Smile... The Future's On Its Way
by C.J. Horn
The Future's on Its Way: A Perspective on Home
The hardwood floor of our dining room would echo as my children and I sat at the table and stamped our feet on the floor. This "trampling" was part of our Bible memorization from Psalm 91. It occurred at verse 13: "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet."
That old house was one of the twenty-five places my children lived in during their years at "home" with mom and dad. The reason our children knew they had a home had very little to do with having the same address for any length of time. Not having the title deed to any piece of property probably forced our family to major on those things that all Christians can own and, of course, the ultimate home of all believers, the new Jerusalem.
Jerusalem - Home
A war over ownership of Jerusalem has been waged throughout history. This city is the most important city in all the world. It is not just that it is the capitol city of the Jew's so-called Promised Land, it is the site where history will culminate. Jerusalem will be the city of the eternal God. He will "establish it forever" (Psalm 48:8). Abraham "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). This city is "that great city, the holy Jerusalem" that shall descend out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:10).
In Psalm 48:12,13, the following command is given:
Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following:
The language of Psalm 28 was graphic when it came to the attention that was to be given Mount Zion. Note the following verbs:
Walk About...Go Round...Tell...Mark Ye Well...Consider.
It wasn't enough for the inhabitants of Jerusalem to reside in the city. They were to step back, take a very good long look, memorize the city, and then be sure that the generations following knew all about the city. For the Jews, living in the city of Jerusalem represented living with their God.
The "Sons of Korah" for which Psalm 48 was written, were musicians in the Temple of God. At this particular point in history, Jerusalem (as Zion means here) was at the zenith of its power under the reigns of David and Solomon.
In the admonition to memorize the city, there are three basic elements: bulwarks, towers, and palaces. The towers and palaces of Jerusalem speak of the physical attributes of the city.
Historian Benjamin Mazar writes:
"It must be remembered that the successive cities on the site of Jerusalem were subjected to a series of violent destructions by a variety of enemies. During the last three millennia, since the time of David, the city has undergone many drastic changes in shape and size, in its streets and structures, so that from one period to another, under different occupying authorities, the sense of continuity with the past was broken, and the knowledge of earlier forms of the city was lost." Although this is certainly the case, it is possible to put together from the Biblical record and from other historical writings a reasonable glimpse of this great city and its inhabitants that the Psalmist commanded to be memorized.
Noted historian, Josephus, in his writings describes a legend that Jerusalem was originally built by Melchizedek.
Melchizedek was "King of Salem" from which the name of Jerusalem could very well be derived. "It seems likely that the meeting between Abraham and the priest-king Melchizedek at the "King's Valley" (Genesis 14:17) took place near 'En-Rogel, outside the southern gate of the city."
At any rate, the location of the city was strategically placed near the ample water supply known as the Spring of Gihon.
"For before everything that is and has been Jerusalem, there was a spring called Gihon, which means "gushing." It lies in a cave at the foot of the eastern slope of the ridge or hill known as Ophel, as lively, it would seem, as when David first saw it 3,000 years ago."
David conquered the Jebusite stronghold that we now know as the city of Jerusalem in 1000 B.C. When David conquered the city, he built "The City of David" at the edge of the high uneven tableland, 2500 feet above sea level where Jerusalem stands today. The Dead Sea, to the east, 1286 ft. below sea level, is less than twenty-five miles away. One can understand why David chose the site as an easily defensible fortress.
Behind the City of David, on the third hill was the Upper City and between these two hills the Lower City. David enclosed this entire area, very nearly square, of approximately 175 acres, within one protective wall. In fact, David's improvements to the city were so extensive that Josephus considered his work a "rebuilding" of the city.
Excavations at Jerusalem have revealed the enormity of the stones that were used to build the walls. The "great stones" needed for this purpose are mentioned in I Kings 5:17. Josephus says that some of them were as much as "forty cubits" (65 feet) long.
In Solomon's day, at the height of Jerusalem, if one stood on the Mount of Olives to the east of the city and looked west, one could see the Temple to the right on the highest hill. It was here, at Mount Moriah, where Abraham offered Isaac many years before David or Solomon were born.
It was to this temple mount that the Queen of Sheba came with camels of gold and all her retinue, but found herself utterly outshone. After seeing "the ascent by which Solomon went up into the house of the Lord," the apparel of his ministers and cupbearers and the greatness of his wisdom, she graciously conceded that it all exceeded her expectations. And she left Jerusalem with far more than she had brought.
The Bible describes the incredible building project that Solomon undertook when he built the "house of the Lord" in Jerusalem. First Kings gives an account of the work that was to culminate in the incredible structures of the Temple of God and Solomon's palace. The building of the Temple alone kept over 30,000 men employed for seven years.
In order to appreciate the financial resources that Solomon had at his disposal, the tribute in gold paid to him in a single year can be translated into current prices. "Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold" (1 Kings 10:14). Historians vary in the interpretation of the modern equivalent of the "talent." However, 66 pounds per talent is a conservative estimate. Sixty-six pounds multiplied by 666 is 43,956 pounds. Today's gold prices are set per "Troy" ounce, one of which is .914 percent of the more common "avoirdupois" ounce (16 ounces per lb.). Therefore, 43,956 pounds must be multiplied by 14.624 oz, rather than 16 ounces, to obtain the number of ounces in today's gold standards. The number of troy ounces of gold given in tribute to Solomon in the particular year mentioned in 1 Kings 10 was 642,812. In other words, Solomon could have said "money was no object" when it came to his building projects.
Solomon's palace and the public parts of the Temple were massive, ornate, and splendid beyond our imagination. Twelve carved lions guarded his throne. The Bible testifies there was not anything to compare with them in "any kingdom" of that day (1 Kings 10:19). At the entrance of the palace, two pillars stood, each 27 feet high and eighteen feet in circumference. It would take three six-foot men holding hands to reach around one of them.
Inside the Temple of God in the Holy of Holies, where the high priest entered alone once a year, two cherubim stood, carved of olive wood. Each measured fifteen feet high and fifteen feet wide at the wing tip. The tips of their wings touched each other in the center of the enclosure. Each creature was overlaid in gold, as was the floor and the walls and all the carved work of this magnificent structure dedicated to God.
What About Bulwarks?
The Psalmist also commanded his listeners to memorize the bulwarks of the city. A bulwark can be a defense of brick and mortar, but in the Biblical sense, it is much more. The bulwarks of Jerusalem were the forces that made it the greatest capitol city on earth at the time of Solomon.
It's bulwarks were its men of truth who hated covetousness, men who were not afraid of hard work. Israel's valiant army numbered 1,300,000 men in the days of David the King. This army was lead by "mighty men of valor," with hearts like the heart of a lion. Their motto was "Through God we shall do valiantly, for He it is that shall tread down our enemies" (Psalm 60:12).
Not only did the men of Israel represent the bulwark of its strength. Israel's women trusted God and exhibited the courage that kind of faith produces. They were women like Ruth and Esther. They exemplified the woman of Proverbs 31, whose "price is far above rubies."
But above all that these men and women could be, it was their God that made them great. In David's great confession of faith in 2 Samuel 22, we see the heart of a king totally dependent upon God.
"The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; The God of my rock; in him will I trust: He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou savest me from violence. I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised ..."
And in 1 Chronicles 29:11 we see that David gave credit to the King of Kings
"Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all."
Likewise, in Solomon's request for wisdom, we see his childlike dependence upon God.
"And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child...Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" (1 Kings 3:7,9).
In God's response to Solomon, we see why Jerusalem became the capitol of the greatest nation on earth:
"And the speech pleased the Lord... I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee" (Kings 3:10-11)
The Bible is clear about the superiority of Israel at the time of Solomon:
"So King Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom. And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart" (1 Kings 10:23-24).
Eventually, because of the idolatry that began in Solomon's reign, and the slide to depravity, the blessing of God was removed from the great city. Jeremiah warned the third son of Josiah not to revolt against Nebuchadnezzar who had allowed him to retain rule in Jerusalem after its captivity, but his warnings went unheeded and the final curtain came down.
The iniquity of Judah was full, and the doom of Jerusalem was ripe, and the madness of this miserable king sufficed to bring it down. After a siege of three years, during which the inhabitants suffered the last extremity of distress, the city was taken by the Chaldeans, who razed its walls to the ground, and destroyed its temple, its palaces, and its habitations, with fire. Terrible were the judgments of that day in which Jerusalem was taken. Exasperated by the defection which had rendered the war necessary, and by the protracted defense of the city, the Chaldeans refused all quarter to the inhabitants: they "slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age" (II Kings 25; II Chronicles. 36; Jeremiah 34).
Thus, on the 9th day of the fifth month, Ab, in the year 588 BC., 803 years from the departure out of Egypt, and 416 years from the completion of the temple, was fully accomplished the terrible, but righteous doom which Moses had foretold should come to pass if the chosen people went astray from the Lord, and refused to observe His covenant" (Leviticus. 26:14-41; Deuteronomy 28).
Jeremiah the prophet described it best in his lamentations:
"How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, How is she become tributary!" (Lamentations 1:1).
It is no wonder those who were captured and carried away lamented: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion" (Psalm 137:1). The Children of Israel wept when they remembered a happy, prosperous nation whose God was the Lord. "Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD" (Psalm 144:15).
It is a recurring theme in Scripture to "tell the generations following" about the works of the Lord. Moses, in his great exhortation of Deuteronomy " cited the great things that God had done for all Israel and called upon them to obey Him. If they did not, the anger of the Lord would be unleashed against them and Israel would architect her own destruction. In Moses' writings there was always a look toward future generations.
The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29.
When the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, the priests were to take twelve stones from the bottom "out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm" (Joshua 4) and carry them to their encampment on the west side of the Jordan River. These stones were to be "a sign" that, when the children asked their fathers in the future what they meant, they would be told how the waters were "cut off" while the ark of the covenant of the Lord passed over Jordan. The stones were to be for a "memorial unto the children of Israel for ever" (Joshua 4:6,7).
Tell a Modern Generation About an Old City?
Is it possible for all believers of all generations to know about the beautiful city of Psalm 48? It is certainly possible to study history and learn of the splendid city that caused the children of Israel to weep with longing and remembrance. But there is a far greater lesson to be learned from the admonition of Psalm 48:12,13: "Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following."
It is vital to the faith of believing generations to come that they be told about a wondrous home that by comparison pales any earthly home. But, in teaching about the believer's eternal home, it would be natural to teach about the One who has gone to prepare that place, the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be necessary to talk about His saving grace and about how sin entered the world through Adam. Telling the generations following about Zion is telling them about God.
That brings one back to our family's memory work with Psalm 91. It begins "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." We no longer live in the house with the wooden floor, but we have our memories of that dear old place. We took those with us. We also took with us a knowledge of the safe home "under the shadow of the Almighty" because we were able to spend time in God's Word, memorizing it and committing its truth to memory. Memorizing God's Word was our way of walking around our future home, and taking a good long look.
Looking at Zion
Although the Jerusalem that existed at the time of Kings David and Solomon is no longer, the Bible is our best record of the events that took place there. It was at Jerusalem where the King of Kings went to the cross.
When man put to death the Son of Man, God hid the deed from human eyes for three hours. Nothing could ever again equal the terribleness and monstrous iniquity of that act. Yet in it lay the secret and means of man's redemption. For this supreme paradox Jerusalem was chosen before the worlds began.
It is at Jerusalem where the empty tomb now stands as a memorial to the One over whom death has no power. It is at the Mount of Olives where Jesus will return to reign forever and ever. In the Word of God believers learn of the great city that is central to all human history. It is no wonder that the Psalmist told his listeners to scrutinize the city. For the children that lived when these words were penned, the memory of their fathers and mothers was the only record that would remain of that great and godly nation.
Today we are much more fortunate. We have a written record, the Word of God. But it is our responsibility to teach the Word so well that it becomes part of the children's memory. So they too can learn to trust in a future eternal home. "They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever" (Psalm 125:1).
That Fair Place
My eyes will be fixed by Him on that fair place on the hills beyond.
Despite all efforts, my father died with bone cancer at the age of 67. The above is a line from a poem I wrote on the day we found out the doctors had given up. It is one of the treasured hopes of the Christian that there will be a reunion with loved ones when we are all finally at home.
John was allowed the privilege of seeing this place from the vantage point of a high mountain:
And there came unto me one of the seven angels ... and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God ( Revelation 21:9-10).
John gave details regarding this city in such a way that they should be taken literally. There are precise measurements of the city and the wall surrounding it (Revelation 21:15-17). There are twelve foundations for the wall encrusted with precious jewels (Revelation 21:19-20). There are twelve gates, each one made of pearl of a size beyond the imagination of man (Revelation 21:21). These gates are actually gateways that are never closed (Revelation 21:25).
Many commentators have gone as far as to say that a city of this size and configuration is "absurd" Of course, they say this because they have never seen such a thing, nor can they imagine it. It is interesting that 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, "But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." If it is impossible for a Christian even to imagine such a city, it in no way negates the possibility that such a city awaits him. It is just a further proof that the Bible is true!
Another truth to keep in mind as one thinks about our future home, is the power of God to create what He wills out of nothing. It is a foundation stone of our faith.
Hebrews 11:3 states "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." God did not create the first heaven and earth out of "things which do appear," so it is not beyond the realm of His power to create the "new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1) with building materials (including astronomically sized pearls) that we cannot even imagine, or which have never appeared before.
The description of the glorious holy city, the new Jerusalem, is too detailed to admit anything but literal interpretation, though there have been many efforts to try to spiritualize it. There is every reason to believe that John is describing exactly what he saw, and that God means exactly what He says (note the warning in Revelation 22:18,19). In other words, the holy city is a literal city on a literal earth, with dimensions and descriptions exactly as recorded.
To place man's own interpretation on a passage that does not invite it leaves the whole of Scripture open to private interpretation. The best interpretation of Scripture is no interpretation. On the other hand, translation is not interpretation. It is necessary to find modern meanings for several words in the description of the new city of Jerusalem.
The measurements employed describing the city in Revelation 21 are "furlongs" and "cubits." A furlong is the Greek term "stadia" which is equal to 600 Greek feet, or approximately 607 English feet. The city measures "foursquare" (a cube) 12,000 furlongs. Twelve thousand forlongs multiplied by 607 feet=7,284,000 feet. Translated into miles (@5280 feet per), 12,000 furlongs equals approximately 1,380 miles! The city itself is "foursquare," meaning it is shaped like a cube, and each side of the cube measures 1,380 miles (length, width, and height).
John's reported measurement of the wall is 144 "cubits." The standard measurement for a cubit was approximately 18" or the length from a man's elbow to the tip of his finger. This means the measurement stated for the wall is approximately 216 feet. It would not be logical to have a wall 216 feet high surrounding a city that is over 1300 miles high. Therefore, it is probable that John was giving the measurement for the thickness of the wall. The wall most probably is as tall as the city itself (1380 miles), with twelve gateways (each of one pearl) and twelve foundation stones. Each one of these foundation stones are "garnished with all manner of precious stones" (Revelation 21:19). John is detailed in the type of precious stones that appear throughout the city. The wall is like "jasper" (translucent, reflecting primarily radiant white, with red and purple tints), "the city was pure gold" (Revelation 21:18), the foundation stones are encrusted with sapphires (beautiful blue), chalcedony (copper colored), emerald (shining green), sardonyx (deep red layers interspersed with white), sardius (brilliant and red), chrysolite (glowing yellow), beryl (yellow), topaz , chrysoprasus (golden tinted green), jacinth (blue, possibly aquamarine), and amethyst (purple). It is no wonder when John saw the city, he said it looked as if it were "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2).
The reason it is important to take literally the description of heaven is that it is not just the physical attributes of the city that believers long for. It is in the description of the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 that the often quoted promises of eternity are found: There will be "no more death, neither sorry, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain" (Revel 21:4). It is here that God "will dwell with" His people. He is "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end", and He promises "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely" (Revelation 21:6). Not only is the city of pure gold, the water is pure, as well. John was shown "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev 22:1). On either side of this river of life grows the tree of life, which bears twelve different kinds of fruit.
Home at Last
Our family will probably log many more miles and accumulate many more addresses before this life is over. But it is certain that there will be a final home for us. When we get there, there will be no feeling of being the new kid on the block. In fact, we are told that then shall we know even as we have been known (1 Corinthians 13:12). Ecclesiastes 7:1 tells us that the day of our death is better than the day of our birth. Paul said "to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). This present life is full of trials and tragedies, but no matter how fraught with trouble life is, time moves on, and the future will come. It is for that reason that we confidently smile. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Psalm 17:15).