Holiness - for the road
‘Building site holiness’: Philip Wren looks at life as God intended – which may not look religious at all…
In the world, someone who separates themselves might be regarded as a holy man. A hermit or monk leading a life of meditation in a cave or monastery will for many exemplify holiness. Add, asceticism and religious ritual to the separation and the picture is complete.
For the Christian, Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of holiness. Holiness which was honed in the carpenter’s workshop and on the building site. Holiness which he had lived out, before teaching it to the people in the Sermon on the Mount. Holiness which meant that before telling us to carry the pack an extra mile he had done it many times himself1. Holiness which was able to love and forgive the rich man who refused to pay the bill and even cursed Jesus for presenting it. Those in business will know the feeling. Holiness which when landed with the responsibility of supporting his mother, brothers and sisters was able to trust His Father to provide.
Such was the holy character of his life, that when the time came for Jesus to be baptised and to start His period of ministry, His heavenly Father could say, “This is my beloved Son, in who I am well pleased.” 2 True holiness is being like Jesus Christ in the everyday affairs of the world. We are to be in the world while recognising that we are no longer of the world. Instead of the world’s way, we are, in our daily lives, to live by the standards of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Why do we need to live a life of holiness? Many will be the knocks and bruises on the way. It is because holiness is our eternal destiny. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood a holy nation, his own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.”3
Holiness an eternal destiny
The true follower of Christ has joined the ranks of those who “desire a better, that is, a heavenly country”4. We are being prepared for eternal life in the kingdom whose character is holy. When, at the end of Revelation, John sees the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven it is called the ‘holy city’ 5 and ‘the great city, the holy Jerusalem’ 6. It is holy because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are dwelling in the city. Nothing unholy can ever enter the presence of God. His presence will fill the city in which He will dwell. Twice we read, at the close of Revelation, that nothing which defiles, causes an abomination or a lie will be allowed to enter the city. 7 Only those whose names are in the Lamb’s book of Life can enter.
At this time the old creation has fled away from the presence of God. Everything sinful, evil and unholy has been cast into the lake of fire. The devil and his followers will never again disturb the peace of heaven. The time described here follows the 1000 year reign of Christ, the final defeat of Satan and the last judgement.
The New Jerusalem is the fulfilment of all that God intended when He created Man. We have a description in words, using things we know. That is the only means of revealing to us what; "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” 8
There was a time when Satan took Jesus to a high mountain to show Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor9. Jesus saw not as Satan sees, but through the eyes of God. He was being offered Babylon the great prostitute. He refused this tainted prize, firm in the resolve to purchase a bride who would be glorious, pure and holy. At the end of Revelation we see that bride radiant in her beauty. What John saw and tries to describe far exceeds anything we have experienced.
The New Jerusalem 10
The walls ensure that all that dwell in the city are secure. The gates with twelve angels guarding them remind us that when man was ejected from the Garden of Eden an angel was sent to guard the way to the tree of life 11. Eternal life is a precious gift only given to those who receive Jesus. There is no way back for those who have rejected Christ.
There are gates on the East, North, South and West welcoming people from the four corners of the earth. The city belongs to the people of God who are represented by the twelve tribes of Israel whose names are on the gates.
The foundations are precious stones reminding us of how precious in the sight of God is the ministry of the Apostles who faithfully bore witness for Him. They were sent out to preach the gospel of Jesus to the whole world. Only by believing that gospel can we enter the city. The names of the Apostles are on the foundations to remind us that unless we accept the gospel of which they were witnesses the wall of separation from God remains.
The first foundation is jasper, as is the wall. The light of the city is described as like jasper. Christ is her light and her walls are salvation. On the breastplate worn by the High Priest the last stone was jasper. In that first foundation we have a memorial to Christ, the first and the last. He was the first apostle and foundation of our faith.
The proportions of the city are a cube with dimensions, which are symbolic for perfection. The walls also have a perfect dimension.
Each gate is a single pearl. Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as like a pearl of great price 12. To the Gentile, at the time of Christ, a pearl was immensely valuable, worth selling everything to buy. But to the Jew a pearl was worthless. It could not be worn because it came from a creature that was listed in Leviticus as unclean. Why would anyone sell everything to buy an article of no value? The story describes two aspects of the kingdom. To us it is worth giving everything we have to be part of it. While Jesus sold everything to purchase us who as sinners are worthless. The gates of pearl are an eternal reminder of that infinite precious sacrifice.
The city and the streets are pure gold, as pure transparent glass representing something better than the finest man can conceive. Everything about this city is transparent. In glory we too will be transparent, by the grace of God we will be transformed so that there will be nothing to hide.
The Light of the Lord
The city will be filled with the presence of God. All earthly aids to worship will no longer be required. There will be fullness of joy and perfect worship in the city.
In this present world our light is merely the light of the sun. Our vision is limited to what can be seen by that light. In heaven we will have the light of God. In this life most of creation is hidden to us. In the next the vastness of all that God has made will, through His light, be revealed for us to enjoy.
Isaiah speaks of the glory God will restore to Zion. This glory will reach complete fulfillment in the New Jerusalem. 13
The kings of the earth are the ones who will be raised up to reign with Christ. In the sight of God the faithful are the true kings of this world. The freedom of that city is expressed in the gates never being shut. There is no compulsion because everyone in the city has chosen to follow the Lamb. The night of sin has passed. No one will ever think of disobedience for they have experienced the consequence of sin.
The River and Trees of Life 14
The crystal clear water symbolizes the Holy Spirit flowing from the throne of God. By drinking deeply and often and being baptized in the waters of the river we will be kept clean and pure-fit to live in the transparent radiance of the city.
The trees nourished by the living water will bear fruit to feed us and leaves to heal us. They represent the word of God which will both sustain us and shelter us throughout eternity. It creates a wonderful picture of the nations of the world gathered under the shade of the trees, eating the fruit and drinking the water, and living in eternal harmony. The curse, which divided man from God and man from man, has been removed.
In the centre of this wonderful gathering will be throne of God and of the Lamb. Because we are clean we will be able to look on the face of God and live. Gladly we shall serve the Lamb and bear His name. His scars will remind us that the only reason we are able to be there is because He paid the supreme price to redeem us from the punishment that should have been ours.
In that city the redeemed will forever fulfil the command, “Be holy for I am holy.” 15
1.Matthew 5: 41
3. 1 Peter 2:9.
5. Revelation 21:2
7. Revelation 21:27, 22: 15.
8.1 Corinthians 2: 9, 10.
9.Matthew 4: 8.
10.Revelation 21: 1 – 27.
11.Genesis 3: 24.
12.Matthew 13: 45 – 46
13.Isaiah 60: 1 – 22.
14. Revelation 22: 1 – 5.
15.1 Peter 1: 16.