What Is So Important About Easter?

Everything. It celebrates the singularly most important event in human history…

Christ came to save us from ourselves – to unite us with Jehovah, through Him, for all of eternity. Here’s how the process began:

In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was [continually existing] in the beginning [co-eternally] with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being. In Him was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the light of men. Jn. 1:1 – 4. AMP

So, there was nothing existing, not even the universe itself, before God spoke it into existence through His Word (Jesus). We see then that Christ precedes time, existing as an eternal Spirit-being, who was exactly like His Father in every way:

He is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator] of all creation…And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [He is the controlling, cohesive force of the universe.] Col. 1:15 & 17. AMP

The ‘visible representation’ did not manifest until God sent His pre-incarnate Son, (by way of the Holy Spirit), to quicken Mary’s womb.

God originally ‘begat’ His firstborn Son as an aspect of Himself, with all of His characteristics and powers, yet Jesus is distinctly separate from Jehovah – while at the same time, remaining in perfect unity with Him.

Our heavenly Father sent His only Son to His children so that they could experience their Creator up close and personal, and so as to be delivered from their sins, that otherwise would have led to certain death. (Jas. 1:15)

All peoples throughout time became to be potential recipients of God’s merciful grace:

“…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [paying the price to set them free from the penalty of sin].” Mt. 20:28 AMP

Before He did that, God sent the Holy Spirit to speak to His prophets to spread the hope of redemption through the eventual coming of His Son – the Messiah: 

“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” Job 19:25 NASB (1400 years before Jesus showed up.)

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. Is. 9:6, 7. NKJV (700 years before Christ’s coming.)

…with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Is. 11:4 NKJV

So, the Messiah (Christ) will bring the light of God to everyone who has suffered at the hands of darkness (Satan), and we all do. He will establish an eternal kingdom of peace and righteousness and decide who gets to inhabit it. But everybody has the potential to get in:

“…and My God shall be My strength), indeed He says, ‘Is it too small a thing that You should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” Is. 49:5, 6. NKJV

Even Christ’s journey to the cross was prophesied:

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed…and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter… Is. 53:5 – 7. NKJV

The Messiah would take on all of our self-made godless burdens and willingly yield up His flesh to pay the price, so that all would have the potential for redemption.

And then finally, 400 years after the final prophecy concerning Him, Christ came:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Jn. 1:14 NKJV

He Himself taught us about His holy nature and purpose:

“No one has gone up to heaven, but there is One who came down from heaven, the Son of Man [Himself – whose home is in heaven].” Jn. 3:13 AMP

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jn. 3:14, 15. NKJV

Jesus is establishing His heavenly authority for speaking in spiritual matters. He’s also referring to a time when Moses had lifted up a bronze statue of a serpent on a cross for the healing of backslidden Hebrews. Likewise, Jesus is saying that He too would be raised on a cross, to trade His life for the healing of the sins of man. He says again:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send Hs Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world though Him might be saved.” Jn. 3:16 NKJV

Again, He speaks to His purpose:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive and recovery of the sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Lk. 4:18, 19. NKJV

“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but has given all judgment to the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” Jn. 5:21 – 23. NASB

THIS IS HUGE! Jesus possess both the power to initiate and perpetuate God’s resurrection plan; and Christ solely decides the final outcome of those who are raised from the dead:

“…for an hour is coming when all those who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” Jn. 5:28, 29. ESV

It is up to us to bring out faith to the table to be included on the side of the living:

“Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” Jn. 6:47 NKJV

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” Jn. 6:35 NKJV

And out of our faith, comes our proper actions to guarantee our heavenly arrival:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, He shall never see death.” Jn. 8:58 NKJV

With Jesus’ help of course: 

“…without Me you can do nothing.” Jn. 15:5 NKJV

Jesus, like His Father, only speaks the truth. And He says that He’s coming back:

“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Mt. 16:27 NKJV

Jesus stepped up to the cross, and our way to salvation was made. How big an event was His resurrection (Easter)? Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to His apostles after He ascended to His Father, to tell us:

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Gal. 1:6, 7. NASB

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Rm. 3:22 – 26. ESV

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead, that in all things He may have preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. Col. 1:18 – 20. NKJV

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all… 1 Tim. 2:5, 6. NKJV 

And all of the aforementioned, is what’s so important about Easter – God sacrificing His Son on the cross, so that we may all be made righteous to be able to stand side-by-side with Jehovah God and His Son for all of eternity in heaven. Such love…

Goodnight and God bless.   

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The Final Destinies of the City of God and the Earthly City – part 3

Last time, we ended with the saints entering the threshold of eternal bliss with their Creator, and the citizens of the earthy city entering their own new domain – the city of the devil. 

“…and they will come out – those who did good things [will come out] to a resurrection of [new] life, but those who did evil things [will come out] to a resurrection of judgment [that is, to be sentenced].” Jn. 5:29 AMP

“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Mt. 13:41 – 43. NASB

“Then these [unbelieving people] will go away into eternal (unending) punishment, but those who are righteous and in right standing with God [will go, by His remarkable grace] into eternal (unending) life.” Mt. 25:26 AMP

So, regardless of what many people want to believe, (that there is no hell, no consequences for sin), here is the validation of the truth – right out of the mouth of our Savior.

We see that the punishment is permanent. We also know that the unbelievers / willfully rebellious will suffer everlasting retribution in their bodies, which cannot be registered unless the owner of that body is contiguous with his or her soul. Therefore, whatever the nature of their corrupted bodies, they can suffer their penal wounds and yet remain sustainable. That is truly hell.

“If your hand causes you to stumble and sin, cut it off [that is, remove yourself from the source of temptation]! It is better for you to enter life crippled, than to have two hands and go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not put out.] Mk. 9:43, 44. AMP

You see now, the urgency that we, as Christ’s followers, have in sounding the alarm to the unbelievers – to show them the way to salvation. 

Many unbelievers and lukewarm Christians would protest, saying that an all-loving God could not produce such a hell. Ironically, they are right, but not in the way you might suspect. Satan perverted his environment and God banished him to it, as well as those who choose to follow in his footsteps.

And the devil who had deceived them was hurled into the lake of fire and burning brimstone (sulfur), where the beast (Antichrist) and false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Rv. 20:10 AMP 

These same doubters may again profess opposition to what they think is the ‘unfairnesses’ of the eternal aspect of this punishment. There are a couple of things to consider. First, there will be no time. Thus, the length of the sentence of the punished, will not be able to be discerned. Two, and most importantly, God has warned all of humankind since the beginning of their presence on earth, of this outcome, should they steadfastly reject him. Moreover, He gave each of them a lifetime to come around.

…he who destroyed in himself a good which might have been eternal, became worthy of eternal evil…for he who at first gave entrance to sin has been punished with all his posterity who were in him as in a root, so that no one is exempt from this just and due punishment, unless delivered by mercy and undeserved grace… – St. Augustine 

Moreover, God must keep His word, in order to maintain His truth.

Whoever, therefore, desires to escape eternal punishment, let him not only be baptized, but also justified in Christ, and so let him in truth pass from the devil to Christ. – St. Augustine

Thank God that His children in the eternal city of God have a far different destiny…

That destiny begins with having God Himself in their presence. 

Your dead will live; their dead bodies will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy! For your dew is a dew of [celestial] light [heavenly, supernatural], and the earth will give birth to the spirits of the dead. Is. 26:19 AMP

“Now at that [end] time Michael, the great [angelic] prince who stands guard over the children of your people will arise…at the time your people, everyone who is found written in the Book [of Life], will be rescued. Dan. 12:1 AMP

‘…the saints (believers) of the Most High [God] will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’ Dan. 7:18 AMP

How are we going to be when we enter heaven on earth?

“…not a hair of your head will be lost.” LK. 21:18 NKJV

…we all reach unity of faith and of the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Eph. 4:13 CSB

…He was conformed to us by assuming mortality, we shall be conformed to Him by immortality… St. Augustine

…equal to the angels in immortality and happiness… St. Augustine

…deformity shall perish… St. Augustine

In the city of God, we are complete, whole, happy and immortal. It doesn’t matter what happened to your earthly body: buried in the ground, cremated, eaten by a bear, etc. God gives you an immortal, incorruptible body. We were condemned on earth due to Adam’s sin, but in our eternal house, we are made ultimately clean by the blood of Jesus:

…it is sown a natural body [mortal, suited to earth], it is raised a spiritual body [immortal, suited to heaven]. As surely as there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Cor. 15:44 AMP

Our new body is vibrant and healthy – physically and mentally, and it is subject to the spirit, no longer given to sin. Even our free will won’t go there, thank God.

When this promise is fulfilled, what shall we be? What blessings shall we receive in that kingdom, since already we have received as the pledge of them Christ’s dying? In what condition shall the spirit of man be, when it has no longer any vice at all; when it neither yields to any, nor is in bondage to any, nor has to make war against any, but is perfected and enjoys undisturbed peace with itself? Shall it not then know all things with certainty, and without any labor or error, when unhindered and joyful it drinks the wisdom of God at the fountainhead? What shall the body be, when it is in every respect subject to the spirit, from which it shall draw a life so sufficient, as to strand in need of no the nutriment? For it shall no longer be animal, but spiritual, having indeed the substance of flesh, but without any fleshly corruption. – St. Augustine

And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. Phil. 4:7 AMP 

At total peace, filled with the knowledge and love of God:

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part [for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete]. But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete and partial will pass away. 1 Cor. 13:9, 10. AMP

For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. 1 Cor. 13:12 AMP

And, we’ll get to meet Jesus!

Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory]. 1 Jn. 3:2 AMP

Doesn’t that just fill you with awesome expectation? 

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God.” Mt. 5:8 AMP

Are you getting excited yet? 

And [I pray] that the eyes of your heart [the very center and core of your being] may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit], so that you will know and cherish the hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] to which He has called you, the riches of HIs glorious inheritance in the saints (God’s people)… Eph. 1:18 AMP

How great shall be that felicity, which shall be tainted with no evil, which shall lack no good, and which shall afford leisure for the praises of God, who shall be all in all!  St. Augustine 

And, there will be gifts / honors bestowed upon everyone in accordance to their good deeds. 

There shall be the great Sabbath which has no evening…There we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise. Thais is what shall be in the end without end. St. Augustine

Finally, we get with the Father and the Son – forever:

…when all things are subjected to Him (Christ), then the Son Himself will also be subjected to the One (the Father) who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in all [manifesting His glory without any opposition, the supreme indwelling and controlling factor of life]. 1 Cor. 15:28 AMP

Such a wonder awaits. Spread the news…

This marks the end of our 5-month journey through the City of God, written by St. Augustine of Hippo, and translated by Marcus Dods. I hope that our excursion through this deeper theology has brought you value.  

Goodnight and God bless. 

The Final Destinies of the City of God and the Earthly City – part 2

Since the beginning of the commingled history of these two cities, God has judged the citizenry – beginning with Adam and Eve. This continual judgment could have been avoided had the citizens adhered to the word of God. But alas, we have human weakness and a proclivity towards self-indulgence:

…no man acts rightly save by the assistance of divine aid; and no man or devil acts unrighteously save by the permission of the divine and most just judgment. – St. Augustine

‘For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ Jer. 29:11 AMP

God’s plan is bigger than we can fully comprehend. We see some good people live difficult lives while we also witness many of dubious character live lives of wealthy excess with a continual satiation of sinful appetites – where it seems that no apparent penalty is being applied. 

In spite of what looks like an unresolved imbalance, (which somehow fits into God’s design), at the end of all present things, God has wondrous things in store for His children in the city of God, of whom all receive His promised eternal rewards:

And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to HIs plan and purpose. Rm. 8:28 AMP

So, regardless of our difficulties in this earthly life, we must do our best to stay on Jehovah’s path:

…in these days of vanity it makes an important difference whether he resists or yields to the truth, and whether he is destitute of true piety of a partaker of it – important not so far as regards the acquirement of the blessings or the evasion of the calamities of this transitory and vain life, but in connection with the future judgment which shall make over to good men good things, and to bad men band things…For whosever has real existence is this, is a keeper of God’s commandments; and he who is not this, is nothing. For so long as he means in the likeness of vanity, he is not renewed in the image of the truth… – St. Augustine

When all has been heard, the end of the matter is: fear God [worship Him with awe-filled reverence, knowing that He is almighty God] and keep His commandments, of this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, every hidden and secret thing, whether it is good or evil. Eccl. 12:13, 14. AMP

To better understand that end, we must visit the events in the book of Revelation. Accordingly, however you view the concept of the ‘rapture,’ there will be a time when many of God’s children will be sequestered from the tumultuous events during the tribulations. In addition, there will be some holdouts that come to salvation through Christ as that time.

Thus, the city of God, (which we must remember is also the ‘kingdom of God’, exists in the present, but has its full realization at the end of time), is co-existing with the city of the earth during the tribulations. 

The resurrection of the ‘two witnesses’ signals the end of the tribulations, and the last chance for any of the city of the earth to change citizenship is then lost…

Following will be the ‘first resurrection,’ that is when the elders, the dead and still living saints, the Jewish converts to Christ, the ‘great multitude’ and the two witnesses come to reign with Christ on the earth for 1000 years

Note that nations are still existing on the earth (those unbelievers that managed to escape death during the tribulations – still having babies). All other dead unbelievers will stay dead during this ‘millennium.’  So, in effect, the city of God is again co-habituating this earth with the living remnant of the citizens of the city of the earth, all of whom are existing in their ‘soul state.’

During this 1000-year period, remember that the devil is bound up with the rebel angels in the abyss. (Rv. 20:1-3). And so, he has no direct influence in this time.

Thus, all without exception, were dead in sins, whether original or voluntary sins, sins of ignorance, or sins committed against knowledge; and for all the dead there died the only person who lived, that is, who had no sin whatever, in order that those who live by the remission of their sins should live, not to themselves, but to Him who died for all, for our sins, and rose again for our justification, that we believing in Him who justifies the ungodly, and being justified from ungodliness or quickened from death, may be able to attain to the first resurrection which now is. 

For in this first resurrection none have a part save those who shall be eternally blessed; but in the second, of which He goes on to speak, all, as we shall learn, have a part, both the blessed and the wretched. The one is the resurrection of mercy, the other of judgment. – St. Augustine (see Jn. 5:28,29.)

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love… Col. 1:13 NKJV

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such, the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Rv. 20:6 NKJV

After the 1000 years have elapsed, the devil is loosed, whereupon he seduces those outside of the church to make war against Christ and His followers. Thank God, the devil and his minions lose this final battle in a big way and are devoured by divine fire.

We have now come to the end of time, the day of the LORD, judgment day. Those citizens of the now eternal city of God are not subject to a ‘second resurrection,’ but enter into their eternal promise with their new immortal, incorruptible bodies, living on a new earth, resting in new heavens, in the city of God, New Jerusalem, which has come down from heaven.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not come to mind. Be glad and rejoice in whatever I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying.” Is. 65:17 – 19. NKJV

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed like a bride adorned for her husband; and then I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “See! The tabernacle of God is among men, and He will live among them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them [as their God,] and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish, or crying, or pain; for the former order of things has passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Rv. 21:2 – 5. AMP

Now they themselves, when they have been purified, shall be sacrifices of complete and perfect righteousness; for what more acceptable offering can such persons make to God than themselves? – St. Augustine

Unfortunately, those who have steadfastly rejected the Father and the Son, are resurrected for a second time – to judgment, damned to the ‘second death.’ They do not get incorruptible bodies, but rise with bodies that are changed in such a way that they cannot truly die, but must suffer eternal anguish:

“For just as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, will remain before me” – this is the LORD’s declaration – “so you offspring and your name will remain. All mankind will come to worship me…they will see the dead bodies of those who have rebelled against me; for their worm will never die, their fire will never go out, and they will be a horror to all mankind.” Is. 66:22 – 24. CSB

Yes, this is the final judgment, where everyone meets Jesus:

For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment [that is, the prerogative of judging] to the Son [placing it entirely into His hands]… Jn. 5:22 AMP

It is at this point that the two cities are finally separated into two distinct final destinies: the city of God to heaven on earth, and the city of earth (now the city of the devil), to Satan’s damnation. How does that look? We’ll take a look see next time…

Goodnight and God bless. 

The Final Destinies of the City of God and the Earthly City

Thus, begins the wind-up for St. Augustine’s City of God, translated by Marcus Dods. St. Augustine first describes the framework in which this discussion lies:

…by the end of good, we at present mean, not that by which good is destroyed, so that it no longer exists, but that by which it is finished, so that it becomes complete; and by the end of evil we mean, not that which abolishes it, but that which completes its development. These two ends, therefore are the supreme good and the supreme evil…

From the viewpoint of the city of God, the supreme good is represented by eternal life, and the supreme evil by eternal death. To have the former and avoid the latter, we must live according to God’s ways. Yet, we often fall short, and so we turn to the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ, and petition Him for forgiveness and for HIs strength that we may increase our alignment with Him:

…we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises] – 2 Cor. 5:7 AMP

Out of that strength, we build upon the virtues we acquire through godly living, so as to do our best to overcome the temptations of vice:

I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose – I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] Phil. 4:13 AMP

Still, until Christ’s return, the devil will not relent; and so, strength and discernment will be required until we make our heavenly transition, whereupon evil will not exist in the city of God. So then, we can say that our ultimate happiness will be realized in our salvation, vivified in incorruptible flesh that is not given into sin, but represents our heavenly suit, in which we live out our eternal joy and peace.

And our city is none other then the New Jerusalem, (‘Jerusalem’ can be translated as ‘vision of peace’):

Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. Ha makes peace in your borders… Ps. 147:12 – 14. ESV

“…the name of the city of my God – the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God…” Rv. 3:12 CSB

Peace between man and God is the well-ordered obedience of faith to eternal law. Peace between man and man is well-ordered concord. Domestic peace is the well-ordered concord between those of the family who rule and those who obey. Civil peace is a similar concord among the citizens. The peace of the celestial city is the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God. – St. Augustine

We can also take comfort in the deaths of our loved ones who took Jesus at His word, knowing that they will be waiting for us.

Whereas, those unfortunate inhabitants of the earthly city have only demonic oppression and eternal punishment in their future (as a result of their rebellious wills):

For he who laments the peace his nature has lost is stirred to do so by some relics of peace which make his nature friendly to itself. And it is very just that in the final punishment the wicked and godless should in anguish bewail the loss of the natural advantages they enjoyed, and should perceive that they were most justly taken from them by that God whose benign liberality they had despised. – St. Augustine

What do we do to stay ready for our transition? We must live by two rules:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mt. 22:37 – 39. CSB

During this time, we will still be confronted by evil. Thankfully, we can call upon our Savior to fight that fight, and help us see the purpose in it:

For even when we wage a just war, our adversaries must be sinning; and every victory, even though gained by wicked men, is a result of the first judgment of God, who humbles the vanquished either for the sake of removing or of punishing their sins.

To be innocent, we must not only do harm to no man, but also restrain him from sin to punish his sin, so that either the man himself who is punished may profit by his experience, or others be warned by his example. – St. Augustine

We are blessed to be citizens of the city of God, waiting for our assured eternal blessing. We keep our focus on that, so that we can better endure the trials of this broken world. Our city stands against the city of the earth, as our focus and thinking are diametrically opposed; so, we will suffer persecution for our faith.

Still, we keep calling out to all people, inviting them to our city, to join us in our pilgrimage. We are helping God fill His book of Life by ascribing to a heavenly balance:

No man has a right to lead such a life of contemplation as to forget in his own ease the service due his neighbor; nor has any man a right to be so immersed in active life as to neglect the contemplation of God. – St. Augustine

The best we can do on this earth is to try to make our lives a ‘living prayer’ to our God, and keep our joy centered on our eternal city, wherein lies our supreme good.

Those who choose to remain in the citizenry of the city of earth will experience the ‘second death,’ where their souls are eternally separated from their Creator, their bodies subject to pain, and there shall be no end to it.

For those who love God, we have a far far better fate…

Next time.

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 7

Last time we examined some of the Old Testament prophets, whom God inspired with the Holy Spirit, so that they could speak for Him to His children in Judah and Israel. Their tasks included issuing a warning that conquest and enslavement awaited those who would not desist from their rebellious ways against Jehovah God. In addition, as they were to bring the continuing message of hope for eventual salvation through the coming Messiah. In other words, the prophets were trying to recruit God’s children for citizenship in the city of God…

Let’s finish with the final prophets:

“…on Mount Zion [in Jerusalem] there shall be [deliverance for] those who escape, and it shall be holy [no pagan will defile it]; and the house of Jacob shall possess their [former] possessions.

The deliverers shall go up to Mount Zion to rule and judge the mountain of Esau, and the kingdom and the kingship shall be the LORD’s.’ Ob. 1;17 & 21. AMP

Thus, the prophet Obadiah brings the hope (God’s guarantee) that the holy city of Jerusalem shall be restored, along with God’s children that return to Him; and all their enemies (Esau), shall be brought under the rule of God.

The prophet Habakkuk was a contemporary of Obadiah:

Then the LORD said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. The vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Hab. 2:2, 3. ESV

Keeping the flame of hope burning bright.

The prophet Jeremiah was also a contemporary of Habakkuk, bringing hope first to those in Judah that were being carried off to a Babylonian exile, and simultaneously carrying a message of hope for all of us:

“Behold (listen closely), the days are coming,” says the LORD, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as King and act wisely and will do [those things that accomplish] justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called; ‘The LORD Our Righteousness.’ Jer. 23:5, 6. AMP

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and with the house of Judah (the Southern Kingdom)…” Jer. 31:31 AMP

The new covenant is God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, the King, the very image and character of God Himself – reigning in the city of God.

Finally, let us consider the prophets God sent at the end of the Israelites’ captivity – beginning with Daniel:

“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, on the clouds of heaven One like the Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him (the Messiah) was given dominion (supreme authority), glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and speakers of every language should serve and worship Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” Dan. 7:13, 14. AMP

Here we see the ruling scepter given from the Father to the Son, bequeathing upon Jesus an eternal kingdom – the promise of love, joy and peace forever.

Ezekiel was a contemporary of Daniel, in the Babylonian captivity as well, also set forth by God to keep the torch of hope alive:

“Then I will appoint over them one shepherd and he will feed them, [a ruler like] My servant David; he will feed them and be their shepherd.” Ezek. 34:23 AMP

I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will rule over all of them. They will no longer be two nations and will no longer be divided into two kingdoms…I will save them from all their apostasies by which they sinned, and I will cleanse them. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God. Ezek. 37:22, 23. CSB

Unification, sins removed, with God and His shepherd among us…

During the resettling of the surviving Judean exiles, the prophet Zechariah describes the coming of Christ as King in His celebratory entrance into Jerusalem (500 years before it happened), as well as the ultimate state of His global kingship:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey…He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zech. 9:9, 10. NKJV

The final prophet we hear from is Malachi, (the last Holy Spirit-inspired writer of the Old Testament), who prophesied in approximately 450 B.C., in Judah – again to the re-settlers:

“For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles…for My name shall be great among the nations…” Mal. 1:11 NKJV

“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will prepare and clear the way before Me. And the Lord [the Messiah], whom you seek, will suddenly come into His temple; the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. Mal. 3:1 AMP

God will unite all the nations in the city of God, reigning with His Son.

…a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who fear the LORD [with an attitude of reverence and respect] and who esteem His name. “They will be Mine,” say the LORD of hosts, “on that day when I publicly recognize them and openly declare them to be My own possession [that is, My very special treasure]. And I will have compassion on them and spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” Mal. 3:16, 17. AMP

God has set aside for Himself, the book of Life. All those written in there, (those who love God and obey Him to the best of their ability), will step into eternity, living with the Father and the Son in the city of God…

You see then, for over a thousand years, God has been bringing a slew of godly shoulders for you to stand upon, to gather strength, faith and hope.

The world had to wait for another 400 years, but God made good on every promise. Jesus Christ lived among us. He delivered the gospel; and He empowered (through the Holy Spirit) all of His apostles to expound upon it those things which He did not have time to explain in His three short years of ministry. And the earth was changed forever, as was all of our destinies – dependent upon where our faith lies.

And let us not forget all those in ministry who have borne the light of the gospel throughout the centuries after Christ ascended to heaven. They too shouldered us, left us a legacy of hope. Now it is time for us to lend our shoulders to everyone we meet, that they might be lifted up into the city of God as well.

Up until Jesus returns, the city of the earth and the city of God’s destinies have been intertwined:

…the mortal course of the two cities, the heavenly and the earthly, which are mingled from the beginning down to the end. Of these, the earthly one has made herself of whom she would, either from any other quarter or even from among men, false gods whom she might serve by sacrifice; but she which is heavenly and is a pilgrim on the earth does not make false gods, but is herself made by the true God of whom she herself must be the true sacrifice.

Yet both alike either enjoy temporal good things, or are afflicted with temporal evils, but with diverse faith, diverse hope, and diverse love, until they must be separated by the last judgment, and each must receive her own end, of which there is no end. – St. Augustine

Then, they will differ in a big way – next time…

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 6

King David’s allotted time on the city of the earthborn was passed. He now lives in the city of God. Before his death, he handed his kingdom over to his son, Solomon.

There are only 2 psalms attributed to Solomon in the book of the same name. One is messianic:

In His days the righteous shall flourish, and the abundance of peace, until the moon is no more. He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth…all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him…His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him… Ps. 72:7 & 11. NKJV

Always, our champions from the city of God are laying out Jehovah’s hope for salvation, so as to attract as many as possible to the kingdom of heaven.

Unfortunately, like his father, King Solomon also fell into sin, whereby his many wives led him away from God. In addition, Solomon also let his extreme wealth corrupt him. (1 Kin. 11:1 – 13).

God told him that his punishment would be levied against his son, upon Solomon’s death, whereby the country of Israel would become bitterly divided.

Yet before Solomon died, he again realized that God was indeed the source of all joy, happiness, peace and sustenance; and he returned to be in right-standing with Him. (See book of Ecclesiastes).

After Solomon’s demise, Israel split into ‘Israel’ in the north, and ‘Judah’ in the south. Eventually, both countries would fall into a sin-infected morass. All of Israel’s kings were wicked, as was most of Judah’s. As a result of these rebellions against God, Israel was given up to total conquest and slavery to the Assyrians; and not long after, Judah was given up to the Babylonians.

Yet God, in His limitless love, sent sixteen prophets to them, to try to turn them back to His ways. Indeed, St. Augustine adroitly describes the common message – both for HIs children with regards to the application for their present time, and its relevance for what’s at stake for their future:

…by going forward in the living God, by the steps of faith, which works by love, we must flee out of the city of this world, which is altogether a society of ungodly angels and men. Yes, the greater we see the power of the demons to be in these depths, so much the more tenaciously must we cleave to the Mediator through whom we ascend from these lowest to the highest places.

…demons can accomplish nothing by their natural power…except what He may permit, whose judgments are often hidden, but never unrighteous. …demons…do not create real substances, but only change the appearances of things created by the true God so as to make them seem to be what they are not. 

That is, we must live in God’s ways, by faith, claiming the city of God from His grace, and cleave unto Christ as He brings us out of the illusions of the puppet master behind the city of the earth.

God loves us so much, that He never leaves anything to chance. As was mentioned above, God sent prophets, both while Israel and Judah were wallowing in sinful rebellion and while they were in captivity – a period of over 400 years, to try to save His children. We can see God’s love and care in His words to them as He continues to proffer His message of hope:

“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass where it was said to them, You are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’ Hos. 1:10 NKJV

Here then, the prophet Hosea is recalling / reminding / validating the Abrahamic covenant to the people of Israel about the global propagation of the seed of Abraham, their trials due to their rebellion, and then their ultimate restoration – when God gathers all His children from around the globe to be one people in the city of God.

Afterward the sons of Israel will return [in deep repentance] and seek the LORD their God and seek [from the line of] David their king [the King of kings – the Messiah]; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness and blessing in the last days. Hos. 3:5 AMP

Ultimately, everyone will come to Jesus.

“Come and let us return [in repentance] to the LORD, for He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up that we may live before Him.” Hos. 6:1, 2. AMP

God must let us suffer some the consequences of our free-will actions / thoughts of sin. Yet, all He wants for us, is to come before Him and get in right relationship again. See too the parallel between the third day and the resurrection of our Savior.

“In that day I shall raise up and restore the fallen tabernacle (booth) of David, and wall up its breaches [in the city walls]; I will also raise up and restore its ruins and rebuild it as it was in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom (ancient enemies) and all the nations that are called by My name.” Amos 9:11, 12. AMP

Amos was a contemporary prophet in Israel to Hosea. We see here the promised restoration of the city of God, which includes the children of God throughout the world – gathered to HIs throne.

Jonah too, was a contemporary of Hosea. In his case, it was not so much what he said, as it was his story of being captured 3 days ‘under the earth’ in the belly of the great fish and being delivered, that is another parallel to Christ’s death and resurrection.

Unfortunately, the people of Israel turned a deaf ear to all of these prophets, and were summarily punished by the Assyrian conquest and exile…

Before those 3 prophets began their prophecies, the prophet Joel preached to the country of Judah:

“It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28 NASB

This began at Pentecost, at the gathering of the first church – ushering in the modern church age, equipping the children of God to go forth and gather souls for the kingdom.

Just after Jonah’s time, the prophet Micah began prophesying in Judah:

In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all – the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.

People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways and we will walk in his paths”…They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Mic. 4:1 – 3. NLT

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity”…And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. Mic. 5:2 & 4. NASB

700 years before Christ is incarnated, we are given these blessing of hope – of a unified heaven on earth with our blessed Savior at the helm, as well as telling us of Jesus’ very birthplace for His coming!

The prophet Isaiah was a contemporary of Micah. His Holy Spirit-inspired prophetic revelations are uncannily accurate:

Indeed, My Servant (the Messiah) will act wisely and prosper; He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted…So He will sprinkle many nations [with His blood, providing salvation], Kings will shut their mouths because of Him; for what they had not been told they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand. Is. 52:13 & 15. AMP

For He [the servant of God] grew up before Him like a tender shoot (plant), and like a root out of dry ground; He has no stately form or majestic splendor that we would look at Him…He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief…But [in fact] He has borne our griefs, and He has carried our sorrows and pains…wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]…and by His stripes (wounds) we are healed. Is. 53:2 – 5. AMP

All of us like sheep have god astray, we have turned, each one, to his own way; but the LORD has caused the wickedness of us all [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing] to fall on Him [instead of us].

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth [to complain or defend Himself]; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter…He was cut off from the land of the living [by His death] for the transgression of My people…He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. Yet the LORD was willing to crush Him, causing Him to suffer; if He would give Himself as a guilt offering [an atonement for sin]…As a result of the anguish of His soul, He shall see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge [of what He has accomplished] the Righteous One, My Servant, shall justify the many [making them righteous – upright before God, in right standing with Him], for He shall her [the responsibility for] their sins. Is. 53:7 – 11. AMP

I have to stop now before this post becomes a novella. It’s just that God’s plan is so awe-inspiring, the depths of the love of He and His Son so unfathomable, and the hope so grand, it makes you want to get on your knees and thank and bless Jehovah God and Jesus Christ for what they have laid before us – this remarkable, incredible sacrifice of love, so that we might take residence in the city of God…

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 5

Last time, we saw, according to her prayer, how Hannah, the mother of Samuel, (the would-be prophet and final earthly ‘judge’), championed the ongoing promises of God and His salvation. She was granted citizenship in the city of God.

She had weaned Samuel, and then dedicated him to temple service under the tutelage of the priest Eli.

Jehovah God called to Samuel when he was still a boy, and he stepped into his servitude. He told Samuel that He was taking the mantle of priesthood from Eli because of evil-doings of his sons, which Samuel related directly to the priest. God would come many times to Samuel and that relationship would grow and become renown:

Now Samuel grew; and the LORD was with him and He let none of his words fail [to be fulfilled]. And all Israel…knew that Samuel was appointed as prophet of the LORD. 1 Sam. 3:19 – 20. AMP

When Samuel grew older, the people of Israel began to worry that he would die and leave them ruleless; so they petitioned him to appoint an earthly king, (as opposed to the heavenly king Jehovah), so that they could emulate the pagan countries around them.

Samuel was sick over the people’s rejection of God as their king, and he was reluctant to do their bidding. Yet, God instructed the prophet to do so, telling him to let the people know just how badly that was going to go for them. Yet Samuel’s warning fell upon deaf ears, and he did as according to how God instructed him. Thus, Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. At that time, Samuel spoke for God, re-affirming His covenant with Israel by reminding them that His same rules apply, earthly king or not:

“…here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired. And take note, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the LORD and serve Him and obey HIs voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the LORD your God…For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people…But if you do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both and your king.” 1 Sam. 12:13, 14, 22 & 25. NKJV

And isn’t this the time immemorial request from God? Every champion of God, every citizen of the city of God, perpetuates this message, i.e. to obey God’s word, because the only way to live the best life is to live one that includes Him.

King Saul had reigned only two years when he had disobeyed God due to a lack of faith in God’s faithfulness. God, always being true to His word, sent Samuel to rebuke Saul and pronounce the consequences afforded to the king’s actions:

“You have been foolish. You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. It was at this time that the LORD would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure. The LORD has found a man after his own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over his people, because you have not done what the LORD commanded.” 1 Sam. 13:13, 14. CSB

“…for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 1 Sam. 15:26 NKJV

Sin always has repercussions…

That man of God’s own heart would be anointed king by Samuel as well; and his name was King David. Yet David would not actually rule until after the death of Samuel, (another addition to the city of God), as well as King Saul – who would remain in the city of the earth.

King David would be a mighty, mighty man of God. He unified all of Israel, and then God spoke to hi through the prophet Nathan:

“I took you from the pasture, from following sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel…When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2 Sam. 7:8, 12 & 13. NKJV

This was a double-promise: both that God would set up David’s son, Solomon, as the next king, who would build the temple, and that his lineage would be ultimately manifested as the Son of God, who sits on the eternal throne.

David was a man who was totally dedicated to God; and through the power of the Holy Spirit, he pinned a plethora of psalms, most of which concentrate on how to maximize our spirit / worship relationship with our Maker. Others reveal the eternal kingdom of God to us all; following are some of those cited by St. Augustine in his book City of God.

King David did not write all of the psalms in the book of Psalms. Similar to the immediate scripture above, Ps. 89, written my a ‘wise man’ [Ethan the Ezrahite, thought also to be a temple musician from King Solomon’s time, (see 1 Kin. 4:31 & 1 Chr. 15:19), verifies the coming of Christ – again in a dual prophecy about King David, but ultimately fulfilled in Jesus:

The LORD said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn an oath to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever and build up your throne for all generations.” Ps. 89:3 – 4. CSB

“…I have found David My servant David; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand shall be established; and also My arm shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not outwit him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him…My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with him, and in My name his horn shall be exalted. Also, I will set his hand over the sea, and his right hand over the rivers.

He shall cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” Ps. 89:20-22 & 24 – 27. NKJV

Returning to King David, St. Augustine writes this:

In the progress of the city of God through the ages, therefore, David first reigned in the earthly Jerusalem as a shadow of that which was to come; and …almost all of his prophecy was in psalms.

King David also had leaders in the orchestral and singing divisions in his worship assembly. One group was the sons of Korah, who also contributed to the psalms. Here we find another messianic prophesy:

You are fairer than the sons of men; graciousness is poured upon your lips; Therefore God has blessed you forever. Strap Your sword on Your thigh, O mighty One, in Your Splendor and Your Majesty. And in Your majesty ride on triumphantly for the cause of truth and humility and righteousness; let Your righthand guide you to awesome things…

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness (virtue, morality, justice) and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed You above Your companions with the oil of jubilation. Ps. 45:2 – 4 & 6, 7. AMP

Finally, we get to a psalm written by David himself, where we are privy to a conversation between God and His Son:

The LORD (Father) says to my Lord (the Messiah, His Son), “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet [subjugating them into complete submission].” The LORD will send the scepter of Your strength from Zion, saying “Rule in the midst of your enemies.”

Your people will offer themselves willingly [to participate in Your battle] in the day of Your power…The LORD has sworn [an oath\ and will not change His mind: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”  Ps. 110:1 – 4. AMP

Jesus, this King and High Priest, Is definitely on the side we want to be on – Jehovah’s!

Another psalm of David is an eerily accurate prophecy of Christ’s future time on the cross – from His perspective:

For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Ps. 22:16 – 18. ESV

In yet another, David writes of both his faith in God’s salvation, and renders a prophecy about Jesus being resurrected without physical corruption:

For You will not abandon me to Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead), nor will you allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. Ps. 16:10 AMP

King David was a great man of God; yet, even the great can fall. His adultery with Bathsheba and his hand in the murder of her husband was the beginning of his downfall. God forgave him because of his sincere repentance, yet, God must mete out the consequences of sin. David was troubled within his family life almost until his death.

Yet we can be ever thankful that God empowered David to show us how to both get closer to God, and to begin to be aware of our blessed Son of God as well.

David therefore reigned in the earthly Jerusalem, much praised by the divine testimony; for even his faults are overcome by great piety, through the most salutary humility of his repentance…  St. Augustine

Praise Jehovah for His citizens of the city of God and their steadfast perseverance in bringing us the guaranteed hope of our Father, in His Son…

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 4

Approximately 225 years had elapsed since the passing since our last godly champion, Joshua, walked the earth. In that timespan, the nation of Israel had again distanced themselves from following God. Even the priesthood was corrupted. Furthermore, the Philistines were continually assaulting the Israelites.

God decided again to help His children move forward on the path that He had intended for them:

There was a woman by the name of Hannah, (meaning ‘His grace’), whom God had kept barren (1 Sam. 1:6) until she went to the temple in Shiloh to pray, whereupon she petitioned Jehovah for a son. She promised Him that if He were to grant her request, she would dedicate him to the priesthood once he was weaned.

She and her husband conceived, and named the boy Samuel, meaning ‘name of God.’ As she pledged, she brought the boy to the temple at the appointed time. We hear no more about Hannah except for the prayer that she uttered after she had delivered her son to the priest, Eli. However, if we dissect her prayer, we can see that Jehovah imbued this blessed servant woman of God with a plethora of revelations and prophecy within that prayer that she herself could not have known:

1 Sam. 2:1 – 10. AMP:

“My heart rejoices and triumphs in the LORD; my horn (strength) is lifted up in the LORD, my mouth has opened wide [to speak boldly] against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.

There is no one holy like the LORD, there is no one besides You, there is no rock like our God.

[I’m going to elicit a little help from St. Augustine of Hippo’s book City of God, (translated by Marcus Dods), and some additional scripture, for some additional investigative discourse. I’m 3/4 the way through this 781-page book. I hope you have derived some value from what we’ve examined from that work.]

Through her prayer, we see that Hannah knows her spiritual strength comes from God alone; and she looks prophetically forward to His salvation (through Christ).

Do not go on boasting so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed (examined).

God, speaking through her, warns of being haughty, self-absorbed, and confident in one’s own strength. We are only exalted when we venerate our Maker:

(For if anyone thinks he is something [special] when [in fact] he is nothing [special except in his own eyes], he deceives himself. Gal. 6:3 AMP)

The bows of the mighty are broken, but those who have stumbled equip themselves with strength.

This same warning is also directed toward the enemies of God’s children, wherein He declares that the prideful with be humbled, whereas the meek shall be fortified.

Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease [to hunger]. Even the barren woman gives birth to seven, but she who has many children withers away.

We see too that God’s people were starving for spiritual sustenance (often self-induced) but will ultimately be fed when that perfect (‘seven’) Child is born.

The LORD puts to death and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol (the grave) and raises up [from the grave].

Hannah’s prayer also prophesied about how God helps us put our old sinful self to death through the salvation of His Son, which saves us from the grave:

(Therefore if you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead]…you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. Col. 3:1 & 3. AMP)

The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and He lifts up.

He raises up the poor from the dust, He lifts up the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and to inherit a seat of honor and glory; for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and He set the land on them.

And again, we are reminded of the importance of being humble, in order to be elevated to the city of God:

(…GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD [the disdainful, the presumptuous, and He defeats them], BUT HE GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time… 1 Pt. 5:5, 6. AMP)

He guards the feet of His godly (faithful) ones, but the wicked ones are silenced and perish in darkness; for a man shall not prevail by might.

We also see that the godly will be divided from the wicked:

(For we [believers will be called to account and] must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives – the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities]. 2 Cor. 5:10 AMP)

Still, we are judged and sent to the city of God. Those who chose to occupy the city of the earthborn will experience a judgment with only one outcome – eternal damnation.

The adversaries of the LORD will be broken to pieces; He will thunder against them in the heavens, The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to HIs king, and will exalt the horn (strength) of His anointed.” 1 Sam. 2:1 – 10. AMP

Hannah ends her prayer with a prophetic picture of Christ’s ascension, to render the final judgment. It is here too, that we see for the first time in the Bible, the identification of the Messiah as ‘King.’

Mind you, God rendered these revelations 1000 years before Jesus was incarnated.

Hannah too, is a citizen of the city of God. We’ll meet Samuel, the prophet and king-maker, next time…

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 3

In parts one and two, we looked at the age-old battle on earth between those who follow God (grouped together as the ‘city of God’) and those who follow the adversary (grouped as the ‘city of the earthborn’), as described by St. Augustine of Hippo from his book The City of God.

We have been looking at valiant men throughout history who reflected Jehovah’s strength, resolve and faith, that we might be inspired to be likewise, and to inspire others after we gain our own citizenship in the city of God.

The renown citizens of the city of God that we’ve examined thus far have been Abel, Seth, Noah, Abraham and his son Isaac. Note than all of them are included in the ancestral lineage of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Continuing, Isaac and his wife Rebekah conceive of fraternal twins, Esau (born first), and Jacob. Before they were born, it appeared the two boys battled within the womb. Concerned, Rebekah inquired of God and He answered:

“Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” Gn. 25:23 NKJV

Esau sold his birthright to Jacob over a bowl of stew, to satisfy a craving of the flesh. Afterwards, he began to hold enmity towards Jacob. When Esau was in his 40s, he married pagan wives to spite his parents.

Later, Rebekah colluded with Jacob to deceive his father Isaac into conferring his family blessing upon Jacob instead of Esau. Enraged, Esau plotted to kill his brother, but Rebekah found out and sent Jacob away to her brother’s house to escape, and to find a Hebrew wife. During Jacob’s journey, he camps for an evening, and God visits him in a dream:

And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching the sky, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. The LORD was standing there beside him, saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” Gn. 28:12 – 15. CSB

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.” Gn. 28:16, 17. CSB

So, we see that God has chosen Jacob as the next link in His perpetual seed for the Messiah and has granted him citizenship in the city of God.

Esau, on the other hand, rebelled, landing him citizenship in the city of the earthborn. He would later establish the nation of Edom (modern-day southwestern Jordan), which often played the villain to Israel, until it was destroyed by King Nabonidus of Babylon.

Jacob would later marry two sisters and (along with each of their handmaidens), conceive 12 sons and a daughter. God would then change his name from Jacob (meaning ‘deceiver’) to Israel (Hebrew for ‘God prevails’), demonstrating his godly transformation.

Many years later, Israel and his entire Hebrew entourage (family, friends, servants) would come to Egypt and settle there with his son Joseph (another mighty man of faith who prevailed against insurmountable odds because of God’s intervention – a grand pair of godly shoulders to stand upon), to grow the Hebrew nation into thousands.

Just before his death, Israel blessed his sons. We’ll look at his son Judah’s blessing, as it is the most pertinent to our study:

“Judah, you are the one whom your brothers shall praise; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you…The scepter [of royalty’ shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [the Messiah, the Peaceful One] comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Gn. 49:8 & 10. AMP

Israel’s 12 sons would form 12 tribes, after each namesake; and Judah would be the leader. Furthermore, we see that Christ will be a descendant from the tribe of Judah as well.

Leaping ahead 400 years, we find the Hebrews in the middle of an Egyptian oppression. God sends a very reluctant prophet, Moses, (who was divinely spared from death as an infant, and as a man, while he was first in Egypt), back there to be His instrument of liberation to His children.

God works His miracles through Moses so that the Pharaoh lets the Hebrews leave Egypt. Moses leads the people across the ‘wilderness’ towards the promised land in the face of a very unappreciative, jealous, and sometimes blasphemous people – he, all the while, being molded into a strong, faithful, godly leader. God even entrusted Him (with the Holy Spirit) to write the first 5 books of the Old Testament – giving us the ability to see who and what God is.

When Moses brought the children of the children of God to the border of the promised land, God most lovingly buried him in the city of God.

God then commissioned Joshua to bring His children across the Jordan River into the promised land:

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua…Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them – the children of Israel…No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.” Josh. 1:1 – 3 & 5. NKJV

Joshua kept God’s word, renews God’s covenant with the people, conquers the majority of Canaan, and settles the people in their new promised land of Israel. And in his last address before his death, he said:

“…be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses…hold fast to the LORD your God…” Josh. 23:6 & 8. NKJV

Just like he did. He too was a citizen of the city of God…

After this, the Israelites, (in their human fashion), half-heartedly vacillated between faith and rebellion, until God gave them over to the fruits of their own disobedience:

The word of the LORD was rare and precious in those days; visions [that is, new revelations of divine truth] were not widespread. 1 Sam. 3:1 AMP

But God loves us so much, He never gives up – as we will see, when He lights the torch of love again through the prophet Samuel – Next time.

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 2

In part one, we were looking at some of the notable players in the ages-old battle between good and evil.

Those players on the side of evil, (devil followers), were categorized as the inhabitants of the ‘city of the earth-born, the city of man, or the earthly Jerusalem.’ The first so-called inhabitant was the murderous Cain, brother of Abel.

The players that followed God were described as the citizens of ‘heavenly Jerusalem, or the city of God’ – which has its ultimate manifestation on a heavenly plane. The first inhabitant of this city was Abel, who possessed the godly shoulders that was our first foundation to stand upon, to find the strength for walking the path to that same city.

Abel’s brother Seth was the next continuation of the heavenly citizenry; but by the time of the great flood many generations later, Noah was the only living representative of the city of God, who, along with his wife and his three sons and their wives, re-populated the earth after the flood wiped out the rest of sinful humankind.

A millennium would pass before we meet our next citizen of renown of the city of God…

Abraham was 75 years when God called him directly:

“Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation: I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Gn. 12:1: – 3. NKJV

What we see here, is that God promises Abraham that his seed shall inherit the land of Canaan; moreover, that the blessings of God would trickle down from him to spiritually nurture the rest of people of the world for all time. Consider too, that for God’s initial promise to be fulfilled, Abraham and his wife would have to bear children. Remember that they are in their 70s.

Yet Abraham has full-faith in God’s promises, which motivates his obedience; and he and his family leave all that they have ever known, and make a 1500-mile trek to Canaan, whereby God gives Abraham a second promise:

“To your descendants I will give this land.” Gn. 12:7 NKJV

After Abraham and his wife settled and thrived in Canaan, his nephew Lot and his family (who had accompanied Abraham on his journey) moved to the city of Sodom, (which turned out to be a dark, grievously sinful ‘city of the earth-born’). At that point, God gives Abraham yet a third compliment to His first two promises:

“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward, eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the offspring of the earth, your offspring can be counted.” Gn. 13:14 – 16. ESV

Being that Canaan will become the future country of Israel, God is telling Abraham that the land will belong to the Israelites until the end of time.

Five years elapse. God visits Abraham again, and promises safety and great rewards. But this time, Abraham’s favor wavers a bit. He complains to God because he is still childless. God responds:

“…one from your own body shall become your heir…Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them…so shall your descendants be.” Gn. 15:4, 5. NKJV

Abraham’s faith is renewed to such an extent, that God brings him into complete right-standing with Him:

And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Gn. 15:6 NKJV

So, we have the ‘city of God’ increasing its citizenship once more.

Unfortunately, his wife Sarah’s faith is not as strong. She’s tired of waiting and has Abraham conceive with their Egyptian maid, Hagar, and Ishmael is born. Abraham is 86 years-old.

Thirteen more years pass. God visits Abraham, (who is 99 years-old), and tells him that his faith is being rewarded, as Sarah’s birth is imminent. In addition, He makes it crystal-clear to Abraham what the disposition of his children will be:

“…Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael…I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly…and I will make him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac…” Gn. 17:19 – 21. ESV

What we are seeing is that Ishmael will propagate the seed of the Arabic nations, increasing the population of the ‘city of the earth-born;’ but Isaac is God’s child of promise, Abraham’s heir apparent to the city of God.

Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old; yet God had one more thing in store for Abraham:

After these things, God tested Abraham… Gn. 22:1 ESV

God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac, and sacrifice him upon an altar as a burnt offering to Jehovah. (This was so that God could provide what the picture of ultimate faith looked like for future believers, not for Himself. He knew Abraham’s heart.

Abraham prepared an altar (on the same site that Jesus would be crucified), and placed Isaac upon it – all the while telling his son that God would provide a lamb to be sacrificed. (Gn. 22:8)

Abraham had faith in that at the very least, God would raise Isaac from the dead because of the previous promise that He made to him:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested [that is, as the testing of his faith was still in progress], offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises [of God] was ready to sacrifice his only son [of promise]; to whom it was said, “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” For he considered it reasonable to believe] that God was able to raise Isaac even from among the dead. [Indeed, in the sense that he was prepared to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to God] Abraham did receive him back [from the dead] figuratively speaking. Heb. 11:17 – 19. AMP

When Abraham drew his knife back to slay his son on the altar, the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and stopped him from harming Isaac and provided for them a ram for a sacrifice instead. And because of the depth of Abraham’s faith, God provides him with His last promise:

“…I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Gn. 22:17, 18. ESV

Abraham remarried and had additional children, but they did not possess the covenantal promise that Isaac did. He was the chosen son for the lineage for the city of God:

After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. Gn. 25:11 ESV

Abraham was a mountain of faith for us to stand upon, propagated by his son in the city of God. Isaac and his wife Rebekah conceived fraternal twins, but that’s another story…

Goodnight and God bless.