46. Conclusion

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 46. Conclusion

Jn 12:32  “when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

Rev 1:5   Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

How to put all these studies together? It is impossible in a relatively small space to cover every one of the studies of the past six weeks. All we can do is observe our starting point, our finishing point and the key parts in between.

Jesus our model for growth: Our starting point was our ultimate goal which was to consider the New Testament call to us to grow. Our framework for that was John 12:32 above and I suggested from the outset that there were expressions or outworkings of that verse: first, Jesus lifted up on the cross to die for our sins, second, Jesus lifted up from death by his resurrection and, third, Jesus exalted on high through the ascension, so he is now seated at his Father’s right hand, where his presently ruling.

Jesus’ model applied to us: That was the framework, and I suggested that this same framework can be observed in the Christian life – first, our call to die to the old life and to sin, then second, our call to live the resurrected, Spirit-empowered life, and finally, to realize and see that that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms where we are to rule with him, as the Spirit-led body of Christ on the earth, that is bringing in the kingdom or rule of God on the earth. Perhaps a few key items for each of those.

Death: Without death to the old life and to our old way of doing things and our old ambitions, we cannot come and receive Christ as both Saviour and Lord. Christ cannot bring his salvation to us and cannot lead us in a new life if we insist on holding onto the things of our old carnal life.

Resurrection: Without death there can never be resurrection.   Resurrection is the shorthand picture of what takes place when we come to Christ. When we are ‘born again’ it is a work of the Holy Spirit who God places within and so the Spirit becomes an inner source of revelation (teaching) and power (for life transformation and service).  All the virtues and all the gifts and fruits of the Spirit find their origin and expression in Him.

Ascension: This is the area that many of us struggle with most. It is first of all seeing ourselves seated with Christ in heaven, linked by his Holy Spirit, second, it is understanding that now he is there ruling over the affairs of the world, even in the midst of his enemies who will eventually be destroyed, enemies that are all things contrary to the way God originally created this world perfect, and third, it is seeing ourselves as now his body on the earth, directed by him from heaven, led and empowered by his Spirit on a daily basis and, finally, fourth it is understanding that his body now, as two thousand years ago, is to work to bring the kingdom or rule of God on the earth.

It is the enormity of this third phase that leaves many of us struggling and is, perhaps, the most difficult area for growth. Perhaps there are various reasons for that. First, it is a spiritual experience that is expressed into the physical world. We are all right with the spiritual bit (e.g. simple prayer) but when that is extended to hearing God and responding to His directions that mean us stepping out in the physical world to bring physical changes, our faith wavers.

Second, we have settled in the past in the good, but only partial, teaching that the spiritual parts of being a Christian are just about being a witness, sharing the Gospel with friends, family etc. etc. Now that is good and right, but it stops short of Jesus call that said, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.” (Jn 14:12) and his explanation of those works is seen in Matt 11:5 and Lk 4:18,19. The other ‘spiritual’ aspect that we have watered down is in respect of prayer which is so often simply reduced to telling God what He ought to do and uttering words into the air, instead of it being a life-filled experience where there is a two-way communication. It is the so-often absent ‘hearing element’ of prayer that releases faith for action.

And So: So there we are, death, resurrection and ascended to a place of ruling, that is our syllabus or our learning program, a program that is not merely about learning words but putting them into action (Mt 28:20). To conclude, note our second starter verse from above: “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” (Rev 1:5) There again we have the three phases of the life and ministry of the Son of God.

First, he was a faithful witness, sharing in all the Father was doing (Jn 5:17,19), perfectly fulfilling the plan of the Godhead, formulated before the beginning of time and resulting in his death on a cross for the sins of mankind. Second, he is the firstborn from the dead, having been raised to life after death. Third, he is now the ruler of all the earth, seated at his Father’s right hand, working slowly and purposefully in the midst of his enemies on the earth to bring the rule of God which will be culminated in his Second Coming. Oh yes, there is very much yet a future element to all this, as there is for us. That says to us that we are working towards a guaranteed future when, if we learn these things, we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” while at the same time being welcomed home as the sons and daughters, the children of God, that we are.  Hallelujah and Amen!

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29. The Arrival of ‘LIfe’

Part 3: Ascended & Ruling:   3B. Practical Applications

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 29. The Arrival of ‘Life’

Jn  1:4  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

Jn 5:21  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

Facing the Tidal Wave: Twice I have preached/prophesied about tidal waves, or tsunamis. The first was back in 2006/7 about a coming financial crash, the second is now. Prior to yesterday’s recap we took what many might consider a tangent or divergence from our path but which, I would gently suggest, is likely to be one of the biggest and most significant warnings you will ever find on these pages. It was the subject of relevancy in the face of the incredible tidal wave of change that is coming to our world in the immediate future. The only thing about such tidal waves is that many on the ‘beach’ are too taken up with playing sand castles to note what is coming.

More than Words: Now, again, yesterday I made two theological assertions about God and about mankind, and now I am going to make a third assertion that should bridge between those ‘spiritual and theological’ truths and the panorama of change. It is this: modern man doesn’t want to just hear words, he or she wants to see it, and this comes as a particular challenge to the church that is either wrapped up in its organisation and culture, its dogma and its ritual and sacraments, or is wrapped up in its particular expressions of the evangelical, Pentecostal and even charismatic wings of the Church.

Like the Pharisees? If we are not careful, history will show us in the same light that we view the Pharisees or Sadducees of Jesus’ day, religious groups, often ignored by the majority but seeing themselves as all-important – yet irrelevant to the world around them. It took Jesus coming with the power and authority of the kingdom to start bringing change. We have commented before on the fact of the demon possessed being able to be part of the life of the local synagogue, and so it was only when the Son of God came, and the presence of God was manifest, that they were disturbed and then ousted (see Mk 1:21-27).  Similarly, the sick or disabled were allowed to exist unchanged until the Son of God came (see Mk 3:1-5). If Jesus came in physical form exactly as he appeared two thousand years ago, and came into your congregation and mine, how many lives would be changed as needy people (whose needs are not being met now) crowded around Jesus and he did exactly what he did then and set the captives free? Please don’t let defensiveness shy us away from such thoughts. So often we focus on ‘salvation’ and ‘making a commitment’ – and that is absolutely right – but if it stops there we do a disservice to the word of God and the kingdom of God.

Building the Body through the Word: Preaching and teaching are, you’ll be pleased to hear me say, absolutely essential to bringing ‘life’. I dislike short homilies or clever, contrived sermons that hardly look at what the word of God says.  Exposition, which includes application, is still, I am certain, the way of transforming minds and lives. But it doesn’t end there. We recently touched on the concept of the ‘body of Christ’, the church, and the minister, leader or whoever he is, is merely one member of the body and if we leave it to one man, the rest of the body becomes atrophied (Defn. ‘gradually decline in effectiveness or vigour due to underuse or neglect’.) An encouraging sign that I have noticed in various churches, is the opportunity for individuals to receive prayer at the end of the service on a Sunday morning – by other members! Let me share a recent experience.

A Corporate Example: Twice last summer, once in my own church and once in a church in the States, I was speaking about this all-member body ministry and ended the preaching time as follows. I suggested that every time we prayed over somebody with listening prayer (see Study No.13 in this series) something happened. I believe that when we listen and take God’s leading as we pray over one another, He moves and does something.  I asked if there were twelve people who would like that ‘something’ and if there were, would they like to come and sit on the front row? Immediately twelve came out and sat there. I then asked for twelve (or it could be more – up to twenty-four) ‘volunteers’ who would like to step out in faith to come out and pray under my direction.

In each case at least twelve came out and we stood them in front of the seated people. “Now,” I continued, “I want you praying people to just stand with eyes closed, I want you to imagine Jesus standing here with your to-be-prayed-for person. I want you to sense what he feels for them, perhaps even catch a look on his face, and catch a sense of what he wants to say to them and do for them. Only then do I want you to pray out loud for them. I don’t want you to enquire about what they think their need is, but sense instead what Jesus wants to say and do for them.”

Effects: Now I am aware that his is probably completely alien to some and scary for others, but all I know is that when we dare step out in faith like this and risk getting it wrong, more often we get it right, and the few times we get it wrong, the Lord just causes forgetfulness to take away any wrong prayers. But in such times, I know three things. First, the people who come forward are stepping out in faith and they are invariably blessed. Second, those who step out in faith to listen and pray find a beautiful awareness of the Lord’s presence and are never the same again. Third, there is a beautiful sense of the body moving together. When people minister together, they love together and are bonded together. The body is built up and as individuals we grow. Consider what I have described.

First, it is risky. People might just pray what they think the person needs with their natural knowledge of that person but there are four things that militate against that happening. First, when people come forward like this to minister to others, they come with a sense of weakness and yet excitement and that transcends the “What I think” possibility. Second, in such times people do genuinely seek the Lord. Many feel out of their depth but nevertheless step out of the boat and ‘walk on water’ in faith, and in the process lose any sense of preconceived ideas. Third, the Lord will be on their case and there is often a sense of His holiness present which restrains personal thinking. Fourth, the leader (me in that case) is present to watch over all that takes place and discern anything going wrong and be there to bring gentle correction or reassurance as necessary.

Second, it promotes faith and growth: Both groups of people step out in faith and will be blessed by it, because faith pleases God and when God is pleased, He blesses. Both individual and church are blessed and grow and are built up. The bigger thing – ‘life’ is released, the life-changing power and presence of the Lord is there, and the kingdom is expressed. Hallelujah!

 

18. Door to Life

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 18. Door to Life 

Gal 2:20    I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I stated in a recent meditation something that may appear obvious but perhaps because it is we so often miss it, and that is that before there can be resurrection, there had to be death first. We have in the earlier meditations considered very lightly I might say, the crucifixion of Christ and his resurrection, but we have now moved firmly into the area of considering what are the implications of that death.

In our verse above, from Galatians, Paul suggests what we might call a parallelism in his life to that of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It is a very powerful verse containing great truths.

The first thing we might note is the way he considers the life he now lives. The heart of it, he says, is that “Christ lives in me.” It is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, who now indwells every Christian.  How we so often take this incredible truth for granted; Christ lives in me!

The second thing, Paul claims, is that this life is no longer ‘me’ orientated, no longer ‘me’ directed or motivated, this life of his (and mine and yours) is now Christ orientated, Christ directed, Christ motivated. He considers (and by implication he wants us to consider it true for us too) that the life he had previously, has been ‘crucified’ or put to death, so that the new power of Jesus could come in and raise up a completely new life. That is all about power.

Third, the foundation of this new life is faith, faith in Christ. Faith, the New Testament tells us, comes by hearing. You and I have heard the Gospel, we have read it in the book, we have it clearly before us and we have responded to that, and it is all about Christ. No Christ, no Gospel, no salvation. Our faith is focused on him.

Fourth, at the heart of this belief is the fact that Jesus, “loved me and gave himself for me.” Jesus’ death wasn’t just a ‘legal’ act done for mankind, an amorphous mass of people. No, Christ, because he is God, could see each one of us and he uniquely died for me, he uniquely died for you. He saw me, and he saw you. He loved me, and he loved you, and it was that love that took him to the Cross where he died for me, died for you – and then rose again so that we would believe.

What an amazing declaration Paul makes. I died to my old life so that I could rise with a new one, a life in which Christ now lives. I live it by faith in the Son of God (yes, who indwells me) who came to earth, lived out his life to reveal his Father in heaven, but who then died as a sacrifice for my sins so that I might be forgiven, and then he rose from the dead to secure my faith. Now it is him in me. Incredible!

26. Life

Short Meditations in John 5:  26. Life

Jn 5:26  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself

Sometimes in scripture the most simple of verses have the most profound of meanings. “As the Father has life in himself.”  We live every day without much thought about the wonder of it. We even take it casually when we hear that Mr. John Smith has died at the age of 52. It is more shocking, and it pulls us up when a child dies or someone dies in an accident but mostly we take it for granted that one day will follow another. I am at an age that, fifty years ago would have been considered old, but I anticipate not dying tomorrow. On today’s standards I could live for another twenty-five years. The truth is that we take ‘life’ for granted but people do die and life comes to an end. For us it is fragile. If I stay out unprotected in freezing conditions, I will die. If I fall into the sea and can no longer swim, I will die.  I could have a heart attack and suddenly life is not here.

The thing about ‘life’ is that we have little control over it. We know that if we don’t do the normal things expected of a human being – eat, drink, take exercise, we will die, for we are not immortal and so something could happen that means we no longer have life. But this is not true of God. There are a number of things that make Him substantially different from us, but this is perhaps the main one. He IS immortal, He needs nothing to sustain Him.

I wonder if this particular characteristic (apart from Him being so big) is what makes Him scary and makes people fall down before Him. In His real presence does a person suddenly realise that here is someone utterly different from ‘me’? This someone has life but not as we know it for His is not reliant upon anything else – oxygen, food, drink – this being just exists.

But even more, this being has the ability to impart ‘life’, the ability to make something live and become someone, a living sentient being. Why do we struggle with the thoughts of Adam and Eve when we realise these things? But now Jesus has been taking us into the spiritual realm and has been speaking about spiritual life, life that means interacting with The Divine Being and, similarly, this Being is the One who has the capability of imparting that.

But wait a minute, that is what Jesus is now claiming, that he too has life in himself that is reliant upon no one and nothing and, even more we have already seen, he can impart that life – physical and spiritual – to whoever comes to him for it. Now this puts him on a par with the Father – he is God! We have said previously that he makes subtle inferences in respect of his divinity, but this is not so subtle!

21. Life Givers

Short Meditations in John 5:  21. Life Giver

Jn 5:21  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it

It might be a scary thought that new birth only comes when God gives it, if it wasn’t for His love and the knowledge that in reality He wants ”everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9) and it is only our own stubborn and foolish hearts that keep us from receiving all of His goodness through salvation. His desire is to bless us and bring us to salvation, to raise us from the (spiritual) dead.

This looks a funny verse at first sight. “The Father raises the dead”. It is God the Father’s sovereign actions that prevail. Although there is a unity in the Trinity, the Son always submits to the Father in whom is all authority. So the Father seeks to bring us back to Himself and in so doing He rescues us from spiritual death (separation from Him) and imparts life to us, the life of His own Holy Spirit, eternal life. But it starts with the Father. As we have said before, He always initiates the activity.

But then we find, running parallel to this, the Son also gives life to whoever he will. We have seen previously that the Father shows the Son all that He is doing, all that is on His heart, and the Son joins in that activity, so here, when the Father desires to raise a person from their spiritual death, the Son does likewise; it is a joint Father and Son activity and, of course, it is the Holy Spirit who is imparted to bring that new life. Whenever new birth occurs, the entire Trinity is involved.

Note the final expression, “to whom he is pleased to give it.” Even as we said the Father’s desire is for repentance to come and salvation to follow, by implication it also pleases the Son when he is able to bring another person into his Father’s kingdom. There is indeed rejoicing in heaven when every new birth takes place.

Perhaps we cannot emphasise this enough that it is the desire of the Godhead to bring salvation to mankind. Three times in the book of Ezekiel we find God’s desire declared in this manner, for example: “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezek 18:32).

Some people seek to portray God as a vindictive, nasty being who just delights in bringing destructive judgment on mankind. Nothing could be further from the truth!  The whole point of Jesus coming to the earth and dying on the Cross was to open the way for us to be saved. God wants to bless us and that can only come through His salvation through Jesus, because while we live our self-centred ‘old lives’ we won’t be open to receiving His direction and thus His blessing that He wants to bring to us.

31. The Resurrection and the Life

Focus on Christ Meditations: 31. The Resurrection and the Life

Jn 11:25,26    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

The context for this saying is very clear and obvious. Lazarus has just died and Jesus is going to raise him from the dead. That is implied in the story before this and it is what follows. Life, death and resurrection are the foundation of this incident. There is leading up to this saying an interesting discussion, although discussion does not really describe the interaction between Martha and Jesus. Observe: When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.”  (v.20) From Luke’s little account of the home of Mary and Martha (see Lk 10:38-) we know that Martha was the ‘get up and do’ sister and so it is that when Jesus comes it is Martha who goes out to meet him.

See her opening words: “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (v.21) These are words of reproach. She knows Jesus is a healer and so if he had been there he would have healed Lazarus – and they had sent word to Jesus but he hadn’t come! But then she says something interesting, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (v.22) Now it is probable that the messenger they had sent to Jesus came back with his answer: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (11:4) The thought of Lazarus coming back to life after he had been dead and buried some time was just beyond her reach and yet somehow, somewhere in the depths of her mind, there was some glimmer of hope even if she did not understand it herself. Verse 39 shows her mind is on the physical reality – if the grave is opened the body will smell for it must have already started to decay.

Jesus prompts her: “Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” (v.23) That sounds hopeful, but when? “Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (v.24) She is a good Jew and well taught and so knows this teaching. It is in the face of this that this strange and, at first sight, incomprehensible word of self-revelation is spoken: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (v.25a) Now before we try unraveling this, look at what follows: “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (v.25b,26) In the face of the teaching of the final resurrection of the dead (see Rev 20:12,13 and 1 Cor 15:12-) it would appear that Jesus is saying that he is the cause of all being resurrected from death to face God at the Final Judgment, but of course at that moment it will be every person who has ever lived, believer and non-believer, so such a general understanding would have little significance. No, there must be a further meaning to what he is saying.

Look again at verses 25b and 26. Jesus puts forward two possibilities, both about believers in Jesus. First, even though someone dies, they will live. So this puts forward the idea of life after death. The second one speaks of never dying. Are those contradictions? No, they are one and the same. We may appear to pass through physical death but that is not the end for us; we continue living with God, i.e. in reality we never ‘die’. We may appear to die physically but in reality, no, we continue on.

The apostle Paul wrote along these lines to the Romans: “if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom 8:10,11) When we are born again, Christ by his Spirit indwells us. In respect of God, our starting point is that our body is lifeless or ‘dead’ but our spirit is alive to God but then because the Holy Spirit is there within us, He imparts ‘life’ to our physical bodies so that in both body and spirit we are raised up or resurrected to be alive to God. This is how healing can come about, by the indwelling power within us. Yes, our physical body is still subject to physical death, and yet there appears a promise in scripture that somehow our whole being – new body and spirit will be raised in eternity (check out 1Cor 6:14; 15:20,23; 2Cor 4:14; Phil 3:21; 1Thess 4:14) There is a mystery here but without doubt we will receive new spiritual bodies, bodies not limited as they are now (ponder on 1 Cor 15:35-44).

We have seen in earlier word-pictures Jesus as the Bread of Life, the one who imparts life to enable us to live. We have seen him as the Light of the World, and we observed that light is necessary for life to occur and continue. There have been references to eternal life but this present word-picture presses that home more vigorously; it is a life that prevents death, a life that continues after physical death has occurred and a life that will even enable us to have some tangible, expressible ‘body’ after death and on into eternity.

This opens up a whole new world of speculation, but we will have to wait to experience and understand the reality of it when it happens. In the meantime, we can look into the future with hope. This present life is not all there is! The path ahead of us stretches away into eternity but changing and improving all the way. If you have ever read C.S.Lewis’s last Narnia book, ‘The Last Battle’, you will remember he sought to convey this wonder and the cry “further in, further up” was the cry that kept coming, all going on from one degree of glory to another in eternity.

To speculate and ponder on: whenever our hopes are dashed by the enemy or by the world and Sin, just remember Jesus is in the business of resurrection. Speaking of Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac, the writer to the Hebrews declared, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Heb 11:19) Whenever our hopes or ambitions die, remember Jesus is in the business of resurrection by bringing himself into the equation, but as with our new bodies in 1 Cor 15, remember what he raises up may not be the same as that which died – but it will always be gloriously better! Hallelujah!

42. Ezekiel (3)

Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 42.  Ezekiel (3)

Ezek 40:3,4    I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. The man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the house of Israel everything you see.”

When I started off this series it was, I have come to realise, with a sense of naivety when I thought about one or two verses per book. To create meaning we have had to do far more than that, and now, as we find ourselves still in Ezekiel, we are about to embark on the most strange highlight in these studies, that which covers Ezekiel’s temple in chapter 40 onwards. Ezekiel I have characterised, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, as a mountain of prophecy, but perhaps a mountain range might be more appropriate and when you come to the end of the range, there you have this further ‘mountain’ covered in cloud and with a massive question mark over it.

Indeed this is going to be the strangest ‘meditation’ in this series for here is the thing about this part of Ezekiel:  First it is clearly dated as having come fourteen years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple within (40:1), second it is a vision (40:2), third in the vision Ezekiel sees in great detail the measurements of a temple (ch. 40-42),  fourth, more than once he is told to take great note of what he sees (40:4, 43:10,11 44:5), fifth, the glory of the Lord comes to this temple (ch.43), sixth the detail includes the priesthood and working within it (43:18-44:31, 45:9-24), seventh, there are details about apportioning the Land, layout and use of it (45:1-8, 47:15-48:35) and eighth,  IT WAS NEVER BUILT and these things never followed!

So the question arises, why were these nine chapters written down and never followed? What is the point of them being here? Why bother to read them? Let’s answer those in reverse order.

Why read them? We can only make suggestions. First we read then because for one reason or another they have been included in the canon of Scripture, first by the Jews who compiled the Old Testament scriptures, and second by the early church fathers who accepted it. Second, we might also add that within these chapters there are a number of passages with more details that exhort the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day to repent from their past and live out a new future, a continuation of the earlier parts of the book, if you like. Third, there is also a sense of holiness as the glory of the Lord is seen again, now filling this visionary temple, and with a general sense of holiness which comes through in these chapters.

What is the point of them being here?  Well, we may make several suggestions. First, in the day when the exile is well and truly under way, and the exiles have lost their temple, even though Ezekiel and Jeremiah have both prophesied restoration to the Land, this long, detailed section on the temple declares loud and clear, “God has NOT finished with His temple, His intent is still that He will dwell in the midst of His people.”  Second, they continue that sense of ‘heavenly otherness’ that is common to parts of Ezekiel, a challenge almost against humanistic thinking. We are left with questions that only God will answer. Third, they open up a whole new area of hope, for the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day, and the Jews of today. Why? Because the vision has not yet been fulfilled.

That leads us to think about the different ways these chapters can be seen. Commentators over the years have come up with a number of suggestions. First that this was never meant to be taken literally, that perhaps it is just meant to convey spiritual truths, or that it may even be a description of a heavenly temple. Second, that it should be taken literally which opens up the possibility that the people of Ezra’s time simply failed to build to this scale. The alternative is that it will yet be built in the future, maybe in the thousand year ‘millennium’ period of Rev 20:4 and you know the fun thing about all this – we just don’t know! What a challenge to those who feel insecure in their faith and feel they have to have everything neatly buttoned up and understood!

But let’s finish with a fairly brief reference to a beautiful few verses in chapter 47, the vision of the river flowing out of the Temple. It appears, first of all, flowing out from under the threshold of the temple (47:1). As it flowed it became a deeper and deeper river (47:3-6) and where it flowed down into the Dead Sea, it turned it into fresh water (47:8), and wherever it flows life bursts forth (47:9). On its banks fruit trees grow in abundance providing both food and healing (47:12). No interpretation is give and so we are just left to surmise for ourselves.

Whatever else it might say, it must speak of the life that flows out from the presence of the Lord, life that grows greater and greater the more it flows out, life that brings life, and life that transforms and changes that which is dead into a vibrant living environment. Two observations: first this flows from the presence of God portrayed by this temple in this vision. Second, this is the very life that flows forth from heaven through the Church today and even on a bigger scale through the kingdom of God in whatever form that is expressed – the blessing of God on earth.

And so a final question: does this mean that this long-winded picture of the temple is just God’s way of catching our attention to say, “I have a plan, a detailed plan of how I will bring my presence to the earth so that life can flow forth bringing transformation to this sin-weary world”? Does He further say, “I simply make the point that you will not fully understand it, but this plan is there and it will be fulfilled through my Son, Jesus Christ”?

Well, to get the most out of this study you are going to have to read chapters 40 to 48 so if you want to, copy, paste and print this study and keep it beside you as you read those chapters. You’ll only need half an hour and who knows what the Lord might pick out to speak to you. Be blessed.