will men have to try and earn access into God’s presence, because His presence will permeate every aspect of life. We will have unlimited, unhindered access into the presence of God and His Son, at all times. Their glory will surround us, in the form of light. Their grace will be constantly available to us. There will be no darkness to obscure our view of them. There will be no sin to separate us from them. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this very day and his words provide us with God’s promise that the vision of John will one day become a reality.

19 The sun shall be no more
    your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
    give you light;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun shall no more go down,
    nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of mourning shall be ended.
21 Your people shall all be righteous;
    they shall possess the land forever,
the branch of my planting, the work of my hands,
    that I might be glorified.
22 The least one shall become a clan,
    and the smallest one a mighty nation;
I am the Lord;
    in its time I will hasten it. – Isaiah 60:19-22 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

All Things New!

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:1-8 ESV

In a way, this chapter provides a link all the way back to the opening chapter of the very first book of the Bible, where we read the words, “In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1) . The universe and all it contains once had a beginning, a starting place, a point in history when God stepped into time and space and created ex nihilo – out of nothing. And all that He made, He deemed good. But that creation was eventually marred by sin. The good that God had made was made wicked because of man’s choice to rebel against the sovereign will of God. And the apostle Paul reminds us that the entrance of sin into God’s creation left its mark on all that God had made, including mankind and the world it inhabited.

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. – Romans 8:20-21 ESV

But with the opening of chapter 21 of Revelation, John is given the privilege of seeing what will be a brand new beginning. In a sense, it will be Genesis 1 all over again. Take a look at the amazing similarities. In Genesis 1:1, God made the heavens and the earth. In Revelation 21:1, John is shown a new heaven and a new earth. In the Genesis account, we are told that God created the sun, but in Revelation 21:23, John notes that there will be no need for the sun, because the glory of God provides all the light needed. And while God originally created night, with the new beginning, there will be no place or reason for its existence. Darkness is the absence of light and, since God is light, and His righteousness will rule the new creation, there will never be a lack of His pervading, illuminating presence. In Genesis 3:19, we have the entrance of death into the original creation account. But in verse four of this chapter, we are told “death shall be no more.” And John states quite matter-of-factly, “the former things have passed away,” which includes all mourning, crying and pain.

Back in chapter 20, in verse 11, John described seeing Jesus seated on the great white throne and he stated that, “From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.” Now, with the opening of chapter 21, we get a better idea of what he meant by that statement, because he “saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Revelation 21:1 ESV). He does not tell us how this will happen, but just that it will. The old will be replaced with the new. Peter provides us with some insight into the nature of this radical transformation. He describes how God made the original universe and how “the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God” (2 Peter 3:5 ESV). And then he goes to describe how, at one time, God spoke again and “by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:6 ESV). Finally, Peter lets us know what will happen when God chooses to make all things new.

“…by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” – 2 Peter 3:7 ESV

But wait, there’s more.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” – 2 Peter 3:10 ESV

We don’t know exactly how God is going to accomplish all of this, but we can rest assured that it will be done. He will make all things new. He will re-create His creation. And the prophet Isaiah quotes the words of God Himself, speaking of the very day John is being given the privilege of seeing in advance.

17 “For behold, I create new heavens
    and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
    or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
    in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
    and her people to be a gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
    and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
    and the cry of distress. – Isaiah 65:17-19 ESV

And John states, “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2 ESV). The information John provides us about this city is quite sparse at this point, and he doesn’t immediately give us a detailed description. He simply states its arrival. But John does hear a loud voice, emanating from heaven, and shouting, “the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3 ESV). With the arrival of the New Jerusalem, the presence of God returns to the earth in a permanent form. The unbroken fellowship Adam and Eve enjoyed with God as they walked in the garden will be recreated as God sets us His tabernacle and His Holy City on earth. Again, one of the Old Testament prophets, this time Ezekiel, wrote down the words of God, promising to keep the covenant He had made with His people, return them to the land and return to their midst in all His glory.

26 “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” – Ezekiel 37:26-28 ESV

This is an important promise made by God, because earlier in the book of Ezekiel, the prophet was given a vision of God’s glory leaving the sanctuary. He was abandoning the place in Jerusalem where His glory had dwelt above the mercy seat for generations, but because of the sin and rebellion of the people of Israel, God would no longer tolerate living in their presence.

18 Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. – Ezekiel 10:18-19 ESV

But with the vision of John, the glory of God returns. And John pronounces the good news that, with His return, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV). The presence of God brings joy, peace, life, contentment, fulfillment, comfort, and a sense of unbroken, undiminished love to the earth. And there will be no Satan or sin to mar this scene. Those who live under the new heaven and on the new earth, will be redeemed and glorified. Their bodies will be new and in their eternal, glorified states. Their natures will be sinless and perfectly righteous. And that is why Jesus, the one seated on the throne can boldly declare, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). Notice the interesting contrast between this statement and the one that follows. Jesus first says, “I am making…” and it is a present active verb, indicating an action that is in process. And yet, in the very next verse, Jesus says, “It is done!” It carries with it the idea of completion. He has accomplished all that He has set out to do. In a sense, throughout the entire book of Revelation, John has been seeing the work of God unfolding in all its intricate details. And when Jesus states that He is making all things new, He follows it with a command for John to “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). At this point, John is still in note-taking mode, chronicling all that is going to happen. Remember, this is a prophetic book. But John also hears Jesus say that it is done, because the final outcome of all that is going to happen is assured. It’s going to happen just as John has been shown, down to the very last detail. And Jesus adds yet one more statement and this time it appears to be a promise for the future. 

To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” – Revelation 21:6 ESV

As the events of the tribulation come to a close, we can find ourselves overwhelmed by all the imagery, including the description of a city descending from heaven. But Jesus reminds us that the real miracle of all this has to do with eternal life. He is going to quench the spiritual thirst of all those whom come to Him. It recalls the promise made to the Samaritan woman who Jesus met at the well one day.

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14 ESV

And the prophet Isaiah provided us with this reassuring promise from God:

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price. – Isaiah 55:1 ESV

Jesus lets us know that all those who conquer, which is simply a reference to all those who will be standing in the presence of God the Father and God the Son, because of  Christ’s victory over sin and death, will inherit all that has been promised to them. And they will enjoy their permanent position as children of God – for all eternity.

But there is devastating news for all those who refused to accept the grace of God in the form of His free offer of unblemished righteousness, made possible through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. With His death, Jesus offered up His righteousness in exchange for our sin. He took on our debt and paid our penalty with His own life. But for all who refused His offer, their eternity is secure, but in a very different way.

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” – Revelation 21:8 ESV

The book of Revelation provides us with a stern warning and a comforting reminder. There is a judgment to come. And God’s offer of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone is not just a nice gesture on God’s part. It is the determining factor to every man’s eternal state.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Fallen, But Not Finished.

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.

And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled and went out from the city by night by the way of a gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, and the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him. The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and also slaughtered all the officials of Judah at Riblah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, and the king of Babylon took him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death. – Jeremiah 52:1-11 ESV

Approximately five years has passed since Seraiah had traveled to Babylon as part of the king’s royal retinue to visit King Nebuchadnezzar. While there, Seraiah had followed Jeremiah’s instructions and had read the contents of the scroll he had been given, containing God’s oracles against Babylon. Then, he had tied a stone to the scroll and thrown it into the Euphrates River. King Zedekiah, Seraiah, and the rest of the officials from Judah who had traveled to Babylon had eventually returned. And after a five year hiatus, the Babylonians had shown up at the gates of Jerusalem. During the five years since his trip to Babylon, Zedekiah had chosen to rebel against King Nebuchadnezzar, attempting to make alliances with other nations, including Egypt. God had warned Zedekiah and the people of Judah to submit to the Babylonians. If they did as God had said, things would go well for them. If they disobeyed, things would go extremely bad. Zedekiah’s decision to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar’s authority was really an act of rebellion against God. God had made it perfectly clear what He expected the people of Judah to do.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, famine, or disease, but those who surrender to the Babylonians will live. Their reward will be life. They will live!’” – Jeremiah 38:2 NLT

But King Zedekiah and the people refused to listen to the words of God as spoken through the prophet, Jeremiah. And chapter 39 of the book of Jeremiah records what happened.

In January of the ninth year of King Zedekiah’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came with his entire army to besiege Jerusalem. Two and a half years later, on July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, a section of the city wall was broken down. All the officers of the Babylonian army came in and sat in triumph at the Middle Gate: Nergal-sharezer of Samgar, and Nebo-sarsekim, a chief officer, and Nergal-sharezer, the king’s adviser, and all the other officers of the king of Babylon. – Jeremiah 39:1-3 NLT

In the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Jerusalem. Just ever two years later, the Babylonians breached the walls of the city and the destruction began. Zedekiah and his troops attempted to escape the city, but were overtaken by the Babylonians. Zedekiah was forced to watch as his sons were murdered right in front of him. Then, he had his eyes gouged out. The last sight he would have seen was his own sons’ brutal deaths.

Jeremiah makes it quite clear why these things happened.

But Zedekiah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as Jehoiakim had done. These things happened because of the Lord’s anger against the people of Jerusalem and Judah, until he finally banished them from his presence and sent them into exile. – Jeremiah 52:2-3 NLT

Zedekiah, like so many of the kings of Judah before him, was evil. He was idolatrous and full of pride and arrogance. He had refused to listen to God. He had determined to rule his kingdom according to his own standards. And, in spite of God’s persistent warnings of looming judgment, Zedekiah continued to disobey and disregard God’s words. He thought he could somehow escape the destruction God had ordained. He truly believed that he could make an alliance with Egypt and get their help in overthrowing the Babylonians. But even Egypt would fall to the Babylonians at the battle of Carchemish. And while the Egyptians would eventually show back up and attempt to aid Judah against the Babylonians, they would end up returning to Egypt with their tails between their legs, leaving Judah on their own. And did fall.

Zedekiah represents the last of the kings in the Davidic line. There would be no other king to reign from the line of Judah. It would not be until Jesus showed up and was born to Mary, a descendant of David, that the line of David would be reestablished. Jesus is and will be the next king of Israel. He is the rightful heir to the throne of David. In the genealogy of Jesus, found in Matthew 1, He is shown to be a descendant of Abraham and David through Joseph, His legal father. In the genealogy recorded in Luke 3, His lineage is traced through Mary, and reveals that Jesus is a descendant of David by blood. And in Romans, chapter 1, Paul reminded his audience that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s promise to David.

The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 1:3-4 NLT

God had made a promise to David.

“‘Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight. Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.’” – 2 Samuel 7:11-16 NLT

While Solomon would be the short-term answer to this promise, his kingdom would end. His disobedience and unfaithfulness would result in God splitting the kingdom of Israel in half. And the kings of Judah who would follow him would be anything but faithful to God. But Jesus, the Son of God and the son of David, would be the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise. While Solomon built a physical temple for God, Jesus would build a spiritual temple. Paul would tell the believers in Corinth, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 NLT). He said the very same thing to the believers in Ephesus:

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit. – Ephesians 2:20-22 NLT

So, while the temple of Solomon would be destroyed by the Babylonians, the temple of God, made up of all of those who place their trust in Jesus as their Savior, is alive and well. The kingdom of Jesus has no end. His temple, the body of Christ, is incapable of being destroyed. King Zedekiah would live out his days in Babylon, blind and as a slave to those who had conquered him. The kings of Judah had abandoned God, but it was He who ended up abandoning them. But He will be faithful to His people. He will one day provide them with a true King, a righteous and just King. And this coming King will rule once again from the throne of David in the royal city of Jerusalem. And His reign will last 1,000 years. Then, God will remake the heavens and the earth. He will restore creation to its original glory. And He will establish a new Jerusalem. And as the apostle John reveals in his book of the Revelation, this new Jerusalem will have no need of a physical temple.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. – Revelation 21:22-27 NLT

Something new and better is coming. God is not done yet. The fate of Jerusalem and the people of God is not yet complete. And, in spite of the unfaithfulness of the kings of Israel and Judah, God is going to remain faithful, keeping His Word and fulfilling every promise He has made.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1 Chronicles 17-18, Colossians 2

The Reign of Christ.

1 Chronicles 17-18, Colossians 2

I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever. – 1 Chronicles 17:13-14 ESV

David wanted to build a permanent structure in which to place the Ark of the Covenant. He desired to build a “house” or temple for God. But God let David know that He had more important plans for him. It was God’s intention to build a house for David, but in a metaphorical sense (1 Chronicles 17:10). The “house” God promised to build for David had to do with a kingly dynasty. “When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom” (1 Chronicles 17:11 ESV). This son, who would turn out to be Solomon, would fulfill David’s desire to build a temple for the Lord, and God promised to establish his kingdom forever. This is part of what is referred to as the Davidic Covenant. But we know that Solomon’s kingdom did not last forever. His reign ended poorly and God was forced to split the kingdom of Israel in half, dividing it between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Both of these nations would eventually end up in exile, and the city of Jerusalem would like in ruins for years, with no king ruling from the throne of David. And yet God had promised David concerning one of his heirs, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you,  but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever” (1 Chronicles 17:13-14 ESV). The writer of Hebrews quotes these very verses when speaking of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He saw Jesus as the fulfillment of this portion of the covenant God had made with David. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV). Quoting directly from 1 Chronicles 17, the writer of Hebrews says of Jesus, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’? Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’?”

Jesus was to be the offspring of David whose throne would be established forever. David’s “house” would be everlasting in nature, in spite of the sins of Solomon, the split of the nation of Israel, the failure of its kings, the fall of Jerusalem, or the exile of the people of God. The gospels of Luke and Matthew both make it clear that Jesus was a direct descendant of David and the rightful heir to the throne. The writer of Hebrews, quoting from another Old Testament passage, writes, “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions’” (Hebrews 1:8-9 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

David’s kingdom was a foreshadowing of a far greater kingdom to come. David was a mighty warrior, but he cannot be compared to the One who will come at the end of the age and who will fully defeat the enemies of God once and for all. In fact, Paul reminds us that with His death on the cross and resurrection to new life, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15 ESV). Solomon was a wise king, but his wisdom is nothing compared with that of Jesus, the Son of God. Again Paul refers to Him as “God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3 ESV). David and Solomon were mere men who, in spite of their love for God and desire to live for him, were ultimately sidetracked by their own sin. But Jesus was sinless. He was the God-man, in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9 ESV). He “is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:10 ESV). He is “the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Colossians 2:19 ESV). Jesus Christ was to be the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. With His arrival on earth, Jesus would establish a different kind of kingdom, one that was of a spiritual nature. At His trial before Pilate, Jesus claimed, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36 ESV). When Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king, He replied, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37 ESV). Jesus was and is the king God had promised, and His kingdom is everlasting and eternal. There will be no end to His rule or reign. In the book of the Revelation, we are given a glimpse into the future, when God will establish a “new heaven and a new earth” and “the holy city, new Jerusalem” will come “down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:1-3 ESV). And there in the new Jerusalem will be a throne, upon which will sit Jesus Christ, who will declare, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

So much of what we experience in our lifetimes is temporal and a mere shadow of what is to come. This world is not all there is and is not all it should be. There is still the presence and reality of sin. The enemies of God still exist and stand against the people of God. Satan still has a powerful influence over this world. But God is not yet done. As His children, we must constantly remind ourselves of this fact. We must not judge the success of God’s plan or the reality of Christ’s kingdom by what we see going on at any given moment. There is much that must happen before God’s plan is complete and Christ’s kingdom is fully established on this earth. David’s success as a king was completely dependent upon God. It was the Lord who gave him success and who made it possible for his kingdom to prosper. Solomon was given his wisdom by God. His kingdom was established by God. But both of these men would end up sinning against the very One who had set them on their thrones and given them their kingdoms. There is only one man who has lived His life faithfully in obedience and submission to God: Jesus Christ, the God-man. And Paul would remind us, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I am to “walk in him,” which literally means to “conduct my life” totally dependent upon Him for everything. He is not only my source of salvation, but my means of sanctification. He is my strength. He is my source of righteousness. He is my model for holiness and my reason for joyfulness. We have been “made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Colossians 2:13 ESV). He has cancelled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14 ESV). We must hold fast to Him, who is the Head, “from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Colossians 2:19 ESV). He must reign and rule over our lives, and we must live our lives in such a way that we reflect our citizenship in His eternal kingdom.

Father, may I continually learn to live as if Jesus is the literal king of my life. May my thoughts and actions reflect His rule and reign over my life. I want to live as if He is the one who is in control over my life. Don’t let me replace His rule with self-made religion or self-effort. I want to learn to submit to Him and willingly, joyfully obey His Lordship over my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org