Common Feet

Text: Acts 4 vs.32 – vs.37 

vs.32 “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. vs.33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. vs.34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold vs.35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. vs.36 Thus…Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, vs.37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:32-37 ESV)

Background

EVERYTHING IN COMMON.

Acts 4:32-37

Very occasionally something happens which can cause a truly radical change in the spiritual landscape of the Church as we know it. This teaching describes one such opportunity.

In prayer early Tuesday I sensed that the beautiful but very rare dynamic of the early church in Acts 4 was something the Lord wanted to repeat in our midst.

He was speaking to me about laying Perth Prayer (PP) , our non-denominational weekly prayer meeting in the CBD, at the feet of some leaders of the Church in our city. The background to this is important.

Some months ago the leaders of (PP)  sent out an unusual plea for help.

We weren’t requesting assistance to bolster our ministry, but believing that through the sharing of worship leaders, testimonies and pray-ers from across the city the life of (PP)  could be fundamentally re-constituted.

From being an event in the city it would organically become an expression of the shared life of the whole Church in Perth. (Just as in the Trinity the life of each of the Persons is made up from their mutual sharing of everything without exception).1)See Biblical References John 17:21-22 ESV; Eph 4:4-6 ESV

Sadly, our overture for such a working together into oneness was not understood.

Whilst we believe (PP)  can be a catalyst for unity in Perth we do not envision this as a standalone entity but an expression that draws its life from across the whole Body of Christ.

Laying (PP)  at the feet of leaders in the city as a gift would be a sign of letting go of any possible control on our part.

This is a very radical step. How would Barnabas have felt if the apostles rejected the gift of land he laid at their feet! To enact what Acts 4 is describing (PP)  must be willing to die.

But this teaching isn’t about PP; God is already doing something extraordinary in our city far bigger than us.

It’s Already Happening

EVERYTHING IN COMMON.

Acts 4:32-37

Later on Tuesday the city of Belmont pastors’ network met with a senior officer from the Salvation Army. The Salvo’s have a property in Rivervale (as in Subiaco) that they are offering, not for sale or rent, but as a gift to the churches in the city of Belmont as a hub for cooperative ventures to minister to the broken in our community.

The spiritual DNA in this offer is amazing; it really looks like Jesus and has the potential to revolutionise the life of the Australian Church and its image across the nation.

In effect the Salvo’s have come like Barnabas and laid their resources at the feet of the spiritual elders of the Church in Belmont (Subiaco) for them to use for the purposes of the kingdom of God.

The Holy Spirit testified in our pastors’ meeting that the Salvo officer was anointed for practical apostolic service; this is why the spiritual energy in the room as he shared was quite unlike anything I can recall in our network.

The Lord is revealing a kingdom DNA pattern (or fractal) which can catalyse a movement of prayer, unity and missions breaking down territorial boundaries between Christian groups in a way unprecedented in the history of the Australian Church.

The teaching of the scriptures is foundational for any such a move of God.

Everything in Common

Humanly speaking the sort of total sharing we see in Acts is impossible, but “all things are possible for God(Matt 19:26 ESV) because he never holds back anything as if it were exclusively his own.

This is the power of the cross, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?(Rom 8:32 ESV).

Grace without limit means that when Father and Son jointly poured out their Spirit on the day of Pentecost2)See Biblical References Luke 3:16 ESV; Acts 1:4-5 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV the early Church was immersed in the life of God.

They understood that through Jesus laying his own life down at the feet of the Father (Matt 26:39 ESV) they now had all things in common with the life of God.

As an overflow of this miracle they shared all they had with one another; “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own3)See Biblical References Acts 4:32 ESV; 2:42-47 ESV.

In such an atmosphere of selflessness the Lord Jesus manifested his resurrection power in proclamation and healing (Acts 4:33 ESV). In seeing his own generous likeness in the Church he was more than pleased to pour out signs and wonders.

So much for the testimony of the scriptures, but how can this be real amongst us today?

TODAY

EVERYTHING IN COMMON.

Acts 4:32-37

We need to embrace the promise of Jesus to all who follow him on the costly road of discipleship, vs.29 there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, vs.30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.(Mark 10:29-30 ESV).

The common life of the people of God is the norm for every place and every age.

To foster this culture of mutuality we must trust that the Lord has appointed a spiritual oversight/eldership in every geographical area (Tit 1:5 ESV).

These are the men and women at whose feet the gifts God has given to his Body may be laid for the progress of his kingdom.

These overseers are not mini-popes sitting on thrones at the top of a hierarchy.

But they do share with Peter some of “the keys of the kingdom” given to build the Church (Matt 16:18-19 ESV). They are Spirit-filled ministers committed to serving the world in the widest possible way.

Like Jesus in his descent from heaven they possess an “inside out disposition”. You will not recognise them by the size of “their” churches but by their humble submission at the feet of the Master.

CONCLUSION

EVERYTHING IN COMMON.

Acts 4:32-37

At the height of the Jesus Movement when prophetic musician Keith Green stopped running ticketed concerts and setting fees for his albums he provoked reactions of admiration, confusion and hostility amongst his peers.

Many were shamed by his gospel ethos4)See Biblical References Matt 10:8 ESV; 1 Cor 15:34 ESV.

As Jesus provoked like reactions by his grace-filled living we should expect the same from God’s people today when we start laying things down at the feet of today’s apostles.

Revolutionary generosity in the Church will be opposed by the Church.

But nothing less than genuinely offering something for nothing for the sake of a broken world can restore the reputation of Christ’s people in Australia.

Q: How much are we willing to lay down in order that the honour of the name of Jesus may become great in our land.5)See Biblical References Ezek 20:9, 14 ESV; Acts 17:7 ESV

Let’s rise up and confess that our current spiritual poverty cannot be healed by a business as usual approach in conferences, programmes and performance.

Only radical gospel giving can soften the hard heart of Australia, and praise God such giving is beginning to happen amongst us. 

Q: What have you been given to lay at the feet of the servants of the Lord

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 5th. Oct, 2018 Location: St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date. Month, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References John 17:21-22 ESV; Eph 4:4-6 ESV
2. See Biblical References Luke 3:16 ESV; Acts 1:4-5 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV
3. See Biblical References Acts 4:32 ESV; 2:42-47 ESV
4. See Biblical References Matt 10:8 ESV; 1 Cor 15:34 ESV
5. See Biblical References Ezek 20:9, 14 ESV; Acts 17:7 ESV

Fear’s Gift of Humility

Introduction

It is usual for Christians to say that more than anything else they want to be like Jesus; often however we desire exaltation without humiliation and glory without lowliness. I am convinced that there is a very deep reason for this which needs to be exposed.

We lack the fear of God deep in our hearts1)See Biblical References Deut 5:29 ESV; 2 Chron 19:9 ESV; Ps 86:11 ESV; Jer 3:39-40 ESV.

I have written plenty on humility in the past but in recent times the Lord has been speaking to me about lowliness of life in unusual ways. The first way he has been doing this is through the spiritual encounters of others.

In one instance a prophetic friend told me she saw in a vision the elders of our city prostrate in prayer. She was overcome by a sense of their corporate humility. And because they were face down before the Lord she couldn’t identify who they were.

They were a group of “nameless and faceless” men and women. In the second instance a mature brother spoke of an astonishing failure of a ministry over which he had oversight.

Here are his own words; “When this happened I said to The Lord, in deepest anguish, “That’s it for me, I’m not getting involved in anything ever again, because how will I ever know I’m FAILING ?.. this all looked so good and turned out to be Rotten at the Core”.

And as I said that in my heart, I saw ‘like a wall plaque in my mind’s eye; “FAILURE BEGINS WHEN YOU GET OFF YOUR FACE”.

In other words kingdom success in ministry depends upon self- abasement before God.

All good, but how does this happen, and in such a way that it becomes a manner of life, not only for a few extraordinary individuals or rare occasions of life but as a part of the culture of the Church for which we long? Well, after the above testimonies here is how the Lord helped me recently. 

AN UNEXPECTED GIFT

Kalbarri is a town about 500 km north of Perth and when I go there to rest and pray I enjoy walking along the edge of its famous steep cut river gorges. Moving off the beaten track beyond the sight and sound of others I fell from a ledge into the river and was soaked from head to foot.

I was immediately thankful to the Lord I hadn’t taken the plunge at a spot where the rocks beneath shallower waters would have cracked my skull. Things were about to become much more intense however. Confronted by sheer cliff faces along the river I had no choice but a climb to the summit, and in soaking clothes that made it hard to bend my knees.

These are wilderness gorges with little vegetation, littered with loose stones and peppered with overhangs. Falling from any point of the ascent could have been fatal, and I am not fond of heights! I tried for about half an hour to steer a way out of my predicament but there seemed no end of slippery slopes and impassable rock faces; death by misadventure was presenting itself as a distinct possibility.

Knowing these gorges have a recent history of claiming the lives of climbers my fears became deeper and deeper, sharper and sharper; but so did my prayers! T just didn’t feel right that I should finish my spiritual journey perishing alone in the wilderness.

Finally, helped in part through following feral goat tracks, I managed to clamber exhausted to the top. Bedraggled, somewhat bloodied, covered in spider web but richly grateful to a prayer answering God. “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.” (Psalm 94 verses 17 to 18). This wasn’t just a needless adventure in the life of someone old enough to know better, it was an in-depth spiritual lesson.

THE HELP OF FEAR

Given that fear doesn’t feel good the contemporary Church has often copied the world in speaking of fear as something always to escape. The Hillsong musicians assure us, “Grace dissolves every fear in me”. This might seem to echo the famous words from Amazing Grace, “T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear And Grace, my fears relieved”, but this speaks of a pre-conversion fear and not the righteous fear of the converted.

There is an essential difference between the everyday fears of life and the healthy fear which the scripture encourages, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight(Prov 9:10 ESV). The difference is the quality of fear in the life of Jesus.

God is the Fear of Jesus

One of the most strikingly prophetic stories in the pages of the Old Testament is the “sacrifice of Isaac”. How in obedience to the divine command Abraham took his beloved son up the mountain to offer him to the Lord (Gen 22:1-19 ESV).

Whilst the angel of God provided an animal substitute at the last moment this was a soul shaping experience for the young Isaac. So much so that the next generation could simply describe the Lord as “the Fear of Isaac(Gen 31:42, 53 ESV).

A new title for God; the God who Isaac fears. Fear wasn’t some mere emotion but embodied in Isaac’s relationship with the covenant God.

Since Isaac and his sacrifice is a type/symbol of the cross, this means that fear is embodied in Jesus’ relationship with his Father. If we were to coin a title for God it could be “the Fear of Jesus”.

Prophetically speaking through “the fear of Jesus” (Jesus’ fear of his Father) God is revealed as “Abba! Father!

Thinking of fear as a Person can liberate us from limiting it to an emotion so that we recognise its power to transform our whole way of living.

Sharing the Son’s insight into the character of the Father is the key to understanding the true God-pleasing character of spiritual fear. By faith we can share in Christ’s own fear of the Lord for fearing God in union with Christ is part of our salvation experience.

As we share in the perfect faith of the Son of God (Heb 12:2 ESV), as Jesus isour righteousness, holiness and redemption(1 Cor 1:30 ESV), as he said “my peace(John 14:29 ESV) and “my joy2)See Biblical References John 15:11 ESV; John 17:13 ESVI give to you” so too we can share in the pure fear of God that Jesus had. This makes the topic of growing in fear quite exciting.

That the coming Messiah would have a pure spiritual fear is clearly prophesied; vs.1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. vs.2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. vs.3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.(Isa 11:3 ESV). This immensely challenging description about Jesus is especially affirmed in his prayers to the Father in Gethsemane.

THE PLACE OF FEAR

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”(Mark 14:36 ESV).

Only in this place of suffering terrible dread about God’s coming wrath does Christ utters the intimate words, “Abba, Father”. For here in the Garden his human “holiness is perfected in the fear of God(2 Cor 7:1 ESV).

In speaking of the agonies of Gethsemane Hebrews makes it clear that true spiritual fear is the fear a Son has of his Holy Father.

vs.7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. vs.8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. vs.9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,(Heb 5:7-9 ESV).

The perfect Son possesses perfect fear which releases the fountain of perfect obedience (Prov 14:27 ESV). For Christ’s fear is not self-protective but God-directed, not aimed at preserving his place in the world but bringing glory to God.

Only this fear drives him deep enough into the heart of the Father so he can fulfil his will through the dereliction of the cross. 

The Son’s fear of not experiencing the Father’s intimate presence in what is coming at the cross is an accurate one, yet it is exactly through this fear that the pleasure of God will break into his life in resurrection.

The Old Testament sage understood, “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honour and life.(Prov 22:4 ESV), but we see this fulfilled in the scenes of Christ’s resurrected and ascended glory in heaven. ““Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!”(Rev 5:12 ESV).

How is the God-glorifying fear of the Lord Jesus released through our lives into the world?

THE GOSPEL OF FEAR

The wisdom writers of the old covenant grasped that God’s gracious mercy intensified godly fear; vs.3 “Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? vs.4 But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” (Ps 130:3-4 ESV). 

If the Lord were to execute justice upon all, there would be none left to fear him, or those left would harden their hearts against him. Gratitude for pardon inspires reverence and awe.

This is clearest at the cross.

One thief abuses Jesus, the other says to his blasphemous companion, ““do you not fear God…? i.e. God as revealed in Jesus”” (Luke 23:40 ESV)

This man’s hear was softened to fear God because he heard Christ’s word of pardon, ““Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”” (Luke 23:34 ESV).

vs.6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth… vs.7 Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth”(Rev 14:6-7 ESV)3)See Biblical References cf. Prov 19:11 ESV; 1 Tim 1:11 ESV.

When the glory of God in the gospel is revealed we know him through Jesus as our own “Abba! Father!(Rom 8:16 ESV; Gal 4:6 ESV). The Spirit induces in us the wonderful sort of holy fear that only adopted sons can possess.

As mercy triumphs over judgement grateful believers willingly fear God as their God4)See Biblical References Luke 1:50 ESV; James 2:13 ESV and “submit to one another out of fear of Christ(Eph 5:21 ESV).

Sharing the Fear as Sons

 “The fear of the Lord” is a “treasure(Isa 33:4 ESV) realised in Christ (Col 2:3 ESV).

Rare as they may be, A.W. Tozer’s words image a sharing in the fear of the Son of God in Gethsemane;

“The only fear I have is to fear to get out of the will of God. Outside of the will of God, there’s nothing I want, and in the will of God there’s nothing I fear, for God has sworn to keep me in His will….”

A.W. Tozer’s

It is holy spiritual thing to fear God as Father; “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,5)See Biblical Reference 1 Pet 1:17 ESV cf. Mal 1:6 ESV.

Paul’s spirit stands in unapologetic contrast to that of the proud Corinthians, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling”, because his great dread was that through self-confidence “the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.6)See Biblical Reference 1 Cor 1:17 ESV; 1 Cor 2:3 ESV.

This was an expression of the apostolic maturity characteristic of the earliest Church; “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.(Acts 9:31 ESV).

A church that has stopped growing, especially spiritually, needs to ask for a restoration of the fear of the Lord. A church powerful in the fear of the Lord, like Jesus, will see the powers of evil submit to their kingdom authority in terror (Mark 5:7 ESV).

Resurrection life mingles “fearand great joy (Matt 28:8 ESV), fear and trembling” co-exists with God’s “good pleasure.(Phil 2:12-13 ESV).

A.W. Tozer speaks almost ecstatically;

“I believe that the reverential fear of God, mixed with love and fascination and astonishment and adoration, is the most enjoyable state and the most purifying emotion the human soul can know. A true fear of God is a beautiful thing, for it is worship; it is love; it is veneration. It is a high moral happiness because God is!” 

A.W. Tozer

a Body with such fear must be a humble Body.

Fear and Humility

Fear and overconfidence cannot coexist in the same soul. The presence of a sharp fear induced by overwhelming circumstances (2 Cor 1:8-11 ESV) is a sure remedy for a self-sufficient spirit. 

This is how the sovereignty of God works to press us into the likeness of Christ so that we share even in the intimacy of the Son’s fear of his Dear Father.

Without such fears spiritual depth is impossible.

To acknowledge this is the first step in humility, to pray for it the second step to confess it before others the third. As Jesus publically expressed his fear in Gethsemane so those who would lead God’s people, as pastors, apostles, husbands, mothers, kids church coordinators…. should never be embarrassed to be pressed down on their faces before the Lord.

In such desperation to know and do his will our prayers will be answered.

Conclusion

To be truly conformed to Christ is to have the Spirit place the Lord’s heart inside us so we are united with Jesus in the movement of his Passion. Becoming one with him who “fell on his face(Matt 26:39 ESV) in the most utter humility, rose up to go on to death and the exultation of resurrection power. To be like Jesus means a repeated spiritual dying and rising again7)See Biblical References 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV; Gal 2:20 ESV; Phil 3:10 ESV.

When we have a company of men and women wise enough to be moved by holy fear to join with Jesus in his humiliation then there will be released a great company of spiritual fathers and mothers across our city leading the people of God into the ways of God with great power.

As the Father gifted Jesus with the terrors of Gethsemane and Calvary to “perfect” his Sonship (Heb 5:8 ESV) may the Lord grant us great fear-inducing encounters so that we are pressed into spiritual depths previously unimaginable.

All to his glory. 

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Deut 5:29 ESV; 2 Chron 19:9 ESV; Ps 86:11 ESV; Jer 3:39-40 ESV
2. See Biblical References John 15:11 ESV; John 17:13 ESV
3. See Biblical References cf. Prov 19:11 ESV; 1 Tim 1:11 ESV
4. See Biblical References Luke 1:50 ESV; James 2:13 ESV
5. See Biblical Reference 1 Pet 1:17 ESV cf. Mal 1:6 ESV
6. See Biblical Reference 1 Cor 1:17 ESV; 1 Cor 2:3 ESV
7. See Biblical References 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV; Gal 2:20 ESV; Phil 3:10 ESV

Inheritance is Christ

inheritance

Rom 8:12-17

1 Cor 3:21-22

Eph. 1:11-14

Heb 1:1-4

Rev 21:1-8

INTRODUCTION

It’s a funny thing to find yourself quoted, this happened last week as I was looking through a manuscript prior to its publication.

The citation was, “The ultimate question about everything is this, “Is God a Father, and if so, what sort of a Father is he?

In a conference on Knowing the God of the Bible it’s more helpful to begin with an assertion. “God is the sort of Father that will do whatever it takes to make sure his children receive their full inheritance.” 

The importance of inheritance as the revelation of Fatherhood came to me recently in working on Revelation 21, where in the climactic vision of the book God speaks from his throne and says triumphantly, ““The one who conquers will have this inheritance, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”(Rev 21:7 ESV).

The “inheritance” described is the new heavens and the new earth, the holy city of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-4 ESV). Outside this inheritance there’s nothing worthwhile only an outer darkness and anguish, for the godless are completely dispossessed1)See Biblical References Rev 21:8 ESV; Rev 22:15 ESV cf. Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV; 2 Thess 1:9 ESV.

In Christ our inheritance is not of some things, or great things, but all things.

Without a revelation of the amazing scope of the believer’s inheritance there is no personal insight into the character of God as Father. Being saved we know that our God is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”2)See Biblical References Rom 15:6 ESV; Eph 1:3, 17 ESV; Col 1:3 ESV but most human beings haven’t had this revelation and the cost of not knowing the Father’s inheritance can be devastating. Let me use some illustrations of the terrible cost of not knowing a F/father’s inheritance.

When Australia was forcibly colonised by the British Empire generations of Indigenous fathers were stripped of land, language and culture t pass on to their children. One outcome of this is (2015-16) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 25 times more likely to be in detention and 17 times more likely to be under some form of youth justice order than non-Indigenous children.

Recently we had the tragic situation of two Indigenous teenagers drowning in the Swan River as they tried to swim across away from police. I wasn’t the least surprised to hear the mother of one of them, who lives in our area, say her son never really knew his father. When he was born his dad was in prison.

Years ago a Christian woman from our district said to me, “You see all these young guys’ streets wandering the streets of Belmont; none of them has a father.”

But the problem isn’t restricted to Aboriginal Australians. At our last men’s breakfast our speaker, who used to work for the ambulance service, talked about the high number of publically unreported male suicides through hanging. People only kill themselves, or turn to drugs, alcohol, crime etc., when they feel their lives are empty and they’ve nothing to look forward to.

If you know you have a wonderful inheritance, an inheritance not even death can take from you, your life will have about it a sense of fullness. Cf. vs.9For in him the whole fullness of God dwells in a human body, vs.10 and you have come to fullness in him(Col 2:9-10 ESV).

It’s impossible to understand the vastness of our heritage from an ordinary human perspective, but to get some sense of proportion about “what God has prepared for those who love him(1 Cor 2:9 ESV) it’s important to start with a sense of who God is in himself.

To do this we don’t start with the creation story in Genesis but with the prayers of Jesus the eternal Son of God3)See Biblical References John 1:1-3 ESV; Col 1:17 ESV; Heb 1:2 ESV.

ALWAYS AN INHERITANCE

Unlike other faiths who believe in a Creator the unique Christian understanding is that the substance of our inheritance isn’t some “thing”, like the Paradise Muslims long for, but a share in the Son of God’s eternal relationship with his Father. Our inheritance is secure and unending because their relationship is everlasting. The Father has always been Father and the Son has always been Son.

So in John 17 Jesus prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.(John 17:5).

This eternal glory is not something he will keep to himself; so later he goes on to pray, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.(John 17:24 ESV).

Since Jesus could say, “All that the Father has is mine(John 16:15 ESV), this means all that the Father has is ours.   It was always the plan of God to share the riches of his inheritance in Christ with all his children.

This is especially clear from the first chapter of Ephesians; God had “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him/Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.” (v.10) to include us in this plan he “chose us in him/Christ before the foundation of the world” (v.4) so that “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will(Eph 1:11 ESV)

To be secure in our inheritance we need to be centred on Jesus as the deserving heir of God accepting that by grace we share in his blessed relationship with the Father. Whenever we think we have to be in some sort of spiritual state to earn, merit or deserve the inheritance God has for us we will always become proud or discouraged (cf. Matt 25:34 ESV). Christ must always be the centre of our spiritual vision (Eph 1:18 ESV).

CREATED HEIRS

When God created he was excited by what was being brought to birth. The end of Proverbs chapter 8 is one of my favourite parts of the Bible; vs.29when he marked out the foundations of the earth. vs.30 Then I (wisdom) was constantly at his side.  I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, vs.31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.4)See Biblical References Prov 8:29-31 ESV cf. Job 38:7 ESV.  

Eden itself meansdelight” and creation was an occasion of joyful expectation where God anticipated sharing the riches of his wise, good and just Fatherhood with humans as he had always shared with his Son in heaven.

The original creation story anticipates an expansion of humanity in ever widening circles across the earth under the favour of God’s fatherly hand; vs.26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.vs.27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. vs.28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”(Gen 1:26-28 ESV)

The destiny of Adam and Eve to inherit the world flowed from their being in the divine image, but it becomes even clearer why such a sense of destiny was stamped on the soul of Adam when he read in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke that he’s called, “the son of God(Luke 3:38 ESV).

Adam was meant to look like his Father, represents his Father, undertake his Father’s occupation and so on.

When we read of Adam “working and keeping” the Garden (Gen 2:15 ESV) we see he knew he was called to do what he saw his Father doing; God must have taught him how to be employed (cf. John 5:19 ESV).

There could have been no doubt in the man’s mind that he would receive the inheritance of his Father because he was indisputably his son. This was a natural state of affairs as long as he was the worthy son of his Father.

The divine inheritance however wasn’t mechanical or passive, it involved a dynamic filling of all things with God’s presence and power. Adam was called to pass on the glory of what he already had as an inheritance from God and if he did so he would have grown further in the divine image and likeness. Increasing in wisdom, knowledge, justice, peace, love and so on he would have advanced in glory.

In the beginning everything was wonderful as the Father looked forward to sharing the rule of the world with sons ever growing in understanding of his will and purpose. But to fully enter into their inheritance as holy and righteous children of God the first human beings needed to be tested.

SONS NOT HEIRS

In his parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus sets in total contrast two final states.

The King says to those on his right, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world….’” and to those on his left, “‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.(Matt 25:34, 41 ESV cf. 2 Pet 2:4 ESV).

The ancient serpent Satan (Rev 12:9 ESV) and his evil followers have a destiny of destruction which is hell, a place that was never intended to be an inheritance for any human beings, no one “belongs” in hell no matter how evil they may be.

Since in the Old Testament the angels are called “sons of God”5)See Biblical References Gen 6:1-4? ESV; Deut 32:8 ESV; Job 1:6 ESV; Job 2:1 ESV; Job 38:7 ESV the devil and his angels must be fallen sons enraged by their loss of inheritance (cf. Rev 12:12 ESV).

They know that for them there is no marriage supper to look forward to, no eternal city, no final joy, no future hope; nothing but the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev 19-22 ESV).

In abandoning their sonship with God the rebellious forces of evil have no inheritance because they have no true F/father. Hating the divine likeness they work to destroy all of the blessings that belong to God and his children wanting to rob the Lord of the joy of sharing all things with his sons and daughters.

A FALSE LEGACY

The primary inheritance which Adam and Eve had in Eden wasn’t the splendours of created things, wonderful as they were, but the Word that God had spoken to them.

This Word needed to be treasured in the heart for them to be the full grown children worthy of the divine inheritance; cf. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.(Ps 119:11 ESV).

God’s command “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”(Gen 2:17 ESV), was the warning of a loving Father that if you do not live like my son then you will not receive my inheritance.

When Satan appeared in Eden (Gen 3:1 ESV) he represents God’s command as the very opposite of an inheritance bequeathed by a loving Father who will give all things to his children.  The devil contests that the Creator is a Father desiring a limitless inheritance to his children.

God’s purpose in allowing the devil into Eden was a great one. The intrusion of Satan into the Garden was ordained by God so that under the pressure of a temptation too great to humanly resist Adam and Eve would look to God’s Word and promise by faith alone.

Had they done so the Word of God would have dwelt in their hearts more intensely (cf. Eph 3:17 ESV) and the “eyes of the heart” of the first couple would have been open to see the vast expanse of their rich inheritance in God who created all things6)See Biblical References Eph 1:18 ESV; Eph 3:9 ESV cf. Luke 24:32 ESV. Cf. “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar.(Isa 33:17 ESV)

The Satanic word, “vs.4You will not surely die. vs.5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”(Gen 3:4,5-6 ESV) was not a part of the human inheritance prepared by the Father but a seed of destruction.

For Adam and Eve to desire immortality would have pleased God (Rom 2:7 ESV), but to seek it in the way they did was fatal. They sought to enter into the realm of divinity without union with the Word, deceived into thinking that possessing for themselves the knowledge of good and evil apart from a heavenly Father could be bearable.

In discarding the Word of God they lost communion with the Word which holds all things together and gives them unity, direction and purpose (Heb 1:3 ESV). They were plunged into disorder, misdirection and purposelessness.

Instead of eternal life they inherited death from their new father the devil (John 8:44 ESV) and became his fallen children7)See Biblical References Matt 13:38 ESV; Eph 2:3 ESV; 1 John 3:10 ESV. Naked and ashamed they were stripped of the glory of legitimately inheriting the world (Rom 3:23 ESV).   

It had become true for them that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.(1 Cor 15:50 ESV). Cast out of Eden and banned from accessing the tree of life (Gen 3:22-24 ESV) Adam and Eve must have felt that their disinheritance was final.

But the Father was always working to a plan to bring his perfectly mature son to earn an inheritance much greater than anything that could have been possessed by the first children of God8)See Biblical References cf. Gen 3:15 ESV; Rev 2:7 ESV. This would come in stages.

ISRAEL’S INHERITANCE

God chooses a line of sons for himself to restore the promised inheritance to humanity. vs.1Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. vs.2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. vs.3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”(Gen 12:1-3 ESV)

In leaving his family home Abraham accepted God as his Father.

Paul interprets the call of Abraham as something far greater than possessing the land of Canaan, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.(Rom 4:13 ESV).

Abraham’s offspring would inherit the world as a sign of his sonship. Ultimately, this is about Jesus the true Son of God.

When Moses is commanded to declare to Pharaoh about Israel, “ vs.22 ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, vs.23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.”(Ex 4:22-23 ESV), he was providing for his people the same inheritance that he had promised to Abraham their father.

The extraordinarily intimate bond between Israel and the Lord comes through in the covenant language of the Old Testament; they are his chosen “treasured possession9)See Biblical References Ex 19:5-6 ESV; Ex 34:9 ESV; Ps 135:4 ESV; Mal 3:17 ESVetc., “a people of his very own possession(Deut 4:20 ESV)“Israel my inheritance.”(Isa 19:25 ESV); “For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage(1 Ki 8:53 ESV).

Just as important is the declared reason for Israel being the inheritance of God, sheer covenant love; vs.6For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. vs.7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, vs.8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.(Deut 7:6-8 ESV).

In keeping with this sentiment God especially acts on behalf of the downtrodden poor those who have made him alone their inheritance10)See Biblical References Ps 12.5 ESV; Ps 37 ESV; Ps 41:1 ESV; Ps 86:1 ESV; Ps 113:5-9 ESV.

The nation was meant to radiate the glory of her divine inheritance.

Israel was called to be a “light to the nations11)See Biblical References Isa 42:6 ESV; Isa 49:6 ESV; Isa 51:4 ESV; Isa 60:3 ESV drawing the world into the covenant inheritance.

This never happened because despite all her advantages Israel turned repeatedly to idolatry.

Such ingratitude brought great pain to the heart of God;  vs.19 “‘I said, How I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. vs.20 Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the Lord.’”(Jer 3:19-20 ESV).

With time the prophetic Word became concentrated on the promised Messiah and son of God who will be the heir of all the promises; “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.(2 Sam 7:12-14 ESV).

This figure will not only inherit the land of Israel but the nations; vs.7 “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your father. vs.8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession.” (Ps 2:7-8 ESV).

All that was lost through the sin of Adam would be restored through the triumph of Messiah.

Towards the close of the Old Testament the prophets realised that the bounds of God’s call couldn’t be limited to the world as they knew it. Hope grew of a new heavens and earth full of righteousness12)See Biblical References Isa 2: 2-4 ESV; Isa 11:6-9 ESV; Isa 60:5, 11 ESV; Isa 61:6 ESV; Isa 65:18-20 ESV;  Ezek 40-48 ESV; Joel 3:20 ESV; Mic 3:7 ESV cf. Isa 14:32 ESV; Isa 28: 16 –17 ESV; Isa 60: 3,8,11 ESV; Zech 8:3- 5.

THE HEIR HAS COME

Through the coming of Jesus the New Testament opens up a perspective on sonship and inheritance beyond anything imaginable under the old covenant. Being the perfect image of God the Son of God is the heir of all creation. He is the eternal Son through whom God created the ages.

He is also the en-fleshed/incarnate Son who has revealed the Father.

And finally he is the end-times/eschatological Son who has now inherited the name that is exalted over the angels. All the promises of God are concentrated in Jesus. The introduction to Hebrews puts this in a very concentrated form.

vs.1 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, vs.2 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. vs.3 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. vs.4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (Heb 1:1-4 ESV)

All path of Jesus to his inheritance became publically true from the time of his baptism. vs.21 when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, vs.22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”(Luke 3:21-22 ESV).

In quoting his own words from Psalm 2:7 ESV to Jesus at his baptism, ““You are my Son””, the Father is personally promising the inheritance of the nations to Christ. This is at the centre of his prayers.

The gift of the Spirit from the Father is the witness to Jesus of the presence of God with him to bring in the kingdom of God with power; “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you(Matt 12:28 ESV).

vs.34For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. vs.35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.(John 3:34 ESV)

The Spirit without measure brings in the inheritance without measure.

Jesus must constantly be filled with the Spirit to win back the nations for God’s kingdom and to resist the attacks of the devil.

This is why immediately following his baptism he is “full of the Spirit(Luke 4:1 ESV) and led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Because the Father’s voice from heaven has identified Jesus as the messianic Son of God and rightful inheritor of all things the devil’s first point of attack against Christ is his status as Son. ““If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.””(Matt 4:3 ESV).

As he deceived Eve in Eden so he seeks to manipulate Jesus into treating the world as a rightful possession rather than a gift from his Father.

Ever mindful of the priority of the command of the Word of God Jesus readily resists the satanic lure, ““It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”(Matt 4:4 ESV).

Raising the stakes, vs.5the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,vs.6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. vs.7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”” Satan is offering Jesus the inheritance of the nations if he honours him as a father and god. vs.8 “And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” (Luke 4:5-8 ESV).

But whatever might seem to be lost as the faithful Son Jesus refuses to inherit from the devil.

Submitting to the Word of God as his delight13)See Biblical References Ps 40:8 ESV; Heb 10:5-7 ESV Jesus will not be great apart from his Father.

Through obedience he remained ever-filled with the Spirit and conscious of inheriting the world, “he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said….All things have been handed over to me by my Father…”” (Luke 10:21-22 ESV).

On the eve of his crucifixion he already knew by faith that “the Father had given all things into his hands(John 13:3 ESV) for he alone understood that he must inherit not despite suffering but through suffering.

The rulers of the Jews believed that as custodians of the Law of Moses the inheritance of God’s people was in their hands, and so they deeply resented Jesus’ popularity with the crowds14)See Biblical References Matt 23:2 ESV; John 12:19 ESV.

In response Jesus told in the parable of the wicked tenants in the vineyard about his coming death at the hands of the chief priests and Pharisees.

The punch line comes when he recounts, “But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’(Mark 12:7 ESV).

The settling of the question as to who is the true heir of all God’s promises soon comes to a climax at the trial of Jesus before the Jewish High Council.

THE TRIAL OF JESUS

vs.53And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together…. vs.61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” vs.62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”(Mark 14: 53, 61-62 ESV).

As soon as Jesus claims to be the Son of Man “at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” his hearers know he is identifying himself with the end time ruler of Daniel 7, “vs.13I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. vs.14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.(Dan 7:13-14 ESV).

Jesus’ implied claim to be the heir of the world threw his interrogators into a fit of uncontrollable rage so they immediately condemned him to death; vs.63And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? vs.64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.(Mark 14:63-64 ESV).

 But we must not look at this trial merely in terms of flesh and blood. 

Against the background of the visions of Daniel 7 the trial of Jesus is a concentrated attempt by the forces of darkness to destroy God’s plan to share the world with humanity (Dan 7:2-7 ESV; Dan 10-12).

The sentence of death passed on Jesus is an attempt to de-createall things(Gen 1:2 ESV) and to rob the Father of his plan to bring everything to a final joy by annihilating the Son in whom all things hold together (Heb 1:2 ESV).

The crucifixion of the Word made flesh (John 1:14 ESV) is a demonic attempt to destroy God’s pride and joy and with him the foundation of humanity’s inheritance in the world to come.

I think this interpretation of what was happening when Jesus was being tried makes sense of some of my more bizarre experiences over the years.

Occasions when various groups of people simply lied about my intentions and motives in ministry, or publicly accused me of sins that were dominant in their own lives, some stated that I had an evil spirit (Jezebel), or was a false prophet.  Sudden bursts of accusing anger from civilised and educated people – at the doorsteps of the church building, in prayer meetings or in church services were surely demonically inspired.

Satan designed the cross to cut Jesus off from his claimed inheritance, but it would prove to be the means by which he entered his heritage.

CROSS

In the Old Testament most serious crimes were dealt with by stoning, but when someone was deemed to be a covenant breaker they were cast out of the fellowship of Israel and hung. “vs.22And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, vs.23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.(Deut 21:21-23 ESV) 

A person so killed could not pollute the inheritance of God’s people because they were separated from the family of God. 

They had been formally and finally disinherited.

In the thinking of the enemies of Jesus as a crucified man he couldn’t possibly be God’s Son and heir.

So they mocked him; ““He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”(Luke 23:35 ESV); and to all outside observation it seemed like they were correct.

When Jesus cried out from the cross, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34 ESV) the divine Word is being “made sin” for us (2 Cor 5:21 ESV), entering the outer darkness of worthlessness15)See Biblical References Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV the place of the absence of all God’s pleasure as Father (Ezek 33:11 ESV).

Jesus enters into a hell completely cut off from his rightful inheritance in God.

All this however was part of the plan of God, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us(Gal 3:13 ESV) Paul says.

Martin Luther famously described the sacrifice of the cross like this:

“All the prophets of old said that Christ should be the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, blasphemer that ever was or ever could be on earth. When He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, Christ was no longer an innocent person. He was a sinner burdened with the sins of a Paul who was a blasphemer; burdened with the sins of a Peter who denied Christ; burdened with the sins of a David who committed adultery and murder, and gave the heathen occasion to laugh at the Lord. In short, Christ was charged with the sins of all men, that He should pay for them with His own blood. The curse struck Him. The Law found Him among sinners. He was not only in the company of sinners. He had gone so far as to invest Himself with the flesh and blood of sinners. So the Law judged and hanged Him for a sinner.”

Luther

In dying as an outcast despised and rejected by men (Isa 53:3 ESV) Jesus carried away in himself everything which would disqualify us from sharing the inheritance God promises (2 Cor 1:20 ESV). The sign of that this had been accomplished was the resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the declaration of the end time  Sonship of Jesus that he has entered into the inheritance of the nations first promised to Abraham (cf. Rom 1:4-5 ESV).

GLORY INHERITANCE

By virtue of his faithful obedience in all things as a Son to his Father Jesus has merited eternal life for himself and all who obey him.

He is the true image of his Father who has succeeded in all things where all previous sons of God had failed.

On account of his complete obedience Jesus deserves the inheritance that God had promised him as Son.

As such Christ “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord(Rom 1:4 ESV); “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father(Rom 6:4 ESV).

 We must never think however that Jesus has merely recovered what Adam lost or entered into the scope of the promised inheritance known to the prophets of Israel. 

As he tried to explain to his puzzled disciples who could not connect his death with his future, ““Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26 ESV).

When we get to the pictures of the promised eternal inheritance at the end of the book of Revelation they are filled with the glory of God and of the Lamb (Rev 21:23 ESV).

The weightiness of heaven is the love, righteousness, peace etc. that radiates from the sacrifice of the cross (Rev 5:6 ESV). This is far greater than anything that could ever have been achieved without such a sacrifice.

The writer to the Hebrews puts the same thing from a different angle; God now speaks to us through “his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world(Heb 1:2 ESV).

And the measure of the Sonship of Jesus is his willingness to suffer the loss of everything for this Father.

After quoting from Psalm 2 about Jesus, “vs.5 “You are my Son, today I have begotten you””, the writer goes on to say, vs.8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. vs.9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him(Heb 5:5, 8-9 ESV)16)See Biblical References cf. Heb 2:10 ESV.

The perfection of Jesu’s sonship comes in his reversing the grasping sin in Eden, he recovers and increases humanity’s inheritance by willingly losing all he rightfully possessed.

The new heavens and earth which emerge at the end of the biblical story are saturated with an indestructible joy grounded in Christ’s triumphant resurrection, vs.1Then 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. vs.2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. vs.3 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. vs.4 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. vs.5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”(Rev 21:1-5 ESV)17)See Biblical References cf. Isaiah 65:17 ESV; Isaiah 66:22 ESV.

Our eternal inheritance forever emerges in the resurrection space of joy between the Father and Son. Just as he prayed in John 17, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.(John 17:10 ESV)

HIS INHERITANCE IN US

Having an inheritance in Christ is a consistent part of the teaching of the New Testament, Paul puts this in a very elevated way, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will(Eph 1:11 ESV).

This places our inheritance within the framework of eternity and God’s plan for the whole creation. We are graciously embedded in the totality of the wisdom and work of God in all things. Even more remarkably, not only do we have an inheritance in God he has an inheritance in us.

vs.16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, vs.17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, vs.18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, vs.19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe(Eph 1:16-19 ESV).

The Father’s inheritance in us is “glorious”, where “glory” means light and brilliance and conveys a sense of weightiness (kabod) and intensity.

This comes through in what Paul teaches the Colossians about vs.12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. vs.13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son(Col 1:12-13 ESV).

The saints of God, that is the Church, shine into a world darkened by sin (cf. Phil 2:15 ESV). Peter echoes this radiant picture, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, ca holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.(1 Pet 2:9 ESV).

As in the Old Testament it is especially the weak and downtrodden who God has chosen to be his heirs.

Jesus was anointed “to proclaim good news to the poor”, and in a way that restores the original blessing of creation testifies, ““Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”, he can summarise his own ministry with the climactic, “the poor have good news preached to them18)See Biblical References Luke 4:18 ESV; Luke 6:20 ESV; Luke 7:22 ESV.

The inheritance of the kingdom is for the small rather than the strong; ““Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.(Luke 12:32 ESV).

The apostles echo this emphasis, vs.26For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. vs.27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; vs.28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are(1 Cor 1:26-28 ESV); “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?(James 2:5 ESV).

In the parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus describes the destiny of those who ministered to “the least of these my brothers’(Matt 25:40 ESV), which are his dispossessed followers.  vs.34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. vs.35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, vs.36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’” (Matt 25:34-36 ESV).

Identification with the weak and helpless is a way of life that immerses the people of God in the life of Christ himself and the inheritance which is ours in him.

In the present age, until Christ comes again, we live as “as in a foreign land…. strangers and exiles on the earth” travelling through to another destination19)See Biblical References Heb 11:9, 13 ESV; 1 Pet 1:1, 17 ESV; 1 Pet 2:11 ESV being ready to lose all for Christ to gain all in Christ (Phil 3:8 ESV).

SONS INHERIT IN FULL

In Christ there are no degrees of inheritance, with the same Father and older brother we all share together in the same heritage.

Paul simply calls this “the inheritance20)See Biblical References Acts 20:32 ESV; Acts 26:18 ESV; Eph 1:14, 18 ESV; Col 1:12; 3:24 ESV but when it is defined it is inheriting the kingdom of God21)See Biblical References 1 Cor 6:9-10 ESV; 1 Cor 15:50 ESV ; Gal 5:21 ESV; Eph 5:5 ESV.

All nations and the whole creation under the rule of Christ as King are ours in the Lord. In dramatic language to a divided and sectarian church in Corinth Paul testifies; vs.21 all things are yours, vs.22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, vs.23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.(1 Cor 3:21-22 ESV).

God’s inheritance is not divided but shared equally by all his children because it is based on promise and not deserved through merit. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.(Gal 3:29 ESV). The Abrahamic promises fulfilled in Jesus are ours by the grace of God to be received by faith alone (Rom 4:13-14 ESV).

More potently, the inheritance is ours because we are all equally sons of God in the Son of God; vs.14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. vs.15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” vs.16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, vs.17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.(Rom 8:14-17 ESV) Cf. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.(Gal 4:7 ESV).

As there are no degrees of sonship, there are no degrees of inheritance.

Adam was created as a son of God in the midst of an original creation that could be corrupted, but in Jesus and by regeneration through the Spirit a  new and far more glorious imperishable form of sonship has come into the world, vs.3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, vs.4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (1 Pet 1:3-4 ESV)22)See Biblical Reference cf. 1 Pet 1:23 ESV.

This new race of sons is a part of God’s plan for a coming new creation for his family to dwell in23)See Biblical Reference Rom 8:18-30 ESV cf. Heb 2:8-18 ESV.

That we are all equally joint heirs with Christ also follows from the equality of our justification in Jesus. Heir-ship is a natural result of justification: “He saved us,so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life(Titus 3:5-7 ESV).

These realities become real to us only by faith. John Calvin says:

“The godly have a taste of this in the present life, for however often they may be oppressed by difficulty and want, yet because they partake with a peaceable conscience of those things which God created for their use, and enjoy earthly blessings from a favourable and willing Father as pledges and foretastes of eternal life, their poverty does not prevent them from acknowledging earth, sea and heaven as their right. Although the ungodly devour the riches of the world, they can call nothing their own, but rather snatch what they have by stealth, for they usurp it under the curse of God.”

Calvin

SANCTIFICATION and INHERITANCE

 

QUALIFIED

HEIRS

 

There is an intimate association throughout scripture between inheritance and sanctification/holiness of life. The primary meaning of “holiness” is to be set apart to God.

We have seen this in the language used of the election/choosing of Israel (Ex 19:5-6 ESV; Deut 7:6-8 ESV) and of our election in Christ (Eph 1:3 ESV).

Paul makes the connection categoricallyAnd now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.(Acts 20:32 ESV).

He does not mean we somehow qualify for an inheritance by leading holy lives, but God’s word of grace working in us grants us a share in the inheritance. The “Father has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.(Col 1:12 ESV).

Grace transforms us into the likeness of Jesus as the “the firstborn among many brothers(Rom 8:29 ESV). All is a gift.

A passage in Hebrews ties together the bond between sanctification, sonship and inheritance in terms of painful discipline, vs.5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. vs.6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. vs.7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? vs.8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.[The point being that illegitimate sons are not heirs!] vs.9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits land live? vs.10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. vs.11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.(Heb 12:5-11 ESV)

By going on to say, “Strive … for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.(Heb 12:14 ESV) the writer illuminates the reality that the holy sons are the heirs of the Holy Father.

Those believers who live an unholy lifestyle cannot carry a sense of eternal inheritance.

Yet none of this is possible however without the presence and power of the one who made possible every aspect of Jesus life and ministry, the Holy Spirit.

THE SPIRIT and POWER to INHERIT

The gift of the Holy Spirit makes real to us our sonship and the inheritance that comes from the Father of Jesus.

Before ascending into heaven Jesus described the Spirit in this way, vs.49behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high…. vs.4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; vs.5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.(Luke 24:49 ESV; Acts 1:4-5 ESV).

In his Pentecost preaching Peter also lined up this connection between the Father and the Spirit, ““Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he (Jesus) has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”(Acts 2:33 ESV).

It is the Father who through Jesus giving us the Spirit testifies that we are his sons and so heirs; vs.6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” vs.7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.(Gal 4:6-7 ESV)24)See Biblical Reference cf. Rom 8:14-17 ESV.

Paul puts this directly in explaining to the Ephesians, vs.13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, vs.14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.(Eph 1:13-14 ESV)25)See Biblical Reference cf. 2 Cor 1:22; 2 Cor 5:5 ESV.

By testifying to our sonship the Spirit makes our inheritance real, that if God the Father has given himself to us in the gift of the Spirit he will give us all things without measure, all the future blessings of the kingdom of God are ours (cf. Eph 1:3 ESV).

It is the role of the Spirit to help us to see what will be ours, “vs.9 What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— vs.10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.(1 Cor 2:9-10 ESV). As well as illuminating our future the Spirit gives power for mission.

Mission as Sharing the Inheritance

As the Spirit was given at his baptism for the Son’s inheriting of the nations, so Jesus’ requests the Father to give the Spirit to the Church at Pentecost for the same reason (Acts 2:33 ESV). Jesus deeply desires that men and women of all nations (Matt 28:19 ESV) share in his universal inheritance to bring honour, glory and praise to the Father. The Father’s plan is for the greatest number of people to inherit his greatest possible joy for the greatest stretch of time.

To preach the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus is a Spirit led encounter opening up the possibility that its hearers will have a revelation of the identity of God’s Son (Acts 17:3 ESV).

It is an invitation to join with Christ in inheriting all the good things of God. The scope of the gospel is far wider than signs, wonders, healings, personal forgiveness of sin etc. 

As “the Word of the Lord grew and multiplied(Acts 6:7 ESV; Acts 12:24 ESV) the presence of the life of Jesus was expanding into the cultures of the earth. (A blessing which is far greater than anything that could be communicated from the likeness of Adam in Eden.) But it is suffering for Christ that binds all the dimensions of inheritance together.

SUFFERING and INHERITANCE

Paul states this categorically, vs.14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. vs.15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” vs.16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, vs.17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.(Rom 8:14-17 ESV).

This glorification will include sharing in the power of the resurrection life of Jesus (Rom 8:22-23 ESV).

Willingly suffering as sons reverses the ways of fallen humans introduced by Satan into Eden. It is conformity to “the image of his Son…the firstborn of many brothers (Rom 8:29 ESV).

Suffering is not in itself joyful but when submitted to the crucified Lord it becomes a source of resurrection joy.

As with Christ himself suffering reveals the quality of true sonship.

The more you sacrifice for Jesus the more intense the presence of the Father’s Spirit of inheritance; “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ(Phil 3:8 ESV)

That suffering releases glory (Luke 24:26 ESV) is a theme running throughout the New Testament.

In Acts, those who seem disinherited in this world are intensified in the joy of the revelation of their inheritance in the world to come cf. vs.40 when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. vs.41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name. (Acts 5:40-41 ESV).

PAUL testifies, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake(Col 1:24 ESV) and, “I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory(Eph 3:13 ESV)26)See Biblical References cf. 2 Cor 1:6 ESV and “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.(2 Tim 3:12 ESV).

PETER agrees, vs.13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. vs.14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.(1 Pet 4:13-14 ESV)

As Hebrews recounts, we must look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(Heb 12:2 ESV).

PAUL’S prayer, “that…. vs.18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saintsvs.19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe(Eph 1:18-19 ESV) reflects an understanding that spiritual insight comes from living a life shaped by Jesus’ death and resurrection. vs.8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; vs.9 persecuted, but snot forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; vs.10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. vs.11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. vs.12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.(2 Cor 4:8-12 ESV)27)See Biblical References cf. Phil 3:10 ESV.

The indestructible joy of resurrection life as a foretaste of the inheritance of the kingdom of God only comes through affliction and deliverance28)See Biblical References Rom 14:17 ESV; 2 Cor 1:8-10 ESV.

“If there were no afflictions and difficulties and troubles and pain, our fallen hearts would fall ever more deeply in love with the comforts and securities and pleasures of this world instead of falling more deeply in love with our inheritance beyond this world, namely, God himself. Suffering is appointed for us in this life as a great mercy to keep us from loving this world more than we should and to make us rely on God who raises the dead. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God””

Piper (Acts 14:22 ESV)

After listing the hostile powers of tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword Paul can confidently declare, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.(Rom 8:35, 37 ESV).

This theme of conquest over evil forces forging the way to the inheritance runs through the book of Revelation; “ (i) To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God….. (ii) The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels….. (iii) And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.’29)See Biblical References (i) Rev 2:7 ESV; (ii) Rev 3:5 ESV; (iii) Rev 12:11 ESV cf. Rev 15:2 ESV.

Until finally we come to the climactic promise of the Bible concerning inheritance, “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.(Rev 21:7 ESV).

The followers of Jesus should expect opposition to the call of God on their lives precisely because they are sons and heirs.

JESUS said, ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt 5:10 ESV),

PETER cautions, “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.(1 Pet 4:12 ESV).

Knowing that “his time is short!”” we should expect the raging Satan (Rev 12:12, 17 ESV) to stir up human beings in their insecurity over inheritance to oppose us the true heirs in Christ just as Jesus himself was opposed. As this happened in the times of the New Testament through envy, jealousy and competition30)See Biblical References Mark 15:11 ESV; Acts 5:17-18 ESV; Acts 13:45 ESV it must happen today.

Conclusion

“The concept of the believer’s inheritance highlights the dignity of the family relationship of the believer in Christ.

No higher position or greater wealth can an individual acquire than to become an heir of God through faith in Christ.”

William E. Brown

The greatest part of our final inheritance will be God himself, 

“…“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.(Rev 21:3 ESV)31)See Biblical References cf. Ps 73:25-26 ESV; the God that is revealed as the Father of Jesus.

To the degree we know that we are heirs of the world everyday sins such as ambition, self-protection, stinginess, fear, anxiety, selfishness…. will melt away. Knowing that the gifts and graces of our brothers and sisters in Christ are part of our shared inheritance as God’s family no space is left for competition.

The biblical teaching on inheritance puts everything in perspective.

After telling us that suffering is a prelude to sharing Jesus’ inheritance Paul declares, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.(Rom 8:18 ESV). Let me close with a pointed illustration from the famous hymn writer John Newton.

Suppose a man was going to New York to take possession of a large estate, and his carriage should break down a mile before he got to the city, which obliged him to walk the rest of the way; what a fool we should think him, if we saw him ringing his hands, and blubbering out all the remaining mile, “My carriage is broken! My carriage is broken!”

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 05. Oct, 2018 Location: St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

05. Oct, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Rev 21:8 ESV; Rev 22:15 ESV cf. Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV; 2 Thess 1:9 ESV
2. See Biblical References Rom 15:6 ESV; Eph 1:3, 17 ESV; Col 1:3 ESV
3. See Biblical References John 1:1-3 ESV; Col 1:17 ESV; Heb 1:2 ESV
4. See Biblical References Prov 8:29-31 ESV cf. Job 38:7 ESV
5. See Biblical References Gen 6:1-4? ESV; Deut 32:8 ESV; Job 1:6 ESV; Job 2:1 ESV; Job 38:7 ESV
6. See Biblical References Eph 1:18 ESV; Eph 3:9 ESV cf. Luke 24:32 ESV
7. See Biblical References Matt 13:38 ESV; Eph 2:3 ESV; 1 John 3:10 ESV
8. See Biblical References cf. Gen 3:15 ESV; Rev 2:7 ESV
9. See Biblical References Ex 19:5-6 ESV; Ex 34:9 ESV; Ps 135:4 ESV; Mal 3:17 ESVetc.
10. See Biblical References Ps 12.5 ESV; Ps 37 ESV; Ps 41:1 ESV; Ps 86:1 ESV; Ps 113:5-9 ESV
11. See Biblical References Isa 42:6 ESV; Isa 49:6 ESV; Isa 51:4 ESV; Isa 60:3 ESV
12. See Biblical References Isa 2: 2-4 ESV; Isa 11:6-9 ESV; Isa 60:5, 11 ESV; Isa 61:6 ESV; Isa 65:18-20 ESV;  Ezek 40-48 ESV; Joel 3:20 ESV; Mic 3:7 ESV cf. Isa 14:32 ESV; Isa 28: 16 –17 ESV; Isa 60: 3,8,11 ESV; Zech 8:3- 5
13. See Biblical References Ps 40:8 ESV; Heb 10:5-7 ESV
14. See Biblical References Matt 23:2 ESV; John 12:19 ESV
15. See Biblical References Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV
16. See Biblical References cf. Heb 2:10 ESV
17. See Biblical References cf. Isaiah 65:17 ESV; Isaiah 66:22 ESV
18. See Biblical References Luke 4:18 ESV; Luke 6:20 ESV; Luke 7:22 ESV
19. See Biblical References Heb 11:9, 13 ESV; 1 Pet 1:1, 17 ESV; 1 Pet 2:11 ESV
20. See Biblical References Acts 20:32 ESV; Acts 26:18 ESV; Eph 1:14, 18 ESV; Col 1:12; 3:24 ESV
21. See Biblical References 1 Cor 6:9-10 ESV; 1 Cor 15:50 ESV ; Gal 5:21 ESV; Eph 5:5 ESV
22. See Biblical Reference cf. 1 Pet 1:23 ESV
23. See Biblical Reference Rom 8:18-30 ESV cf. Heb 2:8-18 ESV
24. See Biblical Reference cf. Rom 8:14-17 ESV
25. See Biblical Reference cf. 2 Cor 1:22; 2 Cor 5:5 ESV
26. See Biblical References cf. 2 Cor 1:6 ESV
27. See Biblical References cf. Phil 3:10 ESV
28. See Biblical References Rom 14:17 ESV; 2 Cor 1:8-10 ESV
29. See Biblical References (i) Rev 2:7 ESV; (ii) Rev 3:5 ESV; (iii) Rev 12:11 ESV cf. Rev 15:2 ESV
30. See Biblical References Mark 15:11 ESV; Acts 5:17-18 ESV; Acts 13:45 ESV
31. See Biblical References cf. Ps 73:25-26 ESV

Under the Canopy of Heaven 8. “The End of Heaven”

Text: Revelation 21:1-27 ESV

Introduction

City of God

Tonight’s title, “The End of Heaven” refers principally to heaven as the goal or destiny of all the works of God.

This must be centred on Jesus, for “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him(Col 1:16 ESV). Heaven wasn’t first of all created for humans like us but for the Son of God as the Word made flesh (John 1:14 ESV).

Heaven was created to be inhabited in the presence of God by embodied beings; principally Jesus.

The union of God and humanity in Christ means the separation between heaven as the realm of God and earth as the realm of humanity has come to an end at the deepest level of being (Ps 115:16 ESV).

At the End of “the present evil age(Gal 1:4 ESV) the heavenly City “comes down from God” because in graciously descending to “the lowest regions, the earth” the Son of God has glorified the destiny of all things1)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:2, 10 ESV; Eph 4:9-10 ESV cf. John 3:13 ESV; John 6:33, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58 ESV.

The New Testament is clear that the goal of heaven is a City e.g. Heb 11:10, 16 ESV; Heb 12:22 ESV; Heb 13:14 ESV and it is the imagery of Revelation 21 which uniquely unveils that this City is also the Church.

vs.9 Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. vs.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, (Rev 21:9-10 ESV).

At the consummation of God’s eternal plan the Church birthed on earth will be indissolubly one with the heavenly City in love radiant with the sacrificial glory of the Beloved2)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 1:3 ESV; Rev 21:11 ESV.

This intimate unlimited union of God with his people as City-Bride-Church without is the answer to the prayers of Jesus in John 17 that his people be one with him in the eternal love and glory of the Father.

That the Church is a Bride and a City is rarely understood. In some eras the Church has looked down on worldly pursuits and elevated an inner mystical spiritual journey to attain the afterlife.

DUALISM

The separation between the earthly/temporal and the heavenly/eternal is referred to as dualism.

Often traced back to the Greek philosophy of Plato, who conceived of an eternal transcendent world beyond space and time of which this world is but a poor imitation. The purpose and meaning of life were found in a realm removed from this world. The cultural influence of Plato on Western, including Christian, thought is undoubtable, but its attractiveness must be traced back to the root of sin.

But turning away from a holy and prayerful approach to the structures of life and work here on earth means the Church will be taken captive by contemporary cultural forces.

In practice the earthly takes primacy over the heavenly through forms of idolatry that are disguised as “blessings from heaven” (cf. Col 2:23 ESV).

Despite the alleged influence of Augustine’s City of God, which distinguished between ecclesiastical and temporal power, the medieval Western Church elevated itself into a political position.

Whereas Augustine critiqued the power and virtue of the Roman Empire, Church tradition claimed the ability itself to sacralise the political realm.

For instance the Holy Roman Empire became a worldly power directly authorised by God. Christian civilisation, Christendom, became a mode of culture that dominated Europe for centuries.

Though on the wane, it still persists in, for example, the American “civil religion” of a patriotic “In God We Trust.” variety.

Slabs of the contemporary Church has been ensnared in the realms of politics, where Christians often polarise to the Right or Left claiming this is supported by their faith. Or more subtly are taken captive by renouncing such political allegiances in any form, as in some schools of Anabaptism.

Refusing to embrace the eschatological and apocalyptic view of the New Testament; seeing things from the End and from heaven contemporary Western Christianity is progressively being overcome by the world.

In practice, larges sectors of the modern Church function as if the heavenly City does not exist and faith in the unseen realm is sidelined.

The intrusion of psychology into the realm of healing and spirituality e.g. the latest fad of “emotional health”, the dominance of pragmatic business principles in the realm of Church governance and finance, preaching motivational messages, music as a form of entertainment etc. are all signs of secularisation.

The most vulgar form of secularisation has been the “health and wealth” movement. There are more insidious contemporary forms, e.g. Joel Osteen’s popular book, Your Best Life NowThis is a perspective stripped of eschatological and heavenly insight.

The Image of the End

the beginning is found at the end

Through “reading the Bible backwards” it becomes plain that the foundational image of God is not Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden but the Lamb of God in the City from heaven.

The Father established his original Image in eternity; “a lamb without blemish or spot… chosen before the foundation of the world…. the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made (1 Pet 1:19-20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV). 

Rev:
vs.21And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. vs.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.

This City was always God’s original plan as a place fit for his Son to live forever with his Bride, the Church.

An eschatological-apocalyptic perspective recognises that as the created image of God (Gen 1:26-27 ESV) draws its substance from the coming of Jesus, “the image of the invisible God3)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Col 1:15 ESV cf. Rom 5:14 ESV; 1 Cor 15:44-49 ESV, and as human marriages are made possible by God’s plan to have a Bride/Church for his Son4)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:24 ESV; Eph 5:32 ESV, so the existence of earthly cities is a type of the eternal City of God.

In each case in human history the reality comes after the temporal symbol (image, marriage, city) which is purposefully related to what is manifested at the End. The corruption in human nature, marriages and cities doesn’t alter this essential divine ordering.

Although humanity will only fill the City after Jesus’ Second Coming the heavenly metropolis existed with its celestial inhabitants before the creation of the world.

This is suggested when the Lord commands Moses to build the tabernacle according to the pattern revealed to him on the mountain5)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ex 25:9, 40 ESV; Num 8:4 ESV cf. Ps 78:69 ESV.

This implies a heavenly temple pre-existed the earthly sanctuary as part of a heavenly city.

Some of the dimensions of the life of this city are sketched in Hebrews 12:22 ESV ff.

From this perspective the Lord who appeared from time to time in the Garden of Eden6)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:15 ESV ff., Gen 3:8 ESV was a Father nurturing (Luke 3:38 ESV) Adam and Eve with all wisdom and care to be prophets, priests and kings fit to rule with him forever in the City of God.

“As first created by God, man was made to be prophet, priest and king…endowed with knowledge and understanding, with righteousness and holiness, and with dominion over the lower creation.”

The command to ““Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion(Gen 1:28 ESV) was a mandate to spread beyond the Garden and fill the world with the glory of the image of God.

This mission would have involved the development of cities. The rise of technology from Eden onwards is a manifestation of the image of God7)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 3:7 ESV; 4:22 ESV.

Without sin, these would have been cities radiant with the presence of God for history was designed to be a going forward to a much more glorious future than the limits of Eden.

That the precious stones in Eden adorn the foundations of the City in Revelation8)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:12 ESV; Ezek 28:13 ESV; Rev 21:19-20 ESV indicate continuity between the beauty of the pristine first creation and the perfected new creation.

Cities were called to be places of spiritual growth, communion and the advance of God-given creative imagination. Places of economic vibrancy, justice and social peace. Places leading to human discovery of truth, beauty, and goodness in the created order. Places where humans imitated the Creator through the creation of godly culture filling the earth with the glory and knowledge of God9)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES cf. Isa 11:9 ESV; Ps 72:19 ESV; Hab 2:14 ESV. (Darrow Miller)

Unfallen, cities would have been places in which God would be pleased to dwell10)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 14:2, 23 ESV; Rev 21:3 ESV.

This will be true of the City of God, but only by Christ undoing the effects of the Fall.

THE FALLEN CITY

TEMPORAL substitutes ETERNAL

When Adam fell his communion with the heavenly City of God was lost and the building of the cities of this world became substitutes for the eternal.

His communion was in the Word of God spoken to him and which created all things in heaven and earth. The split between heaven and earth was a disaster for humanity’s’ understanding of the meaning of the city.

Some commentators e.g. Jacques Ellul in his influential, The Meaning of the City, have taught that the city is essentially a counter-creation, humanity’s agent to separate self from God.

The cities of earth are empty and vampiric on the living world because God did not build them.

Since the city is man’s greatest work it is his greatest piece of rebellion. They are seductive, saturated with idols, cursed by God and irredeemable.

This is why the prophets always attack the city.

This perspective is understandable under the aspect of time, but it is tragically pessimistic from the perspective of eternity. Its suggestion that God somehow mercifully revised his original plan to incorporate a City as the final place of human destiny is unbiblical.

The great secular cities of the Bible are consistently portrayed as focus of evil.

Babel is the archetypal city of this world.

Instead of seeking to impart the blessings of God beyond themselves As in the primal commandment of Genesis 1:28 ESV, often called the “cultural mandate”, by which humanity is given stewardship over the world so that the civil, social and personal dimensions of life accord with the will of God for maximum human flourishing.

This might include economic engagement, scientific inquiry, literary exploration, and creative conservationist responses to the natural environment (Ps 8:3-8 ESV), the city builders represent a concentration point for pride and self – reputation.

Their “Let us make a name for ourselves(Gen 11:4 ESV) turns the city into a site of judgement.

The characteristic statement of the mega-cities of the Bible becomes, “I am and there is no other” Babylon Isa 47:8 ESVNineveh Zeph 2:15 ESV Rome Rev 18:7″

Their proud self reliance, “she glorified herself(Rev 18:7 ESV), is a rejection of covenantal fellowship with God and means such cities of evil must be destroyed by divine wrath11)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 14 ESV; Ezek 28 ESV; Rev 18 ESV etc..

All Earthly Cities Are Places Of Depravity.

The city intensifies everything, and this includes devotion to false gods.” (John Dawson)

The end-time Babylon is adorned with the same splendid attire, “gold”, “precious stones”, “pearls”, as the New Jerusalem12)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 17:4 ESV; Rev 18:12, 16 ESV; Rev 21:18-21 ESV.

This is a part of her seductive power to lead all nations, and if possible, even the elect, astray13)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 24:24 ESV; Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 18:3, 23 ESV. The Whore of Babylon is an economic persecuting agent14)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 17:2 ESV; Rev 18:6, 12, 16 ESV fused with idolatrous religion.

Contextually in Revelation this is the Roman Empire and the worship of its emperor. Today it might be Islam, or the state capitalism of China.

THE ELECT CITY OF GOD

The one city called to be an exception to these corruptions is the “city of God”, “the city of the great King (Ps 48:1- 2 ESV etc.), Jerusalem (Ps 46:4 ESV; Ps 87:3 ESV).

She alone is elected by God15)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:44, 48 ESV; 1 Ki 11:32, 36 ESV; 1 Ki 14:21 ESV etc. and called to be holy16)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 87:1 ESV; Ezek 20:40 ESV; Dan 9:16 ESV as the site of God’s dwelling place on the earth17)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:27 ESV; 2 Chron 6:2 ESV; Ezra 6:12 ESV; Ps 68:16 ESV etc..

The centrality of Jerusalem to Israel’s faith comes out especially in the so-called Zion Songs

• Ps 46 ESV • Ps 48 ESV 

• Ps 76 ESV • Ps 84 ESV 

• Ps 87 ESV • Ps 122 ESV cf.

• Ps 137 ESV 

Here Jerusalem is exalted in extravagant language drawn from sources as diverse as the creation story18)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 46:4 ESV; cf. Ge 2:10 ESV; Eze 47:1-12 ESV, the famed patriarchal city of Salem19)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 76:2 ESV; cf. Gen 14:17-20 ESV and Canaanite mythology (Ps. 48:2 ESV).

Zion is simply incomparable in beauty (Ps. 48:2 ESV). Of special importance for the Church is the triumph of Yahweh over all the hostile nations that come against Zion, “because God is in the midst of her she shall not be moved (Ps. 46:5 ESV).

In its oneness with the heavenly Jerusalem, to which she has come20)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 12:22 ESV; Rev 21 ESV, the Church on earth is ultimately invincible because Christ and his Spirit indwell her21)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1Co 3:16 ESV; Eph 2:19-22 ESV; 1 Pe 2:4-5 ESV.

The behaviour of the chosen city is to image to the nations the glory and praise of the one true God.

This would happen through all the spheres of life regulated by law and cult. God however always warned his people that should they rebel against him Jerusalem would be destroyed22)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Ki 21:23; 2 Ki 23:27 ESV.

Despite the warnings of the prophets, who were characteristically stoned23)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Chron 24:20-21 ESV; Neh 9:26 ESV; Matt 23:29-39 ESV, Jerusalem’s unrepentant pride in its own divine election meant inevitable destruction24)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Jer 7 ESV; 13:9 ESV etc..

A city full of idols had to be broken and the glory of the Lord had to depart from its abominations (Ezek 8-10 ESV). Punishment is to Babylon, the supposed antithesis of Jerusalem and the epitome of idolatry and ungodliness. Here the people were cleansed finally of their false worship.

The return from Babylon however did not restore the former glory of the divine presence in land, city and temple25)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES e.g. Ezra 3:12 ESV; Hag 2:3 ESV.

The far-seeing prophets however envisaged exile and return in more than natural terms; they prophesy not only a more glorious city and temple but a divine presence enduring forever in a new heavens and earth26)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 2: 2-4 ESV; 11:6-9 ESV; 60:5, 11 ESV; 61:6 ESV; 65:18-20 ESV; Ezek 40-48 ESV; Joel 3:20 ESV; Mic 3:7 ESV cf. Isa 14:32 ESV; 28: 16 –17 ESV; 60: 3,8,11 ESV; Zech 8:3- 5 ESV.

It was against this prophetic and eschatological expectation that Messiah came. Yet “the city of the great King(Matt 5:35 ESV) did not recognise its own Lord because their hearts remained far from him (Mark 7:6 ESV).

Arrogant confidence in their election through Abraham and their favour before God through Moses was their true ruler27)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 3:9 ESV; John 8:33 ESV. For Jerusalem to become “the joy of the whole earth(Ps 48:2 ESV) she would have to be the site of the most evil action of any earthly city.

Only by the killing of her own Husband and God could her salvation and that of the world be brought about. Through the sacrifice of Christ she would become the light to the nations the Lord had decreed and the redemptive mother of the cities of mankind.

No one at the time, except Jesus, could understand that grace works through judgement and that God would take the judgement on himself. An eternal foundation for a city in which both God and humanity could peacefully dwell forever depended on the slaughter and resurrection of the “designer and builder” himself (Heb 11:10 ESV).

The Cross and the City

When Jesus came preaching, ““The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18 ESV ff.) he was expounding Isaiah 61, a passage set within an eschatological vision that embraced the transformation of heaven and earth.

This was the goal of his coming and he longed for his friends to be able to join him in the coming kingdom of God.

In Christ’s prayer, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.(John 17:24 ESV), the shared residence he had in mind for his friends was the eternal City of heaven.

He will “go and prepare a place(John 14:1-3 ESV) for them in the way of a true Prophet of God; “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.28)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 16:21 ESV cf. Luke 24:26 ESV, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’(Luke 13:33 ESV).

He is the rejected prophet who will be crucified on common ground outside the holy city’s gates 29)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:20 ESV; Heb 13:12 ESV.

The economic and religious power of the city of Jerusalem was concentrated in the temple, not as a house of prayer for all nations but a den of robbers.30)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 56:7 ESV; Jer 7:11 ESV; Mal 3:1 ESV; Matt 21:12 ESV; Mark 11: 15-17 ESV.

The powers that be understood that for the corruption of the holy city to continue unabated Jesus must be crucified (John 11:48 ESV). This action will combine the Gentile powers with the rulers of Israel so that both Jew and Gentile might be redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice31)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 2:2 ESV; Acts 4:25-28 ESV.

The blood and water flowing from the pierced Lamb of God are powerful to forgive the sinful city and to cleanse it from its pollutants bringing to birth a new creation32)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 1:29 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV.

The water flowing from the cross is one with the water of life which will nourish and heal the nations in the City of God33)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:34 ESV; Rev 22:1-3 ESV.

Through the cross thee New Jerusalem is saturated with the presence of Christ. It comes down from heaven only as “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”(Rev 21:9 ESV), its twelve foundations are named after “the twelve disciples of the Lamb(Rev 21:14 ESV) and its inhabitants are those “written in the Lamb’s book of life(Rev 21:27 ESV).

In this City the glory of God is inseparable from that of the Lamb (Rev 21:22-23 ESV).

The City is full of dynamic activity as “the kings of the earth will bring their glory…. and honour….  into it34)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:24, 26 ESV cf. Isa 60:3, 5, 11, 16 ESV; Isa 61:6 ESV.

This is only fitting as Revelation is the testimony of “Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.(Rev 1:5 ESV).

These are the rulers who have continually opposed the true “King Of Kings35)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 6:15 ESV; 17:2 ESV; 18:3 ESV; 19:19 ESV but are conquered by his power (Rev 17:14 ESV).

The kings who enter the City of God with their tribute stand for the peoples redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and established as priests and kings before his throne willingly worshipping him forever36)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 5:9-10 ESV; 7:9 ESV.

The glory of the nations which the kings bring into the New Jerusalem is one with the wealth of the City because in the union of heaven and earth all things are filled with the image and life of Christ.

All things are Christified. The manifest glory of the final City is continuous with the life of the Church as the Bride of Christ, the household of God and the temple dwelling place of the Spirit now37)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Cor 3:16 ESV; Eph 1:22-23 ESV; 2:19 ESV; 1 Tim 3:15 ESV; 1 Pet 4:17 ESV.

Years ago as I was praying on the streets of Lausanne in Switzerland I was overcome with grief at the sight of row upon row of shop windows peddling beautiful things, gems, leather goods, clothes etc, with no acknowledgement of God as the giver38)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Acts 17:16 ESV; Rom 1:20-21 ESV.

Then suddenly I was totally overcome by the SPARKLING presence of Christ in everything, as the indwelling source of beauty in all things. I laughed aloud with exuberance.

For those with eyes to see it, the glory of Christ is in everything everywhere39)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 6:3 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV.

To sense such beauty is to be aware of the final destiny of all creation, which is the beautifying of humanity in the image of God/Christ. Such a Spirit of ultimate beauty is the presence that makes a marriage beauteous, which has the power to beautify the transparency in a commercial transaction or the relationships between office staff.

God’s vision for his Church in every city, is to bring his beautifying Spirit into all the spheres of existence- business, politics, art, education, law, media, science, health etc. The Spirit calls us to a holy and total war in which Jesus is presented through us as an object of attraction and desire more alluring than any worldly thing.

The Church for the City

When Jesus ascended into heaven he entered the City of God and sent his Spirit (Acts 2:33 ESV) to build the Church as a community fit for the beauty of the heavenly metropolis (Eph 5:26-27 ESV).

It is the relationship between the heavenly City and the Church as God’s dwelling on earth that empowers us to transform the temporal city. On the one hand this involves strongly disavowing the allure of the economic and religious structures of the cities of this world which are doomed to perish.

This is a great theme represented in the prophets, whether the destruction is of Nineveh, Tyre, Sidon, Babylon or Rome40)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Nah 1-3 ESV; Isa 47 ESV; Jer 51 ESV; Ezekiel 26:4,12,14 ESV; Rev 18 ESV.

Let us then go out to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the one to come.(Heb 13:13 –14 ESV).

We inherit a City with eternal foundations whose architect and builder is God and it alone is unshakeable41)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 11:6, 10, Heb 12:25 ESV ff..

The proud cities of this world can never reconcile their mortality.

For example, after the attacks of 9/11 on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the United States simply depended on its financial and military might to strike back in “the war on terror”. It seemed quite unable to receive God’s prophetic message; despite a professing Christian in the Whitehouse!

In their worldly ambitions and lifestyle most contemporary Western Christians refuse to be grasped by the Word spoken to those who overcome this world (cf. 1 John 5:4 ESV); ““The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”(Rev 21:7 ESV).

Few understand the inheritance of God’s sons is his City.

The deep biblical background to this is a foundational messianic promise vs.13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. vs.14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.(2 Sam 7:13-14 ESV).

This promise is fulfilled in Jesus (Heb 1:5 ESV). Sharing an inheritance with him of all the good things of God42)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rom 8:16-17 ESV; 1 Cor 3:21-22 ESV we partner with Christ in God’s work upon the earth directed towards the coming down of the heavenly City.

To change this we must to look upwards to receive insight that the City nurtures the Church; “the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother43)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gal 4:26 ESV cf. Heb 12:22 ESV.

This insight has a special focus on suffering because the heavenly Church that populates the City is comprised of those who have “come out of the great tribulation(Rev 7:14 ESV).

These saints inherit the kingdom44)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 1:6 ESV; Rev 11:15 ESV through faithfulness to Christ though the beast is “allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them…. and kill them45)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:7 ESV; 13:7 ESV.

Ordinary mortals are qualified as overcomers inheriting the City of God and the Lamb46)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:5, 12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:2 ESV in their union with the suffering of Christ for the lost cities of this world.

As we pray, serve, forgive and bless the fallen city in the name of Jesus47)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 5:44 ESV; Rom 12:14 ESV; 1 Pet 3:9 ESV the power of the blood of the cross and the living waters of Jesus prepares the life of the fallen city to participate in the City of God.

By grace all dimensions of life, work and culture are reckoned worthy to be continuous with the life of the eternal City. Everything is being made worthy through and for the Lamb (Rev 5:2-5 ESV).

As the Church loves the city that persecutes and kills those who hold fast the testimony of Jesus48)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 16:6 ESV; Rev 17:6 ESV; Rev 18:20, 24 ESV; Rev 20:9 ESV the radiance of the New Jerusalem begins to break in on the streets of the earthly city.

The things presently obscured in the City above become shared very much in part with the cities in which the Church abides below. In the transparency of the City of heaven (Rev 21:11, 18, 21 ESV) eternal things become visible, people are saved and social structures are renewed.

Since Job 28:19 ESV compares wisdom to “pure gold” perhaps the transparent gold of the streets of Revelation speaks of the exceeding value of the wisdom displayed in the sacrifice of the Lamb.

The treasures which the kings of the earth bring into the City of God (Rev 21:24-26 ESV) are the “good works” that “follow” the saints into heaven49)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:13 ESV cf. Eph 2:10 ESV.

This may be taking in the homeless, feeding the poor, providing justice through the legal system, incorruptibility in representative government, holistic truth in education, sound work for a fair price in the trades, the provision of equal access to medical help, healing creativity in the arts etc.

Presumably the Garden-City contains all the glories and wisdom God has imparted to humanity, both the horticultural skills of Eden, nurturing, tending, working with nature, and those of the metropolitan life, arts, education, finance, law etc. The Church is called to be a Church for the city with a breadth and depth of loving wisdom that only a city space can actualise. For a statement that captures such a vision. see “Our Vision For Tasmania

Conclusion

When in the brilliance of the light of Christ (Rev 21:23-24 ESV) the glory of the Lord fills the earth (Hab 2:14 ESV) it will be clear that this splendour was always designed to be a divine-human glory.

In the cleansing power of his sacrifice the Lamb of God will draw all the goods, artefacts and instruments of human culture to himself.

As the power of the blood of Christ is expressed cosmically the purpose of the “cultural mandate” shall have reached its goal and the Church in Jesus will fill all in all50)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Eph 1:22-23 ESV; Col 1:19-20 ESV; ?2:9-10 ESV.

The power of this vision is immeasurable but deeply resisted by human flesh and evil powers.

The New Jerusalem will be a commercial, cultural and aesthetic hub with corporate structures beyond our imaginings.

The power of the Spirit in the River of life flowing through the innermost being of the faithful witnesses to Jesus who have mingled their blood with his (John 7:37-39 ESV) will have cleansed every sphere of social and cultural existence, business, politics, arts, education, health, justice, media, sport, government, this is the glory and treasure they will present before God in heaven.

This is the wealth of nations(60:5, 11 ESV; 61:6 ESV), considered in the broadest possible sense, freed from all its idolatry released into the service of the Lord’s eternal kingdom.

If such wonders are beyond our awareness it is because the economic and religious power of Babylon has invaded the Church, for the seductive inducements of the city of man corrupts the Church’s vocation to image the City of God again and again.

The insidious power of the harlot city described in Revelation derives from its counterfeiting/counter-parting the true City of God;

TEMPORAL

ETERNAL

• Immorality (Rev 17:1-2 ESV; Rev 18:9 ESV) “vs”  Chaste Bride (Rev 21:2,9 ESV)
• Kings Of The Earth Submit To Babylon (Rev 17:18 ESV) “vs”  Kings Bringing Their Glory Into The New Jerusalem (Rev 21:24 ESV)
• Babylon Extorts The Wealth Of The World (Rev 18:12-17 ESV) “vs”  Riches Freely Brought Into The City (Rev 21:24-26 ESV)
• Babylon Is Impure, Abominable And Deceptive. (Rev 17:4-5, Rev 18:23 ESV) “vs”  The New Jerusalem Is Inhabited By Only Those Who Have Forsaken Such Impurities. (Rev 21:8, 27 ESV) 
• Babylon Slaughters And Sheds Blood (Rev 17:6, Rev 18:24 ESV) “vs”  Healing And Life (Rev 22:1-2 ESV)
• Judgement On Those Who Don’t Separate From Babylon (Rev 18:4 ESV) “vs”  Blessing On Those Entering The New Jerusalem (Rev 22:14 ESV)
• Babylon Seek To Reach To Heaven (Rev 18:5 ESV) “vs”  The New Jerusalem Comes Down From God (Rev 21:2 ESV)
• Babylon Is Split Into Parts (Rev 16:17-18 ESV) “vs”  The Bridal City Remains Forever (Rev 21:6 ESV)
• The Names On The Foreheads Of The Inhabitants Differ (Rev 17:5 ESV; Rev 22:4 ESV), The Names Not Written (Rev 17:8 ESV) “vs”  Written In The Book Of Life (Rev 21:27 ESV).
• Babylon Glorifies Itself (Rev 18:7 ESV) “vs”  Reflecting God’s Glory (Rev 21:11, 23 ESV)
• The Dwelling Place Of Demons (Rev 18:2 ESV) “vs”  A Dwelling Place Of God (Rev 21:3, 11, 22-23 ESV)

Personal examples of this corrupting power come to mind. Paul/David Yonggi Cho powerfully impacted my life with a testimony about prayer and revival in the late 1980’s. In 2014 he was convicted of embezzling $12 million from the church.

Then there are number of Australian ministries I can think of who have been ruined by chasing dollars; “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10 ESV).

All spiritual triumphalism e.g. dominion theology and triumphing over the Seven Mountains of culture hates the message that the people of God must suffer seemingly terminal defeat before receiving resurrection power51)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:1-13 ESV cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV ; Phil 3:10 ESV etc..

Those addicted to church growth not understanding that God’s kingdom builds the Church, not the other way around e.g. Matt 16:18-19 ESV cannot acknowledge that all the forms of Church in this world will be succeeded by the life of the City from above.

It is impossible for them to be whole heartedly committed to ministry beyond the congregation.

It is only the cross which makes everything beautiful in its own time, and reveals “what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Eccl 3:11 ESV); that as the Lamb of God Jesus is the alpha and omega of all God’s purposes52)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Pet 1:20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV cf. 2 Tim 1:9 ESV.

The spiritual crisis afflicting the dominant mode of Church in Western Christianity is that an attractional/“seeker” church cannot market the cross to today’s city-dwellers demands a revolution in church practice.

The problem is wider than the obvious Pentecostal and Evangelical candidates like Hillsong, Lakewood or Willow Creek.

Walking past the Southern Territorial Headquarters for the Salvation Army in Melbourne last week I noticed that their building was covered with words like words like Hope Love Others Dignity Justice Compassion. But the name Jesus was nowhere to be seen!

Remembering that it is the Lord himself that has a heart to transform the cities of this world our city Hebrews speaks to us today, vs.13Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. vs.14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Heb 13:13-14 ESV).

If we are willing to suffer with Jesus for the city in serving it and to bear the ostracism of the power systems of organised Christianity, God will indeed release the resurrection power of the new creation in our midst. This is the gospel promise.

Years ago the Lord spoke to me in a Catholic chapel in Buenos Aires airport through a small pamphlet with the Spanish heading, “Fifteen minutes in the Company of Jesus”. This contained a very unusual map of the world. Transposed across it were the airport runways, at the centre of these was the heart of Jesus from which were lines radiating through each continent, the one place in Australia where the two met was over Perth.

This was a message from the Father that if we sought his suffering heart in Christ (John 1:18 ESV) we could see revival in our own city. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 16. Sep, 2018 Location: Alive @5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

16. Sep, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:2, 10 ESV; Eph 4:9-10 ESV cf. John 3:13 ESV; John 6:33, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58 ESV
2. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 1:3 ESV; Rev 21:11 ESV
3. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Col 1:15 ESV cf. Rom 5:14 ESV; 1 Cor 15:44-49 ESV
4. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:24 ESV; Eph 5:32 ESV
5. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ex 25:9, 40 ESV; Num 8:4 ESV cf. Ps 78:69 ESV
6. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:15 ESV ff., Gen 3:8 ESV
7. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 3:7 ESV; 4:22 ESV
8. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:12 ESV; Ezek 28:13 ESV; Rev 21:19-20 ESV
9. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES cf. Isa 11:9 ESV; Ps 72:19 ESV; Hab 2:14 ESV
10. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 14:2, 23 ESV; Rev 21:3 ESV
11. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 14 ESV; Ezek 28 ESV; Rev 18 ESV etc.
12. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 17:4 ESV; Rev 18:12, 16 ESV; Rev 21:18-21 ESV
13. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 24:24 ESV; Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 18:3, 23 ESV
14. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 17:2 ESV; Rev 18:6, 12, 16 ESV
15. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:44, 48 ESV; 1 Ki 11:32, 36 ESV; 1 Ki 14:21 ESV etc.
16. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 87:1 ESV; Ezek 20:40 ESV; Dan 9:16 ESV
17. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:27 ESV; 2 Chron 6:2 ESV; Ezra 6:12 ESV; Ps 68:16 ESV etc.
18. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 46:4 ESV; cf. Ge 2:10 ESV; Eze 47:1-12 ESV
19. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 76:2 ESV; cf. Gen 14:17-20 ESV
20. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 12:22 ESV; Rev 21 ESV
21. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1Co 3:16 ESV; Eph 2:19-22 ESV; 1 Pe 2:4-5 ESV
22. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Ki 21:23; 2 Ki 23:27 ESV
23. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Chron 24:20-21 ESV; Neh 9:26 ESV; Matt 23:29-39 ESV
24. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Jer 7 ESV; 13:9 ESV etc.
25. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES e.g. Ezra 3:12 ESV; Hag 2:3 ESV
26. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 2: 2-4 ESV; 11:6-9 ESV; 60:5, 11 ESV; 61:6 ESV; 65:18-20 ESV; Ezek 40-48 ESV; Joel 3:20 ESV; Mic 3:7 ESV cf. Isa 14:32 ESV; 28: 16 –17 ESV; 60: 3,8,11 ESV; Zech 8:3- 5 ESV
27. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 3:9 ESV; John 8:33 ESV
28. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 16:21 ESV cf. Luke 24:26 ESV
29. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:20 ESV; Heb 13:12 ESV
30. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 56:7 ESV; Jer 7:11 ESV; Mal 3:1 ESV; Matt 21:12 ESV; Mark 11: 15-17 ESV
31. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 2:2 ESV; Acts 4:25-28 ESV
32. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 1:29 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV
33. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:34 ESV; Rev 22:1-3 ESV
34. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:24, 26 ESV cf. Isa 60:3, 5, 11, 16 ESV; Isa 61:6 ESV
35. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 6:15 ESV; 17:2 ESV; 18:3 ESV; 19:19 ESV
36. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 5:9-10 ESV; 7:9 ESV
37. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Cor 3:16 ESV; Eph 1:22-23 ESV; 2:19 ESV; 1 Tim 3:15 ESV; 1 Pet 4:17 ESV
38. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Acts 17:16 ESV; Rom 1:20-21 ESV
39. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 6:3 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV
40. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Nah 1-3 ESV; Isa 47 ESV; Jer 51 ESV; Ezekiel 26:4,12,14 ESV; Rev 18 ESV
41. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 11:6, 10, Heb 12:25 ESV ff.
42. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rom 8:16-17 ESV; 1 Cor 3:21-22 ESV
43. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gal 4:26 ESV cf. Heb 12:22 ESV
44. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 1:6 ESV; Rev 11:15 ESV
45. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:7 ESV; 13:7 ESV
46. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:5, 12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:2 ESV
47. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 5:44 ESV; Rom 12:14 ESV; 1 Pet 3:9 ESV
48. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 16:6 ESV; Rev 17:6 ESV; Rev 18:20, 24 ESV; Rev 20:9 ESV
49. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:13 ESV cf. Eph 2:10 ESV
50. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Eph 1:22-23 ESV; Col 1:19-20 ESV; ?2:9-10 ESV
51. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:1-13 ESV cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV ; Phil 3:10 ESV etc.
52. SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Pet 1:20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV cf. 2 Tim 1:9 ESV