We Have Come to the City of the Living God

New JerusalemThe metaphor in Galatians 4:21-31 tells us that Hagar, Abraham’s maidservant, and Sarah, Abraham’s wife, correspond to the Jerusalem on earth and the Jerusalem above; furthermore these represent two covenants, one of law and one of grace.

Hebrews 12:22 says, “You have come forward to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem...” The heavenly Jerusalem here is the Jerusalem above in Galatians 4; both are New Jerusalem.

To come to the new covenant is to come to the New Jerusalem. Without Galatians 4 as a background, it would be very difficult to understand this. Galatians 4 reveals that the mother of the believers, who is the Jerusalem above, the New Jerusalem, is the new covenant of grace symbolized by Sarah. To keep the new covenant is to remain in the New Jerusalem. This indicates that we are not going to the New Jerusalem but that we are in the New Jerusalem already. The tense of the verb in Hebrews 12:22 is the perfect tense, “have come,” not the future tense. We know that we have come to the New Jerusalem because the New Jerusalem is the new covenant. Because we have received the new covenant, we have entered into the New Jerusalem. The receiving of the new covenant is the entering into the New Jerusalem.*

To come to the new covenant is to come to and receive what God gives us in Christ Jesus. This covenant was enacted by Jesus’ death on the cross (Luke 22:20) and Jesus Himself is the surety of this covenant (Hebrews 7:22). To receive the forgiveness of sins and to receive Jesus as our Lord and life is to receive the new covenant; this is also to receive New Jerusalem. To minister the Spirit who gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6) is to minister this better covenant; this is also to minister New Jerusalem.

*An excerpt from Witness Lee, The Conclusion of the New Testament message 255, © by LSM.

Thanks to Jordan Nguyen for the beautiful flowers.

 

New Jerusalem in a Divine Metaphor (3)

hummingbird, USDA Forest ServiceThe divine metaphor in Galatians 4:21-31 presents characteristics of the heavenly New Jerusalem. Galatians 5 continues and we have seen two characteristics of New Jerusalem. Here are four more characteristics of New Jerusalem presented in Galatians 5:1-6.

Spirit: Like Isaac, we are born of the Spirit (Galatians 4:29; John 3:5). Now we are people walking and living by the Spirit and bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). All who will be in New Jerusalem are the same, so the city declares the completion of the Spirit’s work in humanity. Furthermore, the Spirit is flowing as the river from the throne for the eternal life supply to the city.

Faith: We are not the source of our faith; rather faith comes by hearing the life-giving word of Christ (Romans 10:17). This word energizes our “spirit of faith” (2 Corinthians 4:13). Today we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we by faith eagerly wait for the city which has the foundations, New Jerusalem (Hebrews 11:8-10).

Hope: We were saved in hope (Romans 8:24); hope comes not from us but from God’s salvation received by us. It is not like the hopes expressed by many (e.g. I hope I get a good grade in class, or I hope my car keeps working another year), which really are uncertain desires. Our hope is certain and it includes “the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2), a glory that ultimately will be radiated by New Jerusalem.

Righteousness: We have the hope of righteousness (Galatians 5:5). Today we may be grieved by many unrighteous acts in the world. Nevertheless we have Jesus Christ in us as our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30); when we live Him out, He becomes our righteousnesses (righteous acts) shown by the fine linen in Revelation 19:8. Our ultimate hope of righteousness is New Jerusalem as the center of “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwell” (2 Peter 3:13).

Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.

New Jerusalem in a Divine Metaphor (2)

The divine metaphor in Galatians 4:21-31 presents characteristics of the heavenly New Jerusalem. Galatians 5 continues, as shown by its further speaking concerning freedom and slavery. Here are two characteristics of New Jerusalem presented in Galatians 5:1-6, a few more will be in the next post.

New Jerusalem

Christ: Jesus Christ is the center and reality of our present Christian life and of New Jerusalem. His is the first name and the last name in the New Testament (Matthew 1:1, Revelation 22:21). He is in us and we are in Him (John 14:20). He is our Lord, our life, and much more. He is our unique center. He is the focus of every part of the New Testament. Creation is in Him, through Him, and unto Him; He is the Firstborn from the dead; He has first place in all things (Colossians 1:15-18). He is “all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

Grace: When we experience Jesus Christ, He is grace to us. In His incarnation He was “full of grace” (John 1:14). In His incarnation grace came (v. 17) to man; came can literally be translated became or came into being. God coming in the man Jesus to all men is grace. Therefore John says, “Of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (v. 16). Grace for our Christian life today is expressed at the beginning and end of many epistles, such as Romans 1:7, 16:20 and 2 Peter 1:2, 3:18. The entire Bible concludes with grace to us (Revelation 22:21). Grace upon grace today is wonderful; surely there will be even more in New Jerusalem.

In our Christian walk today, may we never be separated from Christ nor fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4). May we be those who “receive the abundance of grace” (Romans 5:17) that we may “be empowered in the grace which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). This grace will carry us forward to New Jerusalem. As declared in 1 Thessalonians 5:28:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

New Jerusalem in a Divine Metaphor

Galatians 4:21-31 presents a metaphor in which Hagar, Abraham’s maidservant, and Sarah, Abraham’s wife, correspond to the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly Jerusalem. Let’s look at characteristics of the heavenly Jerusalem, New Jerusalem, in this metaphor.

Free: Sarah is the free woman and “the Jerusalem above is free.” Here is real freedom:
• John 8:36 “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.”
• 2 Corinthians 3:17 “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
• Galatians 5:1 “for freedom Christ has set us free.”
• Romans 8:21 “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
We experience real freedom when we are one with the Triune God. This freedom is “the freedom of the glory” ultimately seen in New Jerusalem.

New JerusalemPromise: God promised Isaac (Genesis 17:16-19, 18:10, 14) and Isaac was born as a result of God’s promise. Isaac’s birth was not a result of Abraham and Sarah’s human capabilities for both had become “dead” with respect to having a child (Romans 4:19). New Jerusalem is produced the same way—not by human effort but by God’s operation in humans who are willing to open to Him.

Above: New Jerusalem is not earthly but heavenly. This wonderful city has a heavenly nature because its source and constitution are God.

Mother: The Jerusalem above is allegorically linked to Sarah and to the new covenant. “The Jerusalem above is our mother” indicates that the new covenant is our mother. Our new birth came from and rests upon and in the new covenant established by Jesus Christ.

Spirit: As the human components of New Jerusalem, we are born of the Spirit in our spirit (John 3:6), transformed by the Spirit in our soul (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18), and will be transfigured by the Spirit saturating our body (Romans 8:11, Philippians 3:21).

All of these five characteristics are of the Triune God. None have their source in us. Praise Him that we have such a marvelous gift both now and in New Jerusalem.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

Looking Away to Jesus, We Run to the Goal

New JerusalemThe street of New Jerusalem is “pure gold, like transparent glass” (Revelation 21:21). The pure gold street portrays a walk according to the divine nature. In God’s salvation we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), so we can walk on the golden street now.

Our Christian walk today, a walk in Christ Jesus the Lord (Colossians 2:6), is also a race. Race means that we are not on a casual stroll but on a walk that requires diligence and effort. Our effort is to cooperate with the indwelling Christ to let Him live/walk/run through us. Hebrews 12:1-2 says:

Let us…put away every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and run with endurance the race which is set before us, looking away unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

Endurance is needed now because of the encumbrances and the sin; weights which will no longer drag us down in New Jerusalem. We overcome (put away) these weights by looking away from them to Jesus. Our putting away by looking away matches 2 Corinthians 3:16-17: whenever our heart turns to the Lord, there is freedom.

Our putting away by looking away also parallels Philippians 3. We are not yet perfected (v. 12) but, forgetting the things which are behind and stretching toward the things before we pursue toward the goal (v. 13-14). This is the opposite of John 6:66 where many disciples left Jesus and went back to the things they had left behind.

The ultimate goal of all our running and pursuing is New Jerusalem. May we be willing to forget everything behind, pursue walking in Jesus Christ now, and stretch toward the greater enjoyment of Jesus Christ in all that is before us unto New Jerusalem.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

song about running the race by looking to Jesus:
There’s a race for us to run—Hallelujah,
__And a way for us the race to win.
To all those who have begun—Hallelujah,
__God has spoken, “Look away to Him!”
___Look away! O look away!
___Look to Jesus now today!
___Look away from everything unto Jesus,
____Look away from everything to Him!

Our Christian Walk and the Golden Street

Revelation 21:21, speaking about New Jerusalem, says “the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” How we walk should match where we walk, so let us look at what the New Testament says about our Christian walk.

The catalyst for this post is Colossians 2:6 “As therefore you have received the Christ, Jesus the Lord, walk in Him.” During the years of His earthly ministry recorded in the gospels, the disciples walked with Jesus. Now, in the time of His resurrection, we walk in Him.

New JerusalemHere are various aspects our walk (including our actions and our speaking) in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We walk by the Spirit and according to the spirit (Romans 8:4, Galatians 5:16).
We walk in newness of life. This is the eternal life we received when we “received the Christ, Jesus the Lord.”
We walk in the light as children of light (1 John 1:7, Ephesians 5:8). This is the light of life in John 1:4, which we often realize in our conscience either guiding us or convicting us of a failure in our walk.
We also have a walk in truth (2 John 4, 3 John 3). The real truth is Jesus Himself, as He told us in John 14:6. Our walk in truth is our walk in Him.
Furthermore, we walk in love (Romans 14:15). Because we love God, His love abides in us and is manifested through us to others in our daily walk.

Our walk is by faith, not by appearance (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith joins us to the resurrected Lord that we may be supplied by Him with life, light, truth, and love. As a result He is magnified in our daily walk. This is the kind of walk which matches the golden street of New Jerusalem.

Related posts:__ We Have the Life Supply for the NT Building
Our Walk on the Golden Street of New Jerusalem Begins at Regeneration

Photo courtesy of NOAA and the Salt Lake City Weather Service Forecast Office.

Image and Dominion, Genesis to Revelation

New JerusalemGod said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion…” (Genesis 1:26). God created man in His image so that man could express God. God gave dominion to man so that man could represent God. This is God’s eternal purpose, at a time when there was no sin and no death, a condition that matches the new creation and New Jerusalem after sin and death have been cast out.

The created mankind (Adam) fell but God called a new mankind (Abraham). God said to him, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). Nation is related to dominion and blessing to image. The real blessing is the Spirit (Galatians 3:14) who transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

When John the Baptist came, his first words were about the kingdom (Matthew 3:2). When the Lord Jesus came, the beginning of His proclamation was the kingdom: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). By repenting we come back into God’s kingdom to be able to represent God. By believing we receive God’s life (John 3:15-16) that we may express God.

In contrast to Genesis 1, the kingdom (dominion) is mentioned first in the gospel because man has fallen from, and needs to be restored to, God and His authority.

God’s appearance is like jasper in Revelation 4:3. In Revelation 21:11, 18 the appearance of New Jerusalem is also like jasper. God and the Lamb are on the throne in New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:1) and all God’s slaves will reign with Him forever (22:5). The city fulfills God’s intention in creating man by having the image and authority of God.

This post is based on my appreciation of Life-study of Genesis, message 39.

Bible verses quoted in these posts are from The Holy Bible, Recovery Version, published and © by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim CA, 2003. The New Testament of this Bible, with its outlines, footnotes, and cross-references, may be viewed at online.recoveryversion.org; this too is © by Living Stream Ministry.

Photo by William S Keller, courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

Being Renewed unto New Jerusalem

God’s purpose consummates in New Jerusalem. God created man for this, saying “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion…” (Genesis 1:26). Man (singular) and them (plural) indicate that God created a corporate man. This man fell away from God.

New JerusalemFor the sake of fulfilling God’s purpose, Christ Jesus created a new corporate man by and in Himself (Ephesians 2:14-16). This new man is the predecessor of New Jerusalem. By faith and the spiritual reality of baptism we have put off the old man and have put on the new man. This is a positional transfer.

Now we need to cooperate with God’s inner operation (Philippians 2:12-13) so that every aspect of our daily living can be brought into the new man. This is an experiential transfer. The prior post touched the experiential putting off. There is also an experiential renewing.

By putting on the new man, we are in the realm of newness in Christ. This is positional. There is also the fact that the new man “is being renewed unto full knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10). Is being renewed indicates a continuing process.

Our cooperation with the renewing is shown by the exhortation in Ephesians 4:23, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” This renewing is of the Holy Spirit, as shown in Titus 3:5, yet this renewing must reach our mind to transform our thinking and our concepts.

In Romans 12:1-2 being transformed by the renewing of our mind follows presenting our body as a living sacrifice. Therefore, let us consecrate ourselves afresh to the Lord and open to Him for this renewing. May He bring us into the reality of the new man to prepare us for New Jerusalem.

Related posts:
New Man, New Jerusalem_________________From New Man to New Jerusalem
New Creation, New Man, New Jerusalem____..__Renewed to Match New Jerusalem

Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The Gate and the Way to New Jerusalem

New JerusalemThe new man was created by and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:14-16). This is the predecessor of New Jerusalem. The new man is a corporate man in Christ and the eternal city is a corporate humanity (including God’s Old Testament and New Testament people) in the Triune God.

Faith and the reality of baptism bring us out of the old man and transfer us into the new man. This transfer is clearly presented in Colossians 3:9-10: “you have put off the old man…and have put on the new man.”

This transfer is accomplished once and is eternally secure. Nevertheless, we need to cooperate with this transfer. This cooperation is seen in Colossians 3:9: “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices.”

Although we have put off the old man with his practices, yet we are still exhorted “do not lie.” Positionally we have put off the old man with his lying; experientially we apply the Lord to save us from lying in our daily living. (A human illustration: a person moving from one country to another has a quick positional transfer. But it will take years for an experientially transfer to the new language and new culture.)

The positional and experiential transfers are like the narrow gate and the narrow way presented by the Lord in Matthew 7:13-14. We enter through the gate once, then we walk on the way continually. This walk is our experience of living in the new man, a living which culminates in New Jerusalem.

Come Out and Seek a Better Country

New JerusalemBecause created mankind has fallen, God calls us to come out of that old, fallen mankind into a new, resurrected mankind so that God can carry out His eternal purpose. This purpose culminates in New Jerusalem.

The prior post presented coming out of the old man and entering into the new man as seen in Acts 2. Abraham is an Old Testament example of coming out and entering in. Because man had rebelled against God, God called Abraham to have a new beginning with a new race*. God’s call to Abraham was not from sin or violence. Rather, it involved a change of location, culture, and relationships. God called Abraham saying,

Come out from your land and from your relatives, and come into the land which I will show you. (Acts 7:3; when Abraham was in Mesopotamia, before he went to Haran, v. 7:2)

Go from your land and from your relatives and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (Genesis 12:1; when Abraham was in Haran, v. 11:31-32)

In response to these two calls from God, on one hand Abraham went out by faith (Hebrews 11:8) and on the other hand God brought him (Acts 7:4) into the place God had chosen and promised. This shows that we must depend on God yet we must also cooperate with what He is doing in us.

Abraham’s story is related to New Jerusalem. Going on in Hebrews 11, we read that Abraham “dwelt as a foreigner in the land of promise” (v. 9) and “he eagerly waited for the city which has the foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God” (v. 10). Then in verse 16 we read that God “has prepared a city” for Abraham and his descendants. This city is New Jerusalem.

Abraham’s going out from his relatives and his old country to the God-promised country caused him to seek the city to come. Likewise, our transfer from the old man to the new man (to be covered more in coming posts) is for us to seek New Jerusalem as the center of the new creation.

*In the Old Testament this new race was the nation of Israel. However, in the New Testament the new race is the spiritual Israel. Galatians 3:7 says, “Know then that they who are of faith, these are sons of Abraham.” Galatians 3:27-29 also makes it clear that all who are in Christ are Abraham’s seed, his spiritual descendants.

Christ Created a New Man for New Jerusalem

New JerusalemGod’s eternal purpose is focused on His relationship with mankind. For this God created man. Man fell, but God in Jesus Christ redeemed and formed a new man. This new man is the predecessor of New Jerusalem.

On the cross Jesus Christ created the new man (Ephesians 2:14-16). By believing and being baptized into Him, we put off the old man and have put on the new man. The old man is fallen in Adam; the new man is alive in Christ.

A multitude of Jews heard what Peter spoke in Acts 2:14-36. Many were pricked in their heart and asked what to do (v. 37). Peter instructed them to repent and be baptized (v. 38). The outcome of repentance and baptism was threefold: forgiveness of sins,  receiving the Holy Spirit, and being saved from that crooked generation (v. 38, 40).

This baptism is not a ritual. Baptism has its visible, outward aspect with water but also has its invisible reality in Spirit. (read more about two aspects of baptism)

Those who received Peter’s word (indicating their believing) were baptized and were added to the 120 disciples who had been praying in the upper room (v. 41). To be “saved from the crooked generation” was to put off the old man and to be “added” was to put on the new man.

New Jerusalem is new, not old. It is composed of men who are the new man in Christ. New Jerusalem is also holy and pure; it has no connection to the crooked generation. Therefore, repentance, believing, and baptism are an important and necessary step toward New Jerusalem.

Photo of England by Toby Shelton.

New Jerusalem is a Corporate Man in the Triune God

God’s eternal purpose is centered on His relationship with man. By looking at highlights of God’s speaking about man, we will see something about New Jerusalem. In Genesis 1:26, God spoke His first words concerning man:

And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.

New JerusalemGod speaks of both man (singular) and them (plural). This indicates that God created a corporate man, mankind. The combination of singular and plural is seen again in Genesis 5:1-2. This created man turned away from God to human kingdoms (Genesis 10) and a city and tower (Genesis 11). These things exalt man and reject God.

In the New Testament God came in the man Jesus to redeem us from the fall and to bring forth a new corporate man for His purpose. Many verses refer to His taking care of all problems between God and man by His death on the cross (e.g. Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 2:24). In addition, the second half of Ephesians 2 speaks about a positive accomplishment of His death. Verses 15-16 say:

He might create the two in Himself into one new man, so making peace, and might reconcile both in one Body to God through the cross, having slain the enmity by it.

The two and both refer to the Jewish people and the non-Jewish peoples. In Christ we all have been formed into one new corporate man. This corporate man is the predecessor of New Jerusalem. The one new man created on the cross in Christ indicates that the city New Jerusalem will be a corporate man, composed of all God’s people living in the Triune God.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Weather Service.

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