Saturday, April 8, 2017

Solus Christus and His City

I was listening to Revelation while running the last few days. I’ve always found that listening to Scripture (and reading different translations) draws my attention to previously-unnoticed aspects of the Word, no matter how many times I’ve read it (or preached/taught on it).

After seeing “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2), it is revealed to John that there are those who are not permitted entry:
“The nations will walk by [the city’s] light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:24-27).[1]
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying (22:14,15).

Those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18), “oppose the truth” (2 Timothy 3:8), or dismissively ask “what is truth?” (John 18:38) cannot abide eternally in this city, which is the Church.[2] Conformity to the truth is key to entry into this city, for Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through” Him (John 14:6; see also John 1:14,17; 1 John 5:20).

In this same ending section of the Revelation, the veracity of the words of the book are emphasized: “…one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues…said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true’” (21:9; 22:6). This isn’t abstract faithfulness or truthfulness, but these words are what they are because their Source is divinely Personal - the words of the Revelation “are faithful and true,” because this book is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1), and He is a “faithful and true” Witness:
“…Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness (1:5).
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness…” (3:14).
“…I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He Who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war…from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations” (19:11,15).[3]

In a book about the unveiling of the One Who is unchangeably, eternally, and essentially “faithful and true,” its words reflect His character. A book of truth revealing the One Who is Truth lays out the reality that only those conformed to this truth will live in fellowship with Him now and forever.

Therefore, it is not merely telling falsehoods that exclude one from “the city,” but living a life contrary to the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose character throughout the Revelation is highlighted as being “faithful and true.” That which is contrary to Jesus will not be in His city, but those living by faith in the One Who is Truth will be with Him:
“…to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One Who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells’” (2:12,13). In Pergamum, a city of great spiritual darkness and persecution, we have a believer named Antipas named. His life as the divinely Personal Truth’s “witness” may have ended his earthly life, but brought him into a welcoming opposite of that condemnation expressed in Matthew 7:21-23. This One Who knows Antipas is introduced in this letter as “the One Who has the sharp two-edged sword,” that is, the Word of power and judgment against those who oppose the Truth Who is Jesus and persecute those united to that Personal Truth by faith.
“…I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless” (14:1-5).

Jesus’ “sword” comes from His mouth (1:16; 2:16; 19:15,21); the word, testimony, and witness of Jesus has power. When this testimony is given through His servants, it is He Who is speaking through them. The witness may die, but the truth of Jesus spoke through them accomplishes its purpose. We see this in the “witnesses” described later: “I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth” (11:3). Also, at the end of the book we read of the Whore’s guilt: “…I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus (17:6).

I really love the song “Sunday!” by tree63.

“Nothing’s sacred, the days are cheap;
Truth is thin on the ground.
Still our prophets are crucified;
Nobody believes we’re stumbling.
It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming.”[4]

In days when “truth is thin on the ground,” where are we going to stand? The Revelation tells us it is not to be found in pundits or websites – why do you read, rely on, and repost these more than the Scripture, which is the inerrant testimony of Jesus? Those who enter the City and live there with the divinely Personal Truth are those who live in conformity not to the chaotic confession and conspiracy of the world, but those who are “standing” with “the Lamb” on the rock-steady “Mount Zion,” “and no lie [is] found in their mouth; they are blameless.” In an age of “false news,” “alternative facts,” poorly-constructed sophistry eagerly consumed by every faction, cults of personality, and 1984-style propaganda, where are you going to stand? I think I know, judging by the fact that you mention Jesus, His Gospel, and His truth far less than you mention the wisdom of the world. Repent and return to the City. Too many are outside the gates, with one finger stretched out to barely touch its mighty walls and with the other hand building a poor, tiny replica of the City out of pieces of garbage unworthy of the Reality.

Love Jesus. He is better. He is King. He is Savior. Witness His truth and faithfulness through the Word of His Gospel to the lost. Bring them into the City. SOLUS CHRISTUS!!

[1] The Bible often explains itself if we are teachable. The Revelation is written from a very Hebrew mindset, explaining itself through parallelisms, as in this passage. “…the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” What is “their glory”? The other phrases about entering the city explain the “glory.” It is further described as “the glory and the honor of the nations,” which is brought “into it.” Finally, this “glory” is defined clearly as “those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Believers are “the glory and the honor of the nations.” Further, I wonder if “the kings of the earth” are believers as described in 5:9,10 (“they will reign upon the earth”) – that is, that 21:24-27 describes evangelism/missions. Those purchased by the blood of the Lamb among the nations manifest His absolute reign over heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:20-23) by witnessing of Him and leading others into His eternal city which is His Bride, the Church.
[2] 1:1 tells us the Revelation was “signified” (ἐσήμανεν, from σημαίνω, the verb form of the word “symbol,” or “sign,” σημεῖον). John sees the Church “signified,” or “symbolized,” as a city – the New Testament knows only the Church as the Bride of the Lamb (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:9,10 – not to mention the use of “Bridegroom” to refer to Jesus in the Gospels).
[3] See also John 3:9-12,27,31-34; 8:14-18; 18:37,38.
[4] Written by John Andrew Ellis (Birdwing Music, 2007).

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