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.

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The Book of Revelation Revisited 11: Eternal Bliss

The Millennium:

Last time, we saw that Jesus was triumphant in the battle of Armageddon, and that Satan was bound in a bottomless pit for 1000 years. (Rv. 20:1 – 3.)

As you would expect, there are varying biblical scholarly interpretations of the meaning to this last interval before the end of time.

Some see the Millennium as a symbolic time span, representing the space between the first and the second coming of Christ. I disagree with this viewpoint, as it would invalidate the entire book of Revelation up to this point.

Others believe this will be a literal 1000 years – a time of great peace as Christ comes back to preach the gospel again.

Still others subscribe to a more literal application of the scriptures, (what a concept), maintaining that Jesus physically returns to the earth and rules over it, along with the resurrected saints. We have seen that the devil is taken out of the earth realm for 1000 years, so his influence can no longer hold sway over the inhabitants of this new realm.

Nations are still existing on this earth, so we can also infer that they would be populated by some unbelievers who were not part of Satan’s army and who managed not to get killed in the second half of the tribulations. It is here where the apostle John’s vision continues:

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image ad had not received its mark on their foreheads or on their hands. The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with Him for a thousand years. Rv. 20:4 – 6. ESV

Thus, Jesus reigns with the elders, (Mt. 29:28; Lk. 22:30); and the saints (the church and the martyrs who came to accept Christ during the tribulations (Dan. 7:22; 1 Cor. 6:2) for 1000 years. The ‘first resurrection would include the dead saints (1 Thess. 4:16), the raptured of the living church (1 Thess. 4:17), the 144,000 Jewish converts (Rv. 14:1 – 5), the great multitude (Rv. 15:1 – 3), and the ‘two witnesses.’ (Rv. 11:12)

The rest of the dead consist of the wicked that rebelled against God until the very end.

During the Millennium, the world is a changed place. (Is. 65:17- 25; Ezek. 40:1 – 48:35.) It has to be because it was not fit to live on after the final seven judgments of God were released.

Earth is now the physical kingdom of Christ – a place where all of the troubles of the saints will be removed and forgotten, a realm of perpetual joy. They will also have direct communication with the Father and the Son, like returning to the Garden of Eden, where even the animals revert to their original vegetarian state.

There will also be people present who are not saints, still having children, still growing old and dying, and still persisting in sin – even though Christ is in their midst and the devil is not…

The devil takes his last shot:

John’s vision remains focused earthward, but now shifts forward in time to the ‘post-millennial period:

When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the the four corners of the earth, God and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they come up on the broad plain of the earth and surround the camp of the earth and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Rv. 20:7 – 10. NASB

Think about this! Christ Himself is present reigning upon the earth. It’s a paradise where the saints are still doing God’s work – trying to bring unbelievers to salvation, those who still persist in rebellion. That is one merciful God! (2 Pt. 3:9)

But the devil does his dirty work all over again – even in paradise! ‘God and Magog’ are symbolic for Satan’s armies (new ones, because all the others the devil pre-millennially amassed, are dead). He and his armies surround the saints, who are living in a ‘restored’ millennial city of Jerusalem. Yet just as Satan was about to strike, God devours his armies with fire, and rids us of the devil forever. (2 Pt. 3:10)

Judgment Day:

The apostle John’s vision shifts heavenward and to the end of time:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was no place for them. Rv. 20:11 NKJV

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. this is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rv. 20:12 – 15. ESV

This is the ‘Day of the Lord,’ the end of history and time. The earth and the heavens above it are poised for a radical change. Christ is on the throne. The saints’ names are present in the book of life because they embraced His salvation. Their time in front of Christ’s judgment seat is only for determining the nature of their rewards in heaven, which reflect amount of their godly deeds on earth.

The unbelievers had a multitude of chances over many millennia to get straight with God, but they chose not to. They will be condemned at the judgment seat to the ‘second death,’ waiting for them alone…

A peek at eternity:

John’s vision now straddles both heaven and earth at the gates of eternity:

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for their husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Rv. 21:1 – 4. NKJV

The earth, and the cosmos in which it is suspended, are completely transformed into an idyllic home for the saints. (Ps. 102:25 – 27; Is. 65:17 – 19; 2 Pt. 3:12, 13.) Some interpret the loss of the seas as literal; others view it as symbolic for the removal of evil (similar to the ‘symbolic sea’ that the satanic ‘beast’ arose from).

The ‘holy city’ is a city constructed in heaven – a place for the saints to dwell with God, in an environment free of sin and its collateral damage. God is finally completing His covenant with His children, communing with them in complete love, and blotting out all memories of pain, as He restores the immortal life of joy that He foresaw for them before they were physically created.

Now, for the first time in John’s stream of visions, God Himself speaks:

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be His God and he will be My son.” Rv. 21:5 – 7. NASB

God is telling us that His great plan is finished! It is His right to declare it so, because He is the Creative Author of the beginning and end of all things. In His plan’s culmination, He and His Son offer themselves (the ‘spring of the water of life’) freely to those who seek Their presence. Those who do, are the people that rose above the ways of the world to the best of their ability, through the strength imparted to them by their faith in God and His door to salvation (Jesus). Eternity is theirs for the taking. (Eph. 1:2 – 11.)

Not so for those who stubbornly stayed mired in the world:

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters, and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Rv. 21:8 NASB

A great selling point to reveal to anyone who will hear your telling of the gospel. Note that the word ‘cowardly’ is not referring to one who was just fearful, but to one who did not take the risk of following Jesus in a hostile world.

At this point, John’s vision expands upon our heavenly outcome, adding to the previous description of the holy city of New Jerusalem. It will house the church. It’s enveloped by 20-story high walls with a total of 12 gates, each named for a tribe of Israel. The walls will rest upon 12 foundational stones named for each of the 12 apostles. Thus, the children of Israel and the Gentile church are now unified as one people of God.

The city is a 1500-mile cube with jewel-encrusted walls, gates formed of pearls, and streets paved with gold. There is no temple within the city because the entire city is the temple; and the saints all live there with God and Jesus, whose glory illuminates it.

The thrones of God and Jesus are in it, and the water of life flows from them. Also present is the Tree of Life, telling us that Man has come full circle – come home to a new Garden of Eden where the curse of Adam’s original sin is finally blotted out.

At this point, John’s vision of eschatological events come to an end…

It’s up to you:

Now, Jesus speaks directly to us through John:

“Behold, I (Jesus) am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to each one according to the merit of his deeds (earthly works, faithfulness). I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End {the Eternal One]” Rv. 22:12, 12. AMP

A divine reminder to continually be on the alert and ready for Jesus’ arrival. He’s bringing ‘rewards,’ (not salvation: He’s already provided that for His saints for their service to Him while they lived on earth). Jesus also reminds us of the ultimate authority in which He speaks, as the Alpha and the Omega, the deified Son of God – His Father’s very essence.

Finally, we hear an evangelic appeal from the Holy Spirit and the church, asking for Jesus to come, as well as making a plea to all who desire to come to Christ to claim their salvation:

The [Holy] Spirit and the bride (the church, believers) say “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take and drink the water of life without cost. Rv. 22:17 AMP

Amen.

Goodnight and God bless.