OUTSIDE THE GATES
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:14)
Have you ever wondered about the passage above? I have. The setting is the new earth. The “city” is the new Jerusalem, which is the dwelling place of God among the people who have been saved to the new earth. The new Jerusalem is the home of the Royal Priesthood, the Church, the Body of Christ, the Wife of the Lamb. This is the promised “home of righteousness.” The gates are the entrance into the city.
I always had supposed that everyone on the new earth would be totally righteous, since Satan, his angels, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the demons no longer are present. After the final judgment, everyone except those whose names are in the Book of Life are thrown into the Lake of Fire to be forever with Satan and his friends.
What troubles me is the word “outside,” apparently meaning outside the gates. We would expect the passage to say, “the immoral, the murderers, and so forth” are in the Lake of Fire. To say they are “outside,” in the normal usage of the word, suggests they are on the new earth but outside the new Jerusalem.
I have found that when there is a passage in the Bible that does not seem to fit, we need to set it aside until we come to an understanding in which the passage in question clearly fits. It is like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle that almost fits and we are tempted to force it into place. When we find the right piece, it fits perfectly.
So let’s for the time being assume that there actually are people on the new earth who are dogs (probably meaning they act more like animals than like people), sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters, and who love and practice falsehoods. Such people are not permitted to pass through the gates into the Presence of God and eat and drink of eternal life.
Yet, they would not be on the new earth had their names not been found in the Book of Life.
I do not have a problem with this scenario. I am of the opinion that there will be an army of judges who will maintain order on the new earth. Remember, these are people saved from the nations—the “sheep” that Jesus referred to. Their entrance into the Kingdom was granted because they had assisted the Lord’s brothers when the brothers were needy. So it is reasonable to suppose that many of them had never learned the ways of righteousness and holiness.
This would mean that the saints, the members of the Royal Priesthood, whose inheritance is the people from the nations, would be engaged actively in reconciling these people to God. Once they were delivered from their sinful ways, they then would be permitted to enter through the gates into the new Jerusalem and eat from the Tree of Life and drink from the Water of Life.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (II Corinthians 5:18)
I have written in previous essays that the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement has commenced and will extend to the final resurrection and judgment. As I think about it, it may extend as long as people need to be reconciled to God.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (II Corinthians 5:21)
A bit of an explanation may be needed here. One could gain the impression that there is no need for us to behave righteously. By accepting Christ, we are considered to be as righteous as He is. This is the traditional error. It is without doubt the most destructive idea ever to enter Christian thinking. The Kingdom of God then is one of sinful behavior with a label that says “righteous” attached to it.
The true meaning is that when we are abiding in Christ, His righteousness of personality takes the place of any effort toward righteousness we might make. It is a genuine, eternal righteousness coming from the Personality of God Himself. It is righteousness by transformation, not by identification!
Adam and Eve had no sin nature. Yet Satan managed to lead them into sin. The people on the new earth will be ordinary people. Who is to say that one of them, or an angel, will not be tempted disobey God? We usually do not think of such things, supposing that once the new Jerusalem is installed on the new earth, there can be no more sin.
But that is only our idea. If you will remember, Satan, who apparently was one of the two cherubim whose wings covered the Throne of God in Heaven, developed within his own personality the desire to usurp the place of the Father. Prior to this time, he had been faultless. Christ did not create Satan as a sinful being.
You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. (Ezekiel 28:15)
Let’s think about this for a minute. Satan was not created with a sinful nature. Where, then, did his sinning come from? Since he had a will of his own, he developed within himself the desire to take the place of God. If this is so, then any person or angel at any time throughout eternity can develop within himself or herself a desire to go against God’s will.
This gives a whole different picture of what is going on, doesn’t it? We can understand now that God has permitted the six thousand years of the history of the earth to show angels and people the folly of lawlessness.
I am saying that it always will be possible for angels and people to sin. This is a frightening thought, isn’t it? Perhaps most of us had supposed that once Christ came back, He would put an end to sin and we would not need to be concerned about sin any longer. The only way that would be possible would be if God removed from angels and people the ability to behave as they wished. This would be a robotic creation, and it is not what God desires.
Perhaps God has an intention in the far distant future to establish other universes in which His sons serve as gods. In this case, these sons must be so conditioned that they can be guaranteed to reproduce the moral personality of their Father, the God of Heaven.
Have you ever thought of what it would be like if our Father in Heaven did not have the moral nature that He has? What if He were immoral, or unfaithful, or a liar, or impatient? What an incredible nightmare that would be! You might say, “That never could happen.” Why not? Why does God need to be like He is? Is there some superior Power who ensures that our God will always be righteous? Is there something in the universe that guarantees the eternal victory of righteousness?
Our God’s sons never could serve as gods of other universes until it was established beyond all possibility of change that they would have the same moral character as our Father in Heaven.
All of this tells us the utter importance of our overcoming sin today. If we are to go on with Christ, it is of the highest priority that we are transformed into His moral image. Otherwise, we must remain as those who are governed by people who have been transformed into Christ’s moral image.
We might consider at this point that our Lord Jesus Christ learned obedience to the Father. He was made perfect through suffering, the Scripture maintains. If our Lord Jesus Christ had to learn obedience through suffering, what must be true of us?
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)
One readily can see the sheer folly of the lawless-grace message. By teaching that when we “accept Christ” there no longer is a need for moral transformation, we hinder people from continuing on the path of victory to which they have been appointed.
The fact that the saints, whose home is the new Jerusalem, shall reign for eternity acknowledges that the people on the new earth will need continual supervision.
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5—KJV)
In order to be healed and have eternal life, the citizens of the new earth must enter through the gates into the new Jerusalem. In order to enter through the gates into the new Jerusalem, they first must be reconciled to God in their behavior.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1,2)
Now it all makes perfect sense, and we do not need to force that piece into the jigsaw puzzle. It just fits there naturally.
Let’s bring this down to today. What if we see someone whom God blesses with an unusual ministry. Would we be tempted to be jealous, do you imagine? How would we act out our jealousy? Would we seek to discredit this person in the eyes of other people? What if, like Absalom, we wanted to take the place of an individual who held a position of authority and prestige that we desired? What might we do in order to unseat that individual and take his place?
Why would such a situation not occur in the future on the new earth? Perhaps some person in the “sheep” nations might be jealous of those who are members of the Royal Priesthood. We notice that after a thousand years of the rule of Christ and His saints, Satan still was able to seduce the nations of the earth to rebel against the Divine rule.
There are many ranks and roles in the Kingdom of God. Would it be possible for you or me to be jealous of someone to whom God has assigned great glory and power such that he or she was seated on the right hand of Christ in His Kingdom? What would prevent you or me from being jealous of that elevated individual and from taking steps to express our jealousy? Would it be impossible for us to be jealous? I don’t think so. I think we either have learned to conquer our sinful desires, or else a person of greater maturity, having been notified by the Holy Spirit or by an angel that we were having this problem, would come to us and help us overcome our sinful attitude.
If we then repent and change our attitude, we will be able to enter through the gates and be refreshed in the Spirit of God. But if we are unwilling to repent, then we will be sent to a place of punishment. Or maybe we will be taken on a field trip to see the bodies of those who have rebelled against God.
“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord. “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
If we still will not repent, having hardened our heart, we will be sent to the Lake of Fire to be with Satan. You may note that the above will take place during the new heavens and new earth reign of Christ.
In some ways it is like today, isn’t it? It’s not such a big change after all. We understand then that our desire to “accept Christ” so we can go to Heaven to live forever is understandable but is not scriptural. The major issue is, as it always has been with the Lord, righteousness of behavior.
All that God has done through the centuries must be viewed as a reaction to the original rebellion of Satan, and a plan to ensure it never shall occur again in God’s new Kingdom.
Are you and I in Christ part of the solution? Or are we still part of the problem?
(“Outside the Gates”, 3864-1, proofed 20210918)