New Jerusalem (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

The dimensions of the New Jerusalem are given in Rev 21:
Rev 21:16-17 The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements.

Commentators are baffled by the size of the city, as 1,500 miles would be more than the flight distance from Toronto to Havana flying south, or to Saskatoon flying west. People can’t imagine the size of one city stretching halfway across the country. This is especially when its length & width & height are equal i.e. like a cube. A square city 1,500 miles in length & width is hard enough to imagine, but 1,500 miles in height too? No building is that tall, as even Mt. Everest is only 29,029 ft. or only 5.5 miles tall, less than 0.4% of 1,500 miles. For that matter, an altitude above 100 km or 62 miles above sea level is commonly used to define outer space, & 1,500 miles is over 24 times that!

Attempts have therefore been made to make the size more “reasonable”, including:
• It is only symbolic. 1,500 miles is literally 12,000 stadia, with 1 stadion equal to approx. 600 ft. These interpreters hold that both the 12,000 witnesses sealed in each tribe & the 12,000 stadia simply mean a complete number, & do not have to be taken literally. But if all it means is a complete number, why not 1,200 stadia?
• The 1,500 miles is the circumference, not each side. This would reduce each side 375 miles, still more than the distance from Toronto to New York City. And of course a height of 375 miles would still be beyond the imagination of anything on earth.
• Some argued that the height refers to the mountain or plateau on which the city sits, not the city itself, as its walls are only 72 yards or 216 ft high. Granting this assumption for the moment, that still requires the mountain to be 1,500 miles (or at least 375 miles) high, which simply does not exist.
Basically none of these options are satisfactory.

Personally I do not find such accommodation necessary, as the current earth will be burned up & we do not need to base the new on the old as reference:
2 Pet 3:10, 12-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. … looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
• Rev 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

The diameter of our moon is 2,159 miles, so 1,500 miles is just under 70% of the moon’s diameter. A cubicle city that size would provide huge mansions for all OT & NT saints that ever lived (Jn 14:2).

Why cubicle? Because the Holy of Holies, where God dwells, was cubicle:
1 Kings 6:20 The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits in length, twenty cubits in width, and twenty cubits in height, and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid the altar with cedar.
Since God dwells among His people in the New Jerusalem, its dimensions are cubicle to represent perfect symmetry.

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New Jerusalem (1 of 2)

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Q. What is the meaning of the foundation stones & dimensions of the New Jerusalem? Is it literal or symbolic?

A. The foundation stones of the New Jerusalem are described in Rev 21:
Rev 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
• Rev 21:19-20 The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.

The twelve foundation stones represent the twelve apostles, because the Church, God’s household, is built on the foundation of the apostles & prophets:
Eph 2:19-20 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,

Some commentators tried to equate the 12 precious stones with the 12 stones on the breastpiece of the high priest:
Ex 28:17-21 You shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, topaz and emerald;
• and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond;
• and the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst;
• and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree.
• The stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, according to their names; they shall be like the engravings of a seal, each according to his name for the twelve tribes.(Also Ex 39:10-14)

However, while 7 stones appear on both lists (jasper, sapphire, emerald, beryl, topaz, jacinth & amethyst), the other 5 do not match:
• in Rev: chalcedony, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite & chrysoprase;
• in Ex: ruby, turquoise, diamond, agate & onyx.
The list in Rev. is in Greek while that in Ex. is in Hebrew, & scholars cannot definitively identify one with the other. More importantly, Rev 21:14 specifically indicates the names on the 12 foundation stones are those of the 12 apostles, not the 12 sons of Israel (12 tribes). I therefore believe that it is counter-productive to equate one with the other. Suffice to say that both are precious and beautiful in God’s sight.

(To be continued)

New Heaven & New Earth

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Q. I tend to take the foundations of heaven & the earth physically because the Bible mentioned that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, unless new heaven and new earth means another dimension closer to God’s.

A. Yes the Bible referred to new heaven(s) & a new earth in two passages:
2 Pet 3:11 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
• Rev 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

The new heaven and new earth are physical, because the new Jerusalem & its foundation stones are physical:
Rev 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
• Rev 21:19 The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald;

But while the first heaven & first earth are physical, that does not automatically mean their “foundations” are physical. Go over the 7 appearances of the term “foundations of the earth” in the Bible again. Insert your physical interpretation, say the tectonic plates on which the continents rest, & see if it would fit e.g.
Ps 82:5 They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken – They (kings & judges) walk about in darkness; the tectonic plates are shaken. What does the former have to do with the latter?
Prov 8:29 When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth – So that the water (the sea) would not transgress God’s command, when He marked out the tectonic plates. But much of the tectonic plates are submerged under the sea. They don’t set the boundary or shore line!
Try substituting “tectonic plates” for “foundations of the earth” in the other 5 occurrences:
https://rayliu1.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/foundations-of-heaven-earth-1-of-2/
While a physical interpretation could fit Isa 24:18 or 51:13, it wouldn’t fit the others. Remember, unlike a figurative interpretation which could be different depending on the context, a literal interpretation has to be consistent in all the passages. That just would not do. That’s why I said the meaning is figurative. Think it through carefully.

Why did Satan use a Serpent? (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

Now the harder “why?”. The words “serpent” or “serpents” appear 46 times in the NASB. I won’t cite all of them here, as some are simply narrative e.g. Aaron’s staff which became a serpent, fiery serpents, bronze serpent etc. However, some are descriptive of the characteristics of a serpent, as follows:

Gen 49:17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way, A horned snake in the path, That bites the horse’s heels, So that his rider falls backward.
• Jdg 18:27 But the people of Dan took what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, and they came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire.

The Danites were a treacherous group who attacked peaceful people unprovoked, much like a deceitful serpent.

Deut 32:33 Their wine is the venom of serpents, And the deadly poison of cobras.
• Ps 58:4 They have venom like the venom of a serpent; Like a deaf cobra that stops up its ear,
• Ps 140:3 They sharpen their tongues as a serpent; Poison of a viper is under their lips.
• Prov 23:32 At the last it bites like a serpent And stings like a viper.

The composite picture is that serpents are poisonous & deadly. The context also tell us that serpents:
• Are perverse like Sodom & Gomorrah (Deut 32:32),
• Speak lies (Ps 58:3),
• Devise evil things in their hearts (Ps 140:2),
• Have deceptive appearance (Prov 23:31).
Altogether an ugly picture & an apt description of Satan. We know this is not the cause as everything was created good (Gen 1:31). What is not clear is whether these character traits are the direct results of the curse in Gen 3:14:
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;
or were inherent in the serpent’s design but activated by the curse. In any event, the Bible is silent as to why Satan chose a serpent, just his choice was appropriate.

Lastly, how? Some commentators believe that because Satan is called “the serpent of old” in Rev 12:9 & 20:2, there was no actual serpent, just Satan himself talking to Eve. However, Satan is a fallen cherub & has no physical body, so the curse about going on his belly & eating dust would not make sense. Likely it is Satan entering into the serpent, similar to:
Lk 22:3 And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. (Also Jn 13:27)
• Lk 8:33 And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

Sometimes we wish the Bible would shed more light on certain subjects, but we just have to live with what was revealed. The more important thing is to obey what God revealed, not understanding what He had hidden from us.

Why did Satan use a Serpent? (1 of 2)

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Q. Why did Satan use a snake?

A. Kids ask the most interesting questions. When our grandson heard the story on the Fall of Man, he asked his mom “Why a snake?” He did not ask “who”, or “what”, or “where”, or “when”, any of which would have been easier to answer, but “why”. Our daughter was stumped. Good thing he did not follow with “how”! What does the Bible say? The Bible did not explicitly explain why, but we can make educated guesses. Let’s start with the simpler of the W6:

Who or what is the serpent?
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
• Gen 3:13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Notice two characteristics:
• Crafty or cunning, &
• Deceived.

Paul confirmed this as history:
2 Co 11:3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

John made a positive identification:
Rev 12:9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
• Rev 20:2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

Serpent = dragon = the devil = Satan.

Where did this happen?
Gen 3:23-24 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
So this took place in the garden of Eden.

When did it take place?
Gen 1:31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
After the sixth day, as all was very good up to that point in time. How long after? The Bible did not say.

(To be continued)

The Law of Christ

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Q. Ga 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. What is the law of Christ? I thought we live under grace, not law.

A. We are indeed not under law but under grace:
Rom 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!), but that does not mean the law is abolished:
Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

The term the “law of Christ” occurs twice in the Bible:
1 Co 9:21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.
• Ga 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

However, neither of these passages specify exactly what the law of Christ is.

Some have looked at the commands of Christ in the gospels and considered them as the laws of Christ e.g.
• Institute of Basic Life Principles http://iblp.org/questions/what-are-commands-christ
• Into the Word http://www.discipleshiptools.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36885&columnid=4189
While interesting, these are the determinations of human authors, not Scripture.

Others looked at what Jesus considered as the heart of God’s commandments & called that the law of Christ:
Mt 22:37-40 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
• Mk 12:29-31 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Since:
• bearing one another’s burden i.e. loving your neighbor, fulfill the law of Christ, &
• the whole Law & the Prophets depend on these 2 commandments,
I believe Paul meant these two rather than a list of 49 or 50 of His commands as the law of Christ. But that’s my opinion, not Scripture.

Does God Deceive the Unrighteous? (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

Why would God send them strong delusion? In response to their rejection of the truth:
• they did not receive the love of the truth (v 10), which preceded God sending the deluding influence, &
• they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness (v 12).
In other words, they rejected the love of the truth first, & God confirmed their choice by sending the deluding influence. They chose not to believe, & God let them have their choice.

This is consistent with God giving them over in Rom 1:
v 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
• v 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
• v 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,

Notice the downward spiral in “God gave them over”. It wasn’t that they erred once & God gave up on them mercilessly. It was that they are repeatedly unrepentant, hardened their heart & settled in sin as a way of life, that God allowed them to have what they wanted.

It was the same pattern in the case of Pharaoh, who first hardened his own heart in the first 5 plagues (Ex 7:13-14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34-35), then God confirmed his choice by hardening his heart from the 6th plague on (Ex 9:12; 10:1; 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8). The first two mention of God will harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex 4:21; 7:3) is simply prophetic of what God will do, not His causing it.

God did not help Satan in deceiving the unrighteousness; He gave them over to judge them. There is a huge difference.