The Pursuit of God

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Applying Revelation 21: A Disturbing Paradise

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This is a continuation of Applying Revelation 20: Millennial Madness.

We’ve reached the second to last chapter of Revelation, and as we near the end of this long series of visions, God focuses on giving ancient Jewish Christians a close up tour of what eternity will really be like. Well, to be more accurate, He completely snows John with images of a paradise that could only be considered wonderful to ancient Jews with a raging superiority complex. You see, in this vision, Heaven is a spruced up version of the real life city of Jerusalem—not the Jerusalem that we know today, but the ancient city which was sacked by the Romans in 70 AD after a long siege that began as a response to the Jews violently rebelling against Roman authority in 66 AD.

Today we usually hear about the fall of Jerusalem from a viewpoint that is totally sympathetic to the Jews. It is ancient Jewish historians who are mainly cited, and naturally such sources downplay the brutality that the Jewish rebels dished out to the Romans. Suffice it to say, there was plenty of butchering on both sides. Whenever you are reading historical accounts, remember that God warns against passing judgment until you’ve heard both sides of the story, then take note of what kinds of facts are being listed. For example, it’s easy to find estimates of how many Jews were killed and taken captive during this epic clash between the Jews and Rome, but many accounts don’t show any sympathy for how many Roman soldiers lost their lives in less than pleasant ways at the hands of Jewish revolutionaries. It’s also easy to overlook the fact that not all Jews were in agreement with the idea of their countrymen trying to break free of Rome. As is often the case in these situations, there was a small core of diehard fighters who were hell bent on accomplishing some personal agenda. By the time they were done acting like violent animals, thousands of people had lost their lives. We see the same principles at work with ISIS today. A core group of nutcases who are hell bent on setting up their own personal empire start gunning down random people and provoking whole nations to war against them until the Middle East finds itself in a total crisis. Even if you hate ISIS and want nothing to do with them, if they choose your city for their base of operations, you end up in a major mess. It was the same with scores of Jewish citizens and Roman soldiers who ended up getting massacred thanks to one core group of Jewish extremists deciding that they were going to force their personal agenda onto the world and make Jerusalem their main base of operations.

Not responding to violent rebellion within your borders is simply not an option when you’re trying to manage an empire. The Romans had to come down hard, and the Jewish revolutionaries greatly exacerbated the situation by refusing to admit defeat early on. The result was an epic bloodbath, with Rome scrambling to try and prevent future outbursts by making an example out of the Jews. Ironically, the fire that destroyed the Temple was likely an accident from the human perspective, for Rome would have preferred to keep that fine bit of architecture intact and convert it into a shrine for some of their own gods. But Yahweh had other plans, and by the time He was done pitting the humans against each other, both Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple were destroyed.

Being a fiercely patriotic people, the ancient Jews had deep psychological bonds with Jerusalem and the Temple. What are your country’s most defining landmarks today? For Americans, the White House, Capitol Hill, and Washington D.C. are very important landmarks. Major cities like New York and Los Angeles are also defining features of the United States. Should these things be reduced to a pile of smoking rubble, Americans would be extremely upset—even Americans who had never personally been to any of these places. Every country has physical features which people strongly associate with their sense of national pride and general security. For the ancient Jews, the well-being of Jerusalem was a central part of their identity. This is why we find Jewish Nehemiah getting into a depressed funk at the beginning of his book over the news that Jerusalem was lying in rubble. Even though Nehemiah was living in the royal court of the Persian empire and holding one of the best jobs in the land, he just couldn’t be happy because Jerusalem was a dump. When his boss—the king of Persia—asked Nehemiah why he was so upset, Nehemiah replied:

“Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” (Neh. 2:3)

Why shouldn’t Nehemiah be sad? There are plenty of reasons. Yahweh has greatly blessed him and totally provided for his needs. While many Jews are living as lower class citizens, Nehemiah gets to hang out in the palace and enjoy the favor of a powerful emperor. Nehemiah’s attitude is really quite inappropriate, but this is how it was for ancient Jews: if Jerusalem wasn’t doing well, they just couldn’t be happy.

So what does this have to do with Revelation? Well, it’s important to understand how psychologically bonded the ancient Jews were to the earthly city of Jerusalem if we’re going to make any sense out of the imagery in Chapter 21. The Heaven that John sees in this vision is a replica of the earthly city of Jerusalem. It’s fancier, of course, but it’s still Jerusalem. This is a strictly Jewish paradise.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. (Rev. 21:1)

Naturally God is going to depict Heaven as being another physical earth, because that is all we humans can relate to. Notice how this heavenly earth has no sea in it—this is because the ancient Jews viewed the sea as evil. We can’t have any evil polluting a perfect paradise, so all oceans must be eliminated. This is God accommodating yet more silly superstitions.

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from Yahweh out of Heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, Yahweh’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. Yahweh Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then He said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:2-5)

Why does Yahweh need to make everything new? Because everything has been destroyed from the perspective of these ancient Jews. Their beloved city is in ruins. The Temple has been leveled. They’re feeling seriously depressed and persecuted. In real life, there was great animosity between the Jews and the Romans. Such is always the case when an empire tries to assimilate a nation of fiercely patriotic people. In the Old Testament, an ethnic group named the Chaldeans were swallowed up by the growing Assyrian Empire and, like the Jews, they refused to cooperate with their new masters. The ancient city of Babylon was to the Chaldeans what Jerusalem was to the Jews, and the Chaldeans kept revolting from within their beloved capital against Assyrian authority every chance they got. Eventually the Chaldeans ended up getting their way and they established the Babylonian Empire. The Jews took a similar tact with the Romans: refusing to be assimilated and constantly trying to break free and re-establish themselves as an independent nation.

When you think that your own ethnic group is God’s gift to the world, naturally you think the ultimate paradise would be one in which your countrymen dominate the scene. It is because the Jews had such a raging superiority complex that we find Yahweh always depicting eternal paradise as a glorious Jerusalem in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, He describes a perfect Jerusalem as being the envy of the whole world—the place where the inferior people of all those other inferior nations come just so they can offer sacrifices to Yahweh in His perfect heavenly Temple. Such images are nothing more than God appealing to human pride. In Isaiah 65, we find Yahweh painting this picture of eternity:

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in My people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.” (Isa. 65:17-19)

In Isaiah 2, we find another reference to Jerusalem one day being the most important city in the world.

Now it will come about in the last days that the mountain on which Yahweh’s Temple stands will become the most important of all mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it.  (Isa. 2:2)

How bizarre is it for God to be dragging earthly politics into eternity? The city of Jerusalem didn’t even become a concept for the Jews until the reign of King David. It should seem rather suspicious to you that a God who loves all people is making such a fuss over one particular manmade fortress and talking as if some earthly city will play a big role in Heaven. We can’t emphasize enough how narrow God’s target audience is in this series of Revelation. Blowing off this critical fact is what leads us into all kinds of ridiculous delusions. The next time you hear some so-called expert or prophet trying to tell you how God is prophesying messages about the future of our modern world in this book, you need to realize what a pile of baloney they are trying to hand you.

And He also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev. 21:6-8)

In our last lesson, we talked about how the apostle John has decided that true Christians are immune to sinning. The New Testament writers all had their favorite lists of unpardonable sins which they loved to toss around. The list put out here reflects how works oriented these Jews are. Sincere soul submission to your three glorious Creators isn’t good enough in John’s book—you also have to be perfect. Every sin in this list is a sin which John considers himself to be innocent of. Since many misguided Christians today love to use these New Testament lists to make people feel like unwanted refuse in the sight of God, let’s go through these items one at a time and get a clear view of what is actually being said.

According to this passage, the following groups of humanity are going to be damned to Hell:

1. The Cowardly

Our dictionary’s definition of a coward is “one who shows disgraceful fear or timidity.” What does this mean? Well to be “disgraceful” means to be a source of shame to some other human being. In other words, this a group of folks who display a degree of fear and timidity which these ancient Jews do not personally approve of. Well, considering that John expects all Christians to be perfect, we can just imagine how intolerant he is of anyone showing fear. But what does God think? Does God hate cowards? Not hardly.

Here’s an interesting fact about Yahweh’s Old Covenant Laws that doesn’t get out much. When laying down the rules for how the Israelite army was to go to war, Yahweh specifically ordered that special note be taken of any Israelite soldiers who were looking freaked out about actually going to battle. When such men were identified, what did God order to be done with them? We can tell from this passage that John would have spat on such men in disgust, but Yahweh’s instructions for handling cowardly soldiers was quite different.

The officers shall ask, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” (Deut 20:8)

Yahweh ordered that cowardly soldiers be sent home—not as an act of discipline but as a recognition that they weren’t being empowered by Him to handle the stress of battle. In Deuteronomy 20, God actually put out a long list of reasons for why certain men should be excused from going to war. Later on when we come to the story of Gideon, we find Yahweh enforcing this protective rule about cowardly soldiers by giving Gideon these instructions:

Yahweh said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel will become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’ So now say to the army, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. (Judg. 7:2-3)

God doesn’t despise cowards. Instead, He meets them where they are at. Often He urges frightened souls not to be afraid, but in other cases, He pulls them out of the circumstances that are causing their fear. So while John condemns anyone who falls short of his impossible demands for perfection, God doesn’t blame us for not having courage which He hasn’t given us (see Courageous Coward: Pleasing God When You’re Afraid).

Guess what? There will be times in your life when you are a sniveling coward. If you’ve never experienced this yet, just wait: the real end times are coming and we’re all going to be scared out of our wits when the Holy Spirit starts ripping this place up in front of us. Humans are fragile creatures and it just doesn’t take much to freak us out. Now is the time to get your theology straightened out on God’s view of cowards. He doesn’t think they are insufferable losers. He knows that apart from Him, bravery just isn’t in us.

2. The Unbelieving

This term is much too broad. What does it mean to not believe? Every Christian wrestles with unbelief in life. No one’s faith is unwavering. Yet the New Testament apostles were merciless towards those who wavered in their beliefs about God. The obnoxious apostle James condemns all those who doubt as being deservedly ignored by God.

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all that he does. (Jam. 1:6-8)

Notice how James says that if you doubt in any area, you’re unstable in everything that you do. Isn’t that nice of him?

Eternal damnation is the result of souls making an informed decision to refuse to align with Yahweh’s New Covenant requirements. That means refusing to submit to Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as your Gods and Masters. But even after you submit to your Creators, you’re going to have a boatload of questions, fears, and concerns to wrestle with. Spiritual maturation is a process which takes a lot of time. Faith development doesn’t happen overnight. If you are on track with the Holy Spirit, there are going to be seasons when you find yourself slammed with some very upsetting doubts—some of which will shake the very foundation of your belief in God. When such moments come, is Yahweh going to suddenly turn His back on you, revoke your salvation, and damn you to Hell? No. Under this Covenant, salvation is permanent, and unwavering belief is not something that God demands of us because He knows that none of us have it. The apostle John himself was filled with all kinds of doubts and fears—the very existence of this book is proof of that. If John’s faith was really as strong as he pretended it was, Yahweh and Jesus wouldn’t be spending 22 chapters hammering the same fundamental principles over and over again. It is those who refuse to align with Yahweh’s New Covenant requirements that will end up in Hell, not those who simply struggle with unbelief. It’s very important to not get these concepts confused. (If you’re currently in a faith crises, see Faith in Crisis: How to Grow Through the Storm for help.)

3. The Vile

The definition of vile is “morally despicable or abhorrent.” In other words, folks that are considered to be total yucks. Well, considering that John expects Christians to be perfect, we can only imagine how many people he thinks fall into this category.

The fact that God uses such a broad, general, totally unspecific term here in Revelation further demonstrates how narrow His target audience is. He’s talking to a bunch of bigots, so he uses terms that bigots relate to. He’s basically saying, “There won’t be any scumbags in Heaven.” And all the Jews would immediately pull up images of their hated enemies on earth. God could say this same statement to different groups of people on earth today, and each group would define “scumbag” differently. If you hate Koreans, then you’re going to hear God say this and think, “Oh, good, there won’t be any Koreans in Heaven.” If you hate women, then you’d think, “Oh good, there won’t be any women in Heaven.” This reference to “the vile”, leaves the door wide open for hateful people to define this group in any way they want. A guy like John would probably think, “Oh good, there won’t be any fickle Christians or Jew haters in Heaven.” You see, John finds it perfectly acceptable to hate other people but it’s an unpardonable sin if anyone hates him. Even though he waxes on and on about the importance of loving others in his epistle of 1 John—even going so far as to declare that you aren’t saved if you don’t love other people 24/7—in reality, John is very hateful towards non-Jews and wavering Christians. It’s clear that he has already written off anyone who participates in Domitian’s emperor worship ceremonies as unforgivable.

The New Testament writers are very two-faced in their teaching about love. They uphold it as the true Christian’s defining characteristic, but then they turn around and crank out lists of those who are deserving of Hell, and those lists are always focused on external behaviors, many of which are common to all of humanity. One minute they teach that salvation is based on faith, not works, but then they say that if there isn’t an abundance of righteous works in your life, then clearly you have no faith, therefore you are damned to Hell. All of the New Testament writers insist that we must prove the validity of our submission to God not just to God, but also to other humans. In other words, we must receive the approval of other Christians before we can be confident of our salvation. Well, no, this is utter rot. It is our Gods who will be judging us in eternity. Once we have been accepted by Them, other humans can take a hike. If you try to live for the approval of others, you will end up utterly despaired, because humans will demand the impossible from you. You need to stay focused on pleasing your Makers and that requires having a correct understanding of how They will judge you. For help with this, see Divine Judgment Q&A.

4. The Murderers

In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expanded the definition of murder to include merely thinking a hateful thought towards another human in your heart. This means that from God’s perspective, we’re all murderers. And once we’re all guilty of murder, it simply doesn’t work to say “all murderers will go to Hell,” because no, they won’t. The reality is that Heaven is filled with souls who murdered on earth in one form or another. We are not saved by behavioral perfection or pure hearts. We are saved by grace, and that grace is extended to us in response to our sincere soul submission to our glorious Lords.

5. The Sexually Immoral

Here’s another sin which we are all guilty of. Jesus said that to merely look at another person with lust in your heart was to commit adultery, and we’re not just talking about adultery here. We’re talking about any form of sexual immorality. If being sexually immoral is all it takes to get us thrown into Hell, then there is no hope at all.

6. The Sorcerers

If God is going to define one lustful glance as an act of adultery and one hateful thought as an act of murder, how do you think He defines sorcery? The dictionary definition of sorcery is “the use of power gained from the assistance or control of evil spirits, especially for divining.” Who exactly is it that you’re looking to for advice when you play around with horoscopes, tarot cards, Ouija boards, numerology, mediums, palm reading, and fortune cookies? You can’t possibly ascribe any validity to these things without being guilty of trying to hook up with evil spirits. Ouija boards are about trying to communicate with spirits other than God. Tarot cards are based on the “wisdom” of the ancient Egyptian god Thoth. Horoscopes are astrological products, and astrology is a religion which claims that celestial objects are the gods who are really controlling your life. Mediums consciously attempt to connect with spirits other than God. Palm reading, fortune cookies, and numerology are all forms of divination, and divination is a demon based activity. Still want to claim you’re not guilty of dabbling in sorcery? Ever try to make a deal with the devil? That’s a form of sorcery. Ever ask a friend to pray to his or her gods on your behalf? Ever seek spiritual advice from some wiseman who is steeped in a religion other than Christianity? That’s a form of sorcery. Anytime you try to hook up with a supernatural being other than Yahweh, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, you are pursuing demons, and you are practicing sorcery. And as long as we’re on the subject, realize that sorcery doesn’t stop being sorcery just because we slap God’s Name on it. This rot about getting drunk or slain in the Spirit is a totally demonic activity. This business about mapping demonic strongholds, and trying to control the power of God through holy water, verse chanting, intercession, and the irreverent flinging about of Jesus’ Name are all Christianized versions of the occult. When you treat a Bible or a cross like some kind of powerful magic charm, you’re playing with magic. When you sit around praying to saints and angels, and looking to such beings for guidance instead of looking to God Himself, you’re practicing sorcery. God hates it all, but mere acts of sorcery aren’t what’s going to get you thrown into Hell. The truth is that we are all guilty of trying to get our hands on some form of supernatural power using means that dishonor God. If He demanded perfect loyalty from us, we’d have no hope at all.

7. Idolators

Idolatry is when your soul begins to admire, love, and/or worship someone or something other than God to a degree that God finds unacceptable. Given that Yahweh says His Name is Jealous, it doesn’t take much to become guilty of idolatry from His perspective. Here is yet another sin that we are all guilty of (see Understanding Idolatry: The Problem & the Cure).

8. Liars

Anyone who claims to have never told a lie has just told another one. All human beings are chronic liars. In this world, we have to lie in order to maintain positive relationships with each other. Try being 100% honest with your friend for an entire week, and you won’t have a friend anymore. We all harbor evil thoughts towards each other, and we are all incapable of carrying around someone else’s baggage. If you get raw and real with your loved ones and dump all of your internal struggles onto their heads, they’re going to reject you as repulsive. This is real life: our Creators are the only Ones who we can be truly honest with without the fear of being rejected. So to say that all liars will go to Hell is like saying “anyone who breathes oxygen will go to Hell.” It’s utterly absurd, and when you see God talking this absurdly, you need to realize that He’s not being literal.

So what is God’s point in saying that these eight groups of people will end up in Hell? He’s accommodating the absurdity of His Jewish audience. These folks clearly think they’re above all of these issues, and they are obsessed with revenge. To them, Heaven is a place where Jerusalem is exalted and Hell is where all of the people they personally hated on earth will be seen writhing in torment. This is what they want, so this is what God accommodates. John should have questioned the details of this vision, but he doesn’t. Instead of seeing himself being described in this list of eight sins, he thinks these are crimes that only apply to other people. Now for those of you who think we’re being too harsh on John, let’s keep reading, and we’ll get to the part where John’s raging ego is really put on display.

Then one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

So the angel took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from Yahweh. It shone with the glory of Yahweh and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal. The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were written on the gates. There were three gates on each side—east, north, south, and west. The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Rev. 21:9-14)

Really? So a guy who has so grossly misrepresented the tenants of Yahweh’s New Covenant and who has clearly rejected so many of God’s values is going to be exalted as some foundational pillar in Heaven? No, such an image totally conflicts with what Jesus and Yahweh teach about how rewards in Heaven will work. They teach that humility is what will be rewarded, and humility is something that John clearly knows nothing about as he looks down his nose at the human race and decides that he is perfect in God’s sight.

In the Old Testament, we find Yahweh railing against spiritual leaders in Israel who mangle the meaning of Scripture. In the New Testament, we find Jesus furiously condemning the Pharisees for utterly discouraging sincere seekers from coming to God by insisting that He demands the impossible from them. This is what guys like John and James do: they recycle Pharisaical teaching in their letters by making salvation a behavioral matter and making Yahweh out to be impossible to please. At the same time, they arrogantly claim to be meeting all of God’s requirements themselves. This was the Pharisaical way, and the Pharisees were the popular preachers in New Testament Israel. Since when does God smile on such rot? Since when does He glorify twelve humans and one ethnicity over all others?

Now it’s amusing to wonder just who these twelve apostles were. Was Judas’ name inscribed on one of the foundation stones? It’s doubtful, considering the hateful way that the Gospel writers speak of him. But if Judas is out, who was put in? We’ll never know. The whole idea of men’s names being engraved on the foundation stones of Heaven is utterly absurd.

Now this imagery of the twelve tribes being engraved on the twelve gates that make twelve entrances through Jerusalem’s thick fortress walls is a rip off from Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 48:30-35, Yahweh is finishing up His description of a similarly glorious Jerusalem and He lists off the names of the actual twelve sons of Jacob. Unlike the list in Revelation 7 which excluded the tribe of Dan, Yahweh’s list in Ezekiel does include Dan, but you’ll notice that a specific mention of Dan is avoided here in Revelation 21. After all, these New Testament Jews have decided that Dan is as evil as the sea, so they don’t want to hear his name being written in Heaven. It’s all such foolishness.

Notice how the number 12 is popping up all over the place. Twelve gates, 12 angels, and 12 foundation stones. These superstitious Jews loved their twelves, and it’s no surprise that the city’s measurements will turn out to be divisible by 12 as well.

The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 12,000 stadia [1,400 miles]. Then he measured the walls and found them to be 144 cubits [216 feet] thick (according to the human standard used by the angel).

The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass. (Rev. 21:15-21)

Since persecuted Jews in the Roman Empire were poor folks, God shows them a Jerusalem which is so abounding in wealth that the most precious commodities on earth are used as basic building materials. This is a glamorous, sparkling picture of extravagance. The real Jerusalem on earth was a very impressive sight to behold once Herod was done sprucing up the place, but this heavenly Jerusalem is even finer.

I saw no Temple in the city, for the Lord Yahweh Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of Yahweh illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing unclean will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and lying—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Rev. 21:22-27)

It’s details like this which demonstrate God’s involvement in what would otherwise be a very questionable vision. There is no way that these Jews would ever dream up an earthly paradise with no Temple. In all of His portraits of eternity in the Old Testament, Yahweh always included a Temple. This was appropriate when the Old Covenant was still in force and the Temple was a critical way of communing with God. But now that Christ has established the New Covenant, keeping the Temple around is insulting to both Him and Yahweh, so it is thrown out.

God depicts Heaven as a fortress in this book because in these times, fortresses made people feel safe. But then God says that this fortress’ gates are never closed, and the obvious implication is that there is no threat of danger. Night is abolished, because night is another time when humans on earth feel vulnerable and afraid. A concept of ethnicity is preserved so these Jews can keep feeling superior—notice that reference to “all nations” bringing glory and honor to this jewel encrusted Jerusalem and “all nations” walking by the light of this city. The reference to “unclean” things never coming into the city reminds us that these Jews are still looking at the world through Old Covenant eyes. Once again those idolaters and liars get condemned.

So, how is this picture of eternity striking you? Are you attracted or bothered? You should be bothered and quite disappointed at the thought of paradise being just another rehash of this physical dimension. Bodies, houses, fortresses, and jewels—who needs them? What happened to being freed up from the cares and values of this world? And who wants to go worship God in some shrine that’s been built to glorify one group of fallen human beings? As a whole, the nation of Israel has always treated God abominably. In real life, there was very little to admire about Jacob’s twelve sons, so why should they be the ones getting their names chiseled into the gates? It is our Creators who are supposed to be exalted in eternity, not foolish mortals. The real Heaven won’t be anything like the place we’ve been reading about here, so why is God promoting such delusions?  This is a very important question, but before we answer it, we need to get through one more chapter in this troublesome book.

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