The Shadow of the Living Temple

#NewJerusalemThe previous posts are about the living temple, first Jesus alone (John 2) and then all His believers (1 Cor. 3:16, 2 Cor. 6:16), consummating in New Jerusalem.

This living temple is the reality. But in the Old Testament, and lingering into New Testament times, there was a material, physical temple, a shadow, a figure, a portrait of the reality.

Hebrews 10:1 says that the law has “a shadow of the good things to come.” The physical tabernacle came with the law in Exodus. But it was only a shadow, indicating that something “good” was to follow.

Hebrews 8:5  says that the Old Testament priests “serve the example and shadow of the heavenly things.” “The good things to come”—in this case the living temple—is heavenly. Hence it is spiritual, not earthly and physicaL We are too accustomed to seeing and living among earthly things, but in God’s eyes only the heavenly, spiritual things are really “good.” This of course includes New Jerusalem, which is heavenly even though it comes down out of heaven from God.

More specifically, Colossians 2:16-17, speaking about Old Testament things, says they “are a shadow of the things to come, but the body is of Christ.” The “body” which casts the shadow is Christ Himself. All the positive people, things, and activities in the Old Testament are shadows of Christ Himself or Christ enlarged in His Body, composed of all His believers.

In light of Colossians 2, let us turn away from all the shadows, instead (2:19) “holding the Head” Christ, “out from whom all the Body, being richly supplied…grows with the growth of God.” His rich supply causes us to grow in Him and in His Body, growing unto New Jerusalem.

Photo courtesy of pdphoto.org.

New Jerusalem is Heavenly on Earth (2)

Hebrews 11:16 tells us that the Old Testament people of faith, living on the physical earth, “long after a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” We likewise live in an earthly environment but should have the same longing for a heavenly one.

#NewJerusalemGod’s response to our longing is that He has prepared a heavenly city. This is “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22). Although it is a heavenly city, John saw it “coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:2, 10). New Jerusalem is a heavenly city on earth.

The first half of Hebrews 8 tells us that the Old Testament tabernacle was a shadow of the heavenly things (v. 5). Both this chapter and the following one speak of the Holy of Holies. Verse 9:8 says that “the way of the Holy of Holies has not yet been manifested while the first tabernacle still has its standing.”

That “first tabernacle” stood during the first, the old, covenant. Now that Jesus Christ has come, died, and risen, the new covenant has been established and the way to the holy of holies is open. This New Testament holy of holies is the heavenly one, the New Jerusalem.

New Jerusalem is the heavenly holy of holies because it is a cube, like the smaller holy of holies in the tabernacle and the temple. Revelation 21:16 declares that New Jerusalem is a cube, saying, “the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.”

The way to this heavenly holy of holies is open! Jesus Christ has opened the way for us! We cannot see the way physically but we can come forward in faith. Hebrews 10:22: “Let us come forward to the Holy of Holies with a true heart in full assurance of faith;” our foretaste of New Jerusalem.

Photo courtesy of pdphoto.org.

Taste Heaven’s Sweetness

New JerusalemA hymn by Witness Lee begins, “Enter the veil and go without the camp, Taste heaven’s sweetness, thus the earth for-sake.”  Then, “By heaven’s presence will the earth depart.” Further it encourages us to enter to “behold the glorious Christ” and “for resurrection pow’r.” This all is a foretaste of New Jerusalem.

New Jerusalem is heavenly, as mentioned in Hebrews 12:22. When New Jerusalem “comes down out of heaven” to the earth (Rev. 21:2), it changes position but retains its heavenly nature. When we enter the veil and behold the glorious Christ, we have a foretaste of heavenly Jerusalem.

By entering we also taste heaven’s sweetness, touch the resurrection power (New Jerusalem is a city in resurrection), and more. By entering, we are energized to go outside the camp. One of many expressions of this in the hymn is
__If I His radiant face in heaven see, His footsteps I will follow here below.

Another declaration of entering’s effect on us  is
__If by the Holiest I am satisfied, How can I of earth’s vanities partake?
In ourselves we cannot forsake the vanities but the heavenly satisfaction enables us. I encourage you to read or sing the whole hymn: words music.

Lord, draw us to enter the veil that we may behold You, have heaven’s presence, and partake of resurrection power to forsake earthly vanities and walk with You every day. Lord, bring us into this foretaste of New Jerusalem.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

New Jerusalem is Spiritual and Heavenly

First Corinthians 15 says much about resurrection. It also says something about New Jerusalem because New Jerusalem is a city in resurrection (see these posts ).

New JerusalemFirst Corinthians 15:35-44 speaks about death and resurrection. Verse 44 concludes, “It is sown a soulish body, it is raised a spiritual body.” We will be raised not with the same body we have now but with a spiritual body.

Verse 47 says, “The first man [Adam] is out of the earth, earthy; the second man [Jesus Christ] is out of heaven.” Verse 48 continues “As the earthy is, such are they also that are earthy; and as the heavenly is, such are they also that are heavenly.” In Christ we are the heavenly people, no longer the earthly.

Verse 49 says, “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.” In resurrection we no longer bear the image of created and fallen Adam but rather the image of the resurrected Jesus Christ. This is the image of New Jerusalem.

In resurrection, with a spiritual body, being a heavenly people, and bearing a heavenly image, we correspond with a heavenly, spiritual city, not with an earthly, physical city (related posts ). This city is heavenly in nature but located on the new earth (Rev. 21:1-2).

As resurrected, spiritual, heavenly people, we should not expect New Jerusalem according to our soulish, natural, earthly desires. Rather, Christ is the center and content of this city. He will be our life supply, our joy, our peace, our rest, our everything. We can enjoy Jesus Christ in resurrection every day to enter a foretaste of New Jerusalem.

Come Forward to Grace for New Jerusalem

New Jerusalem

We are in a series of excerpts from an issue of Affirmation & Critique* about New Jerusalem. The prior post is on New Jerusalem as a sign of the consummation of the operation of grace as allegorized in Galatians and Hebrews.

Here is a short supplement to the prior post from the concluding word of that issue of Affirmation & Critique:

Both Galatians and Hebrews are focused on bringing believers back to God’s operation of grace so that they can be built up into God’s corporate expression, which is allegorized as the Jerusalem above in Galatians [4:26] and the heavenly Jerusalem in Hebrews [12:22]. Galatians, Hebrews, and Revelation point to an allegorized city of grace—the Jerusalem above, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the New Jerusalem [Rev. 21:2, 9-11]. Each of these books concludes with the most fitting interpretation of this allegory: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen” (Gal. 6:18), “Grace be with you all. Amen” (Heb. 13:25), and “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).

From God’s side, Jesus Christ as grace is with us. From our side, we need to cooperate, as in these verses in Hebrews:
• “Let us therefore come forward with boldness to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace for timely help.” (4:16)
• “Looking carefully lest anyone fall away from the grace of God.” (12:15a)
• “…let us have [or, hold fast to] grace, through which we may serve God well-pleasingly with piety and fear.” (12:28)

Lord, grant me to find and hold grace today and never to fall away from it. Lord, grace me all the way to New Jerusalem.

* Affirmation & Critique is a Christian Journal published twice a year and available online. It presents Bible truths in a scholarly manner, with references to and citations from a variety of publications by authors over the entire Christian era. Affirmation & Critique exhibits much appreciation for the person and work of Jesus Christ and our life with Him. The Fall 2012 issue (Vol. XVII, No. 2) focuses on New Jerusalem.

We Enter New Jerusalem by Faith

New JerusalemGod has prepared a city for His people (Hebrews 11:16), who are people of faith (the subject of Hebrews 11). This city is New Jerusalem. And, by faith we  “have come forward to…the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22).

God has prepared New Jerusalem. We do not see the city with our eyes but “faith is the substantiation of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

This faith does not come from our determination. This faith does not come from convincing ourselves. Faith comes from God:

Acts 14:27  “God opened a door of faith.”
Romans 10:17  “Faith comes out of hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
2 Peter 1:1  “Simon Peter…to those who have been allotted faith equally precious as ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

We have faith because God has allotted it to us. In 2 Peter 1:1 many English translations say that we have received/obtained like precious faith. It does not originate in us; God allotted faith to us and we received it from God.

Other verses speak of our faith and indicate that we do need to exercise faith. True! But we must remember that “our faith” does not originate with us.

By this faith we give attention to the unseen, eternal things. By faith come forward to and substantiate New Jerusalem.

Enter into What God Has Prepared

God has prepared New Jerusalem for all the people of faith (Hebrews 11:16). Spiritually, we have come forward to this heavenly city (Hebrews 12:22). However, God must do a work in us before we can fully enter into this marvelous city.

New JerusalemGod’s work in us, after our initial salvation, includes growing (1 Corin-thians 3:6), renewing (Ephesians 4:23), sanctifying (Hebrews 2:11), transforming (2 Corinthians 3:18), and building (Ephesians 2:21-22).

God desires to work in us and we need to cooperate with Him. By cooperating, we enter into what He has prepared, including New Jerusalem.

Acts 14:22 tells us that “through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” God arranges whichever tribulations are necessary. His intention is not our suffering but our entering.

Likewise, 1 Peter 1:3-9 tells us that we have been regenerated unto a living hope, unto an inheritance kept in the heavens and unto a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time. These verses also say that we might be sorrowful under trials but that these are for the proving of our faith.

And, Hebrews 9:15 assures us that we will receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Similarly, 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “our momentary lightness of affliction works out for us, more and more surpassingly, an eternal weight of glory.” Verse 18 then encourages us not to focus on the temporary, visible things but on the eternal, invisible things.

Let us go on by faith, not dragged down by the environment, keeping our spiritual eyes on the eternal glory of New Jerusalem.

We Pursue toward the Goal to Gain Christ

New JerusalemGod has already prepared a city for His people (Hebrews 11:16). This is New Jerusalem. At present we can have a spiritual foretaste of New Jerusalem but we do not have a full realization of it.

The foretaste combined with the lack of full realization should motivate us to rise up and pursue. “We are not of those who shrink back” (Hebrews 10:39). Rather, as Paul said, “I pursue, if even I may lay hold of that for which I also have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12).

What then should we pursue? Jesus Christ!!  Paul’s pursuing in Philippians 3:12 is defined in prior verses: “that I may gain Christ” (v. 8) and “to know Him” (v. 10).

We have Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and our Life. Yet we still should pursue to have increasing realization and experience of Him. A song based on Philippians 3:10-14 begins,

__Press on, press on toward the goal—
____The all-inclusive Christ.
__To gain the prize of God’s high call,
____Press on, press on to Christ!

May the words of this song be our attitude, our aspiration. The fuller our realization of Jesus Christ, the more we will taste the reality of New Jerusalem. Let us be encouraged by the Lord’s word in Philippians and by its expression in this song.

__Press on, press on, this one thing do,
____Forget the things behind;
__Press onward to the Christ before,
____Press onward with this mind!

Let us pursue, let us press on, to the fullest gaining and knowing of Jesus Christ. This is our path to New Jerusalem.

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 courtesy of pdphoto.org.

Forgetting, Stretching, Pursuing

New JerusalemGod has already prepared a city for His people—“He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16). This is New Jerusalem.

Hebrews 12:22 says further that we “have come forward to…the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” Our coming forward is by faith.

God has prepared and we have come forward. So why don’t we see New Jerusalem? Why aren’t we fully conscious of it? Prior posts (one two) responded to this question.

Although God has prepared the city, it has not been manifested. This absence should motivate us to pursue, to come forward, not to relax, not to be passive. This is Paul’s attitude in Philippians 3:12-14:

“Not that I have already obtained or am already perfected, but I pursue, if even I may lay hold of that for which I also have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not account of myself to have laid hold; but one thing I do: Forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before, I pursue toward the goal…”

Paul received much revelation and grace from the Lord. Yet, he did not boast in that. Nor did he count that as sufficient. Rather, he pursued. The Lord is ever new, ever fresh, ever unfolding His riches. We need not fear dropping the past because there will always be something more of Him before us.

May the attitude and desire expressed in Philippians 3 be infused into us! May we all be saved from passivity. Let us pursue more of the Lord daily. This is our path to New Jerusalem.

Photo by Willem van Aken, courtesy of CSIRO Australia

The Living House Becomes the Living City

New JerusalemIn Genesis 28 Jacob had a dream and he named that place Bethel, which means house of God. Then the tabernacle was the house of God (Mark 2:26) and later the temple was the house of God. The temple was in the city of Jerusalem but was much smaller than the city.

Both tabernacle and temple were physical pictures. Today the house of God is a living house, the church of the living God (1 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the Son of God and the great Priest over this house (Hebrews 3:610:21). This house is not a physical building but is composed of all God’s New Testament people.

The house of God today is built by Jesus Christ growing in us (Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:2-5). At the end of the Bible we do not find the term house of God because the house has grown to become the city of God:
 the city whose Architect and Builder is God (Hebrews 11:10)
 the city which God has prepared (Hebrews 11:16)
 the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22)
 the city of God, New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12)
 the holy city, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2)

Colossians 2:19 declares that when we hold Christ the Head, who in verse 17 is the reality of all positive things, all the Body is richly supplied and knit together and thereby grows with the growth of God. Lord, keep me holding You as my Head every day that we may be richly supplied for growth in You.

This song expresses a longing for the Lord to grow in us.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

We Come Forward by Faith

New Jerusalem

Hebrews declares a fact to us and encourages our action:

We have come forward to New Jerusalem

We are coming forward to God and to His throne

Both the completed fact and the daily experience are through Jesus Christ. Both are spiritual realities but are not yet manifest in the physical realm. They are substantiated by faith (Hebrews 11:1) and we walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

By faith Abraham eagerly waited for the city which has foundations, New Jerusalem (Hebrews 11:10). Now we should “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham” (Romans 4:12).

While Abraham was eagerly awaiting New Jerusalem, “he dwelt as a foreigner in the land of promise as in a foreign land” (Hebrews 11:9). He confessed that he was a stranger in that land (11:13). His focus was not on the current situation around him but on the better, heavenly country (11:16). Sometimes too much attention to the situation around us prevents us from coming forward to God and His throne. Lord, cause us to turn our eyes to the heavenly city and country.

Abraham was also “making his home in tents with Isaac and Jacob” (11:9). He confessed that he was a sojourner (11:13). This indicates that he regarded his living in the physical realm as temporary and moveable. Sometimes we have too many roots, too many attachments, to our current living place and its surroundings. This too can prevent us from coming forward to God and His throne.

Abraham eagerly waited for, sought (11:14), and longed for New Jerusalem. If our attention is elsewhere, we again have difficulty coming forward.

Lord Jesus, save us from all our attachments and release us from all our misplaced attention. Focus us on Yourself, Your throne, and Your city.

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.

We Have Come Forward, We Come Forward

New JerusalemEvery believer in Jesus Christ is counted among those who “have come forward to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” which is New Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22). The Greek for “have come forward” indicates a past action with a continuing effect. In God’s salvation, this is eternally secure.

Based on this fact, Hebrews also urges us to come forward practically in our daily Christian life:
• “Let us therefore come forward with boldness to the throne of grace…” (4:16)
• Jesus, our High Priest, “is able to save to the uttermost those who come forward to God through Him…” (7:25)
• “Let us come forward to the Holy of Holies with a true heart in full assurance of faith…” (10:22)
• “…he who comes forward to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (11:6)

In these four verses the Greek for “come forward” is present tense, indicating a continuing action. Hebrews encourages us to come forward to God, to the throne of grace, and to the holy of holies. These are not separate actions. God is on the throne, the throne is the center of New Jerusalem, and New Jerusalem is a cube (Revelation 21:16) corresponding to the shape of the Old Testament holy of holies.

Today all the believers in Jesus Christ, as New Testament priests, should seek and appreciate the experiences portrayed by the outer court and holy place in the Old Testament. However, we should not be content with those experiences alone but should come forward to God on the throne in the holy of holies. This is the present reality of New Jerusalem. Lord, I come forward to God through You. Thank You for opening the way.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service. 

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