Revelation 21:9-27 – Holy City of God

Read Revelation 21:9-27

We have probably all heard a joke or two about the “pearly gates” of heaven. You might even remember how St. Peter is said to be standing there as the gatekeeper. Now you know where this picture comes from and how totally off base the description truly is. There are actually twelve gates, not one, and all of the apostles have a place in the foundation, not just Peter. But at least people are talking about heaven, even if only in “jest.”

God is preparing a beautiful place for us. The magnificence defies description. While the dimensions were meant to be symbolic, they are given in great detail. What we do see may have been lost in the translation. Each measurement represents a multiple of 12. You will recall that in the Bible the number 12 represents God’s people. First there are the 12 tribes, then the 12 apostles of the Lamb. The Holy City of God beautifully represents the people who have stayed true. There are even 12 precious gems adorning the city. It is a magnificent place for God’s people to dwell, and the size will be just perfect.

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Revelation 21:1-8 – Everything is New

Read Revelation 21:1-8

I don’t want to rush past the beautiful conclusion to the last book of the Bible. The promises of these few verses are immense. God has an amazing future planned for us. In these opening verses we read that our new community, the New Jerusalem, will be “like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” We have all been wow-ed by a bride on her wedding day as she cascades down the aisle to her groom waiting at the altar. So much preparation has gone in to that moment.

So, too, God is preparing for the moment of his great reveal. He is waiting for the perfect time for all those he has loved so much from a distance to finally be brought into his presence. There is no way to truly express the beauty of this elaborate moment when God’s extravagant love for us is fully revealed. We just don’t have the words to fully describe the majesty. It is the precious moment when the time comes for “God himself will be with them.” With us. Don’t rush past this image. God himself! With us!

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Philippians 1:27-30 – Citizens of Heaven

Read Philippians 1:27-30

Today’s reading struck a chord with me. Just as Paul is in the midst of his captivity and struggle, so to are people around the world. As I write this (and I realize you may be reading it now in real time or reading it in the future), our world is being pummeled with natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes. It sounds like end times in some ways, but frightening indeed for those in the midst of these storms.

Paul is telling us here to live as citizens of heaven while we are here on earth. What does this mean? Paul is using the analogy of citizenship to speak to the people of Philippi. There was a sense of being devoted to the country, the ruling nation, think of it as patriotism. Paul wanted them/us to think in terms of being devoted to your country, your citizenship, but then realize it is temporary. We are really meant for heaven, earth is where we gather in community with a colony of other believers.

We are called to build that colony with the destiny in mind. Heaven. We are to stand together with one purpose. Strengthen the colony and bring others into it. Share the news of Jesus and his forgiveness. People need to know they have a great inheritance. We can’t keep that for ourselves when it is meant for many.

There is power in numbers, so we need to stick together when struggles and challenges come. The evil one will bring tests, and we need to be strong to stand against them. Paul calls it a privilege to suffer on account of Christ. It is certainly a privilege and honor to call him Lord. I sometimes have a hard time with calling the other a privilege. But with all believers together, we are strong and eager support each other.

So for all of the horrible things people are experiencing these days, we pray peace. We know God is at work through his people to bring some good out of all of the bad. Some have suggested these disasters are our consequence for evil in the world – hatred, greed, lack of unity, etc. I will not enter into that debate. What I will say is — how we respond in these times of struggle and chaos is a reflection of who we are in Christ.

How are you responding to the crises we see around the world? Do you feel immune and separate yourself? Do you earnestly pray and seek God’s guidance for how you can help?

We all need to stand together in God’s army.

Let’s pray. Father God, the enemy is sending disaster to weaken your people. I thank you that you have them in your hands. Bring them peace and assurance. Things of this earth are temporary, but destiny with you in heaven is our great reward. Help me not to forget that. Help me to focus on the good you have done and your mighty power alive inside me. My energy is feeling depleted. Lord, renew me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.