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Entries in Earth (2)

Tuesday
Nov062018

My Personal End Times: The New Heavens & the New Earth

Revelation 21.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 4, 2018.

We are now at the last point of our series.  For the sake of time, I have broken this up into two sermons.  It begins with God’s promise to recreate the universe.  Throughout the Bible God reveals to us that He truly is the master of creation, and can even melt it down and recreate it when He wants.  So here we get a brief glimpse of what that new creation will look like, and the wisdom of God who is bringing us to it.

All things are made new

I will use the phrase from vs. 5 for our point because it describes what verses 1-4 are showing us.  The things of this world have grown old through use and abuse, but God has a day in which He will renew and refashion it to where it is both fresh and greater. 

Verse 1 makes it clear that in the last chapter the old heavens and earth were melted down and then sometime after the judgment recreated.  The new “heaven” here means the cosmos or universe and not the spirit realm where the throne of God is.  As for the new earth it is not just renewed, as in being brought back to a fresh state of the same thing.  It is also, refashioned into a different form.  We see this because it shares the detail that this new earth has no sea.  This does not mean that there is no water, but that large bodies of water like the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, or the oceans, for that matter, will be no more.  Throughout the Bible the waters were a great separating instrument to mankind.  It was also used as a symbolic representation of the turbulence of the nations.  Thus God will remove the physical barriers to mankind’s unity and the spiritual problems that drive its constant dissensions.

Verse 2 introduces the New Jerusalem, which comes down from God (i.e. it comes down from the third heaven).  This does not seem to be connected to the old Jerusalem on earth, which would have clearly been destroyed.  This is typically referred to as the Final State (condition), or the Eternal State.  This new creation is what we will inhabit into eternity.  Of course it would be folly to try and comprehend what plans God has for us in the Eternal State, other than to recognize that the emphasis is that now we can do it in perfect fellowship with God.

The New Jerusalem descends from Heaven

The New Jerusalem is compared to a bride adorned for her husband in verse 2.  However, in verses 9-10 it is called the bride of the Lamb (i.e. Christ).  Is the city just a symbol and not an actual city?  The descriptions to follow are far too detailed to treat the whole thing as simply a symbol of the Church.  Just as God’s people have been prepared to live with Jesus in eternity, so the city has been prepared to be the place of our dwelling, which leads us to the next point.

We are told in verse 4 that God wipes each tear from their eyes.  It is not saying that He will do that from then on because all the sources of pain will be no more: death, sorrow, crying, and pain.  Here we see the cathartic or healing experience of God removing any remnants of the old earth and its imprint upon our minds.  This is the ultimate renewing of our minds.  In verse 5 we are told that this plan and purpose of God is “true and faithful.”  It truly is His plan, and He will surely accomplish it.  God will bring it to pass for all who trust Him in this life.

In verses 6-8 we are given several promises from God and a warning.  First we hear the phrase “it is done” connected to that point in time.  This is in contrast to the words of Jesus on the cross, “It is finished.”  They are two different Greek words.  At the cross Jesus used a word that was used to state that a debt had been paid in full.  Thus at the cross it was finished in the sense that Christ had paid the price for salvation.  However, at the New Heavens and the New Earth “it is done” means that salvation/healing has been fully accomplished.  God has completed the task of overcoming the rebellion and corruption of the old universe.

Next the fountains of the Water of Life are promised to those who are thirsty.  There is a beer commercial that loves to use the slogan, “Stay thirsty, mis amigos!”  However, this begs the question.  What are you thirsty for?  You can drink all the beer you want, but it will not satisfy the empty aching in your soul.  If you are thirsty for the Waters of Life that are given to those who put their faith in Christ then you will know satiation that this world cannot give.  We drink from this water by faith.

Then inheriting all things is promised to those who overcome.  This world is our testing ground and the thing we must overcome.  It seeks to destroy your faith in God, but you must overcome it.  Jesus told his disciples that they would have persecution in this life, but then he said, “Fear not!  I have overcome the world.”  Thus we know that He will enable us to overcome the world as long as we lean upon Him.

Lastly, the warning is given.  We are given a list of the kinds of people who will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (i.e. The Second Death).  Most of the list makes sense.  However, many balk at the very first word, the cowardly.  Really?  People who are cowardly will be thrown into the Lake of Fire?  That seems way to harsh.  The point is not that those who are afraid receive the Second Death.  Rather, it is those who let fear cause them not to believe in Christ and instead embrace any of the other things in the list and more (there is no reason to believe the list is exhaustive).  When we let fear cause us to turn back and not overcome the world, then we fall short of the salvation and healing that God has for us.

The New Jerusalem described

For the sake of time I will list the descriptions briefly.  But it is worth spending some time thinking about the things described.  Verse 10 states that John is taken up to a great and high mountain.  This seems to be an allusion to Daniel’s kingdom “not made by human hands.”  That kingdom became a mountain that filled the whole earth.  As John stands on the great high mountain he sees the city coming down like a great mountain itself.  The Bible is replete with the mountain analogy.  The mountain of the Lord that was established in the earthly Jerusalem, pointed to a heavenly mountain of the Lord that existed in the heavenlies.  This New Jerusalem seems to be the ultimate mountain of the Lord coming down out of heaven and having the presence of God (as we see later).

We are told that the whole city is made of precious stones and shines with the glory of God.  In fact everything seems to be made of translucent material that will enable the glory of God to shine through it.  This is similar to the description Daniel gives of the righteous.  He says that they will shine like the stars.  Definitely there is a reference to taking on divinity (an immortal body that is from God).  However, if God has a glory that actually shines, it would stand to reason that we too will have some kind of shining glory, although lesser than that of God.

There are 12 gates around the city named after the 12 tribes of Israel and guarded by an angel.  We are also told that each gate is made out of a single pearl.  This is significant because as we go to the next point we will see that the walls are 216 feet tall.

The wall, that the gates are in, have 12 foundations named after the apostles of Christ and made of precious stones.  We are told that the city is the same length, width, and height and that each side is 1,400 miles.  It would be amazing enough to conceive of a city that was 1,400 miles square, but for it to also be 1,400 miles tall is flabbergasting.  We are not told if it is shaped like a cube or like a pyramid.  If it is like a cube, then it would be more reminiscent of the temple and the Holies of holies, whereas a pyramid shape would be more in keeping with the “mountain of the Lord” motif throughout Scripture and mentioned in verse 10.  Of course we have to point out that the streets are made of pure gold and thus in heaven gold is asphalt. 

Verse 22 tells us that there is no temple in the New Jerusalem because God and the Lamb dwell in it and they are the temple.  There is no separation from God and His people any more.  That, which was important to understand in the past, has now been overcome.  Not only is there no temple, but the city does not need the light from the sun or moon.  This doesn’t mean there isn’t a sun or moon, but that their light is not needed because of the light from the glory of God.

We are also told that the nations who are saved will walk in its light.  I should point out that it is not stated that the city will “land” upon the earth, only that John saw it descend out of heaven.  In light (pun intended) of this description, it would seem more likely that the New Jerusalem would orbit the New Earth as an artificial satellite giving light to the earth below.  However, it is quite possible that it lands upon the earth.  Of course life in the New Jerusalem and on the New earth is left to our imagination.  Do some people live in the New Jerusalem all the time?  Do some only live on the earth, and if so who?  Though many are quick to be dogmatic in answers to these questions, it seems a fool’s errand.  We simply have not been told and thus should wait until the time in which it will be revealed.

One thing is clear, only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life may enter the New Jerusalem.  Which brings up the question, is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?  You can make sure that it is today, but repenting of your sins, believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and following His commands.  Will you do this now?  If you do you will have the joy of experiencing the greatest city that the world has ever know because it will have been built by God Himself.

The New Heavens & the New Earth Audio

Tuesday
Oct112016

Society under Siege: Neo-Pagan Green Movement

Genesis 1:27-28; 2:15; Mark 2:23-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 9, 2016. 

Our modern era is often presented as a very scientific, technologically advanced, and non-religious.  However, what is often missed is that there are many streams of spirituality that are thriving within this society besides Christianity.  A few of which are: Wiccans, Neo-Pagans, the New Age Movement, mediums and channelers, many Hindu/Buddhism influenced groups, Extraterrestrial groups.  Many of them have a view of history that sees a spiritual evolutionary leap coming ahead for mankind.  What is interesting about these groups is that they are tied in to a common view of the spiritual realm, which is the same view as the ancient pagan religions, and that is an All-Is-One spirituality.  Today, I am using the term Neo-Pagan in a very broad description to cover this resurgence of the old spiritual world view.

Our society is not getting less spiritual and becoming atheistic.  On the contrary society is only pushing certain spiritual ideas aside and grabbing onto others.  In this environment, the Christian world view has been put in the bull’s-eye of many of these groups.  Sometimes this is seen in an open clash of ideas.  But, other times it is hidden in the background slowly chipping away at the foundations of our society that are built upon a Christian world view.  We see this in the rise of environmentalist groups that have a neo-pagan world view.  They are actually a mixture of some very good ideas with a very bad world view.  These groups see the earth as a quasi-sentient consciousness that we need to be in harmony with along with the rest of the cosmos.  This should concern Christians because God reveals to us in the Bible that mankind is not headed towards a scientific atheism.  Rather, we are actually headed to a society that will worship a particular man as a god and surrender the control of the nations to him.

Man Should Care for the Earth

In Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:15 we find that God put mankind on the earth with a purpose, and part of that purpose was for mankind to care for the earth.  Let’s look at the descriptions that God uses in telling Adam what this purpose was.  At first He tells us to be fruitful.  At first look that could just be a metaphor for “multiplying.”  However, in light of what the rest of Scripture says about fruitfulness (especially Jesus), we should recognize that this fruitfulness goes beyond the population of humanity.  God made mankind to be fruitful in other ways as well: mentally, occupationally, and spiritually.  Man should express and live out the life-giving image of God.

God also tells mankind to fill the earth.  Thus the Garden of Eden was not just a fabulous prison.  God’s plan was for mankind to fill the whole earth.  That doesn’t mean we have to keep going until there is 1 person for every square foot of land.  But, neither does it support the idea that mankind shouldn’t touch most of the earth and the population should remain under 500 million, which is what many of the elites of the earth believe.

Another term that is used is that mankind should “subdue” the earth and “rule/take dominion” over the all of its creatures.  The term subdue is the idea of bringing something under your control.  Of course this has a negative connotation if you are talking about subduing a person.  But in this case we are talking about a planet that is in a wild condition.  The whole earth was not a paradise, only a portion.  God creates the earth in a wild state that has all the raw materials for mankind’s purpose, but would need to be brought under control.  In its wild state it would not be fully useful.  The Garden would then be a kind of template for mankind to expand as they multiplied.

We are not told to subdue the animals, but rather to rule over them.  Again, ruling itself can seem negative.  But the truth is that the real problem lies in how one rules and not that they do at all.  Our rule of the creatures should reflect the image of God and respect that they ultimately belong to Him.  Thus we should be good stewards of the earth and its creatures, just as God is good.

Lastly Adam is told to work and tend the Garden.  This fixed up area would be expanded and the fruitfulness was to be good for both man and creatures.  The work would then involve watching over the threats against the garden’s fruitfulness and the eventual expansion of it.  Notice that the Bible does not present the Earth as some kind of sacred space that mankind should not touch.  Yet, neither does it present the Earth as man’s to do with as he wishes without any accountability to the Creator.  We are to care for the earth and make it fruitful.

Although the Christian has a strong foundation for being staunchly concerned with the environment and keeping it fruitful, we arrive at it from a very different world view than these Neo-pagan, green groups.  To them mankind must make a spiritual connection to the Earth and the spiritual forces of the cosmos.  Although they would look at many things as evil, that is only a remnant of Christian thinking.  In truth, the Neo-pagan world view doesn’t believe in evil, only imbalance of actions.  Thus mankind is out of balance and needs to be brought back into balance.  If that takes actions that Christians would describe as evil, then so be it.  They would deny any existence of fallen spiritual beings that are deceiving mankind and even promote a seductive desire to connect with the enlightened spirits who have gone before us.  It is here that we see the insidious twisting of biblical truth.  Movies like Avatar use a false dichotomy to promote this new spiritualism.  So your two choices are a capitalistic, greedy company that destroys everything in order to get a rare, non-earth metal called Unobtainum on the one hand and an indigenous culture that lives in harmony with the planet and its creatures by plugging into them with a kind of mental, spiritual connection on the other hand.  Believing in right and wrong, that will be ultimately judged by the personal Creator who is both within and beyond that creation, is anathema to these groups.  Now let’s finish this study by looking at a passage in the Gospel of Mark concerning the Sabbath day.

Everything Needs Rest

In Mark 2:23-28 the word Sabbath literally means rest.  The most well known application of this was the one day of the week that Israel was supposed to refrain from working.  On that day they would enjoy rest and worship God.  Now, I am not preparing to teach that we should be following the Law of Moses.  However, we can gain wisdom from God’s commands in the past.  In this passage Jesus deals with a legalistic view of the Sabbath that existed in Israel at the time.  They had developed many nit picking laws of what you could or couldn’t do.  So the Pharisees accused the disciples of Jesus of  “harvesting” when they were simply walking through some fields and picked some heads off of the grain to eat.

Notice that Jesus does not quibble with their expanded definition of harvesting.  Rather he points out the true intention of the Sabbath Law or the spirit of the law.  The Pharisees had turned the day into a dictatorial overlord that the people had to satisfy at any cost.  It was man who must always yield and not the law regardless of the consequences.  Jesus points to the reality that God gave the law of Rest for the benefit of the people.  It was created in order to help us not put restrictions on us.  Thus we can learn the wisdom that it is not good for man to drive himself 24/7/365.  Physically he would breakdown, and spiritually he would see himself as his own source and go down a bad path.

Now this was also true for the land that they used to grow crops.  It needed a break as well.  Thus they were told to not work the land one year out of every seven.  They were to let the land rest.  If they would do this then God would bless them and their land would continue to be fruitful.  Thus God qualifies man’s subduing of the earth in order to make it fruitful, by also teaching us that it needs rest as we do.  When you couple this with man’s other purpose to image God in how he fulfills his purpose, you have two powerful restraints that God gives to the greed and wickedness that can infect that purpose.  In fact, isn’t this the sense of the modern business world?  There is practically no concept of rest and “this is enough.”  This driven, ungodly desire to keep squeezing more out of everything is not how we were designed to thrive.  This is partly why many turn back to the ancient pagan ideas of spirituality.  They know that there has to be something better than this perversion that we see today.  We were created to be in relationship with our Creator, and when we aren’t a vacuum is created in our hearts that haunts us until we try to fill it with something.

So what should we do?  In some ways technology and our increase in knowledge can either destroy us or help us.  We can do powerful things, more quickly than ever before.  However, it should be done in a way that honors God as the Creator and the Earth as His creation.  The leaders of the world today do not and will not honor the Creator.  Thus they will only use these tools to honor themselves, and the spiritual power that many of them are connecting to through the occult, and other spiritualistic means.  The baseline of this tragic choice is that the ancient pagan world view devalued mankind.  Christianity teaches that God has given mankind a great value and we must seek His help to fully realize it.  However, Neo-paganism devalues mankind to a place as just one of many animals that is causing the world to be out of balance.  This is why a baby seal garners more compassion than a baby in the womb.  The idea that the Earth would be better off if humans were eradicated, or at least subdued by the enlightened ones, comes from this world view.  We are in the middle of falling into the greatest slavery that mankind has ever known. How about you?  Have you found the rest that God has designed for you to have?  Are you growing to be like Him?  Are you fruitful in every way?  Turn back to the Creator and learn to rest in Him so that we can truly enjoy all that God has given to us to enjoy.

neo-pagan Audio