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lwpray
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 Re: The Holy City



VALUING JESUS CHRIST AS THE LAMB OF GOD
That leads us to one other thing before we close. We are told that this wall rests upon the foundation of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. It does not say that the twelve apostles are the foundation, but the foundation is the foundation of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The apostles were the ’sent ones’ by the Lord, and when they were sent out into the world what did they preach? What was the foundation of all their preaching? It is all gathered into this one word: the Lamb. You know that when the Apostle John, who wrote this book, wrote his Gospel he very soon wrote: ”Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), and in different ways all the Apostles who preached Jesus Christ preached the Gospel of the Lamb of God. In this book of the Revelation the words ’the Lamb’ occur twenty-six times.
To begin with, the Lamb means the taking away of sin. That is the very beginning of everything which is going to come into God’s presence - the taking away of our sin. That is the foundation of this wall.
Then, not only the Lamb of God which takes away sin, but in this book another phrase is used: The marriage of the Lamb. Of course, that is strange language, but what does it mean? What is a marriage? It is a covenant made between two parties, a covenant of love, and the marriage of the Lamb just means that, by the blood of the Lamb, a covenant is made which unites us with the Lord Jesus. It is the covenant of His eternal love for us, and our covenant with Him, because of His sacrifice, to love Him for ever. The marriage of the Lamb is a covenant of love between Christ and His Church for ever, and it is only those who have entered into that covenant who will be found abiding in God for ever.
And when you come to the end of this book it is: The Lamb’s book of life. What is that? Again it is only a figure. I do not think that when we get to heaven they are going to open a literal book. Of course, we have hymns which say that, such as our little children’s hymn:
”Is my name written there
In the book grand and fair?”


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/9/20 10:49Profile
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 Re: The Holy City



In the First World War I was out in the Mediterranean with the troops, and on Sunday nights we had a great gathering of soldiers for a service. There were twelve hundred men who had come back, wounded or sick. We used to say: ’Now, boys, what shall we sing?’ Do you know what they chose every time as the first hymn? ”When the Roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there”! Well, the idea is all right, but the Lamb’s Book of Life just means the record of those who have received that eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ.
Now that again is very practical. There was a day, when the Lord Jesus was here on earth, that a great crowd gathered around Him, and in it was a poor woman who had had an infirmity for twelve years. She had spent all her living on physicians and no one had been able to help her. She stood on the outside of this great crowd and began to wedge her way through the people. She was pushing this way and that way, and the man who wrote the Gospel tells us that she was saying to herself: ”If I do but touch his garment, I shall be made whole” (Matthew 9:21). At last, after a lot of trouble she got behind Him, reached out her hand and just touched the edge of His garment. Immediately she was made whole. But Jesus turned round and said: ”Who touched Me?” The disciples said: ”Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?” But Jesus said: ”Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me” (Luke 8:46, A.V.). ’Virtue’ is another word for ’life’, and life had gone out of Him into that woman. The woman saw that she could not hide herself, indeed, this new life meant so much to her that she came forward and fell on her face before the Lord and confessed. Jesus said: ”Daughter, thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (R.V. margin).
Being in the Lamb’s Book of Life just means that life has come out from Him into us by faith in Him. You know, the Lord Jesus knows when life has gone out from Himself into someone else. He knows when anyone has touched Him in faith and received His Divine life. He said: ‘I came that they might have life” (John 10:10). And when, by faith in Him, we reach out to Him and receive His life, that is recorded in heaven.
When the disciples came back to the Lord Jesus from a mission they said: “Master, even the demons are subject unto us.” But He said: ‘Don’t rejoice in that. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ The greatest thing is to have our names written in heaven, and that depends upon our having received the life of the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God who gave His life for us. I hope that everybody here has his or her name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life! There are no physicians who can heal you of the disease of sin. but the gesture of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can do it, and it is those who have made it who are in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
This is what determines whether we belong to the Church and to Jesus Christ, and, in this pictorial language, it is this that decides whether we can enter through those gates and into the city - it is just how much we value Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. That is why we sang:
“Tis the Church triumphant singing
Worthy the Lamb!”



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Lars Widerberg

 2004/9/21 2:14Profile
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 Re: The Holy City



THE HOLY CITY, NEW JERUSALEM
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 8 - The Many-Sided Riches of God’s Grace in Jesus Christ

“The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones” (Revelation 21:19).

The following passages are a commentary on that verse:
“Putting away therefore all wickedness, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation; if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For you therefore which believe is the preciousness” (1 Peter 2:1-7).

“In whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach... the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).
“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man” (Ephesians 3:16).

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
“That he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory” (Romans 9:23).
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgements, and his ways past tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).
Now we have to come back to the first passage, in Revelation 21:9: “The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones.”

THAT TO WHICH GOD IS WORKING SET FORTH IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION
I think you know that the order in which we have the books of the New Testament is not the order in which they were written. The chronological order would be quite different from the one which we have in our arrangement. The Book of the Revelation was not the last book of the Bible to be written, but there is a Divine order in the arrangement, and this is a very real mark of the government of the Holy Spirit. When the books were put together in the way in which we have them, perhaps the men did not know what they were doing, but the Spirit of God, who inspired the writing, also governed the arrangement, and everybody recognizes that this book of the Revelation is in the right place. It is the summary and consummation of all that is in the Bible, and its dominant note is the coming again of the Lord Jesus. These words stand over every section of this book: ‘Behold, I come quickly’, and almost the last words are: “The Spirit and the bride say, Come” (22:17). It is the Person of the Lord Jesus who stands supreme over this whole book, in all its sections. He is given various names: The Word of God, the Faithful and true Witness, King of kings and Lord of lords, and other names, all of which only occur once, but there is a name which is repeated again and again, and that name stands over every section of the book from the beginning to the end, and that name is ‘The Lamb’. Jesus as the Lamb of God stands over this whole book, so that the book is a record of the power, the authority and the glory of Jesus Christ in His cross. It is His place of supremacy in the Church and in the nations by virtue of His sufferings.

This book is therefore a presentation of what Christ is through His Cross, that is, through His suffering and death, and all that He is through His suffering and death is here, in this book, reproduced in the Church. The Church here, as we have been seeing, is represented in the symbolism of the city, and that city is the Church embodying all the features of what Christ is by His suffering and death.
I only have to remind you of those words in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12:22,23:
“But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.”

You see, the city of the living God is the general assembly of the firstborn, the Church of the firstborn ones whose names are enrolled in heaven, in other words, whose names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The letter to the Hebrews corresponds to the book of the Revelation.
So this book of the Revelation, and especially these last chapters, sets forth that to which God is working in the Church now. It tells us what it is that God is seeking to do in believers now, and the goal to which He is working, which is a full revelation of Christ in the Church at the end. That statement is a very important statement for us, for it means that if God has got hold of our lives, if we are truly under the government of the Holy Spirit, He is doing a work in us throughout our lives, and that work is that at the end all that is symbolically true of the New Jerusalem will be found true in us.


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Lars Widerberg

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 Re: The Holy City



“ALL MANNER OF PRECIOUS STONES”
Having already considered many aspects of this city, we have at last come to the wall. We have read that “the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones”, so that the wall represents the many-sided riches of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. We did not read all these precious stones, but if you will just pass your eye over them you will see how precious they are, and what a variety of preciousness is represented here: the jasper, the sapphire, the chalcedony, and so on, and you will notice that they finish with the amethyst.
There was a little Methodist church in the country in England, and they were having a conference. For the lesson an old farmer read this twenty-first chapter of Revelation, and he came to the part about the precious stones. Everybody saw his face getting more and more excited. He started off: “The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony...” and he was getting more and more excited. “...the fourth, emerald; the fifth... and the sixth... and the seventh... and the eighth... and the ninth... and the tenth... and the eleventh... and the TWELFTH was a METHODIST!” Well, it is something to be excited about. If we could put ourselves into the description of an ‘amethyst’ it would indeed be something glorious!
We have said that all these stones set forth the many-sided riches of God’s grace brought to us in Jesus Christ. It is quite impossible for us to comprehend the many aspects of God’s grace, and that is why we read all those passages about the riches of His grace, the riches of His glory, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and also why we read Peter: “For you therefore which believe is the PRECIOUSNESS.” But perhaps we can understand this a little better if we take note of two things.


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Lars Widerberg

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 Re: The Holy City



THE GRACE OF GOD FOR JACOB
It says here that there were twelve gates to the city, “and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” (verse 12), and then it says: “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (verse 14). Now, you Bible students, don’t expect me to exhaust all the meaning of that! But I want to suggest to you just one thing about those two verses.
On the gates were the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Paul tells us, about Israel, that “it is the remnant that shall be saved” (Romans 9:27). While all Israel may now be cast away, a remnant shall be saved. Israel will be represented at the last, but why and how? This is what I suggest to you to be a meaning: The twelve tribes of Israel sprang from Jacob, and if ever there was a man who ought not to have had the position that Jacob had, it was Jacob. No man of character has any respect for Jacob. He was a deceiver, a man who was always seeking to get his own advantage at the expense of someone else. It did not matter how much others had to lose or suffer so long as Jacob got what he wanted. The earlier years of Jacob’s life are a story that is not pleasant to read. You say: What a mean and despicable man was Jacob! And you agree with the prophet when he says: “Thou worm Jacob” (Isaiah 41:14). Jacob had very little naturally to commend him. Why, then, should Jacob come to occupy the great place that he has in the Bible? Why should his name be changed from Jacob to Israel, ‘a prince with God’? There is only one answer: Sovereign grace! God took hold of THAT man to make HIM a “vessel of mercy”. We know the mercy and the grace of God when we see it taking hold of a character like that! “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgements, and his ways past tracing out!”


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/9/21 15:28Profile
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 Re: The Holy City



THE GRACE OF GOD FOR THE TWELVE TRIBES
But not only the man, the twelve tribes. What a story of tragedy, failure and shame is the story of the old Israel! God’s patience was tested to its utmost by that people. There was a time when He said to Moses: ‘Stand aside! Let Me destroy them and I will make of thee another nation.’ One day Moses himself cried: ‘You rebels! Must we bring water out of this rock for you?’ Yes, it is a long and a terrible story is the story of the twelve tribes of Israel, but their names are on the gates of the New Jerusalem. Whatever other things this may mean, I am quite sure that it means this: Here you have a wonderful, wonderful testimony to the unspeakable grace of God in Jesus Christ. “For you which believe is the preciousness.” A remnant of Israel shall believe and be found in the holy city. So that, whether it be Jacob himself or his twelve sons and the tribes, here at the last is this testimony to the sovereign grace of God.

THE GRACE OF GOD FOR US
Why is this written at the end of the Bible? Just to say that there is hope for you, and there is hope for me. The grace of God for Jacob and the twelve tribes is big enough for us. This Church city is a great monument to the unsearchable riches of His grace.
There is always a note of warning in these things, and the Apostle Paul warned Christians to beware of failing of the grace of God. We read that verse in Romans 2:4: “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long suffering?” It must be a very terrible thing to fail of this grace if it is so great! But let us proceed.


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Lars Widerberg

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 Re: The Holy City



THE GRACE OF GOD FOR THE DISCIPLES
On the foundations of the wall were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Now this means much more than I am going to say, but I am quite sure that it means this one thing.
I read the story of those twelve men before Pentecost, and it is not a very happy story. They were men who were constantly quarrelling with one another, and they all had something of Jacob in them - trying to get an advantage for themselves at the expense of the others. Two of them came round the back of the others with their mother. There has been a little family conspiracy, and this mother was very ambitious for her two sons, and the sons fell into her ambition, so that while the other disciples were not looking (you see, this is Jacob!) they came round to the Lord Jesus and the mother said: ‘Master, I want to ask you for something. Will you promise me something?’ But Jesus was always awake to anything like that - ‘You tell Me what you want and then I will tell you if I will give it to you.’ And so the mother said: ‘Master, when you come into your kingdom, will you let THIS boy be on your right hand, and THIS boy be on your left hand? Will you let my two sons have the first two places in the kingdom?’ Well, Jesus just said: ‘That is not Mine to give. That is for the Father.’ But it was not all over then - the story does not end there. When the others knew it they were very angry: ‘They tried to steal OUR place!’
Well, I could go on like that about these disciples - and you know how that story ended! The chief one amongst them denied the Lord Jesus three times, most vehemently. When it was said to him: ‘You are one of them!’ he said: ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ And then, when later on it was said to him: ‘You WERE with Him,’ he said: ‘I tell you, I know not the man!’ We can hardly believe that the leader of the Apostles should fall so low! Surely, we would say, there is no hope for a man like that, and the others are not much better, because it says that they all forsook Him and fled. All right - their names are on the foundation of the wall! The riches of His grace are at last manifested in them. Peter needs grace in one way - I don’t know whether he corresponds to the jasper - and John needs grace in another way - perhaps he corresponds to the sapphire. But they all needed some form of Divine grace in a special way.
And that is true of us all. My nature needs Divine grace in a special way, and everyone here needs the grace of God in some particular way. But the grace of God in Jesus Christ can meet every one of us in our particular way, and right at last, whether it be an amethyst or a ‘Methodist’, we will be in the city.
We have only just touched the very fringe of the unsearchable riches of grace, but may we from this time have a larger appreciation of this wonderful grace of God in Jesus Christ.


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Lars Widerberg

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 Re: The Holy City



THE HOLY CITY, NEW JERUSALEM
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 9 - Divine Life

”He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the garden of God” (Revelation 2:7).
”And he shewed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month... Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to come to the tree of life... And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city” (Revelation 22:1,2,14,19).

THE PLACE OF THE TREE OF LIFE
So with this last chapter of the Bible we are taken right back to the beginning of the Bible and find ourselves in the presence of the tree of life. In this connection, the ending of everything is found to correspond to the beginning, but, of course, with one great difference: the end is the full realization of the meaning of the beginning. In this form of a symbolic tree of life we are quite evidently in the presence of the main issue of the ages - all the ages are compassed by this one issue. When Jesus, here at the end, calls Himself the ”Alpha and the Omega, ...the beginning and the end” (verse 13), He is referring to Himself as the tree of life. The tree of life is the first thing, and it is the last thing.

But although the tree of life was there in the midst of the garden at the beginning, man never partook of it. The partaking of that tree was on certain conditions. Those conditions were faith and obedience, and because man failed in those conditions, and because man disbelieved and disobeyed God, he was removed from the presence of the tree of life. Then God set up a protection for that tree and made it impossible for man without faith and obedience to partake of it.
Of course, these are spiritual principles set forth in a symbolic way. This question of Divine life is the supreme question in all history. It is the issue of all the ages - just whether man will receive this Divine life or not. Man’s eternal destiny is decided upon that issue. This was God’s supreme purpose in the creation. This life is the life of God, Divine life because of the Divine nature, and it was God’s desire and purpose to share His life with His creation.
The symbolic place that this tree had is very significant. It was in the midst of the Paradise of God. This question of Divine life is at the very centre of the creation, and, having the central place in all things, it governs all things.


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Lars Widerberg

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 Re: The Holy City



SPIRITUAL DEATH
This life was available to man. It was God’s thought and desire that man should take this Divine life, but, as we have said, it was on the condition of faith and obedience, and man never partook of this Divine life because he failed in those two things. So God said, quite effectively: ’That kind of man shall never have My Divine life’, and death, and the prince of death, reigned over that realm and that kind of man. What the Bible means by death reigns over the whole creation of unbelieving men. Disobedience is the positive aspect of unbelief. If man says that he believes, God says: ’Prove it by obedience!’ Spiritual death is the hallmark of unbelief and disobedience.
And if you want to know what spiritual death is, the Bible makes it quite clear: it is separation from God. God is the source of this life, and separation from God means separation from the very source of life.

But that is not sufficient explanation. What is the effect of spiritual death? It is that nothing is ever allowed to come to perfection apart from God. It will just go so far, and no further. In our cemeteries in England we have stones set up over graves, and many of these gravestones are in the form of a pillar which is just a certain height, and then it is broken off. It is meant to say: This life just went so far and could go no further. Life apart from God can never go through to fullness.
There was a great atheist once who thought he knew a great deal. He boasted of his wonderful knowledge of philosophy, and made a great name for himself as what is called a ’free-thinker’. Then the day came when he was dying, and on his deathbed he was in a state of mental torment. His last words were: ’I am taking a terrible leap into the dark!’ It does not matter how much we gain in this life. If it is apart from God that is all left behind. Nothing can come to perfection that is separated from God, and that is the mark of spiritual death.


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Lars Widerberg

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 Re: The Holy City



THE BATTLEGROUND OF THE AGES
Now because faith and obedience are the way out of death, this matter of faith and obedience has been the battleground of all the ages. There is no greater ground of conflict than the ground of faith, and this great issue was headed up to its climax in the incarnation of God’s Son. The whole purpose of God being manifest in the flesh in His Son was to take up this issue and settle it for ever. ”A Final Adam to the fight and to the rescue came.”
This whole issue, then, becomes a matter of faith in the Son of God, and a life of obedience to Him. That is the pathway of eternal life. Now you see that the tree is not just a tree, it is a Person, and that Person is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We have been considering this New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, and we have been seeing how its many features are the features of Jesus Christ. Now what we have to see as we are coming near to the end is that all the features of the city are summed up in the tree and the river of life. All that the city represents is found in these final things, the tree and the river, and it is the tree of life and the river of the water of life.


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