THE NEW JERUSALEM
THE NEW JERUSALEM Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The new Jerusalem is the center of government of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. There is an "old Jerusalem" on earth today symbolized by Hagar, the slave of Abraham and Sarah. But the new Jerusalem is above us in the spirit realm.
The new Jerusalem will not appear for mankind to behold until the end of the thousand-year period, at which time there will be a new sky and a new earth. Then the holy city, the Wife of the Lamb, the Kingdom of Heaven, will descend from God out of Heaven and be established forever on the new earth.
When we Christians speak of going to Heaven we mean going to the new Jerusalem. Paradise, the tree of life, the River of Life, the Throne of God and of the Lamb—all are within the gates of the holy city. The new Jerusalem is the mother of every true saint of God.
THE NEW JERUSALEM
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Galatians 4:26)
Our goal as Christians is to make our eternal home in the new Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem is the center of government of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God.
When we Christians speak of going to Heaven we mean going to the new Jerusalem. Paradise, the tree of life, the River of Life, the Throne of God and of the Lamb—all are within the gates of the holy city.
There is an "old Jerusalem" on the earth today. But the new Jerusalem is above us in the spirit realm. The new Jerusalem is the mother of every true saint of God.
All the longing for Heaven that is in the heart of the follower of Christ is a longing for the Presence of God. The Presence of God is in the new Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem is "Heaven," the outward form of the Kingdom of Heaven.
It is not enough for us when we die to enter the realm of spirits. The joy we are seeking is not found everywhere in the spirit realm, in the domain of bodiless spirits. Unclean spirits find no rest in the spirit realm. The love, joy, peace, and righteousness for which we yearn are found only in the Kingdom of God, in the new Jerusalem.
Throughout the Scriptures the emphasis is on Jerusalem, the city of God. The old Jerusalem is in bondage with her children, Paul informs us. But the new Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that is above, is free—free from the ordinances of the Law of Moses and free from the passions and effects of sin and self-will.
The new Jerusalem commenced with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead. The new Jerusalem, which is the Kingdom of God, was not in existence before the Lord rose from the dead. Christ is the Cornerstone. The entire city is constructed on Him.
The new Jerusalem is located above us, in the spirit realm. It never will be seen on the present earth, according to our understanding, although its citizens will return with the Lord Jesus at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom-age. It will not appear until the end of the thousand-year period, at which time there will be a new sky and a new earth. Then the holy city, the Wife of the Lamb, the Kingdom of Heaven, will descend from God out of Heaven and be established forever on the new earth.
Heaven is the Throne of God. The Throne of God and of the Lamb is located eternally in the new Jerusalem. When the holy city has been established on the new earth, we might say Heaven has become one with the earth. The throne will have been joined to the footstool.
Heaven and earth always are made one in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Isaiah spoke of the day when the Lord God would glorify Jerusalem.
O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. (Isaiah 54:1-13)
Who would have thought, from reading this prophecy, that God had in mind to glorify Jerusalem by creating a perfect spiritual Jerusalem and placing it on a new earth!—that the Throne of God Himself and of the Lamb would be in it in unveiled splendor!
Again Isaiah speaks of the new Jerusalem, the Kingdom of Heaven:
For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. (Isaiah 62:1)
The problem with the old Jerusalem, as with all the cities of the earth, is that the inhabitants are filled with sin and self-seeking. No matter how marvelously a city has been constructed, its worth depends alone on the character of the inhabitants. A city is the people who inhabit it. It is the people of the city, not the streets, buildings, and parks, who make the city what it is.
God is carefully forming the inhabitants of the holy city, the new Jerusalem. It is called the "holy" city because every citizen walks in perfect righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God.
The citizens of the new Jerusalem are not sinners who are being allowed to dwell there on the basis of God’s mercy and grace. They are those whom God has created in Christ’s image. The belief that we enter the Kingdom of Heaven and reside in the holy city in a forgiven but untransformed state may well be the greatest single error in Christian thinking.
To become a citizen of the new Jerusalem one must be born there.
And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. (Psalms 87:5)
After we have been born into the Jerusalem that is above, our sins having been forgiven through the blood of the cross, the Holy Spirit begins to work in us the ways of the Kingdom of God. There is no sin in the Kingdom of God, in the holy city.
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21)
There appears to be a radical misunderstanding in current Christian doctrine concerning the manner in which God’s grace operates.
The impression is gained, from contemporary preaching and teaching, that professing a belief in the facts of the atonement and resurrection gives to the individual a ticket to the Paradise of God. He is "saved by grace," meaning he will abide in Paradise forever because he believes Christ died for His sins.
We can understand how someone could come to this conclusion if the New Testament writings consisted only of Romans, Chapters Three through Five (although even here no mention is made of Paradise or Heaven). But a careful study of Chapter Six of Romans, as well as of the remainder of the writings of the New Testament, reveals quickly that redemption is not primarily a free ticket to a delightful land.
Redemption is the restoration of what has been lost to mankind because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The primary work of redemption is the removal of every trace of the work of Satan from the believer, not the moving of the believer from earth to beautiful surroundings.
We are being moved from Satan to God, not from earth to Heaven.
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18)
"From darkness to light." "From the power of Satan unto God."
There is only one means of entering through the gates into the Kingdom of Heaven, and that is by keeping the commandments of God—the scriptural commandments of righteousness and holiness, and the directives given to us personally by the Lord Jesus as He guides our lives.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)
If there were one thief, one gossiper, one murderer in the entire new Jerusalem, which is the Wife of the Lamb, God would turn away from it. God and the Lamb abide in the city in open revelation and manifestation of Their Persons. There are no sinners in the new Jerusalem.
How and when do we become fit to enter the new Jerusalem?
How is by the Lord Jesus Christ. He deals with us continually until the sin and self-love are destroyed out of us. Dying and passing into the spirit realm do not remove sin and self-love from us. Sin and self-will originated in the spirit realm.
When may depend on us. It is God’s will that each day of our Christian life on the earth we pay close attention to the work of the Holy Spirit as He guides us in putting to death the deeds of our body. The Spirit leads us into the likeness of the death of Christ so our sin and self-seeking may be crucified.
But many believers do not follow the Lord in sanctification, or they may not have time because of a "deathbed conversion." What about them? When will they be made fit for residence in the Kingdom of God?
This we cannot answer with clarity from the Scriptures. We understand that those who know the Lord’s will and do not perform it in this present life will be dealt with harshly. Some will be thrown into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
We understand also that sin and self-will never shall be permitted to enter the new Jerusalem. We cannot enter by grace, by Divine forgiveness, by mercy, or by any other alternative to godliness of character. The new Jerusalem is a holy city. A massive wall prevents the sinner from entering it. There is nothing in it that defiles.
It is one matter to have the Lord forgive our sins. It is another matter to have the Lord transform us so we behave righteously. There currently is doctrinal confusion on this point.
It is not true that the new Jerusalem is a city of sinning, self-willed people whose behavior is overlooked by the Lord because they have professed faith in the atonement. Without holiness no person ever will see the Lord. Christ has perfected forever those who are sanctified by His blood and leading a holy life, not those who, after having believed, are continuing to walk in the lusts of the flesh and the pride of the soul and spirit.
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are [being] sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)
One reason for the present confusion is that virtually nothing is stated in the Scriptures concerning what happens to us after we die. We have many traditions but not much Scripture pertaining to life after death. The Scriptures deal with life now and also with what will take place when the Lord Jesus returns. But what happens to us after we die and before the Day of Resurrection is not presented clearly.
People who have had visions of life after death state that we enter the spiritual world with the same personality we have on the earth. Dying does not change our personality. (Why should it?) They say also that we are instructed by saints and by angels. Sundar Singh maintains there are various levels of Heaven and Hell and that we are placed at a level that corresponds to our personality (Visions of Sadhu Sundar Singh of India, Osterhus Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minn.).
One thing appears certain: the traditional concept that at death we either go up to the highest realm of the spirit Paradise or else are thrown down to the lowest Hell, simply does not fit the whole teaching of the Scriptures. It does not fit, for example, the teaching of Jesus that some are beaten with many lashes and some with few. Neither does it agree with the system of overcoming and rewards presented in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, unless we are prepared to accept that only the overcomers are saved and all the weaker believers are to be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
The primary meaning of being "saved" is we shall not be rejected by the Lord Jesus when he appears. Of itself being saved does not mean we shall become a spiritual giant when we die or that we shall ascend to the highest orders of the spirit realm—there to have fellowship with the saints and martyrs. If we do not gravitate to the dedicated and godly in this life, why should we after we die? We tend to want to be with people of our own level now, and we shall go to our own level when we die. The separating of our spirit from our body does not change what we ourselves are.
If we are not seeking an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus now, why would we after we die? If we do not enjoy the fiery holiness of God now, what would we do in a city where God and the Lamb are present in unconcealed glory? We would be uncomfortable indeed!
What we are and where we belong are apparent now. A profession of doctrinal faith makes little difference. What we are, we are. If we are righteous in conduct, holy in thought and word, obedient to God, we will be taken into the midst of such persons when we die. But if we are unrighteous in conduct, unclean in thought and word, and disobedient to God, we will be placed with people who behave the same as we do. God does not approve of mixtures.
Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee. (Leviticus 19:19)
We have seen people fidget and finally leave the building when the praying becomes intense and the Lord’s Presence is there. These are "saved" people but they are not as yet at peace with the ways of the Lord. The strong Presence of the Lord makes them uncomfortable.
Such people believe in Christ but they still are sinning and seeking their own way. It is not possible for them to enter the new Jerusalem, according to the Scriptures. Only the godly dwell in the new Jerusalem. It is the "holy" city.
If sinning, self-willed "Christians" were to enter the new Jerusalem, into the company of those who love Christ with all their heart, they would bring discord and misery with them. They would corrupt Paradise. Also, they themselves would be in "hell" because of the burning Presence of the Lord.
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; (Isaiah 33:14,15)
"The sinners in Zion."
Not in the world but in Zion.
The mistake in Christian thinking is that accepting Christ does away with the reality of such passages. God is God. He still is holy. He still is a consuming Fire. Only those who are holy can abide in His Presence.
But we say, if we are covered by the blood of Jesus we can dwell in God’s Presence. This is a misunderstanding of how grace operates under the new covenant. The blood makes it possible for us to approach God and obtain assistance as we struggle, through the Spirit, to overcome sin. If we are not fighting the good fight of faith, the blood does not serve as an alternative means of pleasing God.
Is the new covenant a means of evading the Kingdom laws of righteousness? Will the ungodly have fellowship with God on the basis of their "faith" in Christ? It never shall happen!
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (II Corinthians 6:16,17)
It is not belief in doctrine that brings fellowship with the Lord, it is coming out from among the works of darkness that brings the desired relationship. If we would walk with the Lord and be His sons and daughters we must "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit" (II Corinthians 7:1).
What, then, is the meaning of "grace" under the new covenant?
Under the new covenant, God is ready and willing to forgive the repentant sinner who comes to Him in Jesus’ name. God washes away his sins and puts His Spirit in him. God encourages him in every possible way to turn away from sin and to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Modern teaching in many instances does not present the grace of God as the Divine means of giving us a new start, of guiding us into godly living. Rather, it is being taught that if we make a profession of faith in Christ, godly living is not necessary; that any efforts toward righteousness on our part somehow interfere with the righteousness that God is giving us through Jesus. We shall enter the new Jerusalem on the basis of our "faith," it is said. Attempts to live a godly life are viewed as "legalism."
We have made the grace of God a means of living as we please and then receiving the reward of the righteous.
Paul, in the sixth chapter of Romans, warned us against such an interpretation of his teaching. We have seized on Chapters Three through Five and have ignored the safeguard of Chapters Six through Eight.
There is a Kingdom law of sowing and reaping. What is being taught contradicts this law by saying that if we have "faith" in Christ we will not reap what we have sown. We are looking for a way to bring sin into Paradise, and we believe we have found it in Christ. We are erring in our heart!
God is not mocked. Whatever an individual sows he shall reap. If he receives Christ, and then through the grace of Christ he is enabled to cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, he will enter with joy into the new Jerusalem. If he makes a profession of faith in Christ and then proceeds on his way without cleansing himself, through the blood and the Spirit, of the works of his flesh and the pride of his self-will, he will be judged accordingly in the Day of Christ.
Let us think for a moment about what happens to us when we die.
First of all, our physical body is removed from us. Our body goes into the earth or sea, there to await the day of resurrection.
Since the lusts that guide us into sin reside in our flesh, it is possible that after death we are free from them: from gluttony, lasciviousness [immorality], drunkenness, occult practices, murder, and so forth.
Yet, this may or may not be true. After all, these sins are spiritual in nature and origin. We have no Scripture to prove that we leave our sins in the grave with our flesh. In fact, Sundar Singh, Dr. Ritchie and others have written that the sins that drive people follow them into the realm of spirits. The adulterer is driven mad by his lust. The thief attempts to steal the valuables of the spirit realm. The murderer is ready to attack those who come near him. A chilling thought!
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. (Revelation 22:11)
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:14,15)
From the Book of Genesis through to the last chapter of the Book of Revelation the emphasis is on righteousness of conduct. By no means does the grace of God that is in Christ alter in any manner the fact that it is the righteous who will dwell in glory with God while the wicked are assigned, with others of their kind, to eternal torment.
There is a wall around the new Jerusalem. The purpose of a wall is to keep out of a city what is not desirable. If sin were not possible in the world to come there would be no need for a wall around the new Jerusalem. Sin always is a possibility among creatures who possess a will of their own. The glory of the new covenant is not only or primarily that it forgives our sins but that it re-creates us through Christ so we choose not to sin.
We see, then, it is not enough for God to forgive our sins, He also must transform us so we will choose not to sin. Otherwise we might rebel against God in future ages, as Satan and his followers, who also were in Paradise, rebelled against God in past ages.
As we have stated, we put off our flesh when we die physically. We pass into the spirit realm. Except for the loss of our body, our personality is intact. What we are, we are. We have not lost our will. We have not gained faith, or trust in God, or patience, or courage, or righteousness, or obedience. If we are lukewarm toward Christ we still are lukewarm toward Christ. If we do not trust God we still do not trust God. If we prefer the glitter and glamour of the places where sinners assemble, that preference still is in our personality. Nothing has happened to remove it.
But now we are in the realm of spirits. What will God do with us? He will evaluate us ("it is appointed to men once to die, and after this the judgment") in terms of what we are, not in terms of the doctrine we profess to believe. What we are, we are, and God will place us where we belong.
We shall be judged according to the manner in which we have behaved on this earth. In the day of resurrection we shall receive the good we have practiced or the evil we have practiced (II Corinthians 5:10).
Notice it does not state, in the Book of Revelation, that we shall not enter the new Jerusalem unless we accept Christ as our Savior. Rather it declares that we shall not enter the new Jerusalem unless we are free from the works of unrighteousness and uncleanness.
Christ did not come to save us in our sins. Christ came to save us from our sins. There is a difference between being saved in our sins and being saved from our sins.
Notice also that the Scriptures do not emphasize the concept of going to Heaven. We may assume they do but they do not. A glance through a concordance will confirm that the idea of eternal residence in Heaven is not often presented.
Rather, the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, emphasize the godliness of the saints, the rule of the Kingdom of Heaven—especially in the earth.
The distinction between the rule of the Kingdom of God and going to Heaven is important. It may be true that the current deplorable condition of the Christian Church is due to the prevailing ignorance of the nature of salvation. Salvation is the Divine program for establishing the Person and rule of God in the personalities of the elect, not the transfer of unchanged human beings from the surface of the earth to an area set aside in the spirit realm, in the domain of bodiless spirits.
The Christian redemption is the transformation of people from the image of Satan to the image of Christ, not the transfer of people from the earth to Heaven. Salvation has to do with the Kingdom of Heaven, not with our removal to the place termed "Heaven," although there certainly is a place called Heaven.
If salvation is the removal of our sins and self-centeredness rather than our removal to another place, how is our cleansing accomplished?
As we have pointed out, dying and passing into the spirit realm will not accomplish our sanctification. Being in the spirit realm, in fact, in the very Presence of God, did not prevent Satan or his angels from sinning, from rebelling against God. Sin and rebellion originated in the spirit realm.
What, then, is the Divine means of transforming our personality so we can enter through the gates into the new Jerusalem?
Transformation comes only through the Lord Jesus Christ. First of all, our sins must be forgiven through His blood. If we truly receive Him in the beginning of our profession and abide in Him continually, His blood keeps on forgiving us. By the one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified, those who live in Him and walk in Him at all times. This is the normal Christian life.
Our minds are transformed as we meditate in the Scriptures and as the Lord keeps on sending us Divine guidance and help. The Glory of the Lord is revealed to us in many different ways.
The Holy Spirit reveals our sins to us and removes them from us as we confess them and forsake them.
The Spirit leads us into the suffering of Christ. As we endure the humility, the thirst, the pain of the cross, our self-will is broken and the Lord Jesus ascends the throne of our heart.
Christ has been born in us through the Spirit, and through the Spirit is being brought to maturity in us. Also, the Father and the Son come through the Spirit and dwell in the new inner man who is being formed in us.
We are being changed into Christ’s image from glory to glory, command upon command, rule upon rule. We are being changed eternally and are being brought into eternally inseparable union with Christ and the Father. There is a new creation. God is making us new so that our entire personality is of Himself.
These are the means through which we are made fit to enter through the gates into the new Jerusalem.
There are no other means of making us fit for citizenship in the holy city—absolutely none!
A profession of correct doctrine does not make us fit to enter through the gates into the new Jerusalem. Dying and passing into the domain of bodiless spirits does not make us fit to enter in through the gates into the new Jerusalem.
Only those who do God’s commandments have a right to the tree of life and may enter in through the gates into the city, and it is only through the Lord Jesus Christ that we can be changed from obeying sin and self to obeying God.
There is no Scripture that states we enter through the gates by grace, by mercy, by forgiveness, or by "faith" in the sense of a doctrinal position of belief. Although it is believed commonly that we shall enter the Kingdom of God by grace, there is no Scripture to support this notion. We enter the Kingdom of God by being born again, by being transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven (into Heaven as it is put commonly but unscripturally) only by being changed to the point where we are walking in righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God, where and when does such conversion to righteous behavior take place? For it is obvious many churches are not striving mightily to achieve righteous conduct. Rather, the emphasis is on being saved by "grace."
It is clear we must be transformed by the Lord before we are eligible to receive the Glory of the Lord.
Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest [pledge] of the Spirit. (II Corinthians 5:5)
"He that hath wrought us."
God is preparing us now so we will be in a position to inherit His Glory.
Notice the prayer of Paul for "the saints that are at Ephesus":
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; (Ephesians 3:16)
And for the "churches of Galatia":
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, (Galatians 4:19)
Paul does not write to the saints that they should make a profession of belief in Christ so they can enter Heaven when they die. We suppose the New Testament writings are filled with such admonitions, but they do not appear even one time.
Rather, Paul exhorts the saints continually and consistently that they must walk in righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God so they can inherit the Kingdom of God.
Notice the following:
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
"Hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."
"The kingdom of Christ and of God."
This was written to the saints and faithful in Christ (Ephesians 1:1)
Never is the emphasis on dying and going to Heaven. It always is on inheriting the Kingdom of God.
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21)
"Shall not inherit the Kingdom of God."
"The kingdom of God."
The issue is that of inheriting the Kingdom of God, of making our eternal home in the new Jerusalem. When Paul writes to the saints he cautions them, as does John in the Book of Revelation, that only those who behave righteously will be permitted to enter through the gates into the city.
But what about the believers who are spiritually weak, being ignorant of God’s ways? They believe Jesus is Christ and that He died for their sins. Yet they have not been taught concerning the Kingdom of God.
It is not possible they can abide in the Presence of God’s Glory in their untransformed state. There is neither sin nor self-seeking of any kind in the Kingdom of Heaven, in the new Jerusalem. If the Lord Jesus deems them worthy of salvation, they will be instructed in righteousness.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)
And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. (Isaiah 54:13)
That which defiles never shall be permitted to enter the new Jerusalem. If we are not clear on this point we are in deception. The new Jerusalem includes no unchanged personalities who are there by the Lord’s mercy. All the inhabitants are holy. All know the Lord from the least to the greatest. All are righteous in behavior. All are obedient to God the Father and to the Lamb of God, Christ.
The Scripture declares that what we sow in this life we shall reap in the Day of Judgment.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:7,8)
Who will render to every man according to his deeds: (Romans 2:6)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:23)
Some will be saved as was Lot without receiving an inheritance.
If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (I Corinthians 3:15)
What does it mean to be saved by fire?
Of one thing we are certain: it does not signify there will be sinners or self-seeking individuals in the new Jerusalem. That would be contrary to the express statements of the Scriptures.
It means, no doubt, that the person will not be thrown into the Lake of Fire; for the Scriptures refer to the Lake of Fire as the second death, not as a place of chastening.
We are not speaking now of people who are eternally doomed but of individuals who are saved but whose works have been burned up. Jesus spoke of lashes, some receiving many and some few. These are believers who have lost most of their personality. They will be governed and helped by the stronger, as is true today. They are not part of the ruling priesthood of the Lord. God has found good in them, but they will enter the new world without an inheritance. They will not have an abundant entrance into the Kingdom of God.
The person who is saved by fire does not receive the rewards of the overcomer. He does not receive the glory and authority of the Kingdom of God. None of his works have stood the test of fire. His spirit will be saved in the Day of the Lord, but he is naked in the spirit realm. He may be punished with "lashes." He will not hear the Lord Jesus say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Consider Lot. He was saved from destruction for the sake of Abraham. All his possessions (he owned much livestock) were destroyed. His wife and sons-in-law were destroyed. He was left with two incestuous daughters. His offspring were Moab and Ammon—the despised of the Lord.
Because of our tradition that salvation is a transfer of us to a land of delights, being "saved by fire" is thought of as entering Paradise even though we did not live according to the Scriptures. What does it matter if our works on earth are burned up as long as we "go to Heaven"?
But if the Christian salvation is not the bringing of us to Heaven but is our placement in the Kingdom of Heaven according to our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, and if being saved by fire means we shall enter the realm of bodiless spirits without spiritual clothing of any kind, suffering rebuke (and perhaps much worse) at the hands of an angry Christ, unable to have fellowship with the redeemed spirits who have served their Lord, being held in contempt by those around us, then we who were careless did not deceive God after all. Our behavior was unfaithful and we were paid off in kind.
We were saved from destruction through the prayers of our relatives, or for some other reason known to the Lord; but we forfeited our right to our inheritance as a son of God.
If we are hoping to be saved as by fire we are taking a terrifying chance with our eternal destiny. What if we are not saved after all?
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition [destruction]; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
Notice the contrast: either we believe to the saving of our soul or else we draw back to destruction.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 21:7)
The inference from the above verse is that if we do not overcome we will not inherit all things, God will not be our God and we will not be God’s son. To overcome is to emerge a victor in the struggle to conquer the love of the world, the lusts of the flesh, and self-will. It is to defeat all enemies that come against us in the fight of faith. It is not speaking of the careless, lukewarm believer who knows he ought to serve the Lord but cannot find the time or strength to do so.
There is more to the Kingdom of God than "being saved," being delivered from the Lake of Fire. There is more to inheriting the Kingdom of God than receiving "God’s riches at Christ’s expense," no matter how much that idea may appeal to our self-love.
We ourselves must be worthy of the Kingdom of God.
Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: (II Thessalonians 1:5)
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)
There are some passages of Scripture that appear to suggest the believers whom Christ deems worthy of His acceptance, but who are "bruised reeds," will be "healed" by the Lord at a later date.
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. (Malachi 4:2)
"With healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up."
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)
A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. (Isaiah 42:3)
We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar. (Song of Solomon 8:8,9)
There are passages that appear to imply some believers who are spiritually weak and sickly will be strengthened in the age to come.
But it should be pointed out that there are many other passages that state those who know the Lord’s will and do not do it shall be beaten with many lashes. If we are lazy we will be thrust into outer darkness. If we neglect our salvation we will not escape. If we are lukewarm we will be vomited from the Lord’s mouth.
The Scriptures and history are clear that to whom much has been given, of him will much be required (consider the suffering of the Jews!).
Most of us Christians are aware that the peoples of the world will be punished severely. Those who sin against God will experience tribulation and wrath.
What is not as commonly understood is that the strongest of the New Testament (and Old Testament) warnings against sin are not directed against the nations but against Israel, against the Lord’s people.
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:29-31)
"The Lord shall judge his people."
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (II Peter 2:20)
The Christian Gospel has to do with the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is the new Jerusalem. It is a city, a holy city.
Perhaps this is fairly well understood by Christian people. What may not be as clearly understood is that not only are we to enter the Kingdom of Heaven but the Kingdom of Heaven must enter us.
There are people who profess Christ but in whose heart are the ways of Hell. Such cannot possibly enter the new Jerusalem. Those who are filled with Hell will enter Hell. Those who are filled with the Kingdom of Heaven will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus explained that the Kingdom does not come as an external Paradise, a land of delights into which untransformed people can bring their unrighteousness.
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20,21)
"The kingdom of God is within you."
The Kingdom of Heaven is a seed that is planted in our heart. The Kingdom of Heaven is as leaven that works in us until we are filled with the presence and ways of the Kingdom.
God is creating Heaven, Paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven in us, so to speak. It is not only that we go to Heaven but that the life and ways of Heaven are formed in us. There is an external kingdom and then there is an internal kingdom. The internal kingdom is the more important.
The God of Heaven reaches out His arms and gathers us in. Then He fills us with His Life until we are like Himself.
The truly righteous person longs to live in the Presence of the Lord Jesus.
The "Christian" person who is filled with spite, lust, gossiping, hatred, drunkenness, covetousness, and every other work of the flesh is anxious not to be punished when he or she dies. But in the heart of such there is no true longing for the Presence of the Lord Jesus.
The sinner finds his own "paradise" on the earth in the company of others who like himself are filled with the ways and life of Hell. He would be miserable in the true Paradise of God, just as the saint would be totally miserable were he forced to spend eternity in the company of sinners.
The saint has chosen the ways of God and God will bring him to Paradise. The sinner, whether or not he has "accepted" Christ, has chosen the ways of darkness. If he does not repent, God will place him in the darkness. God cannot be mocked. Whatever we sow we shall reap.
It is not true that we must wait until we are perfect in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (Colossians 1:13)
God reaches out and gathers us in. Then God works in us to drive out of our personality all that is not in keeping with the righteousness and holiness of the Kingdom. This is how we enter the Kingdom. If we cooperate with the work of the Spirit of God in transforming us we will inherit the fullness of the Kingdom. But if we do not, we will be cut out of the Vine. Jesus taught us this.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. (Matthew 13:47,48)
Then said the king to the servants, Bind him [the man who was among the wedding guests but who was not attired properly] hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 22:13)
Will there be a day in which a glorious holy city will appear that people can see? Yes, there shall indeed.
There is a city that has a wall of jasper and gates of pearl. There is an external kingdom.
But the people who live there are the most important aspect of the city. Those people are being formed now. We have been born into the new Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem has been born in us.
The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah. (Psalms 87:6)
We are to allow the Holy Spirit to create Christ in us, to create the Kingdom of Heaven in us.
When Christ is in us the Kingdom of Heaven is in us. When we are in Christ we are in the Kingdom of Heaven.
When Christ has been formed in us, when the Kingdom has been formed in us, we are eligible to inherit the fullness of the glory of the external kingdom. This will take place when the Lord Jesus appears from Heaven.
If the Kingdom of Heaven is in us we will inherit the Kingdom when the Lord comes. But if Hell is working in us, then we are fit only to enter Hell.
It is not possible for an individual in whom Hell is living to enter the holy city of God. But through Christ the Hell can be thrown out and the Kingdom formed.
The Kingdom is being formed in the present hour.
There is an internal aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven. The internal aspect is being formed in us now. There is an external aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven. The external aspect is being formed in Heaven in the Presence of Almighty God.
Those in whom the Kingdom has been formed will be clothed with the external glory of the Kingdom when the Lord Jesus comes from Heaven.
The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are one and the same. There is but one Kingdom.
Those who are Jewish by race have first right to the Kingdom. (It is the new Jerusalem!). But many Gentiles have been added during the Christian Era. The current teaching that portrays a Gentile (spiritual) kingdom in Heaven that is separate from a Jewish kingdom on the earth is false and misleading, and anti-Semitic. There is only one Kingdom of God, of Heaven, and it is destined to rule on the earth.
The Kingdom of Heaven is the Kingdom of God, the new Jerusalem, the Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, the Temple of God, the perfected Christian Church. These terms refer to the Kingdom that is from Heaven, the Kingdom that one day will govern the nations of saved people on the earth.
There is no evidence that either John the Baptist or Jesus of Nazareth preached two different kingdoms—one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles. There is but one Kingdom of God, and it is from Heaven and is of the Spirit of God—the Spirit that came down from Heaven.
All the parables of Jesus give us insight into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The grace of God forgives us so we have the right, the authority, to enter the Kingdom, to enter into righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God, operating through Christ, is the Life, the wisdom, the power of the Kingdom of God.
The purpose of imputed (ascribed) righteousness is to free us from the Law of Moses so we can enter the Kingdom without condemnation. The grace of Christ does not give us a ticket to a place called Heaven; rather, it frees us from the condemnation of the Law so we can give our attention to entering Christ, to entering the Kingdom of God. The believer who is waiting to die in order to enter Paradise is missing the whole point of redemption. We enter the Kingdom now. We do not have to wait until we die.
The New Testament does not employ the phrase, "go to Heaven." Rather, it uses the phrase, "enter the Kingdom"; or, "inherit the Kingdom."
It is important to speak as the Scriptures speak. The phrase "go to Heaven" gives us a misleading concept of the nature of salvation. We cannot go to Heaven until we die, but we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven while we are alive in the flesh. There is a practical importance attached to using the scriptural terminology.
Many people because of this misleading concept are waiting to go to Heaven when they should be seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
We do not earn the Kingdom by our righteous deeds; rather, we are made fit for the Kingdom by becoming a new creation in Christ.
One central assumption of current Christian theology is that our physical death accomplishes for us what we were unable to achieve in life. Our physical death changes us from a weak believer to a spiritual giant.
This assumption is misleading.
A review of what the Scriptures say on the topic will reveal that dying physically does not change our personality into the image of Christ.
What we are, we are. Dying physically releases us from the weariness of our fleshly body. To a saint such as the Apostle Paul, dying physically was the greatest of blessings. He was released, through physical death, from weakness, pain, imprisonment, fatigue, grim surroundings. He was brought into the Presence of Jesus, into Paradise. But what Paul was, Paul continues to be—an ardent follower of the Lord Jesus.
When a weak believer dies, he or she continues to be a weak believer. Faith does not come by seeing Christ. Satan and his followers could see God. They knew God existed. But they had no faith or trust in God. What we are, we are. Physical death does not change what we are.
Physical death is an entrance into marvelous joy for the individual who has served Christ faithfully.
Physical death presents a whole new set of problems to the believer who has wasted his life on the things of the world.
No person is made a saint, a follower of Christ, an overcomer, by dying physically. This assumption, which is included in the concept that salvation is a ticket to Heaven, is without foundation.
"Believe in Jesus," it is taught, "and your troubles are over. You will go to Heaven."
If we place our faith in Jesus we are saved—saved to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, not saved to go about our business until we die and go to an external Paradise.
Sometimes a person’s troubles begin when he places his faith in the Lord Jesus.
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (Romans 8:36)
Jesus was (and is) a stern Preacher. He did not tell people He would make them happy. Rather, He warned them to repent because of the coming of the rule of God into the earth.
We do not receive Christ in order to be happy in this present life. We receive Christ because it is God’s will we should do so. We do what is right in the sight of God whether or not we enjoy the consequences. This principle holds true for eternity.
God is not obligated to please us although He does so on numerous occasions. But we are obligated to serve God—even to death if need be. Any other attitude is nothing more than the rebellion of the last days prophesied by the Lord Jesus and Paul.
We saints know there are pleasures forever at God’s right hand. Therefore we are not moved. We esteem being disgraced because of our trust in Christ to be greater riches than all the treasures of the world. We suffer much tribulation. When we die physically we shall enter rest in the Presence of Christ. We shall await in Paradise the Day of Resurrection.
Imputed (ascribed) righteousness is not a device whereby we are enabled to enter a land of delights on the basis of forgiveness. Imputed righteousness is a legal maneuver that assigns the righteousness of the Law of Moses to us so we can follow Christ without condemnation.
If, after having been set free from the Law of Moses through the righteousness of Christ, we continue to walk in sin, there no longer is a sacrifice that avails for us. We are disobeying Christ. We are walking in willful sin. Although we name the name of Christ we shall reap death; for the wages of sin is death whether committed by Christian or non-Christian. The fruit of sin always is death.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:15)
The above verse was written to Christian Jews and it applies both to Christians and non-Christians.
Christian grace does not waive the principle that sin results in death. Rather, Christian grace forgives us and enables us to overcome sin and self-will and enter eternal life.
Concept 1: grace does away with the law that sin results in death.
Concept 2: grace forgives us and enables us to overcome sin.
These two concepts are worlds apart, the first leading to destruction. Yet, it is our impression that the first concept is held by the majority of "fundamentalists." We ourselves adhere to the fundamentals of the Christian faith but we subscribe to the second of the two concepts.
The Kingdom of Heaven, the rule of God, is being formed in us. It is Christ in us, the hope of glory. It is what we are becoming in Christ that will make it possible for us to appreciate, enjoy, and maintain Heaven. The external environment of Paradise is wonderful. But the external environment is as nothing in importance compared with the nature of the inhabitants.
Where Christ is—there is Heaven though it be the plainest of surroundings. But where Christ is not, that could never be Heaven though it were the most glorious of external surroundings. If such is the case (and we are certain every true saint would agree with this), then what we are longing for is not mansions, or diamonds, or parks, or fountains, but the Presence of God in Christ in the fullness of revealed glory.
When we pray for God’s Kingdom to come to the earth, aren’t we really praying for Heaven to come to the earth?
Therefore the essence of Heaven is relationships: our relationship to God and to those around us. The glory of the new Jerusalem is that God and the Lamb are there, and also that every one of the inhabitants is filled with the Presence of God in Christ. There is no sin or self-seeking there.
The humblest of cottages is Heaven when God and the Lamb are there and when the inhabitants are filled with the Presence of God in Christ and rightly related to one another.
It is written of Abraham that he was looking for a city of God, for the new Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God.
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:9,10)
Notice that Abraham was in the land of promise, the site of Jerusalem, during the years of his sojourning. But it was to him a "strange country."
So it is true that the earth, which is the location of our sojourning, will be given to us for an inheritance. Christ will return with us and reign over the nations of the earth. But in the present hour the earth, to the victorious saint, is a "strange country."
We are looking for the city of God. The city is not here now, it is in Heaven above. But one day the city of God will be located on the earth. Then the knowledge of the Glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Then the nations of the earth will go up to Zion to be taught the righteous ways of the Lord. There shall be singing and dancing in that day!
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2,3)
God has prepared for us a city, and it is a "heavenly" city—a city founded on the Rock, Christ.
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:16)
Abraham, and the patriarchs and prophets, are in Heaven with God. Yet, they have not attained the object of their pilgrimage:
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: (Hebrews 11:39)
"Received not the promise."
They are in Heaven above; yet it is written that have not received the promise.
What, then, is the promise? The promise is the spiritual counterpart of the land of promise. The spiritual counterpart of the land of promise is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God, of Heaven, is the filling of the saints with the fullness of the Glory of God in Christ, including the resurrection of the body. This is the "city that hath foundations."
All the saints, those of the old covenant and those of the new covenant, will come into the resurrection and into the Kingdom together.
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:40)
In order for the new Jerusalem, the Kingdom of Heaven, the "city that hath foundations," to be perfect, every inhabitant of it must be made perfect.
The central theme of the Scriptures is the forming, through the Lord Jesus Christ, of the new Jerusalem, the Tabernacle of God, the Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God—the Kingdom from Heaven.
The Kingdom of Heaven is God in Christ in the saints performing the will of God. This is the nature of the new Jerusalem.
The external environment, the Paradise in which the Kingdom of Heaven is located, has little glory of its own. Paradise reflects the Glory of God in Christ in the saints. The glory of Paradise, of Heaven, is being formed today wherever Christ is coming to maturity in a human heart.
The new Jerusalem, the Kingdom of Heaven, is the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because this is so, the new Jerusalem, as well as being a glorious external city the nations of the earth will be able to behold and visit, is a symbolic portrayal of each victorious saint.
Abraham was in the land of promise all the time. We too are closer to "home" than we understand in the present hour. The relationships we are forming now may be—to the extent they are of the Lord and perfectly joyous—relationships for eternity. We are not referring to flesh and blood relationships. The relationships of the future kingdom will be infinitely stronger than flesh and blood relationships.
We shall reap then what we are sowing now.
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Let us serve the Lord Jesus now and enter the Kingdom, preparing ourselves for the new world of righteousness that soon is to come to the earth.
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14NIV)