Christianity 201

May 19, 2019

Entering the Place Where the Lord Dwells

Today we’re introducing an author who is new to us here. Mark Stephenson co-pastors Horizon Church of Towson. Maryland and writes at Fire and Light. In today’s article, he paints a vivid picture of what it is like to enter into the dwelling place of the Lord, referred to in scripture as Zion or Mount Zion.

Click the link below to read at source.

City of the Living God

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel…

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”[ref. Deuteronomy 4:24]

– Hebrews 12:22-24, 28-29

When we worship God we get to enter the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. We get to walk among thousands upon thousands of angels who have gathered to joyfully worship the Lord. We get to approach the throne of grace with confidence knowing that Jesus has made a way by His blood.

Can you picture it?

As you walk toward God’s throne, surrounded by cheering angels, you are clothed in garments of white. The aisle to the throne is as clear as a crystal sea. The angels, as servants of the King, all know that a child of the King has entered the throne room. Royalty has walked in and they all act accordingly. You are an heir of an unshakeable Kingdom, a co-heir with Christ.

As you approach God on His throne, your pace slows. Your steps are careful. You are reminded that this is not only the King of Kings but also your Heavenly Father. You stop. You know this is close enough. The rest of the distance from you to Him is for Him to walk if He decides. He is a consuming fire, and you can feel His power from here. You bow down with your knees to the ground to honor the One who deserves all glory and honor.

You bow your head in reverence and awe. You don’t bow as a slave bows to a master. You are not afraid. You don’t bow in shame and guilt. His eyes see through you, but it is not a stare of disappointment or judgment. It’s a gaze of pure love. He loves that you bow your head in reverence, but He doesn’t want your head to stay bowed. As a loving Father, He signals to you to lift your head. He doesn’t want the top of your head but your eyes looking back at Him. He loves to see your face. The joy and pride of a proud parent fills His countenance.

As He stands to His feet, all the angels–the cherubim, seraphim, and all the other heavenly beings–drop to their knees in worship. As He walks the transparent aisle toward you, He signals you to your feet. You’re not sure you should be standing so your personal angel has to tell you to stand up. You stand before pure love and pure light walking toward you.

Self-limitation is an act of love and had He not reduced His own glory and power in this moment, you’d be fatally consumed immediately. And you know it. You can feel Him dial down His presence and majesty in order to draw near to you. It’s what He did in Jesus and here He is doing it again…just for a moment with you.

He has a smile that makes you smile. When you see His smile it’s so contagious you can’t help but feel joy well up from your gut and overtake your face. He puts His left hand on your right shoulder. You instinctively know that if His power wasn’t sustaining you in this moment you’d collapse under the weight of His glory.

He doesn’t have to say a word. Somehow everything that needs to be communicated is already being said, heart to heart, mind to mind. And somehow He’s not speaking one word at a time but instead it feels like He’s downloading whole ideas instantaneously. These thoughts would take a long time to explain using words but somehow the ideas come all at once.

He draws even closer. He wraps you in His arms. He transmits a love that is intoxicating and overwhelming. Tears burst from your eyes, and your heart feels like it is about to explode. It’s like your current heart wasn’t meant for this amount of love. You need a new heart, one with the capacity to hold a fraction of what is coursing through you in that moment.

The encounter ends.

Grateful is such a small word for what you feel in the aftermath, but it’s as close as you can get to describing the feeling. You have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and you are in awe!

 

December 20, 2015

The Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ

And He Shall Reign Forever

On my other blog, Thinking Out Loud, I get a lot of traffic each Christmas for a 2010 item I wrote concerning whether or not audiences should continue to stand for the Hallelujah Chorus in G. F. Handel’s Messiah. There are currently 6-dozen comments reflecting different sides to the debate.

The song itself is actually rather sparse lyrically, but in those few words there is great, great power.

Hallelujah!

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever.

King of kings, and Lord of lords

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Musicians can and do try to analyze the piece musically.    But we know different.   The force of the song is in the lyrics, taken from Revelation 11:15

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become [the kingdoms] of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (KJV)

Other translations — even the NLT and The Message — stay with this overall form, but the New Century Version simplifies it for younger ears:

“The power to rule the world now belongs to our Lord and his Christ, and he will rule forever and ever.”

This occurs in Revelation at the end of what we call The Seven Trumpet Judgements.

The second cycle of judgments (8:2–11:19) closes with a second description of the Second Coming by focusing on the last judgment (v. 18) and the triumph of God’s kingly rule (vv. 15, 17). (Reformation Study Bible)

Go deeper with the IVP Bible Commentary:

We all know the feeling summed up by the expression “the future is now.” It may be graduation, marriage, the birth of a first child or a long-awaited trip to some faraway place. Someday it will be retirement, and one day it will be the hour of death. It is something we knew was coming, something anticipated and imagined for years, with excitement and joy or with dread. Sooner or later a time comes when it is upon us, and we experience either realization or disappointment or relief, depending on what our expectations were and how closely their fulfillment matched them.

John’s expectations about the seventh trumpet must have been a strange mixture of excitement and dread, not unlike those of any Christian facing simultaneously the mystery of death and the hope of heaven. On the one hand John had been warned of three terrible “woes” to come on the earth, but had only witnessed two of them (8:13; 9:12). One remained, possibly the worst of all, and it was to come “soon” (11:14). Yet he had also been told that “when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” (10:7). Now that he hears the trumpet, it sounds more like the fulfillment of a promise than an oracle of woe. Loud voices in heaven announce that the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever (v. 15).

Clearly the announcement introduces a major division in the book. At once the twenty-four elders in heaven, who have not been heard from as a group since the opening throne-room scene in chapters 4-5, fall on their faces in worship, just as they did twice in that opening scene (4:10; 5:8), offering thanks to God for what he has done and what he is about to do (vv. 16-18). It appears that these verses form a kind of inclusion with chapters 4-5, framing the seven seals and seven trumpets and preparing the way for still more visions to follow.

At the same time, the singular expression, the kingdom of the world, echoes the prophecy just completed about “the great city” of this world, “which is figuratively Sodom and Egypt” (v. 8). The world has many cities and “many peoples, nations, languages and kings” (10:11), but John knows, just as Augustine knew in his City of God, and Bunyan knew in The Pilgrim’s Progress, that these are all one city, all one kingdom, whether we call it the City of Man or the City of Destruction or Vanity Fair. Only when that city’s citizens “were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (v. 13) was it possible to say, The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. The seventh trumpet is significant, therefore, both in relation to chapters 4-11 generally and to the end of the sixth trumpet in particular…

How do we end this consideration today? Perhaps with these words familiar words from The Lord’s Prayer:

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.